A few nights ago, Jack and I watched a documentary about a very talented artist and his journey from poverty to wealth and success. He was likeable, humble, and confident, but they also interviewed his wife, and she said something that really made me think.
At one point in this man’s career, he had a manager who took advantage of him financially by severely underpaying him and keeping a lot of his original artwork. When the artist and his wife found this out, they took action by firing the man, and sought help from someone they’d known in the business for years. The artist was immediately hired by his old contact and paid appropriately. In time, even the stolen artwork was returned. And yet, what struck me, was his wife’s perspective about what had happened. She basically said, that what she learned out of this was that you had to watch your back, be wary of people, not be too trusting or naive, and that she had lost faith in people.
My thought was, “Really?” What I saw was this: As soon as they realized they needed help, it was there. Yes, they were deceived (by one man) but they were also taken care of, and helped, by many more.
In one scenario, people are not to be trusted (especially when money is involved), life is precarious, uncertain and unkind. In another, people are trustworthy, helpful, generous, and life eventually restores to us what is rightfully ours. …even if it takes a little time, even when we don’t believe that it will, even when we make mistakes in judgement, even when we are careless or clueless, there is still a powerfully benevolent force moving us forward if we are even a little bit open to the Good (which they certainly were). They both seemed like nice people who were trying to live right.
We tell stories about our lives like they were the “truth”, and yet they are only one perspective. One perspective, often formed from a disappointment, trauma or tragedy.
For years the story in my family was that my father never followed through on promises and that he couldn’t be counted on. I thought that I had dropped this story but it surfaced again the other day. The incident that triggered it was trivial, but I found myself basically saying to Jack, “It’s hard for me to believe that you will do what you say you’re going to, because I grew up in a home where there was no follow-through”. Right after I said it I thought, “That has been my story for 50 years”. Growing up, the story in my home was, “You cannot trust your father”, so I didn’t trust him and I didn’t notice when he did trustworthy things.
The conscious mind acts like a filter. Its job is to present to us a consistent picture of reality, so it will filter out all information that doesn’t fit its conception of that reality. When we look at life primarily though thought and conscious mind, we do not see the big picture, even when the bigger picture is much better.
When I saw this old story the other day, it was followed by the thought, “It is time to tell a new story about what my father did right.” My father did break some promises but he kept so many more. It’s just that the ones he kept weren’t talked about. We always had a warm home. We always had food, clothing and even fun things to do. He mostly showed up. He followed through with most things, but since most of these things were not talked about they weren’t noticed.
As I sat there quietly, I thought, “From this moment forward, I am making the choice to notice the good, the trustworthy, and the best, not only in my father, but in all people,in all of life. I am ready for a new story.”
“The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” pg. 177 from, Illusions, by Richard Bach