And the Storm Will Rise

There are certain things people say that you’ll never forget: the first time a man tells you he loves you (even if he’s merely a boy at the time), when someone ridicules you publicly, or when you have a heart-to-heart with your mom, not as your mother, but as your friend. I remember each of these moments in my own life, but if someone were to ask me my favorite, most memorable phrase anyone ever said to me, it’d be:

“Well you’re like a Southern summer storm in the middle of August, aren’t ya, now?”

I can’t tell you the woman’s name, but it was a friend-of-a-friend at some family reunion I attended in North Carolina when I was 17. Having only been in my presence for about ten minutes, this older lady decked out in pearls and with nails so perfectly manicured you’d think she lived in a salon, literally nailed who I am in fifteen words.

For those of you who have not had the privilege to experience a thunderstorm in the Southern region of the United States – I hope you do someday. They are beautiful. Out of nowhere, unforgiving gray clouds encircle the endless sky, enticing bursts of sound and light in every direction. The rain with a scent so intoxicating, so vibrant you yearn to step outside to inhale as deeply as you can. But, if you’re educated by the ways of the countryside, you dare not step off of your porch, but allow the storm to capture your attention from afar. Leaving the security of your steps would be quite risky and with the aging Oak trees swaying helplessly in the sweeping winds, you can only imagine what they could do to you, the barefoot and sticky with sweat observer you are.

And then, almost as easily as the storm came, it leaves. Its noise, its electricity, its saturation, and its perfume trail off into a space beyond the Blue Ridge mountaintops you’ve never crossed. It is only then, when the branches rest from their dancing, the daffodils face the sun as it breaks through the clouds, that the real beauty reveals itself.

As everything comes back to life and still at the same time, and the color returns to the fields and the atmosphere…an echoing silence that’s as vivid and consuming as any sound on the Earth, captures the Southern afternoon. It’s simply quiet.

Perhaps the lady didn’t know what she was saying to me when she called me a summer storm, but something tells me that with her accent and the way she sipped her sweet tea – she did. When a relationship comes to a close, when a man leaves me before I’m ready to be left, when I don’t hear from a guy who I was convinced was intrigued by me, or when I feel like I failed at something I thought I deserved, I hear her words ringing loud and clear in my head.

Am I really as messy as a summer storm? Or is love the storm we all chase after, but never quite catch?

When I’m falling in love, I see myself enveloped in a tornado, shaking around aggressively, feeling the rush of lust wash away all of my fears, all of my insecurities, and capture me in a breeze I can’t (and don’t want to) fight. Instead of hiding behind a door, I dodge through it. I tease the storm with my laughter, with my ever-believing, ever-childlike spirit, and I feel unbreakable, unstoppable, and full of a fire I know could never be drowned with rainfall.

Until of course, I hear the thunder.

Or it shakes the ground so violently that mud splashes up against my calves. And lighting strikes a breathless few feet away from me, and though they say it never strikes twice, I start to remember what it’s like to feel the sting of heartbreak, to have that feeling in places you didn’t know existed that tells you “It’s over. It’s just so over.”

And like the same sweet child who ran to escape the unexpected summer rain and the disaster that often followed it, I dive back into my safe place with my hair and my cheeks damp, my mascara creating paintings on my face, and as if I wasn’t soaked enough – I cry. As if I wasn’t messy from the outside free-for-all I just came from, I shield my eyes with my grimy-hands, smearing the wetness even deeper. So deep it feels like it becomes ingrained in my blood and pours out of the hole that I hoped wouldn’t be put in my heart…again.

When I love, I love intensely. I love powerfully and profoundly. I make no excuses for how I feel and I give away pieces I should probably keep to myself – but I do it willingly. I do it with the rush of a hurricane, the destruction of a tsunami, and the intensity of a volcano erupting.

And I do it over and over again. With each and every single man who is lucky enough to be loved by the likes of a Southern summer storm.

In going through this journey, as raging and unpredictable as it seems to be, I thought I may lose some of my splendor. Some of that unyielding optimism that makes me believe my Mr. Right (who may be a Mr. Northern Storm, perhaps) exists, of that passion that helps me string together words and fight my way out of any disaster. I thought maybe, that tailwind that so many men, so many friends, so many people have often said they get mesmerized by…would leave with the addiction.

But then I realized, the best part of the storm isn’t the storm itself, but the calm that follows it. As much as a mess in a dress I am at times, especially when I’m drowning in a flood of new love, being a little cyclone means I find my peace eventually. I accept that no voyage, where it be one I travel alone or with a first (or fifth) mate, is ever safe from rocky waters. That while the storm will always rise, it will also fall – and it is there, you test your lungs and your legs out for size. And with the same strength that made the winds blow, the rain fall, and the leaves rattle and shake in all of the relationships I’ve experienced, I’ve been just as sturdy to stand after they were over.

To stop being a hot mess for a hot minute. To ring the water out of my hair and wipe away the stains on my knees, in between my toes, and on my fingertips. To step out of the drenched clothes and slip into something dry and warm. To open that backdoor and feel the summer breeze float through my ringlets.

And let myself inhale not only the end of the storm, but the colorful promise illuminating the sky. The one that makes you remember no matter how much hell a storm gives you or how much hell you are – there is always something waiting in the horizons you can’t see, in the cityscapes you always wished were in your view, but never quite were.

That somehow, no matter how detrimental the raging waters or how threatening the daunting clouds were – we’d never trade them for anything. Because without the storm, we can’t appreciate the sweet stillness that comes with the sun.

P.S. Confessions of a Love Addict is making Valentine’s Day more about the single ladies and less about flowers that’ll die in a day. Submit your Valentine here.

