4 min read

The Typhoon

The Typhoon
Big Waves Under Cloudy Sky by George Desipris via Pexels

I like to think that every family has its own insular language. It's definitely what happened in my family, that over many years of living together anecdotes become daily language, and when the anecdotes become half forgotten the language lives on. There are many such examples, but one of my favourites is the typhoon.

The origin is shrouded by many retellings and hazy memories, but it goes something like this: one day we were all playing some elaborate game with hide-and-seek elements and as a result our room was a proper mess, with toys and clothes strewn all over the floor and every flat surface. This is of course the very moment in which our parents appeared in the door and incredulous exclaimed "What the hell happened here?! A typhoon passed through!?". Har, har. We were forced to stop playing, and clean up.

On a different day we decided it would be nice to clean the room to a spic-and-span standard. Every book was in the right place, every toy put away, every shelf dusted, and even the floor was vacuumed. It all happened in a rare spurt of energy and sisterly sync. Afterwards we lounged on our beds and read. This is of course the very moment in which our parents appeared in the door and incredulous exclaimed "What the hell happened here?!".

"A typhoon passed through" we replied, the smartarses we were.

Thus, in a fantastic example of a neologism through change of meaning, a typhoon became a shorthand for spurt of energy that was not destructive, but rather brought in order.

We were always praised or rewarded for being the typhoon, which is in very subtle ways great and absolutely terrible. It is nice that your effort is recognised and rewarded. It is terrible that it is only recognised when it is extraordinary - and that small, incremental cleaning and maintenance efforts were not. As a working adult I have found that I no longer have the time or the energy to be the typhoon - and it took me a long time to re-learn how to clean and maintain order in my surroundings in a way that doesn't take extraordinary levels of effort.

I am acutely aware that there are people who are typhoons in their life and for them no extraordinary effort is required. Well all know one. They appear to contain boundless energy and enthusiasm which the rest of us look upon with envy. They're organised, optimistic, and self-assured. On top of everything. With a handle on everything. Put-together. There is an entire industry of books, articles, videos, classes, vitamins, exercises, and supplements that promise to help you become those people, and I have spent inordinate amount of time trying. Hell, at times I was even accused of being one, as if my attempts to codify and organise my life were anything but a symptom of my aspirations.

For cleaning and organising I have gone through every possible tasklist, book, and video. I have found that they based upon one fundamental idea: that this is easy, if only you become someone whom you are already not. Essentially for any of these methods and approaches to work you must already be the kind of person for whom these methods and approaches work. You must already be a typhoon.

When you fail to change your fundamental self, which you statistically will, then this is a personal failure of character, or will, or commitment, or grit, or some other quality that you ought to have had but don't. Worse, you may conclude that it was that method which didn't work for you, and keep looking for another. Ka-ching ring the self-help industry coffers.

I know I have felt that way great many times - and often resigned to seemingly untamable chaos of my surroundings.

"It must be just who I am" I would go on and think.

But therein lies the lie. I know precisely zero people who don't crave a clean, beautiful and organised surroundings. Yet the typhoons are rare. This plants the idea that you don't deserve these nice things, because you're a wrong kind of person. But to present the universal desire of order as something which is only accessible to the rare few should ring loud alarm bells.

What is happening instead, which took me to my mid-thirties to realise, is that the people who are selling you this feeling are the wrong kind of people for you, with the wrong kind of ideas for you. In the ultimate example of selection bias a small amount of specific type of people foist their methods upon the rest of the population as the only correct way to achieve what we all desire.

This is wrong. It's all sorts of icky. And yet we are sold this all the time.

If that sounds like an opening salvo to a new self-help blog series, well, I guess you're right. I do absolutely intend to write about what does and doesn't work for me as a low-energy couch potato with an executive function of a teaspoon. I do intend to take apart and criticise some of the blogs, books, and other shite out there from that point of view. I intend to recommend stuff that helped me, lament stuff that almost got there, and tear apart all the stuff that's for the wrong kind of a person. And it is going to be irregular and ad-hoc series, because this all written is by a person who is decidedly not a force of nature, and for others just like me.

I'm writing this all the while I second guess myself and my intentions. Every kind of a self-help article has already be written! What could I possibly contribute?! And you know what, fuck it. I know I could have used this information several years ago; I hope you can use it now. And if not, then this is probably not for you.