I never thought I’d be able to draw parallels between packing up belongings and writing a novel, but such is the nature of the world. Unexpected things help you appreciate the intricacies of life.
I’ve done one of those two things more than the other, and I’m actually quite surprised that it’s the latter. I’ve written more novels than I’ve packed up belongings for moving or storage of them, something I would have told you was an impossible feat if you asked me five years ago.
It was my second time rolling into Norman, Oklahoma with an anxious feeling of how I would manage sorting through all my son’s belongings, packing them in an orderly fashion, and placing them in storage for the summer. But it was even more nerve-wracking doing it for the very first time last year. Opening that dorm room door and witnessing the chaos of a young man’s living space after staying on top of classwork for the duration of two semesters is not a sight for the faint of heart, or at least for someone like me who prefers minimalistic order and a lack of clutter.
I experienced a similar feeling when opening a blank document for the first time and thinking about writing an actual novel. It was terrifying. The unknown can be a scary place to visit willingly, but doing so becomes somewhat easier on subsequent trips, whether those encounters are literal or metaphorical. Such was the case with writing a novel and packing up my son’s dorm room for the second time. Which leads me to another type of unexpected chaos—in the most literal sense of the term—that left me with a similar set of complicated emotions.
As a meteorology student in the middle of tornado alley, my son is immersed in an area of the country with a turbulent atmosphere around this type of year which has its side benefits. Most people run away from towering cumulonimbus clouds with anvil heads. Those who study severe weather move toward them.
It was a moment of serendipity as I rode in the backseat of a storm chasing vehicle through the small town of Story, OK. And by small, I truly mean blink and you miss it. But what a story that transpired over the course of a few hours.
It included a parking lot stop at a local Dollar General, tornado sirens, lightning strikes, a flurry of emergency vehicles, torrential rain, malfunctioning wiper blades, drenched clothes, screaming video feeds detailing the movement of a tornadic supercell, and the sight of my first elephant trunk tornado touching the ground.
It was complete and utter chaos, unexpected and somewhat disorienting: physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I’m not sure those particular feelings will subside with future occurrences. But amidst that chaos, there was a curious sense of peaceful beauty to be found in the most unlikely place, watching my son and his friend thrive in their element, applying their theoretical knowledge of meteorology and putting it to practical use in the field.
If there was ever a place where I felt terrified, inspired, and in complete awe at the same time, it was inside that turbulent experience. It reminded me that whether we’re writing a book, packing up belongings, or chasing tornadic supercells, there’s a special beauty to be found amidst the chaos. All we need to do is embrace uncertainty and be willing to open ourselves up to every single possibility inside of the unknown.
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