When I go for walks I often wonder what’s going on in the houses I’m passing. Hopefully I don’t come across as creepy or nosey when I gaze a little too long into the front window while waiting for Denali to finish her business. I’m just curious. I wonder who lives there and if they like it. I wonder if they are happy or dreaming of something new.
One of my first memories of our house doesn’t involve us, it is of the former owners. We were out driving around checking out some of the houses we wanted to tour. We drove by ‘our house’ not realizing it was ‘our house.’ I remember it being twilight because they had lights on in the house. We drove by slowly and through their front window I could see them sitting together – all four of them – at the dining room table. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know us, and yet we would be sharing a big part of our lives together. Even though we were never in the house at the same time, this house binds us together.
I wonder what they were talking about during dinner that night. Were they worried that the house had been on the market too long and they’d never be able to move. We’re they excited about what would be next. We’re they going to miss sitting at that table looking out the big picture window revealing a beautiful backyard. Or, could they even see the beautiful backyard anymore? Sometimes when we’re ready to move to the next thing the beauty of once was starts to fade. Maybe they no longer appreciated the Rose of Sharon that provided some privacy in front of the bedroom windows. Had they met Ruby (my hummingbird friend) – had they even noticed him?
I have no idea what they spoke about that night. I have no idea what fears they faced and what celebrations they were anticipating. That’s the thing about glancing in briefly through a big picture window on the front of a passing house. We have no idea what’s going on in there. It may look peaceful from the outside, but is it? We can wonder, but until we step inside, we’ll never know.
Traveling allows me the opportunity to see things from a new perspective. From thousands of miles in the air. Looking down on all those tiny houses. What’s going on down there? In the second it takes for us to fly over a neighborhood lifetimes are occurring below. A baby is being born. Someone is dying. A woman wonders if it’s worth it to stay any longer. A man can’t figure out what he’s done wrong. He wonders if his family will accept him once he tells the truth about himself. A teenage girl looks in the mirror and once again hates what she sees. A child squeals in delight. The acceptance letter arrives. It’s her baby’s first day in someone else’s arms. He finally got the race time he’s been working so hard to achieve. I suspect they’re all waiting for something – a new job, for the medicine to kick in, a positive result, a negative result, a birthday party, for someone to come home.
One thing I believe most of these people have in common is the smallness of their world. In the midst of their waiting, it’s hard to look beyond the front door or driveway or neighborhood or city or state or country. It’s hard to see beyond our own problems, the world we’ve created in our minds. A world that is limited and often short sighted. It’s not our fault – we are going through something hard. We are attempting to make sense of the space in which we live. We are trying to understand ourselves in the midst of these other people that fill our lives – the one on the other side of the bed or the other side of the house. The one who’s lived here 50 years and the one who moved back home yesterday. Being a human being isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s hard work if you choose to really engage.
Looking over that neighborhood I realized this is just one neighborhood in one city. There are so many other neighborhoods in other cities and other countries. There are people all over this world trying to navigate what it means to be a human among all these other humans. Some little humans don’t understand the rules and expectations. Some big humans don’t understand them either. At some point I figured I’d be a real adult and understand it all. At 37 I’m still waiting for that to happen. I wonder if it ever will? If I feel this way, certainly others must feel this way too. Right? I can’t be alone in feeling like a kid faking my way through this life as adult.
All those tiny houses are filled with kids pretending to be grown ups. We can play dress up with fancy clothes and make up and bigger watches, but underneath all of the masks we will find lots of kids waiting for their real life to begin. Waiting for confidence and the sureness that we’ve got this under control. Waiting to feel worthy of parenthood or of instructing others or whatever it is we aren’t sure we should have the right to do.
When I fly I realize we all live in tiny houses. Even if they look huge from the sidewalk, from up there among the clouds, they all look tiny. A new perspective helps me to see that we’re all pretty much the same – living in tiny houses, doing our best, wishing we could do better. A new perspective teaches me that glancing through the big picture window doesn’t tell the whole story. A new perspective inspires gentleness and grace. Grace that we’re all searching for and not sure where to find it. Be gentle with each other. Be gentle with yourself. The kid that’s still in you and the kid that’s still in me will be grateful.