Beauty from challenge

As Leo and I tromped the snowy sidewalks a couple of weeks ago, the sunshine hit his coat in such a way that I suddenly became aware of how he *glows* these days.

This glowing goes beyond the coppery highlights that have popped up in his chocolate fur. He actually seems to be embellishing his own coat from within, particularly around his neck, adding something resembling a mink collar in front and dense, wavy hair across his shoulders. It reminds me of post-slumber party hair, when we would comb out our braids.

I had never before seen this side of my dog, this being our first season braving subzero cold, day after day … after day. (It was -18 degrees F when we left the house that day.) Where I was bundled head to toe in pounds of gear, Leo continued to wear what he always wears: his collar. Of course his body would be triggered to make some alterations. Forget evolution—he’s adapting in real time!

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It struck me as we walked that this is how our lives go as well. We encounter changes … challenges to our status quo, threats to our dreams … and we have little choice but to address them, whether that means fighting or adapting. (Or denying. But that’s a whole other story.)

And what happens when we wrestle—whether with disappointment, strife or the unexpected? We adapt. We change. A new type of beauty emerges: It might look like perspective. Or a wry sense of humor. A generous heart. A sense of optimism. A graceful acceptance.

Since the turn of the year, I’ve been teaching and coaching writing online, helping people identify their own stories, draw them out of their heads and put them into words. Many of these stories involve a challenge of some sort, and in sharing them, their writers reveal the inner beauty they have evolved in response to these experiences.

This past year has brought challenge upon challenge. Some of these trials have threatened our lives. Others have tested our endurance. New situations are changing our beliefs, our understandings of the world around us, our hearts and our appearances (hello, gray hair!).

But I don’t believe these hardships are only bringing trouble. They also are prompting us to adapt and to grow, guiding us toward a more beautiful version of ourselves, as individuals and as a society, inspiring in us greater capacities for love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (apart from dark chocolate consumption).* 

That is what I choose to believe.

*Galatians 5:22-23 … with apologies for the chocolate aside!

(Originally published in “The Same Loon,” Feb. 13, 2021.)

Leo’s and my recent (mis)adventures:

More stories about our transition back to Minnesota (after nineteen years in Washington state)

If Japan is more your speed, here’s a link to information about my memoir, The Same Moon, and Inaka, an anthology on rural Japan.

Interested in writing about your own life? I’m teaching Memoir Moments and Haiku with You, and offering writing coaching — more info here.

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