The Light Can Only Shine Through the Cracks: Learning to See Again

My Grandmother, Mattie, took me to Victoria’s Secret when I married my first husband. When I married my second, she took me to a lingerie/ sex toy shop. To say that Mattie was awesome would be an understatement. I will never forget the image of my 82 year old grandmother signing her name on the receipt with a penis-shaped pen.

Mattie was an artist by heart, although she was never formally trained. Her two passions were fashion and decorating. She could remember and match any color perfectly. Everything was beautiful and everything was perfect. Even her drawers were works of art. I’ve never before seen such organization. Her attention to detail was unbelievable.

Her eyes missed absolutely nothing. We knew if we wanted to mess with her we could rearrange her color coded lipsticks and send her into a tizzy. She would also make the most beautiful sandwiches, cut into symmetric triangles with the crusts removed perfectly. Spending the night with her was quite a treat. We would get the royal treatment at bath time, concluded by being engulfed in a huge puff of baby powder with a pink powder puff. (That was my favorite part, of course.)

The powder puff my Grandmother used on me as a little girl now sits proudly in my bathroom.

The powder puff my Grandmother used on me as a little girl now sits proudly in my bathroom.

She’d then wrap us up in fluffy pink towels  and send us off to bed in… get this….IRONED SHEETS! She even had a top sheet over the blanket.  And the blanket was electric…. ELECTRIC!… which meant that I could turn my side up as hot or as cold as I wanted.

Yet, I also realized that the eyes that missed nothing could easily pick out my imperfections. I was afraid of this for many, many years. I never wanted to disappoint her so I would do things like wear my best outfit to visit her or tell her only those things that I thought would make her happy or proud of me. In other words, I filtered myself around her. It’s not that she required perfection of me, she inspired it out of me and I was afraid that I would fall short.

Yet, Mattie could sense how I was feeling and could drag things out of me that I hadn’t planned on sharing. As our relationship deepened as we both grew older, I began to get to know Mattie as a woman instead of just Mattie my Grandmother. She was brave enough to share her fears and doubts as well as her successes, which helped me to feel brave enough to do the same. Even though some of the messes I told her weren’t pretty, she would always tell me that she loved me and that she was so proud of me. I miss her dearly but I can still see the twinkle in her blue eyes whenever I think of her.

I believe our family members are some of our greatest teachers, and my grandmother was no exception. It was Mattie that taught me how to properly see. My eyes are like hers- I miss nothing. I am a detail driven person. I will notice the picture that’s not centered. I will notice the speck on the glass. I can drive myself crazy noticing all of the things that aren’t perfect. Or, I can shift my focus and learn to see the things that are perfectly imperfect. I can allow my perfectionist tendency to create negativity in my environment, or I can shift my perspective and notice all that is good and right by not having preset expectations.

Every day, every moment, I get to choose how I want to see the world: glass half empty, glass half full, or so critical that I only notice that the glass has a small chip in the rim and miss the water all together. I am learning that how I view others and my surroundings is a direct reflection of how I am currently viewing myself. The more critical I am of others, the more critical I am of me. No matter how hard I try, when I am in this state of mind I am never good enough. At this point, my focus is entirely on my own shortcomings, making me notice and point out the imperfections I find in those closest to me. On and on it goes, a spiraling of negative thoughts that take me into a deep, dark tornado of despair until I eventually realize that by setting impossibly high goals for myself and others that the only perfect thing I create is a “perfect-storm” of self-loathing.

I can choose to stay here, drawing negative experiences and people towards me, adding fuel to the fire of my own personal hell. Or, I can take a deep breath and emancipate myself from the mental slavery that I have created . I have learned that I have the power to change my perspective at any moment. All I have to do is pause for a second and quiet the nonsense that is circling round and round in my head. I have the power to see good, to see the positive, when I am finally free to see the good inside myself, to realize that I am enough just as I am. After all, the light can only shine through the cracks.

~ala

*If you want to get some science behind my fluff, read about a landmark paper recently published showing new insights on positive thinking.