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Becoming Brian Norcross

Brian Norcross was the meteorologist during Hurricane Andrew. For as long as we had television and then through the radio, we had Norcross literally calculating how much longer the storm would last. In 1992, when the third largest, most powerful hurricane in U.S. history barreled over us, people would call the television station and give their street address and Norcross would calculate how much monger the storm would last. Andrew was a tight, potent storm and it moved like a freight train, cutting a swath across southern Dade county. Andrew was predictable. We all knew Saturday night he was out there. By Sunday evening, we all knew he was gonna hit us…somewhere. And we all stood like the defenders in a soccer penalty kick, with our hands covering our balls and wincing. We all knew someone was getting walloped in the solar plexus, groin or face. We just had to hunker down, take the hit and hold on. It would pass. And it did. For some, worse than others. But (according to the official reports) no one died during the storm.

This is lesson number one. It won’t last forever. For this garden variety of depression and anxiety, it is transient. It is much like a hurricane. You kinda know its coming. It has a season, the triggers are not unfamiliar. And it builds to the point of reckoning. You just have to wait it out. The best way to deal with a storm is to prepare. You have a readiness plan. You keep supplies, provisions, batteries, important documents in sealed baggies, extra shoes, dry clothes all in a lidded Rubbermaid.

These episodes are similar. You hunker down. You wait it out. Even a category five storm doesn’t kill many. It terrifies the shit out of you. You will doubt and fear. All the “what ifs” swirls in your brain like feeder bands. But then, the storm passes and the sun comes out and the butterflies show up.  In the wake of even the most vicious storm, despite mayhem and destruction around you, the day is usually grotesquely beautiful. So, hold on. Accept that it is coming and prepare. Have a safe place where the wind has no egress and the roof is unlikely to collapse. Only a madman or a fool would standing outside at sea level when a storm is coming. Even most idiots know to get inside when the sky blackens from a simple summer thunderhead. Those of us familiar with depressive symptoms and anxiety, do not stand under ficus tress if lightening might strike. We seek shelter. Once the deluge starts and the sky unzips, we move on. Soaking, drenching rain isn’t to be feared.

When I feel the anxiety build, I know what’s coming. I can feel the static electricity across my skin. Am I afraid? Damn straight. No one wants to face this storm. But, this is where I live. I would take a predictable, trackable storm over an earthquake any day. To live somewhere with no ability to sense impending disaster, to have to accept that at any second the ground beneath you could split open swallowing you or everything you know and love would be an unbearable, grinding apprehension. I will take the hurricane, thank you very much. Each storm has it own speed, millibars and trajectory. Easy peasy. Just wait. Accept and wait.

Lesson #1: Accept it for what it is. Accept that you are afraid. Accept that in every storm, we are essentially alone facing the terror. But no storm lasts forever. We don’t generate the storms; they just come. We can’t stop them or divert them. And no one chases a hurricane. Few storms last longer than a night. It is the ramp up to landfall and the aftermath that crush us. It is how we respond the the storm that effects how well we cope and manage. Granted, some of us get dealt a shitty hand. Everything around us might be shaved to the foundation and we’re peeing in the commode that sits exposed on the concrete slab with make shift blue tarp “walls” for privacy. But, we rebuild and in that process can come miraculous things provided we are well-prepared, well-equipped and resilient. We have to remain light footed and agile, like a prize fighter. And understand that we live in the land of thunderheads, lightening strikes and hurricanes. Eventually, its no big deal. It is just what we have to deal with. We have a healthy respect for the “Big Ones” and we don’t jump on the Weather Channel bullshit until we watch the millibars start dropping. In our gut, we can tell when it is gonna be a big one. We have all become Brian Norcross. We can all watch the sat feed and know where that baby is headed. And this one isn’t one for buying bottle water and chalk. We’ll tell you when the big one is coming. One like Andrew.

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