I have an ambivalent relationship with the idea of perspective.
Sure, it's important to remember that, as another of my favorite authors says, "we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away". It's important to appreciate when our problems are manageable (e.g. an unexpected expense that you can afford, even though it hurts; needing to lose 10lbs) as opposed to monumental (genocide, entrenched poverty). But I think it's also important to allow to ourselves that our problems are OUR PROBLEMS, and that sometimes they feel monumental.
Last Friday, Conner got a call from our vet with blood test results for one of our dogs and had to rush her to the hospital. She spent four days in isolation on iv fluids, iv antibiotics, and an assortment of meds that rivaled my grocery list in length. Because Happy has an iron constitution, she pulled through a bacterial infection that threatened to shut down her kidneys and liver. She probably has permanent kidney damage; and for the next few weeks, we will be responsible for administering subcutaneous fluids and a handful of pills on a daily basis. And, you know, there's the vet bill. (Happy Festivus! Is this the airing of the grievances? When do we perform the feats of strength?)
From the time it became evident that Happy was NOT likely to die, two thoughts have been duking it out in my brain:
- "Man, how bad is our luck that we ended up with two broken dogs?" (Our other furry money sink has had three surgeries related to torn cruciate ligaments and is on prophylactic NSAIDs for life).
- "Man, how good is THEIR luck that our dogs wound up with people who have the means and will to handle these situations?"
It occurred to me that maybe this is the sweet spot for perspective-taking: the ability to recognize that the situation is garbage from one angle, and a cause for celebration from another. My mom and step-Bob once sent me a card that proclaimed, "it's always broccoli just before the pie." But maybe the healthiest way of "having perspective" is to be able to see both the broccoli and the pie in any given event -- even if maybe there's a time delay before you can see the pie. Discuss amongst yourselves - I'll give you a topic: things which are equally bad are also equally good.