“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” ~Theodore I. Rubin
I live in a rainy city. For most of the winter it’s endless grey, weeks in which you’re lucky to get a glimpse of the sun at all.
It might be drizzling, it might be pouring, or it might be merely fog. It is certainly wet.
For me and a lot of the people who live here, it’s almost a deal breaker. When I first arrived, I spent a lot of time complaining that it was raining again. When the sun came out, I summarily dismissed it with “yeah, but for how long?”
Sometimes I still fantasize of moving somewhere nice and hot. Maybe I’ll melt all summer long, but at least there’s sun, right?
The bottom line is that I like living here. For a thousand reasons, it’s my home. I’m not going anywhere.
So my choice is this: embrace my decision with a full heart, rain and all, or live in bitterness, fearing the next cloud.
I can’t change the weather.
I also live in a rainy mind. Like everyone I’ve met, I have anxieties, fears, and a thousand other difficult moods that arise in me on days when I’ve counted on sunny, focused productivity.
For the last couple of years, it’s been panic attacks.
Everything is going so well until something derails and my world becomes scary, my breath comes with difficulty, and I’m falling down the rabbit hole again.
The hardest part to let go is my plans for the day. I was going to write a blog post, clean the kitchen, or go out with friends, but now I’m crouched in the corner expending all my energy to keep air pumping into and out of my lungs.
But recently I realized, I can’t change the weather.
Sure, I can do things to take care of myself so panic attacks are less likely, but if it’s not one thing it’s another:
I couldn’t sleep last night, and now I’m tired. My project isn’t coming along like I’d hoped, and now I’m cranky. The other people involved in my plans got sick, and now the plans are canceled.
Life isn’t always sunny. Life gets rainy.
And no, that’s not fun. Rain on a day you were hoping for sun is frustrating and sad. It can seem like everyone in the world expects constant sunny positivity from you, and when you can’t manage it, there’s shame and guilt.
But it’s kind of magical when you decide to look at it like it’s largely outside of your control. What if today’s mini disaster blew in on the wind with the clouds? What if that same wind will blow it out again?
Maybe today you’ll finally buy some rain boots so you can go for a walk without getting wet. Maybe today you’ll learn that the beach is different in the rain, but still kind of cool. Or you could spend today curled in a ball, cursing the grey.
Either way, it’s still raining. Either way, you’re still lovable. You don’t have to like the weather, but it’s an option.
And the funny thing that happens, once you stop fighting your internal weather, is it becomes calmer. It turns out that so much of the problem was the expectation that would things be different than they are, that everything would go smoothly.
Now when it rains, I tell myself I know that I will see the sun again. It might be two weeks, but it’ll happen. Probably sooner than I think.
When I feel anxiety creeping up, I remind myself that we all have emotions that are difficult for us. That I will feel calm and happy again, probably pretty soon.
And then I have the space to make the best of the day I was given, not the one I ordered.
Some thoughts that help (think of them as affirmations if you like):
1. This is the weather right now. I can’t change the weather, but I can take it into account to make myself more comfortable.
2. The sun always comes back. There are always days when things go right. This discomfort is temporary.
3. Everyone has hard days, even if not everyone talks about them. I’m still normal and lovable when my weather is rainy.
4. I’m allowed to feel disappointed that things aren’t going the way I wanted. I don’t have to be ready to make the best of it right away.
5. What if today were supposed to be rainy? What if this were exactly the right thing?
What helps you on days when things aren’t going according to plan?