That’s the way I am – I’m thrilled to be alive.

How could I keep from singing?

Dear love,

I love to sing.

The jury’s still out on whether I sing well. I usually only let my girlfriends hear me sing, and that’s because they happen to be around when the whim hits me. Some of them loved my voice, and wanted me to sing to them, for them, others… well, not so much. The others told me to stick to writing.

So most of the time I sing when I’m alone. Sometimes I sing sad songs, but not because I’m sad. I have a voice well suited to the slow and quiet tune; not so much for belting out Guns N’ Roses ballads. You’ll catch me singing Dylan, Guthrie, the Beatles instead.

Yesterday, I walked out onto Pearl Street. We had an odd weather day here. It rained. My Colorado readers will know why that’s odd; especially in this dry time of year, rain just doesn’t really happen. I think the clouds really wanted to snow, but they just couldn’t bring themselves to do it with the air so comparatively warm.

Out in front of the old courthouse, underneath a grey and looming sky full of a low-blanket of clouds, while the streetlights blazed into the too-soon-fading daylight, I watched a brass quintet of CU Boulder students play Holiday tunes to the few stragglers wandering about.

My voice in writing tends to the quiet, the reserved, the contemplative – just like my singing voice. I explore my life the most when I’m struggling. So it gives the impression that I’m a moody, rather unhappy person, beaten down by my life.

The truth couldn’t be farther away, and many of the people who know me in person see my unwaveringly happy and hopeful side. This afternoon, with the street lamps glinting off the gold instruments, I stood in the mild, wet cold and felt completely happy in every cell of my being.

And that’s the way I am – I’m thrilled to be alive.

I get knocked down occasionally, I worry once in a while. I let my fear overwhelm me every so often — and a few times in my life I’ve doubted my course utterly, having run aground in a storm I couldn’t ride out. But the vast majority of my moments fill me with joy, and when I look back on even the worst of times, and I remember the people who challenged my happiness the most, I feel nothing more than I feel gratitude.

Tibetan Buddhists have this concept of the ‘wish-fulfilling gem’ – anything that helps you further along in your quest for enlightenment. I don’t remember if I started doing so because I read about the practice in a book, or if I just took that idea and applied it to everything in my life, but I started to think of everyone I met as a potential gem, a potential teacher.

Even – and often more powerfully – the worst moments taught me about myself, offered insight and wisdom about what I wanted and how I should live my life. Not out of fear of repeating mistakes, but out of joy, pure joy, for clarity. I might have ended up in jail for a day, prevented from moving back to the northeast for a lot longer than I anticipated; I might have endured a rollercoaster romance – great beauty and great ugliness; I might have even become someone who wasn’t me for a little while – but I can’t bring myself to hold a grudge against my ex-girlfriend. In fact, I’m actually tremendously grateful for every moment, whether happy or tremendously sad.

I’m not saying I could date her again – because the clarity our relationship gave me about myself makes that now impossible for me. I can’t make those same choices again. I’m not prevented by fear or by rules, but because this new me, the one who learned the lessons she had to teach me, moved on.

And how beautiful is this world, arranged to teach me the way to light and peace, to show me the truth of me and to share with me the lessons I need to learn.

That’s why I can stand in the rain on a winter day and listen to holiday music and smile all the way down to my feet.

Holidays. Holy days. We celebrate these random dates on the calendar, find joy in little traditions – the ones we inherit from our culture and more importantly the ones we inherit from those we love. They remind us that life should be full of romance and wonder and joy. They remind us, for a moment, that despite difficulty and challenge that can be unrelenting, we’re more than people who exist only to react.

We’re people who exist to wonder, to play, to frolick with ourselves and each other without the burden of cynicism and jaded minds. For a little while, we’re children again. The world seems bright and sparkly and new.

What if every day contained something new for us to learn – about the world, about ourselves? What if every day offered new gifts and new chances to give ourselves by being ourselves and expressing ourselves?

This is the way I try to live. This is how I feel most days of my life. This is why I’m in this fucking bubble of happiness and almost nothing can break me out of it for very long at all. This is why I write. This is why I sing. How could I keep from singing?

This is why I live.

What if every day were a holy day?

Mila (Jacob Stetser)

Mila is a writer, photographer, poet & technologist.

He shares here his thoughts on Buddhism, living compassionately, social media, building community,
& anything else that interests him.

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  1. I said a lot of what I feel like saying about this to you when we talked earlier, so I’ll refrain from repeating myself.

    But…sometimes, I wonder — if, in our everyday interactions with people, we could just look at them and see the children they once were. Perhaps, we would be more compassionate and less angry. Maybe, we’d see each other a lot more. Maybe, we’d finally understand.