What would your life look like if you described it to someone else? How would their perception be different than your own? Do you see unusual or even exotic events in your past or does everything seem dark and dreary?
Over the last few weeks I have been spending some time visiting with an older woman who is undergoing chemotherapy. For an hour or two a week I stay with her while her caregiver takes a break. My role is not to provide care, but rather to be a companion- someone to keep her company and bring a little cheer into her day. As we have gotten to know each other, we have shared stories about out lives. We had very different childhoods, marriages and life experiences. Out of respect for her privacy I will not reveal more about her. Instead, I want to focus on how she sees my life and how that has filtered my own view of it- giving my a life a more “rose colored” feeling than I realized.
I think we get so caught up in the day to day issues, whether they involve problems at work, home, illness or children, that we don’t see the big picture and what we have experienced or accomplished thus far in our lives. We are so concerned about the future, that we lose sight of the past.
For example, I told her about the recent trips I took with my family- to the beach in Jamaica for snorkelling [http://themiddlegeneration.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/guilty-pleasures-of-vacation/] , or in a hot air balloon in Tucson [http://themiddlegeneration.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/sunrise-over-tucson/].
While I found them to be enjoyable family vacations, in my mind that was the norm. I had grown up in a privileged household that did a lot of travelling. Beaches and adventures were always a part of our lives and when I had my own family I continued the tradition. In contrast, my companion had never been out of the state. Her family didn’t have the luxury to take such vacations and when she had her own children, for the most part, she was a single working mom. As you can imagine, when I told her about the exotic locations I had travelled on a Mediterranean cruise last summer, it almost sounded like a fantasy to her.
I told her other stories about growing up in an old victorian house and the adventures I had walking around town. Memories that never seemed important to me took on a new life through her eyes. When her caregiver returned, she would highlight some of the things we had talked about. To hear her describe my life to someone else added an element of excitement. If she could see these parts of my history as special, maybe I needed to look at them in a different light.
I always enjoyed sharing the story of how my husband and I met [ http://themiddlegeneration.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/the-strings-that-bind-us-together/.] I knew it had elements of humour as well as charm to it; but when she retold it, it sounded like the most romantic fairy tale. Imagine two people, coincidentally connected through a tennis match, become good friends and then, upon discovering that they are soul mates, get married and live happily ever after (well I assume that will be true).
When I tell her some of the activites my children are involved in, she is extremely impressed and always compliments me on how amazing they are. I guess I neglected to tell her about the dirty socks and dishes they leave lying around; but I don’t think that information would change her view. She has told me stories about trying to raise her children as a single mom and I realize my challenges are minimal compared to hers.
Her outlook reminds me to focus on the positive things about my children- like their interests and skills. They’ll outgrow their annoying habits. Instead of making my life be about always cleaning up after them, or yelling at them to do it themselves, I should think how lucky I am to have two wonderful children with such amazing talents.
Rather than seeing myself as a typical mom with two kids, two dogs and a house in the suburbs, I have retinted my sunglasses to see all the opportunities my family has taken advantage of, all the adventures we have gone on together and the wonderful family connections that we have. And I have my friend to thank for it. By hearing her reaction to what I saw as routine (from my narrow point of view), I gained much appreciation for how exciting and fulfilling my life really is.
Now don’t take me as some snob, because I have always really known that. It has just taken an experience like this to bring that feeling back to the surface. The reason I volunteered to do these visits is because I am a kind and caring person and like to help others. Little did I forsee how much I would gain from the time we spend together. I am already looking forward to next week’s visit and starting to think about more stories to dig up from my past. I know she will help me see them in a whole new light. No matter how young I was or how mundane the activity, it will look brilliant through her rose-colored glasses.
I think the same can be true for all of us. If we take a moment to step back and look at ourselves from a different angle, we may be a whole lot more appreciative of what we see.