Friday, September 12, 2008

Anxiety

I have a minor anxiety disorder. Okay, it is minor when it isn't bothering me. I remember exactly when it reared it's ugly head. It was a slow rearing, like a monster looming slowly out of the depths, then finally exploding through the surface.
I used to work in theatre, doing summer stock in the summers (obviously). One summer I decided to take a job at a theatre in Wisconsin, near Madison. Some friends were working there as well, so we chose to rent a house rather than trust to theatre housing. We found a delightful farmhouse at the top of a lovely hill a few miles outside of a small town and about 30 miles from the theatre. It was beautiful there, a wood on one side (with foxes in the woodpile, no less) and rolling greenness everwhere. Green, so very green, such as we are not used to here in the desert.
We arrived one afternoon and began unloading the moving van. I was only staying a few months, so my belongings were quickly emptied into the house. The friends had more permanent job arrangements and so had actually moved there. I stood in the kitchen, putting dishes away and not paying much attention to the world when I noticed that I felt...odd. My head felt very full and my ears were plugged. I looked up, uncomfortable, to notice that the light had changed. I went outside and looked around. Funny clouds in the sky and the air was an unearthly, weird green, and silent. I knew what this meant. My heart began to beat a little faster and I called to my friends. They came outside and the boy said the evil word. Tornado. They turned and went back into the house. What?!? Didn't they care? Weren't they worried? No, it seemed. Okay. So, I went back into the house to continue what I was doing, all the while keeping an eye on the weather. Finally it rained and the sky returned to normal.
A few days went by and I went down into the town to run some errands and look around. While walking down the street, I was assaulted by an unholy wail that made my heart stop. What in the world was that? I ducked into the nearest shop to find out and was told, oh, don't worry honey, that is just the tornado siren.
I'm sorry, the what? Don't worry? Don't those go off when someone has spotted a tornado? I wasn't sure what to do, so I stayed in the shop till the wailing stopped and then I beat it for home. Again, the weird sky, the air pressure change. Then, the rain and things returned to normal. I was informed that this was unusual for two to occur so close together. That was a relief. Ah, but this was not to be a normal summer.
As the weeks went by, the tornadoes kept coming. At least one a week. My nerves began to fray, I kept my radio on all the time listening for warnings. I wouldn't stray too far from shelter for fear of being caught out in the open in one. Then finally, it broke through the surface. I was at work, in the "barn" at the theatre. That was where the costume shop was located. On top of a hill, of all places. A very unsecure place. The weather darkened and turned windy, the radio was tuned to a weather channel, we listened quietly as the tornado watches were increased to warnings, and as the towns listed as needing to take cover neared ours. I grew more nervous, but tried to hide it. No one else seemed to care much. Finally, the boss came upstairs and said, Those of you who live outside of town may want to head for home, it is getting ugly out there. I dropped my stuff and bolted outside. Relief. It didn't look too bad, so I jumped in my car and headed down the hill, hoping to beat the storm home as we had a storm cellar there. I reached the bottom, tore through the town and up the next hill to descend into the valley in which I lived. When I reached the top of the hill, horror met my eyes, it was black as pitch. Did I keep going? Turn around? The other cars around me carried on, so I did as well. I flipped my radio on and heard what I did not want to hear. If you are in the Dodgeville area, seek cover immediately. But where? I was right inbetween the two towns, where could I take cover? Cars around me kept driving, so I did too. Then I saw ahead of me a weird swirling grey. What was it? Not the tornado, I could tell, but what? Then I reached it, rain. Insane, slashing, whirling rain. I could hardly see out of my windshield, but I noticed the car in front of me pull over, so I did the same. We were in the lee side of a hill, the safest place to be, but not safe enough. The radio kept saying over and over, if you are in the Dodgeville area, please take cover immediately. But I couldn't! I hunkered down to ride it out, numb, but thinking over and over, take cover, take cover! A painful roaring sound, louder than the rain drew my attention and I looked up, unwillingly, through the windshield and I saw it. The funnel. True terror swept through me and I was positive I was done. Branches whipped through the air and the rain fell in absolute torrents and then it passed over me...and was gone. I wasn't dead, the sky cleared and I could see the road full of cars pulling out from the side. I pulled onto the road and drove home. When I reached our place, the dirt road was completely washed out, so I left my car at the bottom and walked up the hill to the house. My friends through the door open and ran out, wide eyed. We weren't sure you would make it, they said, the theatre called to tell us you were on your way home, ,but you didn't come! How long? I asked. Two hours. I had no idea how long I had sat on the side of the road.
I went into work the next day to find the temporary "buildings" ripped to shreds. Cars had the windows completely shattered out. Worse, Taliesin, at the bottom of the hill, had lost 50 huge trees when the tornado touched down.
Okay, I thought, I lived through it, I am fine. I can deal. Hah.
A few days later my first contract ended and I had some free time at home. I was there alone when the next one blew through. It reared it's ugly head. I was done, I couldn't deal, I wasn't fine. I had to go home, home to my lovely desert with thunderstorms and earthquakes but no tornadoes.
I called my mom to have her come to Chicago and drive home with me. The friends decided to drive to Chicago with me and make a weekend of it. I picked my mom up at the train station and we drove to the hotel. That night, a tornado blew through and put the power out, I left the next morning. We drove to Nauvoo. Though I desperately wanted to get home, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I may as well have, I got nothing out of it, having spent the entire time watching the sky. At the hotel in Nauvoo, I kept looking out the curtains to make sure I could still see stars. If I could see stars, I was okay. Are you alright? asked my mom. No, I wasn't. I was far from it and in such a state that I wasn't sure I would be alright ever again. I was in a panic and could barely function. Over what? Wind?
We drove home, I drove all the way, though I was dead tired from lack of sleep. There was a tornado out the window most of the way home. When I finally drove into the mountains in Wyoming, I let out a sigh of relief. It smelled different, mountain air. And it kept the tornadoes away. I relaxed and drove the rest of the way to Provo, confident that I would be okay.
Shortly after returning home, the weather gave us a grand summertime thunderstorm and I cowered in my bed. I love thunderstorms, but all I could think of was that horrible swirling rain and a funnel cloud threatening to hurl me who knew where. But my rational mind told me I was fine, we didn't get tornadoes here.
A few days later, I watched the news to see a small tornado rip through Salt Lake City, killing one person and damaging several buildings.
How unfair.

2 comments:

Josh and Kaytee Postma said...

You should be a writer...

The Whitaker Family said...

What writing, Tara! You had me on the edge of my seat, I was so freaked out for you! When did this happen?!?! Wow.......