This Ugly and Beautiful World

I remember one particular day long ago. I was sitting on the love seat in our living room with my firstborn baby in my arms. It was the first time I was left alone with him and I suddenly became overwhelmed with sadness and guilt. I looked at the perfect little person in my arms and cried. All I could think was that I had brought him into an imperfect, ugly world. I was responsible for bringing him into a place that would scare him and hurt him, a place that would make him doubt himself and feel sad. The fog of those painful emotions burned off quickly enough and I chalked it up to a bit of postpartum depression, but sometimes I wonder if I had more clarity at that time than I have most days since.

There’s been a black cloud over my head the past few days. The older I get, the more I tend to sometimes think that I have the world figured out. That is, only until something happens to make me realize I still have very naive expectations of the world. I think most of us venture into our adult lives with a somewhat idealized view of the future. Children come along and we picture them being happy, talented, intelligent and competent. And as for all those other people in our circle of family and friends? I don’t expect that life will be perfect every day for each and every one of them. But I do tend to hope that their pitfalls will be manageable. Jobs may be lost, but new ones found. Illnesses can be treated with surgery or medication and then it’s right back on to the normal path of life. Kids may not follow the dreams their parents envisioned for them, but they will still find some measure of success in life anyway. Death is inevitable, but hopefully it comes after a long and well-lived life, one in which the person was able live most of life’s best experiences.

Doubt crosses my mind when I learn things like a cancer diagnosis in a friend. Or when I hear that a coworker’s child is suffering from depression. It comes when I see deep unhappiness where contentment seems rightfully earned. It’s there when I receive news of a random attack that leaves the son of dear friends laying in a hospital with brain injuries, our friends sick with worry for a child’s future.

What an ugly, ugly world this can be.

I finished taming my corner garden this weekend. It was a good outlet; a good distraction. I sat on the deck last night, on a perfectly beautiful summer evening. The air was comfortable, the sky clear. All around was green grass and colorful flowers and the sounds of summer. I sat under the canopy with the Sunday evening sun just beginning to set and stared out at my little garden trying to reconcile the beauty of this world against the ugliness that surfaces day in and day out.

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I had an appointment this morning, a follow-up to the mammogram I had just over a week ago. I got the call last Friday informing me that they wanted to take a closer look. (“And, oh, by the way, try not to spend the weekend worrying.”) One mammogram, one ultrasound, one view of “the spot” and one explanation of the findings in which “non-cancerous” was the last bit of information revealed, I realized I’d been holding my breath. Afterwards, since Mark and I were already at the hospital, we went to find our friends whose son is just beginning to find his way back to normal. We wanted, if nothing more, to offer hugs and love and to let them know they could call us and ask for anything. Tears were shed. There wasn’t much we could do to lift their burden other than provide a shoulder to lean on.

I left the hospital today with a new perspective. This is an ugly world, just as much as it is a beautiful one. And sometimes my expectations are too high. I worry about a child who maybe hasn’t spread his wings as much as I think one of his age should. And so what? If he’s forty years old and still living with me, so be it. (Not that I really think he’d let that happen.) If my kids don’t grow up to be neurosurgeons or billionaires, so what? I hope that they can find what it is that makes them happy in life, in spite of what the world says should make them happy.

Maybe the ugly part of the world serves to remind me that I have it pretty good. My life is comfortable and without a lot of real difficulties. My family is safe, thriving and here with me. There’s no guarantee that tomorrow these things will still hold true. But for today, that’s a lot for which to be grateful.

26 thoughts on “This Ugly and Beautiful World

  1. Beautifully written, Terri. Your news of Gina has made me think differently about things as well. (Please let her know I ran for her during the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in St. Louis this weekend. I wasn’t actually in the city, but I logged 6 miles that morning thinking of her and wishing her the best.) St. Louis raised more than $2.4 million this year. So another example of how an ugly world can be trumped by heart-warming acts such as this.
    So glad to hear that your “spot” was non-cancerous! I had the same scare 5 years ago, so I can imagine how you must have felt.
    Thank you for putting into words what many of us take for granted… helping us to realize that we should be grateful for all the good we have in our lives.
    I wish you, Gina, your co-worker’s child, and your friend’s child, all the best.
    P.S. Your garden is beautiful.


    • Thanks, SR for your positive thoughts for our friends and for running in honor of breast cancer research! 6 miles! Way to go!

      Yes, the “spot” was worrisome but I actually didn’t get too crazy about it. I realized that whatever it was, already was. No sense worrying myself sick about it.


  2. I was away from the blogosperefor a week, so I missed much of what’s been happening. Sorry to be so behind, but you are right. Beauty has always won out in the end for me. Hang in there, my friend.


  3. What an excellent post. We all have our fears/worries that keep us up at night. No matter how well we prepare, no matter how much we plan, life has its ups and downs and will throw you an occasional gutter ball. I think it is fantastic that you are supporting your friends and I hope their son recovers. I also hope Gina is doing better from her operation. It can be an ugly world and you are truly one great friend to care for your friends like you have.

    I’m glad you got your check up. Sometimes it is the fear of the unknown that keeps us from taking action. I do hate how they sometimes give you the results: “Your test looks OK, but we want to check out something else and TRY NOT TO WORRY ABOUT IT (Yea. Right. Like that’s going to happen).

