The Rainy Days
tom walsh


Boy, was Longfellow right when he said that "some days must be dreary."  I've spent many years of my life searching for positive, encouraging, and inspirational ways to live my own life; I've spent uncounted hours studying and talking to people and watching films, trying to establish a healthy perspective in my life; I've tried hard to put all of what I learned into practice in my life, so that I might be fully aware of how beautiful life is and can be.  Yet the dreary days strike, and they strike hard when they do.  And there's nothing that I can do about it--for some days must be dark and dreary.

The Rainy Day

The day is cold and dark and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

In the midst of the dreary days, it's very difficult to keep perspective.  I know that with me, my mind takes off on its own, creating new problems out of the current ones, making me feel horrible about things that haven't even happened, as if I didn't feel bad enough already.  I lose sight of the beauty of life, and I can focus only on the negative, the hurtful, the hopeless.

To make things even worse, I start to get down on myself during these times, for I know that I'm causing much of the problem myself, allowing my thoughts to turn a minor problem into a major catastrophe--and it's all in my mind.  Mark Twain said once, "I am an old man and I have seen many problems, but most of them have never happened."  That's me, too--and the problems that I create for myself keep me down in the muck, not allowing me to see the bright blue sky and the beauty that is always there around me.

My life is cold and dark and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the moldering past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

It's tempting to say that these times also try my faith, but I know that these times cause me to turn my back on my faith.  (I have to take responsibility for doing that--"the times" don't cause anything.)  I feel that I don't have any strength left to go on, to keep fighting, yet my faith tells me that when I put my trust in God, I'll have the strength to do anything.  My situation makes me feel alone, unloved, and isolated, yet my faith tells me that God is always there with me, caring for me, loving me, supporting me.  The negative thoughts tell me that the situation will turn out disastrous, yet my faith assures me that if I give the situation to God, all will turn out for the best, according to His will.  But my focus on the dark and dreary day doesn't allow me to see the light, and it doesn't allow me to feel the hope that constantly should be a part of my life.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining:
Thy fate is the common fate of all:
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

"Be still, sad heart!"  What wonderful words these are.  They aren't the trite, "you should be happy" words that so many people offer.  They acknowledge the sadness, the hurt, the darkness, but they encourage stillness and peace.  "Behind the clouds is the sun still shining"--these words remind me of a postcard that was given to me in Germany, on which was written a verse that had been written on the wall of a concentration camp.  To paraphrase, it basically said "I believe in the sun, even when it doesn't shine; I believe in my friends, even when they're not here; I believe in God, even when I can't see Him."  On the dreary days, God seems so very far away. . . .  But He's not far away--He's right here with me and in me, just where He promised He'd always be.  And He's not absent--I'm choosing not to see Him.

And that brings up the most frightening aspect of the dreary days:  in some strange, frightening way, I like them.  Something inside of me feeds off of them, like some sort of parasite that grows stronger and stronger with each bit of negativity and sadness that goes into it.  And it seems to feed off itself, too--the stronger I make it by feeding it my negativity, the more negativity it sends back out to me, and I accept that and feed it right back into it.

So, what do I do about this?  Well, right now I'm in one of the dreariest days in my life, and I'm writing this article.  I believe the best thing I can do for myself is to regain a sense of perspective, to view things once again realistically, to remind myself of just how wrong many of my feelings are.  I have to recognize that even though I'm telling myself that I'm not strong enough to take something, and that I have no one to turn to, in all actuality there are quite a few people I could call who would be more than willing to sit down with me and talk things through without judging me.  But I have to call them--I can't wait for them to see that something's wrong and offer their support.  Most people, I included, when they see someone suffering assume that the person wants or needs time alone if that person doesn't ask for help.  There are people there for me--I am not alone.  None of us are, no matter how much we like to try to convince ourselves that we are during our rainy days.

Once I've recognized the feelings that I can honestly describe as wrong, I can work to shift my perspective about them.  This does take work, though--and it's not at all easy work.  The feelings inside of me are trying to convince me that they're right--my brain is telling me that they're wrong, but my heart is trying to convince me that they're right.  And my brain and heart don't always see eye to eye.

And while Freud considered distractions to be a negative way of avoiding true issues of our humanity, I have to disagree with him.  One of the most effective ways for me to brighten up my gloomy days is to watch an episode of Animaniacs or Winnie the Pooh or to read Calvin and Hobbes.  These things remind me that humor is very important in our lives, and that once we lose humor, the risks to our selves is very great indeed.  My dreary days are characterized in part by a complete loss of humor, and a bit of laughter goes a long way towards restoring the brightness in my life.

Rainer Maria Rilke put it well when he said:  "How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses, who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.
    So you must not be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. . ."

Rilke knew that our sadnesses teach us, make us grow, broaden our experience and perspective.  And I try to keep in mind that this, too, shall pass, and I can choose to help it to pass, or to help it to grow and grow, eventually enveloping me and taking me over.  But I have to trust life and trust the positive things in life, for as Rilke said, life has not forgotten me, and it will not let me fall.  But if I choose to ignore that fact, I'm basically jumping out of its hand, and not allowing life and God and my friends and family to help me out.

Try to keep in mind always--without the rain of gloomy days, the flowers wouldn't grow and the rivers and lakes, sources of so much life and beauty, would dry up.  And if life didn't give me a load of crap every now and then, I'd have nothing to fertilize my garden with.  Plants would bear weak and tasteless fruit without fertilizer and water, and there's no reason to believe that I'm all that different.  Life holds me in its hand, if I let it.  And the rainy days help me to grow, if I let them.

tom walsh is a college teacher and a perpetual student of life and living who sees the internet as a perfect way of sharing what he's learned without making people pay for it.


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