Down

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It used to be that on a grumpy, grumbly day, I would see my whole life through the lens of whatever was currently happening to cause my ill-ease. I would build a monument to it with my thoughts, and the walls of it were so thick that no light could come in. We all experience these days from time to time, whether we admit it or not, but with experience I’m slowly learning to manage them with a few important, lasting truths.

Your life is not for you. I know, it seems unhelpful to the already-sad to seemingly degrade the value of a person’s life, but it’s not as cruel as it seems. If you move through a down day and yet look for the positive impact your life has on others, it can lift you. Today, a little girl in music class waited to dance with me, and then we did, and she was overjoyed. You could see it all over her face. Now, if that’s the only good thing that came of today, it was worth it, just me being present for her.

Some of us are on a spiritual journey in which we are attempting to give our lives over to God to use every day and some are not so sure about God but give of themselves directly to others. In either case, you can always recognize it when it’s happening. The fruit of a life lived for others is light, bright, and compelling. Even if it’s just a moment like this that we witness, we remember it. Being open to that kind of self-giving even in the midst of sorrow is the definition of grace, and grace, like a rising tide, lifts all boats.

Everything is temporary. As my mother would say, ‘this too shall pass’. There is nothing we experience today that’s static; everything is in motion all the time. On one of my kitchen walls is a cluster of photographs. One is my daughter’s school picture from the spring of her first grade year, one is a Christmas picture of my kids when they were five and three, one is a picture of me and my son when he was a high school senior recovering from mono and also making me laugh, and the last is a picture of berries on a winter tree that I took on a walk when our schools were in crisis and I was working hard for funding and looking for signs. Next to all of it is a plate that my mother gave me, which I think came from her grandmother’s house.

None of the realities represented in these photographs exists today. My kids are no longer little, my son has recovered from mono and is long past high school age, my days as a local activist have come to a close, and my mother and her grandmother are, sadly, long passed. What is to come is unclear, but whatever today holds for better or for worse is quickly fading, so it’s important to look for the good in every day. This may be the last spring I see the beauty of yellow-green baby leaves growing on trees. It may be the last time I hear the blend of raindrops and singing birds out my window. It might be my last sip of foamy latte or the last sound of my dog’s snoring that I hear as I sit in this kitchen corner, surrounded by photographs of things that are gone. Shouldn’t I enjoy it?

Laugh. My seventy-one year old Dad called today and told me he and his brother went to get haircuts today and that they both got wiffles because summer is coming. Come on now, I hope you’re laughing, because you should be. Holding life lightly with open hands is the best way to hold it, and laughter is an important ingredient, as my father surely knows. When you’re laughing, it’s impossible to hold dread or fear. In those moments, you’re truly free. Laughing more is always a good thing.

Mix it up. For me, a grumpy mood is a signal that it’s time to walk, run, write, go to a yoga class, talk to a friend, or do something for someone else. Mixing up the snow-globe of my perspective is my responsibility, and it’s in my control, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

And if, in the end, none of those things work to combat a down day there’s good news still. There’s green tea, and sleep, and a spinning earth, and the sun rising again tomorrow. After all, who knows what will come of a new day? Just thinking about the utter possibility of it brings the smallest of smiles to my face, and, along with another latte, it’s enough for now.

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