“So-so.” was his answer when I asked him how he was. But his response wasn’t really necessary because his body language said it all — back was bent forward and eyes were downcast. His droopy mouth had a cigarette hanging from it and the smoke was curling back into his face. In other words, the opposite of how I felt at the time, which was “It’s a sunny day and I feel good!” In fact, I might have had a little hop in my step. It might seem rude not to stop and lend an ear to my neighbor, but I’d been there before and the therapist in me was on vacation that day. I just kept walking. Really, I do usually stop with an ear for anyone who looks that sad. Honestly.

His was an honest response — and I appreciate that — but it took me off guard because it wasn’t the polite little “Fine” or “Good” that I’m accustomed to hearing. I know by now that hearing “OK” is really shorthand for “Not so good, but I’m trying to be polite here.” Seldom is the answer, “Great!”

Admittedly, I’ve been in my own little bubble for several years now. The busyness of my life pretty much stopped when writing became the main focus, and the goal became slowing down and simplifying as much as possible. It’s worked pretty well. Being focused like this means sometimes I forget all the complications everyone else is living with: health problems, caregiving aging parents, worry over adult children, a stressful job, relationships that have soured, cash flow, major loss, and depression. These examples of what I’ve heard recently and the encounter with my troubled neighbor have all kicked me in the butt and helped me remember how just lucky I am. Life is good these days.

In the beginning of this lifestyle change, I had to really work at it and began by elevating workouts and better eating to higher priorities. Hint from my Yoga mat to yours: Exercising was really a burden at first – boring and hard. But now that I’m stronger, I look forward to this time that keeps me on a good path to good health. One thing is for sure, it’s very fun and satisfying to feel stronger.

The other half of this change is mental. I don’t do “anxiety” well, so minimizing it whenever possible is life saving. I try not take myself, and my life, so seriously and realize above all that humor is essential. Most of all, I’m simply paying more attention… to everything.