“When the tangle of the daily has us forget how precious life is,
we tend to keep what matters from what needs to be done. Somewhere
in the press of our day, in the press of a conflict that we won’t let go of,
in the press of a fear that makes us forget the deeper order of things—suddenly there’s this shift and we make what matters a reward for getting to the end of trouble. But trouble never ends. It comes and goes like clouds. That’s why what matters needs to come first. It needs to be our constant companion. For what matters is necessary in order to endure the weather of life.”
Mark Nepo (p. 276. The One Life We’re Given”)
We tend to keep what matters from what needs to be done…
This line really grabbed me when I read it.
And, for me, what came to mind was moving my body. Not as in “You SHOULD move your body, you lazy slug!” or even “exercise is good for you!” But more as an invitation, a kindness. Nurturing my body’s ability to move, caring for it as a thank you for all it does for me, finding ways of moving that are, for me, enjoyable in and of themselves.
Then, as I pondered the question awhile longer—the question being “What is it that matters that I’m putting at the end of my to do list instead of at the beginning?” I started thinking of many other joys that, if I really thought about it, are what really matters about life.
What is it that really matters in life, in your life, that you are relegating ONLY to the status of the reward you will get at the end of ALL of it?
Maybe it’s the joy of taking 45 mins to walk what could take 10 so your three-year-old can pick up every stick they see along the way to preschool.
Maybe it’s finding a way to connect with a horse or playing with your dogs.
Maybe it’s writing a letter – or an email – to someone you love.
Maybe it’s sipping your favorite tea.
Maybe it’s donating to the ACLU as a means of addressing concerns you have about justice – not as a “should” but because you really want to but keep thinking you’ll do it tomorrow.
Or maybe it’s pausing
Maybe it’s checking out that poetry group or the white anti-racists affinity group you’ve heard about but inviting a friend to go with you cuz you’re a little scared.
Maybe, like for me, there’s an invitation to you to show love to your body in some new way.
Really the options are endless.
Some of the items might be things that matter because they are just delightful – and for no other reason. Because that is part of what makes life precious, isn’t it?
There are so many delights if we just allow them in.
It’s this intention to notice more of life’s delights that caused me to pick up a copy of the delightful The Book of Delights by Ross Gay. Even its size and shape are delightful; and it feels delightful in my hands. I’m sure that’s not an accident. (Of course, I heard about it on the On Being podcast - you know by now that’s one of my favorite sources of inspiration, but in case you want to catch the episode, here’s the link.)
One of the things I love about this book is that it is not delight-with-my-head-in-the-sand. By that I mean, a number of the entries address the pain and suffering of racism that Ross (a biracial Black man) experiences and observes. AND that suffering is integrated with the beauty of his writing, the delight of the feel of the little book, and whatever delight he’s noticed in the midst of it all. There is a weaving in and out of beauty and joy – joy in nature, joy in connection with other human beings, delight in the smallest things (like watching two people share carrying a bag down the street, or nicknames) — with “heavy” things like racism and honey bees on the list of endangered species.
It’s like the metaphor I’m working with right now for my own life – the metaphor of becoming the Alvin Ailey dancer. Alvin Ailey dancers don’t turn away from suffering, they transform it into beauty and joy and community and art and gift to themselves and gift to the audience. There is grief and loss AND celebration in every performance. In and out, weaving it all together.
And, oh yeah, they do it very much within and through their actual human bodies.
So, my thriving friends, I wonder – what is the thing for you that keeps getting pushed off the end of your list – to the space after all the troubles get handled?
Experiment with moving it up to the front – even just a tiny bit of it.
Because troubles come and go - like clouds. They will be there for you when you get back.
Here’s to thriving – and equity!