The Broken Window

When I got home from vacation a few days ago, I noticed that something was wrong with my car window–the one on the driver’s side.

When I was arriving at the gym, I pushed the switch to roll the window down, and the window started acting cuckoo. It was suddenly off the track and leaning to one side and although I could still move it up and down, it wouldn’t close because it wasn’t lining up correctly on its track.

So naturally, I felt like this was a big deal, you know? I mean, I just returned from Florida, where it was warm, but it’s FREEZING in Indiana, and I thought to myself, “It’s too cold to drive around with a window that won’t close.”

With a feeling of urgency, I started to push the button more and more. “Forget the gym,” I said to myself, “this window must be fixed now.” I pushed the button up and down and began to try and physically pull the window off the track in an effort to slot it back in.

Now here’s the thing: I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT CARS. So I had no business thinking that I knew what I was doing. I just knew I didn’t want to drive the dang car with an open window in 40 degree temps.

Not surprisingly, my efforts were to no avail, and I ended up calling a mechanic. Upon examining the window, the first thing the mechanic told me was that it looked as if the window had simply slid off the track, which would have been an easy fix for him, but in my efforts to fix the window myself, I had actually broken the window regulator part in the process, and that would now have to be replaced.

The part was ordered, and he then put the window back on the track in its rightful position, but left me with a strict directive:

“Do not push the button up and down. The window will stay in its correct place as long as you do not press it.”

“Ok,” I said, somehow knowing this would be hard for me. 🙄 I seem to be someone who is good at doing hard things, but not easy things.

He must have read the stressed look on my face, because he then continued,

“And if you forget and press it, please do not attempt to fix it again. Just let it be until the part comes in.” 

Ok,” I said. 😳

On the drive on the way home, I said to Aliana, “Maybe I should put duct tape over the switch, so I don’t forget to not use it.”

Aliana, who is 10, reassured me that this was not necessary.

“Just remember not to touch it,” she said. I did a little internal psyching myself up. I said outloud, “Don’t roll down the window, Emily. You can remember. Don’t do it!”

I then enjoyed a very luxurious 24 hours of driving around in my warm car. I was determined to not touch the window, as I was thoroughly appreciating the warmth, dryness, and privacy of my vehicle. However, that feeling of gratefulness began to wane, (as gratefulness often does, if we don’t hold it close to our hearts) and was replaced with a sense of complacency within a few hours.

And then, as I was entering a parking facility the next night, I realized I needed to grab a ticket. Without thinking, you guessed it…I rolled down the window.

The window immediately went off the track , of course, and one side of the glass was now poking up in the air.

“Ugh,” I said to myself. I was simultaneously surprised I had forgotten while also fully expecting that this would happen.

I spent the next day driving around with the window open in rain all day. Everywhere I went, I was cold, rainy, and wet. I contemplated getting a towel to dry off the car and cold, wet steering wheel. Somehow, part of my ego argued against it.

“It’s all your fault. You forgot what you were supposed to do, and now you must pay the price,” the voice in my head said.

The next morning my mechanic texted me to tell me there was a delay in the arrival of the part. I was going to face an additional 24 hours driving around in the cold.

I began to once again think about how my annoyance with the window situation was all my fault, and it was happening as a result of two mistakes I made in my thinking: I tried to fix something I knew nothing about by myself, instead of being still and waiting. And then, after knowing I needed to practice a simple, new way of thinking, I had once again slipped back to my old ways of thinking, thereby breaking it again.

I knew that pressing the switch would result in a very unfavorable outcome. And yet, I forgot what I knew and did it anyways.

This got me thinking: how many times do we do this? How many times do we have a new, very important goal at hand, and we get complacent about it and then slip back into old habits and mindsets?

And the equally important flip side of that question is this:

How many times do we spend beating ourselves up for our mistake, instead of having compassion for ourselves and just deciding to do better and move forward?

Did I help myself when I decided I deserved to be cold and wet and rainy the next day? I was essentially deciding that I deserved to be miserable. I could have gotten a towel to dry off and put on some gloves and made myself more comfortable.

But instead, I wanted to grumble and punish myself.

Side note: I think I may be the only weirdo on the face of the earth that contemplates life like this when a window breaks.

But if I am that weirdo, I might as well share these musings.

To recap:

  • When something goes wrong, and we are not sure what to do, many times it’s in our best interest to stop DOING and just get still. In the stillness, we have the ability to think rationally, instead of simply reacting and breaking windows and crap.
  • When we are trying to think in a new way–whether it’s embracing a new lifestyle, new way of thinking, or new reality–we should realize that we may have moments where we revert to old patterns of thinking, especially in times of urgency or complacency.
  • When we make an error out of complacency or urgency, or addictive patterns, we must acknowledge the error, while having compassion with ourselves, so that we can move forward. Other people may not have compassion for us, which is why it is so important that we give that gift to ourselves.

We are all worthy of compassion and self forgiveness. And we are all worthy of having new opportunities and new results. So as we go about our day, let’s also remember this additional truth:

It is only in our brokenness, that we can actually see more beauty in the world. So maybe broken windows aren’t that bad after all.

