The more I think about it the bigger it gets.
Styled like concrete graffiti under the Story Bridge, the mural was commissioned by the Brisbane City Council in 2009 as part of the Living Cities program. Local artist Sebastian Moody explains that the purpose of the script was intentionally ambiguous. Whether the ‘it’ represents your struggle with finances, or relationship, with weight, self esteem or with an annoying neighbour… thinking about it, only makes the problem grow.
I started instinctively looking for other applications of the simple philosophical approach; and it wasn’t long before I was able to make it relevant in my family. The boys were at their father’s house this week and I had called to say goodnight. One of them jumped on the phone and I could sense immediately that he was upset about something.
When questioned, he launched into an impassioned explanation of some minor injustice that one of his brothers had committed against him. He hadn’t been given a turn at something, or shoved sideways, or called a name… probably all of the above. The emotion was raw… and yet, as I soon found out, the incident had been over an hour ago.
The more he talked about it, the worse he felt. The sign under the bridge popped into my head. I asked him firmly to stop talking, which took him by surprise. And then I launched into a series of random questions about the new futsal boots he wants to buy, which kids are in his team and whether Ronaldo is a better player than Messi.
His mood quickly changed, at which point I congratulated him. He asked, “What for?” I told him, “For changing your mood”. He responded with a casual- you’re welcome. Like he had just put his shoes away. And yet such a simple act is powerful enough to save a marriage, a job and our sanity. Such a simple shift, that over his life, could have so much impact.
It occurred to me after I jumped off the phone, that we spend so much time teaching our children practical skills like tying their shoe laces, but often neglect opportunities to teach them emotional tools that in the end, are probably far more important. It’s one thing to say, ‘get over it’, but the part we really all need help with is learning ‘how’.
Of course, the message under the bridge has equally positive applications. Like an athlete who focuses on the podium. Or a partner who focuses on your strengths. A businessman who focuses on success. Law of attraction, quantum energy, ‘The Secret’, affirmations… these are all possibly versions of the same principle.
Focus births emotion. Emotion feeds action. Action creates results.
Outspoken historian and politician Allen Weinstein, proposed that ‘Nothing is real, everything is perception’. Perhaps there are big lessons even in small squabbles. I don’t have much influence over how my children’s lives are going to turn out. As a writer, I wish it was the one story I could actually write. But perhaps there is comfort in knowing that whilst I can’t impact their experiences, I may be able to influence how they perceive them.