From 2002 through 2010, I went on storm chasing trips to the Great Plains around Texas almost every spring. Toward the end of these years, I started getting more insight into the psychological roots of my fascination with storms, and I stopped doing as much storm chasing. I wrote the following piece in the spring of 2009, as I was in the midst of this transition. While I still love storms, my relationship with them has shifted; they don’t grab me emotionally like they used to.
An Unexpected Diversion
Yesterday, I had the whole day to myself. My partner was out of town, I had nothing in my calendar, and I expected I would get lots of writing done. I was looking forward to that!
As the day wore on, it became clear that I wasn’t doing as much writing as I’d planned. I ended up spending a big chunk of the day napping and reading an online forum about storm chasing. Things didn’t go according to plan. Over and over, I made choices that I’m now regretting. I was aware that I might regret them later, but I rationalized my choices with thoughts like “I just need a short break.” Looking back on all this, I’m concerned, confused and curious. I wonder, “Why did I make these choices? What’s going on here? It seems that I was choosing less meaningful short-term distraction over more meaningful long-term satisfaction.”
If I were to react to this situation with blame, I might berate myself as lazy and shortsighted. I might tell myself I’ve done something stupid or irresponsible – “I should have known better.” However, looking back at my experience yesterday, I’m noticing how many of my needs were obviously met by what I ended up doing. My naps were great; they met my need for rest. Learning about others’ experiences chasing storms (through their writing, photos, and videos) certainly met my need for adventure—that much is clear at first glance. But, was that all? Something feels off about this picture.
Making Sense of My Experience
I’m remembering a certain edge in my experience yesterday—a subtle sense of urgency, anxiety or constriction around my heart. That emotional edge tells me there was more going on for me than simple adventure entertainment. I know that when I notice this edge, if I keep exploring the needs I was trying to meet by doing what I did, I’m likely to discover a significant insight.
I’ve always loved storms—their drama, beauty, danger, and power. I’ve been fascinated with them ever since I was a child. Part of my excitement about moving to New Mexico a decade ago was the idea of being next door to the Great Plains—the home of the most powerful thunderstorms in the world.
As I consider the storm chasing stories I was reading yesterday, I’m realizing that each story was about a personal journey. Sometimes the journey turned out well, and sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes people had great experiences, and sometimes they got hurt. It’s dawning on me that in reading those stories, I might have been seeking inspiration and learning. I might have been unconsciously trying to learn about the kinds of experiences I might have when I set out on my own journeys.
Seeking Love and Acceptance on My Own Adventures
I’m noticing how focused I was on one online conversation about a particular storm chasing trip that didn’t go well. On this trip, risks were taken and people ended up getting hurt. There was a lot of analysis, criticism and judgment flying around online. What was it about that conversation that caught my attention?
Maybe a part of me has been anxious about whether it’s safe to embark on the larger journeys of my own life. If I really take risks to step up and shine, will my needs for love and acceptance be met, even when things don’t turn out well? As I consider this now, I’m realizing that I have the power to meet my own needs for love and acceptance, no matter how things turn out. I realize that I’d rather embark on the important journeys of my life—with all the risks they involve—than risk dying without having offered my greatest gifts to the world.
Now I’m considering how my relationship with storm chasing relates to writing. When I chase storms, I engage with some of the most powerful forces in the natural world. When I write, I engage with truth—an even more powerful force. I’m realizing that in both storm chasing and writing, I’ve been seeking to meet my need for meaning, by setting out on a journey that will stretch my edges of growth. Storm chasing is an older, more familiar way of meeting that need—and I realize it hasn’t been meeting that need very well anymore (because from a personal growth perspective, I’ve learned what there is to learn from it). Now, I’m realizing that writing may be a more effective way of meeting my needs for meaning and adventure—it may be a more significant journey.
Before, I had an uneasy sense of confusion and bewilderment about what I did yesterday. Now, it seems less like a mistake, and more like the first part of a learning experience; the second part was the self-exploration process that I just did. The learning doesn’t seem like it would have been possible without the “mistake”.
I have a feeling of completion now, having made meaning of my experience. I’m relaxed and content, with no internal judgment or confusion. I have an openhearted sense of love, care and understanding toward myself—and a newfound clarity that I’m ready to move on. Having learned what there was to learn from this experience, I’m hopeful that I won’t have to continue having it over and over again. I notice a newfound sense of freedom.
Photo Storm Chasing May 2014 (by Craig ONeal) is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.