As I looked at the team I noticed that they all just looked a little blurry to me. I responded, "They all just look like blurs to me. I think I need glasses."
Katie offered me her glasses to try. When I tried on her glasses, the blurry soccer players suddenly took shape.
"Holy moly!" I exclaimed. "It's like seeing a movie in HD." I felt a mixture of dread at having to buy and wear glasses and excitement at getting to wear cool hipster glasses and seeing clearer pictures. Knowing how important vision is to my craft and career as an animator, I looked at getting an appointment with the optometrist the next day.
The optometrist told me I had mild nearsighted vision. My vision wasn't as bad as most people that get glasses and I could still legally drive. He said if I got glasses to only wear them to the movies, driving, or whenever I would need to see something in the distance. Most of my animation and design work I could do just fine without glasses. I didn't feel dangerous without them. I had been in a car accident and ran a stop sign in the past year and I don't think they were due to my blurry vision. Possibly, but probably not. I didn't necessarily need to get glasses, so why did I?
I got glasses because I wanted clarity in my vision.
I'm not just talking about my physical ability to see. I'm talking about my drive to set goals, accomplish them, correct my mistakes, and to do so clearly. Getting glasses is me telling myself that my physical vision is important to me because of my dreams as a director of animated feature length films. My glasses are a reminder to humble myself and to step back for a clear picture from time to time.
I've recently had some slight changes in my career goals. The new goals are daunting and risky. They will require a lot of work and a lot of passion. These new goals of mine also require for me to have a clear picture when I execute and need to change my plan of attack.
My most Common SubjectMany of our readers will notice that I talk a lot about trials. My trials are constant lessons to me and I used to believe that I get so many of them because I don't ever learn my lesson the first time. I see now that the trials I've been through teach me something new every time I experience them. Though it is sometimes a cycle for me, I learn something new about myself every time.
My trial right now is mourning a loss in my life. Though I function well during the day I feel the weight of the loss when I'm alone. I look back on my own mistakes with shame and guilt. I'll feel conflicted in my feelings about the situation. I'll feel heavy sadness. I'm still learning the lesson from all of this.
Getting through this trial and others I've experienced has required clarity in my vision. I've had to admit and own what my own faults and feelings are and understand that I can't control another person's agency. One way I've increased clarity in my situation is understanding the difference between data and story.
What is Data?Data is everything tangible that can be sensed using the senses. It's what a fly would see, hear, and smell on the wall. It's the actual words spoken in a conversation. Data isn't anger, love, or abstract ideas. These ideas are sensed with our spirits. Our bodies don't perceive anger. They perceive bent eyebrows, red faces, and loud voices. They don't sense sadness. They see puffy eyes, tears, and crying. They don't see joy. They hear laughter, feel hugs, and give kisses. Here's another example:
"Joe and I argued angrily. He hasn't talked to me in a week so he hates me." (data) (story)I put 'argued' in purple because that's a situation where it can be fuzzy. What may be a discussion to one person could be a debate to someone else. We can separate the statement into data and story like so.
"Joe and I had a conversation. He hasn't talked to me in a week."Separating data from the story is extremely important to having a clear picture of whatever trial I may find myself in. I may think, "Joe hates me and is unforgiving," when Joe never actually said "I hate you and I don't forgive you." This could be a story I would tell myself after getting into an argument with Joe and saying unkind words to him. I could base the story on data of Joe not speaking to me and not returning my phone calls after a week. The data is 'Joe and I haven't had an opportunity to speak this week' and 'I called Joe and I haven't received a response.' I don't know if Joe is swamped in school. I don't know how he feels about our argument. I don't know if he tried to return one of my calls while my phone was off or while I was in a bad area of reception.
"Joe was angry. He hates me."
Joe may not have forgiven me. Joe might hate me. But really, I don't know. If I continue telling myself the negative story that Joe hates me and won't forgive me then it only drags me down and feel bad about myself. I then process everything from my senses through the lenses of this story.
What is Story?
Story is our emotional and spiritual translation of our data. It's the subtext. Brené Brown once said
that, "Story is data with a soul." The story we tell ourselves directly connects the data to our hearts. I don't want anyone to think that stories are meaningless or invalid. This is not the case. Stories are meaningful and very valid. They just have a different place than data. I can learn a lot from the stories I tell myself.
Let's look at the example above. The story I told myself is, "Joe hates me and he hasn't forgiven me." I may feel anger, shame, and hurt from that story. But when I look at the data I know there's no way I can really know how Joe feels and whether or not he has forgiven me. Even if Joe did say these things, it may not exactly express what his heart feels. Since, I don't really know these things let's change the story.
"I judge Joe hates me and I judge he hasn't forgiven me."These changes put things in perspective. Doing this reminds me that I don't have a full understanding of the situation. It helps me own the story and there's real power in that. When I own the story I claim responsibility for my own feelings and not make someone else responsible.
At this point I may have learned some new things about myself. I may still have strong negative feelings. I may not have the clarity I need to learn and take care of myself emotionally. So what does the story say? Well, who is telling the story? I am. So are these feelings I have really about Joe? No. The story is about me. It's my story. Let's change a few words in the story to make it hit closer to the storyteller.
"I hate me and I haven't forgiven me."Here's where I'll see if I can get an 'Ah-ha!' feeling. If I do, then I use this knowledge to take care of me and change the story I had been telling myself. The new story may be, "I am worthy of love and forgiveness." I then may change my behaviors to support the new story I've created. It may mean taking time to understand why I felt hurt. It may mean eventually making restitution with Joe and not only seeking forgiveness but giving forgiveness. (Rarely, are disagreements or break ups a one way street.) Joe may still not give me the forgiveness I seek but I can still forgive myself and him.
If I don't get the 'Ah-ha!' lightbulb then I try different variations until I do. In my experience, it usually has something to do with self worth. In my current trial, the negative story I've told myself has been, "I'm broken because I am still sad." The new story I tell myself is, "I'm worthy of love and joy even if I am sad." Feelings shouldn't be seen as good or bad but like colors. They just are. They're not like our thoughts or behaviors. They exist to teach us and can tell us what we may need or lack in our life.
Am I Clear?Finding clarity isn't always easy--especially when people we love are involved. Even though I can separate my data from my story I forget to put story in it's place. I forget to own it. Although I do think it's important to talk about how we are feeling and what story we tell ourselves, they do not have to control our reality. We cannot go to others to change the story we tell ourselves. Only we can change that story. No, we can't make that awesome company hire us after our interview. We can't make a loved one say "I forgive you" after trying to make restitution. We can't change the past but we can learn from it.
I can change the story I tell myself. My self worth and happiness doesn't have to be dependent on validation from someone else, the job I have, how much money I make, or whether or not I'm married. Change the story you tell yourself and then you'll change the world.
DISCLAIMER: Joe and I do not actually have any sort of argument or conflict right now. The situation above is purely theoretical.