Temporarily Permanent

Perspective.

What is it exactly?

By definition, perspective is “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view”. (It can also be defined as “the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point”, and although it is arguable that life is art, I won’t be addressing artistic perspective, per se, today.)

I find it interesting – nay, intriguing! – how perspective influences our opinion. Much like experiences having leverage and significant impact on the dimension of our focus (see post Finding Humanity in Winter), one’s perspective in direct relation to a situation not only predicates the response given, it often monopolizes it, regardless of any previous experience to the contrary. Basically, if we’re in the dark and darkness is all we see, it is unfathomable to see anything more than darkness despite having experienced ‘light’ and ‘bright’ in the past.

Extreme? Perhaps. But nonetheless not necessarily untrue.

Illustration: Think back to the last time you had a severe cold, or the flu (or, if not yourself, a loved one that you helped care for during that time). Day Two or Day Three into the experience, the wretchedness of sinus pressure, the shredding pain of broken glass shards tumbling down your constricted, raw throat with each swallow, feverish chills forcing you deep under the tonnage of fleece and woven cotton only to be marred by the beads of sweat on your brow, and the ripping ache throughout your joints, restricting fluid movement, draining every ounce of energy out of your listless frame. Even to partake in a cup of lemon chamomile tea with honey or bowl of chicken noodle soup is a monumental chore. You lay there, tissue in hand, dabbing your swollen, chapped nose and expel the simple words illuminating your current perspective, “this flu is killing me!”

But, wait!

You’ve had the flu before. And you’ve, well, survived… And, despite that present position, deep within the recesses of snuggle blankets and menthol throat lozenge wrappers, the predominant prognostication is that you, indeed, will again escape the clutches of Death in a week or so – with plenty of rest and clear fluids – but you can’t see beyond the mounting pile of discarded tissues, drawing on faded memory, to know that you will see the light of another day. Your feet will touch ground again, gleefully participating in retail therapy. Your tongue will relish in fantastical feasts and roaring repartee. And yes, your heart will languish in the thought of wasting another breath in the living tomb which is your office cubicle… But you don’t see that; you see death. You see permanence in the temporary – darkness in the midst of residing in the dark, casting aside the lucid remembrance of healthier days…

Point made?

So, how is it that we shake off this “permanence in the temporary”, and realize things for what they are – or what they could be? How do we change our perspective even if our circumstance has not changed? If the physicality of something remains the same, how do we redefine it?

Several of my current circumstances can easily lend to melancholy and the ambiance of defeat. That’s not to say that there aren’t times when I succumb to these jesters and lose sight of things beyond the temporary; however, as the past chapter’s song floats away on the evening breeze and providence crashes upon a new calendar year (Hello, 2017! Let’s be friends, shall we?), I’m determined to remain aware of my perspective, adjusting it as one would a manual camera lens, allowing in light and clarity of focus, distilling shortsightedness, and capturing inspiration, catapulting me through – beyond! – the darkness and into the warmth of glowing hope, where once before I drew breath.

A cog in THE MACHINE

I do see, acknowledge, ponder, and even (mentally) respond to some of those “one word” or “two word” writing prompts that pop up from time to time; however, recently, I haven’t had a lot of free time to pen out long, thought-provoking chronicles, or even insightfully toasty chestnuts of wisdom to share with the masses (school will do that to a person’s cache of unobligated minutes – note previous post, “6,810”…). That’s not to say that I ignore the prompts entirely either, avoiding any version of “eye contact”, as one would, trying to escape the shopping store without being accosted by the newspaper vendor offering a free Sunday issue, the cable/dish t.v. service vendor trying to make small talk, or those adorable Capitalists-in-training, with their boxes and tubs of chocolate, popcorn, and cookies. No, I admit, while most of them I give only a passing glance, gnaw on the concept for a fleeting moment or two to see if it’s flavorful, and usually expel before any ache takes form in my jaw or head, some of them get stuck in my teeth, forcing me to wrestle with them for longer than a hiccup, and darn if unsolicited ideas don’t start to form like dastardly rain clouds over a long-awaited beach party.

One such prompt was the single word, “Melody”. I’m sure there are a million different directions a ripe mind could take this term. I think, however, when I happened across it, my mind was beyond ripe, and the term steam-rolled right over me, spewing creative juices and seeds of introspection throughout the entirety of my conscious. The hardest part about the whole experience was finding the time to make something coherent out of it – whether there were enough logical pieces to dice up, throw together with peppery bits, emotional, tear-inducing slivers, zingy one-liners, and serve it all with a big bowl of corniness, or whether I’d just have to scoop up the remnants, continue to grind away and just make a saucy pulp out of it.

Now, most people know what a melody is, but in case there are any doubts, let me just state the basics: a melody is the succession of single tones in musical compositions, producing a distinct musical phrase or idea, and is considered the principal part in a harmonic composition (thank you Dictionary.com). That was easy enough. So why all the fuss? Why did this word hit like a drum line before kick-off at the Homecoming Game? Because after giving a moment’s thought to “melody”, I began to consider its partner, “harmony”. And, well, there’s been a serious lacking of “harmony” in my life lately.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with a good friend the day before my classes began this term, and she and I got on the topic of employment (ugh… that can be as painful as slicing open your finger with the edge of paper, and drowning that cut in a vat of salty lemon juice! But, I digress…). She is wise, this friend of mine; wise, loving, patient, and encouraging! Knowing that I’ve wrestled from time to time with my choice to forego personal pursuits for the tediousness of “obligation” and valiantly wearing the mask of “responsibility”, she assured me that hope was not lost, and that the opportunity may still exist to shake off the dust of corporate society and rekindle the fiery passion I once coddled like a iridescent soap bubble whimsically dancing on the breeze just above the death-spikes of the spring lawn. But, alas, I explained to her my years and years of “conditioning”, my submission to conformity, and my subsequent fashioning into the perfect corporate “cog”. She just smiled, gave me a hug, and told me I was not “a cog”! Bless her!

