Finding Perspective in the Gates

Stop comparing your whole life to someone else’s curated joy.

A dramatic message on a blog where I offer few absolutes, but if you read only one sentence from me today, it should be that one.

Last month I spent a day at Fushimi Inari shrine outside Kyoto. People often ask me “how it was” — and I have a variety of enthusiastic answers on tap, but the truth is, I went up the mountain and came back changed.

0611 Fushimi Inari Gates (down)

Weeks later, I’m still processing the experience.

One of the many things the mountain taught me (or, perhaps, ‘reminded me of, at a time when I needed reminding’) is the vital importance of perspective.

Torii gates line the paths along the lower parts of Mount Inari. In places, the gates are so thick and close together that you can barely see the forest. The light turns orange-red, even on cloudy days, and all you see is gates, before and behind you.

(Stranger) Torii Tunnel

Passing through them feels like walking a sacred tunnel.

0611 Fushimi Inari Gates (Many)

Looking around, it’s easy to let the gates define your experience. When gates are all you see, you can forget what lies beyond them.

0611 Fushimi Inari View

Or how they appear from the other side.

(STF) Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari

Or from a different angle.

0611 Fushimi Inari Gate

Writing and life are like that, too.

Nobody’s life is easy. We all face challenges–gates–of varying numbers and sizes. Sometimes it feels like more than we can bear to keep moving forward in the face of experience and adversity.

Those feelings grow worse when we look around and see the curated joys that other people are sharing through their blogs, on social media, and in “real life” around us. Everyone else’s life seems simpler, and happier, and all-around more blessed than ours.

We look at our own path, and all we see is…gates.

0611 Fushimi Inari Gate Tunnel

Many people would tell you (and they’d be right) that you need to find the blessing in your gates, to learn to love your path. There’s nothing wrong with that message. It’s true. But it’s not exactly the one I’m going to talk about today. (Ok, they’re linked…bear with me.)

The difference between your difficult gates and someone else’s lovely view is often, at least in part, about perspective

0611 Fushimi Inari Entrance

You see ALL parts of your life, but only the BEST parts of someone else’s. That’s an unfair set of data points with which to compare two lives.

I haven’t shown you photographs of the loved ones I’ve lost in the last two months (and yes, I loved them, and yes, there was more than one). I haven’t shown you the hideous bruises I got when I fell on another sacred mountain. I haven’t shown you the struggles–physical, emotional, and otherwise–that lurked in the shadows behind my trip to Japan. 

Why not?

Partly because I don’t dwell on them–and partly because this isn’t a place for me to share the sadness in my life. My sadness cannot bring you joy. (At least, it shouldn’t.) This space–and my Twitter and Facebook pages–exist to allow me to share the joy, the beauty, and the fun. I hope they encourage you. I know the sharing encourages me.

It also reminds me that my “curated life” is a fun and lovely place.

0611 Irises

And I’d bet yours is, too.

Strip out the stress and the sorrow. Take away the things you fear. You’ve probably smiled in the past two days. What made you smile, and why? On many days, I share a seahorse. Sometimes a cat, or a photo from the trip to Japan that made me see the world from a different perspective. Something in your life gives you joy, too.

Maybe this week is a rougher one. Go back a month. Remember what gave you joy? That curated moment–whether or not you shared it–is the one to remember. You probably have more of them than you realize.

The friends whose joys and adventures spatter our lives and social media feeds don’t live in isolated pockets of fabulosity any more than you do. Some may have easier times right now. Some, I guarantee, are also struggling behind the scenes. Keep that in mind when someone else’s curated life makes you sad, or jealous, or feel like your whole life isn’t good enough to play alongside the edited “A roll” photos of Person X.

You have an “A roll” too. You just might have to edit a while to find it. And, while we’re talking perspective, you might be surprised to discover that other people think your curated life looks pretty good from the outside, too.

0611 Fushimi Inari Gates (up)

If you’re struggling, shift the angles. Get outside those gates and take a look from the outside in. Seek the beauty–and remember: don’t compare your messy bits with someone else’s curated joy. Not only is it unfair–to you and to Person X–but it lacks perspective.

And perspective is often the difference between feeling badly about those messy bits and realizing your life is just as valuable as–if different from–anyone else’s. 

8 thoughts on “Finding Perspective in the Gates

  • July 27, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Wow, Susan. Nicely said!

  • July 27, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Oh, Susan, how I needed to read this today! Thank you.

    • July 27, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      Thanks, L.J. – I need it myself – so it was a good reminder for me too.

  • July 28, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Beautiful. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL. And one I will strive to remember. I needed this reminder today, and I am so glad that I paused to read such an articulate explanation of hope and optimistic realism. Thank you, my friend.

    • July 28, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      Thank you Barb! Hang in there–we all need the reminder from time to time, and I’m glad it was here when you needed it. 🙂

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