I keep coming back to it. Perspective.
It’s a slippery thing.
After Xavier died my perspective on perspective changed. No longer a guilty reminder of my first world problems. It became a talisman. I held to the blessings, not because I felt the nagging need to be more grateful, but because they were all I had left.
I was deeply grateful for the people who kept me grounded in reality. Deeply grateful for my health – mental and physical. Grateful for the large things and more conscious of the smaller things. I took comfort from the way the sunlight filtered, a touch, a look.
With the big questions — about life, death, fate and purpose — swirling around my tired mind, my perspective broadened. I was faced with making sense of the senseless and I had no choice but to look at life through an entirely different lens. When the big questions loomed too large, I made life as small as possible. One small minute after one small minute. My perspective became all about contradiction.
A tiny life was so large. The aching chasm in my heart, wider than the world, was invisible. A newborn’s life, which should have stretched long into the future was severed. My normal perspective didn’t allow any of it. It had to bend.
But perspective bends back. The things I swore would never bother me again, bother me again. My calm, the zen of acceptance and even the small wisdoms gained have all lessened. The hustle and bustle of life edged their way back in, with all they entail. The minutiae drowns out the magnitude and everything becomes small and manageable again. Is that healing? Or a secondary loss?
Sometimes when you experience tragedy well-meaning folk tell you about all the worse things that could have happened. You are meant to be grateful that these hypothetical scenarios didn’t play out. At least he wasn’t older. At least it wasn’t your other child. They are attempting the gift of perspective.
But perspective doesn’t work that way. You can’t own someone else’s perspective, or make your life better by imagining how it could have been worse.
When terrible things happen around us, but not to us, we hold our loved ones just a little tighter but the perspective is fleeting. The closer we are, the longer it lingers, but it always ebbs.
Which doesn’t mean we don’t care. There is empathy. Holding someone else’s experience and being gentle with it. The depth of empathy we are capable of in direct proportion to the breadth of our experience. Those that knew loss were more keenly empathetic than those who did not when we said goodbye to Xavier. Their losses may have been differently shaped but they knew, first hand, pain. But empathy is different to perspective.
How do you find a lasting, new perspective in someone else’s story?
Or is personal pain the only path? Surely that cannot be right.
I have been (over) thinking this for the last while. My perspective on life is different to what is was after Xavier died, but not as sharply different as it was in the immediate aftermath. My perspective shifts and changes depending on what surrounds me. What I need and what I am feeding my mind.
That, perhaps, is the key. I can choose what surrounds me. I can choose space and expanding the time I have available to think on the larger things. To meditate and pray. I can choose to look at the world through the wondrous eyes of my children. While I cannot expand trough travel right at this moment, I can read and learn and extend my experience. I can be kinder to those around me and to myself. I can be open.
Broadened experience is broadened perspective.
Come Along …
On the 25th October I am one of the panel speakers for the Champagne Cartel Nevertheless, She Persisted event at Rydges Southbank.
We’ll be talking (with bubbles in hand) about some of the big questions and how to keep get through and emerge stronger when life throws you its inevitable curve balls.
I predict with the wonderful Rebecca Sparrow on board as well as the hilarious Suzi O’Shea, it will sell out, get your tickets here before they do: TICKETS