What that conversation made me realize was that much of my life – especially recently – lacked depth. I submitted early to the idea that creativity was unacceptable and that conformity was essential for survival (find a career path that was sustainable regardless of economic and geographical circumstances). I carried that ideology from my youth, through my young adulthood, and into my later years. My life-song was pure melody; there was no acceptance of random, complementary high and low notes, lofty imaginativeness, intoxicating fervor, vision, talent, and originality, despite my admiration of such occurrences in others’ lives. I hid “symptoms” of inspiration, knowing that one could not sing both melody and harmony simultaneously, and I knew it was wrong to abandon the “principal parts” in life. Therefore, I would stick to the melody, and allow my song to be flat, monotonous.

That’s all and well – for me. However, I have children. And I feel that I’ve done them a terrible disservice! By carrying this philosophy of “conformity” and “obligation”, I fear that I may have strangled the creativity out of their spirits – just as was done to me when I was younger. Not having much of an advocate to help foster ingenious and innovative thinking, colorful and charismatic dreaming, and fanciful and flagrant cavorting, I did not know how to be such an advocate for my children – at least not wholeheartedly. I hope I may have slipped from time to time, and said something encouraging back before the weight of the world came crashing in on them; I pray that they still harbor flames of inspiration within their souls, and coax it out to at least toast a marshmallow or two! If nothing else, I openly say at this time I am deeply sorry if my “cog”-iness was more desert than your pools of enchantment could endure. My wish for you, my dear children (and for anyone on the brink of suspended animation) is to pursue what makes your heart soar! Live for your dreams, and never allow yourself to become a cog of the system – conditioned and effectively lifeless. Stand tall. Stand proud. Stand out.

As the reader-board in front of the physical therapy clinic put it so succinctly:

‘Be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons.’

“6,810”

Have you ever found yourself feeling both exhilarated and exhausted at the same time? I’m starting to believe those two emotions are conjoined twins – opposite sides of the same coin! The likelihood that you’ve encountered one side of that coin toss, staring face up, almost guarantees that the other is resting itself peacefully against the palm of your hand. And no sooner do you exhale, whether it be the flutter of exuberant delight or a sigh of dilapidated effort, than find that coin flip-flop like a cornered politician.

I have successfully completed my first week of school this semester, and may I just say, I’m ready to raise the white flag and simply walk away … before finding a suitable jumping point. These are the last two classes in my master’s program, so it’s not as if I haven’t endured the pleasure of taking two classes at one time; as a matter of record, this is the fifth time I’ve accomplished such a task. And in the previous ten courses completed, I can’t say that there are any that I recall as being anything above mildly inauspicious; at best, they were all dismal. However, I don’t know that business courses aspire to anything more than that… These courses are holding true to their initial impressions, and have taken quite a substantial chunk (of time, of inspiration, of research, of sacrifice) to complete. Whereas I was able to successfully submit all assignments on time, and even display an ounce of post-‘posting’ jubilation at the fact that I did so with 35 minutes to spare, that’s not to say it did not come without a price.

Several nights last week blurred into early morning before my bunned-up hair and burning corneas found solace far away from the computer screen, even if it was to only rest my head on the pillow for 3 meager hours… Luckily the true fall schedule hadn’t kicked in yet, and I was afforded the luxury of stealing an extra half-hour of shut-eye, not playing slave to the school bus… However, as of tomorrow (well, looking at the clock, technically, it would today), it’s all hands on deck at 6:20 am, and rumps out the door by 6:55 am! No more snooze… And as my youngest child agonized and whimpered over the thought of beginning a new school year, I sneered and snorted, and growled “six thousand, eight hundred and ten” with the sting of venom. A smirk was the response I received. “6,810”.

6,810 is the word count for my first week at school. With a total of seven written assignments due this initial week, the culminating word count was 6,810 words. For a writer, whose typical goal is 500 words per day, I had definitely blown that “average” out of the water! Unfortunately none of what was written is of any interest to anyone who isn’t studying operational management or strategy in global competition (at least I think those are the course titles – I don’t remember; at this point, they’re all blending together). A daily average word count of 973 words! Whew! And that’s not even taking into consideration the 7 chapters of reading in two different (yawn!) textbooks, plus searching, researching, reading and annotating 10 or 12 (peer-reviewed) articles in order to write said words, and a chapter quiz to boot! Oh yes, then there’s the whole “job” thing, and the “parent” thing, and the … well, you get the picture… so, it wasn’t with undue pride that I celebrated my victorious accomplishment – 35 minutes still “on the clock” was a mini-miracle!

Already entrenched in Week Two, I’ve completed two of the four writing assignments; granted, they are the easier ones of the bunch. This week’s word count is already at 935, and I’m anticipating a total by week’s end of nearly 4,200. Five peer-reviewed articles have already been devoured en route to accomplishing the writing assignments completed thus far; the remainder of my reading this week will be all textbook – 5 more chapters (insert a sigh of dilapidated effort). Here’s the flip side, though: as I inhaled, straightening myself in front of the computer keyboard, poised to attack the required assignments of Week Two, a sobering thought turned my exhaustion into exhilaration… Seven more weeks…

That’s it, folks.           Seven. More. Weeks.

It’s hard not to relish in that thought! 45 short days, and this will all be over. So, yes, I may have my sought out a white flag after a grueling first week, and I’m not sure I’m ready to see it dance in the breeze just yet, or am I apt to relinquish my tender grasp on it either. I think for now I shall wrap it around myself like a shawl or sarong, ever so close, but with the playfulness of a summer day.

Until next time…