photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

Have you ever lost perspective? Like, blown something out of proportion?

I’ve been known to do this occasionally.

If by occasionally, you mean daily.

Over time, I’ve become more tempered in my reactions, less likely to blow things out of proportion.

Most of the time.

As some of you know, I’ve written a couple of novels. Part of the territory of novel writers is book readings.

Which is why, several years ago, I found myself at a bookstore, reading from my latest novel, Leap.

It was a fun time. Grooviness abounded. Lots of folks came. The One Heart Choir did an audio flash mob at the end of the night.

Not a problem in sight!

That is, until the morning after.

No, I did not wake up with an empty bottle of tequila in my hand and a stranger sleeping next to me. It wasn’t that ­­­kind of morning.

It was much, much worse.

Here’s how it went down:

I woke up all bright and cheery. What a wonderful morning! What a wonderful day!

I meditated and exercised, feeling all peaceful and happy. I showered and adorned my body with clothing, ready to tackle whatever the day had in store.

And then I checked my inbox.

There was nothing unusual there, not at first. There were a bunch of emails about my reading the night before, about how fun it had been.

My wife Melissa had taken a bunch of pictures of the event, and those were in my inbox a well. Pictures of me signing books:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

chilling out at my table:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

and pondering the fate of contemporary literature:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

There were also photos from the reading itself, with me fully representing the Goofball Nation:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

None of these were a problem.

Not even this:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

The problem came when I saw this picture from my friend Georgia Davis:

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

Looks benign, yes? What could possibly be wrong with this photo?!

I’ll tell you what. This:

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

Whose arm was that?! Certainly not my arm! It looked like the arm of an old lady, and last time I checked, I was not an old lady. Or so I thought. The picture seemed to be proving me wrong.

Yes, I was aware that I was overreacting a teensy, weensy bit. But I couldn’t seem to shake the image from my head.

As the day went on, I kept thinking of The Arm.

Should I start working out more? Should I go to the gym every morning and pump some serious iron? Should I do everything in my power to make my arms look less like Olive Oil and more like Popeye?

What was I supposed to do?

Luckily, my spiritual practice – especially my meditation practice – makes it hard for me to traipse off into dusty corners of my mind for too long.

I caught myself.

My mind was committing a classic faux pas. David Burns, in his work with cognitive therapy, calls it Magnification and Minimization. (You can read my post about his work here.)

In Magnification and Minimization, we take positive things that happen and shrink them to the size of fleas. Negative things, on the other hand, become the size of Death Stars.

That’s what I was doing.

All I could see was The Arm.

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

I was neglecting to notice my snappy eyewear:

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

I was neglecting to notice that Copperfield’s Books, a venue that can be difficult to access, had enthusiastically invited me to read at their store:

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

And I was neglecting to notice that I had written a novel¸ a novel that got published:

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

And then there were all the people who came out to support me:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

and buy copies of the book:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

and sing a song at the end of the reading:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

Once I got my head on straight and fully let in the awesome-ness of the night, The Arm lost its power.

What had been magnified went back to its proper proportion. And what had been minimized came back into view.

Bottom line, it had been an amazing night. I was aware of the love in and all around me. And what’s more important than that?

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

When have you lost perspective? And how did you get it back? Share your comments below!

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