Ruminations: Umbrella


I knew it was going to rain. I trusted the weather forecast. I could see the rainclouds in the sky. I could even smell it in the air. Rain was in my future.

And yet, there was an event that I wanted to attend. So, I crossed my fingers and hoped that the deluge would wait until later in the day. As soon as I got to the event, though, the sky opened up. I was drenched just getting from my car to the building.

At first, I was annoyed. I thought about how miserable I would feel wearing wet clothes. I thought about how embarrassed I would feel looking like I just fell into a pool. I had just about decided that I wouldn’t enjoy myself, and I may as well go home.

Then, someone walked in with their umbrella. They had come in from the same rain as me, but they had arrived prepared. Maybe they had thought ahead about how miserable they would be in wet clothes, or maybe they were just the kind of person who is always prepared. Either way, they knew to have an umbrella with them, and they walked in relatively unscathed by the downpour.

I own an umbrella. More than one. I could easily have brought an umbrella with me, especially since I knew what to expect from the weather. My feeling miserable in wet clothes was a classic example of self-caused suffering.

Sometimes, I have abundant means at my disposal to make sure my needs are met, and yet I don’t take responsibility for myself. Sometimes it’s tempting to blame other people for not meeting all of my needs. I might start making demands or feeling entitled. Sometimes it’s tempting to tell a sad story about how bad things always happen to me, or about how unworthy I must be, or any number of other lies that scamper around in my head.

Of course, it feels good when other people do things to meet my needs. I feel cared for. Maybe I feel a sense of belonging. We might see those experiences as gifts. Someone isn’t obligated or required to do something that demonstrates care for us, but they do it anyway. That’s a real gift.

And there are certainly some things I can’t do for myself. None of us is entirely self-sufficient. We need one another. Sometimes the most important thing I can do is speak up and let someone know what I need from them.

But there are a lot of ways that I can take responsibility for how I show up. I can prepare for rain by keeping an umbrella close by. I can prepare for being at a loud concert by bringing earplugs along. I can prepare for having special dietary needs by ensuring I have some acceptable food with me. I can prepare for difficult conversations by making sure I’m centered and grounded beforehand.

Part of belonging is being vulnerable enough to receive love and care from others. Another part of belonging is being responsible for how we show up. Each of us is one capable and creative piece of a larger community of capable and creative people.

May we bring our full capability into relationship with one another.