It seems to me that potential causes for joy or misery exist in about equal proportion in the world.  No one is immune from either.  And so, life becomes not merely about what is, but about how I choose to tune my attentions.

I know some great photographers.  And I know some not-so-great ones.  As with most art, I’ve found that the difference does not lie in the sophistication of the available equipment.  Pictures taken by one photographer with a disposable camera can be breathtaking, while those taken by another with a top-of-the-line setup can fall flat.  Rather, the difference lies in the use of fundamental skills.  In a creative eye.  And in a certain amount of patience.

In life, we are all photographers.  We are not handed the images that must fill our pages.  We can walk around a situation, setting up the composition of the shot we’d like to capture.  We can wait for clouds to shift so that a particular light will fall on a subject.  We can choose to take up the frame with more of this and less of that.  To zoom in on one thing and not another.  And, as with a camera lens, the choices I make will cause some things to become clearer, while others blur into the background.

It’s a matter of focus.

Yesterday, I wrote about lemonade stands.  As I was writing it, I could not help but think of the familiar phrase: “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!”  I have to admit, while I’m all for the sentiment of this time-worn piece of advice, I find it a bit cloying anymore.  It holds about as much impact for me as “Buck up, camper!”  However, there are a couple of parallel thoughts I do find motivational and which I quote often, both shared with me by the very same friend whose comment on “small kindnesses” sparked yesterday’s post.  The first is this:

The only prize for being the most miserable is … “Congratulations!  You’re the Most Miserable!”

She usually follows this with an ad lib, delivered in enthusiastic game-show-host fashion: “Tell us, how does it feel?  You must be so proud to have won this fantastic prize …”

The second:

I really believe that if I were stuck in a 4 x 4 prison cell with a dirt floor, I’d wait for the one seed to blow in and plant a little garden.  I’d find a way to make it good.

The truth is, although there do seem to be many people confused about the matter, there is no reward or gain in choosing to focus on the negative in life.  Granted, there are perceived gains — pity, attention, martyrdom.  But they are a sad bouquet, if you ask me, in comparison with the perennial garden of wonder, joy, contentment and hope planted by choosing to focus on the positive.

As with photography, getting good at it takes work.  New techniques must be learned.  Skills honed.  The landscape may not change, so you learn to change your perspective.  It may take hundreds of shots of the same thing sometimes, spurred on by the unwavering belief that there is something beautiful hiding there.  Then, slowly but surely, it comes.   The ability to see what others do not, what you yourself had once missed.


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