It’s 2:28am on a Tuesday and I’m sitting on the roof of my house.
The world is quiet and sleeping, which is what I should be doing as well. But my brain wouldn’t shut off tonight, and for some strange reason, surveying the rooftops of my neighborhood sounded like a cool way to pass a few hours of insomnia. Plus it’s almost tolerable in the temperatures department.
No this isn’t some strange habit of mine. I’ve actually never done this in my life. Like most of you, I pass a sleepless night by reading or watching mindless TV, but for some reason, tonight I just felt the need to get away and do something different. I have no idea why.
So here I sit on the roof working under the moonlight. Somewhere a dog is barking. The occasional bat swoops through. A cat is slowly prowling in the bushes across the street. The moon is huge tonight, making the night bright.
The view is interesting from up here. These houses, which I have driven past for the better part of the past decade, look entirely different from up here. The rooflines, the chimneys, the trees in their backyards that I rarely can ever see from the road are all interesting to absorb visually. It’s the same houses on the same boring street in the same sleepy neighborhood, yet my vantage point is so different and I’m enjoying it.
I was having coffee with a friend many years ago, and I don’t really even remember what we were talking about, but he said “Look Ben, your perspective about this issue will either become your prison or your passport. Choice is yours.” Man, I love that quote because it’s pretty damn true.
After my younger brother passed, I began a very long struggle with my entire concept of TIME and how I spend it. My goodness have I wasted a ton of time. I try to not do that anymore. But I had a very particular perspective on the topic of “time”, and honestly it was my prison. I was doomed to certain crummy situations and to shitty relationships and a laundry list of frustrations. It simply was what it was, and (shoulder shrug)….oh well.
But because of that traumatic loss of my brother and some other things, I stopped one day and changed my perspective and began to look at my situation a bit differently. And then the strangest thing happened once I had found my new perspective: TIME became my passport and no longer my prison.
I quit talking to people that weren’t adding value to my life. I cut my work hours. Dramatically. I traveled like a crazy person and there was rarely a weekend I was at home. I stopped thinking “Oh, I’ll get to that next year” and instead said “I want to do this. NOW. Let’s go” and – voila – I found that I began packing in adventures into my life at an unprecedented rate and created quite a bit of my own happiness.
All with a slightly different perspective.
I have found the entire topic of perspective to be such an important one, and I’m sure you could identify countless situations where its impact on your own life is visible and tangible. Is your job kicking your butt? Is your marriage in the crapper? Teenagers wearing you out? Feeling old and fat while you read this on your couch with a beer in your hand? Did you just realize that you haven’t gone on a trip in 5 years? Hmm – well, what perspective are you viewing these situations from? Probably the same one you’ve always viewed them, and so I’ll ask you “How is that working out for you?”
“Change” in our lives is a bloody awful process typically. Changing our thoughts or changing our behaviors is just a sloppy mess for most of us. We have a perspective that we have either been taught or learned, and we are quite comfortable with our vantage point, even when it hurts us.
So sometimes, it’s good to just climb up on the roof your house and take a different look at things.
I have a friend that struggles with some of her past. She is a wonderful person and I think extremely highly of her. She’s a great mother, is very involved, is successful professionally, and is well liked socially. The one person that doesn’t really like her is…herself. She doesn’t think she deserves happiness, so she works very very hard to remind herself frequently that she doesn’t deserve these good things she is experiencing in her life, and will actually work subconsciously to ruin the good things. It’s quite odd, yet I read that it’s also rather common.
So I was thinking about her tonight, too. And I was thinking about perspective, and change, and was thinking about how I wish that I could help her more than I am to see how valuable she is to those that love her.
But, no matter what I’ve done or said, she has been unable (or refused) to see her worth. But the more I thought about it, I began to think that perhaps sometimes we simply can’t change our own perspective. We simply cannot fathom a different vantage point to a situation or we are emotionally unable to climb the ladder. Perhaps.
However, she knows that she has this dysfunctional perspective. She’s talked about it. She knows it hurts her. She knows it’s there. She wants to get rid of it, but it’s hard-wired into her. So with that in mind, maybe sometimes your own perspective honestly can’t change. So what do we do?
Maybe all she needs to do is surround herself with people that shower her with GOOD. And love. And light. Maybe she just needs to find perspective not even with her own eyes. Maybe she needs to view herself through the optics of those that love her. Let them show her how she looks to them. How valuable she is to them. How they love her. Even if her own eyes won’t see it, maybe using others’ perspectives is even possible.
I don’t know. I’m not a therapist.
All I know is that, friends and neighbors, this life is not long. I’m 44, and I was 24 like last week. It screams past you so fast and before you know it, I’m talking about my kids leaving for college and possible down-sizing options. That’s insane to me. And at 44, I find myself still struggling with some things that I might have identified as problems in my life when I was 24. I have either failed to find a better perspective to my struggles, or I have refused with my endless list of excuses.
But then I think about TIME, and I shake my head at the absurdity of it all. We all have a finite amount of TIME, and wasting it by “kicking the can” is no way to do this thing called LIFE.
So stop doing that. If not for you, then do it for me? I want you to know that you have value and are loved. I guarantee it. And I know life can be hard and exhausting, but I also know you only get one life and I don’t want you to waste it thinking otherwise.
And if I think highly of you, maybe you’ll think highly of me? Maybe the next time you wake up in the middle of the night, you’ll think of how weird I am that I’ll climb onto the roof of my house at 2:28am and ponder life’s great mysteries.
And you’ll remember that in that moment, I actually thought about YOU. And maybe that’s the perspective you’ve been looking for.
Welcome to September. Every month in 2020 I type these I say “Boy, sure am glad to be done with THAT month!” but man, things sure seem to be dragging on. Here’s to a new season, a new school year, and hopefully, a new perspective.
Benjamin D. Schooley