Lately when I’ve been walking my dog I catch myself staring at the ground.
The sidewalks are a little uneven and there is potential for tripping, but it is a route I take almost every day, twice a day, so I’m fairly familiar where the trappings will be. Maybe it’s because my mind gets consumed with fears for the future or problems of the present or maybe it is just because I have lost perspective of the beauty around me.
I am subconsciously going through the motions of the walk and missing everything around me.
My walk takes me by craftsman homes that are over 100 years old.
The tress along the way may be even older. The brick church I pass was founded in 1875 and still has some of the original stained glass. Some of the leaves are just beginning to change and I hear the faint sound of planes overhead and a train whistle announcing the next arrival of commuters hustling to and from work while a light breeze keeps the heat bearable.
Friendly neighbors are outside ready to greet me with a smile and a wave as they water their lawn or walk their own dog.
It is a beautiful walk, but if I don’t force myself to look up, I miss so much of the beauty and uniqueness of the moment. I’m not participating or influencing my surroundings.
I am just getting through them.
The last two years of life I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the ground, hoping not to trip.
So much was changing so quickly. I was simply trying to get to the next step without losing my balance. It wasn’t all bad, but it was fairly necessary. Before these two years, my footing seemed solid enough that I was able to look up from time to time and enjoy everything around me instead of just powering through.
I knew who I was and where I was going.
I went by many names.
Professor, Spiritual Mentor, Church Volunteer, Singer, Funny Guy, Californian, Academic, Roommate, Dean, Boss, Leader, Entertainer, to name a few. I would say most of those don’t really apply to me anymore, or at least in the same way they used to.
I’ve experienced complete shifts in careers, location, churches, relationships, world views, health, salary and more.
So much of my identity was wrapped up in these things and it seems hard to figure out who I am.
I’m not a victim. I chose most of those changes. I actually like my life a lot better these days in so many ways. After all that change, I’m finally at a place where I don’t have to just look down and power through.
I can take time to not only look, but see.
I’ve been talking with a number of friends lately who have experienced similar shifts.
They have gone through a divorce.Their children have left home. They lost a job or their job changed significantly. Each of us has realized that in some ways we feel a little bit lost and are still staring at the ground.
The foundation upon which we built our identities are no longer there and the pride we felt from the status that those things brought is missing as well.
Because of this, we’ve stopped looking up, for fear of tripping.
I have the space and footing now to stop and look around.
Even though so much has changed, I’m still the same person. So I decided to take some time to think about and write out who I want to be. What it looks like to not just look down at my feet and power through, but explore the beauty I want to see in my life.
I’m still me and I’m ready for something more than a subconscious-walking-through-life.
Here is how I want to stop looking at my feet and experience the beauty that surrounds me. This is how I will look up.
I want to always let my curiosity trump my fear.
I don’t want to be reckless, but fear should never stop me from exploring picturesque places in the world, learning from people with different backgrounds and opinions than me, or making attempts at new things that take me out of my comfort zone. My curiosity should drive me to learn.
May I never stop learning.
Life is not about being fearless, but choosing to continue to curiously step forward, with wisdom, in the face of fear.
1. May I live from a place of wonder.
I want the site of fireflies to always make me embarrassingly giddy and I want the taste of good wine and cheese to cause me to pause and close my eyes just for a moment. I will literally applaud good pizza and I will never stop being in awe of the gift that is my life.
2. My love will never be stingy.
I want to honor my partner with words in private and public, in proximity and apart. There should never be a doubt of my feelings and I will be vulnerable and honest always. My kindness will outdo my desire for comfort when I am not in the mood to do things a different way than I am used to, because I know it will make my partner’s life easier and less stressful.
My love will not be stingy, but given without expectation.
He is my favorite.
3. My friends will always know I am their biggest cheerleader.
In the moments where I am tempted to feel jealousy, I will choose joy. Their success adds to my life, it doesn’t take anything away. I will love their children with high praise, engulfing hugs, and irresponsible gifts.
I will offer to help them move before they have to ask.
Generosity will be a lifestyle, not moments given out of excess that cost me nothing. I will be generous with my words. I will not only see the greatness in others, but call it out of them when they can’t see it in themselves.
4. I will have Grace.
Grace for myself and grace for others.
5. Health will be a great priority.
I want to think about what I’m eating instead of grabbing what is most convenient. The couch should not be the place I log my most hours. Not because I care so much how I look, but because I know I am better when I’m less tired and when Taco Bell is not my primary source of nutrition.
But, health will be deeper than my skin or my fat, it will include my relationships, my spirituality and my boundaries.
My lofty goals are servants to a better life for me and those around me, not arrogant ideals to achieve at the cost of wellbeing.
6. My work and my life will be marked by integrity.
My words will mean something because they are true and they can be trusted.
My values should cost me something or they are empty.
These are the ways I am starting to look up, to notice, and to walk differently. I may trip a time or two because I’m not staring cautiously at my feet, but I hope I always stumble forward and get up to move again. How are you going to look up today?