My mom was visiting me in Illinois the night my brother died.  I still remember everything about those first moments.  I was jolted awake by my phone ringing and I blinked into the screen to see “Dad”.  He asked to speak to mom and I padded into the guest room to find her.  She was already sitting up reaching for the phone as if she knew.  I started screaming and melting to my knees before I knew how to inhale, and I heard her say, “Jimmy, I have to go.  I need to take care of Buffy.”  I was 27 years old and her son had just died.  She knelt where I had melted and something unforgettable happened.

I looked up at her and said, “What are we going to do?”  She said, without hesitation,

“Go make your bed.”

I did.

I came back to her like an unplugged robot whose insides had frozen.

“What do I do now?”

“Go take a shower.”

These step by step directions assembled our early morning and we cleaned my apartment as we waited to fly home.  So many things strung together that day and days to follow to make a horrific story of loss.  Many years have passed and there has been hills and healing but I can still hear him laugh.  That lesson she taught me on his morning has remained as clear as a smooth, cold stone in my hand all this time.

Some time later I found out that as soon as my dad learned what happened, he shaved.  In the middle of the night, he shaved.  Then, he waited until the mall opened at 10 the next morning and went and bought a suit.  We all must do something. It’s primal, I suppose, when your heart breaks into pieces.

DO something. MOVE something.   Go make your bed.  Go take your shower.  Put on your lipstick.  Smooth the pillows and collect yourself even when it is hard and you are on fire in your path. You can manage one thing.  Then that one thing turns into another and you are okay.

Do one thing towards the morning light that will allow your breath to come in easier.

This idea of mapping small steps might be the key to good living.  At least it helps with deep overwhelm and certainly tragedy.  I still use mama’s bed making strategy with breaking down hard yoga poses, hard conversations, baby tantrums, ankle pain and everything else.  It’s the one thing that keeps me in deep breath no matter what. And, it eventually maps me back to a source of good and solid ground.