Tomorrow’s my birthday and, as I tend to do each year around this time, I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom.

How grateful I am for her. Not only because she gave birth to me (thanks Mom!), but also because she taught me the power of walking through life with wonder.

It started when I was a little boy. I was very sick the first ten years of my life and so, at least once and sometimes multiple times a week, Mom would have to drive me to this doctor’s appointment.

Or that doctor’s appointment.

I was always glad to be taken out of school, but I always hated those appointments. Because they meant getting shots, being poked and prodded and sitting still in boring offices.

Whenever I’d start whining (or sometimes even crying) in the car, Mom would always say to me, “My sweet boy, will you look at that sky? Look how blue it is? How about that cloud just outside your window? I think it looks like an eagle! What do you see?”

Now, to be honest, I am quite sure Mom did this, in part, because who wants to be in the car with a whining/crying kid?!?

But I also know my mother. And I know she always wants you to remember that, no matter how much pain, frustration, anger or whatever you might be feeling at any time, there is always wonder.

And, if you just focus on the wonder.

It makes the pain, frustration, anger or whatever

Start to go away.

Fast forward fifty years. I’m no longer a child and Mom now sometimes has trouble remembering things.

But.

Whenever I am in pain, frustrated, angry..especially hangry…or whatever.

Whether we are on the phone or in person.

Mom will remember

To say, “My sweet boy. How’s the sky where you are?” or “Willo, look at those clouds! I think they’re the most beautiful clouds I’ve ever seen.”

And, even though I’m now onto what she’s trying to do.

It still works.

The year between my last birthday and this one has been particularly challenging with lots of change.

There have been moments, days, weeks when I have felt like I had nothing left to give. Like I, maybe, I just wasn’t going to make it.

In those times, I have always forced myself to go for a walk.

To marvel at the wonder of the clouds, the sky.

And to give deep thanks that my mom.

Is my mom.

The Practice of Being Alive is a collection of stories about getting through this thing called life.