When you think of the Midwest, what comes to mind? Meat and potatoes. Sure. Talking to strangers in the elevator or in line at the grocery. Asking the neighbor to watch your kid at the bus stop so you can run back into the house and get the “crazy hat” for Crazy Hat Day at Kindergarten. These are all excellent reasons to love life in the Midwest. People are downright friendly. And we get to experience the SEASONS here. Real, honest-to-goodness seasons that make it look like the North Pole at Christmas (and despite their obvious shortcomings, even the ice storms make everything look like it’s coated in spun sugar). We get rain and tons of green in the Spring, giving everything that earthy, damp smell. And we have suffocatingly hot, sticky days in the Summer; days when you feel like you’re in a sauna the second you step outside (immediately swearing off your flat iron until October). But it’s all worth it when we get to experience the splendor of Fall. That’s right, I used the word splendor. And if you’ve ever seen the trees in the Ohio Valley in mid-October you know exactly how breathtaking it is.
This time of year there is nowhere else on earth I’d rather live than Ohio. The trees are gorgeous and literally look like they are lit from within. The orange-yellow ones in particular make me want to get a blanket and lie down under them, looking up through the leaves at the world. I think the glow the leaves cast on life makes everything seem just a little cheerier.
Perspective is a very important thing to carry with us through life, and the “leaf-glow view of life” is a nice segue into the influence of perspective on our happiness and mood. I think when life becomes difficult, and times are trying, it’s often a sign that we’ve lost perspective. If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. So often, when we’re feeling disappointed or discontent-that might be a better word for it- it’s because we’ve allowed ourselves to tunnel vision into our disappointments. I have experienced this firsthand lately, having dealth with a string of sad, upsetting, disappointing situations and events recently. And I’ve found that my darkest days are the ones where I let the negativity build and piggyback off of the other negative things in my life, and then before I know it, I’m suddenly miserable. Because the negativity has inadvertently become a singular obsession.
And I think a lot of us do this- we focus so much attention on “energy saps”- you know what I’m talking about here- relationship stress, health issues, career disappointment, or even just personal frustration with feeling down in the dumps. And what’s the common denominator here? We’re failing to remember to do the one thing our grandparents always told us to do….count our blessings. We’ve lost perspective. Because even in the worst of times (and those times are defined differently by different people, obviously), we have to remember that things could ALWAYS be worse. Don’t argue with me here, because yes, they can always, always get worse. And we absolutely must look at what we DO have going for us in those times. We have to force ourselves to change our perspective. We have to remind ourselves to look at our lives through the glow of the leaves on the trees.
And sometimes, just picturing ourselves lying underneath a beautiful orange-yellow glowing tree, gazing up through the leaves at our lives, brings us back to our reality. It reminds us that life can be awfully pretty when we choose to look at it that way. We remember that we get to go home and get hugs from a five year old. Or we get to go have a much-needed date with our spouse tonight. We remember that there are chocolate-covered caramel apples sitting in the fridge at home, waiting to be eaten later after being forgotten the rest of the day. We remember that we are blessed with friends and family, some of whom are coming over to Trick-or-Treat tomorrow. We count our blessings. We thank our lucky stars that we have our health. And we remind ourselves that sometimes all we have to do to change our mood is to change our perspective. It can be a difficult thing to do, but if you’re lucky, you’ll come across the perfect tree and feel as inspired as I did.