As much as I’d like to — for I’ve heard stellar reviews of its masterful character and plot development — I can’t watch Breaking Bad. I watched the first two episodes and that’s all I could stomach. It’s just too close to home.
My neighborhood has been strained for a while. There’s an undercurrent of illicit behavior. Someone’s been stealing our mail. And last year there was an incident involving an open shooter, forcing us all under lockdown for half a day. No surprise that it was drug related.
For the last year-and-half trucks headed for a neighbor’s place would drive down my lane at all hours of the night with unusual cargo: random building materials and contractor supplies. They bulldozed a field that I used to enjoy walking by, and transformed it into a mess of an eyesore junkyard littered with their nightly haul. Turns out my neighbor was lording over a den of thieves, robbing construction sites all over town. The cops finally busted the stash a few weeks ago, discovering hundreds of thousands of dollars of stolen goods (some of which, thank goodness, have been returned to their rightful owners). They still haven’t caught the ring leader though. And I wonder if the contents of my glove compartment that were stolen on Christmas Eve two years ago, or my bin of car emergency supplies ripped off from my front patio this past December were among the loot piled in my neighbor’s warehouse.
More recently a couple of signs popped up on the side of our dirt road which say
CHILDREN + PETS
About a week ago I noticed that someone had scrawled on one of the signs with a black Sharpie so that it now reads
CHILDREN + PETS
The defacer of the sign further added a couple of arrows pointing across the road to a new house where a young couple with some young kids & a grandad live.
I wonder how that young family feels whenever they drive by that hurtful sign.
I know that I feel assaulted every time my dog and I walk by it.
It breaks my heart every time I see the rudeness of that crude sign.
It breaks my heart each time I walk by that former field bulldozed into a junkyard.
It breaks my heart every day when I notice the spent syringes and empty plastic nip bottles of booze lining the sidewalks in my neighborhood and across big swaths of town.
It’s all I can do to resist a downward spiral into depressive overwhelm.
Never mind the news. Never mind the personal, wrenching tragedies so many friends and family and fellow human beings are suffering right now.
This right here though — this ugly sign, the indifference to people, the abuse of land and other beings, the tragic losses and heartache all around — all of this is the very reason I dedicate so much of my time to searching for beauty in the world and sharing it. Because when I look a certain way around me, I see nothing but darkness, nothing but rancor, nothing but suffering and heartache and hurt.
But if I make an effort to look another kind of way, I can spot amidst the shadows and sorrows some tiny glimmer of beauty, of light.
It’s not that I purposefully overlook or am blinded to the dark shadows.
Rather I make a decision every day to the degree that I am able to focus on the light. I make a decision every day to find the beauty, to find the possibility. I make a decision every day to find the hope and the inspiration. To believe that we can be the change we want to see in the world.
Because that’s the only way I’ve found to face down the demons in the darkness.
What I’ve discovered is that noticing beauty is kind of like developing a muscle: When you start to exercise it, it gets stronger. And with practice you eventually start to engage the muscle without even thinking about it. You just start noticing — to use Cherly Strayed’s perfect phrase — tiny beautiful things more and more.
Of course, like any muscle, it demands rest from time to time. Those are the days when I just have to allow myself to wallow in the shadows, acknowledge and respect that the darkness exists.
But eventually the muscle of positivity aches to be stretched again, and insists that I step out of the darkness into light, and open up my awareness again to noticing.
A few days ago on my early morning walk I noticed someone had taken a black Sharpie to that one sign and blocked out the angry expletive.
And this morning?
This morning somebody in the neighborhood is breaking good.
For suddenly out of nowhere in the wee hours of the morning, six tiny hearts appeared on that sign and over where that ugly curse word had been.
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Thank you again!
~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico