The rain started in April.
It hasn’t stopped since.
I check my Weather app every morning. Select my Michigan location. See a string of gray clouds or dark blue dashes slanting to the side with a stubborn slash. If the rare yellow sun symbol is present, it’s shy. Never solo. Usually peeking out behind a cloud.
It’s as if the Sky broke up with the Sun. Refuses to let its rays get too close. Avoids bright blue. Pushes away the bouquets of white puffy clouds.
The Sky deals with the breakup by listening to Adele songs, filling herself up just to sob it all out. She sends big buckets of rain down on top of our black umbrellas, our silver cars, our empty farm fields. She drowns our good moods and muddies our sandcastles.
So we do the only thing we can do: we wait for the sun to shine again.
The endless rain started out innocently. I was a few weeks into my new job. Every morning, a gray ceiling of clouds or a curtain of rain followed me up the stairs and toward the bright red door of the office building.
I felt like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. Oh bother.
A few days passed.
“Oh look, it’s raining again,” I joked with my new co-workers as I glanced out the window at the end of the hallway. The wet pavement glistened.
Another day: “Hey Lindsay,” my co-worker Julie called from her office. “Guess what? It’s raining.”
Another day: “You guys,” I said, my voice low and serious. “I don’t know if you know this but…” –I paused—“it’s raining outside.”
Weeks passed. My Weather app continued to predict forecasts full of gray clouds and cold.
“Does Mother Nature know it is JUNE?” we asked. The oak trees continued to chug the water like a college kid over a keg stand.
Despite the pattern, I was never prepared for the weather, always running from the car to the building with my hand over my head. My own personal rebellion. If I don’t bring the umbrella, the weather won’t turn to rain.
If only it were that simple.
"I just can’t do this anymore,” my co-worker Patti finally said one rainy morning, her arms and eyebrows raised in disbelief. She sat behind her angled desk. The green walls and collages of photographs wrapped her in a cocoon of color, combatting the gray outside her window. “It’s impacting my mood. When I went to Philly, it was 80 degrees and pure sun.”
“I know, I hate to be a downer, but this is getting ridiculous,” I agreed.
"If we aren't careful, it will steal our mojo," she sighed and looked out the window. “Geez, can you believe it's gray AGAIN? It’s almost comical now. I'm so tired of this weather."
Then one day, the Sky finally took a break from the sobbing. We got a nice, summer day. It was a Saturday. Pure sun and warm temps.
“Do you think we should skip this church thing?” I asked my mom the night before. She works night shift at the hospital, so our mother/daughter days are rare. We were supposed to go to a women’s craft event. “Since it’s supposed to be so nice out?”
"No, we probably should go,” Mom said.
“Yeah, I guess. We did already sign up.” Still, I felt a pang of Fear of Missing Out on the sunshine party Michigan was throwing.
The next day, the sun danced with a cloudless sky as Mom and I spent the bulk of the afternoon inside a dimly lit gymnasium. We made cards and conversation, met new people and laughed, swapped stories and spent valuable time together for once. I was glad I was there, but I made big plans in my mind to stay outside as much as possible once the event was over.
The afternoon concluded with closing speakers: a mother/daughter duo. I settled into my plastic chair around the round table and got ready to listen to lighthearted and uplifting words.
That’s not what I got.
“We want you to think of a situation that is hard and difficult that you have gone through or are going through now,” the mom of the speaker duo—Kelly—said. She had a short blonde bob, red lipstick and glasses. “Then write that word down on the cards provided on your tables. When you’ve got your word, come up and pin the card to this bulletin board behind me.”
I glanced around at the tables surrounding me. About 20 women –mostly middle-aged, some younger, some older—sat in the chairs, pens poised. I recognized many of their faces, though they wore new masks of uncertainty as they looked at their card.
One by one, the women went up to the bulletin board and pinned their card like the tail to a donkey. Darting my eyes from side to side, I kept my card close to my chest until I stood directly in front of the board. I stabbed a clear pushpin to the top of the card and pushed it into the cork. I avoided eye contact as I hurried back to my seat.
After a few minutes, the bulletin board was full.
“OK,” Chyna—the other speaker, Kelly’s 20something daughter—said. “We all are going through things.” She looked at the full board, then back at us. “And to be honest, it sucks, right? “It just”—she sighed, her breath almost a whisper—“sucks.” She paused. The quiet fell on the room like a thud. She started reading the words on the cards out loud.
“Disappointment,” Chyna read. “Punishment. Failure. Mistake. Disappointment. Out of control. Depressed. Disappointment. Another disappointment.”
I looked in disbelief at the other women at the round tables. It never occurred to me that they might feel the rainy days of life, too. Most of these women were older than me. I figured they’d have it all figured out: this adulting, growing up, life in general puzzle.
But we can’t prevent the weather, no matter how many rainy days we’ve lived through.
Hard things are happening. Right now. In this past week alone, I’ve heard from friends about difficult scenarios that add to the weight that we constantly carry. Miscarriages and misunderstandings. Illnesses and death. Mold in the house. Surgery in the hospital.
I keep waiting for the day that it all will go away. Like clouds parting, the dark news will make way for clear blue skies. Everything will be 100% perfect.
But it doesn’t. And it won’t. Because this is life, and we get a mix of the good and not-so-good. We have our own thunderstorms. We just don’t look out the same windows to see the lightning strike.
We don’t see each other in the counseling office.
In the doctor’s waiting room. Or the hospital hallway.
On the cold bathroom floor tile.
Underneath the pillars that once built such a strong foundation.
Alone in the car listening to that one John Mayer song that breaks your heart in two.
In the bed, staring at the ceiling fan spinning around and around and around at 2:24 a.m.
The tough stuff is what we all have in common. We all know what it feels like to get hit with the rain.
Last weekend, Adam and I got up early to plant pink and white impatiens under the two maple trees in our yard. I bought flats of dark purple petunias to fill a couple of whiskey barrels to sit on our porch. We rushed to get the roots into the dirt, trying to beat—once again—another rainstorm scheduled to arrive at our doorstep that afternoon.
The next day, I hovered over the whiskey barrel, now full of flowers. The petunias’ petals drooped downward, looking heavy and heartbroken like the sky.
“Dang it, these petunias,” I panicked, peering closely at their green stems and placing my fingers in the wet dirt. “I knew they’d die. Look at ‘em. Not even a day and they’re dying. Do you think the rain made it worse?”
Adam looked at the flowers, then at me. “Give them a break,” he said. “It’s been a day. They’re stressed. They just got planted. They aren’t dying.”
Flowers need the rain. We need the storms. But social media forgets to factor in that equation. Instagram and Facebook are like California: endless sun.
But what does constant sunshine and no rain cause?
A few days later—after a forecast full of rain clouds with patches of sun—I examined my petunias again. The petals were perky this time, their faces turned upward to look at the sky. Their stems had stretched. They weren’t just alive. They were growing.
It’s not all about reacting to the rain's existence. It’s accepting the rain's presence and respecting what it can do. The dark and dreary allow us to grow. To accept what is. To appreciate the good weather when it’s here…and learn to live --not just wait to live--when it’s not. To have both the umbrellas AND the sunglasses on hand…because we’ll need one or the other eventually.
And no matter how heartbroken the Sky may feel, she will always be the one that holds the Sun.