What's your perspective?

Shelley Lieber • 5 min read

"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."—Wayne Dyer

What's your perspective?

Perspective is an interesting word, and an interesting concept. A dictionary might tell you that perspective is "the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface to give the impression of three dimensions: height, width, and depth." A secondary definition might be "a particular way of regarding something; point of view."

For a photographer, perspective is the sense of depth or spatial relationship between objects in the image. By changing perspective, subjects or objects can appear much smaller or larger than normal. Lines can converge differently, and much more. The image by Joe Gemignani at the top of this page is an example of photographic perspective. (It's also a beautiful view of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, a four-mile crossing over the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington states.)

To me as a writer, perspective is a literary device, not to be confused with point of view (as opposed the dictionary's secondary definition). In literature, point of view is the is voice of the narrator telling the story. Perspective is how the characters view and relate to what's happening within the story.

Yet, in conversation, the terms point of view and perspective are frequently interchanged, with both meaning someone's opinion or how they "see" things.

Although its meaning varies slightly in different contexts, all meanings of perspective have something to do with interpretation or how we look at something, which is really what I am writing about today. (A rather long introduction, I know, but bear with me.)

This week marked the six-month anniversary of my husband's passing. An arbitrary distinction, perhaps, but somehow it seemed significant to me. I'd been noticing a subtle shift in my energy, and I think it's related to my learning to live without him. Not an easy journey, certainly not a chosen one, but one that everyone will be on at some time in their lives.

I remember that around the one-month mark, it occurred to me that he wasn't coming back. Perhaps it was the shock of my new reality wearing off, but up until that time, something inside me expected his return. With that realization, a deep sorrow settled atop my grief.

I welcomed the winter and continued social restrictions of the pandemic that enabled me to isolate and adjust according to my own nature and rhythms. I read and wrote endlessly, searching for meaning in a seemingly meaningless event.

As spring emerged, the young green leaves and budding blossoms outside my window beckoned me to join them for fresh air and new perspective. I made a few dates with friends to walk on the warmer days. Most often, I walked by myself.

I signed up for an online writing class that met twice a week. The class structure provided writing prompts and timed sessions of 10 or 15 minutes for participants. At the end of each class time, by some miracle of technology, we were broken into groups of four to read aloud what we had just written. (I call it a miracle because there were over 2,000 of us from all over the world, and in just minutes, the tech team somehow seamlessly created these smaller groups with very few hitches or blips.) Each session created new random groups.

The smaller sessions were not a place for feedback. In fact, feedback of any sort was not allowed. We met to listen and be heard. It was a humbling experience. Four writers, the same prompt, four stories. Stories of angst, joy, sorrow, humor, and introspection were shared.

The video portion of the session enabled us to see one another. So in addition to hearing each reader in turn, we could observe the emotional response on the faces of the participants. We laughed, cried, and showed sympathy and surprise.

Each class was another opportunity to learn from and about other humans. You might think that what is written off the cuff in 10 or 15 minutes doesn't yield anything of value. But it does.

For me, and I think most of the participants, the class was an opportunity to connect on a very basic, human level—from the gut. We have so much more in common with our fellow inhabitants of the Earth than differences. I didn't care about the political viewpoints of the young woman who had stage-four cancer and felt like she had no friends or loved ones to turn to for support. Nor was it important to me if the woman who was anticipating the emptiness of her home in a few months when her youngest left for college wore a mask when she went grocery shopping.

No one discussed vaccines—ever.

An interesting thing happens when we connect to one another individually. We gain a new perspective. The "us vs them" disappears. There's only me and you, and we're so much alike as humans that there's really only one: One mind, one kind.

"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."—Wayne Dyer

It was over the course of the eight weeks of the writing class that I began my walks. I'm working on a book and much of my walking time was devoted to thinking about it. One day I heard a voice that said, "Start a blog." Get out, I replied. I've been there, done that, and it's serious work! No time for that now.

The annoying thing about hearing voices is that they don't shut up just because you don't want to hear what they have to say. In response to being ignored, the voices get louder and more frequent.

Over the objections of my editor-in-chief, I began to listen. If I've learned anything from my heightened empathic self, it's not to ignore internal nudges. But what will I write about? I whined.  

I took a walk after one of the group writing sessions, flush with the excitement and sensation of being filled up by my experience. I was particularly happy with what I had shared that day and thought others may be interested in reading it too. Every one of the class participants expressed how much benefit they received from the timed writing sessions and prompts. There is much suffering in the world today, and these short writing sessions offered much relief.

But how I could share these short reflections and the prompts that prompted them? Start a blog. Yeah, I get it now. I imagined my muse looking a bit smug.

I'm not sure what day I'll publish this post to the blog, but I'm writing it on the six-month anniversary of Joe's passing. I have a candle lit on my desk and whiffs of frankincense and myrrh comfort me when I stop to wipe away tears. How does the candle know when to connect with me? The candle doesn't know, but my muse does.

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