Confession: I’m Ready To See Beauty

After nearly 22 hours of flying and layovers, I landed at LAX on Monday morning after the trip of a lifetime in Bali.  I was tired, I was a little cranky, and I felt the Bali joy start to seep out of me with every step through the airport.  The length of time it took for my suitcase to appear on the conveyor belt caused many drawn out sighs of annoyance.  The line blocking the exit to customs provoked an exaggerated eye roll and some foot tapping.  When I started arguing with my cab driver about directions, while on the phone with my mom, I knew it was slippery slope downhill from there.

So I stopped.  Took a deep breath.  Told my mom I loved her.  Accepted the cab driver’s apology, and thanked him offering it and getting me home safely.  Focused on recalling how happy I had been just one short day earlier. 
And then I remembered: The 5 Most Beautiful Things Project.  Earlier this month, my friend and mentor, Jen Pastiloff, started the 5 Most Beautiful Things Project.  The idea, born while she was sitting in LA traffic, was that you can find 5 beautiful things in every day, in every moment.  In her exquisite words:

What if we walked around looking for beauty instead of looking for things to be stressed about or offended by?  What if we became beauty hunters?  What if we told more beautiful stories?  What if it was all we saw, even in the dirt?  What if we trained our eyes and our hearts to tune into that which makes us cock our head to one side and close our eyes gently in an effort to memorize what we were looking at.  What if it is all we got?


I quickly took stock and identified my 5 Most Beautiful Things in that moment:
-Global Entry Kiosk
-My suitcase arriving
-2 episodes of my favorite Homeland
-My comfy bed
-A million Facebook interactions with my fellow Bali tribe members
And I felt better.  Immediately.  Actually, truly, really better.  I smiled, I felt lighter, and being back at home felt good, instead of a letdown.  Because my real life, here, in Santa Monica, is GOOD.  Great even.  I need to believe in that and not lose sight of it because I have to wait a little longer for my luggage.
How quick was I to believe in the magic in Bali that I assigned significance to every gesture, every beautiful thing I saw.  An elegant green door, a dirty child placing a flower on a tree, a man washing his chicken in the river.  Each was beautiful in its own special way.  Each meant something MORE, because it was in this magical place.
I had my laundry done halfway through the trip, and it was returned to me with a delicate green thread sewn into the back of every item.  I knew it must have been a special blessing bestowed upon me by the Balinese, some offering that would protect me, the wearer of these clothes.  I asked my new friend Wayan to explain what specifically this beautiful green thread meant, what glorious custom this was.
 “Oh, that’s how they keep the laundry organized.  All of your clothes have a green thread, all of Jen’s have a red thread, all of Mel’s have a blue thread….”.
How lovely will my life be if I can find the green thread in every moment, real or imagined?  It sure takes the edge off returning to reality.
**Join The 5 Most Beautiful Things project on Twitter or at now!

11 thoughts on “Confession: I’m Ready To See Beauty

  1. I love lists!

    my 5 things :

    1) my new house!
    2) my parents who support me despite the fact that their child is a strange random gypsy
    3) sweatpants
    4) mistakes I actually learned from
    5) my co-worker buying me delicious lunch 😉

    Happy Tuesday Katie! Welcome home! 🙂

  2. So glad you had a good trip. It sounds like you needed it and like a transformative experience.

    I (think) I know exactly what you mean, and I’m so on board with the 5 Beautiful Things. I have moments where I’m just astounded by the world’s beauty. I also have moments where I force myself to find beauty even if I’m down and out. And it works. Magically.

    And then I have (lots of) moments where I absolutely cannot see past pain/sadness/worry to any beauty. And it seems to me that it makes no difference what I do. I spend lots of time wondering if I’m just ‘wrong,’ if I’m just someone who is coded in such a way that pain and loneliness will always weigh heavier than joy. Maybe that’s just who I am. Which confuses the hell out of me because honestly, and I know we don’t ever know anyone else’s journey, I can’t think of anyone who looks SO HARD. Who tries SO HARD. It seems to just come to a lot of people.

    So I’d argue that you can’t always see past the crap to the beauty. But I don’t argue for argument’s sake. I’m arguing because I’m begging, really begging, for someone to show me otherwise. I sat in my living room crying two weeks ago and without ever thinking it in words, heard myself say out loud to an empty room, ‘Why don’t I like life? Why do other people seem to enjoy this journey. I find it so sad and overwhelming. I’s a good friend. I work with children, doing what I think is important work. I go to the Y. I write to work through my stuff. And so I wonder, am I doing wrong? I must just *be* wrong. Inherently wrong. I imagine some people might say I need to find peace on my own, no one can do it for me. I agree with this. It’s the advice I’d give a friend. But what if it’s just not, really just *not*, coming through on a consistent basis?

    Sorry for the rant.

    • It took me a while to reply to your comments because I could not think of what I could say that would make it any better, or any easier. I can only think to say: I hear you. I’ve been there. I don’t think you are doing anything “wrong”. It sounds like you are actually doing everything right. Sometimes that’s enough and it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not sure why it doesn’t always take, or why it is harder for you. I wish that it wasn’t. Maybe the only thing that I can do is to listen, to follow your journey, to support you, and to show you the 5 most beautiful things that I see in YOU:

      -Beautiful, beautiful writing

      You are very talented, and very brave to ask for support. You have mine!!! xx

      • Thank you for replying. It was very kind of you. I don’t know why it takes sometimes and doesn’t others either, but it heartens me greatly to see someone who has, it seems, found a measure of peace. Doesn’t mean things are perfect, I know, but it seems you are on a good path. Which makes me think: maybe it isn’t about being in a good place but finding a good path. I hope to find a path. I’m weary from looking.

        The world seems friendlier and happier when you know people are finding paths and peace, so thank you for sharing your story. It makes a difference.

  3. Wow. Another amazing piece of writing Kate. With each notification I get from my phone that you’ve posted a new entry, I get more excited and stop whatever I am doing so that I can read without distraction and just take it all in. You are so good at making your writing so real and relateable.(spelling??) I feel as if I am learning so much I never knew about you. Keep it up. I know you’ve got quite a fan club out there already. Couldn’t be prouder of you and happier for you. I love you so much and cant wait to see you at Christmas!!! Xoxo

    • Thank you Kelly, that means a lot. You know it’s difficult for me to express my feelings, so this has been a great first step for me in being able to share. I still have a long way to go, but I’m happy to start opening up. I love you. See you in a couple weeks!

  4. Pingback: Confession: I’m Ready To See Beauty « The Manifest-Station

  5. A great post!

    I totally agree too; sometimes we need to take a moment to breathe and be grateful. There is so much beauty out there, but most of the time we have to choose to see it. Thanks for a great reminder, and some good tips 🙂

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