I used to commute about 45 miles to work. Every day I would drive on the hi-way and interstate to and from work. When one drives this much a lot of thoughts go thru your head and I used to get annoyed at stop lights. I’d have to stop, waste time and they were always increasing in numbers. They slowed me down for an ETERNITY and there were new stoplights at intersections that didn’t previously have them, which were more chances of having to slow down. How much of my life was I spending at red lights?!? I made a game out of trying to not get stopped at lights. Time them right, take a little different route, etc. I was actively seeking out the red lights, so that I could avoid them.
Who controls our happiness?
One day Cassie had suggested that I try it a different way. I agreed and decided that I would look for how many green lights I went thru. Same drive, same route only a different perspective. It was amazing how many green lights I found. My perspective changed and it was kind of amazing how the frequency of red stoplights changed as well as well as how long they appeared to last. I found so many green lights, and it made me happy to see them. Instead of seeking out frustrating things that would ultimately annoy me when I got to them, I sought out something that kept my cruise going and saved me time. Every green light was a win. Even our language filters our perspective. So instead of stop lights, they were now “go lights”.
This changed my commute. It was amazing how many green lights I saw and how few red lights stopped me, or rather, that I stopped for. When I did get stopped at a red light, it became a lot less frustrating because the ratio of green to red made it seem ok. 6 green lights to 1 red light….Not so bad, especially compared to the “OMG stupid red light slowing me down!!!” thought process I had been using.
I had listened to an NPR series of broadcasts on one of those commutes back in Colorado. The stories titled “Puerto Rico: A Disenchanted Island” focused on high crime, corruption, murder, high unemployment, politics and people moving to other states to “escape their island woes”. When I listened to this I didn’t identify with it. It didn’t seem like the PR that we had visited so many times.
I didn’t really think much about it until just the other day. We had visited our friends in Maricao and I had mentioned that I don’t know how “Puerto Ricans can afford these nice cars and continually shop at the malls, where in the US the malls are vacant and dead”. They’re jobless after all right? And things here are so dire! It was brought up that the stats the US uses on the economy simply aren’t accurate. There is a lot of economic activity that doesn’t show up on the stats the US government uses. There is a large informal economy here.
When I listened to the NPR broadcast I didn’t even really think much about it at the time, but the perspective used was first of all, from the perspective of the news. The news is simply there to create a listening audience and they do this by reporting information people tune into. Turn on any news broadcast at any time and you will see proof of this. “If it bleeds it leads”. The reporting also comes from the perspective of the US. Having lived in the mainland for so long there are a few simple ideas that are always taken for granted. Money is success, jobs are good and not working for the man either means you’re lazy and worthless or that the economy controls your fate (or if you do it long enough you’re put out to pasture/retired).
I suppose I choose to see things differently, not that any of those things are true or false, good or bad. As an example I lived in a city with high poverty rates and the gangs, drugs and shootings were often reported in the local newspaper. I however, didn’t personally encounter any problems with it…ever. When I stopped focusing on the news, my city became a more pleasant place to live. Beautiful parks, lots of places to eat and good friends to see movies with.
I guess this is basically another way of asking the age old glass half full/empty question.
It depends on your perspective
The point is that there are red stoplights. I don’t have to focus on them and I don’t have to abide by the general idea that they are good or bad. I can choose which glasses to wear. For example I could see the red lights as a life saving measure for society instead of an inconvenience to ME and MY daily commute; it is a choice. Dirty dishes in the sink are either a continuous chore that never ceases, or a sign of having food to eat. Sometimes it is hard to try on different perspectives: almost as difficult it seems as learning a foreign language. But it is possible and the world opens up and becomes a whole new place full of more possibilities.
Yesterday we were burning piles of dried trees and vines that we had cut down a few weeks ago. We stopped a few times throughout the day for beer breaks and lunch then got back to it. We watched the hawks floating in the air like kites. At dinner time we were both pretty wiped out so we took showers and I took a shovel down to the smoldering pile and got a few scoops of hot coals so I could cook chicken for dinner. The air was incredibly perfect at 80 degrees and I am in only shorts and flip flops, the property is looking better than ever and we have lots of fruit trees planted.
Is it the life we have built and decided to live or we are unemployed and the conditions are dire? Do we have a crazy untamed property or just enough work to keep us motivated? Do we live in the sweltering humid tropics or are we not freezing our butts off in a temperate desert? It all depends on which glasses you want to put on.
Even this post will be construed differently by everyone who reads it because we all have different perspectives, different life experiences, different opinions. And that’s what makes reality ever harder to REALLY pin down. It’s different for everyone.
But doesn’t it seem just a little fitting that there are no stoplights at all in Rincón?