Thursday, January 27, 2011

the flip side

This blogpost by Amida, made me laugh!

I love sideways thinking. I love the idea there is always another way to look at things. I love thinking one thing, then making myself walk around my thought to see the other side.

I call it "looking for the Flip Side."

I think it's so important not to be bound by one-sided thoughts. Twenty five percent off a jacket could be the cost and it COULD be the jacket (see above blogpost!). A rainy day that stops you going out is a day that helps you to stay in! A lost opportunity to go to the Netherlands is the gained opportunity to stay in Australia as a family and have my son participate in an awesome music festival.

You know those cool pictures you find in logic puzzle books sometimes? Like, Do you see a vase, or a face? I used to spend ages sitting there, seeing the vase, then making myself see the face. Then a vase again. Then the face. I loved the idea that both thoughts, both views existed inside the same picture.

I do that with so many things. But I remember when I began to do it often and do it mindfully.

It began in the middle of my darkest days, years ago, when most times I carried an invisible cloud around me. Things that went wrong or felt bad were my fault—I believed I caused them. My child not sleeping? My fault. Me not sleeping? My fault. I'd go out and feel everything deeply and hard. I'd worry. I sometimes found myself impossible to bear. I felt like people could look in and see just how fragile everything about me was, and find me impossible to bear too.

Something happened to change that view. It wasn't one thing. It was a conscious choice, over time, to think of the flip side. It was a conscious choice to say to myself:

"Hang on. Is there another way to see this? Another way that doesn't involve the twin feelings of Sorrow and Self Blame?"

"Huh?" said hollowed-out me.

"There is. There IS another way to see this," said my therapist, and my managing depression class, and my reading, and the me who was elbowing her way to the front saying, CHOOSE JOY.

"Huh?" said overwhelmed, insomniac and unhinged me.

Patient sigh, sighed Flip Side me. "What I mean to say is:

Perhaps you aren't sleeping because the chemical composition of your brain right now is totally low in seratonin.

Perhaps your little boy isn't sleeping because he has a lot of thoughts to think and he'll sleep when he's good and ready.

Perhaps that person at play group is being short with you because she's having a bad day. Perhaps she's near tears and needs you to show her kindness right now. 

Perhaps when people are cranky it's because they need to use the loo.

Perhaps when you make a mistake it's just a mistake.

Perhaps when someone hurts you, it's because of their issues not yours. Perhaps they need compassion.

Perhaps if you miss out on something, it's because there are other good, fine things to do.

Perhaps the glass isn't half empty, or any empty. Perhaps, there are other things you can fill the glass with.

Perhaps if you look outside and all around yourself, there's a good chance the bad stuff is not your fault.

Perhaps the bad stuff is actually not your stuff to carry.

Perhaps it's not even bad stuff. It's just stuff.

Hey: The stuff that brings you joy is just there.

There's another, bigger way to see."

Oh? said the grabbing-a-lifeline me

Yes, said Flip Side me.

Now, when I experience something that makes me disappointed or downright sad
or makes me feel hurt or angry
or seems difficult
or leaves me feeling tangled, I sit with my thoughts for a while.
It's so tempting, so easy to stay in the one view of hurt, sad, confused, or undecided.

But then I wander, or march, or drag myself around to the Flip Side.

I need to see what's on offer there. What I have instead of what I haven't.

And I say, Oh.

The view from here is incredible. Look at the open spaces! Look at the colours.

Hmmm, I don't like it so much here. I prefer the other side. It's cosy there—there I can wallow. Can't we go back?

Wait a minute…do you see that? Look! And that? Look at how the light hits. It's possible that it makes sense for someone to be here. It's possible that it's beautiful/interesting/understandable/joyful on this side too. Look again—is that a bluebird?

The flip side means that when I talk about something with my kids, and it's something that isn't "2 + 2 is 4" or "Yes, that's definitely a broom," I often point out the flip side.
(Or SIDES, because some things are infinite in the way they can be seen! Like a room of mirrors or a kaliedoscope, always changing, the colours bright.)

