When I was young, my dad would sometimes draw pictures while we watched television. Most commonly, these drawings were of mountain cabins with pine trees next to them, all surrounded by split-rail fences. The thing that fascinated me about these sketches was the perspective. Because I was just a kid, I wasn’t capable of anything like this. The pictures my schoolmates and I made were of houses and trees and fences and clouds and people, all in a straight line. Everything was on the same level as everything else. I had no idea how to make something seem as if it was further away than something else until I was much older. I think it took that long to realize that things actually look different depending upon where we’re standing.
I have never taken that idea to heart enough to become a good artist, but it’s something I think about a great deal when it comes to my actual life. I know that practically everything can be easier to manage if I change my perspective. Unfortunately, I often forget this simple idea and find myself frozen in the face of fear or anxiety before it occurs to me to look at things from a different angle. When I do almost literally move to a new position, I can see some details I missed or an angle on something I didn’t notice at first.
Even when I’m lamenting how old I am and what a relatively short life I have ahead of me, changing my perspective can help.
This idea of perspective is one of the reasons that we are all really lucky to have people in our lives with whom we can discuss the ins and outs of whatever is going on with us. When I run with Mary, I’ll tell her about something that’s worrying me, and she almost always offers me a different perspective. And, it’s not because she knows my life better than I do. It’s that she is literally standing in a different position. She can see things from an angle that I have yet to utilize.
I’ve also noticed lately that reminding myself to view things from a new perspective is often the perfect way to change a negative feeling to a more positive one. Last weekend, I was feeling nervous about a presentation I had to make at a conference. It was just general stage fright, really, but it helped when I looked at it from the perspective of the audience. They wanted the information that I had to offer, so I concentrated on gathering what I thought they were seeking and giving it to them in the best way possible. I don’t know that my presentation was any better than it would have been if I’d just kept thinking about my own nervousness, but I know I felt better looking at it from a different point of view.
Even when I’m lamenting how old I am and what a relatively short life I have ahead of me, changing my perspective can help. I can’t turn back the clock, but I can appreciate all the life I’ve gotten to live. I can also make the best and the most of every moment I have left. So much of how I feel about things is simply that—how I feel at that moment, from that point of view.
Sometimes a new viewpoint is just seeing a situation from a bit further away. In other words, that’s not happening for another month, so I’m not going to worry about it now.I used to refuse to give myself that out because I somehow thought I needed to suffer over things. But putting off the worrying just means I’m compartmentalizing a little and paying closer attention to what’s right in front of me.
Perspective isn’t the perfect solution to every problem in the world, but it’s a lovely way to cope and manage. Why not look at things from that hill instead of from right in front of my nose? Let me see how things fit together, how they balance against the rest of the picture. Perspective gives me a chance to see that, like my father’s drawings, not everything is lined up neatly and equally important to every other aspect of my life. Some things are in the foreground, others are in the background, and still other simply add a little shade. Changing where I stand can change how I feel.