Tag Archives: perspective

Look back (move forward)

I have a reflective nature. Sometimes I’m even more reflective than usual. I think that as I get older, I have more to look back on but curiously, I find myself returning to my earlier years in that they stand out in relief. On a timeline, they draw my attention.

It has occurred to me recently that my life was front-loaded. The specific ages of 19-25 had the most significant events packed into the shortest period of time. I don’t remember thinking that as it happened but here, from a good distance, it looks that way. When I think of the events of my life from those years, I want to lay down and take a nap. As a group, it appears exhausting. Then again, maybe that is from my current perspective. At the time, what the hell did I know? It was just my life.

In part, the importance of those years is tied into a number of “firsts” which lends them a certain gravitas. That’s not the whole of it though; it wasn’t all about the emotional wallop of first-time experiences.

Certain occurrences were brought on by my own hand; others were beyond my control. I simply can’t think of another period in my life so far that had as many of both. It isn’t that nothing much happened after those years – plenty did, has – but for sheer drama and impact, those years are it. (If I can help it, I’ll never again have a set of years like those; once was enough.)

If I go ahead and include the first 19 years of my life in this equation, then the years from birth to 25 had the most intense, dramatic events. It’s no small point that the first 19 years of my life were lived with my family; my many siblings and my parents. It was a dramatic, chaotic, populated, volatile household. While I had some notion of that while I lived in it, it is increasingly with years that I see just how dramatic/chaotic/populated/volatile it was.

In some respects, I’m still working out everything that happened before I was 26. Or– maybe I’m just revisiting them, I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong – these aren’t bad thoughts. I don’t feel stuck or unable to get out from under long-ago happenings. I just think I’m appreciating it from a different angle. I never thought of my life as front-loaded before this past week and I’m rather taken with the term and the idea. I haven’t figured out everything it means yet but it gives me a fresh(er) way of looking at things.

Tellin’ it like it is

Last month I’d gone into the local big chain grocery store because they had clementines (oranges) on sale for a good price, $2.50 for a multi-pack of either 4 or 5 lbs. I walked over to the display. It was piled high with fruit. At a distance it looked great. I was happy they had lots (as opposed to wandering in and finding a few or none because other shoppers had already grabbed up the substantial savings).

Two store employees, a man and a woman, were off to the side of the display but I wasn’t in their way and they weren’t in mine. Besides, employees in this store almost never speak to me and are far more likely to interact only with each other so I assumed that’s what these two would do as well.

I started looking at the fruit and other than being bright orange, which is the least you can ask of an orange, none of it seemed good. I was surprised when the female employee, unprompted, addressed me helpfully: “He just put those out.” Now I was in a bind. I wanted to respond in kind, i.e., a friendly way, and yet the things I was thinking about their gnarled produce could well result in a response that sounded insulting.

In an even, not quite apologetic tone, I ventured, “Uh, they seem kind of squishy.” The employee answered but not to say the predictable pablum along the lines of: how dare you say anything bad about our produce, they’re the best in the business, none fresher, left the farm 10 minutes ago, this one looks fine, blah blah. Instead she agreed with me! Even offering that some of the oranges were “moldy on the bottom.” Now this lady really had my attention. She hadn’t fed me some bullshit line. Or found fault with me and my orange-assessment skills. Or tried to push nasty fruit on me. “Thank you,” I said gratefully, “for being honest with me!”

The exchange set out in relief to me how uncommon it’s become that people, especially, but not limited to, commercial transactions, tell it straight. I am so used to being snowed. Fed lines. Played. Pushed. Coerced. Which makes me so appreciative when someone is honest. I can’t say that’s a winning commentary on either how things are or how I perceive them to be, but I’ll take what I can get.

Short Thought 132 (perspective)

It’s a miserable, hot July day, one of those where the weatherman says the temperature and humidity combined make it feel like just-kill-me-now. A thought occurred to me. I would have swooned for this day six months ago. In fact, six months ago, I would have paid money to have this day. To walk around in shorts and a tank top, to feel the air against my skin, to not be constantly tensed up, bracing against the chill. To see green and bright colors. Yes, I would have handed over cash for it. Maybe even $30. Suddenly I’m looking at today differently.

Frog in Oregano jungle

Frog in Oregano jungle

Desire is the root of all…something or other

The major religions and philosophies generally advocate that people need to knock off all the desiring – that it is desiring and its pals coveting, wanting, and greed (greeding?) that cause us so much misery. That, and keep us from attaining higher states of consciousness.

