It’s amazing to me how our viewpoint does not always reflect any kind of absolute reality. What we are seeing, experiencing in the same situation can be drastically different than what a friend, relative, or partner is.
Consider trying to take a picture of the someone standing in front of sunset. They are likely barely visible in image because the brilliant sun behind them is providing such harsh backlight. But step around your subject, with YOUR back to the sun and suddenly they are perfectly lit and you have a shot worthy of framing. The subject hasn’t moved or changed, but your perspective has. You take a radically different picture.
I was reminded of the importance of frame of reference this week. I was heading back up to Tahoe for the weekend and got caught in nightmarish traffic due to accidents. After 7 hours, I was still only to Sacramento and it was getting late, so I decided to call it quits at a friend’s house in Eldorado Hills just past the capitol city.
After a deep, hard, wonderful sleep, I woke up cloudy-headed and kind of desperate for coffee. My friend was working early so left me instructions on how to use her fancy espresso maker. I read them carefully but got stuck one.
“I have some fresh ground beans sitting in the grinder in the upper left-hand cupboard adjacent to the oven.”
I opened that cupboard (and every other one in her kitchen) a half dozen times and saw no grinder. I know how organized Missy is so I was certain it was somewhere but after a half hour of searching, I gave in and face-timed her at work. She walked me through it and told me to open one cupboard again.
“There it is!” She exclaimed. I still saw no coffee grinder.
“I’m sorry Missy, I must be losing it. I don’t see it.
“The white one right up there to your left.”
“Oh! It’s a WHITE ONE!”
You see, in my cloudy-headed state I was looking for the coffee grinder that looked like the one I have at home. It’s black. Hers is white and since I was looking for a black little machine, my mind just didn’t register the white one right in front of my face.
I was a reminder to me about the perspectives, and lenses we all carry with us into our daily lives. They frame our experiences today, often based on our past experiences. My perspective in my quest for morning coffee lead to a relatively harmless blind spot, but if our experiences have included hurt, betrayal, being taken advantage of….guess what we’ll be on the lookout for? It also often comes at the cost of missing out on something useful right in front of us.
Ever had a disagreement with someone and argued over the way things went down in a previous conflict? You swear it happened one way. They are indignant because they remember it totally differently. You are both seeing your realities but from different perspectives. Having a wise friend or counselor can be like me reaching out to Missy on Facetime. They can offer another perspective. Do try to steer clear from seeking out counsel from any friend who just wants to be your cheerleader. You don’t need help finding what you can already see. You need someone who can offer a different frame of reference and expand or even change your point of view. “What am I missing here?” Should be the question we ask when trying to resolve a conflict, but too often we are more intent on proving ourselves right. Just because we can’t see the coffee grinder on the shelf doesn’t mean it isn’t there. And when you change YOUR frame of reference you may suddenly see your subject bathed in the beautiful glow of a setting sun rather than shadowed and dark because you were standing in the wrong spot to get a bright, brilliant and accurate picture