re[frame]

Your Perspective Here

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Centuries-old churches, crystalline turquoise waters, rich historical and religious traditions, vibrant culture, delicious and colorful cuisine, joyful popular festivals, and warm and affectionate people.”

This is pretty much how Bahia is portrayed in the tourist publications I translate. Despite the sometimes excessively rosy picture painted of the state (listing the entire stretch of the state’s southern coastline an “open-air museum of the Discovery of Brazil” is a little much) – it’s actually good for me to be working with such optimistic text.

It brings me back to my early days in Salvador, when I saw everything through fresh, excited eyes; before I had to worry about bills to pay, overwork, and underwork due to police strikes. I may have lost my love over the years, but I am working to reframe my perspective of this city.

Part of the reason I moved this blog is to reframe everything as an adventure. There are two sides to every story, and something good can be found in every situation.

As I pondered this idea of “reframing,” I wondered: can the REALLY hard stuff be reframed? It’s one thing to put a positive spin on the challenges of adapting to a new culture or dealing with irritatingly and unnecessarily complex bureaucracy… but where’s the “good” to be found in disease, abuse, oppression, or death? Saying “just look on the bright side!” is like trying to put out a forest fire with an eyedropper.

In these cases, where there is absolutely no good to be found, the good must often be made instead. Even if it’s something as simple as not letting the suffering define you or fill you with bitterness. We know it’s possible, because there are people who do so.

They seem almost superhuman in their ability to maintain joy – or heck, even to just maintain sanity – through great pain. We say, “How inspiring!” – but we think God, I could never do that… – and then go right back to letting every little annoyance upset us.

Here’s the thing, though: anything can be reframed. But we have to practice doing it with the little and medium-sized things in order to be able to handle the big ones.

Reframing is not a “Don’t worry, be happy” bumper sticker. Nor is it trying to slap on a fake smile while avoiding dealing with the issues. And it makes no promises that everything will work out in the end wrapped up perfectly with a bow on top.

Rather, it is the conscious, constant, sometimes incredibly difficult decision to choose your attitude and to transform every experience – somehow, whether immediately or years later – into good.

It gets easier with practice.

What have you reframed lately, or what do you need to reframe?

  • As I was reading this, I was thinking how I (try to) ignore the stuff I don’t like- and I try not to mention it more than once. Actually- I don’t recount the same woe over and over, but will talk about it if it seems that the listener can help in some way (provide a solution, imagine an alternative, give me some insight into myself, give me insight to the situation, you get the picture)

    As far as ignoring, well that’s impossible to do 100%, but I can keep telling myself ‘it’s not important. Accept what is.’ For example, the unpaved roads here make life dirtier and harder than it has to be. But the roads aren’t paved. Me blogging about it, complaining, FB’ing, etc. won’t change a thing.

    the thing that feeds me most is to serve others in a meaningful way. That’s why I jumped right on the street dogs and the orphans- both in situations through no fault of their own. Being of service lets the other worries dissipate- and I get to focus on the being at hand that needs and deserves love. I hope they benefit, too.

  • Aha! And it’s funny……one suggested read was from 2005, about grad school or not. Did you ever go or not? From this perspective, was it the right choice?
    Curioser and curioser!

    • Shayna

      Nope, never went… I had been falling out of love with the field of chemistry, and after a couple internships was leaning away from spending my life in the laboratory working only on such a narrowly focused area.

      Still, I was fearful to take the leap and turn down the full scholarship (!) – and then I got the news that the professor I’d been going to work with, who was the only reason I chose that school, was retiring effective the next year, and no longer taking students. Boom – a clear sign that that was not meant to be!

    • Shayna

      and it was definitely the right choice. 🙂

  • Sherry Zotta

    Hi, Shayna, I appreciate your willingness to tackle this issue. For me, this is a daily struggle. Where to put my energy, gifts, resources, time, love….and lately, I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to seek after that which is good, lovely, of good report, etc. as scripture admonishes us through the Apostle Paul…to encourage one another while it is still today, so that we do not succumb to evil, but overcome evil with good. No matter where you live, staying focused on things above and not on things below is a challenge, but well worth the effort. Blessings, to you today, Shayna!

  • nina

    I think you need to reframe yourself anywhere you live. There were days I was scratching my eyes out to leave the US. I couldn’t stand a whole list of things. While I don’t know I want to ground myself anywhere, I can actually seeing myself as a forever wanderer. My heart doesn’t feel like it’s connected to one place, rather many places each owning piece of my heart.

    With that said, Brazil is a difficult country to live in due to the fact you need money to make money. And you need a lot of it. So when you can’t meet your basic needs, things become stressful. I am glad your trying, but honestly there are lots of social problems that need reform here.

  • Congrats on the new site! I updated it on my blog roll 🙂

    I love this post! It is very hard to keep that fresh view after being here for a while. I suppose you live anywhere and it becomes burdened with day to day life. I love your viewpoint and your blog. You rock!