Discover more from The Commonplace
We've Always Asked the Wrong Question 🤔
This one morning practice has changed everything for me. (Really.)
The past few months have been weird for me because I’ve felt both swamped with work and delightfully freer to pursue that which interests me than I have in years. It’s a sign that things are as they should be, I suppose, to have a full plate and a clear conscience to not sweat what They say you Should do with your time and talents.
During these months, I’ve vacillated between feeling like I have SO many things to say and absolutely NOTHING to say — not much in between. There are mornings when I can’t wait to get words on a page, and there are entire days when nothing but terrible song lyrics autoplay on repeat in the ol’ noggin. I’ve wondered what the difference is between these two states of mind. What’s going on when I feel like all I want to do is putz around on YouTube or play with my dog, and moments when I can’t find my pen and journal fast enough?
For one, I have more to say when I remember to refill my Prozac. That’s a real thing, and it’s a real twitch in the brain when I forget to click the ‘yes, please; refill away’ button on the pharmacy website. It’s also no joke to say I don’t have as much to say when I go to bed too late. It makes me think weird thoughts and feel weird feelings and eat unhealthy things — like that new adage says, when you’re mad at everyone it means you’re hungry; when you’re sure everyone’s mad at you it means you’re tired.
But when I remember to pop that pill and go to bed like the grownup in charge of me that I am, here’s the one difference between the days when I feel confident in what I have to say and who I am, and the days when I feel unsure and not a bit idiotic:
I write down what I’m grateful for.
That’s it. No joke. I know it sounds eye-roll-worthy or Internet thought-leadery or perhaps a bit archaic and grandmotherly, but there it is. On the days when I remember to write down three specific things I’m grateful for, everything about the day changes. It’s subtle; it’s not like I find a bag of money and first-class tickets to Paris — it’s realizing that my life is basically the equivalent of finding those things every single damn day because I’m alive and breathing in and out at such a time as this.
When I choose to recognize that the aviary spouses arguing in the trees every morning are actually singing songs they were created to sing and I get to hear them, I feel a bit less bereft of beauty.
When my youngest stumbles into my bed far too early when I’m hoping for a semblance of quiet reading — and I choose to be grateful that head of messy hair sits atop a healthy, growing-too-fast boy with a fantastic sense of humor and a splash of freckles I envy — I better recognize the ridiculousness of my complaint that my alone time was cut a few minutes short.
When the ceiling leaks yet again because our old house still isn’t done being fixer-upped and I choose to remember that, by golly, we live in a time when that air-conditioning that’s causing said leak makes it possible for me to not die of malaise and acedia in the summer Texas heat, I’m better able to laugh with Kyle about that leak. At least a little. (And be insanely grateful to have married a man that immediately knows what to do about said leak and does so without a smidge of complaint.)
It takes methodical practice to see things this way and for me, it requires writing them down. I’m an Eeyore by nature, and I’m never going to naturally love the pain of working out and the inconvenience of traffic. This will probably be a lifelong practice for me, remembering every single morning to notice the good. But the practice of doing so by far outweighs the tiny inconvenience of the three minutes (if that) it takes to do so. It changes everything about my day. It’s ridiculously worth it.
On those days when I choose to remember to do this — and it is a choice, every single iota of this practice — here’s what I notice underneath the surface: the sacramental goodness that all of life is a gift. Humans have asked since the exile of Eden why God allows bad stuff to happen to good people, but that’s really the wrong question. The real question is: why is there anything good at all in the first place?
Why is earth crammed full of heaven? Why do the chiaroscuroed shadows on the hills hint at what home we’re made for? Why do the waves lick the beach, again and again, and why is its residual imprint on the sand mind-blowing to witness? Why are we given the gift of a prismatic sunset every dadgum day? Heck, why does food taste good? It doesn’t have to taste good. We could have been given a bland bowl of gunmetal mush to apply to our tongues three times a day, but instead we have summer-ripe tomatoes and the human wherewithal to invent gelato.
Why is anything good? I don’t know. I guess it’s because the Creator of all the stuff is good and loves us for some crazy reason. That Maker allows wooden screen doors to slam in the same cadence of Home for two hundred years and for babies’ smiles to melt the grumpiest of dictators. Why is ANYTHING good? is the right question to ask. It’s basically what I’m asking every morning when I notice three good things I can choose to be grateful for.
Why is anything good?
Notice those screen doors and tree branch waves and flows of a good pen in your life, and write them down. Really. Take the three minutes it takes. See if you don’t move about your day with just a bit more gladness in your step. It may take a few months of building this into a morning habit, but I’m telling you, it makes a stellar cocktail ingredient with that Prozac and daily walk and occasional gelato.
It’s good for us Eeyores to notice all the common bushes aflame with the divine. Earth’s crammed with them. It’ll help you take off your shoes after you pluck the blackberries.
p.s. For you Commonplace subscribers, don’t forget our live chat tonight! 🙌 You’ll get the Zoom link in just a bit.
p.p.s. You’re getting this note because you subscribe to my weekly 5 Quick Things, and about once a quarter I send you a little something else just because. Thanks so much for inviting me into your inbox every week. That’s no small thing in this era of noise — it’s yet something else I’m grateful for. 💛