It’s the smack in the face that you don’t see coming that stings you the most. When the day is clear and cloudless, the danger of being rocked by severe turbulence is the highest. It’s called clear air turbulence, and it can make your insides tumble like a rack of billiard balls after the solid whack of a speeding cue ball with topspin.
Clear air turbulence makes you appreciate the paranoid folks who find danger where the reasonable person you think you are wouldn’t even look. The once ubiquitous bumper sticker that said “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t after you” should, I think, be followed with the motto “respect the paranoid.”
I know it isn’t fun being paranoid, which I can say as a charter member of the club, but it is certainly useful. I don’t think I would trade it for anything approaching the opposite. It is the excessive fear of danger that has probably kept me relatively safe for much of my life, albeit a life likely shortened by the accompanying unremitting anxiety. I would love to capture the vigilance without all that accompanying fear, but I don’t think life works that way. It’s the fear that drives us, and the greater the fear, the more horsepower in that engine.
Turbulence is caused when masses of air moving at vastly different speeds collide with each other. You don’t see it so much on cloudy days, because in order for clouds to form the air masses must be calm enough to contain the moisture within them. Sometimes cirrus clouds—those wispy, mostly horizontal ones—are clues that there is likely to be turbulence around, but the worst of the turbulence occurs when the air masses are moving so quickly that the particulates that hang around the atmosphere are so dispersed that you can’t see them at all.
Clear air turbulence is a reminder that that which cannot be seen and that therefore can cause a shitload of trouble is all around us. It could be an unrevealed secret, the elephant in the room as it were. It could be the car that comes barreling through the red light out of nowhere; it could be a cancer diagnosis when you’re feeling just fine, thank you.
Not all surprises are bad, of course. It’s just hard to think of any. I have never, for example, received a letter in the mail alerting me to the fact that a distant relative has left me a lot of money.
Sometimes the mere fact of having been born with a sensitive nervous system can be mistaken for paranoia. The line between just being extra-sensitive to one’s own and therefore another’s pain can lead to assuming that others feel the world the way you do. Often they don’t, and when they don’t and you think they do they are going to call you paranoid. They are wrong, of course. Those of us who are extra-sensitive are not paranoid; the rest are just out to get us.
In a relationship, you know you are in trouble when you don’t know you’re in trouble. The air gets thick with “Everything’s just fine, honey,” and then you know the volcano is likely to erupt. Yes, the air gets still and calm right before the storm. Better to have clouds in the sky, because when there are clouds you can see them and therefore you know where you are in relation to them. Things are finer, for sure, when they are not fine, when there are clouds in the sky you can see and read.
I have believed for quite some time now that there are few things worse in life than not knowing where one stands. I would like to know whether the affection you are showing is real and deserved, just as I would like to know if I am in the doghouse so I can at the very least hide in it until the invisible storm has passed.
For those of you stuck on the ground looking up at the sky, you might want to consider that if the skies are clear and blue there’s a lot more danger there than you think. If you don’t see any big, puffy clouds, you might want to lose that naïve complacency of yours. Get a grip. There’s danger out there, just when you thought it was safe to go outside.