Like most little kids, I liked to collect things. Beanie Babies, Pokemon Cards, and for some inexplicable reason, Starburst wrappers, were among the list of items that I sought out, hoarded, and eventually grew bored with. The one thing that I never lost interest in collecting is journals. I am a girl who loves the sound of my own voice…the writing one, that is; I’m not terribly fond of how I sound in recordings. And since I’m not as creative as I like to pretend I am, I went through a phase where my favorite kind of journal was the fill-in-the-blank kind. Sort of like the precursor to Myspace surveys, I suppose.
Anyway, I have this oddly specific memory of one of those journals that I had when I was in the fourth grade that I had received as a hand-me-down from my teenage neighbor across the street in a box of books that she had outgrown.
Once I overcame my mild horror that someone would give away something as precious as a diary (like, what if you wanted to go back and read it someday? No? Just me?), I dove right in and began answering the prompts. When I got to the question “What is your least favorite color? Why?”, my poetic nine year old self spent a lot of time thinking it through. Orange? I wasn’t crazy about orange. But it was still a fun color, and besides, orange reminded me of my favorite band, Hanson. Black? No. Even if I didn’t know it at the time, I had a goth kid heart. Black was beautiful. Yellow? It could definitely be too much sometimes, but it was such a happy color and I was a happy kid (in spite of aforementioned goth heart). I decided to go with gray. My reasoning was not well-articulated, but it boiled down to the fact that I believed gray kind of obscured the beauty of other colors. I was satisfied with my deep understanding of the world, and didn’t give it much thought beyond that.
When I first began working on my novel, I started jotting down ideas and memories that I could potentially incorporate into the story in a note on my phone. This memory of decrying the color gray as dreary and boring emerged while I was purging my closet a few months ago and I was momentarily amused at how much I had grown to love the color. I grabbed my phone and logged it, because I thought it was an interesting idea to explore. I have not yet hit the point in the book where I have had the chance to use it, but I did flesh out the idea a little bit more. And this is what I came up with.
Sometimes, the quiet gray comes creeping in, dimming all the other colors in its wake. And it can be sad, hopeless even, being thrust so suddenly into a world devoid of color. But if you can get past that, you will begin to see that the gray possesses a beauty all its own. You just have to remember to look for it.
It may come off a bit weird without the context of the book, but so be it.
We received some ‘punch to the gut’ kinda news this weekend. We learned that this house that we’re renting, that we have made our own and grown to love, despite the weird ugly green counter tops and 70’s wood paneling and the terrible acoustics, is not going to be our home for much longer. Our landlord, who has always expressed that this was his favorite of his rental properties, has decided that he wants to live here. Obviously, this is his decision and such is the risk that someone assumes when they choose to rent, but it was devastating nonetheless. I spent a lot of time alternating between feeling sorry for myself and desperately trying to keep myself from going over the edge and free-falling into despair, as is my instinct.
During the usual morning chaos yesterday, I asked my dear friend Alexa what the weather was like and learned that it was going to be pretty dismal all day. I decked my kids out in their rain coats and galoshes and went sprinting out the door. Getting the kids from the house to the car and back again is not often a leisurely process, with the omnipresent threat of tardiness hanging over my head. Add in the bleak weather aspect, and it becomes pretty frantic. But once I dragged them out the door and yanked my four year old’s hood on again and re-zipped my two year old’s coat, and prepared for the mad dash to the car, I turned around and faced the dreary, gray outside world. And I was struck dumb by how beautiful it was.
I took the long way home from my son’s school, so as to pass by one of my favorite spots in my neighborhood, a tree with a tire swing that sits right at the edge of the pond. I stopped my car, rolled down the window, and snapped a picture, because who knows how many more times I’m going to drive by that spot?
I chose an Instagram filter and tried to think of a caption that captured how I felt about the picture and also about my current situation. I may or may not have even googled “quote about gray skies”. Nothing seemed right. After breakfast, I pulled out my phone to add eggs to my shopping list and when I opened my notes, I suddenly remembered my own musings on the color gray.
Things are a bit gray right now and it is easy to get lost in it. It’s easy to despair when it feels like the color is being drained from everything around me. But I’m trying to remember that the gray doesn’t actually remove the color. It just masks it for a little while. The color is still there. All of the good things in my life still exist and it doesn’t do me any good to let this particular gray make me forget that. And, once I started to look for the beauty in the gray, I realized that my husband and I are at our strongest as a unit when we’re feeling vulnerable as individuals. And we’ve started researching buying a home of our own, for the first time in our lives, which in turn, has made us examine our financial situation in earnest. It has also driven me to step outside of my role as the comforting friend, and seek comfort instead, which has been cathartic and a little enlightening. There is beauty both within this gray and on the other side of it and I look forward to finding more.