California rain [listen].
It comes at the most inopportune times, but sometimes at the best times. Bring in the dinner, put up the hood, laugh as the local TV weather anchors panic (although with the drought now they probably would celebrate it).
And yet it’s familiar, it’s cleansing. It gives you pause and prompts a part of you to come alive in a quiet way. You draw closer, and you see what’s true, what matters, what draws hope out of you.
California holds a special place in my husband’s and my heart. It’s one of the places he told me he was applying to for grad school as we sat on my college dorm bed a couple weeks after we started dating in 2008. Suddenly our daring, tingly fling felt very vulnerable and thin. But he promised he would call and Skype. So we spent the rest of our senior year anticipating a long-distance relationship. Terrified about what that meant. Excited about what that meant. Blowing kisses from cardboard surfboards.
He moved to Claremont, CA. We didn’t know what that would mean for us. But we kept in touch as I kept working in Washington state. We got engaged on one of his trips to Washington, and as I dropped him off at the airport for his direct SEA-Ontario flight, we didn’t feel thin. We felt full. I kept thinking, “I should feel anxious,” but I just couldn’t pull it off. Joy bullied anxiety away. It was the happiest goodbye.
When I took vacation time in the months following to see him in CA, I learned about his new world. Independence, health, walking, sunshine, Trader Joe’s down the street, stretching left-overs, meeting classmates, professors, friends.
One night it rained. It never let up. I thought, “I should feel anxious,” but I just couldn’t pull it off. Joy bullied it away. I watched the drops splash down on the patio outside. The geckos and bunnies had long scurried away. We watched the rain.
We’re coming up on five years of marriage. How do we sustain this relationship? How do we keep staying in love? Do we keep dating? Is something wrong if we’re dating all over again? Do perfectly in love people never have to ask these questions, and if so can I meet them? Are we the only ones?
I’ve never been here before. I was anxious enough to hide this revelation from him, and upon sharing it, realized that he has never been here either. But we know where I come up short of his expectations. We know where he comes up short of my expectations. We’re learning where silence has amplified them.
The rain comes down hard. California rain can feel like it never lets up. But I think it feels like that when we isolate ourselves. It can feel like it won’t stop. It can feel like I’m the only one.
But it will stop. The puddles will evaporate. And the earth is grateful that there was ever rain at all because the rain is the only chance that it ever felt alive in the first place. The rain feels relentless. But with courage, I speak my hesitencies and worries and anxieties. And I find that my role is not to fix us. My role is not to guide us into perfection in this relationship.
We start together, from the basin, and we journey from there, in the rain. Then the rain doesn’t feel relentless; it looks like the dirt that’s left on your shoes after you go for a walk in the sprinkles; it feels like the hand on your back as your balance is steadied; it smells like fresh cut grass that wafts through the apartment before the A/C gets turned on; it sounds like rain showers scampering on the patio outside the window as sleep scoops you away to the night.
California rain. It pours. In my anxiety, I turn to see if he feels it pouring too, but see him smiling, offering me to join him under the awning. All I can feel is grateful.