The kids and I celebrated a recent, rare 50-degree day by rolling down the windows, turning up the radio, and driving around town looking at snow piles. They were many, they were ugly, and they provided a perfect visual metaphor for the general mood in New England.
Everyone I know in town has been agitated. The children are anxious, the adults are grumpy. (The pets alone are mentally on top, having been loved in excess for six weeks.) Were I a tear-teasing newspaper columnist or 20 years younger, I'd write a post about how this unhappy stage, this ugliness, is something we must push through to arrive at spring proper.
Just like life. Sometimes life gets ugly, but if we shovel and plow and plow and shovel, we'll arrive at spring, at happy renewal or welcome change.
But this is bullshit, right? Life isn't about pushing through the ugly. Life is about living with it.
Your friend dies a week before Christmas and your kids are no less excited for Santa, and no less lovable in their excitement. Your clinically depressed brother calls you while you're on vacation, and the sun sinking into the water is no less orange and your cocktail no less divine.*
My Twitter feed exemplifies this truth in 140-character bursts. Today: plane crash in France, tornadoes in Oklahoma, and "a shocking example of police practices used on the mentally ill" via the Atlantic.
But also, a Florida woman who packs 700 Easter baskets for local families, a newborn hippo in San Diego, and lots of good geek news.
In the last few years, I've found myself drawn to ugly things. I memorize details of commercial strips in downturned towns. I edge my seat closer to the loudest, unhappiest conversation at the coffee shop. I consider the aptness of metaphors to describe the dirty snow.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not embracing the ugly. Nor am I trying to transform it into beautiful via some psychological sleight of hand. Ugly is not the new black.
But ugly is life, a lot of the time, and ugly isn't scared away by the pretty things. I feel better knowing it better. On bad days, I know what I'm dealing with. And on good days, if the ugly rears its head, I'm more likely to spot the bits of lovely or absurd that sometimes hide in the middle of it. And plow forward when the lovely things aren't there.
That warm day a couple weeks ago, the mountains of snow wowed the kids and depressed me. The two seagulls hopping around on top of the tallest mound as if waiting for a Bora Bora tourist to drop a hand-cut French fry made all of us laugh. And then we went home and shoveled.
*I have no brothers. The friends are all healthy.