It seems like a lifetime ago I remember listening to the radio (yes, FM radio) and hearing a catchy tune. Dandelions, by Five Iron Frenzy (link) followed the tale of a young boy who gathered a fistful of dandelions in a field, only to offer them to his Mother as a token of his love.

Running to her, beaming bright while cradling his prize
A flickering of yellow light within his mother’s eyes
She holds them to her heart keeping them where they’ll be safe
Clasped within her very marrow, dandelions in a vase
She sees love where anyone else would see weeds
All hope is found, here is everything he needs

The song came to mind during my travels in Bali. There, I spent many long hours thinking about life, the choices I’ve made, and what to make of my memories. They felt like a bouquet of dandelions…

Countless hours were spent on the balcony, watching the Bali sun set in the distance while the call to prayer echoed through the neighborhood. I’d often sit there and wonder if I was living in heaven – or hell. Heaven, because the moments were beautiful in their own right. Hell, because that’s what my mind seemed to make of it at times…

I’ve learned a lot of lessons since picking up a brush and letting paint fly on canvas. Unlike digital artwork, which allow you to undo ‘mistakes’ with the click of a button, a canvas isn’t nearly as forgiving. This medium requires you to have a lot patience for yourself, as well as the painting-in-progress.

Some strokes offer magnificent beauty – while others seem to create imperfections, which really rattle me, because I know what was can’t be recreated.

Yet, the lesson painting has taught me is to start seeing life as the canvas, as well as the artist. Friends, family, and loved ones each have their parts on the canvas; composing the beautiful creation this ‘life’ thing is.

In The Existentialist’s Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age, the author pens a chapter about love. In it, he concludes love must stem from a foundation of self-acceptance, and tenderness for both ourselves and those around us. He defines tenderness as the moment in which the ego temporarily subsides enough to see foe as friend – even if for a brief moment.

I recently had shared conversation with my little brother, Josh. He’s not so little anymore (towering 6’5″). During the late-night conversation, we talked about mistakes we’ve made in life.

“Josh, I hope you make mistakes. I hope you make mistakes so legendary that you receive standing ovations for them…because that’s how you’ll grow.”

Reflecting back to the dandelions, there are a lot of ‘mistakes’ that have transformed themselves into beautiful flowers as time goes by. Sometimes you go through what feels like the greatest pain, only to discover there was something else waiting for you before your tears had time to dry.

I’ll never forget the moment I looked at a canvas, still wet with paint, with astonishment at what I’d just created. It surprised me to see the strokes, colors, and vibrance that silently roared from the canvas.

That moment was a profound one, because all of the ‘noise’ shut out. Then, it didn’t matter who else liked the canvas, or would even consider it art.

I did.

That ‘ah ha’ moment showed me something new about life; not everybody will be in your corner (especially the ones you think should be there)…what matters is that you can look at your life as a thing of inexplicable beauty, grace, and healing scattered between times you didn’t get it right – and be your own champion, even when you get knocked down.

You gave what you had to give at the time. That’s all you could offer. 

These days, when I walk around my home, I’m surrounded by beauty. From tiny notes friends/family have given over the years, photos of friends/loved ones, gifts, and large paintings on the wall, everything seems to be a reminder that beauty comes when you put one foot in front of the other, stroke by stroke.

If there’s one thing you take from this blog, it’s the idea to look at your life through the lens of a child holding a bouquet of dandelions for his Mother.

The grumpy old gardener sprays Roundup on the very same dandelions the Mother holds to her chest and takes home to put in her finest glass vase.

Perspective is everything.

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