Living with three adolescent girls means that at any given time of day there is some tornado going through my household. Inevitably, someone is going through an emotional something, not happy about one thing, or upset about the other thing.
And, somehow, I am to blame.
I am the cause. I am the instigator even if I literally just walked through the door.
It is always and forever my fault.
If I move slightly the wrong way, the tornado might come right at me.
Such is my job as “The Mom.”
Household tornados--they come through the door, go through the house again and again without prior warning. I fall apart. I think I can’t take it anymore. I don’t really remember why I had kids to begin with. I hold my breath and then it’s gone, over, done. All is good. Life is fine, and it is almost as if it never happened.
Such are these household tornados.
When I pause to reflect, I remember how as a teenager, I was a big tornado creator myself. I remember how my mom pissed me off. She was the kindest, most loving human alive, yet she annoyed me to no end. Oh, how she annoyed me. I assume I annoy my kids as much as she annoyed me. I find that shocking. How could I be that mom?
Am I like my mom? I thought I was cool. Well so much for that!
In the moment when they are active those tornados feel intensely real and deep. They whirl around and then subside. Such is life with teenagers. Everything is huge, urgent, and life threatening.
The next moment it’s not.
I have learned from my wonderful village of moms that, although I often feel like I am the only one who goes through these daily tornado episodes, I am not unique. ALL families, even the calmest of them, have the tornado pattern in some form or another.
I was sitting in class this week listening to my beloved students. Suddenly I felt incredibly lucky to receive some important perspective regarding theses tornados of mine.
In one sentence a woman tells me she did a 16-year stretch (time in prison), fought addiction, and lost her kid to the system.
Well, that is a tornado I doubt that I could survive. Yet, here she is, moving forward, being positive, and smiling. How incredible is that? What a lesson! My goodness, what a lesson! Another one of my students lost her mom to domestic violence, her brother to gun violence and her other brother to addiction. Yet, she shows up too. She shows up to class. She is determined to stop this cycle. She, too, smiles. The tornados that have hit her have left her scarred and bruised, but she is still standing. Honestly, she lights up my day and warms my heart every week.
I have learned from my brilliant students that somehow the human spirit can survive even the harshest of tornados. You just have to choose to do so.
I work with people who have stories that are so different from mine. But, I listen. I learn and am so inspired by them.
My students are my best teachers. They give me a window into a world I would never have known and give me the ability to put my tornados in their proper place.
I marvel that they show up and work so hard to become a better person and shape a better life.
We all have our tornados in life.
We can choose to get caught in the whirling wind and funnel-shaped cloud, or we can fight. We can ignore. We can step aside and let the tornado whirl by us. It isn’t easy, and I sure as hell don’t always do this, but I know it is possible.
This past week a family of four I knew was in a horrific car accident.
Two parents, two kids. The two children did not survive.
I can’t even wrap my mind around this.
My tornados, even the serious ones, are suddenly petty and small.
If I said my students give me perspective, a tragedy like this stops you in your tracks and reminds you how fragile life is.
Everyone who knew this family is reeling. There really is nothing to say. We can only be present and hold the grieving parents.
I read once about tornados, that they are unpredictable and can change their course abruptly. So it is in life. Where you are today can change dramatically tomorrow.
Be grateful for what you have, because honestly, it could be taken away from you in a heartbeat. Hold your children and loved ones close.
The magician, David Copperfield, said, “There is a safe spot within every tornado. My job is to find it.”
There is no safe spot for the family who lost their children, just inconsolable pain.
I am going to make an effort and try harder to find that safe spot when tornados come through my household and life.
I will be taking a summer break from The Ripple Effect blogs, but I will be back in September.
In the meantime, use sunscreen in abundance.
Swim in the ocean.
Drink lots of water.
Laugh, live, and love.
Combat those tornados with love, because love will lead you to that safe spot.
I am sure of that.