Let my spirit carry me

“In meteorology, a cyclone is a large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure, counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere as viewed from above. Cyclones are characterized by inward-spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure.” (Wikipedia)

A strong center of low atmospheric pressure. Rotation. Inward-spiraling winds. That feels really familiar. The phenomenon of inward-spiraling winds resonates mightily with me.

My winds have always spiraled inward, drilling down to a finite point like the collapse of a star on its way to becoming a black hole. Down, down, down, and down some more. It begins with light, however. My question lately has been where does that change, where does light give way to darkness? Is this a choice or simply inevitable? Is there some point of no return?

I am reflecting a bit on cyclones today, because there is yet another tropical cyclone bearing down on the Gulf Coast of the United States. It’s expected to make landfall on the Gulf Coast somewhere between Texas and Alabama on August 29th, which seems like a cruelly ironic twist since that’s the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Katrina was a magnanimously devastating weather event for New Orleans in particular, as more than 80% of the city flooded for more than a week. The hurricane itself had glanced off the side of the city, but the drainage system failed and, well, the rest is history. As a subsequent Mayor of the city explained, “Katrina was not a natural disaster. It was a man-made disaster brought on by politics and the failure of all levels of government.”

We call the cyclones hurricanes in this part of the globe. They start with what is termed a “tropical depression”, which seems to fit me in many ways. I believe there’s a definite progression around low-pressure systems as they become more organized and rotation begins to manifest. I believe the sequence is first low pressure, then a tropical wave that gives rise to a tropical depression. The depression becomes more organized and shows signs of rotation around a defined center and is then termed a tropical storm, and if organization is maintained the storm becomes a hurricane. The delineating factor is wind speed and rotation, so with each step in the sequence, pressure drops further and wind speeds increase as the inwardly-spiraling rotation becomes maximized.

Growing up with hurricanes and cyclonic systems all my life, I have always found them alternately beautiful and terrifying. The wind blows the water, the water floods the land, the land becomes too soggy to hold up the buildings, the buildings sink beneath the water. The people die. Even with several days warning there’s often no escape from the torrent of rain and the fierce winds, and there’s often no place for the excess water to go but your living room, bedroom, and kitchen. This is complete and devastating powerlessness.

In my recovery program, we are urged to accept that we are powerless over people, places, and things. This is a difficult concept for a lot of people. because we immediately resist the idea that we have no power, that we are weaklings. I don’t see it that way. I understand that I have personal power – the power to choose, the power to accept reality, the power to have compassion. I have no power over mood-altering substances, because the disease of addiction is one that tells me I have no disease, that I’m just fine even when I’m up to my eyebrows in self-generated disaster. So that’s the context in which I am powerless. Period.

Powerlessness, for me, simply means that I cannot change reality, no matter how fast I talk or how good my arguments may be. The past is a reality, and I cannot change it. Reality also dictates that future events are shrouded and unknown to me, so I cannot manipulate them in the present. I cannot change things like how other people feel, the color of the sky, or the unique pattern of my fingerprints. That, for me, is just reality. As long as I keep banging my head in futility against it, I am likely to have only an aching head to show for the effort.

So, all that to say that I started as a low-pressure system. My pressure drops whenever I am trying to change the unchangeable. When I am hung up on that futile endeavor, I am a depression, tropical or otherwise. Low pressure. It sounds tempting, if I conceive of low pressure as that which is exerted upon me, by external forces. But like air pressure in a tire, I have to maintain enough internal pressure to keep up the shape and form of the tire, and thus make it a useful implement. That’s the reality of it.

When my pressure is low and I become the proverbial flat tire, I am of little use to anyone or anything, but I generate a great deal of inwardly spiraling wind that rotates around a smaller and smaller area of low pressure – the eye of the storm. That is when I can do the most damage to everything around me, with little discretion. That is when the storm rages and the winds howl and things get broken. Lots of things get broken.

When I reflect on that energy, the rotating and spiraling forces, I feel that it is not simply a weather system, but a metaphor for how I rotate and spiral inwardly. It is cyclic, and I have been taught that rather than make an attempt to control it, I should take whatever precautions I can (especially avoiding harm to either myself or others) and let it do what it’s going to do. That may sound like a cop-out, but taken in the context of my own emotional circumstances it may be the kindest thing I can do for myself.

When I am grieving, there is a cyclonic force raging inside me. Attempting to control it, or bargain with it, or deny it only results in a stronger storm. Letting the emotions run their course is kinder, and generally allows the storm to peter out in due time. Mind you, that only applies to my own emotions, not the actions I might choose to manifest in consideration thereof. When I am grieving, and feel so incredibly awful, I still don’t have the right to manipulate circumstances that will affect others. That’s where the light turns to darkness, and sometimes there’s no turning back. A super-nova is generally not reversible.

This feeling of powerlessness is quite a fine line to tread, a many-edged sword to burnish. On the one hand, I have to admit there are many thing over which I have no power or control. On the other hand, I have to be responsible for those things over which I have power and control, namely myself and my choices. I don’t have to do any of this. There’s no law that says a person has to pursue recovery if they are addictive. There’s not even a law that says you have to be a nice person who takes responsibility for their own actions.

But there’s some part of me that says I don’t want to live like a free loading irresponsible person who takes what is not hers, and who cares little about the damage she causes. It’s a choice. That’s where my power resides, and that is the point of no return. When I’m abdicating my throne and being irresponsible, nobody else may know that I’m full of it, but I know and that’s enough. That is the point where light can turn to incomprehensible darkness inside me, and that’s a choice only I can make.

I am hoping this hurricane will not wreak havoc on New Orleans when it makes landfall in a day or so. Conversely, I am not hoping that it bypasses New Orleans in order to wreak havoc elsewhere. Every part of this planet has its own impending diasters built in – California is dealing with fires and draught again, the Pacific NorthWest is dealing with unprecedented high temperatures, glaciers in the Arctic are calving and volcanoes the world over are spewing lava every which way. The planet is dynamic, and that which it destroys appears again in other forms and in other places. We don’t get to choose.

Today, I suppose I will try maintaining a steady orbit about my center. I don’t feel at peace, but I don’t feel not at peace, either. Some days, I suppose that’s as good as it gets. In times past, I might have considered that a reason to contemplate ending it all. But, unlike those days, today is a good day to die if that is what occurs. As John Donne reflected long ago, Death itself dies at the point a soul is freed and becomes eternal. Fly like an eagle, till I’m free…fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me.

Fly like an eagle, Let my spirit carry me..

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

One thought on “Let my spirit carry me

  1. Such a deep post.

    To my mind being aware of the darkness, even when caught in despair or giving in to it for a moment, is the most important thing – knowing that it’s somewhere you don’t want – and the biggest strength in finding the way back.
    As long as we remember it is dark we can find our way back eventually.

    Wishing you strength and support

    Liked by 1 person

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