I’ve been thinking about windows all week. Not house windows, or car windows, or Microsoft Windows, but about the windows of life. It could be all the major events we’ve had this year – graduations, reunions, weddings – or I could just be having a weird hormone imbalance, but the subject of windows just won’t go away!
I keep seeing a huge, empty landscape filled with floating windows of all shapes and sizes. Some windows are moving. Some are stationary. The stationary windows are those stages and phases of life every human passes through. Physiological development, for example, is a series of static windows – birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age, and death.
As time carries us along, we can choose to step through the moving windows or not. Each time we do, our “landscape” changes. On the other side we might find new relationships or the end of old ones, financial gain or loss, health or illness, based on the decision you made.
Some of the windows are dark or foggy, and it’s difficult to see what’s on the other side. Other windows look pleasant, but they aren’t real – the image you see is a mirage.
Like a game of Life, once you’ve passed through a window, you can’t go back. You can only wait for the next window to come along.
We have a nasty tendency to get so caught up in the passage of time we miss a lot of windows of opportunity. We’re too busy sprinting toward – or dreading and trying to avoid – the next stationary window out in the distance, to notice those individual windows filled with potential passing us by every day.
Instead, we float through life like helpless passengers on an ocean liner. For the optimists out there, life is a Love Boat cruise, while pessimists are convinced they’ve boarded the Titanic. Milestone birthdays and events (those unavoidable stationary windows) serve as reminders of the movement of time, and can trigger a flood of regret.
“If only I had/hadn’t ______________.”
“This isn’t what I expected to be doing with my life at ____.”
“I thought I’d feel more mature by now.”
Have you ever walked face first into a closed glass door? Those stationary windows hit us that way sometimes. Like the morning I glanced in the rear view mirror and noticed a dark streak right between my eyebrows. I reached up to rub it off, wondering how I’d managed to draw a line on my forehead, only to realize THE LINE DID NOT COME OFF. I’d just passed through the permanent forehead wrinkle window, and not very gracefully.
Myriad windows pass by me every day. If I’m even aware of them, am I too fearful to step through? Am I afraid to divert my current course for fear of what awaits me on the other side? I know people who are afraid to get out of college and get a job, people who are afraid to get married, or afraid to have children, or afraid to retire. And I know people who spend all their time looking backward at the windows they think they missed, and they miss the opportunities life is offering them right now!
That’s like taking a cruise and spending the whole trip in your cabin, peeking through the porthole at the water below, and waiting for the iceberg. Or spending the entire cruise going through the brochures from the other cruise lines wishing you’d made a different choice. All the while, there’s a big ole’ party up on the lido deck with a live band, all-you-can eat buffet, and fancy drinks in coconuts with little paper parasols, and you’re missing the whole thing!
Life was meant to be lived, not feared or regretted, no matter what choices you’ve made up to now, and no matter what lies ahead.
What’s your dream? What’s your vision for your future? If you can see it, the window is available to you. It may take a few steps to get there, but unless you take the first one, you’ll never get to the one you’re dreaming of.
Seriously, if you have to, get up and physically draw a pretend window in the air with your finger. (Remember Kermit the frog doing that on Sesame Street?) Now, step through it. Once you do, everything is different on the other side. You just took that one small step, made one small choice, and changed your life.
Want a better marriage? Picture what a better marriage would look like for you, and then take a step from where you are now toward where you want to be. It’s not that hard, really. Your first window might be as simple as not bundling yourself into those nasty flannel pj’s tonight before you get in bed!
Want a more prosperous future? How could you get there? What’s the first window on the way to financial security? Is it cutting up your credit card? Or building a budget and sticking to it? Go ahead, pass through it.
Do you want to lose weight, or get in shape? See that window with the big piece of red velvet cake promising you untold delight? It’s a mirage. All that’s on the other side is a tummy ache and jiggly thighs.
Do you want to be a (fill in the blank)? What’s the first step? I mean, I want to be a writer, a novelist, actually. I want to see my name on paperback books in airport bookstores and Walmarts. I want an agent to call and offer me a three-book deal with an advance. I want to stay up late sobbing with joy over my characters as they come to the happily-ever-after of their tale. Well, obviously, the first step toward becoming a writer is to write, right? But I can “wanna be a writer” all day long and never write a word, never plot or plan or research or outline or even scribble purple prose on a pad of paper. And the writing window goes by again… Will I catch it next time and cross that line from “wanna-be” to “AM”? I hope so.
And for you, I hope you will think of windows today, and be brave enough to look through the ones before you and take advantage of them!