On a chilly morning not long ago I had one of those ‘wow’ moments. You know, when you’re driving along and you are just immediately struck by how beautiful the sunrise is, or the way the light bounces off your child’s hair. That morning, I exclaimed aloud to my kids how beautiful the field with trees looked near our house. There was a very slight touch of frost to the grass (rare for us here in central Texas), and the sun was coming up just behind the trees. Stunning. My girls (the two in the car with me – the third at home on the road to recovery from a bad bout of strep throat) looked and noticed and exclaimed how beautiful it looked, too.
We got to school on time (Yahoo – a whole week without being late!), and I told myself that I must take a picture of that field on my way home. I slowed down and stopped, rolled the window down, angled my phone, and took the ‘perfect’ picture. Ah. I took a couple more just to make sure I really got the ‘essence’ of how beautiful it looked.
Absolutely not stunning, not amazing. Not awe-inspiring. Even tried some editing and a different picture – not much better. Next thought? Wow – photographers are REALLY good at their job, aren’t they?
After sitting with my disappointment in the outcome of my photo-shoot, I sat with my feelings and thoughts a little longer. What my daughters and I saw that morning was beautiful. It touched all of us in a deep way, and triggered happy feelings, memories and some wistful longings. It had a real, emotional impact on all of us. But did not have the same impact on all of us. One daughter talked about her memories of building snowmen when we lived in Canada, which brought up some feelings of longing, even a little sadness. Another thought about how our dog would love to run through the field and have fun. And myself – I was struck by the beauty, and it brought up a feeling of peace and gratitude. On another day, it might have ‘looked’ exactly the same, but depending on my mood, I could have either not noticed it, been irritated by the frost because it means my fragile plants might die, or battled my feelings of powerlessness upon hearing the tinge of sadness in my daughters voice. On that day, my daughter was on the road to recovery (relief), we were not late for school (relief and pride), my daughters both had something they were excited about happening that morning at school (shared excitement, anticipation), I had had enough sleep (rested) and I’d even managed to have a cup of coffee (ahhhh).
It reminded me of a concept that features regularly working in the area of relationships and communication: Perception is everything. And it has only a little to do with what is directly in front of us. A picture taken by a camera is really quite flat. The morning I took those photos, it was my state of being in that moment that intermingled perfectly with the environment to create a state of bliss. My perception of beauty and bliss was exactly that – mine.
How a person, place, situation, thing impacts you is affected by many factors (your emotional state, your memories and experiences, even the state of others around you). So much so that it is silly to think that the same situation will have the same effect others (even if they are sitting right beside you when you experience it).
Perception is entirely subjective.
So, If something you see or experience
…irritates and angers you, try to stop and look at why you are so angry and/or irritable, allow your feelings, and do something about moving past them.
… triggers feelings of sadness or loss, ask yourself why you are so sad and/or lonely, allow your feelings, but take steps toward self-care.
… creates a feeling of contentment, gratitude or bliss, look at what is going right in your world, and do more of it.
After editing my pictures a little, I realize that what I’m editing for is to ADD something. Feeling. Depth. Warmth. All the things I FELT when I saw what I saw that morning. This is not perfect, but it is better. Closer. But definitely not close enough.
What kind of things, people or situations in your life speak to you in ways that evoke positive feelings? How could you create space for more of those experiences in your life?