Rainy Day People


Maybe you’re not old enough to know them, or maybe you were lucky enough to have had crooners like Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, Jim Croce, Dan Fogelberg, Joni Mitchell and Janis Ian as the soundtrack to your most memorable years.  I’ve always been drawn to the stories in their songs.  When I was sick, music was my go-to mind medicine. These artists and others like them brought me solace when I needed it, a focus for my mind, and best of all comfort.

They still do. I was driving along in the car yesterday and a wave of tearfulness swept over me. I had already put the windscreen wipers on before I realised the rain was my own.  Jostein Garder described this general sadness that I feel, in his book ‘Sophie’s World’. He called it ‘world-sadness’. That feeling of connectedness to all the tragedies in life, happening everywhere. It can be so overwhelming. So tiring to have this kind of emotional hyper-sensitivity. If only I could flick the switch and find my happy self in moments like that. Instead, I have learned to just let the waves of it wash over me.

Have you ever been deep in the world-sadness and the most perfect song has come up in your playlist or on the radio? Yesterday it was Gordon Lightfoot, ‘Rainy Day People’.  So beautiful. My rainy day person is my friend Flo. She popped in the other day with a gift for me. She said, it had pretty much bought itself before she had time to think. Somehow these are just meant to be yours, she said. I opened the parcel to find six exquisite tea mugs, each with different blue and white moroccan mosaic patterns.  They are so perfect. They reminded me instantly of the china my Mum collected, that precious, carefully curated selection now amalgamated with my own.  I held one of the mugs in my hands and smiled gratefully at my friend. I don’t need gifts, but the thoughtfulness of hers made me feel profoundly fortunate. How lucky I am to have a friend like her. Someone who understands me, who somehow knows just when it’s time to call.  I hope you’ve got some rainy day people in your world, too.

If you haven’t heard this Gordon Lightfoot classic lately, or ever…
here is Rainy Day People:

At the end of the end.

I had a chat with my son yesterday, about responsibility and growing up. About how as he gets older his chore list will inevitably grow. I explained that it’s time to begin carrying his own weight more rather than expecting to have everything done for him. His chores aren’t very onerous.  He’s been sick and can’t do as much as a ten year old should.  But I am a big believer in doing as much as we can, no matter how we feel. It’s better for the mind, in the end. Even when it is, so hard. His beautiful eyes welled up and it took me by surprise.
“Why are you sad, little guy?”
“I miss being little,” he said. He crawled up into my lap and let the big tears roll down his cheeks. Mourning the end of babyhood. I confess, I could fully empathise. I often wish I could go back in time and be in my mother’s arms, cradled and cushioned from the big wide world.

Last week one of the mothers from school died in a motorbike accident. Her name was Nikki. At her funeral, the people close to her stood and spoke; so bravely in the face of their grief, about who she was, about how it felt to be without her. She had three children, the youngest was born on the same day as my son.  Her son and middle daughter both went through the junior school years with my two.

My most vivid memory of her is the time she hosted our Year Group party at her house. She opened the front door in a floor length emerald green silk dress. She was stunning.  The sight of her long, willowy form, the wow factor of her gregarious personality and beauty.  It was both intimidating and impressive. It’s hard to comprehend that she is not here anymore.

The tragedy brought into sharp focus the gift that each day truly is.  I think this truth is always close to my consciousness, yet still, it slips away sometimes. I forget the inevitable and get bogged down with all the daily tasks and endless aggravations of life. I lose sight of how lucky I am to be alive, to be able to have conversations with my babies as they take on the incremental approximations of their adult selves. To hold them when they cry and raise the bar for them when they need to push a bit more. I’m here, parenting and loving. That’s no small thing at all. But oh, my mind has so many questions!

I’ve been wondering, why. Why we strive for things. I don’t know why I tried so hard to put my kids through expensive schools, now they are happy in our local schools. I don’t know why I care so much about the state of the carpet that I won’t invite people over. I don’t know why I strive to do it all.. all. of. the. time. It makes me grumpy and listless and down.  I wonder why I feel like a failure if I’m not groomed, cheerful and deeply fulfilled as I go about my many thankless tasks, like so many other women seem to be. I wonder if I should be. I wonder what it is all for. I wonder if it will all be worth it in the end.

Do you wonder about that?
Here we are, alive and able to love.  We breathe, our hearts pump the baseline rhythm, our feet syncopating a melody we never pause to hear. We are so consumed with the minutae of our micro-worlds.  The planet turns, ice caps melt, species become extinct, wars burn through vast swathes of humanity, mothers die, stars are born, lava erupts from our molten core. Rainbows arch across the sky above the school gates.  And on goes another load of washing.

I’m going to leave here a beautiful song, as a tribute to all the people who have left us, we hope, for a ‘better place’. My friend played it for me last Friday. She’d been to Paul McCartney’s recent concert and she knew I would love this song as much as she does.  When Nikki died, her family and friends pulled together a truly beautiful funeral service. At the end of the end there was some kind of tragic peace, some sort of beauty and grace as they faced their final farewell. I wish all my wondering could help me comprehend why things like this happen.  There is too much sadness in the world.  I hope he is right and at the end of the end, there is no need to be sad.

I don’t understand anything.