Esther: the last of her brood. Each of her seven coop-mates was picked off one by one leaving her the only remaining bird. The chief murder suspect - an alley cat. There was no evidence of the crime, just chickens no longer present. Yet Esther survived, Lord knows how. She has earned her name. By wit and wisdom, she has become a Queen of survival and now lives with a new flock of backyard pets.
I find joy in making meaning where it may not otherwise exist; to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. At the very least it is a fun practice in fiction. Often it just reminds me that I should manage my wandering mind and the expectations for the mundane that it has a tendency to create. My wild thoughts often leave me disappointed in the world and I tend to retreat - unlike Esther.
When I find myself telling a story about what’s going on around me - without other input, when I notice that everyone around me looks and talks and thinks the same way, when I am jolted back into reality and called out for my singular focus, or when my very dear friends stay quiet and give me the side-eye...when those things happen, I know it’s time to do some work on my perspective - to shift my inward focus, outward.
If you’re like me, you may have already realized your curiosity cannot be satisfied by turning inward. Here are some ways to shift your focus outward and away from your self to gain context and clarity:
MAKE YOUR CIRCLE WIDER. A shift in perspective requires input from other sources. It’s time to reach out to humans beyond your normal conversational groups. You will notice a gambit of insecurities that arise. Start by changing your input on social media. Follow new people that don’t look, act or think as you do. Seek information that is not familiar. Find out what other people are talking about; what they care about in their daily lives. Perhaps you have some things in common with strangers.
READ. If you are truly curious, embrace that part of your SELF and pick up books/ articles from new to you writers. Consume information that is written by someone of another gender, culture, location, socio-economic background, etc. Gain knowledge from scholars with different backgrounds than your own.
MOVE. Change your location. Especially if you are someone [EVERYONE] who has developed a more sedentary lifestyle during the pandemic it’s time to make a change. If your normal perspective is watching a 24-7 news cycle in between zoom calls, it’s time to take the office on the road. Walk and talk. Or, hang up the phone and immerse yourself in the natural world around you.
USE YOUR SENSES. A change in scenery is not the only move you can make. When you arrive in a new location (that is not your couch) explore it with a sense of wonder. Stop and use your senses. How does it smell here? What colors do I see? Are the sounds the same or different from where I live?
ASK QUESTIONS. Who said you had to follow a prescribed set of rules? I mean, literally, ask yourself who told you to follow those rules. Ask yourself, why am I focusing inward? What emotions am I feeling? Why am I doing things because that’s the way it’s always been done? Am I reaching out to others? Where do I get my information? What do other humans need to survive and how does that relate to what I need to survive?
A dear friend recently pointed out that it is not a requirement of humanity to do things a certain way because it’s always been done that way. We are allowed to think critically about our choices. We are allowed to change the story we are telling by adding new sources of information and perspectives not our own. It may seem counterintuitive, but just like Esther, we may need to look outward rather inward to thrive in our everyday lives.
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