You’re Missing the Point

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For all my efforts at trying to see the beauty in the small stuff and not let life’s little joys go unnoticed, sometimes I really miss the boat. My four and a half year old has finally learned that, when he wakes up, he does not need to immediately wake up Mama and Daddy simply to inform us that he’s awake. However, sometimes this means that he’s up incredibly early and we don’t know it and thus cannot tell him to go back to bed. The other day he apparently arose early enough to witness the sunrise. When his daddy got up, he exuberantly declared, “Daddy, you missed it!!! The whole sky was orange. It was SO beautiful!” When hubs told me later about his sweet enthusiasm for beauty, my first thought, riddled with anxiety about the day ahead, was, “Greaaaat… That means he was up before sunrise. *Sigh*” Jonathan just looked at me and said, “You’re missing the point. Our 4-year-old was excited to see the sunrise all on his own.” I felt like I had been slapped awake. Pessimism and anxiety can be entrancing. We have done such a lovely job instilling an appreciation of beauty and nature in our children that the sunrise excites them. His wonder and enthusiasm have not been squelched. Just another example of how my children are often better teachers to me than I am to them – even if their lessons sometimes require a daddy translator. It is comforting to know that even if I miss the boat from time to time, my family is there to throw me a line and get me back on board.

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Pearls Before Breakfast – Training Our Minds To Take Note

On days filled with plumbers and toilets, caulk disasters and puke, sometimes its hard to see past all of the shit (literally) to the beauty that I try so desperately to draw out with this blog. I have been mining my days and thoughts lately trying to seek out positivity, not just to write about here, but to adjust my own mindset and derail the doldrums. So far, I can’t seem to find many gems, but at least I’m digging.

In the mean time I wanted to share an article that I recently came across on Facebook. The article, a Washington Post piece entitled “Pearls Before Breakfast,” generated international discussion about how we perceive and appreciate beauty, art, and music, and eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2008. It addressed the idea that context can play such a huge roll in how we discern beauty. That outside of the contexts in which we expect to find it, beauty can be elusive and our appreciation or even awareness of it can be minimal if we do not train our minds to take note.

Here is a brief summary, verified by Snopes, of the extraordinary story:

“A man stood in a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle-aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3-year-old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”

Perhaps we should all take a little more time to stop and smell the roses . . . hear the music . . . watch the sunset . . . be drawn in.

Lullaby

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been singing my son to sleep. First as I was nursing him before bed, later as I was rocking him in my arms after his bedtime stories, and now as I kneel beside his big boy bed and he snuggles all of his animals. But tonight he sang to me. With the smallest, clearest voice, carrying a good tune, he softly sang two of the songs I usually sing to him and my heart melted. All the weights and stresses of the day disappeared as his tiny voice magically soothed my spirit. It seemed to be a foreshadowing of a time when I may need him to tuck me into bed. A gentle and sweet reminder that sometimes I need to be taken care of too. And often it is the people I believe to be least capable of doing so that surprise me with the tenderest care. I am truly blessed.

Teardrop Prisms

The last several days have been quite the cocktail of difficulties, stresses, joys, sorrows, and everything in between. They contained such momentous things as discovering that we are having our second little boy, monotonous things as spending 17 hours in the car for a 4 day weekend, magical things as Christmas morning (a week early with family) through the eyes of our son, mournful things as the loss of my grandmother, maddening things as dealing with a toddler who ever-increasingly loves to throw fits, melancholy things as watching our little man have to fight off ear and bronchial infections at the same time, and mind-numbing things as self-doubt about parenting skills, family, success, and life in general. Oh, and did I mention I’m pregnant? I am so physically and emotionally drained as of late that I have been putting off writing in the hopes that circumstances would improve and I’d be more inclined to write something positive and fulfilling. But the truth of the matter is, it is not our circumstances that enable us to be positive people or obtain fulfillment. They are merely the scenery along the path we take to get there. Happiness is a choice we all must make daily, whether our circumstances aid us in the endeavor or not. I say this as much to myself as to anyone else who may be reading and need to hear it. I assure you, I have spent more time crying in the last few days than I have spent laughing and I have not even made much of an effort to the contrary. But it is this acknowledgement, this reminder, that puts my eyes back in focus, and helps me to remember that the tears are prism lenses which, when looked through, can make the world either distorted and ugly or vibrant and beautiful depending on our perspective.

Rather than feeling only the loss of my grandmother and the aching void my grandfather must feel after 60+ years together, I MUST remember the beauty of her life and the peace that is attained through her passing and the end of her pain. Rather than getting bogged down in every fit Aiden throws and sometimes behaving just as badly, I MUST remember that my son is TWO and this is normal and I am teaching him by my reactions how to handle frustration and anger. Rather than worrying incessantly about my little boy’s health, I MUST take advantage of a day at home with him that contains no prior agenda and just play away the pain. Rather than seeing the news about our new baby being a boy as a disappointment because, most likely, I will never have a daughter, I MUST remember all the glorious ways that I adore my son and how amazing it will be to experience that again. If I don’t opt for these brighter perspectives, I will wallow in self-pity and pain and fail to see the radiance of life. Tomorrow, I will wake up, I will adjust my focus through my teardrop prisms, see the wild array of colors all around me, and actively decide to be happy. Goodnight.

Dragons

Everyone knows what a dragon looks like, right? Or do they? This was the central question asked in a play that I took my son to on Saturday night. It was an interactive play full of “OOOH’s” and “AHHH’s.” Boo’s for the villains and cheers for the heroes. A perfect outdoor event for a date with my little man, complete with picnic and blanket and our own stuffed dragon that we couldn’t leave at home, of course. One of the themes that recurred throughout the play was that everyone viewed the dragon, in this case the hero of the story, as a version of themselves. Each person, when asked what a dragon looked like, described their own best attributes. Deep down, we all want to be heroes. Or more specifically, we see actual heroes as reflections of ourselves, whether or not we merit the description.

I am as guilty of this as the next person. Particularly in this specific case. I have always been intensely drawn to dragons. For as long as I can remember. From those that permeate ancient Chinese literature and art, symbolizing wisdom and beauty, to those enigmatically drawn by the imagination of Tolkien in “The Hobbit,” these creatures embody a mystery and grace that has drawn children and adults through the ages to admire and fear them. They are a series of contradictions that I think many of us, if we are honest, see in ourselves. They are both beautiful and hideous, heavily armored but vulnerable in their soft spots. Wise but full of riddles. They dwell in caves underground, but they can soar to the heavens. They can be both the villain and the hero, sometimes at different points of theĀ  same story. They are fully known to no one, yet known by everyone. They are mysterious, fiery, and beautiful and will, in my mind, always typify a deep and sacred part of myself.

This is why I got a dragon tattoo when I was in college. It is a visible mark of something within me that very few people will actually understand, many will judge me for, and some will admire. But none of that matters because it is a constant reminder to me of the deep mysteries of the soul – of the consistent dualities that we see in ourselves and others which we try, too often, to reconcile or explain away. My son has seen it and asked why I have that picture on my back. It have explained it to him several times, but last nights play was a wonderful opportunity to explain to him again what beautiful enigmas these creatures are and remind him that even if they don’t in every story, in this one, they saved the day!