At first, it was a patter-patter. Then a trembling. Finally, a full-out shake-n-shatter. Like many East Coasters, Tuesday’s earthquake shook me from my seat. I was in a coffee shop in Northern Virginia. Some people ran outdoors. Others dropped under tables.
I can’t say how long it lasted, but for the last few violent seconds – I thought it may all be over. My most steady grounding – the earth – was steady no more.
Californians, laugh all you want at my dramatic description! This was my first quake and a fairly big one.
Afterwards, my fingertips tingled and my back felt twisted. I tried to re-concentrate on work, but something had shifted – I was floating like a buoy in choppy waters. About six hours later, I finally washed ashore, returning to solid ground. Or was it solid? I couldn’t be sure.
My appetite for others’ earthquake stories is insatiable. While collecting stories, a powerful analogy came to mind.
People always ask me what cataplexy feels like. As the author of a memoir about narcolepsy, I relish in trying to convey the surreal sensation of being conscious inside a paralyzed body.
Tuesday’s earthquake felt a lot like cataplexy. Not necessarily in the physical shaking, but in the sudden loss of certainty.
During an episode of cataplexy, my eyes flutter, my jaw drops, my arms and legs jerk and spasm on their own volition. Sometimes, the paralysis is complete and my body falls to the ground – despite me “telling” it not to!
Cataplexy is actually the pathological equivalent of the muscle paralysis everyone experiences during dream sleep (to stop us from acting out our dreams). However, I experience dreamer’s paralysis, inappropriately, while wide-awake. Why? Faulty lines under the surface.
So what does cataplexy have to do with the earthquake? In both experiences, there’s a quick erosion of trust. Your sense of grounding shifts out of your control. All that you know to be solid turns to dust. The consequences are unsure – will I hurt myself? And then, the world returns to normal.
Yoga teaches me that there are no certainties. Life is always shifting. The earthquake and cataplexy are bold reminders of this, shaking me awake to the moment.
Now that I know what it feels like to lose grounding, I can truly cherish the simple steadier times. I will breathe deeply and smile. For better or worse, we’re all dancing on fault lines.