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Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Pin It I’ve come to realize that life is all about perspective. The direction by which we look at a situation can make all of the difference in how we respond to that circumstance.

“If you fail this test, you’ll probably need to retake the entire class.”

News? Horrible.

“You failed, it turns out that you’ll need to retake the test again.”

News? Fabulous.

What is it which makes this fantastic news instead of awful?

Well, like I said earlier, it really all depends on the perspective by which we see it; the proverbial side of the situation we’re getting it from.

“You might have a tumor.”


“It turns out that you have chronic headaches, and will need to take medication for the rest of your life to combat it.”

Suddenly, it’s the best news I’ve ever heard.

I am—even now—becoming convinced that perhaps we should always be shaken with the worst-case scenario in all situations. That way, when we hear the true outcome of events we will feel grateful for the results, instead of grunt reproachfully and cry out that life simply isn’t fair.

Sometimes it helps us to feel gratitude when we realize that it could have been far worse.

Case in point:

I was driving on the freeway recently when—after operating with no previous problems—steam blew out from under the hood in all directions like a splay from Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.

I pulled to the off ramp, noticing my ‘heat’ gage immediately shooting up to maximum capacity, burying itself in the top corner of my instrumental panel.

I fought the rush-hour traffic and pulled aside, switching off the ignition. I popped the hood and looked at the engine. A hose going to the radiator had completely exploded, coating the underside of the hood with a milky-looking liquid. This did not fare well, and I felt a crushing blow to my stomach like a punch from Mike Tyson.

I snatched up my cell phone and dialed my mechanic.

He said that I might have blown the head gasket.

The extreme heat might even have cracked the engine block itself.

With both of these horrific scenarios spiraling though my mind, I groaned inwardly envisioning a dozen or so winged hundred dollar bills zooming out of my already destitute bank account.

The tow truck came. My car went. I was vehicleless…what a sad and sorry place to be.

Like an anxious relative awaiting results at the hospital, I waited for the final prognosis from the mechanic the next day. I checked my phone periodically. Then, in the mid-afternoon, the prognosis came.

The radiator was cracked.

Under normal situations I’d have been somewhere between ‘holy crap’ and serious blunt force trauma; however, I was euphoric. Only a cracked radiator which would need replacing?


After a few measly hundred bucks (compared to the alternative), I found myself driving from the repair shop in a car which purred like a kitten.

Life; it’s all about perspective, isn’t it? Truly, how we see the situation can indeed make all the difference in the world.


Gerb said...

I've found this to be the theme for many of the posts I have written in my head over the last couple of weeks. Which, I suppose, is fitting for a blog called "Four Perspectives".

Perspective (and not the Hokey Pokey) is indeed what it's all about.

Rachel said...

It could always be worse.......I find if I say those words it helps me with perspective and I am able to handle the blows a little better.

Rachel said...

Not to mention......I'd rather spend time around a person who has a bright perspective on life then a downer.....

Teachinfourth said...

Gerb - It is amazing that we all see things in a different way as well.

Rachel - Attitude can really make a big difference, can't it?

jayniemoon said...

Absolutely. I find that my attitude often depends on my expectations. If I'm expecting a terrible movie and it turns out somewhat decent, I'm super happy. But if I'm expecting a great movie and it turns out somewhat decent--I'm totally bummed.

Glad it was just the radiator.

Lars said...

How fitting you posted this since I just had this lesson reinforced personally tonight. One's perspective is key in life and it is good to keep it in check every now and again. Thanks for the reminder.

Linn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Teachinfourth said...

Jayne - I was, too. Isn't it funny how we tend to see things? I feel the same way about movies; I'd much rather go in with low expectations and get pleasantly surprised than have it be the opposite.

Lars - I think that sometimes I get to the point where I think that life owes me something, not always the case though, is it?

Linn - Isn't that funny that we, as people, are like that? Glad it hadn't turned out being more than that.

leah z said...

Interesting that you write about getting bad news. I've listened to a couple of radio stories in the past week covering a new movie about the work of the Army casualty notification unit.

Their rules are strict; they don't tell anyone except the next of kin, they don't ask directions or leave any kind of message so they don't spread rumors, and they park away from the home and walk up so that the family doesn't hear the car park and have to wait through moments of anticipation as the soldiers approach. All of their rules are meant to make a horrible situation less horrible.

Your approach is quite different though -- spend a moment anticipating the worst, and find yourself better off for the stress when the outcome is bad instead of worst. I guess the difference for the Army is that their news is the worst to most people.

Sarah said...

I read a short story some time ago about "changing your buts" (as tacky as that sounds). You could say, "I like living in Arizona, but the summers are sooo hot!"


"The summers are really hot, but I like living in Arizona."

I think that changing your buts and getting a little perspective can really round out a rotten day (or rotten experience).

Teachinfourth said...

Leah - Yeah. I'm just glad that I don't have to get any news from the military...I know it wouldn't be good.

Sarah - I love that outlook. I'm going to try to do that more often and change my buts.

It sounds funny to say that...

Lori said...

I've always had a problem with bad news, so I've always told the bearer to give me the worst case scenario first, so I can accustom myself to it. I need time to absorb it graciously, I think, and then I am so excited when it turns out not to be as bad as anticipated. And of course, it's really great when it's one of those bad news/good news situations. Great post.

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