Shifting Focus: Looking at Things from a New Perspective

A few weeks ago, my family and I decided to take a day trip to San Francisco. Being only an hour and a half away, these day trips have been a part of my life for nearly thirty years. So, a trip for the summer was in order and we were ready to go.

My two boys, my husband, and I were especially happy to head to cool, foggy San Francisco, being that it was going to be a hot day in the valley where we live. Life was good!

We packed up a small mountain of food and water (because heaven knew it would only be a matter of five minutes before one of them said “I’m hungry”), and headed off to a great day of fun.

With my boys being a little older (ages fourteen and eight), the day was fun indeed. Long-gone are the diaper changes, or the “I have to pee right now!” phrases (okay, not true … my youngest can still surprise us with that line at any given moment). But, it’s nice that they are old enough to enjoy what they’re seeing and will most likely remember it!

We went to Coit Tower, with gorgeous scenery and hilly roads all the way there. We ate at a local on-the-corner deli, eating thick turkey sandwiches and chips. My youngest ate his entire meal and an entire bottle of sweetened tea. I didn’t think much of it at the time. After all, he was growing a lot. He needed his food! 

Never mind, that he was eating the same amount as my fourteen-year-old.

Then it was off to the Walt Disney Museum – which for me, was a little bit like entering the Disney parks themselves. As a self-professed Disney fanatic, this place (fan or not) is the most amazing, historical, detailed, and beautiful museum. I’m still overwhelmed just thinking about it. 

We went to a Lighthouse, Fort Point, which is located on the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge. This enchanting one, also located on the Base, was within an actual fort, one that had defended the San Francisco bay in the 1860s. The boys had immense fun running around the Base, pretending to shoot cannons. 

After a ride through Golden Gate Park, and my youngest eating all of the snacks in the car, plus hot chocolate from Starbucks, we had dinner at The Cliff House; an historic, gorgeous restaurant that overlooked the Pacific. We all downed our seafood, my youngest as happy as a clam with his fish and chips, and left to take a drive over Golden Gate to head home.

My boys were happy. No fighting from said children, which was downright miraculous. I was happy. With three coffee stops in seven hours, how could I not be happy? And my husband, though driving the whole time, seemed to have had fun, too. The day had, quite literally, been perfect.

Until we were a half an hour from home. 

Then I heard the dreaded words that no parent wants to hear from the back seat of a car. “My stomach doesn’t feel so good.”

I turned around to see the day’s food consumption all over the floor of the car. We pulled over to take off his soaked clothes and see what and how we could manage to get home. All I could do, though I wanted to be angry, was laugh. It was so overwhelmingly not good. 

We made it home, and I located every cleaning and deodorizing product I could find in my house and went to work cleaning up the back seat that night.

The next day, of course the smell still lingered. But, it smelled as if I hadn’t cleaned a thing. What had I missed? I had cleaned it beyond thorough. It was so clean, that my hands would be disinfected for life.

My youngest got in the car later that day, as I searched for the smell again, and plain as day said:

“Mommy, down here. You missed that.”

I looked to where he was pointing. “I didn’t miss anything. What are you talking about? It’s clean.”

“No it’s not. Here, sit here. Way down there.”

He got out of his seat and let me get in. Sure enough, from where he sat, I could see perfectly  the residue on the seat that I had missed, but thought I’d gotten. 

The truth is, sometimes in order to see things right, we have to shift our perspective.

I thought about our trip, how perfect the day was, and how technically, the ending of it was not perfect. In the least bit. But, isn’t that how life is? A mix of good and bad?

Nothing and no one is perfect. But if I can have the right attitude – kind of like laughing when you’re scraping barf off the floor matt at a Taco Bell in the middle of nowhere – then that shift in perspective keeps me in a positive mood, despite my circumstances. While I don’t need to expect bad things to happen, (that’s a joy-stealer and not healthy) I can have the expectation not to have unrealistic expectations.

So, lessons learned? Don’t let your youngest son eat more than your oldest son. And let the difficult parts of life shape and mold you into the best person you can be, even when it’s messy and painful. 

And smelly. 

I have to remind myself that it’s the difficult moments that show me what I’m made of. And mixing the positive and negatives of any experience, and making room for it in my life, makes me a better person.

When I shift my imperfect perspective, I shift into a perfect state-of-mind.