better than ever

See the twinkle? This is at Millay's home, and he was tickled pink to be there.
See the twinkle in his eye? This is at Millay’s home, and he was tickled pink to be there.

I have a great friend in my monthly poetry group named George. First of all, George is the most knowledgeable person about poetry I have ever met. Ever. And he can recite huge swaths at the drop of a hat. He’s older than me, I don’t know his age, but man I enjoy his ability to do that kind of recitation. Last year he took a road trip vacation to Steepletop, Edna St Vincent Millay’s home in Maine. That’s what he did for his vacation. So George is definitely 100% my kind of guy. And his eyes twinkle and he’s very funny in a sly way that you might miss if you aren’t paying attention. (And he does yoga! There doesn’t seem to be much of anything you might randomly mention that George doesn’t do.)

Every month when I see him and ask how he’s doing, he answers, “Better than ever!” I hadn’t noticed the pattern; last month in my delight at his answer, I commented on it and he said it’s always his answer, and it puzzles people. Once a grocery store clerk said, “I wish could say that,” so George told her to stop what she was doing, immediately, and look at him. Then he said, “OK, repeat after me. Better.” “Better.” “Than.” “Than.” “Ever.” “Ever.” With his characteristic twinkly smile, he then said, “Now you know how to say it!” He said that it’s an important way he helps himself feel good, and when he gives into the various troubles of aging, and dwells on them, he does not feel very good at all and starts going downhill. So “better than ever!” is not just a verbal trick, a magic mantra, it’s a way of orienting himself to this day of his life. His shoulder might ache, but hey — today he is better than ever.

That aspect of George resonates with me, although I don’t say that phrase. What I do say, though, is “wonderful.” Oh, this is wonderful, that’s wonderful, you are wonderful, the day is wonderful, my sandwich is wonderful, that ice water is wonderful, YogaGlo is wonderful, my friends are wonderful (or gorgeous, or beautiful, or amazing, or magnificent). A lifetime ago, when I was getting to know the members of the very large family I married into — and before I realized that ‘wonderful’ is my most characteristic word — I was talking to one of my husband’s brothers, and after a while he leaned down, frowned a little bit, and said, “Really, Lori? Is it wonderful? Is everything wonderful? ‘It’s just wunnerful!’” And then he cackled. I still am not entirely sure if he was making fun of me, but I think he was.

This occurred to me as I was re-reading my last post about my. . .well, ok, I’ll say it. . .wonderful week. (But it was!) I saw what any editor would identify as the gross overuse of those words. Gross overuse. Anyone can see that, come on, it’s egregious. For heaven’s sake. Bad writing, leaning hard toward purple.

But here’s the deal, and I just mean this from the bottom of my heart. My friends truly are beautiful, and brilliant, and amazing, and wonderful, and gorgeous. My daughters truly are all those things, and magnificent, and loving. The sky really is wonderful. The things I mentioned really were extraordinary. I think I share the impulse with George, and I think it is probably why we are happy people. I don’t know if George has always been this way, but I have always been this way. My former brother-in-law commented on that when I was 21 years old and I’m still unconsciously at it.

So maybe it’s not your automatic way of being in the world, and maybe you 100% love the way you are in the world and so good on ya! Maybe you enjoy a bit of a grump (my husband in NY has a daily need to mope) now and then, and that’s just fine. I do too. But I think that if you just pause for a second and notice that sky, you’d see that it’s wonderful. There it is, just doing its thing, putting on a dramatic, ever-changing show for you, and you’re probably not noticing it. And then I think you’ll feel a little spike of happy. I think if you paused for a minute and really tasted your food and thought about it — wow (oops, another of my oft-used words, wow), that salad is really wonderful, so fresh and crunchy, and the pepitas just make it all work, and blue cheese ohmygod, it’s really wonderful — another little spike of happy. Really see your friend when you’re talking to her, just really see her and you’ll see that she is super wonderful. Magnificent. There she is, being herself in your life. Wow.

Those teenagers danced all the way across the bridge going over the highway. Maybe it was that wonderful sky.
Those teenagers danced all the way across the bridge going over the highway. Maybe it was that wonderful sky.

But really — just pause for a second. LOOK AT THAT SKY! Is it not wonderful? (Also: George is wonderful, and so are you.) Right on.


First, today is my son-in-law’s birthday — Marnie’s husband — so happy birthday to Tom! He’d hoped that Oliver would be born on his birthday, but no such luck (though he’s not far behind…..)

wonderfulWe all have our verbal tics, our small-ish set of words we use even if our vocabularies are much larger and grander. I have an enormous vocabulary but really use a small set of words on an ordinary basis. I suspect my most often-used words are wow, yikes, really?, whoa, and wonderful. The word wonderful has been my main go-to word at least since the late 1970s, when my almost-brother-in-law used to tease me about it. “Really, Lori? Is it wonderful?”

But yes! It — whatever it was — was wonderful! The world is wonderful! Full of wonder, amazing, brilliant. Yes! You are wonderful, you really are. Yes, your good news is wonderful, because news can sometimes be bad, and sometimes shockingly bad and tragic. So your good news is wonderful. Your happiness is wonderful to me! Even if happiness is not rare (it isn’t rare for me), whenever you get to experience it, it is wonderful.

I suppose another word I overuse is terrible, my opposite for wonderful. When something bad happens to you, I feel terrible, I think it is terrible, dreadful, possibly a source of terror, even. The world can be like that. You can be walking along and a piano can fall on your head, out of the blue. (OK, if you’re in a cartoon….) But you can just be living your life and the mountain behind you can suddenly slide down and kill you with mud. You can just be flying to Beijing and you die. You can just be born in one of our states where the poverty is so bad that one in four children grow up in heartbreaking hardship. The luck or tragedy of birth. You can be walking on your treadmill and fall to the ground — bam! — with a major stroke. Life can be terrible, a source of terror, oh yes it can as we know so well.

So YES, your happy news is wonderful. A source of wonder. YOU are wonderful — a source of wonder to me whenever we encounter each other. Life is wonderful, even though it can be terrible sometimes. I mean that word when I use it, it’s not just “my” word, living mindlessly on my tongue. I choose that word, it does not slip out on its own. Wonderful, you are, I am, she is, he is, they are, we are, our lives are.

Busy day today, xoxo