Be present. Be curious.
These words became a kind of mantra for me about a decade ago. They were simple enough to remember without trying. They were genuine enough to know they came from my belly. They were helpful enough to be widely applicable in both the short and long view of things. These words companioned me through a lot of life. Still do. A “start here” marker and reminder.
Three years prior to that, it was my young son who offered a predecessor mantra. He was four. I know. Crazy, right. I remember him being strapped in his car seat in the passenger back seat. A mop of curly and insanely beautiful hair. Magnetic innocence. I was being partly serious with him and partly playful as I backed the car out of a driveway. Serious because I wanted to know what was happening in his four year-old brain — that has always be fascinating to me. Playful because, well, he was four. “What do you think you should do if you feel confused?” I asked, looking over my shoulder at him. It was a very real question for me related to the work I was involved in. I then watched him through the rear view mirror for his response, which was immediate and uncluttered. “Sit down. Think. Ask for help.” I think he stared out the window while he told me this. He was as nonchalant as if I’d asked him to count to three with me. I knew his words were golden. I recently reminded him, now a senior in high school, of this moment. “I was such a wise baby,” he said playfully.
This week, a friend offered some clear words that I recognize as another clear mantra. For him, they are a rule of life. This friend, like me, is in his fifties. His words were not as response to my probing curiosity. He was just sharing some sense-making, a way of being, that helps with the complexity in his life. He could have just as easily said, “give up and punt.” He didn’t. Instead, reflected out loud. “Be as kind of a person as I can be. Be as good of a person as I can be. Make good decisions for the next fifteen minutes.” Gold. Again.
Clarity is insanely beautiful.