Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Lavender Fence

I was driving down the street one day with a woman who suddenly and very vehemently declared, “I can’t stand that woman’s lavender fence. If she doesn’t paint it, I’m going to get some white paint and come do it myself.” The remark and the intensity of the remark startled me. Her blood pressure must have risen ten points! And why? Because she thought someone else’s fence should be a different color than it was.

I’ve thought about that experience a lot since that day. The fence was an unusual color, but the yard was very tidy and well cared for with lots of flowers in many different colors and varieties. It was obvious the owner liked whimsical decorations and lots of color and would have been very unhappy in an earth-tone, Pottery Barn home like she had. So why was this woman causing herself so much distress? Why did it matter what color this fence was? It was blocks from her own home. She didn’t even have to look at it very often. As a matter of fact, if she looked the other way when she went down the street, she wouldn’t see it at all.

I don’t know what caused the extreme negative emotion. It could have been that she felt her standard of decorating was the only acceptable one—that’s called pride. Or maybe she just didn’t like lavender—that’s called intolerance. Or maybe she felt like everyone should be and like what she was and liked—that’s called selfishness. But the net result of any of this is that it causes pain—unnecessary pain. Instead of stressing over what other people should or should not be doing, life is so much easier if we just enjoy. While I’ll probably never paint a fence around my own home lavender, I can delight in the splash of color and obvious enjoyment the owner of the lavender fence takes in making her yard colorful.

While we are free to choose our own style and surround ourselves with what we like best, I think one of our tasks in life is to learn to enjoy, at least in the moment we behold it, what others enjoy.


Becky Rose said...

ok. so I work for a family that has neglected all the things my family taught me- like how to pick up after myself and have done all the things I did not get- FUN, Talent, skills and self-esteem. I'm dealing with that today. That's big. Bigger than lavender fences.

Wendi said...

I like how you labeled each thought as what it really was--pride, intolerance, and selfishness. That was very helpful to me. Periwinkle is one of my favorite colors and that's kind of close to lavendar. I'd probably enjoy that fence. :)

Anonymous said...

I love this post! My brother-in-law lives in a nice part of Los Angeles and has a very wonderful wife who is from Japan. She loves lavender, she is truly a sweetheart and so he painted their whole house lavender to make her happy. Such sweetness until the neighbors saw it. They all completely flipped out, complained to the city (who said they had done nothing wrong and could keep it) and generally were not very nice about it. He kept it that way for several years until his wife was ready for something a little more traditional. My siste-in-law loves her flowers and pretty, colorful things and I think my brother-in-law was good to do something he knew would make her really happy and ignore the attitudes of the neighbors. He says the only problem was lavender, probably anything else no one would have cared. The irony is the people who have taken the time to get to know them, love them, especially my sister-in-law. Intolerance would have cost them a wonderful friendship, but instead they looked past the colorful house and learned to appreciate the family for all the good things they are.

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Becky, Most things we stress ourselves out over are bigger than lavender fences. But whether it is big or small, why stress? It only causes pain. Live with the truth of what is and move on--leaving the pain behind!

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Wendi, It was pretty to look at.

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Cathie, You are so right. We only cheat ourselves when we live in the Pit of Illusion.