Inside the home office that D and I share is a doorway to what I believe was an afterthought sort of half bath. The builder included the tiny space for their only child. Just big enough to turn around in, it commands a lavatory, a small cabinet with drawers, a green and white tile floor, a mirror which covers most of one wall, and a window.
Seventy years after construction and on a whim just in time for Covid, I wallpapered the space in a design dotted randomly by lipstick blots. The bright imprint of red lipstick freshly applied has always thrilled me for it promised all the fun that being a self occupied woman could bring.
I begin and end the day in this space. Since 1987 I’ve raised and lowered the sash of the six paned window a gazillion times. For me the truth of this undertaking loaded with rhymes and riddles is an understatement.
Over the years most of the windows in our house were painted-shut except this one. A process of having each one unstuck and reglazed for proper opening is now underway. We are past due for catching all the fresh air that our hearts and minds can claim.
There is relief that comes with the spirited inhalation of fresh air and recognized shelter. When the noises of outdoor-land and soft air strike about the brain, all is well. Ezra said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” He was talking about restoration. There is not a more pregnant example of reconditioning and a new take on life.
Only when we pause outside our airless preoccupations, can we fully show up to recalibrate. I believe that pure essences from the Divine drift mostly undetected until we are deprived.
I did not know this secret life when I begin to define my laughing gear with Cherries in the Snow (Revlon). All I knew about prayer was – “Can I have a pony, please?”
Get some fresh air they said. “So good for you,” sayeth sages of yore. An environment of stale air has now been grimly recounted by scientists with facts including a decrease in the amount of communication among regions of the brain.
The notion that the finest instrument of creation can be suppressed by operating in stale air is cause alone for labored breath. When did we shut the window on the fresh air of another’s viewpoint, another’s landscape, another’s culture, trial or desideratum?
Of course this is too much for the human psyche. Oh so much easier to pass it off and allow someone to say that they will take care of it for each of us, everyone.
Tyrants begin to look like amazing grace.
The view from my bathroom window is profuse with my neighbor’s fencerow and a willowy line of crepe myrtles. The sounds from a nearby city park swell at times with voices of children, to be sure – some cared for and some neglected.
A nearby school sound-system calls seasonal games and the Elks Club blasts from the field over providing live music every weekend. Happy sounds of humans engaged all about.
Even so an occasional ambulance sounds; the whir of a nearby hospital helicopter disrupts; a neighbor’s grieving wale lights up the night air. New next door colleagues with dissimilar and sometimes disturbing ways of defining a lifestyle add to the ebb and flow.
Ever on the breeze hangs the caprice to hunker down into a small self. Still there is a fresh prompt to open onto the altruistic space where God looks like the urge to break free and thrive in a mix of what we should offer each other.
So many decades ago the swipe of red that I used to define my mouth did indeed begin the day. My reflection in the bathroom mirror was hypnotic but as impermanent as the leaves outside on the trees.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert tells a story of the poet Ruth Stone who spoke to her about a spirit- filled invitation to create something new. Ruth would be working out in the open field on a farm when she would hear a poem coming. She ran like hell to connect with a paper and pencil before the poem passed her by.
I am beginning to see in my mini half bath that if I move from mirror to window, the Divine is always traveling through to relieve internalized torment with creative possibility.
What if enough of us observed that we can borrow such Godly genius, not be the genius?
By stepping outside the fears of personal indoctrination, could we move from stale air to the fresh breezes of which Doris Kearns Goodwin speaks in Leadership in Turbulent Times?
Could we – would we – jot down with a deep sigh the truism that humility, empathy, resilience, self-reflection, growing, acknowledging error, and shouldering the blame for others is the only poetry that assures a light-filled world?
Such features of tested leadership are not found in the egoic mirror but through the window where a dying self can show us ways to freshen up the place.