Why is the cool, rainy weather soothing me so much on a holiday weekend?
Alternate options might be that it’s disappointing me or depressing me or hampering me in some way.
None of that.
Even the gray clouds sans rain on this third day of the Memorial Day weekend give me a feeling of … is it relief?
I have come to realize there are times when sunshine equals pressure. You know the refrain: It’s so nice out – get out and enjoy it!
Truth is, the introvert in me hates that exclamation point and frankly the sentiment itself.
My mother learned this about me early in my suburban childhood. “It’s beautiful out. Can’t you go out and play like the other kids?” This typically meant I’d take my Nancy Drew book to the backyard and read it on a lawn chair instead of my bed. In case it isn’t clear, I get that what my mother was suggesting was perfectly normal.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy being out in the sunshine. I do. It’s not usually with crowds, though. Or in forced circumstances. Holiday sunshine often comes with pressure to be outside among lots of others. Please, no.
Let’s be honest, I wasn’t high on that before the pandemic. Now? My high is small gatherings, like four people tops. The breakfast, the lunch, the coffee that comes with lingering conversation.
Sure, I’m ready to venture into some shops or have a drink at a bar. I’ll be hitting Amtrak in late July to visit some friends. Later this month I will be going to a gathering of cousins, some of whom also lost a parent in April, for a communal exhale. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I want to spend my 60th birthday at the end of the year.
This is my re-entry style. Thoughtful, toe-in-the-water actions.
But not just that.
Re-entry does not mean move on and leave the trauma and rage behind. It means, keep working through the rough stuff. Ideally, turn it into lessons learned and a stronger constitution, but ignore it at your peril.
Watching the most recent episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, I felt this deeply as the main character, June, finally gained asylum from Gilead (the toxic United States in the series) to Canada. Where one might expect everything bad to fall away when she sees her best friend and husband and even her baby, it doesn’t. It can’t. A trip to the grocery store winds up prompting flashbacks to her traumatic seven years in captivity.
Nothing is restful yet. There is too much swirling around in her brain. Safety is a good first step to healing, but there’s still so much unresolved. Sound familiar?
One of the most powerfully acted scenes I’ve ever watched was loaded for me because of the timing of not just June’s re-entry but of ours (at least those of us who heeded lockdown and the recommended COVID-19 safety measures). Now safely in Canada, June asks for a meeting with Serena, a woman who held June down on a bed while Serena’s husband raped her. Repeatedly. And when June became pregnant, she was forced to hand that baby over to Serena.
The darkness of the scene, the heaviness, is almost too much to bear.
“I believe the Lord brought you here so that I could make amends,” Serena says.
“I brought myself here so that I could tell you how much I hate you,” June says. “You don’t deserve to make amends to anyone.”
June moves closer and closer to Serena until she is in her face.
“The only thing that you deserve is a life full of suffering and shame. You have destroyed my life, my family, my friends, my country, and my child. There is no one less worthy of redemption than you.”
Lop off the words “and my child” and let me deliver that line to Donald Trump even half as effectively as Elisabeth Moss did. “You have destroyed my life, my family, my friends, my country …” I swear half of my rage would melt away. A year-plus of our routines upended, our businesses shattered, our relationships tested, our health compromised, our children’s education thwarted, our celebrations halted, and countless ripple effects.
We deserve at least a moment to fantasize about a cathartic encounter like June’s. We have been through an unthinkable experience and the rest of our lives will be determined by how we handle it moving forward.
With each key stroke of this column, I’m having that moment. I’m releasing pain and I’m opening myself to joy. The church bells across the street are playing The Star-Spangled Banner. There is movement in the trees in the park I see through my window, along with blue sky and streaks of sun.
Now let me go publish this thing so I can be on time for Zoom tea with my friend in Guatemala. I would never have met her if it wasn’t for this dreadful, life-altering pandemic.