When I received my copy of Let the Tornado Come, I certainly wasn't expecting to be enamoured with Rita Zoey Chin's writing. It's beautiful, descriptive and powerful. And it stands in direct contrast to the loss of innocence and security that Rita describes in this memoir.
Her struggle for survival allows her to endure parental abuse, humiliation, hunger, cold and life on the run. When she runs into love with Larry, her neurosurgeon husband, and moves into a life that is more stable, in what sounds like a beautiful part of the country, she is still running; this time it's from panic attacks.
In the Prologue you get a sense that healing has occurred; each sentence reflects it like the sun that shines off wet pavement after a rainstorm:
"But I don't focus on his fear because it's amorphous and contagious, and because I've learned that while every flash of lightning doesn't mean a storm, I'm ready for it when it does." (Page 3)
Rita describes a childhood that wasn't, as she was hurled about in a tornado of words and fists. She was caught in the tail-end of a battle between her mother and father, both of whom were ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities of parenthood. She came to understand (and perhaps forgive?), that:
"[Her] mother had never formed into a solid enough person, one who believed in her own strength and abilities, she didn't have much in the way of coping skills." (Page 45)
She started running to save her life, knowing that if she stayed, it would be far worse for her than a life on the streets and all it entailed - sex, drugs, violence and misplaced trust. Fighting to survive, Rita made the best choices she could during her too-young-to-be-on-the-streets-life. One of those tough decisions included leaving her younger sister behind:
"Alone, with no choice but to fight." (Page 275)
Panic - the Fear of Fear
Rita's growing panic emphasized her shrinking world. The highway, grocery shopping, socializing, her stairs, the shower stall and her writing all seemed to feed the panic that paralyzed her. Her spirit was not to be extinguished, though. She began to look for help, like Goldilocks, trying on and discarding a variety of practitioners, therapies and treatments until she found the ones that fit just right. She also learned that:
"Healing was a jagged trajectory." (Page 230)
It's a process that has many fits, falls and starts.
You learn about the stress response and the role the amygdala plays and how panic can take on a life of its own. Like bread crumbs leading to a clearing in the forest where there is breathing room, Rita learned to look where she wanted to go and went there.
"When I submitted myself to this intense external focus - which is at once an endeavor of will and one of faith - there was nothing left of me to give to the internal world of fear." (Page 151)
On Got "Bouncebackability"?, I shared a testimonial from Phil, a man whose panic was sinking him when what he wanted was to swim. Strategies that use the power of the heart help to bring you back to your body - emotionally, mentally and physically. In a session with another client, after thinking things weren't changing, he suddenly remembered that he was finally able to watch the entire NHL game without constantly checking the arena for the exits. As Rita states:
"Sometimes when we change what we believe, we change who we are." (Page 220)
Who you are changes when you empower yourself with knowledge, tools, techniques, commitment and compassion.
Horses as Healers
"And as I held the weight of [Claret, her horse], I felt the ache of responsibility you feel only for those you love, and I knew right then that I already belonged to Claret." (Page 165)
Through her love of horses, Rita found something bigger than herself - a four-legged reason to continue her journey of healing. She learned to trust herself to know when it was time to move on - to another horse, trainer and barn.
Claret's sensitive soul reminds me so much of our dog, Holly. There can be an understanding between human and animal that goes beyond the need for words - a look into those trusting eyes and your heart melts.
Who would benefit from reading this?
Teachers, social workers, First-Responders, nurses, therapists, stress coaches, people who work on Help-Lines and anyone who is curious about why children run-away from home, or if you suffer from panic attacks.
"I knew that my parents were damaging me and that I could save myself if I got away. Though running away nearly killed me more than once, it also saved my life." (Page 221)
Something to think when you think about those runaways.
Thanks to Jill Siegel Public Relations for the opportunity to review this book and offer it as a giveaway.
Here’s how to enter the giveaway:
- Leave a short comment on this post.
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