Saturday, October 15, 2005

What is that big, bright thing? Why, I think it's the sun!

I have been so thoroughly drenched in the past week that I stopped bothering with my umbrella and just accepted feeling mildewy. I watch the rain fall sideways and wonder, "what's the use?" So I don't bother. I'm not a fan of umbrellas, anyway. I carry one more reflexively than anything. It's more of a nod to acknowledge the rain than a useful tool. 'Specially here in the city, where it seems some people wake up on rainy days and seem to think to themselves, "Hmm, what am I going to have for breakfast? Should I wear the brown shoes or the black? I wonder if I'll finally be able to poke that Asian girl's eyes out?"

In the past five or six years, being out in the rain has been (for me) a dharma lesson about suffering. When you hunch your shoulders over and huddle against the rain, when you are carrying your umbrella directly in front of you as a shield, you are fighting against what is, rather than accepting what is. Of course, as I stride boldly through the rain with my head up and my face welcoming the moisture, the downside of this is strangers looking at me as if I am insane and the messengers in our building hooting, "Girl, where is your UMbrella?" Not to mention some real hair tragedies.

It's the same as the time I was "learning" how to be a cyclist (as opposed to "someone who rides a bike" -- there's a difference, believe me, and it ain't just padded lycra shorts). The more advanced riders would spin up to me as I fought and struggled up big hills (the mile-long ascent into the Alpine Police Station comes to mind) and say (without even breathing hard), "Just be the hill." With my lactose-deprived quads shrieking, the response I wanted to but didn't give was, "Oh, go fuck yourself, you lycra-wearing homo." I would usually grimace and grunt in response.

I realized that this only happened to me on hills -- the rest of the time I was on my bicycle, I was in a zen state of complete awareness and oneness with the bike, the terrain, the air around me. In fact, on the bike is when I was most centered and present. I had to be. A moments' woolgathering, of not being in the moment, could -- and once, did -- mean an accident. But on hills, I don't know, I would become a machine of suffering and "I hate this." I had internalized the belief that "I suck at hills" so completely that while I was riding hills, I was living that belief.

Then. There would be those days when it didn't happen, proving that my belief system was just that -- a belief system -- and not necessarily true. When I wouldn't approach a hill like Closter Dock Road or Booth Avenue with dread, but as just another piece of terrain to be covered on my way back to the George Washington Bridge. For some reason, this usually happened when I was alone, not riding with a group. As if, when I was riding by myself, I didn't have to believe it, and I didn't have to make anyone else believe it either. When those moments happened, I just rode my bike, and breathed. I didn't think about how long the hill was, or how steep, or how much my legs hurt, or how thirsty I was. I just pedaled and breathed.

It's a little life metaphor. Left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe. I would get to the top of those hills, stop to swig from my bottle of blue Gatorade (Gatorade is not about "What's your favorite flavor?" It's alllll about "What's your favorite color?") and not pat myself on the back. I would just get back on my bike and continue riding.

And the rain is kind of like that. You can fight it, and try to repel it, and try to create barriers between you and it, and it becomes a battle, and you are suffering. But if you accept it, and move through it and with it, you become part of it, and after awhile you aren't noticing the wetness running down your face or soaking the hem of your pants. It just is what it is. After all, life isn't all sunny days. Sometimes you just have to deal with some rain and navigate those giant puddles.

Waterproof Frye boots help.


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