When I moved to the house I’m living in, I made a decision. I would throw open my blinds, my heart, and my life to the outside passing-by world. No more hiding behind fears of being seen. I would challenge myself. I would join the rest of the world. For keeps.
Every day, I see the same people walking by. Sunglassed mothers pushing jogging strollers. The old woman in the plaid shirt-coat who walks as if she’s recovering from a stroke. The Steve Martin lookalike who wears the same royal blue shirt and iPod earbuds every day. The runner who sprints upright down the middle of the street, first this way and then that way, stopping at the end of the block to check his time. The Tuesday night dancers who gather to West Coast Swing across the street in the dance space at the coffee house there. The Wednesday morning family who picnics under the wide maple tree across from my living room. The Friday-night students carrying pizza and beer home to their apartments. My-neighbor-the-artist walking the howling dog-next-door.
And all of them see me, I imagine. They glance over at my window. I sit, writing, inside. My blinds, like my eyes and heart, lay open to the world.
It hasn’t been easy. I have darker moments, moments of doubt and fear, that cause me to twist my blinds closed. I want no one to see me, to see my pain, to know the twisted ugliness that lives inside me in those moments. I cringe at the sunlight outside, knowing I am wasting its preciousness by remaining hidden indoors, and knowing too that its brightness would expose my flesh to the elements and strip me bare, leaving my bleached bones in a dusty heap on the sidewalk for people to politely and hastily step over.
I had a dark time recently. The blinds remained closed for two days, or three. Sunlight blared outside, evil tendrils daring to enter through the cracks. Cars came and went. Mocking footsteps echoed from across the street where happy shiny people played and worked and loved. My heart swam in blackness, my thoughts oozed self-doubt. At last I could hide no more. Something outside called. I slunk invisibly to my car, sure to feel safe in its steely black embrace, and drove off. Immediately the assault began — sunlight! people! open space! — and immediately knew why some people become afraid to leave their homes. I was vulnerable. My powers of invisibility wouldn’t work. I was no longer safe within walls and was instead part of the wide skies. My body flew apart in a million directions, one limb, one cell at a time. I screamed in pain and then wept.
As the tears dried I could feel my body reforming. My hands were still on the wheel. I glanced in the mirror and saw a different face. I pushed on the gas pedal, feeling with quiet resignation my acceptance of the world around me. The walls came down. I was open again. I breathed the world in.
I sit now, observing the life outside my door. Mike, the mailman, just left something in my mailbox. The firetruck from around the corner just went by on its way back to base. A string of Buddhist prayer flags flutters in the tree across the street. In a moment I’ll go out and feel the sun gently warm my body, feel the wind on my face. Feel alive.