Get out your rose-coloured glasses

With the news coming out of Afghanistan, the fires burning up Northern California, and the seemingly never-ending pandemic, it’s been a tough month to stay afloat emotionally. Feeling heartbroken or depressed right now is totally normal, of course. There’s nothing healthy about being relentlessly happy in the face of tragedy or existential threat. In fact, it would probably require a great deal of denial to do so. But I don’t think it serves us (or the world) to be completely overwhelmed by our own despair either.

As always, it’s a balance.

And, as always, I’m right there with you in trying to strike that balance in my own life. It’s an easy time to feel like there is nothing but ugliness in the world, and that is a perspective I’ve been wrestling with for the last few weeks.

Last week though, I got tired of feeling low. I decided that as messed up as the world is, and as hopeless as I feel about certain realities, I still needed to remember that there is also beauty in the world.

So I made myself a little challenge: notice and appreciate something beautiful every day. Make a point of looking for beauty, and celebrating it when I find it.

Walking to a doctor’s appointment early Thursday morning, I came upon St. Ignatius cathedral for the first time. San Francisco has more than its fair share of beautiful buildings, but catching sight of this church in the fresh morning air kind of took my breath away. It’s such a grand facade, I suddenly felt like I was in Europe or something. My doctor ended up being almost 45 minutes late for my appointment, so I simply left the office and sat outside staring up at the church, in awe of the beauty that humans are capable of creating.

Thursday night I took a walk with a friend and made a point of appreciating the beautiful gardens and incredible foliage in Golden Gate park, as well as the intricately painted gingerbread style details on even the plainest of buildings in the Panhandle.

San Francisco is an exceptionally beautiful city, but like anything that’s familiar, it’s easy for me to fail to appreciate this, especially on foggy days when the light is flat and all the colours seem dull, matching my recent mood.

I’m blessed to live in a neighborhood where lots of people grow roses, so Friday had me noticing an especially beautiful rose on my lunchtime walk. I was so inspired to really notice and capture the beauty that I took a picture of it, and even looking at that picture now brings the incredible smell to mind.

As an aside, I highly highly recommend stopping to smell the roses. I mean it. I’ve taken to doing this since I moved here, and though I sometimes feel self-conscious and silly, I have never once regretted it. It blows my mind that I made it to the age of 30 without having any idea how glorious roses can be.

Over the weekend, things that struck me as beautiful included the smell of the ocean on an especially choppy morning, the almost obscenely bright pink bougainvilleas taking over a garage in my neighborhood, and the way the sunlight shining on a black bird revealed iridescent greens and purples on the feathers of its head and body.

What’s interesting, and perhaps not surprising, is that after consciously choosing to look for beauty in the world for just a few days, I began to notice it more spontaneously. All it took was a little practice. Let’s just say I didn’t set out to appreciate the delicate colors of the bird that was pecking at the donut crumbs around my feet while I waited in line for a coffee on Sunday morning.

So that’s it, that’s the simplicity of what I have to offer you this month.

A reminder to seek out the beauty in this world, to take notice of it and to breathe a sigh of gratitude for it. Choosing to orient ourselves in this way starts to build a mental habit, and just like with practicing gratitude, the world becomes a richer and more beautiful place. Even when all feels lost.

Wishing you beauty today and always,