“It looks just like a museum!” I exclaimed to Jeff, his face shining back at me with the same expression of amused delight. Every light in the house was on, glowing with the vibrant pulse of everyday life. My flip flops lay just near the rug, where I’d kicked off them off to collapse on the sofa with Jeff a few hours earlier. Our artwork, our furnishings, our books and magazines—everything was ours, but we felt outside of it. We were looking in at our house like it was on display, glowing at us from behind a thin layer of glass as a voice-over booms, “THIS was life in 2013.”
I don’t know why we hadn’t stumbled on this view before. We usually kept the back curtains drawn, giving us some privacy from the neighbors. I had opened all the curtains earlier to enjoy some sunshine, unveiling this fishbowl view.
I’ve never been struck with such a sense of feeling outside my life. I was viewing myself as a stranger. Who lives in this house? I thought. There’s a wife, slipping off her leather flip flops without bothering to put them away. She picked out these furnishings and carefully decorated the space. She does the grocery shopping and prepares dinner lovingly, bringing it to her husband so they can eat together on the sofa while watching Netflix. She likes to read. She likes the color green.
The husband is the one who vacuums the rug, who folds the laundry and clears the piles of junk mail. He likes video games and movies and good beer. He always seems to love the things his wife picks out and craves the spontaneity she adds to his life. He relaxes on the second cushion of the sectional, waiting for her to join him.
I breathed in that otherworldly moment, realizing with a pang of tenderness that I had never seen my life with such perfect clarity. I thought to myself, “These people who live here are happy. They are so, so happy.”
From the outside, you can appreciate the things you usually take for granted. The basics seem noteworthy. Your routines seem impressive. Your loved ones are unbelievably dear. How did you get so lucky? When you tear away the distortion of familiarity, the ordinary shines with unquestioned beauty.
Have you looked at your life from the outside in recently? Try to take a few minutes to think about yourself as a stranger. Who is this woman? Who does she love? What lights her up?
Can her life be enough for you?