Instructions for Life

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” Mary Oliver

Happiness can be a master of disguise, often appearing in places we rarely suspect, hiding out in the ordinary. The simplest things can bring such joy – the sun breaking through the clouds, a ladybug landing on my steering wheel, a stranger’s smile. I don’t think I realize how much I lean on this emotion. It is the root from which everything else sprouts, but someone sprayed me with weed-be-gone, and I’ve wilted (some would say I’ve got the blues).
My fingers hover over the dusty keyboard searching for inspiration but I remain empty. Writing has never been painful, but the acidity of my thoughts acts like heartburn, and I can’t find relief. I’m teetering on the edge of reason – when did I become so self-absorbed? I cross-examine my life like a cheap lawyer, searching for clues in the crevasses, the tiny spaces that catch all the debris. 

Stomping around the house with my dignity spilling over the edge of a coffee mug, I notice everything is out of place – the moon, my emotions, the cap on the toothpaste. It’s hard to say who got the last Oreo, but it wasn’t me, and I’m having a bad hair month. My phone refuses to hold a charge, the dishwasher is full, the refrigerator empty, and our dirty laundry is spilling out into the hall. My Mom is sick, the dog ate all of Larry’s socks, and don’t get me started on Safeway Monopoly – I could go on but I think you get the gist.

“We don’t know anything. We call something bad, we call it good. But really we just don’t know,” Pema Chodron. 

The alarm rings, reality awakens, and the demands of the day take precedence. I watch myself from a distance, going through the motions, marveling at the stagnant nature of time. When will this day end? I arrive home, run to my womb (I mean room), crawl into bed fully dressed, and allow sleep to rescue me.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”Henry David Thoreau

This is when a private message appears out of the ‘blue’ (sorry I couldn’t resist). Two simple words, “You okay?” I wondered how Shareen could possibly have known? She’s from another time zone, halfway around the world, and yet she noticed. Still tangled in the bedsheets, I stop wrestling with myself, and consider the obvious – Can I find the grace to sit in the present moment and allow these emotions to somehow open me? (like a book, not a nut)

“Things do not change, we change.” Henry David Thoreau 

Amazing what a little sleep and fresh coffee will do? Happiness finally caught up with me in the ordinary, it was the commuter who slowed down so I could enter the stream of traffic, the student who lingered after class to tell me a story, my mom graciously enduring another round of chemo, and best of all making play dough pie with my granddaughter at the kitchen table. It’s a good life. Martine Shaw says there is nothing “ordinary” about decency, courage under fire, compassion, tenacity, lion-heartedness, and that is what is being called forth in a moment – a deeply mythic moment – like this.” 

“I heard somebody whisper ‘Please adore me,’ and when I looked up, the moon had turned to gold. (Blue Moon)

Join me in the comments – what do you do when “good time Charlie’s got the blues?”

I’m Living in the Gap, drop-ins welcome.


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  1. Thanks for your comment Lisa! I think everyone can relate to feeling the \”blues\” once in a while. I found it difficult to write from that space, I wonder if others feel the same? I appreciate you posting a link to twitter! You are rocking my numbers today ❤ Please find Lisa's work at the


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