When I heard Philippe Petit speak this weekend (at about the same time that I should have been baking a Strawberry Cake for TWD), he told me to look up. The “Man Who Walked Between the Towers” told me to pay attention to the spaces in between. He told me to re-conceive what is possible. He also told me that a problem will present its own solution. All I had to do was pay attention.
Cliches? Maybe. Tidy little “life lessons?” Perhaps. But the metaphors for the writing and family life abound.
So I took a risk: I looked up.
I looked up in my yard and noticed several ominous vines beginning to overtake my shrubs. The vines are well beyond the reach of my ladder and my crummy garden shears. The vines are a mass of ugly, scary tentacles reaching in all directions like an alien octopus. They’re definitely noticeable from the street. Not so good.
I went inside and looked up at the corners of my bedroom. I found ribbons of cobwebs over my dresser that the cleaning lady had missed. Serves me right for hiring out my chores.
Downstairs, I looked up at the range above my kitchen stove and found a thick layer of grease. Ick. How long had that been there?
What’s going on here? Is the entire universe scheming to guilt me into some spring cleaning, even as true summer is finally upon us?
I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist (nor housekeeper, obviously), so I took another look. I started paying attention to the messages those pesky chores were sending, beyond the obvious one (“Deal with me soon!”). Just behind the vines and the dust and the grime, here's what I found:
I have vines in my shrubs. That means I have shrubs (at least until the vines take over completely.) I have a yard. My own yard, where my kids like to dig in the dirt and trap unsuspecting insects in recycled jars. These same kids knock wiffle balls at our windows (purely accidentally, they tell me) and fill water balloons from the outside tap. I have a yard where my husband is master of the grill and usually mows the lawn. I have a yard where recently, I had a leisurely homemade lunch with my girlfriends. Over leftover nachos and green salad and chocolate cake, we commiserated over life’s challenges and minor triumphs. We shared a few stories and more than a few drinks. The lunch was a last Mommy hurrah before the kids are again underfoot for the summer. But all of it – the time with the kids and the time without – are precious and revitalizing. Life is good.
I have cobwebs in my bedroom. I have a bedroom. That means I have four walls, a roof over my head, and a space that, eventually, can be temperature-controlled. Shelter in itself is enough to be thankful for. But of course its more than that. It's a home. It's a home because I share that bedroom with the most loving and generous man I know. And that bedroom houses a bed that's big enough for the whole family to snuggle under the covers together with a good book before tuck in. These are blessings that cannot be taken for granted. Yes, blessings.
And then there’s the grease down in the kitchen. Well, obviously! I cook. We eat. I cook well. We eat well. Together. And this is more than enough.
And so I find that I’m taking Mr. Petit’s advice. I’m looking up. I’m looking beyond these mundane domestic chores, and I’m finding a renewed appreciation for family and place. I’m thankful for my messy, joyous, loud and chaotic life, and for the inspiring aphorisms of a 62-year-old tightrope walker.
I’m working on my cleaning skills: I’m getting out the super-sized ladder for the vines, the broom for the cobwebs, and the Formula 409 for the range. But I’m also practicing paying attention. I’m practicing the art of re-framing my situations. I’m practicing gratitude.
I’m practicing looking up.
I’m practicing looking up.