Still not fully awake, I glanced out the window while preparing my morning coffee. I love that liminal time—no longer asleep, not yet plagued by the ruminations, obsessions, and judgments of my conscious, squirrel-powered, highly critical mind. Hot coffee was slow-streaming into my favorite cobalt-blue cup (pre-warmed, of course), and I gazed out the front window, my eyes resting in a gentle state of soft, pre-caffeinated focus.
Suddenly, my glance was pulled across the street to a blazing yellow forsythia, lit up by the low angle of the rising sun as if plugged into an electrical socket. My eyes widened, greedy to take in this extraordinary sight. Hoping to catch the moment, I ran into my office and grabbed my camera from the shelf. “Hurry,” I thought to myself. “This light is on the move, and I don’t know how long I have to get this image recorded!” (Actually, I said to myself, “I don’t know how long I have to shoot this,” but then I remembered that Celia wants me to be conscious of the violence inherent in “shooting” anything, and I like it when someone makes me aware of the importance of language and metaphor.)
Wearing black and white checked flannel pj’s and my favorite fleece hoodie, I stepped onto the front porch to capture the moment. As I raised my camera to focus, the neighbor on whose property the electrified forsythia lives pulled out of his driveway, and I was suddenly feeling very vulnerable standing on my front porch in my jammies, telephoto lens extended, aiming my camera directly at him.
“Ohmygod, he’s going to think I’m some kind of weird pervert!”
I immediately lowered the camera and pretended to fiddle with the settings, desperately hoping not to lose the light and miss the moment of brilliance, yet unwilling to be seen spying on his property in pajamas at seven o’clock in the morning.
He didn’t notice me standing there pretending to look busy, a good reminder that unless you’re famous, nobody’s all that interested in your attire.
I clicked away merrily, trying different focal lengths and perspectives, noticing that I couldn’t completely get rid of their other car, which insisted on being in the frame as long as I stood on the porch. I had to walk to the middle of my front yard (yes, in pj’s, and don’t even ask about my hair) to get an angle that would eliminate the offending vehicle.
By then, the light had changed. Slightly, but enough to notice.
What drew me to the bright yellow forsythia rather than the thousand other flowers and buds on the all-you-can-eat visual buffet of this early Spring morning?, I wondered. What kept me rooted on the porch for so long, despite the dissatisfaction I felt seeing the neighbor’s car in the frame?
I observed that I was drawn to unusual brightness and remarkable light, and I understood that sometimes I miss opportunities because I’m afraid to step out where I might stand out.
Just like my life.
I am often mesmerized by bright, shiny things, metaphorically speaking. As I’ve made my way through a particularly not- bright-or-shiny time these past few months, I noticed that the darkness was my own doing, a result of allowing my inner critic to keep me small and hidden, with her constant refrain, “You’re not doing enough! You’ve got to get SERIOUS!”
I was letting her ruin everything exciting and unique about the work I do and the message I want to live by: remember to return your focus to what’s brilliant and exciting, and notice how much richer your life becomes.
I know my inner critic is here to stay—she’s an integral part of my shadow side. Why not transform her from parasitic nemesis into symbiotic nurturer? She criticizes, and I use that moment to remind me to move forward, as I had on my lawn, and take a new perspective on my fears, my anxieties, and my smallness, heroically overcoming them, and inspiring everyone around me to do the same. Why not change the frame, so that I see a panorama of benevolent nature, without the rear end of an SUV in my line of sight?
Try this yourself—you’ll enjoy it, and I’ll feel less like a demented, pajama-clad nutter. Let yourself see your world through your own lens. Notice what you are drawn to visually, and ask yourself how that applies to your life, and what message you can divine, if you care to, that connects you to feelings that make your innermost light shine–joy, contentment, connection, spaciousness, or any other deeply delightful feeling states you’d like to attain.
I’ll be spending the day in the brilliant, yellow light of Spring, delighting in the reminders of renewal all around me, and looking for opportunities to step out, even if I’m not quite dressed for it. I’ll let my inner critic expose my insecurities so I can face them like a grownup (a grownup in fuzzy slippers, but hey, who’s going to judge me for that?) and emerge, renewed.
What will you look at differently today? How does it make you think differently about your life? I welcome your comments below. (And please put some in there so that I don’t look quite so pathetic for asking and then it turns out that nobody writes anything and then I’m embarrassed for putting it out there, ok?)