A good thing and a bad thing about living a public life is that you get a lot of messages. Some of the messages I get are like, “you should have your husband cut his beard.” Which I guess is good for a laugh. But some of the messages I get are completely genius.
One of my favorites that I’ve ever gotten is this one. “Small good things matter.”
I don’t know if these are things that people already know, and that’s why they move mountains in order to live the life they are most truly meant to live. Or if they didn’t know it before but then they tried to make some leap into integrity and then they learned real quick.
This is more than a grounding phrase. It’s a life line. When we get grumpy in the car the kids and I can play it like a game. How fast can we all together think of ten small, good things? Go!
(Try this. I’m not kidding. It’s magic.)
But it isn’t all pillows and cloud fluff, either. If small, good things really matter, a lot of doors come open and a lot of excuses fall away. We’ve been encouraged to think what makes an effort worthwhile is the size of it. The bigger the better, right?
I’m changing the world! I’m revealing God’s glory! I’m winning!
In this kind of story there are heroes and there are footnotes and if you’re a footnote you aren’t the one who broke things, but also you aren’t the one who fixes them. In this kind of story you might want something, but you probably aren’t going to get it, so things might as well stay the way they are.
The kids and I canned some chili this afternoon. I’m trying to get ahead on making lunches so I can go foraging or projecting during the day. We picked a bunch of serviceberries and made some jam that isn’t my favorite jam and gave the rest to the chickens. Then the children jumped on the trampoline and played tag in the garden…which is still a kind of ordinary garden, with some yield but not as much as I might have hoped.
Next I’m canning two boxes of apricots. I’m not quitting.
We’ve all gotten lucky and felt our glory moments. But we’ve felt the alternative as well. We’ve felt those times when you grab for the moon and come up with a handful of rocks. And we’ve felt the pull to settle in and just not reach for anything — not even compassion, not even freedom — because why bother, we’re not winners so why try?
This is very powerful, very soul-killing. And totally normal.
I’m not one of these people who thinks that you have to think about all the bad things all the time, lest you forget them. I know about a lot of bad things, and I’m not forgetting them. In fact, the more clear my mind and heart get, in the thin air of the mountain, the more I know about bad things. Even if I don’t read my news feed every hour.
But I am one of these people who thinks you have to let go of your scarcity for good things. You have to let go of the addiction to fantastical good, big things, like the ones that make the papers. We have to let go of that definition and instead believe in small, good things or we don’t get free.
I count them like money: my small, good things. They are money in the bank: flower scents and aromatic oils and kind moments and garden-fresh meals and skills we’ve learned and friends who apologize and brave people who reach out to the world and say, “This is what I can do, to help.”
This is what makes the world make sense again, when terrible things keep happening. This is what makes it possible for me to feel my feelings in a world where good things and bad things live right next door to one another.
Small, good things matter.
Otherwise we live in a story where there are heroes and there are footnotes and if you’re a footnote you aren’t the one who broke things, but also you aren’t the one who fixes them. Power, and freedom and even reality are hard to come by in this story. There’s no way out of that story but to have the courage to write a different one: in which you work your way onward and upward, one true, good moment at a time.
I live this simple life because I want a healthy family. And because I want to live less scared. And because I believe the only way to be less dependent on things I don’t believe in (or even trust) is to need less in the first place. But also I live this simple life because I want to have the power to love other human beings, not from obligation, but from an overflowing heart. I want to have joy on my face like the old timers who taught my mother her homesteading skills back in the day. I want to be strong with my inner heart muscles, and rich in the things that matter most.
Wishing you all today some light in a dark, dark world. May you feel your riches: the small real things that fight back against the dark.
Love from the yurt,
Esther and family
P.S. Thank you to the people who send me messages like this! Your wisdom matters.