Feed on

Christmas is upon us and while I know not everyone celebrates, all of us can take part in the spirit of the season. So, I’d like to give anyone who stumbles upon this site a gift.

But before I get to that, here’s the back story. I love my job for many reasons, but perhaps none more than the people I meet. There are so many people who have wonderful stories to tell and are truly inspirational. One of those people this year is San Rafael photographer Jerry Downs. While Jerry photographs lots of different things, one of his specialties is photography that features optical illusions and humorous juxtapositions — the shadow of a leaf looks like a seahorse, the marquee of the Family Theater advertises the adults-only movie “Love in Hot Pants,” four red koi fish form a smiling face in a brilliant blue fishbowl, etc. Christmas giftAnd just like his imagery delights, his enthusiasm is infectious.

You have to view the world somewhat differently to see the humor — and beauty — in all that’s around us. It has to be a conscious decision. You have to be really paying attention. Jerry does that so beautifully. When I interviewed him about his upcoming self-published book, Why You Were Born, after his successful Kickstarter campaign, I discovered his “secret” — he changed his story, from one that could be sad, perhaps even tragic, to something else:

“If you walk around the world going, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ that’s what you see. The world is wrong, you’re wrong. If you go around going, ‘What’s right with me?’ and feel good about the world, then that’s what you see. I’m not speaking about some Pollyanish orientation about ignoring the bad; acknowledge that it exists. It all exists. So, what part do you want to participate in?”

I just love that!

And more:

“You cannot let the past dictate who you are. You cannot let circumstances determine whether you’re happy or not because that never happens. It’s always, ‘As soon as this happens’ and, ‘As soon as I get the check’ and, ‘As soon as I go on vacation.’ The list is endless before you allow yourself to be happy.”

Isn’t that true? Aren’t we always waiting to be happy when something in the future happens, instead of choosing to be happy in the moment, to notice or remember something beautiful or loving or kind or funny?

So, back to the gift. It’s really Jerry’s gift. I’m basically re-gifting it.

Change your story.

We need to feel good about ourselves before we can be truly available to another person. I’m not sure enough of us do that well; it’s something I’ve struggled with in the past. Still, we attach ourselves to others in hopes — often unconscious — that they will “make us happy” or “complete” us, instead of just allowing ourselves to be happy and complete on our own. So when our partner inevitably falls woefully short in making us happy, we find fault with him or her instead of looking at what we’re bringing to the table and appreciating what we do that’s good and what our partner does that’s good. It takes a certain amount of (perhaps humbling) self-awareness to do that.

That’s part of the goal of Susan Pease Gadoua’s and my book, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Cynics, Commitaphobes and Connubial DIYers — getting rid of the scripts that tell us what a relationship is supposed to look like, and challenging us to define what we want, what we ourselves offer and what we focus on.

There it is. That’s the gift: What part do you want to participate in?

It’s a good question to ask as we head into a new year.

Happy holidays.

 Photo © Alena Yakusheva/Fotolia.com

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