They did it for the James Beard Award

The other day I was at a really nice restaurant eating some delicious food with a friend of mine. We were commenting on how flavorful the food was and how nice the service was. The next time our waiter came over to our table, we decided to compliment him, as well as the chef. The waiter then proceeded to tell us about how the goal of the restaurant was as to do “x, y, z” things differently because “they wanted to receive a James Beard award.”

And then I just suddenly lost my appetite. Like, I wanted to regurgitate the delicious food I had just ingested. Something inside me had such a strong reaction to his statement: “we are doing this–making good food, giving you excellent service so that we can receive an award.”

Really?  That’s why you’re making this food good? It’s not about nourishment or providing healthy and delicious creations to your community?

And I’m really trying not to be judgmental here, because I want to approach this young man and this beautiful restaurant from a place of love for their food and love for the community they have built within.

But what I am trying to do is to point out that our intention for doing things is important. And, I am hoping that this restaurant does not go over to the dark side and turn into one of… them.

Who is “them,” you ask?

I’ll tell you about “them.” To be truthful, there’s all a little bit of us in them. But I need to tell you about “them,” so that you don’t completely cross over to the dark side and fully BECOME one of THEM.

“Them” includes people who work for their egos. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “But don’t we all need to work to provide for ourselves and our families and for a source of income?” Yes, yes, we absolutely do.  But I’m not talking about that kind of work.  I’m talking about the work that says, “HEY LOOK AT ME AND LOOK AT WHAT I’M DOING!”

Why do they do it? Our culture rewards them. They are intermittently given accolades for their hard work and for the attention they receive from others. I mean, after all, they are doing the work, right?  They are in there, day after day, giving it their all.  They are doing the thing–whatever that thing might be–to the best of their ability. (What’s obviously not being examined, however, is why they are doing it.)

Our culture–our internet–our society LOVES celebrities like Kim Kardashians and Donald Trumps and people who continually put themselves out there, in order to receive something in return.  Those people are rewarded frequently with “likes,” “retweets,” and even AWARDS–fame, offices in politics, and 24-7 spotlight and access to microphones to say to the whole world whatever their hearts desire.

I’m not just talking about famous people of course either.  I’m talking about those in your community, your church, your workplace, and maybe even in your own family, who are operating from a spirit of “them.” They are working their butts off, and want someone to just pay them in return.  They deserve that, right?  They do good continually on the outside and for others…AND YET: it’s for the benefit of themselves and what they can receive in return: attention, acknowledgment, awards, etc. 

The spirit of them may look shiny and bright and perfect and good, but it’s actually kinda dark underneath.  It’s the birthplace of fear and of wanting love and attention from others because deep down there’s some emptiness.  There’s a fear of missing out and of losing acknowledgement, since the attention of our culture is so short spanned. The spirit of them measures success with public acknowledgement, words, attention–not growth.  It is not resilient.  It is not based on how far someone has come.  It is based only on what someone is doing right now and how loudly he or she is doing it.

And think about it–can you imagine if all the people in your lives working around you did what they did so that they could receive acknowledgement or attention or an award?  What if the main reason I was a teacher was so I could get an award?  What if, I showed up day after day and did my best performance in the classroom, for the sole purpose of being recognized? Would you want me to teach your child?  HECK TO THE NO.  Because what you want is someone who cares about teaching your child because she cares about your child and wants him to be successful. 

The people who are truly doing beautiful, good, and right things are not doing them loudly or saying “look at me.”  Instead, they are showing up, day after day, and doing the work and minding their own business.  They don’t have time to worry about attention, because that is not what they are there for.  They are there to do good work– work which positively impacts others and their community regardless of whether or not they receive accolades.  They draw attention to ISSUES–not to themselves.  They draw the attention to what needs to change for the good of the people–not about what needs to change for them to make their life easier.

And here’s the thing: every beautiful, true, steadfast thing I know of does not ever come from a place of them.  Like, ending a war.  Walking away from an abusive relationship. Deciding to get sober and stop using drugs.  Beginning a non-profit to help children in the community have a safe place to go after school.  Standing up for those who cannot fight for themselves, and addressing racism and sexism by taking responsibility. Those are ALL actions that are BEAUTIFUL and TRUE and HAVE DEPTH. They are all hard work, but do not ever come from a place of “them.”

So if we can just do one thing today, I hope it is this: can we acknowledge–whether that means give a voice to, or lift up, or honor– those who are there for the good of the cause, not for the good of themselves?  I, for one, am determined to not go down in history as someone who gave a microphone to someone who already had one.  I am going to give that metaphorical microphone to those who don’t necessarily think they need it, but who have a voice that needs the volume to be turned up on it because they are seeking change for the greater good.

I heard a quote this week, which I believe sums this sentiment up:

“Our metric for success, it seems to me, is off…  There are no reliable statistics for hearts opened or wounds healed.”– Josh Radnor

And guys, I’m all about the hearts opened and wounds healed. Let’s create a community where we can share the microphone with those who do not receive attention, but who are working for open hearts and healing.