Every time my Hubby walks into a building, the first thing he does is check out the fire alarm system. He checks the fire alarm panel for trouble lights. He looks up at the ceilings and examines the pipes and cables. He points out sloppy installation work and shakes his head in disgust. We’ve been together for 19 years now and it still cracks me up.
He is a fire alarm contractor, sure, but before I met him, I never noticed any of that stuff. Now I pay attention to blinking lights on fire alarm panels in strange buildings. I notice the beauty of a series of conduit pipes in concentric 90 degree bends, an intricate wave of pipes with purpose. It requires skill. It requires math. It’s a craft. You can tell if someone put time and care into their work. It’s why I feel safest in buildings that he’s worked on.
It got me thinking, though–what else am I not noticing because I don’t know to look for it or worse, just don’t see it? How often do I just rush to work, drop off the kids, work through lunch, rush home, rush through the grocery store and pick up the last sad-looking roasted chicken and hope I have a box of something to make to go with it. Then there is the mad rush to get through homework without tears, baths, teeth brushing, bedtime stories. Then we get up and do it all over again. And again.
My life plays in a loop. Everything starts to blur together the way it does when your life is a series of routines. Routines are necessary, sure; they can be comforting, yes. But…too much routine and you stop seeing the rippled purple sky at dusk. You don’t see the red spark of a cardinal sailing across the lawn. You don’t notice that you are sad or lonely or eating too many cookies.
So I am practicing the art of staying in the moment, of being present. It’s the only way I can think of to start seeing again. At night, I sit on the couch in the family room. I hear the baby raccoon crying outside my window. I hear the wind chimes and the rushing tide of wind in the trees. I see my daughter with hair like mine asleep beside me. I see the plants I keep forgetting to water. I watch my dogs watching me. Their tails are wagging.
I try to stop and pay attention at work too. I look up in the atrium one day as I wait for the elevator and am rewarded with the most magnificent view of the sky through skylights I didn’t even realize were there because I never look up. I never think to. Usually I hate waiting for the elevator, but on this day, I hoped it would never come.