I recently listened to Anne Lamott’s TED Talk about the 12 things she’s learned from life and writing. Anne says, “Go outside a lot and look up. My pastor said you can trap bees on the bottom of mason jars without lids because they don’t look up, so they just walk around bitterly bumping into the glass walls. Go outside. Look up. Secret of life.”
Last weekend, my husband and I went for a walk through a beautiful wooded area near our home. Twenty four hours earlier, I had learned that I am [still] not pregnant. By now, this news usually feels a bit like business as usual. Come closer, all my faith, I’ll say. And then, I continue waiting patiently-ish.
This week, however, was different. This wasn’t business as usual. For four days, my body was giving me all of the signs that I was pregnant, save for the actual positive pregnancy test. The more moments and hours and days that passed, the more convinced I became that this is it. Four days sounds like a couple blinks of the eye until you’re waiting for test results—the pregnancy kind or the cancer kind or the math class kind.
On Friday, my body finally gave me the news: I am not pregnant. Or, I had been and was no more. All that had been unclear during those four long days was now clear. I couldn’t ask faith to come closer on that day. I was too sad, confused, and angry. I sat on my knees in the middle of the living room and called my husband at work, trying to get words out through my gut-wrenching sobs:
I’m not pregnant. I thought I was and I’m not and why was my period so late and, oh my God, I’m so…sad. I’m just so sad.
My husband’s breath on the other end of the phone slowly calmed my cries. There were no words to offer. There’s not a proper response. He could only sit with me in the disappointment. It is, after all, his disappointment, too.
And then, he brought home steaks and red wine (because I can still drink wine, you know).
The next day, as we hiked through the woods on a hot Saturday morning, we spoke very little. We soaked in the silence that we heard literally and felt viscerally. After a while, we paused as our dog sniffed for the umpteenth time, and I looked up at the trees towering above me. I gasped.
It was beautiful—the canopy of trees with the sun piercing through. How long had we been walking by now? I couldn’t remember, but I know I missed the beauty of all the steps I had already taken that morning. It was as if I was just walking around, bitterly bumping into glass walls like a bee, refusing to look up and see the beauty and spaciousness and life all around me.
I can be sad and confused and angry. There’s room for all of those feelings to be expressed in the way and timing they need. And yet, these feelings are not so heavy and constricting that I cannot still look up. If we never look up from our feet or from our circumstances, we’ll miss all the life and beauty happening around us. When we refuse to look up, we are surrendering to the pain, the disappointment, or the prison of a mason jar.
On the evening we learned we are not pregnant, after the tears had dried, my husband looked at me with kind eyes as we stood in the front yard of our home: “Today could have been so very different,” he said softly. “I just keep thinking about what it would be like if you were pregnant right now.”
I felt the tears welling up again, wishing I could give this man I love so dearly the child he desires.
“I’m just so excited,” he continued, suddenly taking the conversation in a direction I didn’t expect. “I feel like being so close to a different outcome gives us a taste of what it will be like when we’re pregnant. We have that to look forward to! It’s going to be amazing.”
I mean, really now. Who thinks like this? I thought we were both on board for pouting and feeling sorry for ourselves today. What’s this optimistic and hopeful nonsense?
He was looking up.
Last week, I ran to the grocery store for a couple of items, expecting to be in and out in record time. Our grocer, however, is in the process of rearranging every aisle. Nothing was where it typically is, so I had to shop with a heightened sense of awareness. My irritation at the store’s rearrangement quickly dissipated as I found myself making eye contact with several other shoppers and, you guys, we all kept smiling at one another! Just a few confused shoppers smiling at strangers all around! I couldn’t believe how lighthearted I felt when getting into my car after the kindest shopping trip ever.
Good things can happen when looking up.
Did you see a rainbow in the sky? A hilarious movie? The toothless grin of your happy kid?
We see all the best things when looking up.
Looking up expands our perspective. We can see the faces of those around us. We can take in the beauty that still exists alongside our pain or disappointment. We can find where in the Sam Hill they moved the salsa in the grocery store.
I don’t want to live through seasons of my life seemingly trapped because my head is down and I can’t see the opportunities above me and the life around me. Disappointment, fear, anger, and sadness are heavy, but they don’t have to be worn like a gigantic neck brace, restricting our movement.
How will you see all that is around you while you wait for whatever view you’re most anticipating?