Gaining perspective is an incredibly ruthless business. A simple test of perspective would be looking at the photo above…a wheelchair, a woman and a woman in a wheelchair. Does your point of view of the wheelchair change when you see the woman in it? Or do your ideas of the woman change when you see her in the wheelchair? Recently, in a conversation with a friend, I told her that my accident has given me a lot of perspective…on raising kids, marriage, the world and all types of relationships. Her response to that was to say that she had zero desire to go through what I went through in order get that perspective. (Yeah…me too!) The entire process of looking at our past with the knowledge of our present can be quite painful sometimes. It can feel like we were selfish, spoiled or completely stupid. But I’ve been thinking about how viewpoints can be changed and if there is any way to achieve it without going through something significant; something traumatic.
A few days after my accident, I realized the first shift in my perspective. As I lay in the hospital bed (still attached to machines and desperately missing my children and our home) I scrolled through Facebook. I came across a post from one of my ‘mommy groups’ and the idea of it was basically how frazzled this mama was and all she wanted was to shower without the peering eyes of her 18 month old…
Are you kidding me? I actually could have screamed. I was so angry with this woman! Didn’t she know how lucky she was? I would have given everything at that moment to be showering with my 18 month old staring at me; all three of my kids staring at me would be fine – hell, the neighbours could watch for all I cared.
When I came back down from my little rant (which my lucky husband got to witness) I realized that I would have said the same things as this fellow mother only a few days prior. I would probably think the same things now…because being in the depths of parenthood is difficult and there is absolutely nothing wrong with needing a break. But I think we need to be careful with how we put things out in to the world because there are always people wanting something that we have.
Most of the people I know, myself included, have a tendency towards one reaction when hearing other people’s sad stories – we feel sorry for them. We talk about how sad it is and how we can’t imagine what they must be going through. In some cases it will stay with us for a few days but, eventually, we get back to our lives and it gets filed in our memory under ‘emotional things that happened to other people’. But what if we could better ourselves by truly trying to understand another’s pain? Instead of wondering how they are possibly coping, we could try to imagine how we would cope? I know for a fact that we can’t ever fully comprehend someone else’s struggle unless we have lived it, but really trying could ultimately allow us to be more compassionate and to have a better perspective in our lives without actually having to deal with the heartache.
Everyone is allowed to reach his or her mental capacity for patience. Everyone is allowed to be frustrated, angry and weary. Perspective does not take away emotion or difficulty but it can help us deal with it differently.
Imagine being angry with your partner; aggravated by your parents; exhausted because of your infant who refuses to sleep; overwhelmed by the chaos of childhood or even just lazy and regretful for skipping your run (again).
Now pull out those files you tucked away under ‘emotional things that happened to other people’ and make those other people you.
Become the wife who lost her husband and is also lost without him. Allow yourself to be the child who watches their parent suffer and succumb to illness. Be the woman who desires nothing more than sleepless nights but is left feeling empty month after month when she cannot conceive the child she so desperately wants. Become the parent who loses a child. And finally, allow yourself to be the one who loses their physical abilities and will never get to run again.
Just think of the knowledge that these different scenarios would give you if they were your present. Maybe we would cause less hurt feelings or fewer arguments. It’s possible we would take less for granted and spend more meaningful time with those we love. Maybe this little exercise could change the way we look at life without having to go through a trauma and if (or maybe it’s a matter of when) tragedy finds you, you will have less regret looking back at your life because you did a few things differently…you changed your perspective.