Wednesday 6 May 2020

Cold, Wet, and Grumpy: A Few Thoughts on Expectation and Acceptance

When I set out for my evening walk last Friday I was feeling good. I’d finished my first week working from home after a fortnight’s lockdown vacation and was looking forward to the weekend. The weather forecast held the possibility of rain but I was well prepared. My Doc Martens boots, a micropile fleece and gilet for warmth, and a light raincoat that is past its best but more than adequate for the occasional shower.

In a small bag beneath my coat I carried my journal, my favourite fountain pen, and a birthday card I needed to post. I also had my phone and Bluetooth headset. As I headed out I messaged one of my best friends to see if she fancied joining me on a video call. She replied to say she was about to have her dinner. I was disappointed; a little dejected. I loved having company on my walks and a call would have set me up for the weekend after a busy week.

I smiled to myself, recognising the frustration and feelings of abandonment that tend to arise when things don’t go the way I want or expect them to. I’m better at handling them than I used to be. My friend and I hadn’t spoken in a few days but there was nothing wrong. She wasn’t cross with me. She didn’t hate me. We hadn’t fallen out of friends. She was having her dinner, that’s all!

I walked on until I got to my favourite bench. I often stopped there to write or think, or write about thinking. I took out my journal and began to explore what was going on for me. I managed four and a half sentences before it started raining. It was little more than a fine drizzle but journaling would have to wait. It was okay. I’d still get my walk, and I could call at the little shop for milk and a few groceries so there’d be less for me to carry home from the supermarket next day. I might pick up a couple of beers. If my friend had finished eating she might still be up for a call. If not, I’d send her a few photos along the way. It would be fine.

The rain wasn’t easing. If anything, it was getting heavier by the minute. I sheltered beneath a stand of trees at the roadside. It’s one of the most photogenic spots on my walk but it was too dull for photos. Even the bluebells and snowdrops looked forlorn. Most days, I’d walk a few hundred yards further to the small bridge that spans the Ouseburn. There are cherry trees laden with blossom on the other side of the stream: beyond that, a field with three or four horses. Not this time, though. It was too wet to walk any further. I was beginning to feel a long way from home. There’d be no shelter once I moved from the cover of the trees. If my friend messaged now to say she was free it was too wet to have my phone out for a video call. Voice would work because I could keep my phone in my pocket, but I wasn’t even sure I was up for that now.

As I headed back I could feel my mood shifting from disappointment into annoyance, frustration, and resentment. No relaxing walk. No call. Not even the opportunity to journal how I was feeling. In different circumstances, I’d have found it easier to be philosophical. In different circumstances, I’d be turning to one of the key mantras that Fran and I talk about in our book High Tide, Low Tide:

Feel it. Claim it. Love it. Let it go.

I scowled as I crossed the road. I was certainly FEELING IT. My resentment and grouchiness had reached epic levels. How dare my friend be eating her dinner when I wanted to connect with her? How dare it rain so hard that we couldn’t have had a call anyway? How dare the water be running off my coat and drenching my trousers? My feet were dry in my DMs but that seemed little comfort. I could only hope the birthday card wasn’t getting wet inside my bag. There was no way I was going to make it as far as the postbox now — or the shop. The whole purpose of my walk — every aspect of it — had been taken from me. By this point, I was hoping my friend wouldn’t message to say she was free — and furious that she hadn’t. Oh, I was feeling it all right!

I stomped on. What came next? Oh yes. I always struggled with the CLAIM IT part. It was hard to accept my feelings and responses as my responsibility. They were, though. My friend had done nothing wrong. She wasn’t ignoring me. She hadn’t cancelled plans at the last minute. She was having her dinner. Likewise, the universe wasn’t conspiring against me. What arrogance, to imagine my plans worthy of the universe going out of its way to get in mine! I’d been looking forward to a nice walk and a call with my friend. It hadn’t worked out. It was raining. That’s all that had happened. End of. The feelings that had been triggered in me were no one’s responsibility but mine. A glimmer of awareness opened up for me.

If the rain had stopped and the sun had come out it would have been nice. It didn’t, but I could feel a certain lightness as I turned for home. I wasn’t easy to LOVE IT but my mood was beginning to shift. It was okay for me to be grumpy. Who enjoys getting soaking wet when they’d hoped for a pleasant walk? Who would be happy if they didn’t get to talk with a beloved friend? No one, right? I could forgive myself for “getting in a tizz,” as my mother might have said. I could be gentle towards myself for doing the best I could in the circumstances. I could love myself — and my friend, and the universe — for being precisely how and who and what we were in that moment.

As I arrived home I could finally LET IT GO. I messaged my friend.

Got drenched on my walk *sad face* Didn't get as far as the little shop so no beer until Tesco tomorrow. Warm now in my pjs and my rocking chair though *smiley face*

Maybe it will rain again on my walk tonight. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll get to speak to my friend today. Maybe not. Whatever happens, I will hold the moment lightly and gently for what it is.


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