Out on a Limb
A Monthly Newsletter from Martha Clark Scala
Invest in bringing joy back to your life.
April 2008
Welcome to Out on a Limb, a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in your life. To Subscribe, click here.

April 2008

To See the Forest While in the Trees

You may think I include the picture above so I can brag about my gorgeous cat, Dusty Baker, or show off my husband’s photography, but there really is an ulterior motive. Dusty poses amidst a bed of iris, with the sun pouring down on her. From her perspective, she may not be able to see much beyond those rich green leaves because they are at eye-height., and she is surrounded. Now, picture a menacing dog (because all dogs are menacing, according to Dusty!) entering this iris forest. Without memory of pathways out of this forest, Dusty is bound to feel trapped and distressed. She may feel doomed to face this intruder, with absolutely no options. This is what happens when we lose perspective. When we are not able to see the forest for the trees, as the expression goes, we lack perspective, and without this, solutions (in this case, a way out) seem elusive.

But Dusty knows that the stone walkway leads to the back door, which translates into safety. She also knows that if she retreats to a higher location, the dog can’t get to her, and the iris garden becomes a forest that she can see -- no longer a cage. Dusty’s response provides us with a couple of tools to achieve more perspective: tap into information you already have, and seek a more favorable position or stance. If we want more joy in our lives, we must become adept at regarding a joyless situation from multiple viewpoints. This requires a flexibility and willingness to shift out of firmly held beliefs or opinions.

For Example …

“I will never love again” is the vocabulary of someone with a broken heart who is entrenched in a limiting belief.  This makes sense in the acute stages of grief.  With luck and hard work, the process of grieving allows for expanded perspectives.  Broken-hearted people come to realize that their “one and only” wasn’t actually as good a match for them as they once thought.  Others expand to a view that it’s possible to love again, or that it’s possible to have loved someone deeply, and then love someone else deeply, again.  The key word: possibility.  Our challenge is to entertain multiple possibilities, not just one that seems so predictable, perhaps based on past experience or beliefs passed down to us from our family or society.  Any time you hear yourself saying “never” or “always,” you are probably attached to a firmly held belief.  So for Dusty, entertaining the possibility that not all dogs are menacing would be a big breakthrough!


A Lesson From Sudoku

In and of itself, there is something joyful about solving a puzzle … if you’re a puzzle fanatic.  In a Sudoku puzzle, you’ve got 9 lines, horizontal and vertical, and 9 3-by-3 boxes that must end up with the numbers 1 through 9 only once.  Unless the puzzle is rated Easy, you will not succeed at solving the puzzle without continuing to shift your perspective.  If you just focus on the horizontal lines, you might be missing an obvious space to fill-in from the vertical or box perspectives.  In the San Francisco Chronicle, the 6-star Sudoku is an absolute bear.  When you get stuck, you may just want to give up, or look at the solution on a different page.  If you leave the puzzle, and return to it later, the “unsolvable” somehow gets solved.  Sometimes we have to get a lot of distance from something before we can find a solution, or see it differently.  Prior to the time-out, you may have taken the vertical view, when what you needed was a horizontal or from-a-distance view. 


Joy-Gram for April

Get some practice at getting perspective; it gets easier the more you practice. If you’ve never tried to solve
a Sudoku puzzle, give it a whirl. If you get stumped, practice taking different perspectives (including a time-out from trying so hard), and see if this helps you solve the puzzle. If you’re already a Sudoku puzzler, give yourself the challenge of solving a more difficult one and revel in the joy when you get one done without consulting the solutions page!

OR: Try taking a picture of something from a variety of perspectives or angles. Notice how each change in perspective changes the picture, even though it is the same thing that you are capturing in print. Digital cameras will automatically make adjustments to bring the picture back into focus each time you change the viewpoint. Notice, also, how shifts in perspective can alter what is considered foreground versus background in your composition. How might this apply to changing perspective about how you view a difficult situation?


Another Quote from Mom’s Desk

I want to thank you for your condolences sent in response to the February newsletter about my Mom. I hope you will understand that I was not able to respond to each of you in person, but was moved by your inspirational and comforting words.

In response to the topic of dealing with uncertainty, one reader wrote ” … control freaks like me definitely have issues with that. It's kind of a domino effect: because I'm a control freak, uncertainty trips me up and uncertainty makes me want to be even more in control .... GRRR.”

Quite a conundrum, isn’t it? I offer another quote found in Mom’s desk:

“Count no hours but unclouded ones. Let all others slip out of memory.” Harriet Beecher Stowe


Archives Now Available

Readers have asked me how to find past newsletters at my website. Until now, they have been invisible! If you would like to re-read or forward past Out On A Limb newsletters, click here.

By no means do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!


Martha Clark Scala, MFT 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303

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