Monday, October 31, 2011

The Beauty of the Rain

It is raining today. For many people this is a depressing, sad, annoying or inconvenient situation.

But not for me.

I've always loved the rain. It has always felt like liquid peace to me. When I was about 6 years old, I placed a child sized chair in my little red wagon, wheeled it into the front yard and sat there under an oversized umbrella. After first taking a picture, my mother made me come back in the house, where I instead opened up the garage door, set up my chair at the edge and watched Mother Nature's show.

When I was about 22 and a graduate student at the University of Florida's Center for Latin American Studies, my boyfriend at the time and I took our umbrellas and made a hike through the rain in one of the area parks. We felt alive and adventurous and in control of our destinies.

At some point as a graduate student or law student, on one of my journeys to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it was raining on the beach in Ipanema. Rather than let it bother me, I let the rain soak me as I sat on top of a giant rock and gazed out at the sea. I may have look bedraggled, but I felt completely free.

I've been through all sorts of trials and tribulations in life, not to the extent of many people in this world, but enough to call my own. For example, about a week before I was to start Harvard Law School in 1993, I had a horrible car accident while on a weekend road trip in which the boyfriend from the University of Florida was thrown from the car. I watched helplessly in the middle of the grassy highway median as he died. An ambulance took me away to a hospital where I didn't know anyone. In shock and far from home, I waited several hours until my mom and dad could come for me. No one would give me a straight answer when I asked about my boyfriend.

Except for some minor scratches and bruises, I emerged from the accident physically unharmed. But my spirit broke that day and some part of me died along with my boyfriend. My golden girl innocence had shattered. Of course, I had been lucky to have held on to my childlike wonder for as long as I had. Now I was hollow and devastated. My parents packed me off to law school anyway, which turned out to be the right decision. My life had to go on and though I now saw the world with different eyes, somehow I would have to make it through.

Even during the depths of my despair, I knew that the death of my ability to feel boundless happiness and joy would only be a kind of temporary death, like when winter comes and the leaves are off the trees, all is barren and seemingly dead, especially in a Massachusetts winter. And yet, a tiny spark of hope managed to hang on inside me through the depression and anxiety I felt over the next year, which would peak through in the quiet moments when I was no longer able to keep them squashed under a frenzy of activity and distraction. Down deep I knew that eventually spring would come back to my soul, and my spirit would one day blossom again.

Now when it rained, I would feel my lost friend in the raindrops, a friend that was loving and kind to me and who wanted to protect and comfort me. A friend telling me one dark and dreary November day in Cambridge as I lay listless and forlorn on my dorm room bed unable to focus on preparing for law school exams, not sure how I was going to make it through, that it was time to pick up the pieces of my life and move on. Somehow I was able to receive this gentle message. And so I tried, and so I did. I don't know how, but I made it through and here I am.

Today I have the most wonderful husband and amazing kids. I have meaningful work that I love helping people. I have friends that I cherish; family that supports me unconditionally; community that gives me purpose and never lets me feel alone.  Sure, I've had to deal with some stuff that I won't go into here. Especially since the stuff is not completely over. But it doesn't matter if it is over or if it's not. It's okay if it's still raining.

Let it rain down on me. I welcome the refreshing shower and am happy to be washed clean. The rain didn't stop the itsy bitsy spider and it doesn't have to stop you or me. Besides, if there are only sunshiny times in our life then we will not be able to fully feel joy.

As the Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran wrote in his timeless book, The Prophet, with regard to Joy and Sorrow, "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." 

And as to Pain, he wrote:

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that your heart must stand in the sun, so must you know pain...And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields. And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief."

And you are still free to dance in the rain and play in the snow like you did as an innocent happy child. Storms always pass. Winter never lasts. You can't control the weather or your circumstances, but you can control your attitude about them and remember that no matter how cold and wet it might get, the brilliant sun inside your heart is still shining there beneath the storm clouds, and it will come out again.