Now You See It: Finding What We Want
by Jennifer Paros
Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
~ Marcus Aurelius
I had just gone grocery shopping and, at the request of my teenage son, bought a new kind of cereal. When I returned home, I mentioned it to my husband, showed him the box, and put it away. But by evening I could not find the cereal. I searched everywhere, including neighboring cabinets and places that didn’t make sense. I checked my son’s room; perhaps he’d decided to have some as a snack straight from the box. That was not the case. But my inquiry garnered his interest and soon he too combed the kitchen with no success.
We laughed at the unsolved mystery – though mildly tormented. When my husband returned home, I mentioned it to him and he too, like the third domino in a line, toppled over and succumbed to searching. I watched dispassionately as he explored the turn-style where we kept cereal, around and underneath the shelf, then onto surrounding cupboards in one last failed attempt. I decided then to let it go. It seemed a familiar story with a somehow inevitably happy ending.
The next day, my husband went to the cabinet to get granola and found The Missing Cereal in with the other cereal. He then Sherlock-ed an explanation. The cereals we buy come mostly in brown boxes except for the granola; it’s the one in the white box. The new cereal was in a white box but we all thought it was in a brown one. Because the new cereal box was white, we mistook it for the other and didn’t “see” it. The box was never missing; we just couldn’t find it because we believed it was brown. For hours, our reality was “the cereal is gone”. Its’ absence was fact-based. But our facts came and went with shifts in our perception.
Because our thoughts and beliefs always form the lens through which we perceive, they determine what we are able to see and what we cannot. So, if we’re not seeing what we want, if we’re not living what we want, we could question what we believe and in doing so, alter the lens, enabling us to see something else.
This year, as part of homeschooling for our son, he requested Japanese and coding. I internally gasped at my lack of knowledge of both subjects. But I’ve discovered that, though it would be nice if I were knowledgeable in these areas, I don’t need to be. If I am relaxed I find my way to the resources he needs and we both learn. In his online coding program, when he gets stuck, I often think, What?! CSS? Paragraph padding? Divs? I can’t give him answers (because I don’t know them) but I can help him get in the mode of finding them. When I stop focusing on not knowing, my attitude of openness helps him discover his answers.
Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties.
~ Gail Sheehy
While he’s frustrated, if I am calm, I am the one who can “see”. If he is calm while I rail, he is the one that “sees”. Once the cereal search lost its pseudo-urgency, we all relaxed, no longer trying so hard to seek based on a false premise and we found it.
So how do we see what we want to see while in the middle of not being able to see it? How do we find the best path for the story we’re writing, the idea for the drawing? How do we find a solution if our current reality says, “It’s not here.”?
Comedian Martin Short has answered this, in part. During an eight-year span, starting when he was twelve, his brother, mother, and father all died. Recently his wife of thirty years passed as well. In a recent interview, he said (of his sense of loss), “I had to figure it out – how to be happy - because my natural orientation was to be happy.” So he found those he loved – no longer physically here – by talking to them. He shifted his awareness of what wasn’t present by putting his attention on what he could feel present.
Missing cereal isn’t comparable to a missing person, yet the business of finding remains the same. We release our fixation on what’s not here, allow our attention to go to what is – and honor our “natural orientation to be happy”. Happiness feels a lot like clarity, and with clarity we are able to “see” what we’re looking for – in whatever form it comes.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at www.jenniferparos.com.