I always feel grateful for rain. As a child, I was happy to stay indoors reading or watching movies on beautiful, sunny days. My mother would coax me outside, shaming me not to waste a glorious day. Rainy days let me off the hook.
Even as an adult, waking up to rain gives me a singular sense of pleasure and comfort. If I’m lucky, I will have planned to work from home the entire day. To stay in my pajamas, cook pastina for lunch, shuffle from one room to the next between projects.
Usually, though, some commitment draws me out of the apartment. I contemplate calling and canceling plans, rescheduling appointments. I run the lines in my head first to see if I can pull it off convincingly, but give up when I remember that I am an abysmal liar. I then commence with the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, perseverating over what to wear, what shoes to sacrifice, what anti-frizz strategy to employ.
Once outside, I can feel my body clenched and my brow furrowed, as I tip toe through puddles, hike up my pant legs, and clutch my purse to my chest beneath my umbrella. I walk as swiftly and efficiently as I can to ward off unnecessary wetness, and try to avoid becoming a casualty of speeding cars and busses that hug the curb too tightly.
The only problem is, I am not the only one in this predicament. As I battle for real estate on the sidewalks, begrudgingly raising my umbrella to accommodate others, and aggressively inserting myself into busy intersections to ward off turning vehicles because I (CAPITAL, BOLDFACED, ITALICIZED ‘I’) have the right of way, I sing a little song that goes: ME, ME, ME, ME, GET OUT OF MY WAY!
Finally I reach a point at which I resign myself to the rain. I give up my fight, release the tension from my muscles, unfurrow my brow, and give myself over to the dragging pants, the shoes sloshing, the hair growing larger by the minute.
It is only at that point that I can look up and see something other than myself. To view the people around me, not as obstacles standing in my way, but as other beings probably feeling similar feelings, wishing to be safe and warm and dry at home. I notice their clenched faces, hasty movements, and self-righteous irritation. Harried drivers and weary pedestrians all. And my compassion for them (and myself) grows. Suddenly my sodden walk becomes very interesting indeed. Sometimes I even take the long way home.
Not that I remember this when the next rainy day comes along but I’m trying to pay closer attention. I realize it’s easy to smile at strangers when it’s sunny and beautiful, but less so when we’re all soaked and annoyed. That it’s easy to be kind when I’m comfortable and more challenging when I’m cold and wet. Although initially I resist the discomfort, at a certain point I renounce that resistance, and my own selfishness, for a little while. And I get a glimpse of what Chogyam Trungpa writes about in Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior:
What the warrior renounces is anything in his experience that is a barrier between himself and others. In other words, renunciation is making yourself more available, more gentle and open to others.