What Are You Looking At?
by Erin Prewitt on May 25th, 2015

Just recently I had an opportunity to participate alongside our local Ventura School District Superintendent, Trudy Arriaga, to present a very special award.  The “Eternal Optimist Award” is based upon my husband Chris Prewitt (who passed away just over a year ago) and his incredible spirit.  I originally wrote the speech to describe how Chris was an eternal optimist.  But as I re-read today I was looking at my own life and was hoping to pull some inspiration for myself and decided to share with you (I made some modifications in this speech to make it broader for the readers of this blog, I hope you don’t mind readers). 

“The journey and events that led me to be standing in front of you were caused by a painful tragedy (the sudden death of my Husband) which has forced me to face myself in ways I never imagined.  It is like a story I heard many years ago of two men who were imprisoned a long time ago.  One day these two prisoners, who shared a tiny cell, with two beds, a small desk, and a tiny barred window in which they could look out from, were visited by a priest from the local village.  When the priest visited, he asked the prisoners a question, “What do you see when you look out the window?”  The first prison responded quickly, “That is easy Father, I see mud.”  This answer makes sense, because if you looked out the window and you looked down you could see dirt, which was now muddy because of the rain.  When the priest met with the second prisoner from the same cell he asked him the same question, “What do you see when you look out your window?”  The second prisoner’s answer was quite different.  He turned to the priest and with a slow smile growing on his face he whispered, “Father, when I look out the window, I see stars.”

This is how I choose to view the death of my husband.  I could look out at this journey and see tragedy, pain, and be distraught.  And by most metrics, I would be justified in feeling those emotions as they are part of the muddy landscape in front of me.  However, like the second prisoner I choose to look further.  I choose to look beyond the mud, I choose to look up and SEE THE STARS.  I choose to see potential, possibility, opportunity, and most of all I choose to see beauty.  It is not that I pretend that the mud does not exist, I know it is there.  To be among the living we all must face (and often times) walk through the mud of life.  However, just because there is mud in front of me does not mean I disregard all the other wonders that lie beyond.  It certainly doesn’t mean I cannot focus on the stars.  It is all part of our daily landscape, what do we choose to notice, to talk about, to focus on, and to see in one another.

What do you see when you look at someone in front of you?  Can you only see the mud of that person, the grimy, messy, and unlikeable parts?  Or are you able to see past the mud, and see potential, possibility, maybe even the beauty?  I think we all have the opportunity to choose how we view people.  Once we have chosen how we want to view them, more than likely that is how we will see them.  The research is conclusive, that how we view our environment, which includes people, directly impacts how we treat and respond to it…So how are we responding to the individuals we come into contact with…do we see only the mud or are we able to see beyond the mud and see their beauty, their potential?

This is what this award is about, The Eternal Optimist, it is about someone who looks at the landscape of life and across a body of their world and sees potential.  Eternal Optimist, believes that potential outweighs any obstacle and that if you keep your eyes open beauty can be easily found.

The recipient of this award is NOT someone who jumps in head first because they don’t know what their getting themselves into.  That is a common misconception of positive and optimistic people, it is not that they don’t know, it is that they DON’T CARE.  They don’t care that others who have come before and have struggled or maybe even failed.  They don’t care that the road ahead might be bumpy or hard, BECAUSE they are willing to see beyond the bumpy road, they are able to see something many others cannot…they see opportunity, they see potential AND that is WHY they jump in. 
Being an Eternal Optimist goes beyond a personality trait, it is more intentional then that.  An Eternal Optimist is someone who has chosen to be disciplined about the way they see and interact with the world. 
An Eternal Optimist often navigates on the road less traveled, that is why so often these individuals stand out and are memorable for a lifetime.”

As I re-read this speech and I sit back and assess my own frustrations, my own landscape.  I wonder where I am more committed to seeing mud, then stars.  To take it a step further I see pockets of my life where I assume there is only mud before me.  Just yesterday I got in an argument with someone I care about deeply.  I adore this person, however in one area of our relationship I have a chronic complaint.  I have spoken up about my complaint wanting it to change, when that has not worked I have tried staying quite hoping that my silence will somehow bring about a different outcome.  I will be honest, there has been some change but not the amount that I want (hopefully you relate to this, I don’t want to be the only one!!).  After reading the speech I see now that I not only have become resigned that this will never change, and more honestly change to my liking, but I am also making (this dear person in my life) ‘in the wrong’ because they are not doing it my way.  I see that my viewpoint has limited my experience of this relationship, where there is joy and love I have brought in resentment and disappointment.  Isn’t this what I am talking about above, only seeing mud before you?  In this area I have only been seeing mud or better said, maybe the mud of the situation.  I have not been able to see the potential, opportunity.  At this moment I am not sure what to do, but I am clear on point, I want to keep my head up and look for the stars, the beauty of who this person is in my life.  I think bottom-line is I am really over rolling in the mud and acting like I don’t have a choice about it, when I am the one who willingly threw myself in the mud in the first place!

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