About once a year I go outside in the midst of a downpour. I’m not talking about a light rain with a slicker, rain boots, and umbrella. I’m talking about a torrent of rain. Ordinarily, I hate getting rained on (because I have the circulation of an 87 year old woman and can't warm up).
Several years ago, a thunderstorm rumbled through my parent’s neighborhood while I was visiting. The sun came out in the midst of the downpour. It was beautiful. The sun was beaming off of the pavement, a rainbow was at the end of the street over a field of dairy cows, and it was a warm rain. The kind of mid-July rain that just smells amazing. I remember standing at the kitchen sink, unable to resist the urge to go outside. I stepped into the rain, barefoot, and ran up and down my parent’s street.
An old friend, who I hadn’t seen in years happened to be driving by at that moment. He yelled, “What are you doing?” I laughed and said, “It’s amazing out here!” He just laughed and kept driving. That was one of the most pure and joy-filled moments of my life. In that moment I felt 100% alive.
This past Sunday afternoon, my husband and I left his grandmother’s bedside at Hospice and decided we needed some nature therapy. We drove to the lake, about 30 minutes away. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, we heard the rumbling. Heavy drops fell.
“I’m game if you are,” I said to my husband.
The rain was cold. We headed into the forest that surrounds the lake. My pace was quicker than usual in an effort to keep warm. I avoided the countless puddles, and shivered as the rain ran down my back.
After about 10 minutes, I started to warm up. Every inch of me was soaked by that time. My feet squished in my drenched shoes, and I started to laugh. I no longer was cold.
I saw a large puddle up ahead, and it dawned on me that my shoes were already soaked. I was already soaked. I had nothing to lose.
I accepted my position and ran forward.
I splashed right in the middle of the puddle, kicking up mud and a wake as I ran. In that moment, all I could picture was being an eight-year-old girl splashing in the big puddle in my parent’s driveway that collects there to this day. I thought, “Eight-year-old Sarah would high-five me so hard right now.”
In the midst of the rain, I felt a sense of peace and clarity that I hadn’t experienced in a long time.
Being so ridiculously soaked was invigorating and joyful. Maybe in part because the physical experience took me outside of head, as I felt the sensations of the cold drops on my skin.
It reminded me of childhood, of playing in the rain, of the small moments in life, like times that splashing in a puddle caused me to laugh to myself. I also thought about the speed of life, and how being eight in a puddle seems like just yesterday.
I’ve moved around this country, and have spent six years living farther than I like from the ones I love, knowing ultimately that I’m in the right place for now. I thought about death and passing to the other side, of friends who live across the country, and the grieving that comes with the distance between us, as children, and jobs, and time differences make it difficult to stay in touch.
And I thought about the nature of life as a series of beginnings and endings, never really knowing if we ever truly arrive. I guess it calls in to question our definition of “arriving”. Does it mean that we are financially secure or have a stable family? Does it mean that we have our dream job?
Or maybe "arriving" means that every once in a while, we experience a sense of pure peace, clarity and joy.
If it means the latter, then at least I can say on one rainy afternoon in May, I arrived.
What gets you out of your head? Is it doing something physical? Is it seeing something amazing like the Grand Canyon or a work of art? Maybe it's creating, or walking, or prayer.
Whatever it is that makes you take a step back from the noise in your head, make sure you give yourself a chance to do that thing.
It's a lot easier said than done, but even if it's stepping outside for 2 minutes to feel the sun on your skin; do it. You may find yourself amazed and renewed when you least expect it.