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The colours of my life

December 20, 2013

This is likely to be the first of a few posts about the transitional periods of my life. Everyone has them, and I’ve been thinking for a while about a couple of mine.

A big transition was going to a Christmas party on Tuesday. I don’t think I’ve been to one before, I’m a self professed Grinch, after all, and have a reputation to uphold. But this one was the first gathering of the new organisation I’m part of so I wanted to show willing. And unexpected to all except my own spirit of Christmas, Desere, I had a jolly good time. I even wore a silly hat.


At this party, I was given a gift. It’s a new diary. Better than my current diary on account of its bookmark and unlined entry boxes, but I wasn’t sure about the colour: Brown. Dark panel and lighter panel split over the cover. I’ve never been a big fan of brown, but only a few days ago I got to thinking of clothes, how they’re dyed and generally not their natural colour, and I was weighing up my recent fondness for bold colours against my even recent-er fondness for simplicity and naturalness.

When I was a teenager and in my early 20s I’d wear a lot of black. It wasn’t so much because I was emo (though I was for part of my teens – few teens avoid that period) as much as it was simple, matched everything so I didn’t have to think about what I was wearing, and it was allegedly slimming (I’m a bit too overweight for the latter to really work out, but denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.) I can’t deny it also matched my mood for most of the time. But a couple of years ago I bought something I always wanted, a colourful patchwork hoodie, that had yin yangs, the Buddhist wheel, and Aum painted on various panels. That thing has been with me just about everywhere since, I even took it to Amsterdam with me. That began a shift in consciousness, it seems – since then I’ve seldom been seen in black anymore. I have t shirts now in purple, yellow, white… I don’t even wear black jeans very often anymore, they’re always blue. My workout trousers of choice are no longer black tracksuit bottoms, but purple ones with painted-on flowers of blue, yellow, and red, which I often couple with my favourite yellow t shirt (which I think my mother has thrown out because it had some black stain on the shoulder. I really hope not, that’s my favourite most comfortable t shirt.)

So when I found myself looking at this brown diary, approving of its colour and my change of pace since I started getting more heavily into Buddhism over the last couple of months, I felt that something was changing, and it brought to mind a song from the mindblowing Broadway show, Barnum, in which Barnum, the dreamer and showman, explains his view on life by singing a song about how some colours suit him better. His wife, the practical, simple woman, responds in kind. The link to the video is below, along with the lyrics.

The colors of my life are bountiful and bold,
The purple glow of indigo, the gleam of green and gold.
The splendor of the sunrise, the dazzle of a flame,
The glory of a rainbow, I’d put ’em all to shame.
No quiet browns and grays, I’ll take my days instead
And fill them till they overflow with rose and cherry red!
And should this sunlit world grow dark one day,
The colors of my life will leave a shining light to show the way.

The colors of my life are softer than a breeze.
The silver gray of eiderdown, the dappled green of trees.
The amber of a wheat field, the hazel of a seed,
The crystal of a raindrop, are all I’ll ever need.
Your reds are much too bold, in gold I find no worth.
I’ll fill my days with sage and brown; the colors of the earth,
And if from by my side my love should roam,
The colors of my life will shine a quiet light to lead him home.


Both positions appeal to me. I’ve learned to enjoy the attention of speaking to a room full of people, being asked my opinion, even debates on some subjects. I even occasionally say things to stir people up to get conversation going and things like that. But there are times where I just want to live in a house with just me and a cat and my books, go to work, come home, take care of the cat and me, and keep things stupidly simple.

I suppose the only way is the same as everything else – what Buddhists refer to as “the middle way.” Sometimes I want to go out in purple and yellow and wear a silly hat and sing and dance and do karaoke and drink and laugh. Other times – most of the time, really – I’m content to sit in a dim room, read next to the light, sip a coffee, relax, think, meditate. The colours aren’t static. Those old fiber optic lights come to mind, where the red would become orange would become yellow would become green would become blue would become purple would become red. I can’t believe I just remembered that sequence. But the colours aren’t static, the whirl and change and merge and flow, just like life.

So I won’t be throwing my wardrobe away in favour of saffron robes quite yet, though that is a beautiful symbiosis of bold and simple. Some days it’s a denim and chains day, and some days I can’t be bothered with pockets.

The colours of my life are varied and fluid. And while not all of them are pretty, they all have their turn in the sun, as do we all.

Cue the music, fade to black, roll credits.


From → Personal

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