Don’t Change the Way You Look, Change the Way You See

Vegetable Still Life with View of Yaquina Bay photo: David E. Forinash 2011

Getting cancelled for part of a scheduled shift at work is often a problem during a recession, but on Friday I volunteered to go home at noon when our patient census was low. David and I planned to leave early Saturday morning for the Oregon Coast, but since he had Friday off, I packed quickly and we left that afternoon instead. Getting cancelled for half a shift felt like a gift instead of a loss in this circumstance, and my coworkers who wanted the hours were happy. The way it looks depends on your point of view.

I am in Newport, Oregon looking at a 180 degree view of the Pacific Ocean, with a blue heron nesting in a nearby fir tree. Last night I thought I heard a small dog barking, but it was the heron. What surprisingly harsh squawks from such an elegant bird! I see the heron in a new way.

Saturday morning at Newport’s Farmers’ Market we bought heirloom tomatoes, slender eggplants, a radicchio with red leaves edged in light green, and purple, yellow, and red peppers. Although we are traveling, I couldn’t resist the beauty of the vegetables, and when we paid for them even the farmer commented on the remarkable colors. Although he’d set up the booth himself that morning, he saw them from a fresh perspective while weighing them on the scale.

At the locally owned JC Market (which has a surprisingly good wine selection) I bought a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir and a Pinot Gris. As I carried the brown paper bag through the parking lot, I saw Don’t change the way you look, change the way you see, written on a sticker pasted to the bumper of a parked car.

It makes perfect sense.

I knew a pilot who said when he entered any public venue such as a movie theatre, the first thing he did was locate all the exits in case of fire. It makes sense that a pilot would see a theatre that way. After all, how to exit the plane in an emergency is the first thing taught to commercial jet passengers.

For a long time, I viewed many opportunities through the lens of their worst possible outcomes. I believe I learned this behavior as a nurse, seeing the traumatic outcomes of choices written on the bodies of patients in the ICU. Jobs requiring an exceptional sense of responsibility for the safety of others, such as piloting a jetliner, or nursing, affect our view of life, creating habits within our personalities, which I believe are unique from most of our society. It took me awhile to realize nursing influenced my enjoyment of life, and not always in a positive way.

For instance, I used to make choices based on their potential for risk or emotional pain. “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” was my viewpoint. Now I look at choices for their fun value too, not only potential peril. Otherwise, I may miss seeing the movie by worrying that the theatre might catch on fire.

Don’t change the way you look, change the way you see.