June 23, 2014

Shifting perspective and nurturing reality

This week's literary fortune comes from Patti Digh's Life is a Verb.
There are certain books that draw us in to an ongoing and interactive relationship. Books that we cannot let go and that we go back to time and again. For me, Patti Digh's Life is a Verb is one of those. It's a beautiful book. for one; but it's also a reminder for me, every summer, to be a participant in my life rather than a spectator, which can happen, especially when I become tired and grow discontented. When I look around at the messy yard that needs a fence and a good landscape artist which I can't afford, the floor that incessantly needs swept, the unmade beds, and the sink full of dishes, it's easy to dream of a different life.

For me, it's always good to take stock and find a more positive perspective. That messy yard is surrounded by towering cedars and smells of wind and earth. The floor that cries out to be vacuumed is covered in fur from pets that bring me joy, feet that belong to the people I love, and dirt from the path that leads into a home that contains laughter and happiness. The unmade beds are comfortable, inviting places where dreams are had and books are read. And the sink full of dishes exists because we are not hungry.

A good "perspective shifting" exercise is listing all the things that make us nuts, all the things we wish we could change, and then re-writing them as positives (as evidenced above). It's a powerful way to intentionally accept our lives as they are, in spite of (maybe even because of) the imperfections. This is something I call "nurturing reality". Often, we are told to nurture our dreams, but in doing so, we run the risk of being disappointed with what we already have. Nurturing reality is a way to take care of what already exists and embrace our dreams through that lens.

I think it's okay to be unsatisfied sometimes. It pushes us to improve. But it's always good to remember that we are what we are, we live where we live, and there is happiness to be cultivated there, no matter where "there" is. It's the old "bloom where you're planted" adage. Whether one believes in destiny or fate, or prescribes to the idea that we are the captains of our own ships, there is no denying that today has offered us a certain existence. We can choose to be disappointed with it or see it for what it is...a gift.

Yesterday, we went on a walk...the whole family. My son, who does not prescribe to the "walk forward with purpose and a destination in mind" way of life, lagged behind as usual, skipping and meandering at a snail's pace. At one point, I turned around to encourage him to catch up. He ran toward me, dragging the dirt-encrusted roots of a fistful of wild daisies. He handed them to me with a grin; he knows they are my favorite. So I carried them, dirt and all, back to the house, cut the ends, and stuck them in a jar. They are the perfect reminder that life, in all it simple imperfection, must be savored.

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