Like Australia Day, or religion, or why people choose to do things we don't understand. Like why people might like to eat mushrooms when the kids think they're gross!

Like, actively seeking joy in a moment you're reluctant to experience. Like going to the beach when you just don't want to or are scared, finding yourself boogie boarding that wave, and feeling indestructible afterwards.

The flip side, for me, means looking for the joy.

The flip side, for me, means finding what IS over what ISN'T.

And the flip side of cloud?

Ah. Such amazing, extraordinary colours!

I'm so glad I looked.


  1. I LOVE YOU HELENA! Yes I do! We had a rather doozy of a morning today when my offspring (well 3 of them) went at it like you would not believe! Of course the oldest one took a chunk out of me and my parenting due to the younger ones having a go at her. (ahem, she started it!) I tried to explain the flip side, I really did! One stormed off before we could even touch the surface, one came in from the other room, put in his 2cents and went back to swearing at his math lesson which apparently was not to his liking today. And Madam stormed off to her room in a huff.

    I actually wondered if I was a bad parent after all? I refused to get angry or upset. I went and sat in my garden, right in the middle, where not so long after, one very sorry young lady came and hugged me and joined me while we watched two different types of bees getting on with bee stuff right up close near my nose! She looked over my shoulder amazed, wondering why they did'nt sting me! I pointed out how the smaller bee who could not wrap its little legs around the flowers like the bigger one, opted to rub his little nose in the pollen and then rub his little legs along the stamen. It was so wonderful and amazing and I think she got what I was pointing out. The smaller ones even though they find things a little harder are only trying to do what the bigger ones do, you know?

    Living with young adults, teenagers and small boys is sometimes a major patience test. I HAVE to see the flip side of all situations or I would simply go mad! Hmmmm Maybe, I am already there? Hahahahahha!

    Hugs and smoochies lovely lady! A beautiful post as always.

  2. Helena, This is a magical post. It is beautiful and inspiring and just what I needed this morning. My husband and daughter are out plowing us out of the 18" of snow that fell in our SECOND blizzard of '11 and I could say "ugh, I have so had enough of this winter" but the flip side is my husband literally CAN'T go to work today, the beauty is breathtaking, and the sheer amount of snow we have right now is awe inspiring.

    Are you on Facebook? If you are friend me - I just put pictures up!
    my email:

  3. You are so brave! Brave to change, brave to talk about it...

    Back when I had no kids and a job, there were times when people barked at me and I had to tell myself that there was a very good chance that I was NOT the center of their universe and perhaps the grouchy didn't have anything to do with me at all. It was a relief and slowed down some of the standard amount of self-doubt I had.

    I am so happy know you!

  4. Thank you Helena. You often seem to write just what I need to read... :)

  5. Choosing Joy is a pretty good way to go about life, I think.

    Difficult, sometimes, though! :)
    (at least for a second.)

  6. Helena, Just when I need to read this; here it is. I love it. Love the idea of it..the flip side, what a wonderful way of looking at things.

    Choose Joy. yes..CHOOSE JOY.

    The flip side....will be my new mantra. I am off to share this wonderful concept with Kei. Hugs to you my dear friend.

  7. Thanks, so much, for all these beautiful comments!

    I appreciate them more than I can say. Especially when my heart pours out and is received with such warmth, such kindness. I imagine all of us, sitting together somehow, supporting and smiling; our eyes crinkling up at the edges. Ah, it's a good feeling!

  8. I find a kindred spirit in you as I've always struggled with my own thoughts all my life. I suffer from insomnia because I can't turn off my brain. There were days when I was so overwhelmed with emotion and yet, I learned to find that place of quiet...the eye of the hurricane where everything is still and peaceful. You are right...choosing joy is a choice and seeing the other side can be liberating! You express your thoughts so beautifully. From another dreamer to another, keep writing these inspiring words!


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.