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If you can’t change places, change perspectives

May 18, 2019

The level of discontent in our society troubles me, especially when I see it surface in the people around me. I watch and listen as so many people bemoan busy schedules, too many chores, tight budgets, a desire to purchase things they don’t have… and the list goes on.

As someone who has ended up in a city I never wanted to live in sharing my children with an ex-husband who refuses to co-parent productively, I have plenty to complain about. I could easily dwell on being stuck in Billings, missing out on nearly 50 percent of my children’s lives, and any number of negative outcomes associated with my circumstances. But that would make a sucky situation even worse, so since I can’t change places, I choose instead to change my perspective.

It’s easy to look inward and feel sorry for ourselves when life isn’t going as we had hoped or planned–but these are precisely the moments in which we need to instead look outward and focus on the opportunities in our circumstances rather than the constraints.

Let me share a few examples. When I found myself divorced and living in a small apartment in a city far away from any family or close friends, I felt panic arise in my gut. I was stuck where I was for the foreseeable future without the ability to relocate to find a new job or to pursue graduate school or even to recover from my marriage amidst loved ones. For a wanderer like me, my new reality was a hard pill to swallow–but in it, I also recognized opportunity: the chance to finally set down roots and really get to know a community well enough to make the kind of lasting difference I had always hoped to make as a young idealist. Rather than wallow in my isolation, I became more actively involved in local movements to improve the quality of life in Billings. Through my involvement, I made close friendships and did contribute to making change in the form of a local food hub that now enables community members to purchase healthy, locally grown foods from farmers and ranchers right here in the Yellowstone Valley.

Another example: I spend many nights packing lunches, soaking beans and lentils, prepping sourdough, and otherwise ensuring that my family will have wholesome food to eat each day. While I could (and sometimes do) grumble about my lack of free time or inability to just chill out on my couch at the end of each day, I view my time in the kitchen as an opportunity to connect with women around the world, many of whom still spend a majority of their days consumed by food preparation. I feel a sense of camaraderie standing alone in my kitchen at the same time as countless women around the world stand in their kitchens, engaged in the very important work of sustaining their families. I also feel a strong sense of gratitude, for I know that many of those women have to work far harder than I do to provide far fewer calories to bodies that need much more than the women are able to offer.

Every moment of our days is an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and to be thankful for what we have, whether or not it is what we thought we wanted. There is opportunity to learn and grow from discomfort, to challenge ourselves to turn discontentment into contentment and even joy.

If you think your glass is half empty, it will remain so. But if you think your glass is half full, you will soon find it overflowing for it is our perspective on life that matters far more than our circumstances.


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