My friend Al talks about how he used to go to the beach and if it was overcast and chilly his immediate reaction would be disappointment and anger: “Dammit—my only day off and the beach sucks!” As he grew in recovery he learned to accept that life wouldn’t always go according to his script, and he could shrug his shoulders and make the best of a cloudy day at by the sea. After some years of meditation and spiritual growth, he found himself standing in the sand at the water’s edge, the wind howling and storm clouds overhead, thinking what a terrific day at the beach!
What’s the variable in the story? A better question is: What could Al do about the weather? And the answer, of course, is nothing. Except to intentionally change his attitude. And once his attitude changed, he found himself happy, instead of frustrated and disappointed.
So what’s the storm in your life? Is your girlfriend in a bad mood? Learning to dance in the rain translates into being kind to her anyway, without expectation of returned affection. Is it a health challenge? In recovery, we learn to show up and take appropriate action and then let things unfold as they must. This means that once we’ve done what we can, responsibly and appropriately, the thing is out of our hands. Now what? Dancing in the rain here would be to find gratitude for all that is going well for us: the people in our lives, recovery, and the opportunity to get well. Is there a way to be helpful to others? That’s dancing, and it makes the storm easier to bear.
Now, in Al’s story above, there’s not much he could do about the weather, so his finding serenity is entirely about his inner state. But when we’re in situations we find difficult—the storm—it’s useful to remember that our inner state determines our responses, and most of us, when we’re new in recovery, have entrenched habits of knee-jerk reactions to things we don’t like. We can make the storm worse. In fact, isn’t that what got us to recovery? The storm got so bad, we couldn’t wait it out or make it go away, and we could no longer anesthetize ourselves to its effects. And meanwhile, we made it worse.
Life presents us with stormy weather once in a while—all of us. If we’re really in the moment, no matter what the challenge, we can say, what a terrific day at the beach!