She drives her children to school on a cold, dark winter morning. An exasperated mother, who’s only wish is for her 6 and 11-year-old daughters to stop fighting in the back seat. She is drained. She is numb. Numb to their bickering. Numb to the world. Numb to life and a 13-year marriage to a man she once loved, but questions if she still does. Her friends tell her she is beautiful, but she does not feel it. She does not love herself. She is sensitive to suffering in the world, so the act of feeling is a bigger feat for her than it is for many. She frequently attempts to shut her feelings off, only to find they return with a vengeance when she allows them back in. She tunes out her children and stares at the dark road before her, seeing nothing but headlights on the road and thoughts in her head.
As she approaches a stop sign, the woman suddenly seems to awaken from her trance-like state. She turns to look out the passenger side of her car. In the light of the window of a small brick house, she sees him. The only name she knows for him is “the man in the window.” He sits at a small round kitchen table and sips his coffee while he reads the newspaper. His hair is snow white and he wears glasses. His flannel shirt neatly tucked into his jeans His routine is the same each morning. The man’s routine and predictability comfort the woman. She has taken a moment each day for the last four years to witness a glimpse of this man’s life. It is during these moments that she finds herself asking questions.
The questions started simple enough: Who is this man? Is he a widow? How long has he been alone? Is he lonely? Who still reads the newspaper anyway?!?!
It was not until the woman’s marriage suddenly began to crumble following years of communication break-down and selfishness on both sides that the complexity of her questions about the man increased. She had always assumed he was a widow and guessed he had been married for some time before his wife passed. She considered what his life may have been like with his wife? Certainly, if he was a widower, they had experienced some tremendous challenges during their time together. The woman felt the couple’s sense of pride as they reflected upon their life, knowing they did not give up and their love and their family only grew stronger each time they trudged through another storm successfully. The woman had not considered it before, but perhaps this sense of fulfillment was the reason the man was able to experience peace?
Of course, the woman knew these were only thoughts in her head but, just as she chose to believe the good in this complete stranger, she went home that evening and did the same with her own husband. She wanted badly to experience the fulfillment she felt while pondering the life of her unknown friend. She told her husband she wanted to make things work. She told him she loved him and valued him and would commit to investing in their love again. They broke down together and he agreed to do the same. The woman and her husband held each other tight.
The couple began to focus on opening lines of communication and investing time into each other. Their marriage began to improve. However, the woman still felt an emptiness she could not fill. Her husband was a critical component of her life and she wanted badly for her marriage to work, but she knew her husband could not fill the void she felt. She observed that if the man in the window could be content in silence, then so could she. She was exhausted from the emotional roller coaster she had been riding. She knew what she needed to do. So, she started going to counseling and meditating. She educated herself about the healing powers of nutrition and positive energy. She quit drinking alcohol and drank water instead. She focused on her relationships with her children and husband and pushed herself beyond where she felt comfortable in all aspects of her life. Her sense of accomplishment and her confidence began to increase and the storm began to subside.
As the woman’s sense of accomplishment increased, her need to escape decreased. Today, she drives by the window and rarely sees the man. Not because he is not there, but because she does not look. She is too busy chatting with her children about their day ahead and planning their future together as a family. She lives and experiences each moment and does not allow her thoughts to control her anymore. There is now joy and anticipation amongst her little family regarding what lies ahead. She prays daily that she will no longer seek joy, but experience it instead. She also prays for the man who helped her find a small window of understanding on her drive to work each day. Some might say it was the man who helped the woman, but the woman will be the first to tell you that it was she who helped herself.