I'm reading
Taking the time to look up
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Taking the time to look up
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Taking the time to look up
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
26 October 2016

Taking the time to look up

How one woman’s journey through grief prompted her to make a change—one that is now inspiring others.

Written by Fiona Grinwald

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Over two years ago, my husband died suddenly. Without warning or consent, at 37 years old I became a single mother of six-year-old twins.

I had been with my husband since I was 22. We had literally grown up together and I had expected to walk with him into old age. Four days after he died would have been our 12th wedding anniversary, a date I’d expected to celebrate with him on a trip interstate. Instead, I spent the day facing a completely different future to the one I had imagined.

Almost exactly a year after my husband’s death, on New Year’s Eve in 2014, I started thinking about resolutions and regrets; my husband’s of course because of the time that was stolen from him, but also my own.

I looked up from the depths of my heart where I had been hiding for the past year and looked out onto what the world could now offer me. I made a conscious decision that I needed to change up my life to make sure that I spent the most precious gift I have ever been given—the gift of time—wisely.

I changed jobs, in part to create a better balance for my kids and myself, but also to follow a dream that I had talked about for years but was always previously too scared to ever properly consider. I decided to try a whole bunch of new things in fact, like running and yoga and tree surfing and meeting people from completely different social circles. I decided I needed to stop always making rational, practical choices. I needed to stop over-analysing and over-thinking. I needed to step way outside my comfort zone because the comfortable life I’d created was pretty much gone anyway.

I found with each new experience the ability to recognise that while my life might be completely different now, different isn’t always bad. The closed and fearful Fiona became comfortable living precariously close to an unplanned life. Slowly, ironically, I became less cynical.

I also started to take a moment each day to look up. Not to try and see my husband in the sky but rather to stop for a moment each day to truly appreciate the compelling beauty in the ordinary, everyday things that are all around us. The very tops of trees when usually all we see are the branches at eye level. The clouds. The way the sun hits the angular side of a skyscraper and softens it somehow. I started to really look at people on the train and wonder whether the blank looks on their faces belied some inner turmoil. I started to stop every now and then on a run and look back on where I’d been, to see if looking at it from a different angle changed how it made me feel.

On New Year’s last year, I wrote a Facebook post to my friends. I told them looking up had changed my attitude to life and as a joking aside wrote that “if I was 20 years younger, I’d start an Instagram movement to #lookup”. I received dozens of messages about that post and over the following months starting posting photos and stories of my “look up” moments. Some of my friends did the same.

About six months later, in need of a distraction from the upcoming difficult milestones of birthdays and Father’s Day, I half-jokingly went ahead and actually set up a public Facebook group—2lookup. I thought it would be a space for my friends and a few of their friends to play in. I never expected over 5,000 people from around the world to join the group in the first six weeks and for over 1,200 photos and stories to be shared.

I asked people to share with the group what lookup meant to them. The responses were many and varied. For some, it was a distraction from an overwhelmingly busy day, for others it was an escape from a traumatic event in their lives.

For me, looking up is about being conscious of all that I still have to be grateful for. It’s about allowing myself to be vulnerable—and to share that with other people. Looking up gives me a second perspective, not just on the beauty that’s all around us, but also on the possibilities that exist for me if I’m willing to open my heart and consciously seek them out or better still, create them. Lookup is more than just the action. It’s an attitude that puts gratitude at the heart of every ordinary thing that I do, see or have.

What I am, of course, most grateful for in this second chapter of my life is my children. From the beginning, having them has meant there has been no choice but to get up every morning, but they are also my reason to lookup to help them see the positivity that still exists in this world as we create our new reality together as a threesome. As we have done every year since my husband died, on his most recent birthday the kids and I spent time celebrating Daddy by doing the things that he loved to do. Though it’s unquestionably a hard day, it’s also the one day of the year when it feels wholly and legitimately right to just celebrate his life.

On this day I switch off my digital connection to the world and give the kids my phone so that they can capture the sights for themselves. I hand over the keys to the day to them, following their lead on when we leave for the next activity or when we’re happy to just hang. I spend the day through their eyes, living in their moment. And they take it all in like air. Unfettered by an adult’s perfection that we have seen it all, they look up naturally. I wonder if perhaps the delight with which children perceive even the most ordinary things in the world is not just because of their naiveté, but also because they spend all of their moments looking up. My kids have seen first-hand that life can be dark. It is my job to show them that there is also light—if you just look up.

Judging by the reaction to the Facebook page it seems I’m not the only one who is looking for a second perspective on what life can be about if we allow ourselves a moment to look up. I hope that the page will help others navigate the often overwhelming sense of negativity that seems to exist right now through a platform of shared connection. I hope it will be a space where people can share the positive moments in their days and, in the process, allow themselves to become vulnerable enough to share what sits behind their own desire to search for them. To show both the light and the dark side of each moment…

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You can take a look at lookup in these places:

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