The difference between a stumbling block and a stepping stone is
whether you are cursing your bruised knee or admiring the view.
Summer is halfway done – or just beginning. We just passed the Solstice and it’s all downhill from here with winter just around the corner – or we still have all of these gloriously long days ahead of us.
Perspective is a trick of the mind, one that I resisted for many years, embracing a more curmudgeonly outlook. But after three months spent living somewhat madly in my attic a few years back, various affirmations taped on the walls and a mantra spoken aloud each morning and night from my little bed: I am softer, I am gentler…. I believe in its powers. We can change our perspective; we can choose to see from upside down or sideways and make it the new right side up.
I had two reminders this week that what we see is not always what everyone else sees and can even be comically askew. My kids have been in Israel for nearly two weeks with their dad. Visiting places like the Dead Sea and the Wailing Wall, they’ve called me a number of times only to report on the most mundane details. “I have a bruise on my elbow.” “The skin is coming off my foot.” “My eye itches.” After figuring out that they’re not in danger of falling apart, like a box that’s lost its packing tape and twine, I try to redirect them; “Tell me about the Dead Sea.” “Oh, my scrape really hurt there!” OY!
At eight and ten their interest is in the immediate, the joyfully, naval-bound here and now. Their bodies are of special interest for it is this vehicle that is their current home – not owning a house or having much control over the wooden structure that we inhabit together. More than getting a new roof or worrying about the state of the boiler, they mull over what ails them, and the world’s effects on their body, and their immediate comforts, e.g., food, warmth. They are reflective creatures, yes, but they’ve yet to let reflection loosen them from the immediate. They don’t dwell on the past (having few years to dwell on) or extrapolate an experience into the future, e.g., When will I ever be here again? — a game I too often play when I travel and which only brings me to a state of melancholy.
The other night, a different sort of phone call – this one to the Zappos helpline, which I called at midnight and was connected to Richard, a super friendly, young-sounding guy. I’d purchased three small purse-cum-wallets, as I desperately need to replace the nylon one that no longer zips. None of them was perfect because none of them was the same as what I’d had. Two of the three were definitely not going to work. The third was much smaller than what I’m used to, but as I’m in a state of trying to downsize and simplify (the siren song of one’s mid-40s, it seems) I thought that maybe if I had less real estate to take up, I’d just be forced to be more streamlined, to color within the lines.
I was baffled, though, as this cute, well-crafted little red number had a leather strap that ran through a buckle but ended in two separate loose ends, each in a little knot. Was I meant to tie them together in order to create my shoulder strap? It all just seemed wrong; hence my call to Richard who assured me that he “loved to talk about handbags!” He was stumped, too, describing what he was on his screen and providing me empathetic support (customer therapy) as I continued to turn the bag this way and that. Then suddenly, I realized that the strap had to be pulled all the way through, and the knots would then land on either side of the buckle. “Richard,” I said, stopping his gentle comments on the other end of the receiver. “I am an idiot.” I explained how it worked, and he didn’t even really laugh – not in a laughing at me sort of way, but rather in an “Oh, what a sweet little experience we’ve just shared” sort of way. “See, it’s always good to call,” he said.
Indeed, it’s always good to call. It’s always good to take a second look. It’s always good to remember that that which appears broken may be whole. That that which appears very Grand or Important may just be a place and time for exploring ones minor cuts and bruises.
May you all enjoy the long days of summer ahead!