You Don’t Look Up

4 Mar

You Don't Look Up 2

When I was 18 my best friend turned round to me one day and said ‘You know what I’ve noticed about you, you don’t look up. You never look up’. At the time, because I was a sensitive sort, I  interpreted this observation as a criticism and took it completely to heart. For some reason her words had touched on a tender spot. For years I went back and back to that comment. I could recall the judgement in her eyes. It didn’t help that I was painfully shy as a teenager and did, indeed, constantly look down (because it was easier than looking into people’s eyes and them seeing me (god forbid)). Secretly inside I knew my friend was actually telling the truth, and maybe that was why I could never shake free from what she said.

Somewhere deep within I realised her words had touched on a flaw that I personally saw in myself but wasn’t able to access as yet. She’d inadvertently laid bear  one of the kinks in the way I let the world affect me and the way I affected the world. In her adolescent naivety she had touched on the nebulous reality of my creative space. I was sealed inwards. I was excluding the external; far happier looking down and resting inside. Not letting who I was and what I created touch others. I wasn’t looking up and out I was looking in and down, staying close to what I know and not changing perspective.  Underneath my ability to not look up was a lack of belief, belief in who I was (although I could only intangibly sense that at the time).

You Don't Look UpAs the years rolled by that phrase never left me. In my mid 20s, I got so obsessed with those words and with perspective I created endless photo montages about looking up. I  used to go on long walks deliberately forcing my gaze skywards (only to trip and end up on the ground the very place I was trying to avoid).

‘Look up and outward.  Up and not down’, I’d say as I dusted myself off and checked my knees for grazes. ‘Notice things’, I’d tell myself. ‘See things from a different perspective’. I’d try and force it out of me. 

So now..what do I do 27 years later?

As I’ve got older and that strictured side of me has ebbed away substantially, I’ve found interestingly it has been accompanied by a gradual loosening of my gaze. The either/or side of me has become less powerful-The look up/look-down part. I’ve been able to gradually free myself up enough to do both without forcing it. A 3D perspective only comes without pressure and with nurtured awareness I feel. Or maybe my creative impulse and my wish to understand the world has just simply broadened out, I don’t know.

I can also see now that her words  actually spoke to my lack of faith in my ability to comprehend the world in its entirety. To place myself within a creative, malleable world that could accept me and my perspective.  I didn’t turn round to my friend and say ‘Oh P**s off X I see the world my way and that’s okay’. I let her ‘take‘ on the way I was perceiving the world affect me.  The message I was getting was loud and clear- I’m right and you’re wrong, and I listened. To stand upright was at that time extremely difficult.

Do her words still resonate today? Well, yes, yes, what she said to me back then still irks me. But  my perspective has changed radically (I don’t know whether that’s maturity or circumstance. Time doesn’t always mean maturity, I think).  However, what I can say is that the  issue  of  other people’s judgement that I had  and how it affected me has completely altered. Consequently, it  doesn’t  really matter to me  if I don’t look up or if  I do (and ironically I now look up constantly because that’s how you gain perspective and realise you’re a small microcosm in a vast sea of everything around, down and to the side; and my love of birds has helped too, I have to say).

 Now, the majority of the time I can be filled with a sense of conviction about what I stand for, a sense of belief in what I do and why, and it doesn’t (in any real, meaningful way, matter what other people think (whether they love me or not). Being able to stand tall in one’s purpose, beliefs and creativity, and giving yourself the time to do so, allows your uniqueness and creativity to come out. If you look down, or you look up, or to the side, or below, as long as it’s unique to you and you’re not hurting anybody that’s all that matters.

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