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A Matter of Perspective

I hope today finds you warm and well! My family and I just returned yesterday from a week in the Magic Kingdom, Disneyworld. The trip was, let's say, an adventure or at least parts of it were. I will recap in a later post, but looking back now, I want to talk in broad generalities.

Overall, the trip was wonderful. It was a time for our family to be together, together with my brother and his family as well, with a surprise visit from an aunt and uncle. We haven't had a lot of time recently to spend time together, and just being with family and experiencing Disney with them was even more magical. Were there bumps along the way, of course. Where there hidden surprises and things we couldn't have planned for, sure. But let's keep some perspective, for this post, let's just talk about the weather...seems like a nice Midwestern kind of thing to do.

When we left home, the weather was cold, in the teens and twenties. Forecasts for Orlando were showing a balmy range of the mid-60s to mid-70s with lows in the 50s. That range tends to be a little tricky, not quite warm enough for shorts, but could be a little warm for jeans. So you pack a little of each and away you go.

When we first arrived, it was beautiful, so nice to see green grass and trees again and while not exceptionally warm, coming from sub-freezing temperatures, it was perfect. We experienced days that were cooler, where we needed sweatshirts and long pants, and yet there were others where we we spent the day at the waterpark in swimsuits without being cold. Variety is definitely the spice of life.

And then we return, and as I check out the WDAY forecast, I am nearly moved to laughter as I see this:

On exactly which planet does -12° equate to "Not So Cold?" Well, apparently North Dakota, with perspective. If you look at the Monday Night forecast the low that night for the Fargo area was -23° (yes people, these are negative numbers we are talking about here....below zero) So, in comparison to -23° below zero, -12° doesn't seem quite so bad, "Not So Cold." But coming from Orlando and temps in the 60s, if I were writing the forecast it would look something like "#%$@ing cold" (feel free to insert the expletive of choice).

So, why all of this talk about the weather? I think it lends itself to understanding a broader perspective on our lives as well. What is the weather in your life like today?

We have all seen the news; economic downturn, layoffs, foreclosures. It certainly seems frigid, but have we seen the worst of winter yet, are we in store for a doozy of a blizzard? I don't think anyone knows for sure, but we can all hope spring is coming.

I think your perspective all centers around your reference point. I believe we all get to choose our reference point, the point by which we all measure how we are today and what our hopes of tomorrow will be.

For some time while facing adversities in my life, my reference point was that of a moment in the NICU with my daughter Hope. At one point I was in the nursery when stopped breathing. Doctors and nurses scrambled to resuscitate her. I watched as she slowly lost her color and more and more people rushed to help. For some time as I watched I began to think, this is it, I am watching my child die. Even now, I am still moved to tears when I think of it.

When I would have a bad day, when I was stressed, worried, or just being a bit self-centered, and someone would ask, "How are you?" I would reflect back to that day, my reference point, and could honestly answer nothing other than "well" because, the challenges I faced on that day were nothing in comparison to my reference point. 

So, what does that mean for my expectations in life? Should anything above that reference point be acceptable? I don't think so, I believe it to only be a point of reflection, not one on which to dwell. You have to experience the lows to really appreciated the highs. You have to experience failure to really appreciated success.

From the very bottom of that valley, it can sometimes be hard to make out that mountain peak, yet it is still very important to try to imagine it, even if you can't see if from where you are currently standing. What is it going to feel like standing on that summit, what will the air smell like, what will your personal sense of accomplishment feel like. Maybe from the summit, you will have a view of an even higher peak. Certainly, the journey may be difficult, climbing that mountain, or perhaps you will stumble upon a ski lift or a rescue helicopter which will briskly wisk you there without effort. The key is to be looking toward the summit, not moping about with your head down in the valley, or curled up in the fetal position. How will you find your ski lift or helicopter, unless you are keeping your eyes open, looking for it.

By keeping your eyes open, you might just find in your time in the valley, that there is beauty there as well. Is there any silver lining within this dark dark cloud? Look at the some of the measures that families are taking to deal with money being tight;

  • learning to cook at home instead of eating out
  • downsizing houses or possessions
  • thinking more carefully about purchases
  • appreciating the things that they have more, including jobs
  • finding ways to give of their time when they can't give financially
  • finding simple pleasures in life.

If you look at the list, these are things that we should have been doing or paying more attention to all along. Are the material things we had been longing for and working so hard for fulfilling us? Has keeping up with the Jones' taken us off track? Are the Jones' kids spoiled brats? Do the know that their parents love them? Have they really spent any time getting to know them? Remember the movie "Citizen Kane," and his longing for "Rosebud?" He didn't take Rosebud with him on his trek to the mountain top, but that doesn't mean you can't.

Much like the weather has it's highs and lows, life does as well. The landscape can be uncertain, unpredictable, but for every winter there is a spring. And sometimes, a 3-day blizzard and temperatures in the twenties below zero are just what is needed to bring families closer together, or to give those who had been hurried, time to reflect on the summits that await them.

Put on your hiking boots and join me as we forge through this valley to find greater mountains, pack your bags expecting a little of everything, keep your eyes out for helicopters, don't forget to pack dear old Rosebud!

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