“One has not only an ability to perceive the world but an ability to alter one’s perception of it; more simply, one can change things by the manner in which one looks at them.” Tom Robbins
It is odd how we take for granted the most basic of our sensory capacities until life teaches us otherwise. Losing our sight is one that is common to most of us as we age. Although both my parents wore corrective lenses, I boasted perfect vision until suddenly as I approached 50, small print became illegible. Suddenly I started to pay attention to what I could see, but even more attention to what I could no longer see. And I noticed that just by looking differently, colors became more vivid, the subtle textures of fabrics and plants had more depth, and the subtle tones of a gray overcast sky more defined.
Lately this metaphor of how I have come to see differently with my ever dwindling sight has begun to reshape how I pay attention to all of the other many challenges that life is presenting. Like so many others, the ability to read and comprehend the world has faded altogether- and not just the bigger world of politics or the environment all running out of control; but even more deeply the context of my business and my empty nest, life feels tilted, skewed like the words I can no longer read on a page – everything feels out of focus. Living in the land where nothing is how I thought it would be, I alternately have stomach aches from the raging helpless fury about the futility of what I think it should be.
And then I shake myself awake to look again, not through my fuzzy eyes, but through my aching heart. The truth of that this life, is that it offers us no promises, there is no safe way out. It is easy to wax nostalgic, as if some other time was safer, more predictable, but really every decade is coming apart, however differently. We have since forever all get raging storms, wild fires and people we love leaving us.
As different as our life choices may be, we all get the same number of hours that turn into our days, and now for me, fly by in months, to do with what we will. We all get the challenges of health and family and whatever else we fill our hours with. And while inequality is eating away at the democratic institutions we love, the truth of how our challenges, our experience and capacity for loss makes us the same. All of us, fight against the inevitable loss, however it comes to us. We do whatever we can, everything we can to forestall, prevent the breaking of our heart as the life we knew is washed away in an instant, the certainty slips through our fingers.
Learning to look again at these challenges through the lens of our broken heart, even for only the briefest of moments when our fear and anger gets soft with fatigue, we see the gift of our challenges and the opportunity for self-improvement. They are not a punishment or an injustice, but rather our own personal version of life’s changing, time and impermanence are one in the same.
In this light, the challenges, the loss, the heart cracked open wide gives us pause- we witness how much help the world can offer. And all the strangers that we may never have paid much attention to are more like us than we could have ever imagined. We know that all that we took for granted as ours, never really was. Mostly we realize that we can be thankful for the challenges that life throws at us, because here we are, trying to right the world one more day, a few more hours.
We actually are in this together and none of us gets out alive. Take away the clutter and busyness that had consumed our attention and all that is left is who we love, who has loved us. It’s like a brick to the side of the head- this recognition and witness of the love that is right in front of us, all around us. No more grieving the challenges. Embrace the challenge. Through another lens, it,s just another passage to love.
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