Three things have happened, and they are sorting themselves into the same space of my mind, as if they belong there together.
First, I sat outside during a summer evening rain shower. The tasks of the day were finished, we were in the after-dinner space of each doing our own thing, and I was sitting in my hammock, reading. Not laying in the hammock, not lengthwise, but turned sidewise with my legs folded underneath me, with all of my body’s weight cradled in my sacrum, so the width of the hammock is just big enough. It’s my favorite way to relax, my favorite position in my favorite space.
And then it started to sprinkle. My instincts said it was time to pack up.
Actually, my muscle memory said that. “Oh, here comes the rain… better go inside.” But my instincts pushed back… what if I don’t? What if I stay in it, sit in it, be in it?
Admittedly, I was a little worried about my hammock, pillow and open books, as these have not proven to be as resilient as I am. So I put them away. I got an umbrella, and I sat on the brick steps of my patio, and I let the rain fall. And it was wonderful.
I watched the raindrops land on the bricks, in little tiny splashes.
I listened to the raindrops fall on the umbrella, like a soft-shoe tap dance.
I watched the raindrops drip off the metal tips of the umbrella.
They stretched long and fat and thick, before they jumped off to the ground.
I discovered my favorite part is the second the light breaks through each raindrop, as it stretches to become a magnifying glass, juuuuuust before it bursts.
I sat in the rain. It was, to date, my greatest and most fulfilling understanding of meditation.
I didn’t melt. I wasn’t even mildly inconvenienced. It was glorious. I stayed in it until the drops became a mist, until I could only see the rain land in the puddles, so softly it no longer made a sound.
I didn’t run from the rain.
I didn’t even prioritize my curly hair.
I didn’t protect myself.
I sat in it.
I survived in it.
~ ~ ~
Second, we were on a bike ride around the neighborhood. (Different evening, different weather.) All four of us. We had gone across the street to the apartment complex, a gated community that Tyler loves so much he says intends to live there someday. (It’s called Palomino Park, but I’ve also heard it called Alimony Park from the adults among us.) A giant loop surrounding a green, sprawling park.
I suggested this might be the perfect place, this long loop, for Tyler to explore the different speeds, gears, and tensions of his new bike. Try as I may, I haven’t helped him to wrap his mind around these options. He is perpetually in a low gear, braking downhill, pedaling like mad uphill, his chain whirring like a breeze instead of a machine, never enjoying the thrill of momentum. Biking can be so much easier than this.
So, on this long oval loop of sidewalk, no interruptions, no sharp curves, no unexpected variables, I asked him to ease up to the highest gear.
He was skeptical. His muscle memory insisted I was wrong, this was poor advice, and he might not do well. But he tried it. He geared up higher and higher, the tension greater and greater. I could see the muscles in his calves pumping.
He said, “Mom, it’s like I have a super power.”
The tension didn’t crush him.
He realized what he could do.
He stayed in it.
He survived in it.
~ ~ ~
Third, I am reading Tuesdays with Morrie. (I am studying this book as I am collaborating to write a memoir of the same genre. When I said I stopped writing for the first time in twelve years, I meant that I stopped writing for me. I’ve been busily writing words, stories, and memoirs for other people. More on this in 2021.)
(I have so many surprises for you in 2021.)
This section is highlighted, starred, and dog-eared in my copy:
“Take any emotion – love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I am going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions – if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them – you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid.
You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief.
You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails.
“But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is.
“Only then can you say, ‘All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.’
“I thought about how often this was needed in every day life. How we feel lonely, sometimes to the point of tears, but we don’t let those tears come because we are not supposed to cry. Or how we feel a surge of love for a partner but we are frozen with the fear of what those words might to do the relationship.
“Morrie’s approach was exactly the opposite. Turn on the faucet. Wash yourself with emotion. It won’t hurt you. It will only help. If you let the fear inside, if you pull it on like a familiar shirt, then you can say to yourself, ‘All right, it’s just fear. I don’t’ have to let it control me. I see it for what it is.
“Same for loneliness: you let go, let the tears flow, feel it completely – but eventually be able to say, “All right, that was my moment with loneliness. I’m not afraid of feeling lonely, but now I am going to put that loneliness aside and know that there are other emotions in the world, and I’m going to experience them as well.”
~ ~ ~
Like I said, these three have marched into my brain at separate speeds, and now they have found each other. They are linking arms, standing together and comparing notes.
The rain didn’t melt me.
The harder gears of the bicycle didn’t break Tyler.
And the emotions don’t have to scare you or swallow you.
Feel the raindrops land.
Feel the muscles work.
Feel the heart break.
These are the very examples of “stronger than you think.”
Remember that stupid comeback from the playground, “I know you are, but what am I?”
I’m claiming a better version: “I know you are. And so am I.”