As a creature of wants and desires, I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. And it bugs me. Why? Because to be human is to desire. Even if someone is so evolved they no longer succumb to the impulses of the flesh – they don’t need sexy time – and they’re content to subsist on next to nothing in terms of money and material goods, they still will have human needs for food and companionship. Oh, you could argue that the evolved person just eats rice and forgoes shrimp cocktail and frozen gelato, but even that doesn’t work, because variety is needed to satisfy nutrition and sustain life.

And the companionship part… sure, there are people who choose to live in isolation, and others that vow silence, but these are the exceptions. Even people who avoid others often secretly, deeply, need human interaction and they’ll pay the price for its absence. Further, shunning and solitary confinement are the grievous punishments they are because we humans so need that connection.

What I’ll concede is that desiring has a way of feeding on itself. You get one of something, them you want two or a bigger something. I’m going to paraphrase this old idea loosely, the one that says the man with no feet wants feet; the man with feet wants a pair of shoes; the man with a pair of shoes wants two pairs of shoes; and so on like that (I’m pretty sure I don’t have it exact, but that’s the general idea). Get one need met and another pops up. Why, life is one long, drawn-out game of Whack-A-Need! Git me a mallet, by gum.

I just need to rest a minute. I want to swim in the ocean. I want those people to shut the hell up already. I want more money. I want to run my hands across that man’s shoulders. I want a chocolate-iced donut with cream filling. I want a nice, worry-free retirement. I want these aches and pains to go away. I want those dogs to stop barking. I want a bowl of popcorn and a DVD. I need to sleep for two days. I want this traffic to start moving before my head explodes. I want all the cellphones to go back to where they came from. I want the neighbor to go smoke somewhere else. I want to be somewhere beautiful in nature. I want more closet space. I want a microwave that has a nice old-fashioned bell and not an insanity-inducing horrid long whining digital buzzer. I want cute tie-up ankle boots. I want heat. I want air conditioning. I just want a shower. I want my hair to look right every day. I want a really good book to read and get lost in. I want to never hear anything more about crime, murders, violence, wars, and terrible sickness again. I want to live without fear. I just need to get over this cold. I want pasta and garlic bread. I want people to act right. I want decent customer service. I need a hug. I want a break. I want to eat breakfast in a real diner, not some corporation’s idea of a diner. I want my writing published. I need more security. I want a big seafood feast. I want sane, non-creepy landlords. I want leggings that don’t pill and sag. I want it to be sunny. I want to breathe clean air. I need to think. I want disturbed people to leave me the hell alone. I want a snappy little red sports car. I want a handy little pick-up truck that never breaks down. I want good coffee not watery swill. I need a decent night’s sleep. I want to be taken to dinner. I want a raise. I need to be appreciated. I want people to do what they say they’re going to do. I need allergy medicine. I want to stay independent till I die. I want the people behind me in the movie theater to shut their yaps and stop kicking my %#&$ seat. I want to make art and get paid for it. I want to stay healthy. I need to eat NOW. I need to get up early. I need to be more productive. I need to go the store, to the DMV, to the doctor, to the repair shop, to school, to work, to the awards ceremony, to the funeral, to the graduation, to the meeting, to the appointment, to the wedding, to the gym, to the class, to the training, to…

We often get caught up in comparison and I think it’s our nature to compare “up the ladder.” We look at people who appear to have more or better than we do, and covet what they’ve got, whether it’s youth, beauty, material goods, health, cars, homes, spouses, kids, jobs, or money. Rarely do we compare ourselves to people who have or do less. I don’t talk around thinking, “Well at least I’m not a meth head.” And yet, I have been considering that if we’re going to play the Comparison Game (perhaps when we take a brief break from Whack-a-Need), we SHOULD look not only at who is standing on the rungs above us, but also at those below.

See, a thought came to me two days ago that offered a useful boost in perspective. It is that there are people who could be envying me or what I have. Generally, if this isn’t the last thing from my mind, it’s still pretty damn far away. And yet, it occurred to me when I’m thinking about everything I want, there could be people looking at what I have and thinking it looks quite good to them.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate what I have – I really do, increasingly, try to keep my focus there – but I expect I think MORE about my desires and wants. If I lived out in the woods here in the U.S., and quite honestly, there are people in my community who do, or I lived in an overcrowded hut in a third-world country, I bet my life, my things, my existence, would look awfully nice. As I write that, I’m taken aback. I need to remember that more.

So I played a little mental game of envying myself. What do I have that I’d be wishing for if it was not mine already? I’m no Pollyanna (“Let’s all just look on the bright side and sing a happy little tune!”), but doing this mental exercise was – is – instructive. The reality is I’ve got more than a few things I’d be wishing for if I didn’t have them. I’m determined to do this more. To think about what I have in terms of if I didn’t have it.