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Rule 7 - Look for and connect with the beauty in your life Rules for Embracing Life in the 21st Century
Our first rose featured on our first calendar.

Rule 7 - Look for and connect with the beauty in your life (Rose garden/inner spirit of people)

Connecting with beauty in the inner spirit of others begins with finding beauty in yourself. Not the look in the mirror stuff that cosmetics manufacturers sell. The kindness, heart, empathy, joy playfulness, silliness, imagination that you are blessed with. Because that is your beauty.

Ivan found beauty in the rose garden. He was nuts for roses.

Roses are fussy babies. They want what they want when they want it. And they bite. It's my gardening season when first blood is drawn. It is my fervent belief that Audrey II of Little Shop of Horrors was based on a rose. They like sun but not too much. They like rain but not too much. Bugs adore them, especially Japanese beetles, the most pernicious of devourers. Countless times I have executed beetle couples while they made bug love. Even their impending doom didn't deter them!

Even with their shortcomings, we filled every garden we've ever had together with roses. The complexity of the flower appealed as an artist. Many of our calendars featured one of Ivan's rose photographs. He stored the photos with the plan to paint them later.

Connecting with and finding the beauty in others is like growing roses. Neglect withers the eye and the spirit. There is no one and done in finding and connecting with the beauty in life. It is a journey, a journey that branches off in unexpected directions.

And then there's the world...

How many messages are we bombarded with that make us feel less?

Well-meaning family members offer well intentioned critiques designed to improve. Sometimes they penetrate the soul and pierce like the stinger of a bee. Being reprimanded for reading too much. Sitting around thinking. Dreaming. Throwing a ball against a wall. Over and over and over. Gaming. Talking. Chatting. So many ways to waste time in someone else's eyes.

All of us have bee stings. Some are easily removed and soon forgotten. Others penetrate our souls and take years to work their way out, if they ever do. It is why bullying in all forms is a danger to the beauty that lives within the soul. Some of us are stung by words about our physical appearance. Others by nonconformity to what "everyone" thinks.

I heard a recently departed teacher eulogized the other day. She convinced her students that each of them was special. She believed in them until they believed in themselves. She saw the inner spirit of the kids labeled as bad. They worked to match her vision. Sometimes it took years to get there but they rose.

Finding a beauty in hospital rooms, Ivan sought out and connected with the room cleaner. His nurses. Even while in ICU, he quickly became the most popular patient. My theory was he was the only one awake. We both knew it was more than that. He so seldom complained. Even as nurses poked and poked and poked, struggling to find an uncollapsed vein, he asked them questions about themselves and remembered their answers. I only heard him say "ouch" once. It was at the end of a digging session that sent me out the room in tears. He would turn his head to wince so he wouldn't appear to be critical.

He loved the play of light and shadow. The couches and walls of a Nashville hotel. Sunsets and sunrises in country and city.

Old things were beautiful to him. Rust and time shaped tractors and bricks into photo subjects. A friend told me recently that they found visiting the Czech Republic that buildings dating back to the 13th century lovingly preserved. Old is not used up. Old is to be cherished.

This rule is the cleansing breath of the twelve rules. Breathe it in, hold it, let it out slowly.

Then look around.

Addendum: We found Ivan's Rules for Embracing Life in the 21st Century while going through the many pieces of paper he left behind. I was his editor, correcting his grammar, his creatively spelled words and his bureaucratic run on sentences. He didn't share these twelve rules with me so I am not sure when he wrote them or even what prompted him to write them. The rules have made me stop and think. They have pushed me to write again and to share thoughts on each rule and what I think it meant to him. And what it means to me.

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