As I looked through my kitchen window yesterday morning, this is what I saw.
[Sidenote: Ignore the little white spaceship-looking saucers high in the trees; those are reflections of my kitchen’s ceiling lights 😛 ]
The angle of the view is the same (same line of sight). The sunrise is the same (well, since each shot was taken seconds apart, the sunrise wouldn’t technically be identical as the sun continued to rise during those few seconds, but let’s just assume it’s the same sunrise for now). The direction of the picture remains a constant due east.
Though the subject matter (the sunrise) of the two shots is the same, these turned out to be very different pictures. IMHO, anyway. They evoke different responses, energies and thoughts and feelings.
All I did was step back, and the entire view changed.
I’ve been thinking lately about how stepping back, giving myself distance, looking at something from a wider angle, can change how I see and react to things. Sometimes when I’m too close, I don’t see the entire object or situation for what it is. Distance, taking a step back, whether physically, mentally, or as in the passage of time, gives me a different, and often (I’m learning) more accurate view.
Those who know me in the current season of my life, know that the thing that gives me greatest joy, that always brings warmth to my heart and a smile to my face, that makes me laugh and giggle, and that refreshes my hope for this world like nothing else is being a grandmother.
My old Labtails fans likely expected me to say “being a canine Momma.” Rightfully so. During my LabTails season of life, I would have said that my Labs, or our Labs’ litters, or receiving puppy “therapy” in the whelping box with nine squirmy roly-poly litter-mates slobbering me with sweet-puppy-breath kisses while I tried to come up for air between giggles — that those moments would have been what brought me greatest joy. They did. Then.
But my life and season have changed, and my grandchildren (of the human kind) provide a joy I never knew existed until I held them in my arms.
Lest you don’t know, my first two grand-babies were born here in PA, an easy-round-trip-in-a-day’s drive away. We’d travel there, get our tiny-human fix, and drive home all in the same day.
Then the time came for said tiny humans’ daddy to take a job a 1000 miles away, and at first all I could “see” was how my heart ached. I was going to miss those grand-babies. And my heart could well have stayed mired in my heartbreak had it not been for my stepping back and viewing their move in a wider frame.
When I looked at their move in its broader context (not solely through the context of my heartache), I found details and understanding that not only soothed my heart but brought me joy. Details I missed at first glance. Stepping back provided a much-needed, more accurate perception of the situation. I began to see their move not so much as an ending (or loss), but rather as the beginning of a new adventure (and I love adventures, especially of the silly sort).
When I allowed myself a more “objective” distance, I was able to see much more than the see-only-the-ache-in-my-heart view allowed. Their move to MN could be a huge gain for them (and, as it turns out, it has). It provided:
- a good, solid job with family-friendlier hours for DSIL than anything DSIL could have found in PA
- a household income far better than they could have had here
- a larger and better quality house than they could have afforded here
- an established community of colleagues ready to welcome them upon their arrival (something they would not have had if DSIL had taken a job in PA)
- a good life marked by less financial struggle (differences in cost of living make their income stretch much further in MN)
- a wonderful community marked by “old-fashioned” values in which to raise their children (not many of those left on the East Coast, especially where decent jobs exist)
- a solid church and church family, some of whom they already knew, waiting to welcome them, too
Their move could also be (if I allowed myself to see it this way) our gain:
- Instead of short squeezed-into-day-trips afternoons together, we could hang out for long, unhurried weekends or even several days at a time.
- We could have sleep-overs!
- We could learn to be more proactive in making time to be together (something that sometimes doesn’t happen when loved ones live nearby)
- We could giggle on FaceTime more often (FaceTime doesn’t care if you’re 90 or 900 miles aways). I rarely thought of FaceTime-ing when they lived close by.
- Babysitting calls (lol…who us? babysit?) would never come last minute. 😛 We’d have time to prepare for and plan our times with the kiddos.
In addition, stepping back allowed me to see how inaccurate my up-close-through-my-pain-view had been:
- I was not losing my grandchildren (we’d still see them)
- I was not losing my daughter and DSIL (FaceTime, messenger, texting, smart phones… we’re as much in touch as ever).
- This was not something I didn’t want (how’s that for a double negative!). I never wanted our children (or by extension, their children) to stay with us forever. We wanted them to grow up and leave the nest and strengthen their own wings (apart from us). This was their chance to fly. When I stepped back, I saw that this was what, in the big picture, I really wanted for them.
- My life wouldn’t be over if they moved away. (Oh, silly me.) I would miss them, certainly, but we’d still be family. I’d still have great relationships with them wherever they were, but I’d also have a fulfilling life apart from them.
Now, three years later, with the added distance of time (and a third grand-baby to love!), I can honestly say that, instead of lessening my life (as my first instinct feared), their move to Minnesota has enriched my life:
- I’ve done things I never would have, like taking solo-18-hour-car-drives-to-their-house-one-way in a single day — think, old fart reliving her collegiate-road-trip-with-the-windows-down-and-the-music-blaring days. Fun!
- Their living half-way across the country has made us more deliberate about planning and taking family vacations (something we might not have done if they lived locally). More fun!
- We’ve traveled to places we’ve never been (I put my toe in the Mississippi River for the very first time!).
- I’ve learned to use technology in ways I might not have had they not moved (like FaceTime and Messenger and Instagram).
- I’ve corresponded (yes, even sent cards and such) with the grands, something I likely would not have done if they didn’t live so far away. (Who writes notes and mails them to local family?)
All that is to say, stepping back afforded me a clearer, more accurate perspective. And it allowed me to see beyond my initial pain.
As a result, I can freely rejoice with them over the wonderful life they have in the upper midwest (and did, honestly, back when they first made their decision to move). I am truly delighted for them, without a twinge in my heart, for the season of life in which they find themselves (I’ve already lived that season; it’s their turn now). I am excited about their adventures there without begrudging their absence here. And I’m closer to the tiny humans than ever.
Perspective. Oh, how it changes things.
How it changes us (if we let it).
I can live with that. Especially when stepping back allows me to see sunrises through my windows as new days dawning with adventures and opportunities waiting for me to see and explore. No matter what my view.
But it’s amazing to me what a difference a few steps backs can make.
Until next time,