Washington Writ Large: Tip-Toeing Our Way Around Those Cow Patties to Get a Better View of Those Fireworks

If you haven’t flown over the city of Washington at night, make a point to do so. It sparkles as grandly as any capital ever constructed. There I was, flying back from Santa Barbara, not recognizing the darkened landscape—figuring it was the morass that is Northern Virginia–and then, BOOM! the Washington Monument and the Capitol came into view, glittering from beyond the wing of the plane. Pride of place, as they say in real estate ads. I felt proud and privileged to see the city this way. It was amazing! The irony of living in a metropolis burdened by corruption, murder, obfuscation, and disappointment but where there’s room for beauty and inspiration does not go unnoticed. It would be easy for me to gloss over the magnificence of Washington and focus on the shameless self-dealing, gridlock, and pettiness for which this city has a well deserved reputation, but doing so would diminish the awe inspiring power of the democratic ideals on which our nation was founded. Washington is far more than a bustling city where matters of state are allegedly attended to. The greatness of this city arises from the imagination, courage, and dedication of those who support it—whether they’ve been here or not. My point is this: the ability to see good and feel hope in the midst of serious concern is not to be dismissed as silly thinking. Wonderful things can happen in the midst of troubling chaos. The fact that we can admire the splendor of a place like DC is hugely important because what we can do for circumstances outside of us means that we can manage the same for ourselves, when lost in our internal struggles.

What beauty do you see in the midst of your everyday labors?

When feeling as though our lives consist of an unending list of demands—whether that be child rearing, surviving difficult neighbors or in-laws, meeting payrolls, or absorbing the mind spinning pace of change that makes up these modern times—it’s easy to narrow our attention to the threats or concerns. We forget to look out the window and value where we are. But it’s not enough simply to give it a passing smile and return to our hamster wheel, we need to do more than that. We need to make the conscious effort of embracing the joy of living before it’s too late.

Yesterday, I was having lunch with some friends when one of them remarked that she had examined her calendar for the next two weeks and there were only two items on it that she was excited about—our lunch and something else. And this is a busy, well adjusted, and content person who appreciates her life! As the conversation meandered, she mentioned how her mother was obsessed with her weight, denying herself any extra glass of wine or piece of cheese because she was so consumed with the number on the scale. “I just think about how much pleasure she’s missing out on,” my friend mused. “And for what? So she can say her weight hasn’t changed since she was in high school? So what?” Of course appearance is only one example of the sorts of topics where people assume defensive postures. The same line of thinking applies to those who are misers with their money or their compliments or their time. When I think about this, I suspect a lot of this mindset comes from an impoverished world view instead of a philosophy that life is meant to be abundant.

What’s your world view? Do you hunker down, clinging to what you have, or do you run around with your arms wide, expecting life to bestow more of its richness upon you?

This is a loaded question for most of us—myself included—because we know there are no guarantees. We are keenly aware that it was the ant that was ready for winter, not the grasshopper. I vacillate between these two stances all the time—it gets to be a pain because I never allow myself to fully enjoy my high times or fully congratulate myself on my sensible planning. This dilemma has only been heightened during my time of re-booting. But what occurs to me is this: of the two protagonists in our story, it is the grasshopper who gets to see a bigger view of what’s possible. The ant is scurrying around, collecting his foodstuffs to get through the winter—very responsible—but I think, “Is that it? Is this all that the ant does all day, everyday? Does he see nothing? Has he limited his world to this?” Maybe there are alternate food sources he might have discovered had he only lifted his head. Maybe something metaphysically more yummy existed beyond that next hillock, if he only took the trouble to wonder and wander. Maybe having that extra glass of wine would have given him the courage to break out from his rut (even if the scale did read slightly higher the next morning)…

When was the last time you looked up? Do you dare?

Now, when I pose these questions, I do not mean that your life should be one of the careless vagabond, bold and free all the time. Nobody’s is. We all have crap and baggage and real responsibilities that weigh on us, but this is why we are here. We are meant to attend to our responsibilities while finding a better, more joyful way to live. Learning how to toss the baggage aside and master a new and more constructive way of handling the crap is all part of the re-booting journey. Instead of letting the passive aggressive bullshit shenanigans of whomever it is that irritates the shit out of us drive us mad, we need to find a way to let them roll off our back. Cause, honey, the assholes ain’t never gonna get smaller. No way. No how. It’s up to us to find a new approach, a new way to think about it. Instead of getting mad or feeling hurt, we can try to shake our heads and think, “There they go again!” We can’t live a life free of bullshit, but we can find a way to avoid stepping in it. We’re owning that cow patty as ours when we freak out about it time and time and time again. “This is my shit!” we announce. “I embrace it, each time I let it get to me. I smear it all over my face. And then I run around and tell the world how awful it is. Poor me.”

Well, boo hoo for you. Why don’t you go get a wash cloth and stop rubbing up against it? Is this how you want to live?

DC Fireworks2


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