A New View
When I was younger, I believed there was one way to see things. What I mean is, if I had a reaction, or an opinion, or a fear, or even a big burst of excitement about something, then that was the way it was. It honestly never occurred to me that there might be other ways to view the situation. Second opinions actually made me nervous because they shook my sense that I was in control of my life. The older I’ve gotten, the more I realize how wrong I was—and how many perspectives there are on practically everything. It turns out that all these other views make life more interesting, and they take the bite and sting, and even the tedium, out of living such a right/wrong, good/bad existence.
But what’s most called for in those moments is to stop myself from driving down the grim road.
I’m not perfect at reminding myself how many different ways there are to view my circumstances, but I am much better than I used to be at asking myself, “Is my world really falling apart, or is that just my anxiety skewing my outlook?” Fear has probably been the biggest obstruction in my observations over the years. It has stood between me and trying something new, letting myself enjoy what I’m doing, and even looking back at a sweet moment in the past. It's been hard to let myself have a more optimistic picture of my world for fear I’m fooling myself into thinking I’m an okay person who deserves to have a good life. We all have things that block the view between us and a clearer, fuller picture of our lives, and it’s not surprising. Many of our parents were scared, too, and we’re all only human. We try one thing and then another until we find lives that feel comfortable and safe. My mom was almost the opposite in a certain way. Her perspective about the future was so positive that she was frequently disappointed when real life stepped in. But, in the same way that I believed my fear was protecting me from being hurt, her optimism was a way to escape the pain she felt at the moment.
What is always important, of course, is not so much how we learned these things or how they played out in our undeveloped young lives, but what we do with that information now. I remember this when I look up while cooking dinner and see a tiny bit of pink sky through the cypress trees out my kitchen window. Once I might have thought, “I’m missing the sunset because I’m in here doing chores.” Now I’m reminding myself to turn off the stove, walk outside past those trees and enjoy an unencumbered view of a lovely moment in the day. It’s worth it just to change the place I’m standing, literally and figuratively.
It's much harder to do, of course, in more challenging situations. When I’m struggling with the recurring hard pieces of my life, it’s so, so easy to glue myself to the worst vantage point ever. Within seconds of a tough event, it is almost automatic for me to go to, “See, nothing is ever going to work out the way I want it to and I’m never going to be fully happy.” So I’m training myself these days to change where I’m standing. Sometimes it takes physically moving my body, just to shake things up. But what’s most called for in those moments is to stop myself from driving down the grim road. That is not a perspective I ever enjoy, even though I’ve gone down there so many times in my life. More and more, I’m just passing that turn now, keeping my eyes on the horizon. I can’t guarantee that I’m going to be happier or better, but I can pay attention to what is truly in front of me and appreciate it. In a moment, I’m onto a new road, so happy to remember the power of simply changing my perspective.