Looking at life differently

by | Aug 25, 2015 | Mindfulness

The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

I once took a photography class and the instructor told us a story that went like this. He flew all the way from Brussels to Indonesia to take a picture of a sunset in a very specific location. For whatever reason he waited until the last day to go the the place to take the picture. Since he was flying out the next morning that was his only chance to get the shot. Unfortunately he didn’t get there early enough. In natural light photography having the right natural lighting can be even more important than the choice of subject itself. And, he missed his moment. He took the picture anyway knowing it would be a great example of what not to do for his students. The sky and landscape were both lost in shadows.

He then showed us photo of a glorious meadow filled with poppies. A vibrant blue with wispy clouds framed fiery red flowers with golden yellow tips. I can still close my eye and see the blue sky with whips clouds and blossoms that seem to gently move to and fro in a breeze. I was shocked when he told us that beautiful landscape was taken at the same moment as the dark, sad and depressing image he had just shown us. The instructor went on to say that although he missed the moment for the first shot, a natural light photographer always knows to look where the sun is shining.

As it turns out, in photography you don’t have to settle for a silver lining, you can look another direction and find something truly amazing somewhere else. I knew the moment he finished that sentence that in everything, I need to try to look at things from more directions then head on. For every missed moment, every trying situation, every mishap is an opportunity waiting if I’m willing to see things differently. Because I looked at the balance of my 401(k) yesterday, which had finally started to reach pre-2008 levels, only to find that it has since fallen again. I am the first to admit, “It’s not always easy.” Last night, I had to make a concerted effort to find that “illusive state of a good present” I wrote about “Creating a ‘good’ present moment!” But my effort paid off as I realized a few things.

1) Although there has been changed in my 401(k) balance since the last time I looked, nothing has fundamentally changed since the moments before I looked at my account balance when I was worry free. So there’s not point in getting worked up about my balance now. Besides having been through this in 2008, I know that my balance will eventually bounce back. More than that, since 2008 I’ve learned a lot about managing my money, understanding to how I spend my money and knowing what things that I buy really make me happy versus those that just distract me from dealing with what makes me unhappy. I can only imagine that a lot of us are more knowledgeable about money management thanks to 2008. (Did I write, ‘thanks’ to 2008? Never saw that coming.) And it doesn’t matter how much money I have or had, I know how to deal when the rubber hits the road because I’ve already had to do so. For me that knowledge is much more valuable than the money. So when I say I’m in control, I mean although I can’t control everything that happens in life, I can successfully navigate myself through anything because of my experience. And as it turns out, I know more than I realized I did about my finances in particular, finance in general and this too shall pass.

2) I still have more than enough. And when I say ‘more than enough,’ I mean that I have more than food to eat and a place to live, which are the basics. No. I still have my health club membership. I still go to yoga. I still have my weekly veggie delivery from the farmer’s market. I still walk my dogs. I still smell the roses. I’m still going on a short getaway in a few weeks. The list of what we have to be grateful is different for everyone. This list represents the things that are important to me and it puts everything in perspective. Of course there are other things that I want, we won’t talk about my penchant for shoes with red bottoms or expensive handbags or eating out, but the ‘what makes life good’ quotient is still very high. Those are the things that make life fun. Those are the things that make like worth living. Remembering them keeps me from wanting to jump out of a window because the stock market had a hiccups or feels like a failure because I’m not keeping up with the Kardashians.

3) And the final thing is that none of what has happened in China changes my plans. My hope and dreams are as clear as ever. I’m creating a live I love and in fact anything that is in contrast with the joyful, abundant life I’m creating only adds definition and illumination to my path. Sometimes I don’t realize what’s important until it’s threatened, but that’s not a bad thing. We’re often taught this in a “you don’t know what you had until it’s gone” kind of way, but it doesn’t have to be so negative. It’s all about the ‘poppy perspective.’ Don’t get it twisted, the poppy perspective means looking at things realistically; there’s no escapism in it. But it’s also about taking everything into account and then finding the path of the least resistance that leads to what I actually want. If I want to enjoy more of the pleasures found on the planet, I’m going to have to be mindful and focused. (Notice I didn’t say make a great effort.) Now is not the time to panic over the stock market. Now is the time to stay focus and look for opportunity because as Mary Shelley says, “Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.”

Granted I had to accept that I was indeed upset about the latest financial blip, watch a funny movie and then consciously evoke the feeling of appreciation for all the good things that are around me, which took most of the evening, before I found my balance again. But in the last moments of the evening, as I laid myself down to sleep, my life came back together and the anxiety, confusion and frustration melted away. Now that’s what I call successfully looking at life differently. What more, I’m actually proud of myself because I didn’t grouch at Sébastien, I had a nice evening despite it all and, the sure sign of success, I slept the entire night without waking up from the stress. Yes, life is chaotic, but even in that, I can laugh and keep on moving. And ironies of ironies, after finishing this, I felt fine looking at the news again. And guess what? The first story on my search was from CNN News with the title, “China markets crash again, global markets recover.” Glad I pulled myself together. Today is clearly the day to just let the news run ramped and try not to worry about it.

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