Sunday, June 15, 2008

The 4th "F"

I've spent most of this past weekend wondering how exactly I've become so fearful of lightning. Yesterday wasn't exactly a close call (per say) with the freak lightning storm that popped up literally out of nowhere.

But to the Me that was time-trialing it back to the car as though hell's hounds were chasing my draft would beg to differ.

I had a horrible, near death experience with lightning when I lived in North Carolina. Actually, we were just about to move to Florida. Literally. Nathaniel and I were packed up, our house was vacant, Tabbitha was in her kitty carrier (which she hates, so I let her run loose in the car - 12 hours... what would you do?), and all that was left was to spend our final night in the Cherry Point base hotel.

Then, as I was biking the 1.25 miles from our old house to the hotel, a sudden lightning storm hit. It was the storm of the century, or so it seemed. For the previous week, the air temperature hadn't dipped below 90 degrees F. And you could just taste the elctricity in the air.

And when the storm happened to break, I was riding my bike, approximately .5 miles from my intended destination of the base hotel. In my own desperation, I tried to enter a locked building as lightning rained down. Each and every door I tried was locked.

I remember lookin up, seeing lightning flash across the sky, having the thunder mask my own cries of help and desperation. I could feel the static electricity, and as I got back on my bike, lightning hit a nearby tree, knocking my bike computer off my bike and singing all the hair off my arm.

Right arm, in case you're wondering.

From the locked building, it was approximately 1/4 mile to the next building (accross an open field), and the hotel was 1/4 mile beyond that.

I remember putting my head down, and getting on my bike. And for those dreadful 2 minutes - 120 of the longest seconds of my life - I though for sure I was about to die.

I remember thinking that, "I hope it dosen't hurt.... I hope that it's not painful..."

And then I kept riding.

Somehow I made it to the apartment building halfway between Wison Drive and the base hotel. Then I peed on myself and threw up. In that order.

Fast forward to yesterday.

As I was time trialing along, all I could think about was the NC storm, the feelings of dread - that at any second I was going to be hit by a zillion volts and killed - leaving this world and everything that I hold dear behind.

Suffice to say, I was a combination of shakey and grateful when I made it back to my car. Not two seconds later, the heavens herself opened up, and I got drenched tossing the bike, helmet, and shoes into the car.

And then my phone started rining.

First Nathaniel called to warn me of the pop-up storms that were, "suddenly forming!" In his words the sattelite was clear one minute, and then the next loop, there were these HUGE red splotches!

And then Donna, who I had just ridden with two hours earlier, called to make sure I was okay...

And then Ludi, while riding on the trainer....

After I made it home, I couldn't stop thining about the storm. About my fear of lightning.

It's not like it is with sharks. Sure, I joke about sharks, and yes, I am fearful of Bruce and his counterparters. But I've done my best to learn about them, to study them, to discover what they're like in their natural environment. I know that my chances of getting eaten, let alone bitten, let along nibbled on, are slim-to-none.

But lightning is different.

In Florida - as was the case yesterda - these storms can pop up at any minute.

In fact, I watched the aftormentioned storm blow up as I was riding back to the car. And unfortunately, storms don't follow the exact path of the Blackwater Trail or Munson Highway. No - they blow upwards and outwards. And then they get darker and fiercer.

But I kept looking for the tell tale sign of the anvil, but saw none.

And before my hour turnaround point was complete, I decided to head back just in case.

And I'm so happy that I did.

In retrospect, I don't know if there was anything different that I could have done. I checked the weather ahead of time, I watched the clouds, I was careful, and I went back for the car according to what I observed.

And still, I was almost caught out in the elements.

I guess that it just goes to show that you can't control everyhing: some days the weather will cooperate and others it simply wont'.

After I got back, I was on the verge of tears. Thunder and lightning are not fun: it was either a shot (or three) or hard liquor, or a zanax. I opted for the latter.

Today was spent puzzling over my fear of lightning. I was told that I have symptoms of post-traumatic-stress (disorder), but I'm not exactly sure what the next step is.

With sharks at least, I can go to aquariums, wade into the ocean, and on occasion, pet the babies (which I've done both in the wild and at the aquarium). Lightning is different. I'm not planning on pulling a Ben Franklin and flying a kite with a key in a storm. Heck, I would rather not stand in a puddle weilding an umbrella while lightning crackeld around.

I guess we all have our fears. I'm still dealing with mine, trying to find different solutions of how to deal with it. I know the shot of tequilla or zanax won't always be the best option, but I'm still in the process of figuring out what exactly is.

And maybe this will be something that I carry with me for the rest of my life. To this day, I don't like to swim too far out away from shore alone. And I still think that there are monsters under the bed (so when I turn out the lights, I run and make a flying leap over Nathaniel... always fun!)

For now, I'll just go for one fear at a time. Now, I can happily say that I'm able to turn off the lights and NOT run and jump into the bed (well, most of the time). In addition, I (voluntarily) run head long into the ocean with sharks, er, other tirathletes. So I'm slowly getting there.

And one of these days, I'll be able to (perhaps) bike at my cool-down speed while thunder is booming over head.

But just not yet.


Eileen Swanson said...

Sorry that I didn't call ya! Was totally crazy busy today. We hosted Father's Day and also took Belle to the lake for a couple hours ;-) Will talk to you tomorrow. What's a good time?


Anonymous said...

i'm really fascinated by these stories about you and the thunderstorms. You're right, they are no joke. We had some big "thunderboomers" (my own term) in PA growing up. When I moved out to San Luis Obispo, CA, in 2003 I was suprised that they pretty much never even get a bit of thunder there. Probably San Diego is the same - no thunderstorms.

Wes said...

I grew up in Mobile and frequented Panama City Beach. The air is so hot and humid there along the gulf coast. Storms like that pop up pretty quickly, and you are almost guaranteed to get one every afternoon, even more reason to workout early in the morning when its cool!!

I wouldn't stress over this one too much. This is a HEALTHY fear :-) Especially in your neck of the woods...

Sarah said...

I don't think you're too crazy for being afraid of these. It's a pretty dangerous thing...I don't have any experience with thunderstorms so I can't even imagine what it must be like.

I'm glad you got out of there in time!!

Ryan said...

Too bad you are closer to the "country" than the beach.

This time of year I can look inland and see the storms brewing, all while it is nice and sunny at the beach.

Tell Nate to stop sneaking in using your name and start his own blog.......

Tales of a Grocer!

He'll understand.

I really liked your swimming derby. I am going to start swimming there every other weekend to get some longer swims in, this 25 yrd pool is killing me.

Tell Donna I said Hi and we need to get dinner in :)

Mel said...

that is how u got super fast biking riding like crazy woman to get to shelter from the are scared for life!!!!! Look at it this way, more people die in car crashes then they do by getting hit by lightning...does that help any??? :)