How could this be beautiful?

By Ingrid Fetell Lee
Colorful construction paper shapes | How could this be beautiful?

Last week, I was looking around our “work in progress” living room, and I found myself thinking: “This just isn’t beautiful.”

Creating beauty, surrounding myself and the people I love with beauty — these are cardinal goals of mine. So when I look around and can’t find the beauty, I get frustrated. I think about all the things I want to change, and all the reasons I believe I can’t change them. (Money. Time. Indecision. I could go on…)

But the other day, as this cascade of negative thoughts was building, I suddenly thought: How could this be beautiful?

How Could This Be Beautiful?

This question brimmed with possibility.

I looked at the space again. Was there really nothing beautiful there? The green and blue paint colors, so painstakingly chosen, felt beautiful. The wallpaper with its vibrant flowers — that was beautiful. The light filtering through the Magnatile towers in the corner: also beautiful. And of course there was the child stacking those Magnatiles: beautiful beyond measure.

It occurred to me that maybe in my fixation on a certain idea of beauty, I was missing the beauty that was already there. I remembered how when I was younger, I used to see photos of myself and immediately think that I was unattractive, only to look at the same photos a few years later and love them. In the moment, the photo represented all my flaws. But with the passage of time, I could see the joy of my smile, and feel so much tenderness for who I was at that time of my life.

The thing is: We don’t have time to only see the beauty of our lives in hindsight. We have to get better at seeing the beauty in the moment, right now.

I love the question “How could this be beautiful?” because it restores our agency over a situation. A complaint puts us into passive state, as if life is happening to us. Yet the reality is that we always have the ability to do something, even if it’s just changing our perspective.

And the best part is that works with all kinds of complaints:

“This isn’t fun.” > “How could this be fun?”

“This isn’t for me.” > “How could this be for me?”

“This is so hard.” > “How could this be easy?”

I think sometimes we get so blinkered that we stop even imagining what a better situation might look like. Sometimes we just need to ask the question to tap into a more creative self.

August 24th, 2023

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    Discussion (2 Comments)

  1. Rex Peairs on August 25, 2023

    I LOVE this idea that we can empower ourselves with the simple question “How could this be …”!

    Reply
  2. Alexandra on August 25, 2023

    When I feel overwhelmed by a particular mess in my house (the kitchen island or my desk, for example), I’ve learned that if I stop and sketch it, it becomes manageable. And then the sketch is beautiful somehow. Once I turn a pile of stuff into a still life by drawing it, I am forced to see it in terms of composition, how the pieces fit together, what things are visible and what things are hidden. And THEN each item as I draw it reminds me of a family member, my children, where I found it, or how it serves me. The stories that come to mind plus the focus I need to see each object for it’s shapes and position, turn the whole thing into art. And then I love it.

    Reply

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