An Instagram image of my ex started it.
He was standing in the rain under a street art painting of a cloud, with the hashtag #norainnorainbows. My mind flashed back two years to an Instagram post of my own, an image of a rainbow I had spotted, with the hashtag, #norainnorainbows.
At the time, this was my mantra: no rain, no rainbows.
Things were rough between us, and I had to focus on the benefits; surely there must be a purpose, and the purpose must be our growth together and our eventual promised rainbow.
But two years later after a devastating breakup, there were no rainbows for us. I felt a strong pang of jealousy, cynicism, and sadness at the sight of his post and this benign, feel-good hashtag.
We all should know better than to follow the social media posts of our exes, but there I was, peeking into this little window he left open.
And so, digging deeper, that same pang of cynicism welled up when I saw that he had posted a video of Madonna in an acceptance speech for a Women in Music award.
In Madonna’s intimate and raw speech, she thanks her supporters and then thanks those who caused her so much adversity, abuse and pain over the years.
“But to the doubters and naysayers and everyone who gave me hell and said I could not, that I would not or I must not — your resistance made me stronger, made me push harder, made me the fighter who I am today. It made me the woman who I am today.” ~ Madonna
Madonna hasn’t overcome a small amount of rain in her life; she’s survived a deluge.
No rain, no rainbows.
No deluge, no Madonna?
Well, bring on the deluge.
Is that my takeaway?
I’ve had it with this devastating connection between adversity and growth.
They are inspiring stories, but I’ve grown tired of the formula: a woman overcomes some sh*tty relationship or abuse by throwing herself head on into her passions or adventure to become the strong and amazing woman she is today.
I was living that goddam story, and I didn’t want to be. It didn’t feel like a little rain, it felt like a downpour, and where were my f*cking rainbows?
But, following the formula of so many smart women, I did throw myself into a passion—for me it was art.
And although it felt incredibly self-indulgent, I began to paint. I jumped in, literally over my head. I bought huge wall-sized canvases, and the colors spilled out of me. Here were my rainbows.
While I painted, I mused about inspiration and the self, I read philosophy and poetry books and quoted from artists on creativity; I waxed poetic about the process in conversations with friends. I had started to see parallels, and I started to grow and heal.
“Every painting goes through some sh*tty layers. I’ll put down a wrong color, or scrape something off too far, let it dry too much, not let it dry enough, a hundred different decisions that end up with something being off.
But then the trick is to keep going, try another layer—and the process is delightful because I discover that had I not used that horrible magenta, the yellow I put over it wouldn’t have presented as a unique, brilliant orange. Or, maybe the layer that dried too much left a texture that showed up in a new and fascinating way. These interesting elements would never exist without the sh*tty layers.
It’s about being okay with the sh*tty layers, working them and allowing them to build character in the work—or in life.”
Although I am still cynical, and not fully recovered, I’ve come to accept the different types of rain. There is rain that helps make flowers grow and make hillsides turn vibrant green. It’s not always pleasant, but the reasons make sense, and the rainbow appears quickly.
Then there is rain that bears down and wipes out the hillside and everything with it—the deluge. Bombarded by this type of rain, the hillside will never be the same again, and it is a long and painful recovery as it takes on a new shape.
It’s hard not to be skeptical of the deluge, or even a little rain.
In fact, there aren’t always rainbows after the rain. Sometimes they only show up as the rainbows that form in puddles with oil and gasoline. They are unexpected and not always in the shape or spectrum of colors you thought you wanted.
You may end up like Madonna, or with a bunch of irrationally large paintings. Perhaps it’s more subtle; you grow a little savvier and honest, or you develop a sense of humor.
But like it or not, #norainnorainbows.
And, do yourself a favor, stay off your ex’s social media.
Author: Andrea Kendall
Image: Instagram @anithought
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock