A New Way Home
Written by Liz Detter (updated from Summer of 2009)
Meant to be read today in light of where we are in our adventure to appreciate and restore Lake Park
I’ve been pacing. I’ve walked the floors of this home for 25 years (28 now), but lately it’s turned to that back and forth that gets me no where, carrying my thoughts from one end of the house to the other like we’re going to accomplish something. But then, I’m pretty good at repetition. After all, not only have I lived in this home for all that time, I’ve lived within 4 miles of this house since I was two. Sameness abounds. The hairstyles and the furniture have changed, the faces have aged, but my heart beats much the same as it has since God breathed eternity into it.
As long as I can remember, Consistency, Stability and Practicality have kept pace alongside that heartbeat. They’ve been my Triple-Threat of security. As I grew up, these characters lived on the block and followed me whereever I went, whatever I did. They seemed friendly, so I invited ’em in. We became inseparable. Our friendship grew and their presence gave me confidence. When unsettling highs and lows tried to bust into our clique, we stayed tight. Together we overcame plenty of real life villains and enough drama for a Hallmark Movie. They weren’t exactly the life of the party, but they were companions I could count on.
Sure, now and again something came along to talk me into a daring move out of the ordinary. Sometimes I caved to the excitement of “the unplanned” and would make an uncharacteristic break from tradition. After all, I gave up hairspray, didn’t I? For brief flashes of time, me and my buddies Consistency, Stability and Practicality sometimes parted ways, but they knew I’d be back. Their ways had become my ways. We did inevitably meet up again and carried on in that way good friends do through the years, melded together by history, memories and our common bond.
Despite being tethered to order and working hard to keep it tied tightly to my side, and hardly known as the type who’d advocate bungie jumping, skydiving or taking a trip without a blow dryer, a rabble-rousing thought has shown up on-the-scene to pitch some crazy notions. It’s been stirring up a ruckus trying to coerce me to step away from these restrained, life-long friends and take some sort of unidentified road trip into uncertainty. On top of it, this intruder has been cleverly weaving its way into my routine and my reverie via the portal of my work life. Unfair advantage.
As I sit at my desk in front of that office computer, this mischievous and even daring thought of jumping ship from the same old reasonable life taunts and tempts me to play hookey from the security of the way things have been. It’s not the first time this thought has come along prodding me to venture out and imagine doing what I love instead of just what pays the bills. It actually succeeded in calling me out for a time some years back. However, the safety of my personal status quo has been hammered into place through years of repetition and comfort, so ideas that require a tightrope, but offer no safety net, are usually a ridiculously hard sell to me. Besides, the Triple-Threat of Consistency, Stability and Practicality definitely wouldn’t approve.
Rogue thoughts are pesky little things though, and persuasive, especially if you entertain them for hours on end during lulls at work. I have to admit, the promise of something new is enticing… and this voice is working overtime to gain a foothold in my ear and my heart. The overwhelming urge to crumple up unfulfilling obligations, shoot them like a wad of paper into the can and head out to someplace new that has been calling off and on for a very long time, is one that I have, so far this time, been able to squelch with practicality and reason. After all, I’ve been there. I made that cliff dive once before, and being as I’m back at my desk dreaming of a similar escape again speaks to the success of such a detour the first go round. Still, this instigator-of-a-thought has not been daunted.
So I imagine what it would be like to brandish my fledgling sense of adventure, latent though it’s been, and I consider busting a move for the door…not to any extravagance or with any over-the-cliff drama, but dangerous to that measured degree that comes from being mired in the kind of sameness that numbs and blinds one to adventurous possibilities.
The Invisible Landscape
It’s like this: When we drive the same roadway repeatedly for years, one day we notice that the peripheral has become oddly invisible. Ordinary wonder dissipates with time. The landscape (both ugly and beautiful alike), melds together with distraction, worries, and must-dos that hit the road driving with us. As the engine roars, another work day impresses it’s whims upon our schedule and upon our field of view. We’re so busy rehearsing what just happened a moment ago and forging plans for the next, that vistas every bit as incredible as any go by in a blur unnoticed, and they wind up tangled in thoughts, concerns and other messy who-even-knows-what.
I know because my own footsteps and the road I travel have become automated as if a big brother brain has overtaken the controls. It forces me to conform to the practical, verifies the shortest route and keeps me on the path of least resistance and least expense. I stick to tattered old patterns and shush new hopes. Worries keep me in check and chastise me when I even think of straying from the tradition of daily chores and obligations that are so similar to those of every other day that I might as well be living like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
A New Way Home
Some of us use a jolt of espresso as the remedy for keeping our heads off the steering wheel when we are overwhelmed with the exhaustion of it all, but the trance brought on by a stale life-perspective can also use a similar jolt now and then. Back in the day, a counselor once gave a friend of mine this piece of advice when she was going through a tough time that was brought on in part by stale, repetitive living: “Take a new way home.” he told her. Get out of your ruts. Change up those same old ways that keep producing the same dissatisfaction. Begin to notice things that used to matter, but to which you’ve turned a blind eye.
Taking a new way home can mean something entirely different to all of us and can vary wildly. To some, rising early to watch God re-draw the landscape with a brilliant sunrise would be like a trip to a South sea island paradise. A new way home could mean a change of schedule, taking an interest in current events, starting a difficult project or a skill you’ve never tried. Maybe it means you paint a wall, rearrange the furniture or pick yourself up off the couch or from in front of the computer and get yourself moving. Henry David Thoreau said, “Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” Thoreau had a point. Maybe the new way that calls is inviting you to create a mission statement and run with it, start a new business, work with your hands or even just try a new hairstyle (without hairspray if you’re brave!).
Then again, you might just shut the car door, buckle in, roll up the windows, turn on the AC and watch the world roll by from behind the glass as the radio blares an overplayed, meaningless tune. Maybe you would rather trade the real life ahead for a canned imitation where the passing spectacle is a daily rerun of the same old show on the other side of the glass. There the textures are foggy, scents and sounds are muffled and precious moments become a matter of endurance rather than your one and only life, worthy of an enthusiastic embrace.
It so happens that I live just blocks from the intracoastal, with the ocean just beyond,
but my hurried pace and that master of mine, the self-inflicted to-do list, gives me the evil eye if I try to deviate from it’s hurried plan. The list drags me around to the busy side of town and the cluttered side of my heart as if it has me on a chain. On that side of the world, the stale thoughts, the have-tos and a whole cast of worries hold the stage. They prompt me to meet their demands and get the show on the road, ASAP. No questions, no backroads, no daydreaming. Not a lot of imagination either.
Imagine how the turn of the steering wheel could alter my outlook, ideas and inevitably my outcome. Going right instead of left as I head out of the driveway, would take me to glassy water, colorful sailboats, briny air, gulls swooping in and out of frame. It could spin my thoughts on end, spurring new ideas and plans, reminding me there are other avenues besides “Same Ole Blvd.” with it’s shopping plazas, stop signs and traffic, punctuated by my temper.
Maybe all it would do is open my eyes to the wonders (and the calm) God has just a few streets away from predictability.
If that was it, that in and of itself would be incredible. Instead, I tow the line and stay the routine. Pretty much hypnotized by ritual and expectations, I sit in the same spot, go the same way, think overdone thoughts, live the motions set in place with the concrete of my habits.
So I experimented this morning – what might I see if I chose a new vantage point from which to start my weekend (which is chock full of obligations already, I might add)?
So as not to abandon my every comfort or habit, I remained clad in pj’s, clinging to my coffee cup, and I ventured out of the norm by stepping out the door and sitting on the front porch step at this early hour. Sounds lame, but this is pretty risky stuff. My hair was half-wet, drying in that awkward way that says “deranged”. With my pen and journal in hand, reading glasses perched with a librarian vibe halfway down my nose, wearing no make up (agh!), in my mind I was a brave adventurer heading out on an expedition. The bright pink moose print adorning my legs made a statement, but I’m not sure it was one I wanted to shout to the neighborhood at large.
