My wife has an uncanny ability to find songs that she knows I’ll like. She’s been right so often over the years that I’ve learned to trust her instincts, at least when it comes to music. So when she sat down to play me the song by Jason Mraz called 3 Things, I was prepared for it to become one of my favorites.
Since that night, 3 Things has played within me as if on endless loop. And unlike other songs that have gotten stuck inside me, songs that I would have done anything to exorcise, I hope this one never leaves.
The song begins with a sobering line: “There are three things I do when my life falls apart.”
Now I’ve been with enough people whose lives are falling apart to know that I’m not one of them. And yet, the past four years have been challenging enough to convince me of any life’s vulnerability, including my own. I keep uttering the same words to no one in particular, “I just can’t get any traction,” because messy things keep intruding into my well-crafted plans for life. So while my life isn’t falling apart now, it is for people I love, and the possibility remains that the same could happen to my life in some ordinary instant.
While some songs resonate with you because they express exactly what you’re feeling at the time, other songs say things that you aren’t speaking at the moment, but you fear you will one day need to say, so you hold them in trust. This is one of those songs for me. I am holding it in trust for some future day when it does seem as if my life is caving in.
So the song Alayne shared with me suggests 3 things to do when your life falls apart.
The first thing recognizes the need to face the pain that such moments bring: “Number one, I cry my eyes out and I dry up my heart.” The temptation to numb ourselves, to avoid pain, makes it difficult to let go of what was in order to move into the new life before us.
The second thing suggests an act of gratitude. “The second thing I do is I close both of my eyes, and I sing my thank-yous to each and every moment of my life. I go where I know the love is and let it fill me up inside, Gathering new strength from sorrow, I’m glad to be alive.”
The line about how it’s possible to “gather new strength from sorrow” promises to redeem even the moments of my life that I try to forget. Giving thanks for the experiences of my life, including the ones that hold the shards of my broken heart or the shadows of my grief, points me once more to the myriad places “where I know the love is,” and I trust that I will find power to affirm the goodness of life once more.
The song concludes with a final admonition: “Oh, the third thing I do now when my world caves in, Is I pause, I take a breath, and bow, and I let the chapter end. I design my future bright not by where my life has been. And I try, try, try, try, try again. Yes, I try, try, try, try, try again.”
The song bears witness to its experience of what can happen when these three thing are done: “Things are looking up. I know beyond the dark the sun is rising. Things are looking up. I know above the clouds the sun is shining on. Things are looking up. And love is still the answer I’m relying on.”
So I’m holding this song in trust until I need it. But even now, I plan to practice the second thing it recommends. I will sing my thank-yous to each and every moment of my life, and I’ll go to where I know the love is and let it fill me up inside. And I will gather new strength from sorrow, realizing along the way that I am glad to be alive.