How to Train Your Demon

How to Train Your Demon

An essay about life on your own terms.

Image for postPhoto by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash

A twister ripped through my neighborhood when I was a kid. It bent my neighbor?s basketball post upside down. Downed a dozen trees. Left trunks and parts of rooftops scattered for blocks.

School was cancelled. So I was left with conflicted emotions. On the one hand, grateful. On the other, mesmerized.

A little terrified.

I remember the night it surfed through. My parents woke me up. There was so much noise. The house was shaking.

We pattered down to the basement. Through the windows, you could almost see it roar down on our yard. It demolished three trees. My dad watched through the garage door windows, transfixed.

Somehow I could imagine what he saw.

The next morning, we looked across the giant oaks downed across street ways, the basketball poles made into alphabet shapes. In some ways, it was like meeting your first crush.

Irreversible.

Ever since then, I?ve dreamed about tornadoes.

No surprise, then, that I?d wind up living in Tornado Alley. That once, I?d go for a run and forget to check the forecast. (Transplant mistake.) That I?d wind up outside, alone, when the sirens blared, and see green clouds spewing lightening at me. But why?

I?ve always wondered how a tornado like that could destroy trees and fences, come within mere feet of me, and never lay a finger. There simply isn?t a reason, which is why rules make no sense.

A tornado doesn?t obey rules. At least, not ours.

And the fact that you might survive a tornado at age 8, in a region not all that unfamiliar to them, is kind of a miracle.

So if you survived a tornado at such a young age, you might be blessed with a little bit of insight. You know life can end, any minute.

So why would you waste a second of it obeying rules that don?t serve living beings, much less you in particular? Hall passes? They seemed so trivial. That line of thought doesn?t always mean rebellion. It just means don?t treat them like life and death. Because they?re not.

Today?s performance reviews are the hall passes of yesteryear. We spend a lot of time on rules ? either trying to conform to them, or coming up with our own. Rules work until they don?t.

And that?s where the tornado comes in.

We all crave to do what we?re meant to. Unfortunately, that doesn?t come written down on an index card. Does it? We?re all afraid of missing out on our potential. Expectations and desires rip us apart.

What can we do?

Listen to the inner voice. It?s the tornado.

Sound crazy? Hear me out.

Your intuition isn?t unlike a tornado. These only show up when natural forces exist at an imbalance.

You might even wonder if they help restore a calmer state.

Intuition sees and hears everything your conscious mind does. But it makes far better decisions. Sometimes, it takes rash and even destructive turns. Don?t ask me how or why.

People guided by intuition make weird ass decisions. Ones that astound or outrage the people we know.

But they?re the best decisions for us. And they don?t happen inside some secret vacuum. Your intuition sifts through all of your observations and experiences ? even while you?re asleep.

It?s your own personalized algorithm.

So start listening to it.

Intuition sometimes manifests as dreams. You can dismiss a given dream on a given day. But have you ever noticed patterns?

As in, re-occurring ones?

My entire life, I?ve had two kinds of dreams. First, something breaks into my home and attacks me. Never human. Sometimes it?s a lion or another huge animal. Other times, a demon.

Second, I?ve dreamed about tornadoes coming after me. Sentient tornadoes. They started on the horizon. Now, they?re right up close. At my office building. Are they trying to kill me, or tell me something?

For a while now, I?ve wondered.

Here?s a radical idea. The thing in your dreams, the thing you fear, it?s actually you. A version of your mind.

Not necessarily a demon as something you need to banish. No, and the recent sway is that you can never rid a demon.

They come for you, and take up residency.

Get used to your demon. It ain?t going away. Hey, it might even be good for you, as long as you can train it.

So, how to train your demon?

You can?t change who you are. But you can learn to get better at being what you?re meant to. Sometimes, that means hugging tornadoes.

Or demons.

I?m convinced a tornado is a kind of demon. Anyway, fighting your demon can wind you up in a pointless circle.

The demon wants, and it will never stop. So you have to come to terms. For me, that means realizing I?ll never go to sleep like a good little girl, when I?m supposed to. I?ll never smile and greet strangers as potential friends. My demon simply won?t allow it.

My demon checked into me after the tornado. But when it met my mom, it decided to stay. ?She?s crazy,? it said. ?You need my help.?

And I did.

It?s hard to pin down intuition. We mistake it for all kinds of gut instincts. But it?s not that. A true feeling of intuition doesn?t come with any emotional baggage. It?s just an idea you can?t explain yet.

Intuition doesn?t spark excitement or dismay. It?s emotionally neutral. Take my current situation. I know there?s something deeply sick with my current employer. Sure, it feels nice to finally have tenure.

Part of me wants to celebrate.

But my intuition says save the champagne. Tenure at a dying university means very little on its own.

My adrenaline response tells me to jump ship right now. Leap at the first job I can find that comes with a decent salary and benefits.

But my intuition says not so fast. Just because my university is falling apart doesn?t mean I should leave the profession.

Sometimes, the most radical decision is to stay put.

No other good options have presented themselves yet. Intuition says keep working the angles, keep all options open.

That?s the thing about intuition. Sometimes, it recommends something that goes against your impulses.

Meteorology has found that people want to hide under a bridge during a tornado ? if they can find one.

Your instincts dictate that. Bridges look safe.

But it?s actually the worst place.

Intuition would?ve solved this problem long before you encountered a tornado. It would?ve said, ?Hey, I?m driving through tornado alley next week, and might get hit by a tornado. Alexa, what should I do??

Your intuition works best when zoomed out. It does zero good when it comes to picking the winning numbers, or chance in general. A viral video? A jackpot on that slot machine? Intuition?s got nothing.

Rules and guidelines and checklists came into being for one reason: People don?t know how to listen to their intuition.

It just knows whether you should go home or not. Like right now, my demon?s telling me to finish this thing and crawl into bed. But OMG, wouldn?t it be exciting if a tornado hit us? No, go the f*ck to sleep.

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