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Live To It

Live To It

Elisa Morgan

“It’s the friendliest neighborhood in the desert.” That’s the motto for the community where I live part-time in the winter. Evan and I hadn’t expected to become “snowbirds,” the label for those who exit snowy Colorado for a warmer climate in certain months. But when my brother grew ill, needing onsite care and our schedule became more flexible with options for remote work, we grabbed a small condo and began the commute from Denver to the desert.

Surrounded by palm trees, greener than green grass and flowering cacti and bougainvillea, my mornings budded with hope and joy. I’d spring from the covers and take off walking my newly adopted Jack Russell Terrier, Mia, and wave enthusiastically to other walkers along my neighborhood route.

But one day, as sunny as the others had been and as full of fuchsia buds, my spirit sagged, my dog dragged and I felt ragged. Passersby waved but my hand remained stuck to my side. My heart was heavy under the weight of a friend’s widowhood, my brother’s needs, and work projects for which I felt zero inspiration. Each step was a trudge. My heart shot arrows of conviction back at itself. Where was my gratitude? How could anyone be so negative in the midst of such glory?

Up came another walker, smiling and waving. Another driver tooting her horn and tootling hello. “The friendliest neighborhood in the desert,” the motto echoed. Maybe for all of them…but I felt anything but.

I’m pretty sure you know this about me but let me be clear: I’m not one for glossing over pain. In my experience, such a formulaic effort to disguise pain can just end up bringing on more pain. But in that moment, I mentally measured the distance from my depressed mood to a better spot and discovered the space might be bridged by choice. I wasn’t in a devastated spot where obedience meant bending to the tutelage of grief. My spirit wasn’t burdened by some horrific evil. While the issues I carried were real and trying, they were not insurmountable. God was with me. No, my heart was simply dipping under a day that looked bleak, seemed uninspiring and felt blah.

As I realized this mundane force at work, something shifted within. I lifted my head and winked a one-sided smile to the man walking a dog I knew to be “Brody.” I knew the dog’s name – but not the man’s - because we had paused many times on our walks. He smiled back with a “good morning” greeting and Mia sniffed a doggy hello. After passing, I focused in on the swaying palm trees contrasting before the snowy mountain peaks in the distance, outlined against an azure sky. I looked – really looked – at the desert scape around me with hot-orange firecracker plants in bloom, rising from beds of neatly combed golden sand. Mia looked up at me with a panting grin.

I chose to live to the moment – and the motto. I offered a weak smile to others. I waved – just a finger lift at first. I nodded at the next car. I bumped into my next-door neighbor, paused to greet him and his curly pup Lulu and heard about his plans for the day. A maintenance worker drove by in his ATV filled with rakes and clippings, waving a good morning. I returned the greeting. Gradually, my movements became genuine. My blah became endurable…even engaging.

How often is our mood improved by simply focusing on what we have, rather than what we lack? By seeing what is good around us rather than what weighs us down? By embracing the joy someone else sees as they connect with us from their world rather than just what we see from the buttoned-down perspective of our same old?

Again, I’m not talking about those moments when our hearts must break in grief. When our minds need to pause to reflect, consider and perhaps even repent. When our feelings surge up above the dams of daily existence and we’re forced to reckon and perhaps even turn to a source of help outside of ourselves. I’m talking about those moments of choice where we can lift our gaze beyond the bleakness of blah to take in the ordinary in its predictability, presence and even beauty.

In such disappointing dailiness, perhaps there is a way out, based on a choice we make. We can choose to live to what we might have and might be, rather than sitting where we don’t want to be and don’t want to feel. In so doing, might we change ourselves from depressed to grateful? From unmotivated to invested? From lonely to friendly – the friendliest of those in the desert?

Elisa Morgan's latest book is You Are Not Alone. She is the cohost of the podcast, God Hears Her. She is also the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her other books include When We Pray Like Jesus, The Beauty of Broken, and Hello, Beauty Full. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.


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