Twinkly Little Lights: 10 Steps to a Happier Life

July 9, 2016


A fistful of years ago, my daughter fell in love with Passenger’s music and introduced me to it. I was instantly and equally smitten. My guess is most of his songs will ring true at some level for pretty much all of us. They touch on love, loss, crappy choices, self-doubt, redemption, and the true cost of modern living. At their core, they are about our core. They are often both desperate and hopeful. You know, like us. Good stuff.

One song, All the Little Lights, talks about how we are “born with millions of little lights shining in the dark, and they show us the way. One lights up every time you feel love in your heart, one dies when it moves away.” I think we can all feel the truth in that. We’ve surely heard it said in these ways: “I feel so alive when ________!” and “A little piece of me died when ________.”

If you haven’t heard the song, you can clickety-click here and give it a listen:


Like most of Passenger’s catalogue, I love this song. I don’t, however, agree with the ending. “We’re born with millions of little lights shining in our hearts, and they die along the way. ’Til we’re old and were cold, and we’re lying in the dark. ’Cause they’ll all burn out one day.”

There’s no doubt we’ll all move on from this plane, but I don’t believe we all go dark. My father went pitch black. My maternal grandmother, though, was filled with twinkly little lights right to the end and surely lit up the next place as well as she’d done here.

It’s our call.

Without giving it much thought, I can name a bunch of times when one of my lights burned out: Every freaking time I felt the anger or heard the arguing commonplace in my childhood home. When I held my mother’s hand, kissed her, thanked her, told her how much I loved her, and let her go. One fizzled out with each self-defeating, irresponsible choice I made during the first few years after my mother’s death. Another when my favorite job ever disappeared with the closing of the newspaper. One every single time she slammed the door. And when finally, heartsick, I chose to turn the deadbolt behind her.

But I can just as easily—probably even more easily—tell you when some lit up: Late nights when I’d sit up with my mom, talking and laughing. When I earned an A from my English teacher in my freshman year of high school—up until then, most of my grades had been As, but no previous teacher had ever expected me to do my actual best to get them. Whenever the words flow onto paper. When we sat in his car, chatting and eating French fries, and both absolutely knew we’d found what we’d been looking for. The moments when my babies stirred within me. When I first held them. A million times when I held a hand, kissed a forehead, fixed the covers just so, or saw mine blossoming into who they were meant to be. When I wake before he does, look beside me, and feel enormously blessed. When my son calls in the middle of the day, just to say hi. When I hang out with my daughter, talking and laughing. And every single time someone calls me Grammy.

I light up far more than I burn out. I so hope you do, too. If you’ve been feeling a little dark, there are things you can do to fire up your lights.

    • Gratitude sparks things up nicely. Take some time every day to give thanks for your many blessings. Write them down if you’d like, or simply sit quietly and review them. In either case, let yourself feel the beauty of your life. Even during our roughest patches, there are always, always, always things for which we can be grateful.
    • Nurture something or someone. Giving love ramps up our feel-good chemicals and as a huge bonus, returns goodness to us down the line.
    • Do what you love. What do you do (or miss doing, if you’ve let it go) when you’re off the clock? You know, the thing where you become so engrossed you lose track of time? That thing. Do more of it. Schedule it in and call it your workout, if that makes you feel better because I promise you, happiness is every bit as (or more!) important to your health as eating well and exercising.
    • Offer a helping hand. A smile. A kind word. Share yourself and your gifts and you’ll feel all lit up inside.
    • Create something. Write, paint, knit, bake, or sculpt. Whittle wood. Glue bits of paper together or macramé dog collars. Give life to that voice inside you that yearns to be heard. Extra credit if you share what you create.
    • Kiss yesterday goodbye. Hanging onto yesterday’s pain is pure foolishness and can send you straight into a nasty, dark power outage. If someone hurt you, that’s on them. But if you are keeping the pain alive through resentment, bitterness, or even simple repetition of the story, you are hurting yourself. Feel it, then honor yourself and heal it by letting it go.
    • Say yes more often. Or if that’s your go-to, learn to say no when you want to. When you answer in a way that’s true to your inner voice, a light goes on within.
    • Tell yourself good stories. We all make stuff up. Every time we assume what will happen—whether twenty minutes or twenty years from now—we are making up a story. It hasn’t yet happened, so all thoughts of the future are simply products of our imagination. Invest in your own happiness. Develop a habit of telling yourself the best possible stories, the ones with delightfully happy endings. Not only does this immediately feel better than weaving sad or scary tales, but it tells the universe to bring you more calm, goodness, and joy. Your thoughts, words, and feelings are your orders. Always order up the most delectable stuff.
    • Take 100% responsibility for your life. Good, bad, happy, sad—it’s all on you. We often shift the blame for our problems by looking outward: we point a finger at the unreasonable boss, lazy coworker, selfish partner, ungrateful children, unloving parents, annoying neighbor, etc. The truth is both difficult to swallow and completely freeing. We have choices. We always have choices. Every choice we make that serves us flips on a light. Every time we whine and do nothing? Well, you know what happens.
    • Be fully and unapologetically yourself. You—exactly as you are right now—are a wonderful gift to the world. You don’t need to be richer, thinner, smarter, or better looking to be precious. Are you weird? I don’t even know you, but I’m going to guess you are. Good! Celebrate all that makes you you. You are plenty. You are more than plenty. Your weird self is spectacular. You are a little piece of God. Remember that when you look in the mirror.

Wishing you all sorts of happiness.


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  1. Reply

    Malcolm Campbell

    Okay, I’m out of touch: had to look up Passenger on Wikipedia to see who he is. I like the post, though, and that’s a nice list of activities for keeping the lights burning bright.

    1. Reply


      Thanks, Malcolm. I’m sure I’d have no idea who Passenger is either, were it not for the intro from someone decades younger than me. 🙂

  2. Reply


    Oh I just adore you, and the love and quality of friendship we have shared over the years. You are one of my bucket list I simply have to do, meet and hug you in person! I love the simple sweet spirit that you have nestled deep within you. I could not have said any of this better. This is just perfect!

    1. Reply


      Jul, you are always so kind and generous of heart! I’d love to meet you, too!

  3. Reply


    Way back when we became friends, I felt a connection to your heart. I still feel it. I breathe in your words because they always touch my soul. This piece is all you. It’s all the things I have been missing about you and all the things we share.
    Welcome home, my lifetime fiend, welcome home.

    1. Reply


      Jo, thank you for that! You and I are so often on the same page–birds of a feather. 🙂 And the welcome was perfect. I feel like I’m back home.

  4. Reply

    Amy McMunn

    fe’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’”
    -Mavis Leyrer

    I agree with you that my vision of life’s end is not that some of the twinkle lights burn out and we are cold. I prefer the above quote!!! 😜

    Thank you for my new favorite song, though. And many more thanks for this post. I have been on a journey of growth the past couple years, and your words help! Xo

    1. Reply


      I prefer the quote, too. 🙂 And “a journey of growth.” I love that!

      If you like this song, check out more by Passenger. Lots of good stuff!

  5. Reply

    Tammy Minnis

    Loved this post! Agree with all of it.

    1. Reply


      Thank you! ♥

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