A Makeover with Meaning

I visited my college roommate, Susie, last weekend and we gave her back deck a makeover. This space went from a plastic, dog-chewed wasteland to a very pretty place to spend time. Both of us were giddy from the experience: me, because I love making things beautiful and Susie, because she had never seen her deck or yard in this light and she never would have done it on her own. We had both been through times of acute suffering, and the deck quickly became  a metaphor for newness and fresh beauty in our lives.

My spiritual director once told me during one of my darkest moments that I would look back on that time of suffering and be able to see the beauty in it. Since her assurance, I would often look back and check…..beauty? Can I see it? Hmmmm…… Now I think I can, in a makeover sort of way. I can see that my time of desolation opened me up to reconfiguring my thought processes, something I had no idea I needed to change. Just like Susie hadn’t really thought that her plastic, dog-chewed chairs that scraped her arms could do with some replacing, I hadn’t ever considered that the way I worked through times of suffering could be better. Even though it invariably dragged my mood to an even lower level than the current crisis merited!

One of the fundamental problems with Susie’s original “design concept” on her deck was that she really didn’t like her yard, so her chairs faced the back of the house. We really needed to shift the entire orientation of the seating to give her new eyes to see her yard, which is a beautiful green space with lovely trees! In life, I have come to believe that sometimes only suffering will compel us to look at something differently. Only sitting in the darkness made me willing to consider my “mental make-over.” I can see that through suffering and reconfiguring/redecorating, I have now found the gift of equanimity (evenness/steadiness) in a way I never had it before. This doesn’t mean I don’t struggle and suffer, but I add to my struggle less by doing different things with my focus and attention throughout.

For both my personal shift and for the deck project, there was a catalyst for considering the makeover. Personally, it was seeing that the way I processed suffering didn’t work. For the deck project, it was when I looked at Susie over a glass of wine and asked, “what do you think of a deck makeover?” What is happening in your life right now that might actually be an invitation to a complete reorientation, reconfiguring or makeover? Are you open to turning those chairs around and checking out the view you thought you hated? God’s movements in our lives can be sometimes very obvious and blunt. It’s such a loss when we miss the signs.

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