News flash for the week: my perceptions are not reality. Shocking, I know. Go ahead and sit down—that was probably a hard one to absorb since you thought I had this whole existence thing figured out.
For example, I tell myself a story about a group of people at work. It goes like this: they tolerate me because they have to, but I always get work to them late, I constantly tell them they can’t do things they want to do, and I don’t offer them as much support as they would like. So imagine my surprise when at a meeting last week they told me I was a joy to work with.
I don’t bring this up to brag (OK, maybe just a little) but because based on this headline in The Onion—Report: Today The Day They Find Out You’re A Fraud—other people might tell themselves these stories, too. People who are a joy to work with are walking around not knowing it, and these people might be you.
So of course we’re all going to implement a radical perception shift, and these thoughts will disappear by the time you finish reading this blog. If you figure out how to do that, let me know. In my experience, this type of shift doesn’t happen at warp speed, and if it does, there’s a lot of pain involved.
Pain is not up there with cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels on my list of favorite things, so instead I’m going to practice remembering that the voice in my head lies. And I’m going to get some apple streudel and share it with the people who bring joy into my life and tell them that they do so that they have a little evidence to present to the voices in their heads.
Here’s a poem by C.K. Williams about a moment that broke through the cloud of misperception. One cool, nerdy thing about this poem—it is all one sentence.
By C.K. Williams
A middle-aged woman, quite plain, to be polite about it, and
somewhat stout, to be more courteous still,
but when she and the rather good-looking, much younger man
she’s with get up to dance,
her forearm descends with such delicate lightness, such restrained
but confident ardor athwart his shoulder,
drawing him to her with such a firm, compelling warmth, and
moving him with effortless grace
into the union she’s instantly established with the not at all
rhythmically solid music in this second-rate café,
that something in the rest of us, some doubt about ourselves, some
sad conjecture, seems to be allayed,
nothing that we’d ever thought of as a real lack, nothing not to be
admired or be repentant for,
but something to which we’ve never adequately given credence,
which might have consoling implications about how we misbe-
lieve ourselves, and so the world,
that world beyond us which so often disappoints, but which
sometimes shows us, lovely, what we are.
-from Repair by C.K. Williams, reprinted in Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor