Hello friends, sorry I've been missing in action. The past week and a half has been like one of those old fashioned picture-by-picture movies, you know those contraptions? You'd look through a viewer and flip cards, one after the other, to see a "movie".
Last week I received some very startling legal news. I was floored. But right on the heels of that, was good news. Kind of like, "Let me help you up after I just knocked you down.". And so I was riding high on that news for a while. Even had an impromptu hen party on Saturday night just because. I want to shout about it, I want to share it with EVERYONE, but I have to keep mum for a while. Just because. Keeping my mouth shut, in all ways, is a big challenge for me. But I have to do it for now. Let's just say that the big creaking sound you may have heard last week? It was the wheels of justice finally turning. Or my knees. (but really, it was the wheels!)
And then the bad showed up. First it was more news of young people dying too soon, four girls from Minnesota on their way back to their freshman dorms at North Dakota State. One car, four girls, three roommates. One crash. Gone. The world seems to shrinking by the day, everyone seems to be playing Six Degrees of Separation, only now instead of Kevin Bacon we play it with ourselves. Friends of mine knew these girls, their kids were friends with them, worked with them.
Then I read a story out of Wisconsin, about a 15 year old girl who had been starved, almost to death, by her 250 lb. dad and her 340 lb. stepmother (and the reason I think their weights are a significant part of the story? The sheer irony of a person starving to death in the same house as someone who is over 300 lbs. is tragically, comically significant.). And as if that wasn't bad enough, her stepbrother sexually abused her. The girl escaped her home, and was found by a motorist who "thought she was a 9 year old" when he saw her. Really? Most 15 year old girls are worrying about their hair and their jeans. This one was relieving herself in boxes in a basement, and if she made a mess...was forced to eat it.
These things made me sad, utterly sad. Then, I read a post on facebook from an old friend from high school. I had come home for a quick lunch break on Tuesday, and as I inhaled my lentil soup I saw the words: "My baby has gone home to heaven...". Her son, her 16 year old son, was gone. Just like that. One minute I'm sitting there bemoaning my kids and how they are "computerminators" who have managed to eff up every single computer we've ever owned, and the next minute I'm crying into my lentils over the loss of a child.
Life is funny. It's scary, it's ugly, it's sweet and it's beautiful. Sometimes things aren't even. Sometimes the ugliness covers up the beauty so completely that it's hard to believe there was ever any beauty to be found. And luckily, sometimes it's the opposite.
But most of the time, it's a toss up. It depends what you're looking for. I guess it could be compared to the Glass Half Full theory. If you're looking for ugly? Oh man. You're gonna find it. In spades. Google "Syria killings". Graze the headlines of any news website or watch your 10 o'clock news. The ugliness is out there, folks. I'll be at a 16 year old boy's funeral tomorrow morning, the second teen funeral I'll have attended within the past year. You want ugly? Watch teenagers weeping over a casket. Watch a boy's mom try to make it through her son's funeral. Watch a man, a father, saying goodbye to his boy. There is tragedy so black and deep it's bottomless.
That's when you need to seek out the beauty. When all of that badness is pushing down, threatening to drown us all, that's exactly when we need to avert our eyes; look up or down or to the side. Or inward. There is beauty to be found, trust me.
As news of my friend's loss spread, people came out of the woodwork. Messages, posts, emails, texts. People wanting to help, wanting to be there, wanting to offer love and prayers and support. I had a brief, but amazing, message exchange with another old high school pal that touched and humbled me and once again proved my theory that nothing is ever as it seems.
My awesome Wellness Coach, Faith, started a Random Acts of Kindness group on facebook after a few of us were discussing Lent and what there was to do besides give something up. We decided to perform random acts of kindness all throughout Lent, at least one per day. I encourage you to try it...so far I've surprised a lovely friend who was having a shitty day with flowers, I've gone outside and said a face to face "Thank you" to my recycling guys (and folks? I am the Queen of Recycling. These guys earn their pay at my curb, believe me). I've opened doors and made eye contact with strangers and said "Thank you for all you do" to every person who has crossed my path. Performing random acts of kindness is kind of like working out. The first few days are somewhat awkward, and you may find yourself flexing muscles that haven't been used in a while, but then it becomes a habit. And that's a beautiful thing.
Last night, I did the usual bedtime routine with my kids. Said goodnight to Molly, and knew that even though I got only a slightly annoyed "Goodnight" in return that she knew I was there for her, and then went downstairs to tuck the two younger boys into bed (yes, the 14 year old still lets me tuck him in). I kissed their foreheads like I do every night. Felt their smooth, warm skin under my lips, and inhaled their stinky boy-ness. I wanted to preserve this moment, like casting a handprint in cement.
And then I approached Charlie, my own boy who almost lost his fight with those inner demons. The boy who still struggles. I told him that I loved him, and told him how I am so very glad that he's here. Hugged that manchild, tight. Then said goodnight.
I try to remember that for every act of ugliness, somewhere there is an act of beauty. Sometimes it's easy to see, sometimes it's not. Sometimes, we have to go create that act ourselves. But no matter how hard it is to find, no matter how deep you have to dig or how high you have to climb, beauty is out there. And the irony of it is, sometimes it's the ugliness that creates the beauty.
Hug your babies. Lend a helping hand. Rejoice in the good, revel in the gorgeous. Accept the ugly stuff, wade through it, get through it however you can... and don't forget: there is beauty everywhere.