Esprit de L'escalier. I recently came across this saying in a book I'm reading. It is an old but very relevant phrase, dating back to the 1700s where the saying was used to describe the predicament of thinking up the perfect retort you wish you'd had said in an earlier conversation.
Esprit de L'escalier. The spirit of the staircase; what you thought on the stairs on your way home.
Esprit de L'escalier. The English refer to it as "escalator wit".
Esprit de L'escalier. The clever comment you wish you had said.
Esprit de L'escalier. The regret one feels after a missed opportunity.
Far too often I experience this; the feeling that I wish I could have said something long after the moment passed. The feeling I have after realizing I missed an opportunity to act on something. My mind is pulled in every direction while I simultaneously watch myself tread through life, cursing at missed opportunities and missed conversations. The feeling of regret, uneasiness, or a harsh blank slate of "what ifs" that reside in the back of my head.
I've always been a fan of sunrises: the first touch of light colliding with the earth to warm the soul and nourish a new day. What's so wonderful is we are all capable of experiencing it. Every couple of weeks, I make a commitment to myself to wake up and watch the sunrise. But that plan doesn't always turn out great.
Far too often I'm the result of a cruel, albiet predictable joke from deep slumber's grip, masked by the comfort of my sheets. I miss the opportunity completely, regretting it a few short hours later. But that's just Esprit de L'escalier, right? You arise well rested and move through your daily movements completely ignoring the fact that you passed up on one of the most fulfilling, spiritual, and peaceful moments of your day.
This morning I made it my mission to wake up for the sunrise. It was a very cold morning and the chill from the outside world disrupted the warmth I had happily embraced moments before. This morning offered one of those underwhelming sunrises where the weight of thick, dark clouds barely let the light touch the cold ground kissed sloppy wet by dew. I was filled with doubt that the fresh sunlight would never reach me.
I sat outside on a hill and waited. As I sat and waited for those few brief moments of illuminated life, a sense of peace washed over me and my heart was filled as I was counting time. It's funny how alive we feel with these tiniest little moments, how resilient our souls are, how ready we are to receive beauty and flourish as the light births, grows and brightens. I felt more alive, more resilient, and more at peace with myself. It was a brief period in time when I didn't feel the need to say something, be with anyone, or feel as though I needed to be anywhere else.
I was exactly where I was suppose to be. It was a moment unsurpassed by Esprit de L'escalier.