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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Manente


"Every year without knowing it I have passed the day when the last fires will wave to me..." For the Anniversary of my Death by W. S. Merwin, this poem has plagued me for 28 years. Sounds odd, right? Upon my first reading of this poem in my junior year English literature class, I perceived that we were reading about a person who did not know when his death would come - " without knowing it I have passed the day..."Upon discussing with my teacher, he informed me that I was wrong and that the author was already dead. I was not going to accept this. And here I am still discussing it 28 years later because I do not care what the teacher said - I believe he was still alive. And when I say I am not over it, I have used this example in my therapy session ( btw - those I have read the poem to agree with me).

This poem has taught me a valuable life lesson - Perception. In college, I worked in Pope 101 - otherwise known as the perception lab. Unbeknownst to me, I was setting up my future. Perception, a sensory experience of the world, but mine is not yours, and yours is not mine. Our different experiences in life have set us up for different perceptions of the same event. In therapy, it is essential to be mindful of others' perceptions. There isn't always a right or wrong answer, but differences of perception. A necessary part of my job is to help my clients understand that people view the world differently than they do. Understanding and owning this will help us grow as individuals.

Another important aspect of perception is acknowledging that others do not always perceive us as we perceive ourselves. It is essential to understand how others view us, but we do not need to own their perception, but we must acknowledge it for one's own growth. Almost every day for the past 20 years, I have encountered differences in perception. One of the most challenging situations is helping a person understand that they are not wrong or the other person is not wrong, just different perceptions. So as we navigate through life, we might not agree with those around us, but we can acknowledge that their perception of life is valuable - and sometimes we might learn a thing or two if we are open to evolving.

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