On Coffee and Cathedrals: Unfolding the WOW of Life

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

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In a post simply called “Life,” which is filed under the topic of Unfolding in On Wings & Whimsy, I said:

“THIS is life. Life is happy and grumpy, messy and clean, appreciative and bitter, tearful and funny. It is petty annoyances and earth-shattering moments. It is coffee and cathedrals. Sometimes life is long and sometimes life is much, much too short. Life is an ocean of everything—the things we take for granted and the things we remember to love fiercely. The things we notice and the things we lose sight of. It’s amazing, this life. Every part of it. So rather than berating myself for not appreciating it more, for not doing it ‘better,’ instead I am just going to look around at the ‘everything’ of it and just take a moment to say WOW.”  

I wrote that back in 2014. Since then, I’ve gotten divorced, fallen into the deepest depths of alcoholic addiction, become crippled by financial debt, nearly lost my job, crawled my way out of addiction and into recovery (19 months sober and counting), built and broken relationships, and navigated the pandemic along with the rest of the world. And that’s just the highlights reel.

Wow, indeed.

I’m stunned, honestly, when I think about the depths of despair and the depths of beauty I’ve experienced since reminding myself to say “wow” to the all of life, back in February of 2014—seven years ago, almost to the day.

Life truly is coffee and cathedrals, isn’t it? It’s in a million tiny things sprinkled with the occasional epic screen-worthy happening.

I wrote recently about the quiet, wobbly strength that many of us have demonstrated in this past year… strength that may not feel like strength at all to us in the moment, but which is mighty nonetheless. Strength that sometimes looks just like getting out of bed in the morning.  

And I’m thinking about that again now because it takes incredible strength and intentional effort to be able to see the WOW in the moments of despair, not just in the moments of delight.

But I really, really think it’s important for us to find the WOW in all of it. Like, really important.

For me, seeing the WOW helps widen my perspective and broadens my view. It’s like I’m seeing the moment from beyond myself.

And this is cool in the moments of delight, because it helps me really soak them in, relish in them, scoop them up and cherish them.

But it’s critical in moments of despair, because that widened-view helps remind me that this moment is not the only moment, and it’s not the final moment. Seeking the WOW in the midst of my despair helps ensure I don’t get trapped there.

So, in the coffee moments and the cathedral moments of your life—in the greatest moments of beauty and the most devastating moments of despair—my hope for all of us is that we remember that this is life. And it truly is amazing, every part of it.

How can you widen your perspective to seek the WOW today?

Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.