    And your garden spot is looking like something out of Home & Gardens. I keep looking for the bike.


    • Thanks, Agg!

      I’m glad I got my check-up too. It really wasn’t fear or anxiety at all that kept me from staying on schedule. It was sheer laziness and I just let it get away from me. No more though.

      I’m glad you like the garden. I decided that the bike is probably too big for this small spot, so it probably won’t end up there. … Maybe in another spot in the yard though! We’ll see!


  4. I’ve been thinking much the same. Sometimes when things are going good you wonder when it will end because there is so much that can and does happen…and it doesn’t seem to care if you’ve tried hard or should or should not merit it. It seems all the more necessary to really appreciate and be thankful for whatever we have.


    • I’m glad to hear you have these thoughts too. I felt a little bad for having such a negative attitude for days on end, but in the end I think it was just too many bad things happening to people I care about all in such a short span of time. Gets a little hard to maintain a positive attitude. Eventually, mine came back around. Just needed time to process.


  5. Very well said. Life is such a mixture of emotions, never really knowing if what you’re feeling or thinking about the world is right. So many curveballs in life are thrown and so many questions are never answered. It’s tough to find peace in this world with all the curveballs we face. I’m glad your spot turned out to be non-cancerous. I’d be flipping out if they called me in for a closer look. But your corner garden looks fantastic! It looks so professional!!!


  6. Curveball is such a good description for the bad things that happen. I guess they do help us appreciate what’s good and right.

    I’m not sure the garden looks professional (or at least that it will continue to look that way) but appreciate that you think so! Thanks!


  7. Great post, Terri. And I think you summed it up rightly. I think we “need” the ugliness to remind us of the good. And sometimes we just need to say, “so what?”.

    I’m so glad your *spot* was clarified and non-cancerous. I love the garden!


  8. Thanks, Abby. Seems like every once in a while, I need to come to that realization again. I just wish loved ones didn’t have to suffer for me to realize it.

    I’m relieved, to say the least, about the test results. And the garden was good therapy for me, so it was very worth the labor involved to clean it up. I’m glad you like it!


  9. Loved this post! Good to hear that you got the all clear!

    Yes, the world is generally a nasty place, but there is beauty, love and happiness to be found – all we can do is try to find them and share them with others when we can.

    The hospital visit was a great idea – just having someone there at a bad time makes so much difference. You really know how to be a true friend, Terri, and they are the ones that truly make the world a better place, even from the other side of an ocean.


  10. There’s such a helpless feeling about our friends’ situation. We want to do something… but what? So many are offering but there’s only so much that can be physically done for them. I’m glad we could at least see them and just let them know we care.


  11. Well said, Terri! I’m glad things turned out OK for you, and I love your corner garden! That said, yes, this world can be an ugly place — sickness, sadness, loss — but it’s also the place where there’s so much beauty — love, family, friends, Nature’s magnificence. I think if this world were all that we had, it would be a very sad thing. Fortunately, we know we’re just passing through on the way to better things!


  12. Beautifully written Terri! I too had a “spot” that needed to be rechecked after my last mammogram. Was not cancerous but I was scared. It’s always nice to read your blog and come out of it with a different outlook on things.


  13. Nice job with the corner of the yard! I like it. There’s always going to be good and bad right? We do what we can and revel in the good when it comes around. That’s about all you can do. Oh, and entertain people by writing a blog!


  14. Sorry to hear about all the terrible stuff that’s been going on. Sounds very stressful. I’m also very relieved to hear that your tests tuned out ok in the end. I can’t imagine what your weekend must have been like with that hanging over your head.

    Oh and the little garden is lovely!


  15. Terri, this post is so beautiful, and ugly, and raw, and real – that I am sitting here with actual tears streaming down my cheeks.

    PS: The garden is gorgeous and I am VERY happy your test results came back okay.


  16. Beautifully done, Terri. You’re right .. sometimes we just need the ugly – not to overwhelm us – but to remind us to look around and see what IS good, what IS working, what IS to be thankful for.

    I’m thankful your test results came back OK … and I thank you for sharing your life with us. I don’t even know them but I feel I could attest to your kids being genuine, nice people. And that’s something to cheer for.



  17. So good to hear your tests came back okay. Anytime one gets a response like that is cause to celebrate a bit, or at least drop the worry bag for a while. You wrote this so well and it gives a beautiful message to any who read it. Never take for granted that only good will grace your pathway as there are always rocks to stumble on but take what is good and not just enjoy but also appreciate the people, the things of most importance to us. And then, persevere with that knowledge.


  18. Congratulations on your good news. Muri and I have been through the “one more look” many times and it’s even scarier since she’s had the disease. Personally, I don’t like the word “ugly” to describe life’s dark moments. I like the way Jimmy Buffet put it in “He Went to Paris” … “some of it’s magic and some of it’s tragic and I had a good life all the way.” It’s up to us to conjure some magic out of the tragic times. Out of my Dad’s helping my Dad through his depression came an emotional relationship I never had with him. Out of Muri’s cancer came my appreciation of her grace, something I’m sure you’re seeing in Gina. You write more beautifully when you contemplate both sides of life. You see the beauty in things you may have taken for granted. That may not take away the tragic but it gives it a purpose. Hang in there, my friend.


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