Have you ever worked a jigsaw puzzle? Have you noticed how every time you discover a corner piece, larger bits of the overall picture become clear? I've noticed I have epiphany moments that work in very much the same way. I've come to understand that life is not a singular journey that ends or in other words, a person doesn't just "grow up" and spend the rest of his/her life a "finished" individual. For those who are interested and willing, lessons continue to deliver opportunities for more growth, understanding, and happiness. In my case, "corner piece moments" arrive on the precipice of change, either nudging me to the other side or alerting me I am already there.
Those moments become like a list of points in the theorem of how I would choose to live my life. Dedicating an entire blog to any one of them feels less like sharing my point of view than begging you to see life my way. Not my intention here, nor my personal cup of tea. Instead, I have decided to share them with you in the form of a list.
Here are my personal "corner pieces" or things that have caught my attention along the way.
1. Change Means You Actually Change. When I embarked on the journey, I thought of change like a mathematical equation where I remained constant and simply added extra elements. Instead, it is more like folding egg whites into egg yolks and Angela flavor and creating a soufflé. I noticed this morning that I even sneeze differently. Seriously. I used to be vigilant towards whatever made me uncomfortable or felt unpleasant. From a certain control freak point of view, sneezes are messy and inconvenient. They also can be a bit uncomfortable if you try to stifle them because "this isn't a good time." Now I keep my eye on the positive aspects of life. Even when something seems to be inconvenient or unpleasant, I look for the benefit. I had no idea that would change my view of sneezes! They have become the moment of relief after a sudden itch. Sometimes I will sneeze as many as ten times in a row. I always have. The difference is I used to resent it and find it unpleasant. Now it just makes me laugh.
Change means you actually change. Your point of view changes and when that changes, what you see and how it makes you feel changes too.
2. We Think We Understand Life from a Universal Point of View, But Really We Only Understand From Where We've Been and Where We Currently Are. Consider the concept, "what other people think." My earliest understanding probably came from someone asking me, "If X jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff?" I thought it was all about peer pressure. Don't let someone convince you to do something detrimental or out of character for you simply because you want to be liked. Somewhere along the way I grew into the understanding that it is also about being yourself. For instance, if you grow a front lawn because everyone else grows a front lawn, you will never get to enjoy the beauty of the rose garden you would actually prefer. It became about individuality and how we all have gifts to bring to the party. Recently, I came into the awareness that when I meet a new potential friend and I hear about his/her hobbies or favorite things, I listen with an ear for what we have in common. I want to like all the things my new friend likes. Really I think it comes from a place where I simply understand that the more things we have in common, the more time we can potentially spend interacting. Realistically, if my bucket list is all dry land and yours is all water, we may like each other all we want, but we're not going to "hang out together" very often. What I realized was, while I would have loudly protested that I had outgrown caring what other people think, I was taking on other people's stuff to keep them in my life. I was putting their stuff before my own. It was subtle and no longer strictly "what they think about me," but it was still putting too much emphasis on "what other people think."
When you change what you look at, you change what you see. As your viewpoint changes, so does your point of view.
3. Focus On What You Want, Not on What You Don't Want. After years of neglect and ambivalence, I'm cleaning up my home environment. When we clean house on that level, we tend to look for all the things we need to remove. It's one thing to do it with worn out and outdated furniture, but we tend to do that with the rest of our life as well. I don't want this job anymore. I don't want to be angry anymore. We tend to focus on what we don't want and talk about it a lot even while we are reading self help books telling us to focus on what we do want and not to complain! Luckily for me, one day I had Facebook open right next to a new book I had just purchased, something about not being angry anymore. While I was thinking, "I want to be happy," I could read the word angry on the book's cover. That was the last book I ever purchased that took a negative stance about anything.
It's a surprisingly difficult concept to put into practice. Consider how much you talk or hear other people talk about the things they don't want in the world.
Narcissistic, abusive partners.
Turn off the news. Limit yourself to a pre-edited internet page each morning on Facebook, Google+ or one of the other social networks. I can hear my parents in the back of my mind saying I'm choosing to live my life with my head buried in the sand. Maybe it is the equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and saying "I can't hear you," but at the same time, my life is undeniably more peaceful and happy since I made the decision.
My parents and many other people like them, leave their TV's running near 24/7 on CNN or Fox News. The information age has tricked them into believing we have to be custodians of every bad bit of news that happens. It's like we believe that we are causing the things to happen by not being vigilant enough in our awareness.
On August 24, 2014, there was an earthquake in South Napa where I live. Within days, my Facebook feed was flooded with, not only pictures and videos of earthquake damage, but nearly dozens of predictions about California's next big quake. I seemed to have friends who were reading each and every prediction. Consider this. When that earthquake happened at 3:20am, no news service warned you minutes before it. You were either prepared or you weren't.
5. Keep monuments to your successes, not your disappointments. Seed your environment with items that make you smile or gasp in awe at their beauty. I have been a digital photographer for nearly ten years. I almost never print any of my photographs anymore. I look at them on a tablet or computer. Every time I looked through my printed photographs, I would find ten or more that reminded me of the time I tried to become a stock photographer. I sent the required number of slides, consisting of photographs I had already created. Labors of love. I received word back that they were interested. After my second slide submission, photographs shot all with an eye to becoming a "stock photographer," I received a "no longer interested." Every time I look at some of those latter photographs, I think those are the shots that didn't cut it. If my conscious mind is noting each photographic disappointment, I can imagine the nasty things my subconscious mind is interjecting.
A metal trunk I purchased years ago was hidden behind my sofa. It was buried under two blankets and six pillows. When I finally dragged it out of its hiding place, I remembered how beautiful it was. I remembered how excited I had been when I bought it. I believe in the Law of Attraction. I've learned that, when I'm focused on being positive, my life is more positive and happy. If I weed out all of the extraneous extra items in my life and focus on only the things that bring me joy, inspire me or that I find beautiful, I think I will have given myself the largest affirmation I can.