Archive for January, 2009

Rain and Lessons in Contentment

Friday, January 9th, 2009

I fully believe that Joy is a choice.  I am currently reading several books that tell me it is not my circumstances that determine my happiness, but the story I tell myself about those circumstances.  I have heard sermons about contentment.  I have lectured at length to my children that complaining will only make them unhappy.  I believe this.

In the last couple days, I got a delightful three-part reminder.

It began on Wednesday morning.  I was doing a quick run to the grocery store.  We had expected an ice storm, but instead we got nasty, cold, heavy, near-freezing rain.

I do not like rain in the winter.  I tend to think how much I would prefer snow.  Rain in winter is almost as cold as snow, but not as pretty, and not as fun.  It soaks into your clothes much more quickly, and doesn’t brighten a dark day like snow does.

As I came out of the grocery store, the thought crossed my mind that it was a shame I had to make a grocery run today.  The thought lingered long enough for me to feel guilty about the negativity.  But I was justified!  After all, loading groceries into the car in the pouring, cold rain is not a fun thing to do.  Ask anyone!

No sooner had that thought crossed my mind than I looked up and saw a mother and son walking toward the store.  The mother had an umbrella, but the little boy, about three years old, wasn’t paying any attention to staying under it.  He was positively dancing with joy at being out in the rain.  His shiny yellow boots splashed the pavement with zest, and you could instantly see how excited he was about this wondrous chance to go shopping in the rain!

Kind of put things in perspective for me!

The next day, a new book by Mo Willems, Are You Ready to Play Outside? came to the library.

play_outside.jpg

Piggie is so excited about playing outside with Gerald!  They will run!  They will skip!  They will jump!  NOTHING will stop them!

Then it begins to rain.

It pours.  Piggie is NOT a happy pig.

Gerald, an elephant, first tries shielding Piggie with his ear, but it is still raining.  Piggie doesn’t see how anyone could possibly play outside with all this rain.

Then they see two worms come out, exuberantly happy, splishing and splashing in the rain.

They decide to try it.  They run!  They skip!  They jump! 

Piggie decides he loves rain!  He hopes it rains all day!

Then it stops. 

Piggie is not a happy pig.

Fortunately, Piggie has an elephant for a friend, who has a solution.

This book conveys its message far more effectively than any sermon, lecture, or nonfiction book.  Part of the effectiveness is Mo Willems’ brilliant illustrations.  With simple cartoon drawings he makes you feel his characters’ emotions.  I never imagined that worms could look so joyful!  Elephant and Piggie turning somersaults and kicking up their heels in the rain proclaim complete exuberance.  You don’t just read about Piggie’s frustration turned to joy.  You experience it!

Last night, I brought the book home and showed it to my son.  I told him about seeing the little boy in the rain.  Gerald and Piggie dancing in the rain reminded me very much of that little boy in his yellow boots.

I think of Are You Ready to Play Outside? as a metaphor for life itself.  After all, I reflected, at this time of my life, I am single, not by my own choice.  I can spend my time moping about how I wish it would stop “raining” or I can skip and jump and dance in the rain.

Isn’t it true that people like Piggie who are unhappy in the rain tend to be the exact same people who are unhappy when it stops?

Later, I was e-mailing friends about the Inaugural Parade, in which my husband will be marching.  Even though he left me and has told me he wants nothing to do with me, I find myself feeling proud and excited that he’s going to take part in this historic event.  Someone sent me a link to an inaugural website, and from there I went to an Air Force page and found a story about the Air Force Band.  Apparently, they are supplementing the main DC band with musicians from several field bands for one big 99-member band for the parade, which is why my husband and several other Air Force musicians I know all get to participate.

What I didn’t realize is that they are already in the DC area.  My son had mentioned that his Dad was going to be practicing 8 days for the parade, but I didn’t realize it had already begun.  In fact, according to the article, the whole group began practicing this past Wednesday — in the pouring, cold, nasty, near-freezing rain.

I would be ashamed to report that this simple fact gave me a certain satisfaction.  I would be ashamed to say that the very nasty, cold, and unpleasant aspects of that rain now filled me with a certain unreasonable delight.

So I will simply say this.  The next time I am caught in a cold and nasty downpour, I will reflect that it could be worse.  I could have to practice marching in it.