A Beautiful Life: On Envy and the Search for Uncommon Beauty

“In what ways can you see that your unremarkable life is uncommonly beautiful?”

In the dark hours of early morning, I let this question roll around in my heart like marbles in a pocket. I sat with my devotional across my lap, overlooking the dim glow of my neighbor’s window, as I thought about my answer. While I often find my everyday life to be unremarkable, especially when I’m strapped in the driver’s seat of the family car or standing in the queue with a cart full of groceries, I also know it has been marked by uncommon experiences and exceptional beauty. I’d be a fool not to acknowledge it.

During our years living abroad in Europe, I spent weekends wandering the Louvre in Paris. I took afternoon tea at the local tea shop in my quaint London village. I ran miles and miles in the foothills of the Alps through deep conifer forests. Each long run culminated in the tiny village where Joanna Spyri wrote the book Heidi, where a view of white peaks scraped the sky from the cafe at Spyri Garten.

I stood in awe of my own life as my muscles twitched and my chest heaved. I breathed it in like a woman aching for air to inflate her lungs–lungs long deprived of oxygen.

I have lived uncommon beauty. I know the feel of it against my skin, the spark and stir of it in my soul. It was a remarkable life. Beauty-full. Filled with art and travel and history, and accompanying all of these treasures, the feeling that somehow I was living the life intended for me. It was unique. It was different than the unremarkable life I left behind.

I write this not to brag, not to say “look at me”, or to stir envy. I write this because the romance of beauty and the longing for a remarkable life is my great weakness. I often struggle to see the subtle beauty of the unremarkable life right in front of me because I know the difference between a weekend cleaning out my basement in suburban New Jersey and a weekend walking twisted cobblestone streets in England.

I am envious, and my envy is directed at a former version of me.

As I sat that morning with my thoughts drawn to uncommon beauty, I immediately returned to the times in my life when I have lived in places of the most tangible, physical beauty. But, of course, this was not the question. The question was where am I finding beauty in my unremarkable life, the life I’m living right now.

I scribbled down these words, “My unremarkable life is beautiful because it is a life marked by love.”

There is an ease, a peace, and a rightness that comes with knowing one is fully loved. I am loved, and this is the most beautiful thing about my life, regardless of whether my kitchen window frames a view of the Alps or the crushed brown grass of a winter-weary meadow.

Envy of my former self could blind me to the joy of today.

I’d like to ask this same question of you: “In what ways can you see that your unremarkable life is uncommonly beautiful?”

Sit with this for a while. Let it roll around, let the words clink and clatter against one another. Perhaps you will return to the time when your face held the fresh bloom of youth, or your physical strength was at its peak. Maybe your thoughts will wander to the time when you were still married, or you lived in the perfect home, or your job set you on fire with passion every week.

Feel gratitude for those days, the ones filled with such obvious beauty. But let the envy for your former life slip through the door and join those memories. What are the intangibles that make your life beautiful today? Right now, in the exact place where you sit and read these words. What are the tangibles, the things you can stroke with an eye or a finger?

Invite the questions, your curiosity, and your memories to join you. Beauty is sure to follow.

 

*Note: The devotional mentioned can be found here.

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