Seeing as a Writer: Symbolically

Writing is all encompassing. I eat, breathe and sleep it. Even when I am not actively butt to chair typing away, I’m jotting down words that pique my attention, scribbling down ideas that interest me and recording quotes that enthuse me. While talking to people each day or reading whatever crosses my path, the ideas float constantly around me and sentences take form in my mind.

I spend time living my life– nurturing relationships, managing a household, counseling people, and running errands–but these things don’t stop me from the writing process. They are the writing process. I talk, read, live, nurture, manage, counsel, run, write, learn, teach, heal, at the same moment because they all feed into one another. Each thought, activity and event blur together as they are symbolic of something bigger.

Seeing as a Writer: Symbolically

Taking last week off work to meet up with my sister and brother and our respective families in a rented house, I mistakenly figured I’d carve out some time for completing a few blog posts either late at night or early in the morning. No could do. I was exhausted from cooking, cleaning, entertaining, deciding, supervising, talking, laughing, swimming and generally hanging out with everyone. There is no point in lamenting not getting a chance to “type” up my writing, since “writing” was done. It just depends how I look at it. Inspiration abounded in every activity.

My life is becoming one big metaphor as each experience becomes an analogy for a life lesson. Something to learn, something to teach, or at the very least something to ponder. Everything is symbolic, and I realize what a gift it is to look at life this way. Each event has layers of meaning, and so layers of experience.

seeing as a writer

I spotted a tennis ball floating in the surf and attracted by the neon green contrast to neutral brown sand, I attempted to capture it. With the waves and undertow, it teased me by coming close then swiftly escaping my grasp, over and over. I had the experience of watching it (that’s 1) and catching it (that’s 2), then thinking about how it was a metaphor for staying humble, (i.e., just at the brink of arriving at success, our path can change on a dime.) (That’s 3.) Then I thought of how I could write about it (4) and so on. Layers of experience.

Thinking symbolically creates such richness of experience that is not only stimulating, but has enabled me to have equal appreciation for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ experiences. So rather than using the example of the tennis ball which is quite benign, say I was at a standstill in traffic for an hour with crabby kids in the back seat (bad).

When we see a variety of meanings, each individual meaning losses the power to take a position of truth. We see gratitude we were not in the accident, ability to pray for those who were, opportunity to teach a lesson in patience, for us and our kids, etc, instead of just the unluckiness of this predicament. Also, we’ll never know if this delay prevents us from being in the exact wrong place at the wrong time to be in an accident later in the journey.

So how can we judge this?

Also, if someone hasn’t returned our email, (bad) and we think of it symbolically, there can be many explanations for this; they are busy, computers down, lost their phone, big project due, they hate me, they were checking something first. “She is a jerk!” is just one possibility instead of becoming the only Truth. From ‘above the battlefield’—when we ‘take a step back” separating from the chaos of a situation to view the big picture—we may glimpse some understanding of why and how things happen. Or at the least, realize the story is not over.

Since there are so many possible meanings how can any of them be the truth? Seeing this way has the potential to eliminate loads of suffering. Because most of our misery occurs when we are desperately trying to make sense of things. And usually when we can’t make sense of something, we create a meaning that usually disreputive of our self identity: “Nobody likes me.”

There is an old Chinese story of an old farmer who owned a bony plow horse. One spring afternoon the horse ran away. The old man’s friends, trying to console him, said, “We’re so sorry about your horse, old man. What a misfortune you’ve had.” But the old farmer said, “Bad news, good news-who knows?”

A few days later the horse returned home leading a herd of wild horses. Again the friends came running. Filled with jubilation, they cried, “How wonderful!” But the old man whispered, “Good news, bad news-who knows?”

Then the next day,

when the farmer’s son was trying to ride one of the new horses, the young man was thrown to the ground and broke both legs. The friends gasped. The old man stood still and said, “Bad news, good news-who knows?”

And a short time later when the village went to war and all the young men were drafted to fight. The farmer’s son was excused because of two broken legs. Good news. Bad news. Who knows?

Someone commented about what she thought was an epic failure, “That did not go according to plan.”

I replied, “If we only knew what the plan was, we could assess that couldn’t we?” Good. Bad. Who knows? The story is not over. Each experience has layers of meaning that continues on. Try to see things symbolically for a day, let me know what you experience.

