I wrote the following blog post in the Spring of 2009 on my other blog, "Enjoy Every Sandwich) (http://tommyhousworth.blogspot.com). I'm reprinting it here because I think it fits the mission and the message of this more niche-like blog, even though it's over a year old. It came to mind because, before I embarked on my current business trip that is taking me from Tampa to St Louis and then to Seattle, my mom called our house and inquired, "Do you own any long underwear? You know you've never been anywhere this cold before." I reminded her I had been to Canada, New York, and Maine, all in the heart of winter before. Still, she was worried about the suffering rather than excited for my journey. It reminded me of this post, and of a Roger Miller song lyric, "Some people walk in the rain, other people just get wet." I hope my mom gets to walk in the rain a bit in the winter of her years.
They're dancing on the roof
And the ceiling's coming down
I sleep with my shovel and my leather gloves
A little trouble makes it worth the going
And a little rain never hurt no one - Tom Waits, 'A Little Rain'
In one of his seminar programs, Tony Robbins speaks of your 'defining question'. What is the question you ask most often? Is it, "Why me?", "What am I doing wrong?", "How can I help?" or maybe "What would make this better?". Our brain works to answer whatever question we pose, so the more negative the question, the more our thought patterns sway toward negativity, pessimism, and inaction.
I'm still determining what my question is, and what it needs to be. So, I guess right now, my question is, "What's my question?"
As I was thinking about this yesterday on my morning run, the sky opened up a bit and I found myself two miles from home in a gentle Spring shower. My mind immediately went to my mom, who I've realized has her own cautionary defining question: "What if it rains?"
These four words have come to define how she approaches most any conversation I have with her about planning an activity. It has been the response to all of these statements: "We're having a cookout on Memorial Day", "I got great tickets for the Braves game", "We're going to the beach this weekend", and yes, even "We're getting married in a really pretty park!"
It did rain on our wedding day. Buckets. 15 years later, all we remember is the rainbow.
Ironically, my mom sees herself as a glass half full kind of person, completely. I assume that glass is half-full with rain water.
I say this not to mock or belittle my mom. She and my dad are children of the Depression, and they've been cautionary souls all their lives. I was always dissuaded from taking any risks. When I told them I wanted to be an actor, they told me I'd be better off 'playing it safe'. Heck, when I told my mom I was running the Peachtree Road Race the first time, in honor of my late cousin who'd died that winter, she said, "I don't think you can do it". She didn't mean it in any hurtful way, it was just another variation of 'What if it rains?', a concerned mom assuming her son would collapse on Mile 4 because he wasn't playing it safe.
This Spring has proven to be one of those seasons where rain is more the norm than the exception. And so, in gentle defiance, we plan our vacations, our trips to the ball park, our cookout, with a keen awareness that it may, indeed, rain. I'm trying to weave this into a philosophy to teach our kids - that a little rain never hurt no one, to quote their creepy uncle Tom Waits. That rain is an invitation for puddle jumping and spiritual baptism, to indoor game day, standing on the front porch watching the drops dance off the street, curling up with a good movie, or dancing barefoot in the wet grass.
My mom will turn 84 this summer. There's little I can do at this point to give her a more optimistic look on life. The best I can do is make my defining question one of great hope, and teach her grandchildren that into every life a little rain must fall, but how we perceive that blessed precipitation changes everything.