Earlier this week my girls and I played a short game called “life is good” that I discovered in Susan Kaiser Greenland’s book, Mindful Games. The game is played by sitting in a circle with a ball. Each person names one thing that is bothering them then adds “…and life is good” before rolling the ball to another person in the circle. As we played the game, we highlighted small things that bothered us during the day. I mentioned things like “a messy house” or “feeling cranky because I was tired.” My older daughter’s list included the fact that “she doesn’t love the bees in the backyard.” My 2-year old also chimed in with:
“I ruv my friends, but sometimes I don’t ruv my friends, but I ruv my friends…and rife is good.”
We couldn’t help but laugh every time my 2-year old played, especially hearing her repeat “…and rife is good” with such conviction. Although it felt mechanical to append “…and life is good” with each roll, the phrase stuck with me throughout the day. I realized that this short gratitude game was an important one to keep playing as it was about developing perspective.
Everyday we all have moments that aren’t always positive. We feel tired, irritated, angry, upset and a host of other negative emotions. Those are all normal feelings to have in the course of everyday life especially in parenting. But if can reframe the lens, if we can consistently recognize that for many of us, life is still generally good, despite all the things that bother us, then we treat ourselves and our lives with more compassion and gratitude. We can turn the “life is good” phrase into a mantra, a habit, to remind ourselves that for all the bad, there’s still a lot that is good.
The benefits of turning this game into a habit are real. James Baraz (co-founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center) shared during his “Awakening Joy” course that he played a gratitude game (much like Greenland’s game) with his then 89-year old mother. Baraz’s mother had spent her entire life as a “kvetch,” always complaining about the smallest things in life, focusing on the things that went wrong. Baraz started a game with his mother. Any time his mother complained, she was to add “…and my life is very blessed.”
Baraz says, “Although it had started out as just a fun game, after a while the exercise began to have some real impact. Her mood grew brighter as our week became filled with gratitude and a genuine good time.” Over time Baraz’s mother had turned the gratitude game into a regular habit and his lifelong pessimistic mother became a positive, grateful person in the last years of her life, even as she was losing her eyesight. Baraz states,
“The choice is ours. We can go through life focusing on the burdens or letting our challenges serve as reminders of the blessings that also surround us. Maybe the story of my ninety-year- old mother can inspire you to remember in the midst of life’s hassles that your life too is really very blessed. … And my life is really very blessed. Each time you find yourself worrying or complaining, try adding on that little phrase. Even if it seems false at first, let yourself play with it and see what happens.”
And starting to play with this with our littles is worth experimenting with. We may not always remember to do it, but if we can carve out some time in our weeks for the fresh reminder that “rife is good” even if “rife” can be hard sometimes, then “rife” will be okay.