Five rules and a suggestion

Dear Khortnee,

I seem to remember that Very Good Mothers have a set of 5 rules. But the only one I can remember is "Try something new," which I believe was the 6th. Can you help fill in the blanks?



Dear Anonymous,

Your font looks vaguely familiar, as if have a pretty little birth mark at the nape of your neck. But it's hard to tell for sure.

Yes, there are five rules besides the sixth, which is more of a suggestion. Here they are, annotated.

Show up. Wherever you are, be there, knife and fork in hand, ready to eat. Behave as if your life were a delicate ember that you need to carefully tend to, breathe gently on, and then celebrate when it catches.  You'll have to do this over and over, all your life long.  Don't ever give up, and don't forget to let it be festive. 

Be honest. This seems so basic, but it involves not just saying the truth, but thinking ahead about what you want the truth to look like so you can always tell it with pride, or at the very least, no shame, and living it brings you great joy.

Pay attention.  Don't be like me, who, on a hike yesterday stumbled (literally!) upon an injured woman and didn't really notice what was going on until I had almost passed her.  Then, later, reading in the paper that it was actually a man.  As my hiking buddy said, if it was a man, he had boobs and a hiking skirt, which, at the very least, was confusing.  My point being that no one was paying attention -- the lady who tripped and fell, injuring her head and knees, her hiking buddies, who were eerily non-responsive to the situation, just standing around casually sipping water while she laid in the middle of the trail moaning, and saying, "call someone call someone call someone call someone."  And me, who, and I'm embarrassed to admit this, just stepped over her before thinking to say, "Is everything okay?" because I first thought it was sort of a mental disability that caused all the repetitive moaning.  The only person in the whole story who was paying attention was the cop we flagged down on the Mountain Loop who arranged her rescue.  Be that cop.

Do your best.  Annotating this one is a waste of time for N'3lvra, Ms. Anonymous, because, judging from your font, you do this without fail.  Each little place you encounter is a little bit better because you've been there.

Don't be attached to outcome. This is the very hardest one of all, because doing rules one through four tend to lead to caring about what happens next.  This, my dear Anonymous, is the one you should tape to your bathroom mirror, until you can find that razor-thin, nearly impossible edge of caring and not caring, that requires applying yourself wholeheartedly to rules number one through four, and then accepting whatever happens with grace, and generally just being curious and happy that it's turning into something at all.  

That's it.  Good luck, Anonymous!


  1. Absolutely brilliant. (very Zen)

    I have been trying to live by these....truly they are the WAY.
    Love, Lo

  2. Are these the first five commandments for N'3lvra's new religion? Does she have any rituals I can begin to follow? Where is the camp? To whom should I make out the check for my total life savings? I must have more!

  3. If these rules were printed on a post card (with a pretty font and a lovely background - maybe orangish with swirls???) I would totally order one and hang it on my fridge.


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