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Things Could Have Been Otherwise

What does it mean to live a good life? Millions of words have been written on the subject. But if I had to name just a few essentials, “gratitude” would surely be one of them. It’s a simple virtue. And yet it’s easy to forget how important it is to pause now and then in the midst of a busy day and be thankful.

Since I first read this Jane Kenyon poem 16 years ago, I’ve tried to keep reminding myself that “it might have been otherwise.” Remembering that fact takes me directly to gratitude for the ordinary, everyday things the poet celebrates.

The poem was written shortly before Kenyon died of leukemia at age 47. She wrote it knowing that things would soon be “otherwise” for her. I’m very grateful for the spirit she summoned as she was dying in order to leave us this gift, these words of reminder and guidance.

by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.

(Excerpted from Otherwise. Read the full poem here.)

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