The Bigger Picture

PERSPECTIVE – What is it? Sadly, “perspective has no canonical site, no single definition that can provide an adequate or standard account of what it is” (Elkins, J. 1996). Brilliant. Thanks, Elkins… But, despite this, I know that perspective is something I wish I had more of during life and, like I’m sure many of you have, have often relied on friends to give me the ‘bigger picture’. Don’t worry; there is absolutely no shame in this. We are emotional creatures, some more than others, and when something affects us deeply we are somewhat blinded by the emotion. I can admit that throughout my own life so far I’ve struggled identifying what type of pain is worth cry-wanking over. A work colleague once told me, after a long-term girlfriend had split up with me, “everything will be alright in the end”, as if it were his own daily mantra. At the time, this idea seemed completely insurmountable because of the devastation I was feeling inside at the time. But as time progressed, in fact, it was alright.  My friend who told me this wasn’t the smartest bloke I have ever met, in that his brain was pickled long ago from all the acid he’s taken over the years. But what he had said to me had always stuck, and is something I have always remembered.

One could argue that intelligence has a direct correlation to ‘perspective’, but more specifically, emotional intelligence. The more ‘well-rounded’ and experienced we are as humans, the more able we are to see above and beyond our own opinion, or way or looking at things and perceive all the sides of a story or situation. Have you ever had a bad day that you’ve come home at the end of it to say; “I have the worst luck”, “fuck my life”, “why do bad things always happen to me?” Sound familiar? You’ve probably heard before that the solution to occurrences like this is a ‘glass half-full’ kind of approach. But before you knock it, seriously try it. If I ever get bad news, I squeeze my sphincter tight and look for the silver lining in that dismal grey cloud:  “You know what? It could have been a lot worse”. I know this is hard to achieve after some experiences, like grieving a death of a family member or friend, or learning that you or someone close to you has just been diagnosed with serious life-changing illness. These are legitimate excuses and time is the only healer.

I will now attempt to explain a personal experience, as an example, without any scent that it’s a cry for pity, because it isn’t. To cut a long story short, I got a heart disease last year as a result of a complication from food poisoning, called Myocarditis. I was very unlucky, I’m told, to get it, however I’ve found out since that strangely the disease is most common in healthy young males.  Basically, shit hit the fan pretty hard pretty fast, and I ended up being blue-lighted by ambulance to the heart failure clinic at the Royal Brompton Hospital in Kensington (the place that people go when they’ve had massive heart attacks). Even though they thought I had, luckily, I hadn’t had a heart attack (whey!). As well as having chest pain so bad that it felt like Val Kilmer was standing on my chest, I was also feeling the effects of the food poisoning still at the time so I was enforced to do the business in a bed pan because I was quarantined. A pretty humbling experience all in all, and I can easily put my hand on my arse and say that it was the lowest point I’ve ever been.

It wasn’t all bad news – when I arrived the doctor on the night shift gave me a very reassuring welcome; “Don’t worry. Out of all the heart diseases there are, this is the one you’d want” I never thought I’d be so comforted by such an utterance in my mid-twenties. I finally gained perspective on the whole thing when I was eventually allowed to leave my room to slowly wander the halls. I had a chance to meet other patients in the ward, one gentleman in his late fifties particularly. “Aren’t you a bit young to be here?”, he puzzled. “You would have thought so” I replied dejectedly, “yet, here I am. What are you here for?”. “Oh, just my second bypass. The double bypass didn’t work, you see, so now I’m here to get the ol’ triple.” I shortly left, as I clearly wasn’t going to get any sympathy from him… But it made me think.

I confess that my outlook of that whole episode may be now biased as I write this in that I have mostly reached a full recovery with only occasional residual symptoms. I am fully aware that as far as human afflictions can go, honestly, I got off pretty lightly. I could have decided to sustain a complex over eating chicken again (or the ‘poultry culprit’, as I call it), or I could curse the universe or god for making me so ill. But ultimately, what’s the point? What will it change? Another example; I purchased a refurbished iPhone for a bargain price off eBay recently. No, I wasn’t drunk, and yes, I know – what a knobhead. Needless to say, I was fucked over big time and the end result is that I lost the best part of £250, and a shit load of my time and effort.  Believe me, I surprised myself whilst coming up with some pretty imaginative expletives to DM to this person, but it changed nothing. Did it make me feel better? Yes, but only temporarily. In this instance I blame myself – a very expensive lesson to not be stupid and by electrical goods off of unknown, private Chinese resellers. They don’t teach you these sorts of things at school, eh? Of course, I wish neither ever happened but in time you come to realise that you must play the cards you’re dealt. I’m not suggesting you should believe in fate, or that everything happens for a reason. But sometimes, it helps you cope to think that way. To realise that unfortunately despite every effort, sometimes life happens to you and you just have to get back up on that fucking horse.

My thoughts are with people who continue daily with conditions that aren’t their fault, and embrace this as part of their identity, but do not let it restrict or prevent their happiness. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with some people who take life’s problems in their stride and brush off as a slight nuisance, and actually consider themselves lucky in certain aspects. For example, I spoke with a woman with Cerebral Palsy recently, she told me the cruel truth about the benefits system and follows this by admitting she feels lucky to be considered eligible for the highest rate of “DLA” from the government, as well as being able to park her car right up next to Tesco’s. This is what I’m talking about – inspirational people, who can have a laugh in the unfairest of circumstances. I suppose my grievance is towards people who victimise themselves – have you ever heard that negativity breeds negativity? I believe this to be true. Unfortunately, I deal with complaints in my line of work and most of the things I read make me lose faith in the human race daily. How insignificant inconveniences boil their blood to the point where they demand retribution, in as far as insisting for reimbursement merely for the time they spent composing the email/letter of complaint. My cynicism towards the ‘compensation culture’ we now live in would be best saved for another article.

The problem is that perspective usually comes, part and parcel, with ‘hindsight’, with which we all become the most insightful, profound assessors of our most recent fates. I guess my point, to conclude, is to try to remain positive and to take a step back from bad situations, to gain that perspective in the moment of pain, sadness or anger. Always remain humble, accept humility, commit and take responsibility for yourself and your own actions.  Acknowledge when you’ve won life and when you’ve lost. I believe that the most successful winners are those who are most gracious in defeat. I know what you’re thinking; “what a typical British attitude to have towards misery in life – telling us to keep a stiff upper lip!’ You’re right, I am. But let’s look at our friends at Wikipedia’s definition of this idiom: “One who has a stiff upper lip displays fortitude in the face of adversity”. Anyone who displays this kind of virtue to me is admirable and is well worthy of a follow on Twitter.

My last piece of advice for now is to travel. Get out there and see the world. It will change the way you look at life. You think we’ve got problems with policing in this country? Take a look at what the police do to people in the Middle East, Africa and even the United States.

Even in the most desperate, distressing and dismal of times, I invite you to remember that ‘everything will be alright in the end’. Unless someone gets you tickets to see ‘Honey G’ as a gift for Christmas…Then, of course, things will most certainly not be alright in the end.

Rob Ansell

©Ed Harris
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About Robert Ansell 1 Article
Overall, Rob is your typical middle-class white man from Hampshire, apart from his indifference towards both Tea and Cricket. He studied at Exeter University and is now a budding actor after having trained at one of London's leading Drama Schools. In between his acting projects and 2 part-time jobs, he likes to pump iron at the gym and then go on holidays he can't afford.

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