50 Thoughts: Perspective is the Gift That Keeps On Giving

Originally published August 23, 2018

I was sitting outside at lunch today with two of my friends at work, enjoying the sunshine, when I started laughing suddenly at the conversation.

We were discussing foot ailments.

All I could think was that I have one foot in the grave, given I was talking about my feet. With friends. At lunch. Thanks, aging. ( …and as I am writing this, my husband is showing me his new PT exercise for a muscle separation in his abdomen. Between that and THE ITCHY SPOT ON MY BACK that I am convinced is degenerative spinal disease, we are falling apart.)

It made me think about the things we think about and hope for when we are younger versus when we are older.

When I was younger, I’d mock one of my closest coworker friends about taking her tween son to a Green Day concert. “You know Marilyn Manson? Yeah, his parents took him to a Kiss concert. And look what happened there.”

Now that I’m older, I’m the one hanging on every text that comes in from my sons while they are away at school, and sweating every time I see an email from a counselor pop into my inbox.

When I was younger, I turned on all the lights and stood with the refrigerator door open because, teenaging.

Now that I am older, I look at my 20-year-old like he is a certifiable idiot when he turns the AC way down because he thinks our electric and gas bill are based on some kind of flat fee program.

When I was younger, I thought Reagan was bad. When I was older but still younger, I thought the worst had happened when Bush beat Gore.

When I was older, well … yeah.

When I was younger, I thought the worst thing that could ever happen was for your boyfriend to dump you.

Now that I am older, I am grateful for the perspective so that I can guide my kids through their heartaches.

Perspective is such an amazing tool for life. It’s useful for just about any situation, from work to school to kids to relationships. Think about how much more smoothly your interactions go when you take the time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Your coworker is driving you nuts because she’s acting as if she is the first person to ever carry a child to term? Try to remember what it was like when you were first having kids. And, that you didn’t know, understandably, that giving birth is one of the easiest parts of raising a child.

Is your son or daughter sobbing uncontrollably over a bad grade or a snub from a friend? It’s easier to be empathetic when you remind yourself of what your teen years were like. Bad grades and bad boyfriends sit at the center of their universe, not ours.

In some ways, I feel like I was the unfortunate benefactor of perspective, having lost my birth father at 12 and my youngest brother when I was just 21. Nothing, NOTHING sucks more than the loss of a loved one. But as annoying as it can be to be able to one-up people in the tragedy department (“Think you’ve got it bad because your brother ditched your birthday party? My brother isn’t breathing.”), perspective is a powerful reminder of how life could really be worse.

No one likes it that much when, complaining about the heat, someone pipes up with, “It could be humid, too.” Or, when you miss a connecting flight and someone says, “Well let me tell you about the time I spent on the floor at Detroit Metro for three days with a $5 meal voucher.” But if you can stop, listen and think, however obnoxious the attempt to flip the narrative is, using perspective to consider the possibilities can make a sour situation better.

Perspective is the gateway to grace and gratitude. It’s how you can better understand the people you live, love and laugh with and be the kind and caring person you know you are. Perspective is the key to not repeating the same mistake over and over because you’ve already learned the lesson.

Here’s to deeper perspective into the next decade.

Today’s recommendation: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I read it back in 2011 so I don’t have a real review, but I’ll always remember it as one of the best books I’ve ever read, even though it is one of the most tragic reads ever. Talk about perspective. At least you are not a legless beggar on a train platform in India.

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