March was tough. A sort of confused, in-between month. My eager forsythia, tempted to bud out way too soon, were lambasted by two feet of snow. The news felt no different.
My personal life felt like that, too. I’d thought my book was about to be done. But I saw a truer way through, I tossed it all up in the air again for another revision.
After months of clinging to a promising but in the end, insufficient relationship, I say goodbye. A sad ending with such a good man. And again, I felt the familiar loneliness of dinner for one.
There will be days like this, my Mama said. And weeks. Months sometimes. Promises and disappointment. Hopes dashed. Life bumps us around, and we have bruises to show for it.
But there are saving graces, too.
Last week while in Washington DC visiting my fabulous grown-up boys, I spent an afternoon in the Holocaust Museum. It was time. Hall after hall of pictures and sound reels moved me even more than I’d expected. Darkness engulfed my soul, as it is meant to do.
…And then I walked outside to sunshine and cherry blossoms, equally impossible to ignore.
Really?!! How could there be such horror… and then this beauty?
Beyond answers, I’m convinced that it’s nature’s beauty
Driving back from the airport, through a seemingly lifeless Berkshire countryside, it was the delicate still-attached beech leaves fluttering in the wind that felt hopeful, parchment-white against the brown backdrop.
I could have missed this gift. It was a cold, gray day. I was tired from the many flight delays. But this habit of mine of seeing beauty – of noticing what’s actually there to be received – won out. And my grumpy mood was lifted, at least a bit.
My kids say I’m way too naïve, even escapist. They may be right, but I do somehow see beauty when I most need it. The beauty of dawn’s light releases me from my nighttime self-doubt demons. This morning’s bird song is what eased my knotted heart, still clenched from yesterday’s NPR story about one more dead man trying to cross the border.
The more I open to feeling the world’s suffering,
But here’s the catch: It takes practice to see beauty. To hear it. Practice to be here, in our bodies, alive to what is just as true as the darkness – and perhaps more essential – if we are to stay upright and on purpose.
Martha Graham’s words apply as well here as to dance.
“Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.”
It’s choosing to receive beauty, again and again – like practicing over and over a dance movement – that allows us to choose how we see the world.
And in times like these – when our energy and action are most needed – simply finding beauty may be what could save us.
I'd love to know what practices you do to make more permanent an outlook that supports your joy and effectiveness. What tools do you rely upon? Share with us, the community of practicers!
Mary is an intimacy coach, sensuality educator, spiritual counselor, and writer who leads retreats around the globe and privately coaches women and couples. All at the intersection of the sacred and the senses.