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11 thoughts on “Seeing as a Writer: Symbolically”

  1. Hi Jodi. Well, you know I LOVE your blogs. It is so true, it is all a journey. One closed door leads to an open one. How CAN anything go according to plan? Wouldn’t life be boring if it did? Anyway, I could chat with you for hours and hours about this, but what I have come to find out through both my personal and business endeavors is that it is all about how we perceive what is going on, then what we do about it thereafter. I just want to share two of my favorite words that you reminded me of when you were referring to being stuck in traffic with the cranky kids. Yeah, it can totally suck. But, if we put funny twist on it, it could be well, funny. I will think of things like this. “Isn’t it INTERESTING (one of my favorite words) that all of these people are in the same place at the same time?” One of my other favorite words is unbelieveable. This word covers it all. If we are having a bad day it is unbelieveable. If we are having a great day it is unbelieveable!! Yet, for the bad day or experience, it puts a little funny twist on it. When I have a bad anything, I remind myself about it being unbelieveable and it makes me laugh, shifts my consciousness, then interestingly enough, things go up from there.

    1. Allison! Thanks for your comment. This intrigued me, how you use ‘unbelievable’ to shift your consciousness. It is like an acknowledgment of “anything can happen,” and we don’t know what it all means yet. It is unique and unpredictable. Creates an adventurers attitude instead of self pitying or fearful attitude. Love it.

  2. What if you are open minded and think symbolically and even avoid trying to make sense of things but feel a general sense of depression regardless?

  3. Hi! = D and thank you. I just realized, I don’t think my response posted the first time. I wonder what the meaning of that is! haha, jk. I think you mirrored back an interesting question. I suppose symbolically depression might mean; keeping me humble, keeping me pushing forward to find meaning and ways to improve self/life, and maybe giving me the opportunity to help others based on personal experience. These are all things I understand emotionally but not logically.

    1. Hmmm, OK, you have the symbolic meaning. These are beautiful things to have and get out of a hard time. Now you have to decide what is next. Do you need to keep learning these things, or is it time to fly out of here and do something else? (i.e., have joy!) Or maybe the lesson hasn’t gone to each level. (What do you mean logically? I was just wondering if you switched those words. Because it sounds like you have it logically) Let it be known that you are finished with the depression and ready to move on. But the trick is to be content where you are. Be in the present moment, accept yourself without judgment or the emotional healing cannot take place.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to respond in such depth. I value your time and knowledge immensely. I am continually amazed and inspired by your creative genius and all you find time to do!
    Yes, I mixed the words up..logically and emotionally. Being content where I am, and accepting myself w/o judgment is like sizing up a mountain to see if I can climb it. I have all my gear and the motivation to do it, but I feel like i’m still near the bottom somewhere, slip sliding in the mud. LoL. Its kind of like that falling into a pit over and over again poem though, with all the nifty mountain climbing tools I have access to, i’m sure its just a matter of time before it clicks and I navigate my way up. In the meantime, i’ve been giving a lot of thought to seeing things symbolically and even if I struggle to create meaning, just stopping to think about it is enough to slow me down a little and be present.

    1. Climbing a mountain all at once would take a huge leap. Hardly doable. Just take one step, little or big and be content with that step, be present with the step. Thinking you have to climb the whole thing makes you feels like you cannot be happy until you do. Wanting to be other than where you are, makes us unhappy. It brings in the judgment you cant do it, fear you’ll never be able to and discontentment with the present. What is the mountain anyway and why do you think you HAVE to climb it? Maybe the valley is beautiful and lush and far more sustaining. We don’t know, the story is not over.

  5. The mountain is the path toward happiness. Happiness is being content where I am, and accepting myself w/o judgment. I guess that is a contradiction in itself though. If the mountain is the path toward happiness but happiness is being content with where I am, then that means I am right where I am supposed to be! = )

  6. I really really loved this. Thank you Jodi. Are you sure you didn’t update it just for it to suit me perfectly? 🙂
    “And usually when we can’t make sense of something, we create a meaning that usually disreputive of our self identity: “Nobody likes me.”” That is me. My logic works for everyone except for myself. I’m even faster than anyone to reach this final conclusion 🙂
    I smiled when i read that Chinese story. I need to print it and make everyone who criticize me by saying i’m too “passive” and tell them why not calling it something else?
    I was told, again yesterday that i worry too much, and this is true. An an answered email, a wrong analysis of a situation can easily generate a huge self doubt, sadness and loneliness.

    This post in one point joins the one i picked up this morning. you are right or you are happy, very nice 🙂

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