When I Changed My Perspective, I Found Gifts In Life
The gift that I got for Christmas is the same one I’ve been opening every day now for years.
I have long been a fan of quantum mechanics. I’m a fan because not because I understand quantum mechanics — I don’t — I’m a fan because it casts so much doubt on what I know to be “reality”. I had been interested in particle physics since high school, but for much of my life, that interest had been a passing interesting. Then I saw this movie, “What The Bleep Do We Know”, and that changed my perspective on life. And that change in my perspective changed the way I look at things.
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ― Max Planck
Bleep was panned by critics and was roundly referred to as “pseudoscience”, with one of the interviewees claiming to have been quoted out of context. For all of its flaws, the one thing that I got out of it was that I was responsible for what I’m thinking and feeling. I also got this notion that the universe is a reflection of everything that I’m thinking and feeling. That has been the story of my life since about 2004.
I was 40 years old then. That was when I really got serious about working on my thinking since the way I had been thinking then was not working for me. I would like to have started the life I have now much earlier, getting married, buying houses, and building a career. But here I am, changing the way I look at things.
I am glad to be here. I have some money saved up. I still have a job. I work from home on that job as a result of the pandemic. That was a gift. I am on vacation from that job. Another gift. I have learned how to find something that I enjoy in that job, still another gift. I have learned to find something in my work to enjoy in every job that I’ve ever had. The most amazing thing about my life in the last 16 years is that when I changed how I looked at things, the problems in my life started to solve themselves. It’s kind of amazing that almost every problem that has denied me peace has been solved. I still have some problems that deny me peace, but I’m patiently letting them get solved. Patience is a gift, too.
I’m writing now for as long as I have until the kids wake up, and when they do, I will be there, watching them open their presents. I don’t need any presents, for I have received many gifts already. I’ve found that the trick is not in working to get everything that I want. It is in noticing all the gifts I received, many of which I was not aware of before I received them. What I want isn’t necessarily what I already know about. I just notice the gifts when they come, and they keep coming. In this way of thinking, I have had Christmas Day all year long.
I have bouts of happiness that I know not what to do with, even in this pandemic. I have seen a long train of reasons to be happy. This is the gift that I received for Christmas, the capacity to look for the gifts in my life, to notice all the gifts that I have received without even asking for them. The gifts keep coming because I keep noticing.
I have learned that even when I’m down, I can notice one thing to be grateful for, and that the mere act of noticing, acknowledging a gift in life can interrupt an unhappy train of thought. I know that with every setback, I can fall back on something to be grateful for. I know that the moment I acknowledge a gift in life, any gift at all, I change the way I look at things.
There are some people who ask if the glass is half full or empty. I say that the glass is an illusion. The proverbial glass confines our thinking to the things that we know about. When we think about the glass and what is in it, we don’t even ask if that stuff in the glass is all that we want. We may want what is in the glass, but the glass is a tiny sliver of all of the gifts that surround us. Instead of letting the glass define us, we could acknowledge all of the gifts around us, that are already here.
In a very literal sense, we are surrounded by gifts and we only need to notice them in order to receive them. I’ve seen this over and over again. Even on my worst days in life (I’ve had some pretty bad days in the last 16 years), I still found something to be grateful for, and I didn’t have to look very far to find it. I noticed the air that I breathe, the filtered water that I drink every day, the room that I was in, that I had a chair to sit in, clothes to wear, that I was not hungry or homeless. I made a habit of noticing the smallest things to consider as a gift in my life.
Then I began to notice all the things that I didn’t have to make myself. When I look around me, I notice that I didn’t have to make anything that I’m touching right now. Everything I touch is a gift. Everything. There are no exceptions. I didn’t make the air I breathe, the water I drink, or the food I eat. The clothes on my body were made by someone else. The chair I sit in was made by someone else. The room I sit in now was made by someone else. Yes, I paid money for some of it, but the money I paid for it was a bargain compared to the time I might have spent building it myself.
Though all of these gifts are nice, the true gifts in my life are the people in it. Nothing compares to them. My wife, my kids, my extended family, my friends and my neighbors. They are all gifts to me. I found that if I show up, they tend to show up, too.
The gift that I received for Christmas is one that I unwrap every single day: Gratitude. I have gratitude because I changed the way I look at things, and that changes the things that I look at. When I look at the things around me, I make a decision to consider everything around me as a gift. That keeps me in the present. I don’t have to open any gifts for Christmas. I only have to notice them.