The Room Upstairs
My mother was one of seven siblings. Some of those siblings had children and some did not. Most of those siblings moved away from our hometown, at some point, which meant my cousins were spread out across the country. My uncle Doug moved to Wisconsin where he where he was a beloved professor at a local college. Those around him respect him for his knowledge of music, I respect him for his ability to question things with a hint of cynicism and a lot of laughter. His children are, somehow and to a large degree, just much more cool than I will ever be. I always looked up to them (both metaphorically and geographically). They have heard some of my best stories, as relayed through my mother, I am sure, but they have seen me at my most vulnerable as well.
Uncle Doug took part each year in music festival. He really is a big deal. One year, and I am unsure of the reason it unfolded this way, all of my mother’s side of the family was invited to attend this festival which was held near his home. A lot of my uncles, aunts, and cousins attended. I rode up with my parents, sister, and a her newborn. Our day of our arrival to the bed and breakfast that my cousin had reserved turned into our very late night of arrival. We were tired and we got unpacked quickly. We only wanted sleep.
I was grateful for the floor as I was tired. The apartment style suite seemed small for us all, but I never questioned why there was not a bed for me. I was taken back the next day when my cousin greeted me with a big smile and asked me with an excited interest how I had slept. Maybe I was being polite, maybe I thought it was a joke, but I replied, “just fine”. I got the sense that she wanted more, but did not think about it until much later. After all, we had not seen each other in quite a while and the hugs seemed more important than the words.
Later in the day, we revisited the topic of my accommodations. She really seemed more impressed with the bed and breakfast than I was. It was not that I had stayed in a lot of bed and breakfasts before, but I had slept on floors that were just about as hard as the one where I had just spent the night. She asked questions about the bathroom, the view, the morning light coming through the curtains, and quite frankly, all I could remember was the floor. And again, I was not upset by anything about where I had slept, it was just that she, as the one who made the reservations, and crammed us all into the same little space, seemed to me, to be a little too impressed.
One more time, later that first full day in Wisconsin, by the lake, in the beautiful weather and scenery, we discussed where I had spent the previous night. She was frustrated, I believe, that I did not appreciate it more, and I was baffled by the fact, that she needed to hear me say thank you for a space, in the middle of my family, where I slept on the floor. Then it happened. We figured out that we were not speaking of the same experience. She spent the night before our arrival in the top of the B and B, and had vacated the morning of our arrival, so that I might have that space alone and away from my family. When I finally saw it, I knew why she was impressed. I can still feel the rays of sunshine that flowed through the window by the bed. It was very nice. Her assumption was that I had stayed there the night before and that I understood how awesome it was. It was a gift that I had not appreciated because I had not accepted it.
So, it is when we hear Eckhart Tolle, or Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, or even Jesus and Buddha, speak about what life might be. We must understand that they have been in a place we have not. When we hear stories about life from our parents or people who have been there before us, we should listen with the understanding that they have been where we have not. If for some reason we have not been there, it does not mean it does not exist, it means that for some reason (in my case, the innkeeper was not aware of the change in reservation) we have yet to experience that part of living. We will get there. Sometimes it is as simple as someone pointing the way. The secret is to be thankful for the floor while anticipating the room upstairs. Gratitude for what we have makes what we want a possibility.
You cannot be thankful for my circumstance and I cannot be thankful for yours. We can encourage each other. We can hear where each other is in life. We can be excited for where each of us are headed because we know what is waiting. What we cannot do is be thankful for the circumstances that are not our own. I am thankful for my children, but it is up to them to be thankful for where they are and excited for what is to come. I am grateful for those around me, but it is up to them to be thankful for where they are and excited for what is to come. In this same way, I am grateful for the world, but it is up to the world to be thankful for where they are and excited for what is to come.
Some may think it noble that we want to help others. Some may think it compassion that we care for those around us. Some may interpret our wanting others to have the help we have had along the way as charity. It is really none of these. It is that we have seen the room upstairs. It is that we want a person to share the experience we were lucky enough to have. In this way, we feel connected. In this way, our experience is validated, yes, but it is also that our joy can be shared. This can be done simply by sharing a kindness, affording a grace, or offering a smile, accompanied by a story of how it makes us feel when we hear the song of some bird in the distance. Even a story about some bed and breakfast. Then, hopefully, when others hear a bird sing, or consider staying at a bed and breakfast, their thoughts will turn to kindness, grace, or a smile. And this is the gospel. And this is why I write these words so often. My hope is that you offer yourself the same grace that you so generously offer to others. My hope is that we find peace, both on the floor, and in the room upstairs.