(Author’s Note: I’ve since rediscovered where I got the idea for “Mind the Gap.” It’s from Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, Chapter 5. If you don’t yet have that book, I highly recommend it!)
Paris and Rome are very different places. Both cool in their own way, both fashionable in their own way, both beautiful in their own way, both have kind people who, when they see you in need will come to your aid with their culture’s version of kindness which, while different, is both kind in its own way.
Notice in the repeating phrase “in their own way.” That’s because, while they are similar, they are, in fact, *very* different places.
After ten days in Rome living in the neighborhoods and eating in the restaurants and delighting in the gelaterias of locals, were were feeling pretty Roman. Imagine our surprise when our four American-Roman selves landed in Paris. No coffee on the bus? No old women on the metro? No chain smoking men whistling at me as I go up the stairs? What the hell is going on here?
Another big difference? This city is crazy clean. And by crazy clean I mean, crazy clean. There is no complaint here for gone are the polluted skies and graffiti and trash in the gutters. Everything sparkles like new, even when it’s hundreds of years old. It’s absolutely beautiful. But different.
The metro system is also so different; in fact it took us several days to figure out how to navigate it. We were told Paris has the best metro system in the world but for those few days it just felt like the most confusing one.
And then one day I started to feel like I was getting a handle on it. We had walked for two hours–two hours–the night before because we couldn’t figure the transportation situation in relation to the construction going on at several train stations where we could have transferred. As you can imagine, my sons just about lost their minds on that two-hour walk, especially considering it occurred after walking all day in Versailles.
Here’s one clear similarity: crowded and hot. No difference there. July in Paris is just like July in Rome with regard to those two little gems.
“What the heck, Dad?” is how our two-hour walk began, but I couldn’t let Craig take the fall. There was construction everywhere and our geographical challenge, this time, was a mutually created problem. As we began the trek home that we thought would be only about a half hour–maps in Paris, different–soon enough we separated into our usual walking pattern. Craig and Jackson head down and leading the charge up front while Tommy and I took in the sights and entertained ourselves in the back.
After about an hour, we started go get punchy.
“Too legit, too legit to quit! Bau, bau!” I was lead singer. This doesn’t happen very often in my family so I was making the most of it. Soon enough, Tommy cut in on my action.
“Too legit, bau, too legit to quit! Bau, bau, ba, ba, bau!”
“Tommy, I’ve told you three times, that’s not how it goes.”
“Well, maybe that’s how it should go,” he responded. “Let’s call MC Hammer when we get home and suggest it. Hey, wait, did his mom name him ‘MC?'”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“I think that’s AWESOME! I’m Hammer MC Hammer, go Hammer, MC Hammer! Too legit, bau, too legit to quit! Bau, bau, ba, ba, bau!”
It went on like that another hour. Craig and Jackson tried to be annoyed, but they couldn’t because our way of getting through this torture was far more fun than theirs. About a half hour into our show they laughed but soon after got very quiet. We tried to mind our manners, but we just ended up laughing even louder which irritated them to no end. The did manage to keep their cool, though, and when we finally got back to the apartment they went straight to bed without dinner. MC Tommy and I, exhausted and blistered, went back out to get a burger.
The food. Let’s pause for a second about the food. With the exception of the burgers, the food was not so great. Not terrible, but not great. Not even in its own way.
At any rate, this traumatic/entertaining two-hour walk stiffened my spine and the next morning I set out to make the metro work for us. No more is it going to take down my family. I OWN this metro.
Turns out, attitude is everything. We rode that thing like pros from then forward.
Once the stress loosened it’s grip I noticed something new. Every time we get to a stop on the metro a recorded voice asks me to mind the gap. She’s speaking of the space between where I step off the train and where I step on to the platform. I heard her today and felt strongly that I had heard that phrase before, at least I thought I had. I searched Google when I got back to our apartment because I didn’t want to write something that has already been said.
After 3 pages of searching I came up with nothing familiar so I write with this crystal clear notion that may or may not be original: Mind the Gap.
To me (or maybe to this other person) (or maybe that other person is me and it’s one of many things I intended to write about but promptly forgot) “Mind the Gap” applies to everything in life because it’s about being aware.
Mind the Gap between cultures. Recognize that my version of what’s real is not everyone’s and that, in fact, it’s a construct made up by the people who came before me and then was followed by me as gospel. When in someone else’s home follow their rules; when others are in my home, remember what it feels like to be in theirs and cut them some slack. 90%(ish) of frustration is based in one’s own perception.
Mind that Gap.
Mind the Gap between what it means to be 8 and 11 year old boys and what it means to be their parent. Don’t get so caught up in shoulds. Hold a line but do so in a way that teaches, not preaches. That shares, not controls. Keep clear about how my voice is becoming their inner voice and be even more clear just what exactly I want them to grow up telling themselves. Remember there are many gaps between them and me–in age, in gender, in individual personas-–and that they are to become a grown up version of themselves one day, not a grown up version of me.
Mind the Gap.
Mind the Gap between my husband in myself. We are not one fluid being, but the fluidity between two individuals. Remember I have a dam at my disposal that can come up to stop the flow of his frustration before it enters my heart and he can do the same. The gap is a gift in that regard, use it. Just remember to hang on the bridge where the fluidity flows more than the shore where it stops lest I forget that bridge exists.
Mind the Gap.
Mind the Gap between discomfort and joy to be sure one does not invade the other too often. Discomfort has it’s place, but it’s not a place that has to be tenated very long because whenever I choose to leave it there is always a gap over which I can walk back into joy. The inbetween is indifference and never a place I’d like to roam. Or fall.
Mind the Gap.
Mind the Gap between myself and my extended family and friends. It’s good to be on my side of the gap alone to recharge and refuel, but if the work I am doing has me there all the time, take that as a sign to change the work, not avoid crossing the gap. Family and friends remind me where I come from and who I am; they need to be visited often lest I forget who I am and from where I came.
Mind the Gap.
Mind the Gap between work and self. Work is wonderful but without a gap between the work and the heart, even when the work is of the heart, perhaps especially when the work is of the heart, everything else suffers. Remember why I do what I do but don’t let it define me to the point I can do nothing else. Involve myself in work that refuels and recharges, not work that I have to run from to find the refueling and recharging station.
Mind the Gap.
Mind the Gap between anxiety and Truth. This is a place where imbalance is healthy and spending more time on one side than the other is the right thing to do. Anxiety has ruled me most of my life and, while it’s protected and served me in many wonderful ways, the time for it is over. Visiting its side is inevitable because it’s part of who I am, but staying there is a choice I will actively choose against. Staying in Truth is where God is and where I want to be.
Mind the Gap.
Mind the Gap means living mindfully, honestly, making active choices and being aware of the consequences. I must be aware of what lies on both sides as well as the space in between. In all things and in all ways.
Mind the Gap.