Sunday, May 8, 2011
A funny thing happened recently. About a week ago, both here and on Facebook, I wrote about this blog’s nomination for the twenty-five best single-parenting blogs on the website Circle of Moms. What I expected from this experience was to gain a few more readers (I did—hi! Thanks for joining up!) and perhaps a bit more publicity, maybe even a few more helpful contacts. And those things happened.
But what I didn’t expect were the loads of emails I’d get from friends and contacts, old and new, far away and close, commenting on the “beautiful” and “gorgeous” life we’re living.
This made me pause. On paper, my life looks anything but gorgeous. I’m all at once a single mom going through a divorce with two young kids; a thirty-something starting from scratch in a foreign country, hundreds and in many cases thousands of miles away from life-long contacts; a mom ever-so-slowly attempting to develop a new career while scraping together money to pay the bills, hell-bent on being with my kids.
Described in those terms, it looks a little nuts. Well, frankly, I have no idea what it looks like to others, but to me, that profile describes something I wouldn’t personally be signing up for, if I had the choice.
But when I look at my life, on a daily basis, I don’t see chaos in the hour to hour, the minute to minute. I see, in fact, a lot of beauty. Beauty in Bojey’s voice as she un-self-consciously and un-abashedly sings “Baa, Baa Black Sheep” at full volume in the grocery store. Beauty in the hornet’s nest that fell from the tree, beauty in the tulips and daffodils finally popping up after a harsh winter. Beauty in the fact that when Ninna is given a box of candy at school, instead of hoarding it all herself, she says “Look, there are two of each kind! They must have known I have a baby sister!”
Among the things I’ve learned these last few challenging years is that beauty, truly, is where you find it. And you find it by looking for it.
Somewhere out there, there is another version of myself, a thirty-something stay at home mom in an unbroken home, with two kids, her own house, a cozy (real) fireplace, with no financial worries, who doesn’t find any beauty.
And then, somewhere else, is a second version of myself. A thirty-something mother living in poverty in a third-world country, someone who has lost children to preventable disease carried in dirty drinking water, whose children don’t go to school, not because she has fancy notions of homeschooling, but because she can’t afford the shoes they need to walk there. Yet this mother sings while washing clothes, points out a flower struggling through a crack in the pavement, tells her children magical stories full of beauty.
Beauty is not what we have; it’s what we see. We can have everything, and see nothing, or we can have very little, but see, with great clarity, the beauty all around us.
On my mental list of what I hope you gain from me, dear chicks (which does not include an aversion to going to sleep on time, a fear of escalators, or an inability to taste cilantro without gagging) is the knowledge that it is your job to find beauty. And in order to find it, you must first open your eyes and your soul to what’s around you. Remember that you will find what you look for. If you seek out ugliness, you will find it. But you don’t want to waste your precious hours on ugliness. It’s beauty you’re looking for.
And if you do that, and you still find no beauty, then the most important job of all, my little ones, is to create beauty yourself. I know you’re capable; I see you do it every day.