It’s hot. The kind of hot, combined with humidity, that reminds you that living in a large city is not the healthiest place to be. The air is thick with the smell of steaming asphalt, lingering car exhaust and rotting garbage. People hurrying along the blistering concrete look wilted and get easily irritated when someone is blocking their way or moving slower than they are. Strangely the heat does not seem to lift much at night. I got up at five this morning, walked out onto the balcony hoping for some relief, and stepped into a warm soup of heavy air.
There’s a saying about Canadians- that if you ask us how we are or what we have been doing, we will give you a weather report. There’s some truth to it. Maybe it’s because we experience such extremes in one place- forty below to forty above (that’s Celsius- which translates at the bottom end to just about the same and at the top to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.) We tend to keep an eye on the weather so we know whether we need snow shoes or flip flops. I like it. It makes me stay in touch with the environment, reminds me that some things are beyond my control and that the only thing I can do is try to prepare for the possible while knowing it is unpredictable. When I spent some time in Los Angeles I found it disorienting not to have to check the weather report or the temperature before leaving the place I was staying. The weather was pretty much always the same. You needed a light sweater or jacket in the morning or evening and otherwise, could simply stroll out in the same clothing each day. It made it too easy to disconnect, to feel as if my tiny human intentions and plans for the day determined everything about how the world unfolded.
Weather is particularly good at giving us perspective because it is so impersonal, so beyond our immediate control. Oh, we may complain a bit, but the truth is that we are aware that our reactions to the weather are pretty ineffectual in influencing more than our experience of whatever the weather is. That’s the point: weather just IS. If you want to go skiing but it warms up and the snow melts, it may be disappointing but you don’t take it personally (most of the time.) If you plan a picnic and it pours rain you may feel some frustration, but there’s no one to yell at, no one to blame- and that’s a good practice to develop.
So, one of my mantras when I am feeling frustrated about things that are clearly beyond my control (like, for instance, other people, interest rates, and- some days- my health) is, “It’s just weather.” Because, if it’s just weather, I know a number of things are true: it’s not personal (so there is no point in making myself miserable by taking it personally); it will pass and change; and there is little or nothing I can do about it, so I may as well do what I can (put up the umbrella, shovel the walk, wear a hat) and not suffer over what I can’t do (control the uncontrollable.)
This is perhaps surprisingly challenging to remember even when dealing with the small stuff. Years ago, when my son Nathan was about twelve, at the end of a long and tiring day, I dropped a macaroni and cheese casserole meant to be our dinner. It shattered on the kitchen floor. I stood there in disbelief, staring at the mess.
Nathan, seeing my look of frustration (and no doubt anticipating where that frustration might unfairly land) said, “Oh no. Who can we blame for that?”
And of course, I laughed, my anger dissolving in the recognition that as much as I wanted to direct anger somewhere it wouldn’t be warranted or do any good. So, I just started cleaning up the broken glass and macaroni. In some ways, the broken casserole was “just weather.”
This seems to be some kind of key to living a happy life: recognizing what is “just weather,” that which is beyond our control and will inevitably will change. Sometime when we prepare for “weather” (the uncontrollable) we guess right- we have our umbrella handy when it starts to rain. And sometimes we get wet. Either way, it’s just weather.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c ) 2013