ABOUT THE WEATHER
“Have a great day!” I said with my usual enthusiasm to the woman walking out ahead of me at my gym class Sunday morning. We had just completed an hour and fifteen minute fundraising class for a woman, a mom, a wife who had just lost her under fifty year old husband to cancer. She has four children and has been a regular participant in these classes for as long as I remember.
Typical of my morning workouts, we are there for one thing, to zone out, to get out of our heads and get a great start to our mornings. We are friendly with each other, kind, but the boundaries are clear. We are not here to make friends except with our own bodies. The hour is short, many of us spend countless hours talking endlessly in our work and the last thing we want to do is get chatty in our workouts. Because of this, we don’t get to know the insides of people’s lives. Mostly this is a welcome respite, as for me anyway, my workout becomes my sanctuary, my morning meditation, my self reflection and connection as I burn through meters on the rower, miles on the treadmill and sweat like I never imagined I would ever have welcomed in my otherwise, I’m just a walker, life.
As a result of my insular workout world, I didn’t know about her husband until this past week when Kathy donated her company’s two Sunday morning super busy classes to raise money for this family. There we were, working out together for a totally different reason, our intention was a new directive for the end result. I hadn’t been to a class in almost a week because my schedule was way off kilter. This coupled with a week of no caffeine because my partner decided that it was revving up his heartbeat and it is just easier to drink decaf rather than make two separate batches, made for a less than blustery work out performance. As I considered, at about the forty-minute mark, that my tired body had enough, up came a picture of the couple on the screen (that usually tracks everyone’s heart rate and that I jokingly boycott because I refuse to take part in the wall of shame:) and I thought of my brother. My beautiful brother who will soon be gone longer than he was alive, is my go to visual anytime I am thinking about complaining or giving up something.
My thought is usually this: Michael would have wanted just one more choice to leave or not leave a workout in the middle of it so just like this couple, I forged ahead and completed the class. The fact is, I wouldn’t have left early anyway, just knowing I can leave is freedom enough, but I wouldn’t because I am fit enough, healthy enough, strong enough to finish. An hour goes by at the speed of light and twenty more minutes was certainly a nanosecond blast to honor someone who no longer had his own choice.
As I left the class battered and bruised, not really, and had the quick Have a great day with another warrior, she said in typical New England fashion, “Now if the sun would just come out.” Such an innocent comment; we New Englanders love to comment about all less than perfect weather. “Oh this crappy weather!” “Is it ever going to stop snowing!!?” (why is it that every winter my fellow Rhode Islanders seem to be surprised when it snows?) “Holy Wind!” People say exasperated when the breeze is anything more than gentle. “Is it ever going to be Spring?” when April refuses to perform in the fantasy way we expect every single year. Just when it warms the slightest but coupled with rain, “ Is this rain ever going to let up?” Then when Summer finally arrives. “This humidity- it is so hot!” Our endless discussions about weather as we pass by each other is automatic. It is a friendly excuse for banter beyond, Hi, How are you? If I respond with what I am usually thinking, I love the weather and all of its wackiness. After all, we live in New England, it makes the conversation awkward. People don’t usually expect a full editorial from an innocent weather comment. Is this unique to New England? Do people in Syracuse or Wisconsin talk about the incessant snowfall living in a place, well, that snow falls? What do people talk about in sunny and lovely California like San Diego? With the exception of those pesky earthquakes and oh yeah, those frightening fires in the north, is there a daily diatribe post workout like, Have a great day! Will this sun ever stop shining? Will we ever not be able to go to the beach?
I often thought it would be great if we turned on the weather and the weatherwoman would say on a rainy day, “Look at all this rain! We will be seeing those tulip shoots sooner than later, aren’t we lucky that nature’s intent is for the bounty of color in our near future?!” Or “We’ll be reaching ninety degrees today but it will feel like one hundred and ten with all of this humidity; why don’t you leave work a little early today and go jump in that beautiful ocean we are fortunate to live so close to cool off!” So many possibilities yet for some reason we have been conditioned to think that we are supposed to espouse negativity when it comes to the weather. What makes us Yankee northerners use weather as a way to communicate? I have to consider that at least we are communicating as opposed to walking by each other in our new human position of looking down at a blue screen to see if anything new happened in the less than five minutes ago we just looked down to see if anything new happened. Maybe it is just the excuse to talk to each other.
Working out for a cause just like doing anything for a cause is meaningful to my soul. Back in the day of cassettes, well before podcasts, I used to have some great ones from Maya Angelou and Marianne Williamson and would play them often instead of music. I remember one particular line from Maya Angelou. “I like charitable people,” with the sound of her well known deep and commanding, with just a pinch of southern voice of hers. This one seemingly innocent line in a random cassette when I was in my early twenties struck a chord with me. I remember thinking; I want to be a charitable person. It felt righteous and on purpose. When I give, my heart opens in the same way it opens when I look at my son, or feel the depths of love for my partner. I give often and I like to give quietly without a lot of pomp and circumstance. Sometimes I give with anonymity. There is a unique shift with this directive and often it is more of an eye opening struggle with my own ego that I reckon with in my decision to go naked or dressed in my donation.
How did I get here? It all started with the weather. Innocent weather comments. This is how I got here. I wanted to talk about the feelings of humility after an hour of honoring and helping a family in need by donating money at a simple workout and how a simple weather comment stirred my thinking about the human need to connect even if the weather is the excuse. After my workout this past Sunday, I got to thinking about these innocent comments. I vote for appreciation of the unique and changing weather in our little New England state. I am sure that this family we worked out for would take one hundred stormy days in a row for just one day back with their father, her husband.
I have met people who don’t have a dime and have a perpetual attitude of gratitude that is infectious and I have met people who step into an eighty thousand dollar car with the weight of the world on their backs because of a rainy day. It is the awareness of our thoughts and our ability to intercept them when they head south. It is adjusting our scope as we march forth into our day Maybe it is our ability to be aware that helps shift us from staying in the rainstorm and instead seeing the sunshine in our own hearts each day we connect with each other in passing. Whatever it is, I love living in New England with all of its crazy mismatched weather patterns. There is never a dull moment. If this is what makes us talk to each other as we try to reconcile the loss of a young man taken way too early from a loving family, then so be it.