Opening My Mind

Don’t you agree that being open-minded is a worthy goal in life? Have you ever had a sudden realization that you aren’t as open-minded as you’d always thought you were? It’s easy to look at other people and judge them for their prejudices, but it’s very disorienting when you’re confronted with the realization that you have your own biases and prejudices that have been nestled snugly in your brain for years. Most of the time those biases seem harmless, but I’ve learned that they can actually prevent you from experiencing some amazing things.

As I go through the process of adjusting to life in the farm country of northwestern Ohio, I’ve discovered some things about myself that I’m not too proud of. But thankfully I’ve also discovered that I’m not too old to change nor too proud to admit that I’ve been wrong.

Gull taking off from water

Gull taking off from water

During the first couple of weeks here, I found myself complaining about a lot of things. The frequent nighttime train whistles. The lack of shopping choices. The fact that I have to actually use a human teller to deposit a check at my credit union instead of being able to use the ATM. And on and on. I was focused on my prejudgment that everything and everyone in these small towns was “backward” and “behind the times.” And with those thoughts in my head, I was unhappy. Of course I was. Because your thoughts determine your emotions.

I was getting disgusted with my negative attitudes and worried that I was offending my new friends with my complaints, and so I did some soul searching to remember why I came here. And slowly, as I began to go about my daily life, I noticed a shift in my thinking. At first I’d sat up at night timing the trains so I could complain about how often they woke me up. Then one day I caught myself listening to the faint sound of one of those whistles and smiling. I realized that that sound had become part of the soundtrack of my daily life, and that I actually liked it.

Whereas at first I’d whined about having to drive 40 minutes to a larger town for more shopping choices, it only took two trips there to make me realize that it really wasn’t that big of a deal to make that trip a couple times a month. In fact, now it’s become almost a special occasion to go to the “big city” (Sandusky, Ohio) for a shopping excursion. Things that were taken for granted as everyday conveniences before have become something to look forward to and appreciate.

Geese in v formation

Canada Geese in V formation

And my opinions about the starkness of the flat landscape have changed too. The wide open land might not be as interesting as the rolling hills I’m used to, but it sure provides lots of opportunities to enjoy and photograph stunning sunsets. And even though I was well aware of the abundance of wildlife habitat here, I was surprised to find myself weeping the other day as I drove past a marsh and watched egrets and a Bald Eagle flying across the road in front of me. There’s incredible beauty here every day. Lots of it.

Sunset at the reservoir

Sunset at the local reservoir

As someone who has always been a city person, I’m stunned at how fast my attitudes have turned around. I’m a bit ashamed about my assumptions that life here would be “not as good as” my life in the city. Every day I find something new to learn about — “Why haven’t they harvested those soybeans yet? They look like they’re dying…” or, “I heard someone mention putting tiles in a field…what does that mean?” — and so on. I’m beginning to see the world differently. I’m surrounded by co-workers and friends who are happy to answer my questions. My life is enriched when I’m able to learn something new, so this completely new environment is fascinating to me.

And speaking of friends…you know, I’m getting choked up now just thinking about this. I had a dozen or so budding friendships with local people before I moved down here, and those friendships have now solidified through birding walks and various other get-togethers. In the past couple of months I’ve experienced so much sincere kindness that it sort of blows my mind. There’s something special about the people here. Β And they make me feel special too. I don’t feel alone anymore. It’s like an entire community has wrapped its arms around me and absorbed me into its big warm heart.

Sunset at the reservoir with fisherman

A fisherman at the reservoir as the day ends

I had a small housewarming party last weekend for a few of my local friends and co-workers who wanted to see my new house. I had been putting it off because I hadn’t done all the painting I wanted to do, and I didn’t have all the rooms furnished yet. And I worried that I would be judged. (Ironic, isn’t it?) But my gosh, when I looked around my house filled with friends that afternoon, my heart swelled with happiness. Just seeing that they would all take the time to drive down here and spend time in my home with me…I know that might not be such a big deal to many people, but it was very big for me. It made me feel accepted on a whole new level. It made me feel more confident that I was going to be alright in my new life here. My house became a home that day. A real home filled with love and friendship–and even a couple of caterpillars!

