The mural I made for my daughter Lexi’s class graduation.
Last week, I was working on the “Welcome” video for my private Facebook group entitled Women Making a Comeback: I am the CEO of My Own Life. The inspiration for this private group came through my own prayerful questioning: “Why would life do this to me?” I have received many lemons in my life, and I learned very quickly that I have only two choices: 1. Rot with the lemons, or 2. Make lemonade. Thus, I have become a great lemonade maker. However, there is another benefit to having received those lemons, and it is contrast; experiencing those lemons highlights clearly in my mind what I definitely do not want, and that clarity helps me to shift my focus to what I do want.
In extreme cases, it is easy to recognize the contrast. But there are many situations when we actually don’t know what we want, or we might despise a situation until we experience the opposite – the complete contrast to that situation. For example, in my children’s middle school a few years ago, we started the tradition of making murals for 8th-grade graduates. I painted the murals, together with my awesome creative team of moms. We usually started working on the murals two months before the school year ended. But every year, something else would come up that we had to work on in addition to the murals, like decorating the gym for the graduation – and then the whole situation would become stressful. For me, a perfectionist, I don’t like to work under the time pressure. I really enjoyed working on these murals, or any other designs, but stress took away the enjoyment. This year, we couldn’t do the mural because of the quarantine shutdown. I was at home, organizing my art supplies, and I kept thinking about how much I missed working on those murals – I genuinely missed it. I received the contrasting reality of not being able to work on the murals, and I realized that I do not like this alternative situation. I know now that, even with the time pressure, I will very much enjoy and appreciate working on the murals in the future, because I know how it feels not to be working on them at all.
Another way I use contrast is by keeping my body in shape. I know how it feels when I am out of shape or when I don’t fit into my clothes - I’ve been there, and it felt miserable. I really hated that feeling. Waking up in the morning already unhappy with my body, and carrying this unhappiness through a whole day, was beyond miserable. Also, I felt very disconnected from my inner source – and that was the biggest contrast for me. Since I know this side of the contrast, I do everything in my power to be on the opposite side: I wake up in the morning to work out, read my spiritual books, and eat healthy food, just to stay connected to my spirit.
Therefore, my strategy (I am still working on perfecting it) is not to panic when life brings me lemons, and instead, to ask questions: “Why did this happen to me?” I also say, “Thank you for the contrast.” Last year, my kids and I had the worst Christmas: the Grinch stole our Christmas. I think of those events and vow that there will never, ever be another Grinch to steal our Christmas :) and that every Christmas from now on will be our best Christmas ever. The contrast is just a pointer—kind of a lighthouse to highlight the direction of my focus. All I need to know are the two contrasting circumstances, and I have the choice of which direction to turn my focus.
“Contrast is good in life. Only that person can experience happiness, who has gone through difficult times.” ~ Bhawani Shankar