A Dive Into the Unknown

As a huge adrenalin junkie who absolutely adores all things fast, dangerous, and super-high (heels included) – when I was given the opportunity to go bungee jumping last year, I gladly accepted the challenge.

The experience wasn’t in some exotic land off of a waterfall or a bridge into tropical waters – but rather, just part of the attractions at a North Carolina stupidly-small town that catered to the country-bumpkin in all of us. At the time, I was dating Mr. Idea and it was the only “weekend getaway” he could afford. Nevertheless, I was excited to be with someone who was willing to take the plunge into a large blow-up pillow from the top of a 65-foot tower.

We climbed a winding staircase chatting and mentally preparing ourselves for the moment when we turned the corner, caught a glimpse of the cascading mountains in the distance…and all of the people who looked super tiny below us. We took our place in line, and because it was one of the items on my ever-flowing bucket list, I wanted to go first. Mr. Idea stood behind me, tickling my waist, and pulling me into him – and I noticed a girl, probably around 13, royally freaking out in front of me. After a few minutes of observing her, I gathered that not only was she alone, but she really, truly did not want to nose-dive off of this platform like I did.

I pulled away from Mr. Idea, patted her shoulder, and asked if she was alright. She instantly burst into tears, said her dad was waiting below, and she thought she wanted to bungee jump, but now is terrified. My southern comfort came out as I wrapped my arms around her, reassured her that if she didn’t want to jump, she certainly didn’t have to, and that I was sure her dad would understand what she called “wasting his money” (Had he minded, I would have gladly given him the $25 fee that I paid). She tucked herself away in my chest and asked if I would walk her back down the stairs. Mr. Idea rubbed my back and asked me if I wanted him to wait, and I told him to just go on without me. Now, I was invested in this scared teen.

The closer we got to the ground, the more she started the breathe, and the less she cried and held on to me. By the time we reached the first level, her father had walked up to meet her, and hen she laid eyes on him, she spurted out apologies between sniffles. He just picked up all 95-pounds of her, consoled her, and ran his fingers through her hair. He then thanked me and she waved good-bye as they walked away, seeing me as this stranger who came to her rescue. I watched them leave for a minute before making my way back up the tower, my legs and my heart heavy from the exhaustion. And once I finally made it to the edge and the instructor was checking all my straps and buckles and giving me pointers and direction- I finally realized what I was doing.

I looked down at the ground with crowds watching, including Mr. Idea who successfully completed his jump and was now shouting up words of encouragement. I looked over at the instructor-dude, who did not look very charming or college-educated, or even like he cared too awful much, and wondered if I was comfortable placing my trust in him. I looked down at the many clips and cords wrapped around me and the wires attaching me to the tower and questioned if one of the never-fail contraptions, had ever, well…failed.

Clearly noticing I was spacing out, the instructor asked, “Ms., are you ready to jump?

Now, nearly two years later, I open my eyes and see myself on a slightly different platform that’s not as elevated, but the stakes seem even higher. My palms are just as sweaty, I find myself searching for intriguing excuses to turn around, and the support that promises to protect me from plummeting – seems a little shaky.

In every dating situation where imagining a future doesn’t seem so far fetched – there comes a point where you feel yourself on the edge of an emotional cliff and you have two decisions: to jump or to leave.

Once you’ve experienced this pivotal call of heads or tails, love or fail – you know what it feels like to be falling for someone. You can feel your lips curling at the thought of them, your mind wondering into their direction, your heart anticipating the next time you’ll see them or hear from them. You can feel it when you’re enveloped in their arms, reading an e-mail written just for you, or when you meet their eyes.  More than likely- your friends and family notice a difference too, and if they are anything like mine, they are inquisitive into the glow behind your beaming cheeks.

And with this realization that you are falling and you know you must decide if the jump is worth the possible destruction – you become scared shitless. (Pardon my language, but it is really the best way to describe it).

Evaluating the risk becomes a personal strategy and mental coping mechansim where you make deals with yourself: “Okay, if I do act like I really do like him, if I do tell him how I feel, and he rejects me – I’ll still be okay. I will still be able to get up, go to work, and make that happy hour on Thursday. I’ll be cool. And who knows, he may even feel the same way! He could be falling too! ” But then, your emotional side takes over and pleads: “But it will hurt!! OMG, Lindsay, don’t you remember what it felt like? You’ll want to go home, crawl into bed, and those 10 pounds are gonna come back with all the cake you’ll be downing. It isn’t worth it.”

But does love or the chance of it, always have to be so black and white? Does it always have to be to fall or to protect? To take a deep breath and move forward or tuck your tail, throw up your flag to surrender? To walk forward or to walk away? To be the girl who needs to be escorted down 65-feet or the girl who takes a step off the platform, no matter how scary it is?

Is it impossible to fall into shades of gray?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t falling for Mr. Possibility and I’d also be telling a white lie if I didn’t admit it makes me a little uneasy and fearful for my heart that has experienced a fair share of breaks. But, as I’m realizing with this journey – not everything can fit into one of two categories. Not everything needs a big red bow on it of approval or a scary red “x” of rejection. And in terms of love – where guarntees are never made – falling into the unknown is just part of the game. Plus – regardless if it is in the form of cords and cables, or friends, margaritas, or strangers on tall platforms – we will always have some type of support to back us up if we need it.

So while hesitation is rightfully-justified when we’re about to take a plunge (the instructor had to count to three twice for me) – there is no better feeling, no better thrill, no better rush than the moment where you decide that regardless of the outcome or the final destination, diving into the unknown is less risky than turning around and always wondering…if you should have just held your breath, said a prayer, and jumped in.