Monday, June 22, 2009
Learning to Focus
A comment made by a special friend about yesterday's post got me thinking about the fact that people who have lost someone instrumental in their lives tend to view the world from a new, and unwanted, vantage point. After Phil's death I remember thinking that death swooped in and stole my rose colored glasses...leaving me with a pair of dark shades instead. I was quite certain that rose was no longer my color.
This darker world view made every life celebration bittersweet...or sometimes just plain bitter. Movies became minefields, attending weddings became tortuous, walking down the street beside hand holding couples made me feel nauseous, and stopping for lunch alone during my workday often reduced me to tears. While grey was the dominant color in my life I generally felt either sad or numb, with not much in between. Sometimes when a bit of color would filter through the haze (a flash of genuine happiness for example), I felt almost burned. My instinct became turning away from the sun and pulling my new shades down over my eyes to keep the world in a comfortable state of darkness.
I can't tell you exactly when my shades started allowing the penetration of light...but they did. One day I genuinely smiled. Another day I laughed so hard that my sides hurt. Every now and then I could walk down the street without counting the couples I passed. And I even went to a wedding and found myself caught up in the love of the moment instead of listening to the voice in my head detailing the ways that death may these two part. When I realized that I had made it through a wedding without the bitter taste of disappointment in my mouth, I knew that the gloom was finally lifting.
Death has changed the way I look at every single thing in my life. Lately I have been thinking of life as a camera. We don't always get to select the lens, but we can adjust the focus. I can't change the fact that Phil died, but I can choose to focus on how lucky I was to love him. I will never sit through a film that includes losing a loved one without a pang of sorrow, but I can choose to employ that compassion in my everyday life. When I see very old couples assisting each other out of a car I still wonder why not us...but I can choose to think good for you. Sometimes getting the focus right is still not easy. When a wave of grief comes from somewhere unexpected I am often temporarily unable to adjust my focus, but I am learning that finding the right focus takes practice. And each day gives me a new opportunity to pick up my camera.