Sitting in the backyard, watching evening come on.
A peaceful moment.
Is that what you see in this?
I see that, but it’s not quite the whole picture. What you don’t see is that the fence is about to fall down, and it’s been that way for years. You don’t see the power lines and drive-through coffee place behind our house, along with the sound of the traffic on a busy street. You don’t see me, laying on the couch, binge-watching Arrested Development because I was so worn out from my seven mile hike that morning. Yes, I’m proud of the “seven mile” part of that, but the rest could all be cut.
So that’s what I did. I saw this potential photo out the back door and went out and framed it the way I wanted to see it.
I do that a lot. I focus in on what I do want to see, the good stuff, and ignore the rest. It helps me in creating photographs, because I’m always evaluating what should be in and out of the frame. The more I can get rid of distractions or unneeded elements, the better the photograph. It helps me in life too, because I focus on the many things I really want to do and the few things that need to be done regardless, and release the stuff that doesn’t really matter. The fence is falling down? OK. It hasn’t fallen down yet. It’s not a danger to people or property. So I’m not going to worry about it. When it does fall down, we’ll take care of it. It’s out of my mind otherwise.
Some might call this denial, or turning a blind eye to reality.
I call it a philosophy.
You see, I believe you can focus on the good stuff, and be happy, or you can dwell on the bad stuff, and be forever depressed. It’s all in where you choose to look, and what you choose to see. We always have choices. Sometimes I can’t help but see the bad stuff, and then I still have a couple of choices to make: Does it need to be dealt with, and does it need to be dealt with NOW? Sometimes, the answer is, Yeah, I need to deal with this now. But many times, the answer is: It’s not so important right now. Or even, it’s not so important ever.
This doesn’t mean I don’t see or deal with real, hard, painful, messy things, ever. I do… when it’s important. But it doesn’t have to be all the time. It doesn’t have to be “just because” it’s there. It doesn’t have to be a way of life, always down in the muck. Thinking, If I just do this one last, hard thing, I will be happy. That doesn’t work.
You have to be happy first, regardless of all of the muck. And to be happy, for me, often means ignoring the muck. I watched this great TED talk this week, which helped me realize my approach to life is not just denial but a healthy outlook. Take a quick watch – it’s 12 enjoyable, laugh-filled minutes:
Aha, I thought. I’ve shifted the way I frame the world over the last few years, allowing myself to focus on the positive, and it explains a few things. It explains why I’ve been happy at my job, while other people around me are swirling in the worry and stress of what might happen. It explains why I was so much happier when I stopped watching the news a few years ago. It even may explain why my art comes out the way it does – usually positive and showing the beautiful in the world around me – even when there is a fence falling down, or power lines, or a traffic-filled street. I just cut out the stuff I don’t want to see.
You might think I’m lucky, that this is just naturally the way I’m wired. I think that is partly true, but it’s also true that I’m wired for achievement. For accomplishment. For seeing the work that needs to be done and making sure I do the work first, check it off my list, and then focus elsewhere. It’s taken a conscious effort on my part to shift toward focusing on the good stuff first, and ignoring the muck.
I want to see the good stuff, so that’s what I choose to look for. That’s what I frame with my camera, that’s what I write on the blog, that’s what I share with you.
And what you don’t see? That stuff… it doesn’t even matter.
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