Life, like poetry, is measured in feet; the syllables ebb and flow —iamb (unstressed, stressed), trochee (stressed, unstressed), spondee (stressed! STRESSED!). What you won’t find is unstressed, unstressed. It does not rate a scheme. Oh sure, anapests and pyrrhics dangle them before our eyes, tantalizing as a ripe peach, but veil a stress just to one side. It cannot be avoided: For every exhalation (unstressed), there must be inhalation (stressed). But think of it this way — without the variation, how could we hear the music? Without the stresses, could the unstressed syllables of our life be nearly as sweet?

I see some spondees ahead of me. Funny, I always liked spondees (as feet, not metaphors) the best: The equal weight of the syllables forms a caesura, a rest of sorts. Stress, of course, does the opposite. But I’m beginning to think that’s okay. Throw a few unstressed feet in there — prayer does the trick for me — and the music starts to make itself heard, sort of the way even a war-torn country looks placid when viewed from far overhead. The topography smoothes itself out into simple shapes, city, mountains, sea.

I like to think that God hears our lives as music, as poetry. From His exalted view, it sounds rather lovely. And if we could get out of our own heads, we’d hear it, too. Still, it’s a bit hard to get off the ground when your life sounds like a dirge to your own ears.

I have no poetic advice for this. There are patches that are bound to be discordant, phrases that will never jump and leap like a great pentameter. Such is life. All one can do is seek the small pleasures — gather ye rosebuds while ye may, if I might poach a line from a greater bard than I. Better yet, turn it over to the greatest poet of all. In God we will find our unstressed syllable.

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