• Maggie Wheeler

Walking on the Ceiling

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

I’ve decided I’m not walking on the ceiling anymore. Not for anything or anyone.

I do mean walking, not dancing as in the fabulous 1986 song and music video by Lionel Ritchie called “Dancing on the Ceiling.”**

As we mature and move forward in our lives, the inventory we take often helps us see that we acquired an amazing but questionable survival skill over the years. We learned how to walk on the ceiling. How to walk upside down so that life would seem right side up—when it wasn’t.

The closest I came in my life to physically feeling that sensation was when I went to Australia. After a day and a half of travel, I came out of the airport to meet my friends in Melbourne. Right then it struck me how very, very far away from home I really was. And that, technically, I was walking almost upside down from my usual placement on the planet. I remember saying something to my friends about being upside down and how it looked pretty good, and we had a good laugh.

But walking on the ceiling is something that we pretend is natural when it absolutely isn’t. Needing to walk on the ceiling is actually a huge red flag that we have chosen to ignore, fighting gravity to stay standing when we should be using gravity as our personal foundation.

Many times in my life I have found myself in situations, personal and professional, when things just weren’t right. I knew they weren’t but they should have been and I eventually started second guessing the details, my own actions and even who I was. Things were so blatantly askew and yet served up as completely normal that you wondered if the problem was really you (which was the whole idea in the human transaction). I often said to my close friends that this or that situation was like being in a fun house with slanted floors and wavy mirrors distorting your balance and your self-perception.

And so you learn to walk on the ceiling. The ceiling is flat and at least, although inverted, everything else seems in balance again. You can walk without falling. And you can avoid the pitfalls below. All you have to do is learn to live upside down.

What you do not realize for a long time is that if you are walking on the ceiling, you cannot reach the door and leave.

This comes to me in a general sense now. I do have a few situations in my life currently that fall into this category. Because they are few, they come to me in high relief. With the gift of midlife clarity, I recognize each and know what I have to do when it is time and when other options have failed.

I can see them clearly because I’m standing on the ground.

Lionel, I would dance on the ceiling with you any day.

But I will never walk the ceiling again.

Talk soon,



**For those who need a bit of joy juice or just to dance something out, hit the link to the Lionel Ritchie video above. It cost a whopping $400,000 to produce, setting a record in its day. The effect of dancing on the ceiling was produced by Stanley Donen, who had done the same effect for Fred Astaire in 1951’s Royal Wedding. The video includes cameos by Cheech Marin and Rodney Dangerfield. In my humble opinion, it has aged well.

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