Sometimes bad things happen to us. It might not be that bad of a thing, but our mind goes to this dark place and it turns this little bad thing into a dark, hairy mass of horrible. This dark mass sits in front of the mind’s eye, spitting negativity in our face. It covers our vision and steals perspective. Sometimes we battle it for days. We make up conversations and scenarios in our head, each one worse than the previous, giving fodder for this dark mass to grow.
Has this ever happened to you? It’s awful what we do to ourselves. . .
We need to find perspective when we’re in this place.
What is perspective? Perspective is taking a step back – a big step – and looking over this dark, hairy mass of horrible. Looking over it and around it. Turning your back to it and looking the other way. Because when you get perspective – when you ‘see’ the things around you – you’ll notice that this dark, hairy mass of horrible. . .is not that big.
I’ve felt like this for days now. I’ve been hammering myself over something small and stupid. But the brain is a powerful and dubious piece of machinery. Our greatest ally and worst enemy at times. I cultivated this small and stupid thing in my mind, till it grew into this dark, hairy mass of horrible. It took away my days, it took away my sleep. I looked forward to teaching because it was the only time this dark mass wasn’t looking me in the face. But as soon as that last bell rang, there it was again.
Then I tripped over perspective. Just yesterday.
I was in the hallway, waiting for my next class. I was looking over the school garden from the third floor. Kids were passing by saying, “Muneer, Hi Muneer, Good afternoon Muneer.” I smiled, I waved, but my mind was elsewhere.
Then I saw a teacher walk by with an armload of exercise books. She had time to look up and smile. It was strained, polite and perfunctory. There were shadows under her eyes and her steps were rushed.
I saw perspective in that moment. I saw how she looked 8 months ago, at the start of the school year. Beautiful, bright eyed and ready to talk. I saw how she looked 4 months later, not as quick to converse and looking forward to the winter break. I saw how she looked more tired at the end of each week. I saw how she smiled less often, took less interest in her appearance and always needed to be somewhere. I saw the stress of something weighing her down, slowly.
I saw it.
I started laughing in the hallway. A grin split my face as I stepped back and looked at the dark, hairy mass of horrible in front of me. It was tiny.
In that moment I understood. Whatever problems I had, it was tiny compared to what my colleague was going through.
And that’s often the case. We get so caught up in our little world, in our day to day lives, that we lose perspective. We put on blinders and get tunnel vision. We focus so much on the splotch of dirt in front of our vision, soon that’s all we see.
Even a little dirt looks big and scary under a microscope.
I’m not saying people don’t have problems. Some of us have very real problems. I don’t know what problems my colleague is facing and whether she has her own dark, hairy mass of horrible to contend with. I hope she gets through it and I hope I can help somehow. But most of the time, we create and inflate our own problems.
So step back and get some perspective. Go on a hike, climb a mountain, look at the stars on a dark, clear night. You’ll see how small you are.
And your problems, even smaller.