Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lessons in the everyday

Every writer has their “thing”…a certain style that they use repeatedly throughout their works. I’ve struggled with this, because I’d love to be truly in the minds of my characters like Stephen King, or perceptive like Jodi Picoult. I’ve come to realize that my particular style is more suited to the mundane. I’ll never be a bestselling author, having my writings read by millions. I’ve also realized that sometimes, a large audience does not necessarily mean success, and we can accomplish great things in small ways.

My writings are almost always about the lessons in the everyday. I am always looking for ways to explain life lessons by using everyday objects or situations that will be easy for my audience to understand. In doing so, I hope that they will gain an appreciation for the more difficult topics, and come to understand these, as well.

For instance, I explain the stock market using a can of tuna as a visual. If you buy a can of tuna for $1, and then there is a huge tuna shortage and it’s in high demand, selling for $5 a can, have you gained anything really? No, because you have not sold your can of tuna. If you find someone to sell it to for $5, then you gain $4. If the price of tuna drops significantly for some odd reason, have you lost money? Not unless you actually sell your can of tuna. You get the idea.

I walk the dog early in the morning, which is getting darker and darker every day. I am always on the lookout during these walkabouts for a photo opportunity in the neighborhood. I am always watching for that one shot that will be different and exciting. It fascinates me how light is such a part of everything that we do and see, and how it falls is particularly interesting.

I’ve noticed, for instance, that our driveway is flat and boring in the daylight. It is paved, with about six feet of gravel between the paving and the actual road. It looks like rocks. But in the darkness, with only house lights to shine on it, you begin to see striations.

This morning, it was also flooded with rainwater, filling the gaps with water that reflected the light. I saw for the first time that there are actually horizontal grooves in the rocks. I stood and pondered it for a few minutes, wondering what would have caused such wear on the rocks. We drive in vertically, of course, tires rolling forward in a straight path – nothing that would cause these long crosswise troughs. The driveway was not smoothed by the graders, which may have left these grooves. I’m really not sure how it has happened.

Of course, I saw life lessons here.

First, I marveled at how we can see something that is so common as to escape our interest, suddenly turned into a topic of great wondering. Simply by the light that is shed upon it. It is like this with any great truth. We see it a hundred times, never noticing the detail. And then one day, it is illuminated from another angle, and there it is. It is suddenly very clear to you, even though when you look back a few minutes later, it might not be so. You have to capture that picture, commit it to memory.

It also made me think of politics, and how differently we can see things, one from another. Something that is so inherently RIGHT to us may seem darn near evil to someone else, depending on how they are looking at it. I have this wonderful, beautiful, sensitive cousin that stands on the “other side” of the political fence from me. I love to talk with her, because she always sheds new perspective on any issue. It’s not that I’m right and she’s wrong – or even the other way around. It’s merely a matter of seeing things from a different point of view. Like the driveway, an issue that has always been a smooth, easy path may suddenly appear to have missing pieces, or deep grooves that need to be explained.

Because I have lived with a depressed mind for all of my life, I also had to smile at how it mimics our lives. Day to day, we don’t see the things that make up the big picture. We see the individual rocks, layers of tiny pebbles piled upon one another. Worn smooth by time, friction, and laid low by the slow, steady crushing afforded by the wheels of the cars that travel along our path. Then, one day, we look behind us and see that the path is not as smooth and uneventful as we imagine. There are patterns of behavior that emerge over time, leaving indelible designs on our lives.

I know that I have quirks and personality traits that have been hewn by the stressors that I have been dealt. Some of these are merely a mention in the story of my life, as they do not affect my eternal salvation one way or another. Some, however, can cause ruts that trip me up from time to time. Overcoming these unnatural grooves is the key to a fulfilling life, despite the ravages of this earthly life.

That is where the rainwater comes in, filling in the channels. Smoothing out the rough edges. I have to guess that this is what the Atonement is all about. It’s up to us to identify our flaws and seek to make them as smooth as possible. Christ will then flood us with His love to fill in the gaps.

It’s a lovely thought, considering my disdain for water. But that’s a story for another time.

What lessons have you learned in your everyday today?