Reflections on Perspective
I bought too many groceries for my refrigerator
Forgot my gardener’s name, I’ll have to ask him later
(from First World Problems by Weird Al Yankovic)
Sometimes life feels like a roller-coaster: one minute you are high up at the top and the next the world seems to have come crashing down around you. I think the last two years have intensified this effect for many.
While staying with a friend in early October we learned of Cyclone Shaheen that had just hit Oman, where we both used to live. We immediately started sending messages to friends there to find out how they were. Having lived through Cyclone Gonu in 2007, I knew only too well what conditions would be like there. Thirteen people lost their lives and the infrastructure was badly damaged. Thankfully the people we know there were safe.
Just one month later that same friend was surrounded by the impact of the recent British Columbia flooding which killed at least five people and caused £450 million of damage disrupting the main transport arteries for months to come. Supermarket shelves were empty and fuel was and still is in short supply. She is safe.
There have been many dramatic weather events these last years, triggered by climate change. We can expect more.
Up… and then down.
Yet sometimes our downs are but little hitches and we need to get them into perspective.
I occasionally agonise about what to cook for supper then I make myself stop. I have food. I have more food than I need for one meal. I have only to message my friend in rural Tanzania to read her reply, “I’m hungry dada,” to hammer this home.
The internet has crashed again. The washing machine did not spin properly. Two of the tangerines I bought were bad. I’ve run out of dishwasher salt…
Our newly installed heating system stopped working the other day. We panicked as it was a Friday and we would not be able to get help until after the weekend. I tried to get it into perspective. We have a roof over our heads. We have duvets and blankets galore, not to mention hot water bottles. We are not in a flimsy tent on an Afghan mountain or being tossed about in the icy waters of the English Channel. It was just a technical hitch, no doubt temporary.
I have just learned that my son and his partner cannot come for Christmas as the country where I live has banned non-essential travel. I was so looking forward to having them to stay. I haven’t seen them for sixteen months. It is a disappointment but I am trying to get it into perspective. I will have to wait a little longer before I can hug them but they are safe, they have a roof over their heads and food in the fridge.
Perspective is everything. I am extremely privileged and I try to remember that. Complaining and moaning has become a habit in many places, including schools. However, a simple activity can change how we look at the day and can transform it. Finding one hundred blessings in the day is a Jewish (Hasidic) practice. It can begin to bring a sense of gladness and thankfulness. You might like to try it for yourself or with your students.
Pay attention to positive experiences in the following way.
- Throughout the day collect 100 blessings. Become aware of moments, events, encounters, things you see, hear, touch, smell, whatever brings delight, enjoyment, gratitude or gladness. Note whatever is around you that is pleasing: the clouds, the wood of the table, the wind in the trees, the colour of someone’s hair, the touch of water against your skin, a child’s voice, a colleague’s smile, a hot shower, something unexpected, something of beauty… Keep a mental note and, if you can, jot them down in a journal, savour them, let each moment of pleasure become amplified by your awareness of it.
- Become aware of how you feel in your body as you collect a blessing. How does it feel to experience a blessing? How might you allow the feeling to fill your day? In what way do you feel blessed?
In the words of Chumbawamba,
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me downTubthumping
And counting your blessings can help.