Great Blue Heron and nuclear power plant - smaller file

What do you focus on, the nuclear power plant or the lovely heron?

This whole idea that your thoughts determine how you experience life is a powerful thing. By consciously letting go of your preconceptions and biases you can open your mind and heart to a whole new world. And I’m living proof that it works.

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15 Responses to Opening My Mind

  1. Pingback: There She Goes Again… | Nature Is My Therapy

  2. You have a beautiful soul and it shines through in many ways, but especially in your writing.

  3. Sharee says:

    Another wonderful post that really hits home with me and makes me do some deep thinking. I agree with what all the others said above. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  4. What a great post Kim. It’s wonderful to read about someone who is open minded enough to be able to admit that they weren’t initially as open minded as they thought. Well done you πŸ™‚

  5. Kim I focus on the Heron now, every time. I experienced the same issues when we moved from a giant swirling soup, called the suburbs. The hardest thing was the lack of professional doctors etc when my son was diagnosed with Aspergers, we had to travel many a mile to see the specialists. The adjustment did not take long because I weighed up the plus verses the minus. The children flourish out here as did my love of nature. So happy for you, we can still go back and visit the big cities but we don’t have to live in it.

    • Kath, yes, I’m learning to focus on the heron too. You remind me that I still haven’t settled on a new doctor, and that is one issue that continues to worry me. I should get on that asap so I don’t have to be concerned if I get sick. πŸ™‚

  6. Pat says:

    Very well written Kim. So glad you are happy in your new home. People are more open in different areas-you did move from Michigan back down to wonderful warm and friendly Ohio so no wonder you are happy!! Love our Ohio People!

  7. Littlesundog says:

    This was one of your best “life” posts, Kim. I’ve watched you open your “heart” so much in the last year… it hasn’t been easy at times because fear likes to punch us in the gut when we make changes. We aren’t so different than the wild critters that enjoy being wild, yet they have had to adapt to urban life in some areas. Investigating a bit, and being open to what the experience of everything might have to offer, changes our perspective – those labels and judgments fall away. I admire you greatly for making these realizations about yourself. Isn’t it liberating? πŸ™‚

    Have you ever watched the movie, “New In Town” with Rene Zellweger and Harry Connick, Jr.? All through the movie one sees the metamorphosis of a Miami city girl yielding to and falling in love with the ways of rural Minnesota and its people.

    By the way, I grew up next to the railroad tracks. We never thought a thing of the noise – feeling the earth rumble as trains passed by. My brother and two of my sister’s still live along the tracks, and I find the (now) very busy BNSF route music to my ears!

    • Hi Lori! Thanks for your continuing support of me on this journey…it means a great deal to me. πŸ™‚ I’ve never heard of that movie, “New in Town,” but I’ll make a note to watch it soon. Thanks!

  8. Jane says:

    Hi Kim, I’m so glad you are settling in and enjoying what your new surroundings have to offer. I think it is natural to experience the initial feelings you had. New environments take time to adjust to. If you’ve lived in the city most of your life, the slow pace and the lack of facilities in small country towns can feel very disconcerting. I lived most of my life in small rural, coastal or outback areas. I loved the peace and quiet and the slowness of it. I liked the warmth and community atmosphere. City living is more of a challenge for me but at the same time I became appreciative of regular garbage pick-ups, a clean constant water supply, fast Internet access, cheaper food and easy access to medical services. There are pros and cons to all environments I think and it can take some time to find the wonderful aspects of each one. When I moved to the city I found it difficult to sleep due to traffic noise and lots more lighting. I got used to it and then went camping and couldn’t sleep because it was so quiet and dark! It’s funny how we can adapt! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m pleased you are enjoying your new place now. Best wishes. J

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