Based in the East Bay Area of sunny California, Ben Monroe is a writer and communications consultant. He is interested in the ways that traditional storytelling methods can be used in advertising, corporate communications, and other non-traditional ways.

It's all about perspective...

It's all about perspective...

Last week was one of shifting thoughts, and unexpected moments that shook me out of patterns and got me thinking in different ways. I was reminded of hearing about how Stephen Spielberg comes up with many of his ideas while driving. Changing his view, looking around, all get him thinking in different ways.

I like to run. Started a few years ago, and now I pound my feet flat on some of the east bay trails pretty regularly. On a good week I can run more than 20 miles on dusty old trails up in Tilden park or around Lake Chabot.

I didn't get much of a chance to run last week, though. I'd been pulling double-dad-duty as my wife was working weird hours, and my kids were home from camp. By Friday night, I was going stir-crazy, and getting a case of "itchy feet". When my wife came home from work, I decided I'd head up to the lake for a run. I got there about an hour before sundown, and figured I'd just do a quick two-miles out, then head back to the car. But sometimes, I get moving, and I just can't stop. I call this "Pulling a Forrest Gump". I.E. "I ran two miles, and then since I was feeling good, and it was a beautiful night, for no particular reason I decided to keep going."

And that's what happened. I was having such a great run, I just kept going. I hit the three mile mark and decided I really had to turn around. The sun was starting to set, and I better get turned around.

And I get about another mile back towards where I started, and suddenly I'm running in the dark. And I mean crazy, no light pollution dark. There're hills all around the lake, so I'm not getting any ambient light from the city. And there's only a sliver of moon that night. And of course, one of the reasons I love this trail is because of all the trees, and how during the day the path is shaded from the sun so I don't get overheated.

I can see maybe about ten feet in front of me, and I'm starting to get nervous. But when I stopped for a moment to think about it, I realized that I've run this trail hundreds of times. I know the twists and turns, the hills and valleys. This is not going to be a problem. I was momentarily concerned because of the rattlesnakes I've seen up at the lake over the past few weeks, but then I remembered that they'd be back in their burrows. It was definitely cooling down, and not their sort of weather.

So I just kept going. Slow and steady, and watching the trail about ten feet in front of me. But I never broke pace, and ran a slow jog the whole way. And what was really neat about this for me, is that I've never run both out and back before. I usually run out to the three mile mark, and then do a combination of run/walk on the way back. But something about the change of scenery, of having to focus on just what was ahead of me, and not look around me changed all that. By the time I got back to my truck, my legs were rubber, I was soaking with sweat, and buzzing on an endorphin high. I can honestly say it was the best run of my life.

Last week, as I was going about my day, checking Facebook like you do, I was confronted with a name and a face I've spent a lot of time putting behind me. A guy who bullied my friends and I mercilessly through Junior High School and High School. He and his cronies seemed to have made it their mission to make our lives unbearable. Seeing him pop up out of the blue after all this time was unsettling. I've spent a lot of time moving on from that time, but his presence brought back a flood of memories.

I reached out to another friend from that time (whom I didn't know well during High School, but we became friends a few years later). And in conversation with her, I found out that this guy came from a family with a history of mental illness, of some unspeakable tragedies and traumas. I spent a long time thinking about that, about how we interacted as teens, and I couldn't help but feel a flood of empathy towards him. Knowing what I was now aware of, I felt all that anger and fear just fade away.

A shift in perspective. Realizing that everyone has a story, and I only knew part of his, the part that directly affected me.

Sometimes, just changing your perspective on a situation can bring about a whole new level of deep understanding. A new way of acting or thinking. If you're stuck in a rut, what can you do to change that? Order a different type of coffee next time? Take a different way home from work? Wear that outfit that you like, but think other people will judge you for?

Shake it up. Try something new.

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came...

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came...

Books I've written