After all, this is not the veneer I typically choose to present to the world, even the small town neighborhood just two steps from the inner sanctum on the other side the threshold. But I had made my move. Thick, damp summer heat greeted me like a wall to the face as I stepped out into my experiment. Wow, just great! And no sooner did I exit the safety of the house and face the upheaval of doing something different, than a cop drove by and waved an acknowledgment. I held to the (please, dear God) hope that cops see a lot of oddities every day and that perhaps I don’t make the top of the list. I pressed boldly forward.
Settling into my new vantage point, normally on the other side of the window on the comfy couch, with AC on, where no one can drive by and mock (even in their mind) my choice of sleeping attire or the fact that I really shouldn’t be outside without hair, makeup and wardrobe, I setttled into the scene. Lizards scurried from my intrusion into their territory. They were enjoying a morning routine too and I managed to ruin the fun. They ran off through the grass which I had just finished mowing last night as the sun set, and they took cover under the hibiscus. Clumps of grass that I didn’t have time to rake were already wilting and gray, reminding me of another chore yet to be completed. And I could see the hose needed to be wound and the flag billowing overhead has been fading fast under the hearty summer sun. This little experiment was supposed to enlighten, but I felt the weight of a new list of reminders tapping me on the shoulder, urging me to get moving and do something. Move, move, move! Not the great inspiration I was yearning for, and so, like that, I was ready to label my experiment a failure. Obviously, my sense of adventure is a bit rusty.
Then, of course, it began to rain. Just dandy. Like I want to be outside in the muggy, rainy, great outdoors first thing in the morning while trying to prove a point to myself about how God shows up when I shake free of the cobwebs and peer at the vistas……..
I got back up, but, before I could turn and run for the safety inside, the rain turned into a beautiful sun shower. I have to admit that I am completely fascinated by sun showers. So I stood in awe and enjoyed the show. Within moments, the shower ramped into a downpour. Even more incredible! A sun storm! Rain and sunshine flowed from the sky, as if my odd appearance into the real air of the morning had thrown it (along with the lizards) for a loop, getting things all out of whack and tipping its plans on end.
With that I was mesmerized. Gazillions of raindrops took turns reflecting the light of the quickly rising sun. Liquid crystals and jewels streaked mid-air. It was an all-out magic show….glitter was falling from the sky by the bucketful and chiming with a beautiful racket as it fell.
My mouth may have been hanging open (not sure). I am, however, quite sure I looked even more the oddball, but what the heck, the cop might have already called it in by now and the neighbors, well, they’ve been witness for years.
Just like that I was reminded again of how God can and will show up and turn a moment into magic. He is, after all, the Master of creation, and I am fascinated by his handiwork. So while there are to-do lists in perpetuity and thoughts of what is to come and how I’ll deal with all that is about to play out in front of me, God reminded me, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” He gladly offers simple moments as celebrations pretty much anytime I want, if I’ll shake free of the lull, unplug my ears, pry my fingers from my eyes, ditch my orchestrated plans and join him. And this was just a little preview.
I would have missed the show had I not ventured even those two timid steps away from the usual and taken a new way into the day. What else am I missing as I whistle my predictable tune, eyes glazed over and the list in charge of my every move?
Okay, I admit, I still can’t stave off realities that may be waiting around the corner. I’m going to have my share of days and nights spent pacing through tough times, and that can throw me for a loop. Adventure is going to request an audience with me, and that rogue thought will be waiting for me come Monday morning. The orders on my list and the worries on my heart will be written across my life in size 72 bold font, but I still have the choice. I can choose to participate in the ordinary magic God produces on a daily basis. It’s here within the walls of my living room and along my daily route. I just have to set the list aside and participate in the wonder.
I think I’m gonna give it a try… and while you may not think it drastic, I may just crumple up the list, shoot it to the can, climb in and steer to the right, trying a new way home…and I might even open my eyes this time. The wonder I find may be all the adventure I need.
But first, I’ll have to have a little talk with the Triple-Threat. I sure hope they understand.