Monday, July 28, 2008

A matter of perspective

I have a friend who possess an uncanny knack for pointing out truths, even if we don't want to hear them. He recently made a very wise observation that got me thinking. A co-worker had been talking about how busy she is at work. She mentioned how she was already working a ton of overtime but people kept piling more and more demands on her. At the same time, there was someone else in the same position in another area of the company who seemed to not have as much to occupy her time. Our co-worker was going to go to her manager to say she couldn't handle any more tasks, and to suggest a good portion of her work be handed off to the less-busy colleague because "she just sits and plays computer games all day, anyways."

Clearly, our co-worker was overworked and very frustrated and needed some help. However, as my friend pointed out, she didn't need to bring down the colleague when she asked for help. She could say that she had too much to do, yes. She could request help, sure. Hell, she could even suggest that the colleague might be able to take on some of the work. But pointing out that the colleague was just sitting there playing games helps no one out in the situation. In fact, it just might make circumstances much worse for the colleague.

And who knows what's really happening? Perhaps the colleague plays the games on her scheduled breaks and that's when our co-worker walked by. Perhaps she was playing the game in a rare down-time moment between meetings. Or perhaps she was playing them because she didn't have enough to do at work and would welcome an increased workload. My friend pointed out that we had no way of knowing the whole situation, so why even get into it?

Why bring other people down when the problem is with ourselves?

I realized today that I do this all the time when I read blogs or when I talk to friends about their problems. I'll read about a man who suffers from depression and he'll talk about his wife and how wonderful she is and how she helps him through the dark days. And instead of thinking, "How awful for him," I'll think, "What's he complaining for? At least he has someone!" Or I'll read about a woman who has postpartum depression and I'll think, "How can she be depressed? She has a husband with a good job, lots of money, and a baby! What more could a person ask for?" Or I'll talk to a friend who has issues with people and I'll think, "Gawd! I'd LOVE to have all the people she has around her constantly! I'd love living with 2 friends and having very little Me Time. Sounds like heaven! Why is she so upset?"

Because of my friend's comment to our co-worker, I can see now how I'm doing exactly what she did. I'm having some issues with my own life and I bring others down with me. I look at their lives and see how they have all the things I want and I conclude that they're just not appreciative enough, that they just don't know how good they've got it.

Yet I have a lot of things other people would want, and I take these things entirely for granted.

For example, I got home from work today, watched Arrested Development, had a nap, ate cheese, crackers, and a cold leftover hamburger patty for supper, and wrote this blog entry - all without pants on. I didn't HAVE to cook or clean anything for anyone. The only demand made on me was Lucy's incessant "Pay attention to me" bleating, and I shut her up with a handful of kitty treats and a comfy lap to nap on.

What did I do this weekend? Friday night I went drinking beer for so many hours that by the end of the night I had to close one eye to see properly. Saturday I slept until noon and then hung out with my mom. Sunday I went for brunch with friends, hung out at a public pool, and went to another friend's house to watch the football game.

My life isn't horrible. In fact, it probably is the envy of at least ONE person out there. Right now someone feels trapped in a marriage to a person he doesn't like. Someone else is being disowned by her entire family because she just came out to them. An introvert is being forced to attend yet another dinner party. I'm saying none of this to take away from how I feel about my life - my feelings are very real and entirely legitimate - but, rather, to give myself some perspective.

I realize that I'm lucky to have someone like my friend to help me see things differently. Some people may not even have that much.

Clear skies in the distance


  1. Some basic truths that, for some reason, very few of us are able to grasp and hang on to for more than a few moments-thanks for blogging it down for us to see and ponder!!!

  2. I do the same thing. Thanks for talking about it and really encouraging us to be more encouraging.

  3. Wow! Awesome post. It really is so easy to fall into that pattern of bringing others down with us. I'm guilty of it too. But how great to take what Mr. P said and be able to turn that around and and not be offended but take it with a grain of salt and then use the information to critique yourself. You really are fortuante to have him and to have the wonderful mind that you are using. I'm stumbling this post because it is very worthy. Thanks for sharing and reminding us of how the way we look at things can really affect our mental and emotional mindset.