The Charm in the Unsightly

There’s this back of a building I pass on my morning bike ride that makes me smile. Even though the dull white paint is chipped and molded and weeds flank the edges there is something poetic about it. But I’ll have to give its spray paint graffiti the credit. Right next to a red, boyishly printed “I love Julie” there’s “Life is Beautiful” in sweeping purple letters. On one of my rides I thought to stop and take a photo in case I need this affirmation when I’m not pumping the pedals on my favorite trail.

I’ve thought of this space very often. Who is the artist who thought to display this work? What was their motivation? I give them a nod and thank you to the atmosphere when I pass by.

Today the graffiti was gone.

The building was coated in a sandy beige that gleamed in the morning sun. Even the weeds were trimmed. I’m sure the owner of the building meant well while refreshing its facade. But I wasn’t too happy about it.

Blank Space

Don’t get me wrong. I love a manicured landscape, fresh paint, neatness, organization. But some things have more character when they aren’t, well, perfect.

Take people for instance. I’ve often said if you put all my ex-boyfriends in a row you might think you’re at the circus. And that’s not because I dated a bearded lady. I guess I’ve found attractiveness in all kinds. I never thought Tom Cruise was particularly hot. He’s just too damn normal. Give me a guy with a crooked (but clean) tooth, an unruly brow, or a laugh that makes the walls vibrate.

In college I had this dull and depressing drive from home to classes. Especially in the rainy winter. I saw no beauty in anything around me. My eyes only saw the dark, the dead, the sad. There have been other times in my life when this negative thinking took precedence over the glass-is-half-full mentality. Depression and anxiety were at their height. I think it all goes hand in hand. And even if I saw the most gorgeous of artwork on a wall in an alley I would not have recognized its charm.

My New Year’s resolution for 2014 was to continue to see the world in wonder instead of fear. So far, so good. Some of us have to train our brains to think this way. I’ve been in this training for many many months now. I sometimes get engulfed in the unsightliness of my surroundings when the dopamine is barely dripping. And I don’t live in an ugly place. But there is fear and unattractiveness all around if that is what you see. There may have even been times I thought a scarred Keanu Reeves wasn’t so hot. Okay, yeah, not really.

A field of weeds brings forth a bright yellow dandelion. A strip mall includes a shop of happy Vietnamese ladies eager to refresh tired tootsies. A junk yard is a photo-op. A scribble of tasteful graffiti is a mantra burned into a retrained brain.

And Julie, I’m sure you’re still loved. Just as life is still beautiful.

Beautiful Graffiti

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