Paris, for two years, has been my adoptive home.
This morning I learned a little fact about the city I love – Notre Dame, was point zero on the map of the city. Everything radiated out from it. Built on a small island in the middle of the Seine called Île de la Cité it was the origination of the Paris we know today.
No doubt you know that Notre Dame burned Monday. In a little over two hours’ time, almost 1000 years of history, not to mention a large part of the heart of France, went up in smoke.
It was heart wrenching to watch. I cried. This amazing cathedral, that opened its doors, waving millions of visitors in for daily mass, had survived two world wars and years of life, only to burn.
It appears the fire was caused by sparks from the very scaffolding being constructed to save it from the elements.
The irony is almost too difficult to fathom. They speculate that it may take another 40 years to rebuild it. 40 years. The likelihood that I will live to see it finished is slim.
It originally took over 125 years to erect. (172 to emerge as the cathedral we know today) The average life span at the time was between 38 to 42 years. Meaning, that generation after generation of stone mason, wood cutters, mortar mixers, artisans, architects and engineers worked tirelessly every day of their lives, knowing they would never see its completion.
Can you imagine working every day of your life on something that you would never see finished? I can’t.
It was the first-time flying buttresses had been used -allowing the designers to make the supporting exterior walls thinner and taller –lifting them to the heavens and lacing them with stained glass to offer up to God the best of man, this cathedral became symbolic of what could be.
The majority attending mass here in its infancy lacked the benefit of education. Bible stories were told in glass and ornate carving covering the walls and doors. Even the most basic structural elements – the watersheds for the great roof– Gargoyles that spit rain -were a warning of a fate of hell.
This beautiful cathedral has not always been admired or revered. It was heavily damaged during the French Revolution and all but abandoned. We imagine Victor Hugo’s book, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, is a story of love – and it is – but more than just the love of one poor creature - it is credited with saving the cathedral itself.
So much time. So much has happened – and yet it stands.
All of which becomes a metaphor for our lives.
What is the story of your life? How many storms have you weathered to survive?
What is your point zero – that one element, from which you radiate, that even if you lost most of what you have, or are, would allow you to rebuild?
We all have one thing that we can hold on to, believe in, even when everything else seems lost. What’s yours?
Is it your courage, your faith, your strength, hope, intellect, charm, charisma, generosity, structure, love of others –
Spend a few minutes finding your point zero and then give yourself a huge hug for weathering the storms of life to make it to this place.
Look back over your life with a sense of awe and wonder. Let go of the judgment and the fear, just for a few minutes and marvel at the miracle of you.
I work with women every day who are in the process that our beloved Notre Dame is going to begin. The rebuilding process. Defining what they want for themselves and their marriage.
If you’re on a similar journey, let’s talk.