A few weeks ago, I wrote about boots — shallow topic, I know — but it got me thinking about something deeper. Since I had mentioned my friend Kathy in the post, I thought it only right to share the link to the post with her (and hope she wasn’t offended by my references to her summer Harley look). Later that day on our next micro workout climbing the stairs, she discussed the post. She found it funny. (Whew.) Together, we laughed at the fact that wearing boots is rather enlightening — how once we’re boot wearers we suddenly notice boots everywhere on everybody worn with just about everything.
In our conversation, I compared boot awareness with driving a new (to me) car. Years ago, I drove a Mitsubishi minivan — and, believe me, when I saw the rare vehicle pass near me, I noticed. But when age began to claim that van, we started considering other makes and models. Even conversing with my husband about those vehicles as a potential for our family made me aware. I started seeing those vans everywhere. Kathy shared similar examples about heightened awareness.
That evening as I walked down the hallway to my bedroom, I noticed the photos lining the walls. My parents had had similar photos featured in their hallways and affectionately referred to the area as “The Hall of Fam.” I have not updated the photos lining these walls in years. Among them are baby pictures of my five children, four school photos from a year prior to my fifth and youngest attending school (and he is now 18), and a variety of photos of the grandparents, family portraits, and snapshots offering glimpses of our lives. I walk through the halls numerous times in any given day — and I see none of them.
(I don’t even notice the dust.)
But as I walked the hallway that evening, boot awareness fresh in my mind, I became aware of my lack of awareness of these family photos. When I joined the family as instant mother and second wife and moved into their established home 20 years ago, I found it important to bedeck the house with my personal touches, to make it mine as well as theirs. I wanted to preserve the memory of the children’s mother and honor her as well, and our Hall of Fam that reflected the past as well as the present (and, eventually, the addition of my only biological child) pleased me.
But time passed and I failed to update the photos and so lost interest in these timeworn images lining the walls. The Hall of Fam became past tense, undervalued, perhaps taken for granted and ignored. A walk through the halls after my new awareness of boots made me wonder what else I have taken for granted or forgotten.
When I took psychology courses in college, I learned about the phenomenon known as “Driving Without Awareness.” Our professor and the textbook discussed our ability to drive places only to arrive without any remembrance of having driven there. This phenomenon doesn’t occur when you are driving in strange places or in crazy traffic that demands our full attention, but it might occur when you are driving familiar routes.
I think I walk my Hall of Fam without awareness because it is so familiar. The reason I am noticing boots everywhere is because they are both new and newly important to me.
A couple of Christmases ago, I hosted my mother for a week. She is now securely ensconced in a beautiful memory care facility, but at the time she was still living mostly independently in her home, accompanied by my nephew. When she came to my house, she entered my world — hours away from hers, decades away from the life she once led as the mother of five children. For instance, my son was in a high school basketball tournament for many days, and we drove a distance to attend each day. My mom would look out the window as we traveled and, one, either remember all the places we passed (when we knew she had never been there) or, two, look at everything as if it were brand new. The first was disconcerting, but the second was delightful — similar to having a child experience Disney World for the first time. Almost magical. My mother always had been a “looker” — good looking, of course, like all her children, but also a person who did stop to smell the roses and see them in intricate detail, too. But seeing her look at everything as if seeing it for the first time was magical for me. It was so refreshing, so honest and innocent.
I know I can’t look at everything as if it were new, and I can’t attend mentally to everything in constant awareness. “Driving Without Awareness” and even walking hallways without awareness is OK — as long as I am focusing on the important details. As I reflected on this, one Scripture kept coming to mind:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Now love and mercy that is new every morning — that is refreshing! But unlike my mother, I don’t automatically see things as new, not even God’s love and mercy, though it is. So I have to make myself be a “looker” — to take the time to notice. Boots are on my radar because they are new and newly important to me. God’s love and mercy may not be so newly important, but they are supremely important — and somehow I think by focusing on them I will be better aware of what else is important.
Which likely isn’t my new boots.