One of my roommates graduated this past December and moved to Birmingham. Unable to find a subleaser, she took her clothes and her furniture and left her room completely empty. It has a better window than mine so I’ve taken the liberty to make it my study/reading room. I moved in the essentials: Keurig, blanket, jar of peanut butter, and this old yellow chair I bought from a thrift store last year. The chair sits in front of the window, the window faces the front of the house, and all is well in the empty room.
Tonight it’s storming outside. From the window I can see the tree branches bending with the wind and the cars scattering raindrops as they skate over wet pavement. The rain disappears into a blackish hue, exposed only by the tiny fragments of headlights slicing past.
My therapist told me this week that my world wouldn’t be so grey if I didn’t crave such tight-gripped control over everything.
She’s probably right.
There’s a window a lot like this one in my grandparent’s house in Sylacauga. It’s a bay window with dated amber trim and sun-stained shutters that open up to the bird feeder in the side yard. My granddaddy could sit and watch those birds for hours, I think. I’ve never really understood what he finds so interesting about them but it’s one of the things I love about him most. He’s always appreciated what I would call the little things.
But he told me once that there are no little things.
He’s probably right.
Around Christmas time my GiGi always puts out this display of plastic reindeer by that window. I loved them when I was younger. I gave them all names – none of which belonged to any of Rudolph’s friends – and made up stories about which ones were in love and which ones were best friends.
But the rest of the year it’s just the window. Maybe a fake plant or two. And my granddaddy watching the birds with a gentle intensity. He never looks at something, but always into it. His eyes are deep and inquisitive, but peaceful and soft at the same time. I don’t think anyone has ever appreciated birds the way he does. It’s like he’s solved a certain mystery about the world and they’re the only ones he’ll share it with. I envy the freedom he finds in that. I want to understand it, too.
Anne Lamott wrote a book I love titled “Bird by Bird.” In it she says this:
“You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.”
She’s probably right.
And she would probably agree with my therapist, or my therapist with her, that my all-too-rational, control-craving mind is the golden calf of my grey little world.
I need to find the birds in my empty room.
To start looking into things instead of at them.
To stop the chattering of the rational mind.
To stop grasping for control every time I feel like I’m losing it.
And to start trusting the One who made the birds and who controls their very livelihood.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26
Because otherwise, it’s just an empty room.