I have always loved colouring-in.
When I was a child, my favourite babysitters were always the artists. I loved how blocks of well-placed colours could transform a page of flat lines into a dynamic, possibility-filled world of excitement.
Yesterday evening, flying from Broome to Perth, I was silently grumbling about having to sit in a plane seat with a window over the ugly metal wing. The scenery below was fascinating, but to see it, I had to lean forward and crane my neck and look backwards at it. A crick in my neck forced me to give up eventually, and I closed the shutter, leaned the chair back and closed my eyes.
A subtle change of sound and vibration woke me and I pushed the shade back.
What a sight! The sun had sunk below the horizon on the other side of the plane, and the plane was banked down on my side, with the wing almost vertical below me. I stared down through the darkened clouds at the twinkling lights below and then lifted my gaze up through the unbroken graduation of colour from brilliant cyan to deep, vibrant orange and up to a pale peach. The plane wing was utterly breathtaking, its smooth surface mirroring the colours of the horizon, contrasting beautifully against the darkened depths below.
If I hadn’t been purposely observing the ugliness of the wing earlier, I wouldn’t have believed such a transformation possible.
It was then that I started pondering the significance of the way we “colour” things and how the same situation can appear completely different in “a different light.” We even use this terminology – but I’d never really given it any thought.
I’ve just started a new job at a new workplace. It’s hectic. My full-time colleague – the one who has been ensuring that the day-to-day matters are taken care of so that I can take care of the “bigger picture” matters – has been unwell, so I’ve been doing both our jobs. I’ve been a little stressed, I must confess. So staring at the brilliantly-coloured wing made me take a good long look at how I’ve been “colouring” things in my head. And then I started thinking about the interactions I had with other colleagues during the day and I realised something.
The way we “colour” our situations has a huge impact on our personalities. In fact, you could go as far as saying that this may be the defining characteristic of our personalities.
Our interpretation of each situation has no effect on that particular moment in time, but it certainly does have an effect on how we think, feel, and portray ourselves, and it has a roll-on effect to the next one.
Are you still with me?
What I’m trying to say is that although I’m very busy at work – a fact I can’t change – I have TOTAL control over whether I think to myself “I can’t do this” or not. I have total control over whether I dwell on it after I leave work. And I have total control over whether my face shows that I’m stressed or whether I smile and take two seconds to remind myself to relax my shoulders. These “colouring-in” aspects – the bits I have control of – dictate whether I sleep well at night, whether people perceive me as helpful/friendly, and define my mood.
The wing remains a wing. But it can look ugly or beautiful.
It’s all in the “colouring-in.”
Philosophical ruminations on the way we choose to percieve our world.