It is hard to sit down and write most days. Especially hard when terrible things happen in the world and everywhere you look online you see pictures and stories and tweets about violence and death and sadness.
But I am sitting down to write. One thing I learned from 9/11 was that a gentle kind of protest is to go about your life the way you always have. Maybe you’re a little more present in it for a while. A little more grateful.
And it also helps to remember the good things, and the good in people. It’s like Mister Rogers said: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Here is an exercise that I used to give my students, and it’s one I use on occasion to remind myself that there is beauty in the world and it is stronger than all the ugliness.
I LOVE THE WAY
Start there. Make a list and write the things you love.
I love the way the sky is always different when I take the kids to school in the morning. Blue, grey, cloudy, bright sun. Some days there are vibrant streaks of orange and pink threaded with purple and it makes me a little breathless.
I love the way my daughter slouches in her chair, sitting sideways, legs over the armrest, and how she doesn’t like me to hug her much anymore, but when I pass by her she holds her foot out so I can squeeze her big toe.
I love the way my son tells me that I have the best chin ever. And I wonder if I told him that this chin is the thing that I have always hated the most about myself? How angular it is. How strong. How you can grab onto it. It is funny to me that the one thing I have always been so critical of is the one thing that (even as a baby) he’d wrap his little hand on and laugh.
I love the way my husband can listen to me freak out. He might be zoning out, but he seems so present. He lets me go on and on and vent until I’m satisfied and then he’ll give me a hug. He doesn’t try to fix it, unless I give him a to-do list. And this is sort of magical.
I love when I’m narrating and my dog sits outside the booth and gives one quiet whine so I will open the door. She curls in around my feet and goes to sleep. Sometimes she farts, but I love her so much that I don’t mind, even stuck with her in a tiny front closet, narrating stories of love.
I love that I get to read stories for a living. How lucky I am to curl up with these words and characters and try to breathe a different kind of life in them.
I love a full-bodied red wine, a slice of salty cheese, and a bit of dark chocolate truffle. If I can have them all at the same time, you will see me in a state of Zen so deep that you’ll think “Ah. That look on her face. That’s what Nirvana looks like.”
I love that on the days when I feel most alone, somehow, magically, I hear from someone in my family, or a friend, or an online acquaintance and they say something that reminds me that I am not alone at all. It’s like when you’re on stage, in a spotlight, you think that you’re all alone, but when the lights change, you see there’s this whole audience of people who have been with you the whole way, and maybe you were just so wrapped up in your own story that you didn’t notice. But when you slow down, when you really pay attention, you can feel that audience along with you. Breathing. Like the sound of waves.