The Good Things Text

19 Feb

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A couple years ago a friend and I started a daily “here’s what went right” text. At the time, she was going through some really difficult things and naturally, a lot of our conversations revolved around everything challenging and frustrating.

It got exhausting, though. For both of us. It’s exhausting to live life focusing on all that is bad, all that is wrong, all we are upset with. I do it very naturally, with or without difficult things going on.

And so we started the text.

It was hard at first. Some days I would announce that I had combed my hair and that was all I could come up with. Other days she would say she took a shower. Sometimes it felt stupid or ridiculous trying to come up with fake good things when all I wanted to say was TODAY WAS HORRIBLE, FEEL BAD FOR ME.

Eventually though, like any muscle that’s exercised, finding the good things got easier.

My friend confessed that she was doing things just so she could share them. I started to look for what was going right, even the small, fake things.

Over time our lives utterly transformed.

Today that friend is a Buddhist monk, who travels the world sharing how she found inner peace. She’s a multimillionaire self-help author…

Oh wait! Wrong friend!

In truth, that friend and I are still bumbling through life.

We continue to do the “good things” text every day, now with a few more people involved.  It isn’t as urgent as it once was, or as difficult as it once was. She’s in a much better place, as am I. I think the text helped her. I know it helped me. And we may not be Buddhist monk level of acceptance, but my goodness are we closer.

Desmond Tutu talks about this in The Book of Joy with the Dalai Lama. He was asked how he stays positive, even during difficult times like his cancer treatments. He says,

I think we ought not to make people feel guilty when it is painful. It is painful, and you have to acknowledge that it is painful. But actually, even in the midst of that pain, you can recognize the gentleness of the nurse who is looking after you. You can see the skill of the surgeon who is going to be performing the operation on you.

It is put another way in the wonderful, wonderful children’s book All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook. Perry was raised in a minimum-security prison and there learned tricks for surviving any experience with a measure of grace and optimism. One such trick is the “Win-Win.” 

The first ‘win’ means you count all small good things that happen to you every day. The second ‘win’ means you do things that bring victories to others. I’ve heard Big Ed say that at least a hundred times, ‘No matter where you live, you have a community of some kind. And you can be a contributor.’ New intakes sometimes roll their eyes at all of this. But the ones that try to follow his advice, well, it just goes better for them. I’ve seen it a hundred times.

“It just goes better for them.” Isn’t that what it all boils down to?

Life, prison, cancer treatments, it just goes better if you notice and count those small victories even when they seem stupid and fake AND FEEL PITY FOR MY TERRIBLE LIFE.

Tonight I’ll get off of work and likely get Jack in the Box tacos for dinner. I’ll come home and crawl into bed and text my friend all the good things that happened today.

“I wrote a blog post!” I’ll say.

I wrote a blog post and I helped someone choose out a great book and hey, guess what

Today I combed my hair.

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