As most of you know, I am in love with JH and have been for several years. But as my mother taught me, love isn’t enough. And she’s right. As much as I want the Beatles song to be true, love isn’t all I need. I need love, honesty, trust, communication, connection, vulnerability, space, time, attention, affection, respect, autonomy, listening, and a whole host of other things. And I get those things in my relationship most of the time. Still… in 4+ years it hasn’t all been rainbows and unicorns. Well, it has, but the unicorns get grumpy.
As happens in most relationships, annoyance set in for me recently. JH used to worry when I said I was annoyed because she DOES NOT like feeling annoyed AT ALL. It is high on the list of feelings she would prefer not to have. I don’t love being annoyed (okay, maybe in some sick way I do), but I don’t mind it. I do not strive to live an annoyance free life. I’d trade mild annoyance on a daily basis for never having to feel anxiety ever again (if you are a genie or fairy reading this, please consult with me before granting this wish. I haven’t really thought it through).
I didn’t realize how much I was letting annoyance take the lead until one day I felt drastically different. When I looked at her, no matter what she was doing, saying, or not doing or saying… all I saw was THE MOST ADORABLE PERSON EVER. I was so grateful! What would have been mildly annoying last week, was SO CUTE! SQUEE! Nothing she could do would annoy me. I saw her through a lens of gratitude and appreciation. And through this lens, everything was coming up rainbows and unicorns (as it should).
The shift happened in a moment when I was frustrated and reached out for comfort instead of pushing away. I cried, let myself be seen and heard, and then listened when she talked instead of dismissing her words as unwanted advice or criticism. I received what she was offering me in the way she intended (and almost always intends it): as an act of love. I’d get into specifics, but that’s not really the point. The point is about the lenses.
My apologies to anyone who has never worn glasses or contacts… I hope you still get this.
You know when you go to an optometrist and put your face up against that contraption with the interchangeable lenses? Image for reference.
The optometrist, quickly cycles through different lenses and asks you to compare your experience.
One. Or Two?
If you wait too long to answer because you’re squinting to try to see if you can see better through two or not which is not the point at all, they repeat.
One. Or Two?
Two (for sake of argument)
Two. Or Three?
and so on and so on it goes until you’ve compared several different lenses and land on one that helps you see most clearly. Nowadays, a modern optometrists office has a machine you can stare into ahead of time that measures your eyes, guesses your prescription, and the whole lens comparing process takes just a few moments compared to whatever it took before when it was based on a human’s best guess instead of a machine’s.
That was what it was like to notice my lens shift with JH.
To be clear, the experience between the lenses isn’t that different in a literal sense. One will be a little bit brighter, the other a bit sharper. There probably isn’t a “right” or “wrong,” there’s just the one that you see through in the way that you feel most comfortable and satisfied seeing.
And isn’t that just the way of things, eh?
It’s easy to grow comfortable seeing through a lens of annoyance, or judgement, or fear. And then amazing to realize how much more joyous life can be when seeing through a lens of appreciation. And although it happened to me totally by accident, I am clear that this is a choice I can make.
Just a few days after I noticed I was seeing through a rosey-er lens, I felt the annoyance lens start to creep back in. I nodded at it slightly, thanked it for its noble service, and sent it on it’s way. I’m choosing a lens of appreciation (and the adorableness it yields) on purpose.
Perspective is a fascinating thing. If social media really is to be the death of us (no one I know has said this, I’m just being dramatic) I suspect it’s because we don’t realize that what we see on our feeds has been tailor made to reinforce the lenses we’re wearing. We are all seeing something completely different. Where my feed is filled with videos of cops dancing with children of color at block parties, rational explanations for why #blacklivesmatter isn’t actually divisive at all, puppies, kittens, and articles about emotional intelligence… my police officer friends’ are filled with stories about officers being shot at, protests restricting access for ambulances carrying sick children, new weapon technology, and puppies & kittens. And I think (this is just a hunch) we don’t realize that we’re not seeing the same things. And I don’t even mean perspective wise.
We could each look at the same kitten video and come to wildly different conclusions. When the way we get our information about the world is through a vehicle like Facebook, we are LITERALLY seeing different things. And we don’t realize we’re seeing different things, which is why it makes it even more difficult to understand how someone else could come to such a radically different conclusion than we did.
Turns out, they (the people with the other lenses) are not idiots. They, like you and me, have simply set up their life in a way that they receive information that validates their beliefs. They are looking at their version of the world through their lens. And their lens is not bad or wrong, and your lens is not good or right. Each lens simply represents a way that each of us feels most comfortable seeing.
Where the magic happens, is when we seek to change our lens. To try on the lens of another. And to realize that each lens we wear is a choice.