“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” ― James Baldwin
By Dawn Onley
Pain has the ability to pile on sometimes. Just when we think we have worked our way through the agony of death, the throes of attack, the burn of heartache, here pain comes again, as certain as the dawn, busting down the door with its battering ram, leaving upturned hopes and shredded dreams in its wake.
Like most people, I’ve had my share of pain. There’s a bit of irony there because any pain that we experience, arguably, is more than enough. In less than a year and a half, I’ve lost my grandmother, two uncles and, just two days ago, an aunt to death’s grasp.
Pain, unrelenting and ever forceful in its magnitude, takes from us what we treasure. But it also gives us something in return. Pain makes us stronger. It builds endurance. Pain teaches us things, like compassion and empathy toward others. Pain connects us as humans.
Bob Dylan said “behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.” I believe you can swap the words pain and beautiful and the message is still accurate. “behind every painful thing, there’s some kind of beauty.”
For me, the beauty is in the love that each of those family members gave so effortlessly to everyone who knew them. The beauty is in the indelible memories that they left with us.
Six years ago, I wrote a poem (below) about the beauty in sadness. I wrote it at a time, much like my mood today, when I was in an emotional funk, when tears would fall without warning. I noticed that by twisting my thinking a bit, I could see the beauty in sadness. I could see that there was always a bright side and something for which to be thankful.
I still see it.
“Beauty is sad”
Beauty is cold and blustery, like a blizzard … unforgiving. Beauty is burnt out and dry, expansive like the Serengeti, broad … beauty is broad.
Beauty is fireplace warm. It is in the crackling of the embers and the smell of wood burning s-l-o-w-l-y as we sleep. Beauty is dreams.
Beauty is in the wrinkles of her face. It is in the cellulite of her thighs. Age marks beauty and beauty wears the mark proudly. Beauty is in gray hair that we dye auburn and black and blond and other colors to match our hues and our interpretations of beauty. What you look like has nothing to do with what you think about yourself. Beauty is truth.
Beauty is stripped down, bare. Beauty doesn’t play hide-and-seek behind pedigree. Beauty doesn’t care about titles. That’s yo shit.
Beauty can’t be bought, glued or sewn in. Beauty is real. Beauty just is.
Beauty is authentically you, authentically me, especially when we see ourselves as beautiful. If you can look in the mirror and say I love me and really mean it … now that’s beauty. Beauty is sublime!
The magazines and the TV and all the folks say beauty is happiness. They say beauty is about kids laughing and running and about flowers and smiles and couples holding hands and white sand beaches and the peaceful sea … and other pretty things. They say beauty is in the sun shining down on us, giving us hope.
That’s so obvious, it’s cliché.
Beauty is sad. It was conceived in the heart, crystallized in the mind, brought to physicality in the eyes, dropping on the cheek and resting on the lip. Beauty is in the teardrop and the pain, which brings us the closest to God.
Beauty is in the rain. It helps to feed the flowers and nourish the earth back to lushness.
Beauty sometimes has a ‘tude. Beauty can be moody and temperamental.
Beauty is in the crevices and cracks that creak, that we rush to cover up in the name of refinement. Beauty doesn’t need to be restored. Beauty is texture and complexity. Beauty is flawed. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder but what if that eye has been jaded and jilted and jaundiced? What if that eye has been shaped and molded to define beauty a certain way when really it only sees an imposter … the ideal of beauty? Where do ideals come from anyway?
Beauty is ugly in its most disfigured form. Beauty makes you turn away to avoid being rude. Beauty is the desire to stare in the first place. Beauty is different.
Beauty is as dark as the night because it’s always the night that gets cursed, not the day. Beauty is still beauty even with our flawed perceptions. It is the exception and the rule.
Beauty is death because death is a part of life and you can’t separate the two. Beauty is joy and pain … watching the sun rise and fall.
Beauty is it all.
Copyright © 2010 by Dawn Onley