Tuesday, January 26, 2010

When in Doubt, Go to the Balcony

I read somewhere that when you dream about being in a house, it often represents aspects of yourself.

Last night, I dreamt that I was in a house — filled with clutter. It didn’t seem to be my house or my clutter, but I felt that I had to clean it up. Then I noticed the cat puke. The living room rug was covered with different spots of cat puke. Some of them had been doused with rug cleaner and were already bubbling. The others I started to spray myself.

But the whole time, I knew that this wasn’t my house and these weren’t my cats. It wasn’t my mess. I was frustrated about the mess, but more frustrated that I was there in the first place.

Had I climbed to the balcony of this house in my dream, it may have shown me a way out or at least shown me the actual size of the problem. I may have realized that we all have our messes to clean up, but focusing on our own mess first is always best.

The minute we start bending and hovering over another person’s mess, we’re on our hands and knees with a bottle of rug cleaner looking foolish. But from the balcony the people and situations look more alike — fragile and messy and hopeful — backs bent and heads bowed, an authentic picture of survival and learning and living.

From the balcony, we can look up and out and over. There is better lighting. Sound carries farther. It isn’t a place to hide or sit in judgment, but a place to rest and reflect.

Climbing out of the crowds to a higher place and view is not meant to separate us from our responsibilities. It is simply a breath…a stepping back from the ledge…so we can return to the crowds to do and act and serve in healthy ways.

And we have to return. Contemplation for its own sake — without right action — is just as foolish. If we stay in the balcony too long, it becomes its own distraction from reality.

Any mother will tell you that there is always something to clean or fix. But we should always take time to discern our own mess from someone else’s.

As we teach our kids, so we teach ourselves:

1. If it’s your mess, clean it up.
2. If it isn’t your mess, ask how you can help.
3. If your help is not requested or acknowledged, take a break in the balcony.
4. Return to #1.