Today on my normal drive to drop the girls off at their schools, I was struck by the ugliness around me. I’d like to be all sunshine and bright outlooks, looking on the sunny side of life, but the reality is that there is cold and sadness and mediocrity. The pacifist in me wants to find the beauty on the flip side of ugly and only focus on that while encouraging others to do the same. The libra in me needs to find the balance.
We are nearing the February doldrums; that time of year when the snow is old and dirty, crusted from repeated cycles of freezing and melting. Everything is gray and christmas decorations left up have lost their fun irony and have just become pathetic and sad. Attempts at color fade into the landscape and just become part of the unseemly bigger picture. As people, we struggle during this dark time of the year. We bundle up, pulling on worn boots, covering our babies in blankets. Our floors soak up melting dirt and snow; the gray comes in. We resist the urge to throw everything away and run. My gypsy blood roars to life inside – what was once a small brook becomes a rushing river. I want out.
This morning as I drove, I passed through neighborhoods with their faded houses and skeletal trees. Black snow bordered the street. I was suddenly aware of the monstrosity of the landscape. We passed over railroad tracks and rounded a corner to drive past a large house – once stately and gorgeous – that is now divided into many small, low-income apartments. Several middle-aged men were smoking on a snow-covered couch that sits, year-round, in the front yard of this house. The house is adjacent to the back of a large grocery store so the view from the couch is of a trash compactor and a dumpster. The resignation of the men was palpable. I was overwhelmed with grief for them.
And then in the next instant, I was startled out of my presumptive daze with an abrupt realization of my own drama. All of my assumptions about these men and their house may or may not be true. They could all be on probation or unemployed or addicted – or not. The reality is that I have no idea and what I was feeling was a total projection. The resignation and grief was all my own. And the interesting thing is that along with this realization came the thought that it’s cyclical. As tempting as it is, I didn’t feed the drama.
I won’t go back and wrap this up with a tidy bow. I am a pacifist and can see the beauty, but there is more worth – right now – in finding the balance. Ugliness does happen. It is out there. The trick is to notice without perpetuating it or its aftermath. February happens every year.