Are you living life in shades of grey?

Do you ever feel stuck somewhere between memories and the present, trying to sort through the jumble?  There are days when life is grey and then suddenly you see a pop of brilliant joy.  Back and forth it goes.  Today is five years since the mischief maker died (Ode to a Mischief Maker).  Nine days ago, his first grandchild was born.  Six years ago last week, Kanti came to live with us.  Five years ago we didn't have any grandchildren.  Today we have two cherished little people and a third on the way.  Two years ago we celebrated the wedding of our niece (Do you smile when you dance?).  Last year we struggled through the bleakness of Doug's diagnosis.  On Tuesday, we rejoiced over his MRI results.  Life doesn't stop, it keeps moving and unfolding, revealing loss and joy.

If you are brave enough to sit still and look back at the kaleidoscope of events that is your life, you will see patterns of loss and joy.  Taken individually, the loss would be staggering and the joy would be misleading.  No matter how bleak or how fabulous, life just isn't static.  It is like a moving sidewalk, it just keeps going.  When we are suffering loss, it feels like the world has stopped but it hasn't.  Slowly as the days go by, we realize the birds are still singing in the early morning hours, babies are being born, and the children are laughing.  Our moments of sheer joy pass as well.  We do not have the ability to stop everything and live within only the moments of joy.  And so we are left with memories, good and bad.

When Kanti came to live with us, she was a clumsy ball of fur, so uncoordinated she couldn't climb over two human legs outstretched on the lawn in front of her.  She insisted on herding me with her nose so aggressively I had bruises on my legs.  She would leap on the couch where I was sitting and take over.  When I took her for a walk she would bite the leash, and run circles around me or sit stubbornly in one place and refuse to move.  If I had only thought about the bad things she did, I would not have fallen in love with her.  But she had another side.  She learned quickly.  Kisses were free.  She didn't have a mean bone in her body.  She lived to play and was convinced that everyone loved her.  I had two different experiences with her and I had a choice about how to respond.  I could have become polarized on the bad and insisted she be returned to the breeder, or I could have been that person who believed their child/dog was incapable of poor behaviour.  Neither perspective would have been healthy for me or for Kanti's development.

Similarly, the way we deal with our memories of life, can either propel us forward or keep us stuck in the past.  Memories shape our future for either good or bad.  I believe the outcome is up to us.  We can look back and say we had a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad life - to borrow a line from Judith Viorst - or we can choose another perspective.  We can look back on the major life events through a kaleidoscope.   If you have forgotten how to play with a kaleidoscope, go and buy yourself one at the toy store!

I have kept a kaleidoscope in my office for the last fifteen years, as a tangible reminder to shift my perspective now and then.  Life is short and memories are long and powerful.  We have the power to alter our viewpoint, when we take charge of the weight our memories will have in our future.  Good memories are welcome to stay, bad memories are mined for lessons without becoming our life story. We can choose to twist the kaleidoscope slightly, introducing another beautiful perspective. If you find yourself stuck and seeing life in shades of grey, twist your perspective a little.  See what happens to the overall view.