One of the first things I did when we moved into our home was to install spotlights.

I love the vibrancy of the art hanging on my walls. It reminds me of friends, of places I’ve lived, of people I know and care about. It inspires me to continue writing and working and setting goals, because much of it represents the pure expression of creative energy and imagination, not to mention, perseverance.

Those spotlights cut into the old plaster ceilings? They show off the paintings and drawings – including my son’s – to their best advantage.

But shining a light on anything too harshly or for too long can be problematic.

A friend was dropping by this weekend, and so I tidied as best I could in a short span of time – the expedient shoving of files under chairs, moving stacks of papers into another room, and dusting what I could, as quickly as I could.


And then I switched on the spots, which provide ambiance as well as highlighting the art – and the dust I missed, the cobwebs that I cannot reach, and the general wear-and-tear of most of my possessions.

I was embarrassed, all too aware of the real cleaning that is needed in my home, and my inability to get it done. But my guest felt at ease, and enjoyed the warmth of the colors that brighten under the carefully tilted spots.

And I realized that he saw the images and found them interesting, while I was focused on the flaws.


How often do we deconstruct our thoughts, our attitudes, and our actions – or those of others – under the metaphorical spotlight? How often do we go on and on about the dirt and dust, rather than the bigger picture and its composition?

Oh, I’m hardly a barrel of laughs these days; my optimism is always moderated, and life has been throwing curve balls for so long that I’m grateful I can find any positive attitude at all.

Yet clarity is a wonderful thing, if used holistically and even comparatively.


Life is a little tricky in my household at the moment. There are issues to be sorted out, and they aren’t minor. Challenges are nothing new in our lives, and I imagine that will continue to be the case. We try not to sweat the small stuff, but dealing with it does drain our capacity to face larger problems with a clear mind, or a reasonable day with a positive outlook.

Add to that a tendency to live a life examined – yes, my tendency – and it’s all too easy to focus on the flaws, and everything that seems to be going wrong.

Enter a little perspective.

Who hasn’t been following the news of the earthquake in Japan and its devastating toll?


Why does it take tragedy – on a personal scale or global – to remind us of what we have?

We are so caught up in the minutiae of our daily lives – which is both normal and understandable – that we are unable to see our neighbors, our communities, our relative good fortune. So I ask you:

  • Are you reasonably healthy?
  • Do you have family that cares about you?
  • Are you paying your bills?

Your spouse may drive you crazy and your in-laws want too much of your time. The sump pump in the basement isn’t working and there is no college fund for the kids. Your boss is nuts, you’ve gained a few pounds, your worries are real. But when you shine that spotlight, look carefully. Take in more than the dust and dirt, or flip the damn switch to the OFF position.

To learn how you can help with Japan relief, check here on Huffington Post.

© D A Wolf



  1. says

    Amen, BLW. After what I’d just been through (of which you’re well aware), I am more grateful now than I’ve ever been for the life that I have. But a little reminder occasionally, especially on a sleep-deprived Monday morning (stupid daylight savings!), is never a bad thing.

    I hope things look up for you on your end too. Thinking of you…

    • BigLittleWolf says

      I think it’s important that we see the whole – both the good and the bad. If we don’t see what needs work, how can we address it? But if we don’t have the perspective to appreciate what matters, then what point is there to anything?

      Nice to have you here, Ms. HalfEmpty, and welcome.

  2. says

    Reading this post inspired me to try to put into words what I’ve been feeling lately about my blog and how exposed I should be in the internet. Thank you for the push to put my thoughts into words. Now let’s see if I can come up with a solution?

  3. says

    Boy, what a great reminder about learning to see the “dirty” glass half full instead of half empty. For years my weight was the barometer which made everything all right or not. If only I was thinner, I’d be happy, my house would be clean and my kids would be well adjusted. May I just say I think there are too many people who never shine the light on themselves. They are in denial like the woman who keeps picking the same type of schmuck over and over and blames the guys. What? My friend put it this way, “If one person tells you your hair looks like crap, you say ‘That’s your problem.’ If five people tell you the same thing, then you better look in the mirror and do something about it.” It sounds like your looking in the mirror and doing the best job possible. Hang in there!

  4. says

    The tragic events in Japan and the Mideast certainly makes one thankful for the mundane trials of life. My struggles pale in comparison to those half a world away. Sometimes I feel guilty for being tucked away, safe and sound, away from the turmoil. Yet, I know my time is probably coming. Time when I’ll face overwhelming odds and circumstances. But, for now, the events in other places serve to put my world into perspective, and shuts my mouth from complaining.

  5. says

    Spotlights make me think of my wish not to be in them, and of surgical lights and analytic thinking (in which I admittedly engage.. only to slowly favor more intuitive, softer gazing). The brain sees what’s in the spotlight, particularly when frightened into the tunnel vision of survival, while the Ferdinand self just likes to sit quietly and smell the flowers, the sun softly diffused through a canopy of leaves as the heart-mind half drowses and watches towering clouds work their magic.

  6. says

    BLW installs spotlights and I install dimmers. Interesting. Tied to our personalities? Most likely. Actually I have spots for four pictures I want highlighted. Three are over the fireplaces; one is over the master bed. Almost every major room in the house has dimmer switches. Light really can set the mood, can’t it.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      (My spots have dimmers, Gandalfe. Best of both worlds, and yes – light really impacts mood. Then again, so can the darkness, or should we say the degree of darkness and context.)

  7. says

    Apt title BLW. I believe we have the ability to magnify meaningless situations, while not realizing that other people in the world are just trying to survive. I’m not excluding myself from this category. I wish we didn’t need tragedy to understand what is truly important.

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