I read an article this morning in the New York Times called “Walker Percy’s Theory of Hurricanes”. It presented Percy’s idea that, while we would assume the opposite to be true, people are actually happiest in the midst of a hurricane (literally or otherwise). It is during the hurricane that guards come down, honestly is spoken with frankness, and people desire to help. Appreciation is felt, and perspective is upon them. Percy recounted a couple that were completely at odds, except during a hurricane when they would actually connect and enjoy each other. Then, when the hurricane passed, slowly things regressed to their former state.
This whole idea, I found both intriguing and disturbing. Maybe I am uncomfortable with anything good being associated with the hurricanes in life, or maybe it is all too familiar. It makes me reflect upon the hurricanes I have endured, and forces me to acknowledge that in the midst of them I was, indeed, truly at my best. Stripped down, agonizingly broken and distraught, but present and brave. I oozed love. Love for my kids, with the patience to let tasks go and look into their eyes. Love for my family, so engaged I wouldn’t think to check texts or email until the day was completely done. Love for my friends and an overwhelming gratitude for the role they play in grounding me and making me better. Love for my community and the care they felt toward my family. I wanted to give back. To make this world more beautiful in some small way.
There were also moments during my hurricanes that have been too painful for me to re-live. As they bubble up inside me, softly suggesting I sort them out, I too often push them down, causing the exact opposite effect as they rumble in my belly and spin me into anxiety. And as I read the article about Percy today, I couldn’t help but consider that facing and re-living the hurricanes might actually be a gift. A gift to ones self, as it brings pain but also healing and perspective. And a gift to the world, in the form of presenting one’s self with honesty. Happy, broken, and connected, as the yellow glow of the hurricane is once again within sight.
There are plenty of trials that make us ache and agonize from the inside out. They affect our sleep, energy, and ability to cope with the mundane tasks in life. And without the needed solitude to process and let ourselves mourn, they can turn us into real monsters. Monsters who are short and distracted with the very people we may have been concerned about to begin with.
But a hurricane is bigger than a trail. It breaks us down fast and demands our best. There isn’t time to stuff it down. It keeps us locked in the present, intentionally connecting and overwhelmed with gratefulness for every gifted moment. Our time is spent carefully and trials become small. In general we seem, although broken down, to be our best selves. So, it is with some hesitancy and exhaustion that I consider Percy’s theory to be true. And if this is so, it may also be true that the dreaded hurricanes we have endured are best kept worn out on our sleeves. Visible enough to slow our regression, but far from tripping up our feet. Hurricanes, with all their mess, that are revisited often enough to stay intentional, be vulnerable, act brave, and dare I say, feel happy.