For the first 20 years of my life, rain was something to be avoided. Not that rain wasn't a good thing, it just wasn't something human beings engaged. If the weather report said we were going to have rain all day, it was a day off from school. No, the schools didn't close, but it was as if they did, for both students and staff are likely to be missing. And this was warm rain, since the average temperature in Jamaica was hardly below 85 degrees Fahrenheit I definitely concurred with the idea of staying out of the rain.
Out in the Rain
Rain hardly drizzled in Jamaica. The sky opened up and it came down. A downpour could last 5 minutes or 5 hours. Usually, when it was over, the sun was back out, very bright, birds were chirping, and water was busy running on the streets, rivulets crowding to get into the nearest drain or pothole. Rain here is different. Take this morning for example. It was tiny pin like drops, persistent and cold. It went on in that weak fashion all day. Irritating, slushy, on and on, hardly making a sound, the drops were so small. I really don't like being in the rain, but I dislike this even more. The downpour is a reasonable excuse to stay inside, to just avoid the whole mess. Take a rain day. Stay in bed. The persistent drizzle mocks you. C'mon, this is isn't enough to stop you, it taunts. And it isn't ... well, one minute of it isn't, so I ignore my inner voices, and with umbrella in place, and reasonably water proof shoes, I head out to engage my day.
Now, a normal day has its normal occurrences. A child may poop or pee in the wrong place, someone pours shampoo down the drain, a business associate isn't clear on something I said, Isaiah does something I don't like, a volunteer doesn't seem to be understanding basic principles of playing with Jay.... regular stuff. On regular days, I usually have a plan, an intention, a strategy of some kind: meditation and prayer, juicing, positive affirmations, vitamins, exercise, eating breakfast, the timing of the coffee break, sequencing my commitments ... any combination of stuff that helps me regulate myself. I actually anticipate the disregulating effects of the normal things, and have a plan in place that is readily accessible.
Stuck in the Rain
On rainy days, however, it feels like the drizzle is actually using up emotional, physical, psychological resources that would previously have been used to put all these high tech plans in place. By the way, the rain could be anything. When it's not actual rain, it could be what feels like internal rain, the low level buzz left behind from a sleep deprived state, the low level blah feeling that I've come to recognize as PMS, the vacant feeling from having several appointments outside my home and not realizing that I haven't yet eaten at 3 in the afternoon.
After an extremely unregulated few days last week, I'm really motivated to think about all this.
When I've been in the rain for a while, trying to do "normal life" I feel like I literally run out of resources. The proverbial 'straw that breaks the camel's back' can be anything, and the break takes only a second. The persistent cold, wet drizzle becomes a downpour, and I'm just sitting in it.
We tend to the over stimulated end of the sensory processing spectrum. It's as if I amplify the stimulus as it's coming in, and continue to amplify it all along the pathway. The fun thing in our home is that the things Zach does to regulate himself as exactly the things that are speeding up the rain in my head. On the downpour days, I feel like I'm in the gridlock at times square. I have to literally get out of myself, stand back, assess everything and yell "stop! You! move on! You! get away." Of course, if the deluge is intense, not even that happens. Me and everyone else in the intersection just suffer until the traffic clears.
What do we do in the downpour? It would have been ideal to have had really good rain gear, or better still, just not be in it, but here we are, in a gridlock, in times square, in the rain. What do we do?
To Handle or Not to Handle
These are early days for me, in thinking about this particular phenomenon. The more I think, the more ideas come to me, but I haven't yet taken the opportunity to do much testing of the various thoughts that I come up with. I'll share some that are in my head right now, in no particular order.
- Stop everything. Sometimes I become so focused on fixing the situation, planning for the next time so it doesn't happen, etc, that I don't just stop and tune in. Guaranteed, when I stop, quiet all the internal voices, I notice stuff I didn't before. I gain insight into what may be really happening for me. As I'm willing to pay attention while in the downpour, answers come that won't come any other way. I have to resist my 'fix' or 'flight' tendencies to get this done!
- No Judging (akin to stopping). I realize that if I recognize that this experience will pass and can allow it to do that, the world looks so different. It's like a stuffy nose during a cold, or headache during allergy season. You know you've survived many, and that they don't typically mean death and that they pass. Self recrimination is extremely unnecessary.
- Celebrate! Celebrate what? I don't know exactly what but the act of gratitude does sooo much for me. The world is such a different place through the lens of gratitude. Iris said she celebrated herself, the other runners and the spectators in her recent marathon. Celebrate anything you notice as you stop.
- See the opportunity in the downpour. To be fair, the downpour is an extreme stimulus, and on 'normal' days, these questions and possible solutions don't even enter my mind. On 'normal' days, what I'm doing works. My downpour days take me to the current known boundaries of my capacity. I don't often get to look at these boundaries, examine them, think about moving the boundary posts. Some interesting and even helpful thinking happens around these boundary markers, even though I'm often not interested in examining my boundaries. The presence of a downpour provides great motivation.
- Stop/Start something. I realize that I have the power to move one or more of those cars out of the intersection, almost by magic. I can take something out of focus. I've seen Zach bring something else into focus to amplify his experience. Zach doesn't often look 'appropriate' at these times, but then, if it works ... Maybe we need to be less concerned about looking appropriate. I wonder what a business meeting would look like with some executives bouncing on therapy balls or bouncy chairs while others wore weighted vests, or drummed a steady beat on their chests. Maybe there are ways for all of us to regulate ourselves, and still not get in the way of the corporate and personal goals. Maybe we can modify how we conduct meetings and training sessions.
Tell me which, if any, of these you've used while standing in your downpour and if you found any of it useful. I'll let you know how I fare, as I am certain I will have opportunity to think about this more in the coming weeks and months! Whatever you do, have a wonderfully regulated day, even in the downpour.