Choosing to Smile in a Traumatized World

I’ve learned to let the march of life just flow

Tina Lifford
ZORA
Published in
5 min readNov 19, 2019

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Credit: Paras Griffin/Getty

AsAs I was preparing for the release of my book, The Little Book of Big Lies, I huddled with my team for something to say or share about overcoming stress, anxiety, drama, and trauma. Then someone said, “This world is so traumatized right now, so why is Tina Lifford smiling?”

I smiled.

Here’s my answer: In my 20s, I heard the story of the Taoist Farmer. It changed me forever.

The parable goes like this:

“There once was a man who lived on a farm with his son and his horse. It was close to harvest time. One day, the barn door was left open, and the horse ran away. When neighboring villagers learned this news, they asked, “How will you bring in the harvest without your horse? This is awful.” The farmer shrugged his shoulders and said, “Who’s to say what’s good or bad?”

A few days later, the farmer’s horse returned with three wild horses. The neighbors exclaimed, “How wonderful!” Full of excitement, they told the farmer how rich and lucky he was. The farmer shrugged his shoulders and said, “Who’s to say what’s good or bad?”

The farmer’s son worked to tame the wild horses to help bring in the harvest. One of the unbroken horses bucked him off. The son’s leg was broken. The neighbors, expressing worry and sadness, ran to the farmer. “This is awful,” they said. “Who will help you bring in the harvest?” The farmer shrugged his shoulders and said, “Who’s to say what’s good or bad?”

The next day a war broke out in the countryside. All able-bodied young men were sent off to combat. However, the farmer’s son had a broken leg and was rejected by the armed forces. The neighbors felt sure their sons would die or get seriously injured. With fallen hearts, they told the farmer how very lucky he was. Again, the farmer shrugged his shoulders and said, “Who’s to say what’s good or bad?”

TThe neighbors in this story ride life like it is a rollercoaster — excited by the highs and concluding that the lows represent impending doom. This was not the farmer’s approach to life. He resisted the tendency to make any event in his life the whole story. His practice was to draw no conclusions. His choice was…

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Tina Lifford
ZORA
Writer for

Inner Fitness?? Exactly! You know diet and exercise for physical fitness. What trains inner fitness?