Using Sadness to Live Well

Posted by Harriet on

tapestrySitting here with this letter in my hand seems to bring forth all the pain and loss of the past few weeks.  Global pain from the horrific and primitive evil of a beheading;  shocking pain over the grave depth of psychic pain leading to the suicide of one of our most beloved and gifted entertainers;  personal sorrow for a woman who was a pillar of goodness in my community whose time had obviously come to take her from a second stroke.  A woman who took in 14 foster children, who with quiet grace and humbleness performed continuous good deeds (mitzvahs) and opened up her home to all in need.

And now this letter from one of my and my kids’ doctors.   He had  put ear tubes in my daughter’s ears many moons ago, one who I just called last month to set up a second opinion surgical appointment to which I was told, “he’s out for a couple of months with back problems.”

As I opened the envelope last night my eye honed in on the second paragraph:  “I am writing because I have been diagnosed with terminal cancer.”  I began reading from the top and re-read it over and over.  A most poignant and ‘real’ letter from someone who is closing down his life, not simply a practice.   “As my own time comes to an end, I want to thank you…. I am all too painfully aware now that in a time of illness, there is no substitute for a compassionate physician with the skills to cure but, more importantly, to care…”

“This will be my last communication to you…..

Moving From a Painful Past to A Worthy Present

Posted by Harriet on

Rear View Mirror Sky“I am no longer willing to drive into the future using my rearview mirror as my tool of navigation.”  Tony Robbins


Does our past decide our present and future?  Can we press Stop on that tape player in our mind so that we can move forward and not get stuck in those old hurtful messages of our past?

We all have our childhood hurts; ones that if we fall victim to, can at best hold us back from being and doing great things with our lives and at worst can wreck severe havoc.  It’s so easy to hang our hats on our past and assign blame as to why our lives are not going well.  It takes choice, awareness and lots of inner work to become the creators of our lives instead of the victims of it.  It’s not easy but it is doable when we decide that we and our lives are worth it.

Joselyn Smith-Greene has written a poignant piece (guest blog post) on this concept.  She has transcended her past and become an active and positive creator of her life.


My dad passed away the year my oldest son was born.  He died in the hospital alone.  My father was a provider; however, that is where his parenting skills ended.

I miss my dad but not in the way most people miss a parent.  Instead, I miss what could have been; the relationship we could have had and the special father-daughter moment we could have shared. 

Living After Trauma

Posted by Harriet on


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat do you do after you’ve been through a sudden or prolonged loss, a rough divorce, a critical illness, or any life-altering event?

Do you succumb to the awfulness of the situation and remain beaten down? Do you attempt to go back to where you were before?  Or do you look to see what you can do differently with what you’ve been through?  This last question is where I’m headed.

After going through a near-catastrophic illness with my middle daughter, I went back to life as before –  back to my job and my overall life feeling like I was simply picking up where I left off from theyear before.  That left me feeling totally unsettled, frustrated and in angst.  It just didn’t feel right doing nothing different after going through a year of everything being terrifyingly different.  From living in hospitals, vigilantly watching and listening to every beep, bleep and breath of breathing machines, to witnessing daily miracles as Nava re-learned to use each and every part of her body once again.

Once we were miraculously back into the light of ‘normal’ daily living, and I could allow myself the luxury of feeling and pondering the more existential issues as opposed to the details of survival and recovery, things started shifting for me internally.  No book, foundation, appearance on Oprah or any other kind of major development had emerged but an attitude of purposeful living was taking shape.  Going into the city for that weekly writing course was a ‘do it now’ instead of the usual, “I’ll take it later when I have the time.”  The time for doing was the present. 

Pearls of Wisdom from People Who Have Suffered and Grown

Posted by Harriet on

event_142906752Hearing people’s stories, getting tidbits of wisdom, learning how others ‘do it’ is fascinating.  I guess that’s why I love interviewing people – specifically people who have taken on their challenges and done something good with them.  That is truly inspiring.

There’s a lot to learn from those who have suffered and yet gone on to create rich, rewarding and meaningful lives.  We can see different ways of viewing things – attitudes, philosophies;  different response patterns, different coping strategies and specific  actions to incorporate that could be helpful to us.

The key is to realize that we can all grow and cultivate new ways of being and doing that can enhance our lives, despite and together with whatever difficulties we’re facing.

I’ve culled statements from some of my blog interviewees that I consider to be wise and powerful thoughts – learning gems.


We didn’t try to overcome the disability because that means fixing or changing it and results in a constant struggle.  Rising above something means accepting it, which frees you to use it as a platform for greater things.

It’s going to be emotionally messy if you are really going to grow from a challenging experience.  The sooner a person accepts that, the better off they will be.  Embrace the experience.  But have something to look forward to, something that will allow you to rise above it even if it is just knowing that you are becoming a stronger person.  And go gently with yourself when you have setbacks.“   Laverne Bissky, on growing beyond

I have learned that words and actions can only hurt us if we allow them to. 

4 Ingredients for Rising Above Circumstances

Posted by Harriet on

ballooning7My month-long ‘staycation’ in Manhattan has come to an end.  Getting back into my car to start driving around for every little errand is not an exciting prospect after walking to Barnes and Noble at 10 PM to pick up a book on hold or going out to Coffee Bean for an iced berry tea at 11 and leisurely walking back to our apartment along the streets of beautiful brownstone houses.  My 7 AM walk to the local JCC for their daily free meditation class was an early morning treat.   The pulsating energy of the city is quite appealing after 30 years of suburb living.  But I’m sure I will pretty quickly re-acclimate to being back home.

I’ve been away from the blogging world for this time period.   And so I now start up again with the perfect timing of my guest blog post on the wonderful Tiny Buddha website.   A great entree into my blogging again.  I invite you over to Tiny Buddha to read, How to Rise Above Difficult Circumstances and Be Happy.  Start here and then continue there.


“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ~Viktor Frankl

I first got wind of this transformative concept when I was a teenager reading Man’s Search for Meaning.

It has played beautifully into what has become my life theme: how people transcend their adversities. I’ve forever been inspired by how (some) people can go through so much and yet be able to rise above and live well.


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