I’m back in Paris today with a renewed belief in the power of travel. Of course it’s always educational and exciting to visit a different world, but being away from home is even more important. We must put distance between our selves and our homes in order to see them clearly for what they are.
At the Musée D’Orsay there is a remarkable collection of paintings by Seurat and his contemporaries. These are the paintings made up of tiny dots of paint. When you stand close to the canvas you see patterns of light blue and beige. When you stand back you see a circus, or a naked woman! This is a perfect analogy for the way we live our lives. As we navigate a day at work, juggling projects, running errands, getting things done, we see the details. We see the dry cleaning receipt, the subject lines of endless emails, the price tags on deli cheeses, a low phone battery, or a missing button. Now stand back and somehow these details merge with other details to form the masterpiece that is your life!
Standing back can be really hard. It’s not like you can just take a few steps backward and watch your life suddenly start to make sense. Sometimes a deep breath with your eyes closed can seriously interrupt that myopic rushing around, but when that’s not enough anymore, the best thing to do is leave. Breathe some different air, sleep in a different bed, speak a different language, and return home with a fresh perspective.
Looking out over a valley full of trees strikes most people as beautiful. How amazing to think about how many individual leaves come together to make that panoramic view possible!
When it comes to disorganization, some people stand so far back that they become overwhelmed. They see a huge insurmountable task, and cannot overcome it. As an outsider, I am able to look at the pile of junk with fresh eyes, break it down into categories, and come up with simple steps to getting it cleaned up. In order to get it organized we zoom in on each leaf one at a time, never forgetting that it’s part of a tree. In other words, we think about each item individually, then figure out how it fits into the rest of the room, and the rest of our life. If it doesn’t fit, maybe it belongs somewhere else. With a fresh perspective, everything is easier. Figure out how to refresh your own perspective and experience the benefits for yourself.
It can be stressful to come home after a trip, annoying to have to focus on details again after remembering what it means to be alive. When you get home after a vacation, even if you only have time for a quick excursion, pay close attention to what you dread about coming home. Your stress is an important clue about what may no longer belong in your life.
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