Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Keeping Things in Perspective

Tonight, my softball team lost an important game in the St. Petersburg Men’s League. And while I felt good about my pitching, some of my teammates didn’t fair so well in their positions and some of the post-game conversation got a little heated. I spoke with some of my teammates after the game, however, and reminded them of what I had said to our team in an e-mail a few days ago after some similar bantering:

“Regarding some of the subsequent e-mails… after playing high school, college and recreational sports for the past few years, my mantra is rather simplistic yet functional: I leave my ego in my car and take my passion for the game and compassion for my teammates to the field (or court). And with that (and trying as hard as I do), I win most of the time and have fun all the time. (An added bonus is that I can enjoy running into a current and/or former teammate, fellow competitor or umpire or referee at the mall.)”

Basically, I was saying, “Let’s keep things in perspective.” (And as I said one other time after a game, “If we were any better than we really are, we wouldn’t be here.”)

As some of you know, my pop-psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom… You Gotta Love ’Em, is replete with “keep it in perspective” stories and befitting words of wisdom. Likewise, my pop-psych book, Living Life, Anyway, even more so!

When I got home, I received an e-mail from a great, long time friend who lives in San Diego – I had sent an e-mail to him earlier in the day asking if he and his family were okay. (Latest count was that over 1,300 homes and businesses in the San Diego area have been destroyed by the wildfires.) Thankfully, Fred and his family are fine – some of their friends have lost everything, but he and his family are okay. And in our exchange of e-mails this evening, “keeping things in perspective” indeed was central to our exchanges.

When I ever think about this notion, “keeping things in perspective,” I think about Morrie Schwartz. The wonderful book, Tuesdays with Morrie, is a bestselling non-fiction book by American writer Mitch Albom, published in 1997. And, interestingly, the story was later adapted by Mick Jackson into a television movie on December 5, 1999, which starred Hank Azaria as Mitch and Jack Lemmon (in his final role) as Morrie.

As you may know, it is the true story of Brandeis University sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz and his relationship with student Mitch Albom. Both the film and the book chronicle the lessons about life that Mitch learns from his professor, who is dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.If Morrie does anything, through Mitch Albom’s beautiful writing, he reminds us of the importance of “keeping things in perspective.”

Question: Have you had a memorable experience that lead to a “keep things in perspective” epiphany?



Julia Phillips Smith said...

I've always seemed to be 'not like the other kids/adults', spending a lot of time in deep thought. I have a very Zen outlook on life, and I seem to always have this Pied Piper-like trail of people coming to me because I'm so inwardly cheery and mellow. For most of my 42 years (nearly 43 now) I've been attempting to share a different perspective with those who come to me, hoping their agitation/stress/dilemma will benefit from a step back.

My own a-ha moment with this is quite recent, in the past year, really. I guess I'm turning a corner. I'm learning to let go of the idea that my offer of a different perspective will result in tangible relief for them. It's pretty much impossible for me to stop telling people what I think. They're asking, after all. It's my own expectation of what they'll do afterwards that's changing.

Here's an example. I just saw my friend in Toronto. She was telling me that when her husband 'goes into his cave' and retreats from her when he's troubled, it pretty much makes her freaky. Which I simply listened to. Much later in the day, she was describing how her inlaws all keep their bigger emotions tightly under wraps. I twigged to that and said, 'Do you think Bill is just doing what comes naturally to his whole family when he retreats?' And she lit up and said, 'Oh, of course!'

Now, the old me would have felt confident that she would keep that in mind the next time this came up. The new me realizes that she may have gained some insight, but their relationship will go about its own bumpy rythmn, more push & pull than I react in my own relationship. I'm learning to let go of my own expectation that MY insight into her and Bill is not HER insight into her and Bill.

Took me 4 decades to gain a new perspective on perspective!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Julia,
Thanks for visiting and sharing your experience – gaining perspective on perspective. That’s really neat!
As I read your Comment, two thoughts came to me:
1. there is an old cliché among therapists, “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?” – The answer is: “One – but the bulb has to be willing to change.” We can not always assume that insight will always translate into behavior change! And,
2. I once was bemoaning the fact tat one of my friends wouldn’t heed my wonderful wisdom. Yes, I was genuinely worried about him, but also was very frustrated because he continued to shoot himself in the foot (in spite of my sage council). After sharing my frustrations with another friend out back on my porch, my friend asked if he could use my bathroom before leaving to go home. About forty-five minutes later, I went into the bathroom and saw a note affixed to the mirror: “Bill… I appreciate your trying, but I really don’t need your help today. (signed) God”
Thanks again, Julia!

Julia Phillips Smith said...

LOL!!!!! That is SO funny!!! I think I'm going to write that one down (the note from God).