“It’s so dark in here. So quiet!” This was music to our ears because it was what we treasured most about our first home in the country. Silent. Dark. Peaceful. We smiled at the “compliment” from our overnight quests, but hold on. Turns out they were complaining. Having 0 traffic noise or street lights had kept at least one of them awake last night. We laughed. To think that these pleasures were actually disturbing seemed so funny. Then we remembered where they’d lived their entire lives, the San Francisco Bay Area in California, long before the explosion of Silicon Valley. It’s where we move FROM, and now we knew for sure why it seemed so urgent to escape.

Life took an unexpected turn after that. I started noticing for the first time the sheer volume of leg jigglers, fast walkers, talkers, and fingernail chewers. Sometimes fighting the urge to shake them, with a “Calm down!” Somebody had to do something. Escalating stress was robbing people of their health and, sometimes, getting any pleasure at all in life. Oh, the serious serious faces I saw! 

With this in mind, I wrote my first blog post on March 12, 2005. It was right after the publication of my first book A Patchwork of Comforts, and before my next Emerging from the Heartache of Loss. The word “blog” was a new concept then and I resisted what sounded like a version of “your mom found your diary and sent it to the newspaper”. Really, who beside your friends and relatives are going to read your personal ramblings. Little…did… I… know.

The plan was to send out a very brief paragraph via email every two weeks. Reducing stress was the main goal, so these tidbits were dubbed Comfort Clues. Simple suggestions for better living showed up in 200 inboxes — a mailing list comprised of everyone I knew, had known, or was about to know. That initial 67-word paragraph has since morphed into a chatty 400 or so, but the message is still pretty clear, and more needed than ever, “Everybody, calm down! Slow Down!”

The name changed to LifeTweaks along the way and a FB page was added, Living with Less Stress, but they both deliver the same message: small changes can make a very big difference to your life. My constant prod is the quote stuck in my head from the 1983 book Notes to Myself. “There’s a better way to go through life than kicking and screaming.”

As I sit here this early morning before sunrise, curled up in my favorite chair with the dancing flames of the fireplace in front of me, I am smiling… just for the heck of it. Flames, incidentally, that we fondly refer to around here as “Indian TV”. (Native Americans had to have something to do at night.) 

I will continue to pass on some of the calm I’ve managed to achieve over the past decade. At least now I recognize when stress starts to build so I can “try” and nip it in the bud. Thanks to all who read and glean whatever works for them. Let’s hope that some lives are better for it.