Last week, while my sister and I were having breakfast at my country house, a bear walked across my lawn. The movement in the bushes initially caught my eye, and at first I thought it was a deer. Then it stepped boldly and assuredly onto the open lawn, where it traipsed along seemingly without concern towards the woods on the other side. “Oh my God!” I breathed to Ruth Anne, “That’s a bear!” I jumped up and grabbed my camera, pulling off the lens cap and dropping it all in one motion. As the lens cap hit the wooden floor with a “chink,” the bear, which was at least 100 feet away, looked up in our direction. Yikes! Then, deciding he was in no immediate danger, he continued on his journey towards the woods. With a racing heart, I took a series of photos from the relative safety of our screened in porch.
Later, while I was reviewing the photos, I noticed that when I enlarged them they appeared fuzzy. It must have been an effect from the screen. A pang of disappointment ran through me. “Rats,” I said to Ruth Anne. “I wish that the screen hadn’t been there. The photo would have been better.” She looked at me with frustration. “Why do you always do that? Why do you always find something later to undermine a really cool thing? You took a picture of a bear!”
Welcome to my life. This is why I am such an effective proofreader. I see the flaws in everything, no matter how good the rest of it may be. It’s a deeply ingrained and frustrating habit. No matter what my experience is, no matter how great or mediocre, I pull out the parts I don’t like and choose to focus on those. (And, was I really going to leave the safety of the porch to go out on the lawn to get a better view?)
A friend once told me a story of how she went to an art show opening that was so crowded that she couldn’t see the art past the heads of the people in front of her. When she complained about it to her companion, he said, “Well, just make the heads a part of the exhibit.” I think of this story whenever some particular thing seems to mar the entirety of an experience for me. I can’t say I’m always successful at integrating the “heads” into the exhibit before me, but it is a practice that I am continuing.
What if I could include anything I don’t like about the experience that I am having as a genuine part of it, instead of resisting it — to purposefully make it right. Could I see some beauty or purpose in what is before me, which not only allows me to accept it as it is but also to enjoy it?
This past weekend Ruth Anne and I co-facilitated our first “Awakening the Creative Self” abundance retreat. We have returned to my country house to spend another week together. This morning she wrote an essay that she shared with me and it reminded me of this conversation. It is reproduced here:
“Country Porch” By Ruth Anne Wolfe
My sister’s porch in the country has an old white railing with crackling paint and missing spokes here and there. Sometimes, as I sit in the morning, I imagine scraping and painting the spokes, and especially finding replacements for the missing ones, putting them back in and making the porch “perfect.”
Today I noticed how much more I could see through those places of “lack,” of openness, and became grateful for the empty spot. I noticed myself moving from an “even with” mentality to that of an “especially because” one. From: “Even with missing spokes, this porch is quite nice on a summer morning with the sun coming up.”, to “Especially because there is an opening in the railing I can see more beauty through the space, letting me enjoy this morning with the sun coming up so much!”
The view from the porch is joyous including the electrical wire, including the parked car, including the crooked lamppost, including the peeling paint, including the worry of future decimation of our world.
Does this mean that I can’t move the car? That I am forced to endure it? No, I give myself permission to move the car as soon as it is convenient. But currently, I am standing in the now, taking in all the beauty that is there always, whether the car is there or not.
One of my favorite poems says: “The wild creatures do not trouble themselves with a foretaste of grief.” The birds sit on the wire, the chipmunk takes no heed of the car, and the rhododendron grows happily alongside the missing railing. Only I attach meaning and lack to these things.
When the lens cap hit the floor and the noise disturbed the bear, did he think to himself, “Rats, I was totally enjoying this walk across the lawn until an unpleasant sound came along to alter my ideal trek to the wood”? Did he think back later and say, “I would really have enjoyed that walk except for the part where I got scared because of that sound?” Nah, he was probably already half way up the hill, headed for the ripening berries.
How do you sabotage your current experience by criticism, judgment, or otherwise “finding things wrong?” Tell me a story about a time that you noticed the missing spoke rather than the beauty you saw though the gap.