Zooming Out

By Liz Pardue-Schultz

Hey, hon?” I breathed deeply and forced a playful tone. “Remember that time we were stranded at LAX after our flight out of Hawaii got cancelled and it was 3 am and we had barely three hours until we had to catch the next connector flight and I was still recovering from the worst tummy troubles of my life because I’d had a whole two-pound bag of gift shop macadamia nuts in lieu of a real dinner while we were waiting to hear information at that tiny airport in Kaua’i?”

My new husband sighed. “Yeah, I remember that,” he smirked a little. “…vaguely.”

A genuine smile trickled across my lips, “That was pretty hilarious when you think about it.”

He rolled his eyes, squeezed my hand, and smiled back for the first time in at least 36 hours. We were, in fact, still standing in the taxi lane outside LAX at 3 am, two days after we had expected to be back home from our honeymoon. Our luggage could’ve been anywhere between the Pacific and the Eastern Seaboard, and we had been sustaining ourselves on whatever hyper-processed airport food was most affordable, which explained the disaster I had wrought upon our last flight’s lavatory. Additionally, we had returned to the mainland just hours after news of the 2008 stock market crash had swept the country, so our stress of returning home was exacerbated by the collective anxiety of everyone along the way. Needless to say, it had not been a great day.

In that moment, I thought we needed a laugh – just a moment of levity to remind us that, if we were to act as though we were observing our life through a camera lens and “zoom out” on the situation at hand, looking at it from the perspective of an audience member viewing our life as a movie, it’s probably not so bad in the grand story of our life together. What I didn’t realize was that, in that moment, I was setting up a small ritual that proved to be a gift in the years to come.

As anyone who has ever been in any sort of relationship (familial, platonic, romantic or otherwise) with another human being would know, there were plenty more rough days in store for us after that. Some of those days extended far longer than we’d ever expected, turning into months – sometimes years – of tribulation. It wasn’t easy, but whenever I could, I enacted the “Zoom Out” method we’d tried on that first fateful trip home.There were many, many times I’ve been too caught up in my own emotions to try it, but, when properly executed, it slices through our tension like a hot knife. In those quiet moments of repose after disaster has struck, I’ll venture a little shift of perspective by means of a comically descriptive run-on sentence.

Sometimes, I use it to build a bridge by incorporating my shortcomings when I’m describing the ridiculousness of the situation (e.g. “Remember that time I said the dumb thing at the wrong time because I’m a stubborn, pompous jerk sometimes, and then we got all mad and were yelling about something that wasn’t even important enough to be mad about because we love each other and we’re fine in general? I’m sorry.”) and sometimes it’s a means to remind each other that it’s okay to laugh when things are really frustrating but otherwise inconsequential (e.g. “Remember that time we spent a whole month intricately crafting props and decor for our daughter’s big birthday party and then all the guests tore through the activities and food and our house in the first 15 minutes so we sent them outside for the last hour-and-a-half to run around and whack each other with pool noodles until their parents showed up? Good times!”)

Over time, my methodology has evolved; these days, all I have to do is say, “Let’s just zoom out on this for a minute…” and we both pause to look at the whole picture, our priorities, and how we want to navigate the situation from here. It isn’t foolproof, but more often than not, treating our troubles as though they are already in our rearview mirror gives us relief from having to figure out the next steps through it. Most importantly, however, it has reminded us that we’ve gotten through every other obstacle life has thrown in our path; we’re going to enjoy the ride more if we learn how to laugh along the way.

About this writer

  • Liz Pardue-Schultz

    Liz Pardue-Schultz

    is a “Jill of all trades” who lives in North Carolina and writes about her adventures. Her words have been published in HuffPost, XOJane, Time.com, and a ridiculous number of Letters to the Editor columns.

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One Response to “Zooming Out”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Liz, such positive messages we could all take to heart.

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