Beauty Beyond the Lines

I was crawling into bed late one night when my phone lit up. I knew better than to stick my face in front of the blue light as I was preparing to fall asleep but, as usual, my curiosity got the best of me. To my surprise, it was a message from. . .my car. She never texts me—especially not this late at night. 

FRONT TIRE FLAT, the message read. Very curt and to the point, without even an emoji to offset the appalling content. Caught off guard by the news, I sprung into action, which is to say, I ran out to see this alleged flat tire for myself—beyond simply looking at the tire, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what to do. 

Sure enough, it was flat. Pancake flat. I sat on the curb staring at it, uncertain about what to do next. As I sat there silently willing it to inflate, I found myself vaguely remembering that I bumped the curb as I parked my car that evening. I didn’t think twice about it because I bump curbs pretty regularly. (I never claimed to be the world’s best driver.) This time, I challenged the boundary and the boundary won. Now what? 

I problem-solved the best I could in the moment, testing the expansiveness of the “strong, independent woman” inside of me. I am pleased to report that while she didn’t fix the tire, she’s still there: stubborn, tireless, and innovative. It’s not always easy to see those big and bold qualities when living safely inside the lines. 

Then there was the beauty that showed up for me in the form of knees on the ground and hands on the tire—people who helped because they care about people, and some, more specifically, who helped because they care about me. They got their hands dirty, made phone calls, dished out more money than a tire should cost, and repeatedly said things like, “Everything is okay,” when it all felt like too much. It’s not always easy to see the big and bold love of others when living safely inside the lines. 

Things sure do look neat and clean when you stay inside the lines, but experience is teaching me that testing the limits produces bigger results. 

There’s more grief, agony, nuisance, and cost. But the goodness feels magnified too. The empowerment, beauty, gratitude, and sense of community are felt so much deeper when you break through the confines of what’s normal or expected.

It’s a fine line, of course. I don’t know that boundaries need to be busted just for the sake of busting them, just like curbs don’t need to be collided with just because they’re there. But I do know that there’s a felt loss when living a life so safe that you never get to experience the beauty and burden of messing up. 

I’ve been a licensed driver for 23 years. There’s no excuse for getting a flat tire because I can’t parallel park very well. But a screw-up resulted in a beautiful picture of personal and communal empowerment. And I’d rather live big and sometimes mess it up than stay small and miss out on all that’s available beyond the lines. 

Mallory Redmond embraces anomalies—she is an adventure-loving homebody who keeps a clean house yet always makes a mess while eating or brushing her teeth. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, and gathering around the table with friends. Mallory and her husband, Darren, live in Ohio with their beagle, Roger, and their two daughters. You can follow her writing here, where her stories are told with the hope of further uncovering the places of connection in our humanity.