“Those who think sunshine brings happiness have never danced in the rain.” That anonymous quote takes me back to my childhood in Ohio. In bright rain slicker and rubber boots I used to skip and splash along my quiet street when it rained. I jumped in puddles to see how deep they were. I stuck out my tongue to catch raindrops and twirled with arms spread wide. I sang and danced in delight as water dripped from my sleeves.
When I was a child, it sometimes rained for weeks in a row and, more than once, my friends and I counted to see if we would reach the biblical 40 days and nights of Noah’s time. If we waited for sunny days to be happy, we would have had miserable childhoods instead of the happy ones I remember.
I doubt that I have intentionally splashed in rain puddles since my own children were young. If I step in one now, I am more likely to curse than sing out in joy. In Southern California where I live, rain is a rarity. If sunshine brought happiness, everyone who lives here would be perpetually joyful.
In both cases, rain or shine, happiness springs from inside, not from external conditions. Circumstances make life easier or harder, and some situations are so difficult that any scraps of joy are small indeed. Nevertheless, happiness and joy depend on us, whether or not rain is falling from grey clouds overhead. We are open happiness and joy, or we are not. We cultivate them in our life or we don’t.
Even knowing this, I have slipped at times into the belief that I will be happy when I have a new boss or a new job, when I lose weight or have more money, when all my debt is gone, when the turkeys in my life become eagles, when I win the lottery, or when I am healthy. The longer I spend in this unproductive thinking, the more negative I feel and the worse my life appears.
Certainly joy is easier with a good boss and enough food, shelter, money, and health to meet basic needs, but these don’t create happiness. Joy is a state of mind we create and consciously nurture that makes it possible to sing in the rain and splash in mud puddles.
I began this post one morning while my husband was on a short hike with our dogs. I stopped writing when he came home with the news that one of our dogs had rolled in human excrement on the trail and needed a bath before she could come in the house. As we ate breakfast and I tried not to think about the disgusting task ahead of me, the kitchen sink started gurgling. It needed a plumber.
Before tackling the dog or calling the plumber, I sat down to write again…but couldn’t. I couldn’t write honestly about being happy when life was raining you-know-what. I was so unhappy right then that the hard part of walking my talk couldn’t have been clearer. If I wrote about dancing in the rain, then I would somehow dance, even on that day. I stepped away from my desk and walked down the street to inhale into my soul the beauty of our local mountains. I hung pictures on a bare wall in my office after two years of procrastinating. I started singing and wrote a little more.
I hadn’t planned to wash the dogs that day, but oh, well. They got clean and fluffy a few days earlier than expected. I realized that if the plumber cleared the kitchen drain now, it was likely to stay open through the holidays and I could cross it off my Worry List.
Since then, I have had plenty more occasions to practice dancing in the rain as my health put my energy in the gutter this week and kept me from writing. All things considered, however, I’ve done a lot of dancing in the midst of it.
Maybe I will buy a pair of brightly colored rain boots at DSW, put some plants in them and set them by a window as a reminder to myself that one doesn’t need sunshine to be happy.
Come rain, sun, or snow, it’s up to you and me to keep dancing.
*Photo by Mark Smutny