Several years ago, a friend was relating a conversation that she once had with a therapist. My friend had recently gone through a messy break-up, one that left her devastated. As she was speaking with her therapist, she let her mind spiral downward: she expressed her thoughts that perhaps she was fatally flawed, that maybe she was undeserving of affection and true connection. Exhausted, she finally voiced her deepest fear: that perhaps she would never, ever be truly loved ever again.
As she waited for the therapist's response, the therapist simply smiled gently.
"You understand, of course," said the therapist, "that you have evidence to suggest otherwise."
This might be my favourite thing ever. It's way more powerful than the often-used "This, too, shall pass." There's this additional subtext to it, this unspoken sentiment "... and you know this to be true." It is a gentle admonition to get out of your head and get to the facts: that if you really think about it, you have had moments of true beauty in your life, and there's nothing to suggest that similar moments won't occur again. I remind myself of this phrase -- I have evidence to suggest otherwise -- anytime I find myself playing the "I'll never ..." game. It always helps me out of my funk, and redirects my thoughts to something a bit more productive.
About 4 or 5 years ago, I was sitting in my office one afternoon, having my usual cup of tea. It was a particularly sunny day, and when I placed my mug on the table, the light through the window sharply illuminated the steam rising from the hot tea.
I wonder if I could photograph that, I thought, and grabbed my camera. I took a few shots, processed some that I liked, and put them up on an earlier incarnation of Chookooloonks.
I wish I could find the link to those shots now (I've taken lots of pictures of tea, it seems), but one thing I do remember is that someone left a comment about the images. Reading her words, I could almost hear her sighing: "You're so lucky," she said. "Your life is so filled with beautiful moments you can photograph."
I remember being a bit shocked by this comment -- I hadn't even considered the photograph in the context of my life, beautiful or not. In my mind, it was just tea. But yes, I had to agree with her: it was a beautiful moment, and I was lucky to have captured it.
Lately, I've heard several folks grumble about experiences specifically related to reading certain blogs, or Facebook, or especially Pinterest. "I always feel bad about myself when I see these posts," was the general consensus. "I wish people would be more real online. I mean, come on -- my life will never be that beautiful and perfect."
I never know how to respond when I hear this, but if I had my wits about me, I would do so exactly in the same manner as my friend's therapist did: I would gently smile, look them straight in the eyes and say, "But you have evidence to suggest otherwise."
It's not that I believe that it is possible to live a perfect life. Far from it: in fact, I feel confident in saying that every single person on the planet -- even the ones whose lives are recorded online in Pinterest-worthy fashion -- has moments of deep pain and suffering and despair. But I'm also confident in knowing that every one of those same lives also contain some genuine beauty in them. I think that those moments of beauty are no less real or valid or worthy of sharing than the painful ones. And I further believe it's entirely possible that some of those bloggers, or Facebookers or "Pinners" are simply focusing on those good moments because it helps them through the dark ones.
These thoughts were never brought into such sharp focus for me so much as they were this past weekend, when I received an email from someone I don't actually know in real life. She has been participating in #lookforthelight for the last 6 weeks, taking photographs of the light in her life with her camera phone and publishing them online. During this time, however, her father passed away after a devastating illness -- an obviously extremely difficult event in her life. But in her email, she shared with me how much the exercise of looking for the light is helping her through it, and she has been surprised that she has been able to find moments of true beauty that help comfort her as she works through her grief.
I was so honoured she shared her story with me, and thrilled that she confirmed what I always believed to be true: that even through the darkest, hardest times in our lives, moments of beauty slip through, and if we make a point of looking for them, they can encourage or comfort. I believe that collecting these moments -- even simple moments, like, say, the morning light as you sit with your laptop and a cappuccino in an otherwise ordinary coffeehouse -- you start to see, with gratitude, that your life has moments of real beauty in it. And as you know, I believe gratitude is the key to living life with joy.
Anyway, my purpose in all these rambling thoughts, as we enter this month of Thanksgiving in the United States, is this: keep keeping those gratitude journals, taking smart phone photographs of the light in your life as it strikes you, genuinely and with all heart sharing the good in your life with the people you love. Because, then, whenever that gremlin starts whispering in your ear that your life isn't beautiful and light-filled, you'll be able to say with absolute confidence:
you have evidence to suggest otherwise.