Sunday, June 29, 2008

Metaphor: A Perfect Storm

I've enjoyed several opportunities to speak for AEA training sessions (special education) this past spring--all positive experiences that I find myself continuing to reflect on, mostly because I like the metaphor that shapes my presentation: a perfect storm.

Now I know that many serious writers and other types of communicators consider this metaphor a cliche.' But as far as I'm concerned, if a perfect storm perfectly describes how your child's life can set all aspects of your own in simultaneous, tumultuous motion, then the metaphor demands respect, not dismissal. A perfect storm is a perfect storm for a reason.

I think I was drawn to the concept of a perfect storm, in part, because its turbulent water images compliment the threatening, yet navigable water images I use in the last chapter of Involuntary Joy. That ... and this truth: Calm resides at the center of a storm--even a storm described as perfect.

Here's what I think is cliche': to say faith resides at the center of a storm. After all, most would agree that the role of faith is to help someone move forward, successfully navigating their life's troubled waters. (Yes, I'm gonna stick with the water imagery.) Faith moves us--perhaps even carries us--through wind, rain, thunder, lightening and wave swells. Therefore, it cannot remain quietly at a storm's center if we are to be lifted to a safer place. Faith is too active to be calm. That's why, for me, parking it at the center of turmoil weakens the metaphor of a perfect storm.

However, I can imagine that type of life. A life where faith abides in the middle of turmoil and a man, woman or child feels secure as storms buffet around them. The faith that sustains that type of daily existence is profound. It courts a sense of calm in the midst of strife. And I like the assurance that brand of calm brings--even if I regard it as less appealing than serenity, calm's deeper cousin.

Serenity is the peace that exists in the midst of all that comprises a perfect storm. It's the unshakeable entity that keeps your spirit staid and sure, even as you feel the stings and blows of unfathomable turmoil. It's serenity that says you cannot be engulfed no matter the circumstance.

On a continuum of peacefulness, I value serenity over calmness.

But maybe I'm too caught up in my metaphor. Maybe it's enough to simply hunker down with a faith that invites calmness. A faith that waits with you until normalcy returns.

It's just not how I've experienced life since my oldest child's birth. Stross' arrival--with life-limiting circumstances that permanently altered my own--wasn't calm. And even now his daily existence isn't calm. And it's certainly far from normal.

Yet there's a serenity to it. I know I won't be engulfed.

Stross is my son. Everything he is and everything he has set in motion are fully part of my life. Indeed: Stross' life set my perfect storm raging with no signs of it ever subsiding.

And so, when I'm using the metaphor of a perfect storm to describe how my life feels at times, I don't place faith in the center. Instead faith permeates all the swirling demands of my daily existence. Besides the center of my perfect storm is already filled...with Stross. He's the calm in the middle. And he took his place there without guilt or ill-intention. It just is what it is, and I'm confident that he serenely moves through each of his days fairly oblivious to the turmoil he causes in mine. And I wouldn't have it any other way: Stross in the center, my life's passions and challenges swirling all about, and faith sustaining me as I face another day.

Amen. May it indeed be so.

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