Today a severe storm system came through Indianapolis/its surrounding communities. A tornado touched down in Plainfield, not far at all from where we used to live. I was at work at the time of the storm in an office building on the northside of Indy, at Keystone and 465, and my coworkers and I nervously peered out at the sky through the large glass windows ringing our floor. Our cellphones had chimed and buzzed, one after the other, with a PSA: “Extreme Alert,” mine said, “Tornado Warning in this area until 3:15 PM EDT. Take shelter now. Check local media – NWS” — but the sky told nothing. It was impassive, uniformly gray. We kept looking, expecting change.
We refreshed the radars on our computer screens, trying to predict which color–green, yellow, red or dark red–would soon be covering our location on the map. All the signs pointed to at least red, and soon.
Then we heard about the tornado in Plainfield.
I sent a text to my husband: “I love you. In case we both die.”
I left a Facebook post: “There’s a tornado-producing thunderstorm heading toward my office building. So… that’s something.”
Soon the darker clouds rolled our direction. I prepared myself to hunker down in the 4th floor restroom–the assigned refuge of the copywriting team, men and women to their respective rooms.
Then the rain came, and in the same way it smooths and homogenizes everything on the ground, the rainfall transformed the clouds from a patchwork of dark grays and blacks to a smooth, light gray. We all began to breathe easier. I stopped refreshing the radar and went back to writing a veterinary website.
Now it’s 9:50 at night and the excitement of the storm has faded like the clouds–the potency and the aggressive presence of possible harm has dissipated, and I have returned to the ordinariness of the day-to-day. I had dinner. Read. Took a nap. But now I’m annoyed with myself for turning back so quickly to the banal.
Facing harm brings clarity, and I’d like to honor that for a moment.
Supposing today had been my last day on the earth, what would I have wanted to leave you with? What would I have wanted you to hear from me?
Base but honest thing I’d like to have said: Why didn’t you all appreciate me more when I was around? Why didn’t you read my writing? Or watch the music videos I posted on Facebook? Etc.? I worked hard on all of that stuff, to be interesting and thoughtful and have good taste, and it really torqued me off to be overlooked again and again.
Something about the logistics of my death: Donate all possible organs. I don’t need them. Cremate me. I don’t need you wasting money on a wooden box. Keep my ashes around if you want, or don’t. Use them as an excuse to take a great trip somewhere I’d have loved, and spread the ashes there. Keep as much or as little of my stuff as you want. Don’t hold against me anything you find in the bowels of my computer.
Something about the future: Alex: don’t mourn me for long. Always love me, but don’t feel like you have to love only me. I believe in a person’s capacity to ‘work’ with multiple people, and that love is a choice, and an action. Choose to move on, when you’re ready to. Find someone who is less of a pill than I am. 😉 And, open your business. Dammit, if you don’t–!! Your dreams are valid. You are worth everything.
Oliver and Margot: I love you more than I have the capacity to commit to words. Even though I had you, you made me–I had no voice as a writer before I became a mother. You made it possible for me to see my human-ness in a new, profoundly valuable way; you helped me remember to always notice and value the small moments. I apologize for my faults, and hope that my weaknesses and imperfections as a mother help you to better understand how difficult the human journey is, and help you remember to be kind. Always be kind. Life is extraordinarily difficult for many people, and you never know the shoes someone is walking in. Listen first. Love, if you can. But even if you can’t love, bring kindness to the table. Mockery and hatred will never fill you up in the way you want to be filled, and it is not what you want to contribute to this world, no matter how fun it seems at the time.
General notes for all humans: If I can leave you with just one thought, one tip, it’s pause and consider everything. The things we torture ourselves with accomplishing: making $$, getting stuff, being “awesome”–who actually said that that’s the best way to go about life? Maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s just the lie, the lie that keeps us in boxes and feeling like X or Y is better or best–there is no “best.” Don’t fool yourselves. WE decided all of this stuff. We stupid humans. There is no one way that we have to act, look, think, etc. Ask yourselves, whose standards are these? Then: do I trust and respect this standard-giver? Then: even if I do, must everyone else? I’m not telling you what the answers to these questions are, but I implore you to ask them.
Shake the Habitual. Check your privilege. Keep it classy.
It’s weird to do this–to think about what you’d want to “go out” saying. Not that I’m planning to check out of here–I’m not. Not at all. I’m not done with you people yet, and I’m not done with myself, and I hope I’m granted many more years on this earth to poke my nose and finger into everything, think about it, write about it, attempt to understand and share it.
Until our next Tornado Threat of Death Day, then! *dance it out*