A decade ago, following the surprising experience of suffering a detached retina, I would often recall that experience by saying: “when you must keep your eyes closed for several days in a row … it’s amazing what you’ll see!” It was, and is, a paradoxical truth. I would rediscover that truth again in 2010 awaiting the recovery of a retinal detachment in my other eye.
A month ago, with only two eyes, I would rediscover that paradoxical truth for a third time. You might say this third retinal detachment blindsided me! It was all too familiar in some ways, yet a completely new experience just the same.
Nothing repeated is ever precisely the same.
This is true in a job, a relationship, an adventure, a challenge or a task of any kind. While the nature of the repeated experience may be the same … we are not. We are different. And, therefore, it becomes a new experience. And creates new opportunities if we choose to creatively embrace them.
My third verse of the same song, held a familiar tune of required limitations. The timing, however, presented the challenge of meeting new commitments previously made. My limitations prohibited both air travel and driving. Yet, long distance train travel remained an option. It was the cumulative 70-hours on the rails that made me question just how viable an option it might prove to be.
The next thing I knew, I was seated at Chicago’s Union Station late on a Saturday night … awaiting my 9:30pm departure for the East Coast. Just 3-weeks post-surgery, the 9-day excursion seemed a bit overwhelming. As I sat in my passenger window-seat, there was only one thing I needed to do.
Look out the window.
Windows on airplanes offer their own fascinating views. But, they are different than the windows on a train. Actually, very different. While smaller, airplane windows ironically provide the portal to a big picture. Broad strokes you might say. While you see a lot through them, you miss almost everything that is right before your eyes. You miss what is there. The threads that create the fabric of your vast scenic experience are real, but just not visible. But just because we can’t see them doesn’t make them less valid. Less real. Less important. It just means we are in-effect blinded from what they may hold to teach us, remind us … or give us.
The windows on trains are large and revealing. They pass places that even cars on a freeway never pass. They hold a kinship to the car windows that historically traveled two-lane highways through the heart of little towns. They travel through the authentic realness of everyday life and all it honestly reveals. These windows don’t have the opportunity to protect you from anything that comes before them. They offer-up no well-spun catchy brands or taglines as polished veneers.
Nope. They provide equal-opportunity in presenting the good, the bad and the ugly without discriminating or judging the value each of them hold. In doing so, these windows reveal truth … along with the unique beauty that only truth has the right to hold. They weave the threads of walls of graffiti with the fields of harvested farms. Factories and homes, large and small … new and old, are blended into a mosaic of one continuous picture. And within each scene is a unique story to be told. These windows-of-the-rails allow your mind to wander and your heart to wonder if you let them. And if you look through these windows long enough they become mirrors into your soul.
These mirrors reveal truth. Or at least the invitation to seek it. It’s an invitation that is hard to see, and harder to seek in a world seduced with broader strokes. These broad strokes can be enticing and misguiding. In fact, they can cause you to miss many things.
They can eventually cause you to miss what is most important and ultimately most everything that is true. The various stories along the rails are just as connected as the rails themselves. Bolted together, yes. Yet, nonetheless connected. Our blindness to their blendedness doesn’t change them. It simply changes us … and in the process, unplugs our sense of connection and appreciation. Truth becomes a sight unseen.
Nonetheless, patiently waiting to be noticed.
Even detached retinas provide their own sense of sight. Yes, when you must keep your eyes closed for several days in a row … it’s amazing what you’ll see! The windows and mirrors, along the rails, hold a similar opportunity. For me, they were connected. And for that I am grateful.
May your eyes, heart and soul be opened ever-wider to the details around you. Each one of them hold the invitation to a deeper sense of gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!