Even The Most Violent Storms Make Me Feel At Peace

Content Warning for brief mentions of childhood trauma (abuse and neglect) toward the end.

The times I always feel the most relaxed are when there’s a storm overhead. Rain or thunder, it makes no difference to me. Each has their own charm that can reach through whatever stress I’m feeling to soothe me even if I’m not paying close attention to the storm. So long as the gentle susurrus of rain or the rumbling boom of thunder can be heard, I have everything I need for a rest as long as the storm lasts. I grew up in Illinois, not far from Chicago, so I’m used to heavy storms that can rattle windows and shake the house, and moving to Wisconsin left me a little disappointed since the two places I’ve lived in this state seem to frequently be missed by heavier storms. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been disappointed as a storm breaks around the city I’m living in to drench the surrounding area while leaving my doorway dry.

Storms in the Midwest can be terrifying. I grew up in an area that was at the end of the stretch of Illinois that got tornados more frequently, so I’m a bit more immune to fear typically inspired by green skies, high winds, and tornado sirens going off unexpectedly. That said, I can still understand why some people might find them terrifying. I know what it is like to feel powerless before something seemingly unknowable that could decide to wipe you off the map and there’s nothing you can do about it. It is easy to be sympathetic to people and animals that find storms terrifying, even if they’re one of the milder ones I’ve experienced.

I spent my childhood learning about things that scared me. It was the only tool I had in my disposal for the things I couldn’t control, so I used it as often as I could. While I know for certain that I was a Trains Kid throughout my childhood, I also fixated on weather, crime, and kidnapping. Weather was the only one my parents encouraged, though, so it was a lot easier for me as an eight-year-old to get books on storms and meteorology than criminology and how to escape or survive dangerous situations. I even got to visit Mt. Washington and the National Weather Observatory on top of it (which is where I discovered my fear of heights) in pursuit of my interest in storms. I dreamt of one day becoming a storm chaser, of following tornadoes and flying into the middles of hurricanes in pursuit of data.

The job is, of course, much less adventurous than that these days. Satellite data, drones, and improved weather radar has rendered most storm chasing obsolete. There are still storm chasers out there, of course, but it’s a bit more of a thrill-seeking thing than a science thing. I’m sure some science still happens, but not as much as I dreamt of doing. There probably are still things that need to be chucked into tornadoes and then observed or collected so that meteorologists can observe the changes in weather patterns and storm severity as climate change slowly consumes the planet in unending disaster.

I didn’t make it more than a couple years past that point before I stopped dreaming of chasing storms and predicting the weather. I had new concerns, more difficult and important work that occupied my childhood. Still, the knowledge of how storms worked and my ability to understand how and when they’d strike based on the conditions outside my house meant that storms became something I could control just a little bit. I knew how they worked and knew what precautions where needed. I could act in a rational, logical manner based on my understanding of the storm at hand and make sure those under my protection were kept safe.

I think the reason storms are still so relaxing and calming to me is because they were one of the few times in my childhood that the rest of my family clearly felt the same fear and anxiety that I did. It was the one time it wasn’t all pushed onto me. The hours (only a couple in total, over all the years of my childhood) huddled in the basement with a battery operated radio as winds and lightning raged outside were the only time I ever really felt in-tune and connected with my family. The only time I knew I was safe because my brother was too focused on the storm to torment me, when my younger siblings were being tended to by my parents so that I had nothing to do but sit back, let time pass, and enjoy the only real peace I experienced in my childhood.

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