You Are Drunk and this is the Edge of the Roof

edge of the roof

I’m going to share a skill that a child can learn in just a few minutes. But even though it’s a very simple to learn, it takes a lifetime to master.

First, a story.

I’m usually a light sleeper. But a few months ago, in the middle of the night, my wife had to shake me awake. “David, I’m scared,” she said.

“What’s happened now?” I asked.

For the past three nights we’d been kept awake by our neighbour, Kendrick*. He’d been banging the walls with what sounded like a hammer. He’d been having a midnight bonfire in his garden, burning furniture that he threw out of the window. He’d been playing booming music. And he’d been wandering the streets outside our house with a large knife in his hand.

Kendrick was a drug addict, and we’d been having a merry time of it.

That’s why when my wife shook me awake I’d been sleeping so deeply, because I’d had so little sleep recently. It’s also why I asked, wearily, “What’s happened now?”

“Kendrick’s been smashing plates,” she said.

Well, compared to his knife, smashing plates didn’t sound all that scary to me, but I was awake, and so as a dutiful husband, I climbed out of bed to investigate what was going on. I went to the front bedroom of our house and looked out over the street. There Kendrick was, knife in his hand. I opened the window. “What’s going on?” I said.

“They’re coming to get me!” Kendrick said. “There’s three of them, on the roof.” He pointed to the roof above me with his knife.

I looked up behind me. There was no one on the roof.

“I’ll go to call the police,” I said.

Minutes later, the police arrived, and I went back upstairs to see what was happening. I took a better look outside the window.

Kendrick had not been smashing plates, as my wife had feared. It was worse than that. He had thrown his weightlifting equipment through his window, smashing the glass. He had now climbed through the broken window and was perched on the edge of his roof.

Kendrick was off his head on drugs, on the edge of the roof.

The police climbed out of their car and looked up at us.

“Stay there, and don’t move!” the police officer said to Kendrick. Then the officer looked at me. “Do you have a ladder?” he asked.

I shook my head. No, I didn’t have a ladder.

I don’t know if you know what it feels like to have a crazy, drug addicted neighbour who keeps you awake at all hours of the night.

But perhaps you do.

I think most of us has been there, because we are human. A new baby, a new house. A lost job, a lost loved one. A divorce. All things that can knock the stuffing out of you, and put you at the end of you tether. Everything you do takes extra effort and concentration. It’s scary to do everyday, normal things. Your whole life feels precarious.

Over 800 years ago, a Persian poet called Rumi knew this feeling too.

“Sit down and be quiet,” he wrote. “You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.”

I don’t know about you, but I often feel like that. Drunk and on the edge of the roof. Not that I consume a lot of alcohol. But I consume a lot of life, and it consumes a lot of me.

I’ve found Rumi’s solution to be a good one. Sit down and be quiet. For me being quiet doesn’t only mean not talking, though that’s part of it. It also means being quiet and finding stillness inside. When you know how to find that inner stillness and peace, you can tune into it anytime.

Anyone can do it. Anyone can learn it. Sit down and be quiet. It’s something even children can learn.

But just because its simple, it’s not easy. Not with the busyness and noisy-ness of life. Not with my fear of listening to the silence inside me. I have a monkey mind who prefers chaos and noise to stillness.

It’s not everyday my neighbour smashes his window and climbs up onto his roof in the middle of the night.

But there are a lot of times in life when I feel like I’ve climbed onto the roof. And now, when I feel like that, I remember the story of Kendrick, off his head, and I remember Rumi’s words.

“Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.”

* Name Changed

Photo by Sebastian Fritzon

27 thoughts on “You Are Drunk and this is the Edge of the Roof”

  1. Perhaps I’m always drunk and at the edge of the roof. I rarely feel that stillness nowadays and often forget to sit and calm down. Very interesting story, David. Who knows how other people view us? Maybe to them, we’re always on the roof and they’re looking up at us wondering where we went wrong.

    1. I know I spend a lot of time there, as I said in the article. The wonderful thing about stillness is that even though it can seem so distant, it’s often just a moment away. And thinking “okay, right now I’m drunk and on the edge of the roof” can be enough to pull you into the stillness.

  2. What a great metaphor.( I hope Kendrick’s doing better now. )

    I’ve just started meditating and it’s amazing how just 2 months into mediating for 20 minutes a day has made me so much more aware of my thinking.

  3. David , on the one hand I have say I’m lucky; because no, I’ve never lived next to a drug crazed, window smashing, knife wielding, roof balancing maniac. I can see how that would disturb your peace of mind :)

    Where my luck runs out however, is with my often restless mind. Like you say, the solution – “sit down and be quite” – is simple, but FAR from easy.

    But like you, it’s something I continue to work to master.

    Enjoyed the anecdote a great deal, and the apt advice.

    1. Thanks Gareth. It is a life-long process of learning. I used to set aside time each day for meditation (even then, it was often tempting to avoid). Now, I am learning to tune into the inner stillness at different moments during the day.

  4. Just love the metaphor-thanks for sharing this simple solution.

    I believe that we are in Kendrick’s position far more often than realize, such as when we put career above our marriages and families, make money the most important thing of all, or allow our health to take a back seat to other areas. It isn’t until we are laying on the ground broken that we realize how close to the edge we had been dancing for so long.

    Spending time in the morning in meditation or prayer makes a world of difference in our mental, physical and spiritual health. I know I really notice a difference when I don’t take the time.

    1. Thanks Kim, I’m glad you found the metaphor so fruitful. When I read Rumi’s quote, I was struggling with my job, and my mind was running circles on how to “solve” the situation. Rumi pierced right through it all and gave me a new perspective.

  5. A great story to illustrate this idea. Finding the quiet and stillness inside is so important. I, my husband, and our daughter have ADD/ADHD and this concept is key to getting through the day, sometimes. We’ve been working on this with her a lot lately, but it’s something everyone can benefit from learning. Loved the story and Rumi’s words – memorable images, for sure.

  6. When I have those kind of moments, to help calm myself down I find just writing all my feelings and thoughts down on paper very helpful and gives me a lot of insight.

  7. mahavir nautiyal

    a GOOD story and a BETTER message ,’ sit down and be quiet’. There are some sounds which are disturbing like that made by Kendrick, being out of harmony, and sounds like that made by a hill river, in harmony with the surroundings , that give a soothing feeling. Nothing , of course, can disturb if one is quiet and still inside, as suggested beautifully in the blog. But, oh ! it is so difficult to attain.

    1. Yes! It’s like the monk who was trying to pray, but he kept getting distracted by the noise of the frog croaking outside. It made him really angry.

      Then he realized, the frog’s croaking was a prayer too, and when he realized that, amidst the noise of the croaking, he found the stillness and silence to pray.

  8. Glad that i took the time from my busy morning to read your article because it was just what I needed. With 3 kids under 9, I am constantly on the go but that is exactly why I need to take time to be still. Love you blog and I am now a follower. Have a great day!

  9. Forgive yourself. Learn from your mistakes and go forward. Use this affirmation, “I forgive myself for judging myself for __________ (fill in the blank i.e.: for getting sick, for acting out, for not doing your best.)

  10. My current life situation just sucks all of my energy and I find it hard to find that peace and quite. It is so frustrating when I want to move forward, but I don’t have the energy so just one step is exhausting. It is hard to dream big for the future when you have a situation like that when outside disturbences suck you dry.
    Thank you for sharing it. At least I know that you know what it’s like:)

    1. Sometimes it can be that we’re fighting too much, and we need to let go and go with the flow. In that case, coming to a loving acceptance of the situation can work.

      Other times (especially if violence is involved) we need an escape hatch. With Kendrick, I had to find a new house.

  11. What a beautiful post. I find that whenever I take the time to quiet my mind through yoga, good things come. And how great that this post coincides with Deepak Chopra’s 21 days meditation challenge!

  12. Strangely enough this is how i felt this morning. I was ready to come into work and make a plan to quit my job as i need to work but this job is not my passion and seems to be taking alot out of me mentally. However upon reading this i realise and reaffirmed that this is just for another 6 months or so and once im finished with my studies i can do just that and have a solid backing. So i will have to sit on the edge of the roof a little longer but perhaps quieter and understand that sometimes we have to endure things for better outcomes….

  13. After not sleeping much for several nights in a row, I found your blog by accident (although I know it wasn’t an accident). It actually was a Godsend! I have been suffering from “monkey mind” & a lot of fear in the last 6 mos due to unemployment, low income, no savings, no husband, no health insurance, & a growing health problem that is likely to be very serious & need surgery. I am drunk on tje edge of the roof, needing stillness.

    1. Good to have you here, Debrah, and thank you for sharing your story. The beautiful (And sometimes terrifying) thing in life is this: no matter where I roam, I am always there. Sending you warm wishes as you walk a difficult path.

  14. I have been looking for a way to back away from that terrifying edge of the roof. After battling MS for 13 years and struggling to find a way to live on the tiny check I get from Disability, there are times that slipping over the edge would be much easier. I want to find that happy go lucky person that used to live in my body. Thanks for writing. Your fantastically talented. Blessings

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