I’ve long subscribed to the Japanese view of wabi-sabi. Or at least I’ve aspired to subscribe to it, which isn’t always easy. Wabi-sabi loosely translates as seeing the beauty, or perfection, in imperfection.
Think about how you would probably walk over a single blade of grass growing through an old, cracked uneven sidewalk. It’s easy to miss, and even if you notice it, chances are you’ll look at it as a messy weed growing out of a sidewalk that is in disrepair. Yet if you stop and look at it, really look, you will see the miracle of how that tiny brilliant green blade of grass found its way to the sunlight through a block of concrete. It was a seemingly insurmountable task, but nature found its way.
The same might go for looking at the beauty of fallen petals that lay at the base of a vase of blooming flowers. Or experiencing the delight that comes from drinking out of a lopsided hand-blown glass. Or being proud of your ugly pinkish elbow scar from a childhood biking accident because the story behind how you got it proves you’ve had your moments in life of being a complete badass. Or learning to love the deepening crows feet that appear when you smile, because they show you have lived, have a history, and are human. That’s a pretty beautiful thing.
My life has undergone many monumental changes over the past few years. Those changes have included everything from external things such as which state I live in, to internal things such as how I view the world and my place in it. The one big change that I still struggle with is how I make a living. After three years of working for myself, I’m still struggling to get back to the earning power that I had in my old LA life. My CPA called me today to break the news that I owe quite a large amount in taxes this year. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to come up with the money in the next twelve days. After I hung up the phone, I realized I could either have a panic attack about how my life is pockmarked with imperfections, or I could stop myself, and instead take Yoda for a walk.
When faced with moments of potential drama (like swimming in thoughts along the lines of “My life sucks”), I usually choose the dog walk. There’s something about getting my legs moving and breathing in the fresh air with my best fur-friend at my side that helps settle my nerves so that I can see things clearly. Today, towards the start of our walk, I crouched down to clean up after Yoda after he did his business in front of a large house on a corner lot. As I stood up I noticed a mailbox in front of me. A stack of tiny cards were placed in the clip on the base of the mailbox. Looking closer, I saw the cards said “BE HAPPY – pop open here.”
Oh how I wanted one of those BE HAPPY cards. What was inside? Could it possibly make me happy, right now, while I was struggling with processing the emotions of being faced with my tax bill? After glancing around to see if anyone was watching, and then having a quick internal dialogue wondering if this stack of cards was here for the public or if it was someone’s private property, I decided that the cards were meant to be taken. So I took one and quickly slipped it in my pocket. Once Yoda and I rounded the street corner to the side of the house, I took the card out, opened it, and then read it:
Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful. –Annette Funicello
I spontaneously smiled as I read the card, realizing that the quote is a reminder that I need to practice the art of wabi-sabi and find the beauty in my very imperfect life. I looked up and noticed a curtain moving from a side window of the house, like someone had been watching me and had just stepped back out of view. I hope he or she saw me open the card, and realized that it did the job, it made me happy.
Continuing on our walk, I held tightly to that tiny little card, which fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. By the time we returned home thirty minutes later, my head was in a very different place than it was when we started out. My life isn’t perfect, in fact it is far from perfect, as evidenced in part by my tax bill. But I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. Getting over the hurdles and trudging through the muck is all part of the human experience. Navigating through the darkness is how we get to the light. When I look at things with the spirit of wabi-sabi and today’s BE HAPPY card, I really can say I love my perfectly imperfect life these days, tax bill and all.