In October, 2004, my mother nearly died. All her organs were failing and it seemed unlikely that she would last more than a few days in the hospital where she had been for several weeks. I remembered a friend of mine was a volunteer at a wonderful hospice, Jacob Perlow Hospice at Beth Israel Hospital, and I called my friend to ask how to get my mother admitted for hospice care. It seemed crazy to think about moving her at that point, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that normal hospital procedures were torturing her. If my mother was to die, I wanted her to die in peace.

The doctor who came to the hospital to examine her called me afterward and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone more in need of hospice care. She is going to be transferred immediately.” Read More →

Zoe jumping from the plane

“Our own suffering, if we turn toward it, can open us up to a loving relationship with the world.” — Pema Chodron

Whenever I hit a valley in my life and I feel hopeless or worried, somehow if I can lean into it, sit with it, turn toward it, it always seems to pass.

This is an example of what I mean. Say you’re on an airplane about to jump out and you’re attached to a very tall, handsome (or beautiful) instructor. You’ve learned everything you need to learn before getting in the plane and it takes off and you’re okay and then suddenly it’s your turn to jump and you refuse to move. Read More →

I was sitting next to two men recently in a coffeehouse and one of them was complaining (whining) about his divorce.

“I hate my life. My ex is killing me in the divorce, I can’t find a job, I feel like sh*t all the time, my kids don’t call, I’m so depressed, my life sucks. I miss my old life. We traveled all over the world. My life was so much better and now it’s awful, I hate it.”

I was curious about what his friend would say and leaned in closer, without appearing too obvious. I thought he might say, “Yeah, your ex is a bitch and you really got screwed. Poor you.”

But he didn’t. Read More →

Divorce. Death. Job loss. Moving. Daughter leaving home. Empty nest. Really empty nest. Two dogs, no job. Financial insecurity. Fear.

In 2009 I went through almost the entire list of life’s most stressful events. To say I got hit by what felt like a tsunami of loss would not be an exaggeration. I was in so much pain, I could barely take a deep breath.

I was never a big crier and suddenly I found myself crying. A lot. Read More →

Friedrich Nietzshe’s quote: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” used to annoy me.  I have to admit that I do find Kelly Clarkson’s song “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” quite catchy.

Yesterday, I saw a TED talk by a woman named Jane McGonigal, a game designer who suffered a serious brain injury, which caused her to go through an extremely traumatic year of pain and constant suicidal thoughts.

She came out of it with a game – and research which supports the notion of “what doesn’t kill you, etc.”  It is exactly the conclusion I, too, have reached after my own difficult journey of divorce, death, and quite a bit of loss, all at once, and all of it traumatic. 

This theory is called “Post Traumatic Growth” – and though it sounds crazy, I believe it’s true.

Here is what she discovered and it completely matches my own experience:

My priorities have changed, I’m not afraid to do what makes me happy.
I feel closer to friends and family.
I understand myself better.
I have a new sense of meaning and purpose.
I’m better able to focus on my goals and dreams.

In addition, the idea of resilience in the following areas increases and gives you the chance to live a life of fewer regrets:

Physical resilience
Mental resilience
Emotional resilience
Social resilience

This is not to say that we don’t have bad days…we do.  But somehow they feel more manageable then they used to.  I know it sounds crazy and I hope you don’t spend the day with the song “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” stuck in your head.  You should watch her talk on TED, it’s really good.

And if you find yourself singing the song, get up and dance!