Storms and Shoes
A friend of mine has trouble talking to his dad about politics. This is not an uncommon problem, nor is having an elderly white dad who voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. However, what’s interesting to me is the reason for his dad’s political convictions: he believes Donald Trump was sent here by God to usher in the Apocalypse — The End Times, Judgement Day, Armageddon with the horsemen and the Seven Seals and that sheep that has like 7 eyes and 7 horns, etc.. Furthermore, his dad feels it’s the best course of action to let the perceived instigator of The Great Teardown serve a second term in office, because… well, that’s just what he thinks. Which is why my friend has a hard time talking to his dad about politics. It’s a circle, see.
But listen, I get it. I mean, I don’t GET IT, because this man is engaging in a thought experiment so far-spectrum and excruciating that I can’t even really tail it. However, I think I might sympathize with the process by which he got to the conclusion that locusts eating all the crops and water turning to blood is a desirable end to a dark and horrifying process. Because when you’ve believed all your life that the world is essentially one shoe lying on the ground and another one dangling above your head, menacing and unpredictable, it’s hard not to start just wishing it would drop. The shoes become your entire world.
I’ve spent almost my entire life in the business of negative forecasting. I don’t have a doctorate in it or anything, but I’m pretty good. If I care about something — a job, a relationship, an election — I spend hours a day secretly catastrophizing over the different ways it will end, how the other shoe might drop and how I’ll react when it does. I guess it feels responsible to make a plan.
But I’ve also tangled with a tiresome list of physical and emotional ailments in my adult life, and you better believe Irritable Bowel Syndrome is one of them! Sometimes I’ll launch myself into a multi-month jag, letting my mind migrate over and over to the shoe looming over my head, imagining its geometry and the physics of its eventual fall. And each time I let my thoughts wander there, I take a tiny dose of the poison I fear will eventually be force-fed to me — and most of the time I take the poison willingly and with relish. As I steel myself for the coming trauma, the process of prepping traumatizes me over and over again.
But here’s the thing: the world has rarely ever dished out what I predicted, calamity-wise. Each storm — even the ones I watched coming over the land from hundreds of miles away — landed on me with a peculiar elegance I could never have imagined. The pain of the real storm is fresh and raw, where imagined pain is dull and uninspired, but agonizing, nonetheless. I have sat for hours in my mind tower, peering at the storm through binoculars, jotting down notes, puzzling over new data, checking the barometer, crunching the numbers over and over. But when the storm hits, I find I’m never prepared for it: sometimes it’s nothing but a wide, blue sky; sometimes I bought a bunch of bread and milk, when I actually needed WD-40 and toilet paper. I’ll never learn, because the nature of storms is unlearnable.
Lately I’ve been thinking that maybe I should stop trying, as it seems to be the trying and not the storms that’s ruining me.
What if there are no shoes — on the ground, in the air or anywhere?
What if there’s nothing to take to the Apocalypse but your own good heart and a can-do attitude? I think we’ll find it wasn’t what we thought it would be, anyway.