After times of stress, it’s far too easy to get caught up in what’s wrong with life, and forget to see the beauty all around us.
Days after our Boulder floods here in Colorado, I traumatized myself over and over again in my own mind as I focused my attention on the destroyed hiking trails, roads around town swallowed by earth, and the tragic loss of homes throughout the area.
I started to think about everything that was now ruined and wrong, and other than praising the efforts of people pitching in for one another, I viewed the world around me through mud covered glasses.
I drove to my favorite hiking trail since hiking to me is church and I needed to pray, but it was gone. Every favorite trail was closed, not closed for safety’s sake, but gone.
I sat inside my car and sobbed for an hour. Everything inside of me had finally broken loose and I felt the losses in our community. As I sat puffy eyed and red faced in the middle of the parking lot, I realized it was going to be a long haul towards feeling better if I continued to notice what was wrong, instead of what still remained right in my world. So, I went home into the small patch of nature called my back yard. I pulled out my lawn mower, and mowed (something I usually hate to do while mumbling about being single), then cried all over again. Not because I hated mowing, but because the mundane was suddenly holy. I was so grateful to feel the earth below my feet and smell the fresh grass. I was grateful I still had a yard, and grateful it had stopped raining. It was ordinary and routine, yet mowing delivered me back to a time before the flooding started, it was a touchstone pointing towards ordinary times in life before drama arrived to town.
Later in the week after volunteering and once again witnessing the destruction, I found myself feeling blue and wondered how in the world our city would recover to it’s former state of beauty. So I took a drive and found one of the few open trails east of town near a lake. This trail sits along a highway, is nothing particularily special to look at, and is one of those places you visit when you don’t have a lot of time but need to walk your dog… yet on this day, the sky was a cloudless blue, the sun was shining and the lake was filled to its shores. The cottonwoods had started to morph their leaves into a glowing yellow, and the sun danced brightly on the water as my dog paddled along the shores—tail wagging and lips pulled into a sloppy grin every time she made eye contact with me.
I’d been in this place a zillion times before, but in that moment everything was extraordinary in my world. As I looked around, it was as if the floods had never happened. Three minutes away by car, the flood damage was everywhere, but in this spot, in this moment, life was beautiful and my surroundings were perfect. I realized that after times of stress we become conditioned to look for what’s wrong instead of what’s right, and if we don’t stop ourselves, this pattern of thinking becomes habit and sadly, this habit becomes our life.
I remembered once again for the millionth time, that happiness is a choice. Life can throw us all sorts of crap, but the smart ones know how to scoop it up and make fertile compost.
When the ordinary is turned upside down, yet we look for the beauty in our world regardless of circumstance, life becomes extraordinary.
Photo [main] AP Photo / John Wark [inset] Foto76 freedigitalphotos.net