Clear Eyes, Rainy Days

“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

A big part of life in Chicago is unpredictability.  The weather, the train, the people. Everywhere you go, everything is unpredictable.  Chicago keeps you on your toes. Especially in the Winter.  I think that’s Winter’s specialty here, is unpredictability.  At least this year it is.

Last night it was snowing.  This morning I woke up to rain that hasn’t stopped since 8AM. It usually feels like I always have the most to do on days when the weather doesn’t want to align with my plans, but today, for some odd reason, it did.  Today I have no class, no work, and can spend time in bed, savoring the rainy day.

One of my favorite things to do on rainy days is watch old episodes of my favorite TV shows, maybe because of nostalgia, maybe because of the nature of reflection that accompanies the rain, maybe because they feel like crawling under a warm blanket after walking home through the snow.  Either way, rainy days are the ideal situation for old favorites.

This morning when I woke up to the rain, I crawled out of bed, opened my blinds, turned on my Bright Eyes record and sat by the window drinking tea with my cat on my lap.  It was a moment of complete serenity, one that’s hard to put into words.  After the A side finished, I crawled back into bed and felt like I needed a Friday Night Lights blanket.  I first watched the show in its entirety right when I moved into my apartment at the beginning of fall, and finished the show in less than two weeks.  When it ended, it felt like a lover just died.  It’s the hardest I’ve cried after a show ended since I watched One Tree Hill for the first time five years ago.

I turned on the very last episode of FNL and let myself into the cocoon of comfort for 45 minutes of absolute predictability and perfection.  The lovable high school sweethearts get engaged, the underdogs win state, the husband sacrifices his job for the first time in favor of his wife’s new job, and everyone lands, in the end, exactly where it seemed they were going to all along.  It’s all so predictable, but that’s what makes it so perfect, so comforting, and so emotionally raw.  It’s the perfectly crafted story.  It’s the warm blanket you crawl under after a long walk home through the snow.

After I watched the final episode, I went back and watched the first, which is, in my opinion, absolute perfection in its entirety.  The warmest blanket that exists in my world is the first episode of this show.  It is the blanket for a rainy day, a broken heart, a time of grief, a moment of clarity, a sense of hope.  As the writer Helena Fitzgerald wrote in one of her tinyletters,

“There’s a moment near the end of the first episode when a character throws an impossible long pass and the action goes silent for the length of the ball spinning through the air.  The music stops and the crowd dies down and all of space and time distills to this one throw, defeating the ruthless ongoing of the day-to-day.  There’s just the motion of the ball high above the field; everything is allowed to be perfect.  

It ends.  The ball lands where it’s supposed to land, the crowd goes wild, the kid who made the throw becomes in the space of a few seconds a hero.  But that single moment is what the show is about, that moment and how to live with ourselves knowing that the rest of the time we are shut out from that moment… it’s the most predictable thing in the world, and it reminds you that predictable things are predictable for a reason, that some longings are written on our bones, restated in our heartbeats pumping blood.  It’s the big old heroic stories, the grand successes, the un-nuanced good, the border where the line between man and god gets fuzzy on the battlefield.  It is not at all a modern moment nor a modern theme on which to make art.  But modernity and the art it created is about how to recover from that moment, how to resolve the fact that we live our lives outside of it, and how we often do brutal, atrocious things to try to get back to this kind of bigness, this kind of collective held breath.”

This is it.  Everything about this moment.  This is the essence of Friday Night Lights that puts it in the exclusive realm of perfect television.  All of the successes, failures, relationships, heartbreaks, moments of perfection that’ll never be the same again.  It’s so raw and purely human, but supremely ethereal in its essence.

Living in Chicago and living in a constant lack of predictability is overwhelming. Especially in the midst of Winter when everything’s cold and gray and warmth seems like it’s never going to return.  I feel a dire need to experience predictability.  To have something I can count on.  To know what’s going to come next.  To know that the football flying through the sky is going to land in the receiver’s hands and the team wins the game.  And so it rains.  April showers bring May flowers.  It’s not April, and tomorrow isn’t May, but when it rains, it feels like the world is getting ready to bring flowers.

When rainy days align with my day it feels like the world almost freezes in time.  I feel like I can take a break from the world for a day, stay in bed, and pull out all my favorite old blankets.  It’s the coziest form of comfort, a comfort that, when it ends, makes me feel like I’m ready to reenter world, flowers intact, until the next rainy day arrives.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.




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