I love the color red. It’s bright, invigorating and screams out “LOOK AT ME!” like a three year-old having an intense but satisfying tantrum. Yes, red is a color that begs to be both seen and heard.
I have never had much red in my life even though I love it’s sass.I tend toward colors that live life in a predictable fashion, steady and neutral ones, which when I think about it, describe me perfectly. They are the familiar and comfortable colors. They represent things like grilled cheese and soup on a warm winters day. Nothing fancy and nothing too far “out there.” Just reliable go-with-anything colors that you can count on to get you through life.
This week I decided that the house needed a facelift so I bought a gazillion of those cans of paint samples trying to find the perfect hue with which to paint my shutters. There were forest greens, navy blues, and soft grays. Yellow was out but black remained on the list. With the amount I spent on samples I could have bought several gallons of paint but it was important to find the “perfect” color. Just for kicks I decided to try a red on for size and surprised myself when I decided to paint those shutters a kiss-me-once-more shade of RED.
Now I think I have shared with you that I am desperately afraid of heights. Terrified. And the shutters are mostly on the second story which would necessitate crawling out on the roof to get the job done. Now B would have eventually gotten around to it if I had asked but frankly his painting sucks. Drips everywhere. Streaks galore. Whereas I am a painting pro who doesn’t even need to tape off because I have such a steady hand. I am a Leondardeschi of the da Vinci gang. But up on the roof? Heaven help me. Even I had my limits…or so I thought.
So it was with trepidation yesterday morning that I eased myself out of my daughter’s second story window and stood out on top of the roof, the sun scorching my delicate skin, while I scrapped, prepped, and painted eight shutters. And if I do say so myself the change looks great. But it is not the exterior change that is important; it is the interior one I made inside of myself that is significant as well as meaningful to me. Because once again I conquered my fears and I accomplished something that made me feel positively giddy. I did what made me happy and was not afraid to transform things just a bit. And if the truth be told, painting the shutters became symbolic of something even greater. It spoke of my belief in the longevity and eventual recovery of my relationship with B because I wouldn’t have risked life and limb on the roof of a house that I wouldn’t be living in in the future. Amen.
Recently I was reading about the effects on our body when we make a decision. Besides solving problems decision making also has the added benefit of decreasing anxiety and worry. Because making a decision involves setting goals and creating intentional effects it engages the prefrontal cortex which reduces that anxiety you have been carrying around. And because decision making involves a shift in how you perceive the world when this shift happens in calms your limbic system creating a sense of tranquility.
Yet, what about all those times when making a decision feels like it involved two equally difficult or disastrous end points? Well, neuroscientists say to go ahead and “make a good enough” decision. Instead of trying to make the perfect decision “the good enough” decision will decrease stress and make you feel like you are more in control. In fact, just the act of making that decision will give your brain a pleasure boost so that skipping your way through the day seems like a real possibility instead of just dragging your butt somewhere.
So there you go. Make a “good enough” decision…stick with it…and you will find yourself under less stress and feeling good about yourself and your place in the world!
Many years ago I lived in the Midwest. Our property sat on a bluff overlooking the town and in fall the leaves were so vivid and red that it seemed that they were painted in rich shimmery oils aptly named CANDY CANE or FIRE ENGINE RED. We had an idyllic six acres on which to roam. On the north side a succulent pear tree grew silently upward, its branches winding silently around an abandoned wood pile, while hybrid cold-weather wine grapes dotted the steep hill out front. But the best place to be was near the back of the property where remnants of a old fort lay rotting on the ground and a bowl-shaped mass of thorny gigantic red raspberries grew; the best I have ever tasted. Seriously. All these years later I haven’t experienced anything that comes close.
It was a sliding-into-fall sort of day. Jackie and I were taking a walk at the back of the property where an old car lay on the other side of the fence being claimed by no one for the past 30 years. The sun was starting its descent while still warming the stagnant air when a monarch butterfly floated by; the light shining through its semi-transparent wings like the Rose window at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. We were surprised when another butterfly glided by, soon to be followed by another, and another, and yet another. So we began to follow them to the far back edge of our land, a place we rarely visited.
As we rounded the corner we were suddenly blinded by intense hues of orange, black and green swimming in the trees. Swarms of Monarch Butterflies, starting their migration, clung to the limbs one on top of another like necklaces of cascading orange pearls. It was mesmerizing … wings sunning themselves in the remaining light of the day and legs climbing one over the other as the dominant butterfly would make it’s way to the top of the chain.I had never seen anything like it. And then it happened…
Our beast of a dog ran up to us barking joyfully and the butterflies released themselves from one another and the trees, swarming and swirling outward and upward, luminous in flight with hundreds upon hundreds of the magnificent creatures filling the sky. I still remember the chorus of the velvety fuzzy flap of their wings as the flew around us, some alighting on the pear tree and others settling on our heads and arms. It was one of those exceedingly rare “Take Your Breath Away” moments; the kind that you remember as you take your last dying breaths. The kind that you try to artificially create time and time again but can never quite capture the vivacity, artistry and allure of that type of spontaneity again. Yet, it doesn’t stop us from trying with mostly disappointing results.
What is it about these elusive and precious seconds that makes us want to experience them many times over? Moments like those few first seconds when you meet someone and immediately you know they are the soulmate you have been waiting for your entire life. Or the first cry of the baby you have anxiously imagined during the last nine months. Or the moment your child shows empathy towards someone who is struggling and you realize that how you have been parenting this kid has been right all along. It’s those rare fleeting glimpses of beauty, compassion, love and mystery that give us idea of who we are and what we want for the future.They provide a meaning to life and it is in these special moments that we are reminded of the possibilities that still exist. They give us hope for something better and sometimes closure and the peace that come with it. And if you are lucky and on a day least expected, sometimes you can find those magic moments right around the corner and in your own backyard.