Monthly Archives: November 2017

Life, Death, and a Simple Question

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude. Just yesterday millions of people across the USA came together to share a meal, a tradition, or some sport, all in the name of gratitude. I, myself, gathered with part of my family and created a new tradition as we ate a simple meal together at my father’s nursing home. In many ways, it was more the essence of Thanksgiving for me than it ever had been. It was family, coming together, sharing food, and sharing stories.

For others, this week also brought something new. In the past few days I have had very dear friends unexpectedly lose a parent, while another dear friend extended their family by one.

The timing is not lost on me. This week – a week of gratitude – the cycle of life hit me square in the face.

Even though I have been living with perpetual loss for over 11 years since my father’s massive stroke, I have not had to deal with the permanence of loss. I can still go and hug him, laugh with him, smile with him. My friends who just lost their parent no longer have that privilege – that joy.

So, as I sit tonight and reflect on the miracle of life and the meaning of death, I find my mind wandering to a quote I’ve always liked, but never fully embraced…. until now. Now, it seems to have a deeper meaning.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

It’s from the poem ‘The Summer Day’ by Mary Oliver. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, it’s this life – now – that matters, because it’s the one you can embrace. In the wake of death and birth, it seems even more poignant as I remember that time can feel too short, while also being marvelously full of possibility and potential.

With gratitude for a simple family gathering fresh in my mind, it seems a good time to truly answer Mary’s question. And the best answer I can come up with is: Live.

Live in Love.
Live in Hope.
Live in Peace.
Live in Joy.
Live in Play.
Live in Curiosity.
Live in Intimacy.
Live in Laughter.
Live in Connection.
Live in Spirit.



‘The Summer Day’ by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Hurt People hurt people

There is an old adage: hurt people hurt people. I saw it time and again during my years in grad school, in case studies and in my internship. I’ve seen some variation of it in private practice either directly or indirectly.

People who are hurting seem to have a greater tendency to lash out and hurt others.

But does it have to be that way? Even though it seems to have been that way?


In most cases, it’s a pattern or a behavior that can be changed with a simple, but necessary, intervention: listening.

Not just listening, but really listening.

What do I mean by that?

Well, if you think about the last time you got angry because you were hurting inside, what would have been the one thing that made the difference between calming you down or escalating your anger?

What if you felt heard? Truly heard.

What if the person in front of you paused and listened, not to respond, but to hear you? To hear what you weren’t saying (“I’m hurting”) and then listened to your story.

When we feel heard – truly heard – everything becomes just a little easier. 

It’s this acknowledgment (which is not the same as validation) from another human being that helps us take the edge off and remember who we really are inside.

We are not our reactive emotions – our hurt, our anger, or our fear. These things show up when we have wandered too far from our core. They’re there to protect us until we can find our way back (offense as defense).

So, while I could list at least ten stories right now of hurt people hurting people, I can also unequivocally say that when those people felt heard, their reactive desire to lash out diminished.

Perhaps with the impending holidays and upcoming family gatherings it might be a good time to remember another adage:

Listen twice as much as you speak – that’s why you have two ears and only one mouth.

Actually, I think that’s good advice, no matter what time of year. 😉

Falling Flat – Bad Hair Days Needn’t Be

We’ve all been there. Having moments in our life when things just don’t seem to be doing much of anything, or at least, they’re not doing what we had expected or attempted. They fell flat.

In many ways, it’s like having a bad hair day. I remember once, a long time ago, my boss told me that he and his wife experienced he occasional “bad marriage days.”

“Bad marriage day? … What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s like a bad hair day, but for your marriage. It happens. And no matter what you do, it just doesn’t get better. So, you have a choice: put on a hat and keep going, or sit and fuss and fuss and fuss trying to fix something that may be intangible. It just is.”

I’m paraphrasing of course, but I do remember him saying the thing about the hat.

The thing is, life is imperfect. It’s meant to be. The imperfections are where the growth, opportunity, and possibility reside. It’s not meant to be ‘happy-happy joy-joy’ all the time. If it were, we’d probably lose some of our ability to appreciate joy. Sometimes, life is just… well, flat.

The question is: do you choose to continually fuss over it? Or do you grab the nearest baseball cap and get on with it, remembering the more important truth: life is always (always) changing. And tomorrow is a new day.

[Hmm… maybe this is why I have always had such an extensive collection of hats!]