I think about language. And when I’m paying attention, I carefully consider the words I choose. Recently, I went to a gathering with many people I hadn’t seen in a while. Throughout the evening, people asked me variations of the same question, “Life is good?”
After several rounds of conversation, I figured out an authentic answer: “Life is life - a little bit of everything.”
I was thinking about the question later and brought to mind a poem from my book Brainstorms;
I'm doing the best I can
with each day that I'm living,
to try to embrace the gifts I’ve been given.
Sometimes I soar.
Sometimes I squeak by.
Sometimes I just want to lie down and cry.
Some days are light;
Others are packed.
I hope I won’t let things slip through the cracks.
I aim to be kind
to the people I know
and I'm sorry for any hurt I may sow.
One thing I've found
I try not to forget:
The easier I am, the easier life gets.
I wrote this poem on April 16, 2015. My friend Phillip Estes and I had challenged ourselves to write a poem every day for the month of April as part of National Poetry Month. It was an emotional month for me and the daily writing ended up being the perfect outlet.
At the same time, I was enrolled in a neuroleadership training – a six-month course on the brain from the perspective of learning, emotions, relationships, and navigating change. For me, understanding the brain and nervous system was like getting a magic key that unlocked many of the secrets of my own operating system. One thing I learned is that mindfully focusing attention literally re-wires the brain. In other words, what we pay attention to and how we pay attention matter to our experience and well-being.
On the day I wrote this poem, I was listening to a lesson for the class. The focus was on how the nervous system responds in times of stress and change. As the class was ending, the teacher said “We need to remember that everyone is just doing the best that they can.” That sentence felt like such a huge relief for me. Like she had let me off the hook for everything that I was feeling, all the ways I was trying to hold myself together even when I wanted to fall apart.
From that phrase, the poem flowed out of me, as my rhyming poems tend to do. It felt like it was coming from another source as a message to myself and a reminder…
That life is a gift to be cherished…and that I don’t need to take everything so seriously.
That when I choose to lighten up, slow down, and remember to laugh and breathe, things often lighten up around me.
And that when I deliberately choose to pay attention to the things I appreciate, without denying the things that are challenging, I am literally re-wiring my brain.
Three years later, this poem still resonates with me.
Some moments are challenging and I can learn and grow from those.
Some moments fill me with joy and awe. I revel in those for as long as I can.
Most of my life is ordinary and I can choose to see love and beauty in those everyday moments.
Life is life.
The good is what I make of it.