Dear Rainy Day,
Benjamin Zander tells a story about how his father used to say something along the lines of, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Having grown up in the mid-west, and participated in my fair share of tornado warnings, I question if there may be exceptions to this rule. For instance, I’m uncertain what quantifies as appropriate clothing for tornadic-gale force winds. But in general, for your average rainy day, appropriate clothing seems a suitable accommodation.
Now, as I live in the PNW (even though I live on the sunny side of that geography) it is a given that you will be visiting me from time to time. Given that fact, I suppose I’m writing you today, in an attempt to figure out this question: how should I dress when Rainy Day comes to visit?
Like any good graduate student, when confronted with a good question, I turn to research for answers. Or really, in this case, I just turned to Google: ‘What to wear in the rain’ and thankfully, I’ve found just the article to direct ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of Rainy Day Dressing.’ Happily, this article gives tips and pointers, not simply, for how to dress on a Rainy Day, but also how to do so with an eye for fashion. And I admit, I don’t merely want to be dressed appropriately, but also, I want to do so stylishly. Additionally, I confess that I’m pleased to report, my search has affirmed in me that others have found the ‘how to dress for your visit’ equally complex. As the author notes; “rain is incredibly difficult to dress for. Showers can be spotty, which brings about changing temps. One minute you’re shivering, the next you’re sweating. No thank you.”
As I’ve been reflecting on this, I can’t help but think about this particular passage that I memorized somewhere around second grade: “you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience… Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” As I’m thinking a lot about clothes, and getting dressed, and about the quote from Zander, I think I’ve settled lately on this hypothesis: Attitudes are to moods, as clothing is to weather.
And just so we’re all working with the same vocabulary (because words can have different meanings to different people), I’m defining attitude as ‘a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior’ while I’m defining mood as ‘a temporary state of mind or feeling.’ The first is something you meditate on, or take on, intentionally, the latter is one that comes upon you in a seemingly passive manner. The truth is, regardless of if your circumstances or good or bad, you will feel something; moods, like weather, happen.
Growing up in Christianity, I’ve frequently struggled with issues pertaining to mental health. The general message that seems to prevail is that you can think or pray your way out of bad brain chemistry. I struggle with this, because my experience tells me that a.) thinking and praying aided but didn’t fix my depression b.) It sends the message that if you don’t think or pray your way out, you’re not spiritual enough c.) there are few other scenarios where we would advocate for complete abdication of medical services, but in mental health there dominates this idea that you can think yourself free. While I’m speaking of this from the perspective of a Christian, friends from outside the church affirm that the wider culture mirrors many of these assumptions. If you’re sad, or anxious, you should simply get over it. (Turn your frown upside down etc.)
From a counter-perspective, I don’t love the concept of blaming everything on brain chemistry. Again, my experience says that prayer and attitude are powerful tools in attenuating mental health dysfunction, and that to deny those would be an incredible disservice to their power.
And so rainy day, this is where my hypothesis comes into play: you will come to visit. I think every morning this week, I’ve woken up with you at my window. Weather happens, but there are options for dressing so that I don’t constantly find myself in a wet, cold, soggy state. And likewise, moods happen. Brain chemistry is sometimes wonky, and while it IS hard to dress for, I do think that we can choose how we dress those moods with the attitudes we take on. Does it mean that it’s not raining? No. Does it imply that we can simply dress the rain away? Again, nope. Does it mean that we may not want to plan a vacation in a drier, sunnier place? Right now, I’m planning just such a vacation. I certainly don’t want to down plan the importance of attempting to help, heal or address mental health on a deep biochemical level; brain chemistry is a real thing, and it does matter. Much of my personal interest in nutrition begin with a desire to help myself in that way. But even when your brain is mostly healthy, sometimes moods still come. Rain happens, even on the dry, sunny side of the PNW. And variation in weather, as it turns out, is a good thing; could it be that my moods are good, in that same way?
So what can we do when the rain comes? We can clothe ourselves appropriately, and maybe even do a little singing in the rain. So here’s my wardrobe line-up for your present visit: tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience… and above all, love. I’m looking forward to seeing how this rainy season progresses. And I’m looking forward to the rainbows, waterfalls, and fertile growth that you’ll bring with you,
Until the sun finds us again, here’s to singing in the rain, with the most stylish and functional wardrobe one can imagine.