Hi friends, it’s just Amy writing today. It’s been a joy to be here with you through this parenting series. Jeffrey and I have loved considering your questions, following your conversations and learning from your wisdom ourselves. We’ve also noticed something interesting about what people are looking for when they click over from here to our website, GrowingConnected.com. We can only see numbers, not individual behaviors, but about a third of the people who visited our site from this series also clicked over to read Jeffrey’s answer to one particular question, the question of “How do I know whether or not I’m depressed?”
We think there’s a story behind all those specific clicks. It’s the story of how many of us don’t know what to do with the sadness and stress we’re feeling right now. We wonder if there’s something wrong with us or our lives—are things supposed to feel this hard? So today, we’re going to do something a little different. We’ll link directly to that question about depression, but first I want to share a bit about I’ve personally learned about pain and sadness and looking for beauty along the way.
Several years ago, the phrase “beauty will save us,” began rolling through my mind, unbidden. The words wouldn’t leave me alone, so I began to explore the concept of beauty, wondering what it might have to teach me. These lines from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn captured my imagination:
“If the too obvious, too straight branches of Truth and Good are crushed or amputated and cannot reach the light—yet perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable, unexpected branches of Beauty will make their way through and soar up to that very place and in this way perform the work of all three.”
We are living in a time of great and growing ugliness. People are dividing and entrenching over what we have all decided to be Good and True. It’s easy and understandable to feel demoralized. But beauty can point to us different, more real reality—the reality of love, and of hope.
So Jeffrey and I pull out board games and light candles some Friday nights, creating a “coffee shop” game night for our guys. We put up Kelle’s summer bucket list and wear yellow and play hooky sometimes. I do a lot of baking. We hang pictures on our walls and create cozy spaces and spend so very much time teaching our kids how to love others and each other. We pray that we’ll love them well, too. Because if our homes cannot be havens, then where else do we have to go?
We don’t savor these small things in an effort to shut out or numb our own pain. We don’t look for beauty because life isn’t hard or heartbreaking sometimes. We look for beauty because that’s only way to find it. We create beauty because we were born to be creators of things that are good. Connecting my heart with my little boy’s smile, enjoying the taste of food that I love, and taking time to drink in the color of flowers fills me with strength to keep going. It allows me to see the mom sitting parked in her car next to mine, eyes full of tears, and tap on her window to ask if she’ll like to grab coffee. If I train my mind to seek beauty, I remember to turn on some music instead of yelling when I’m making dinner and the kids start fighting again.
If I live looking for beauty and seeking ways to create it, when I read a statistic that says 80% of little brown boys will be bullied at school, I can whisper to myself, Well now, that’s not the world I want to see. And then I can open my heart to people who don’t look like me and support them in creating a world that is beautiful for their children, too. When I learn that a baby has been pulled out of her mama’s arms at the border, I can close my eyes and picture that baby laughing and back in her mother’s arms again, and think, Yes, that looks better. That’s the world I want to work to make true. And then I can make calls and speak up and join my tears with that mama’s tears, connecting myself to her pain. Because I’ve seen beauty with my own eyes, so I know there’s a different way. That’s the way I’m going to speak out for, and work for, and believe in.
Sometimes life just feels like too much. And sometimes our own brains work against us, misfiring. The deep, choking sadness of clinical depression is real and crippling. It does not allow you to see anything beautiful. But there are truly hopeful treatments and people who can help. If you are struggling, please believe that this feeling you’re feeling today is not your forever. The best thing you can do right now is hang on and seek help. If you’re looking for support or don’t know whether or not you need treatment, this post may be able to point you in some concrete directions toward recovery:
If you are not clinically depressed, but simply feeling the weight of the world we’re living in, then please be kind to yourself. Sometimes we weep because there are things worth weeping about. The world needs us feelers. Or at least I hope it does, otherwise I’m really making everything unnecessarily difficult. Listen for where you pain may be pointing you and what your insides are trying to tell you. What is the hardest thing about life for you right now? Can you make one small shift today that might make it easier? Could you set a boundary, let go of an expectation that’s holding you in place, or reach out to a group of people who care as passionately about something as you do? Can you think of something beautiful and release yourself to love it?
Beauty can save us, and beauty will lead the way.
You can connect more with the Dr. Jeffrey Olrick and Amy Olrick on their site, Growing Connected, and follow them on Instagram @growingconnected or Facebook. If you have a parenting question or issue you’d like Amy and Jeffrey to tackle, feel free to leave it in the comments. You can also sign up for their newsletter where they share more questions, answers and encouragement for any parent seeking more connection with their kids.