by Bev Borton~Where do we get the idea that our lives should ideally run smoothly every day and that anything to the contrary is a problem or is unwanted?
Contrast is most apparent as an annoyance or obstacle. That unexpected traffic jam, the special needs child challenging us, the appliances that break at the worst time, the aging parent who fails to understand the lengths we go through for them as a caregiver, the spouse who can’t see things our way, the losses we suffer. This is not how we picture or prefer our days to be.
Artists know that contrast has value, though. When the differences in a piece are obvious, such as in the size, value, color and type of elements, they add interest and excitement. They emphasize what’s important and direct the viewer’s eye.
I am not a fan, yet I can relate to a story I once heard of an opera lover wanting to listen to only the best of it by selecting a bunch of arias, the most spectacular passages in opera, and stringing them all together in one musical recording. Soon enough, listening to such a refined selection was discovered to be an exercise in weariness because there was little contrast with which to appreciate the “high notes” of the performances. It seems contrast does provide a useful and perhaps necessary purpose.
In our house, we say we’re having a “contrast day” when things aren’t going according to plan, especially when things are out of whack and are not at all what we planned or expected. A euphemism maybe, but it helps us adjust our focus. It helps us remember that most often things go pretty well and here is a chance to appreciate that.
In writing this article, I Googled “contrast day”, thinking our term is probably not original. What came up was “contrast dye”, the useful tool physicians use to make visible injuries or diseases. Here was another example of the benefit of contrast!
It’s true that without contrast, we wouldn’t see as clearly, appreciate or understand the value of our lives. Without contrast we may be without the opportunity to learn about what we treasure, admire and respect.
Sometimes our circumstances are relentlessly filled with contrast. “In contrast to what?”
Can we say thanks, then, to contrast? Instead of trying to wish it away, get past it or eliminate it, can we see the advantages it provides? Can we recognize it as the teacher that it is?
How about a new definition for contrast?
(n.)1. a window into what is important to me 2. a window into what I appreciate and love 3. a window into what I stand for.
It seems to me in a moment of contrast we have a choice. We can focus on what we don’t want and become indignant in the face of what’s in our way, the disagreeable circumstances, the hostility, or the resentment. The other option would be to try to welcome it and use it as our ally. It surely will come at some point, and we are not as powerless in the circumstances as we think.
“Hello Contrast! I’ve been expecting you…”
~How will I behave this time?
~What are you showing me about how strong I am? How capable?
~Am I blowing this out of proportion? How big is it really?
~Even though this seems the opposite of what I want, how can I harmonize with it for now?
~What am I trying to hold onto that is less important?
~What insights are you bringing about my relationships and their value?
~How are you helping me to feel more alive?
“Thanks, Contrast! You are not just a problem anymore. You showed me what was important.”