You use gratitude like cocaine, she said. Confusion followed the stun of my kind friend’s smack of truth, and shame infused my face as I tried to process her words. When asked how I was doing, I’d developed a habit of reciting my blessings. With my husband on a path to a predicted death, gratitude became my instant inoculation against feelings. I could escape the pain of seeing dreams of growing old together vanishing and the impending morphine pump making its appearance. Looking at the truth hurt. Counting my blessings helped. In the years since, everything from life’s ordinary inevitable
NEXT: An Empowerment Series
Attorney and life coach Susan Koenig guides, supports, and inspires you on the journey of creating a life you love.
With a blast of cold, I was shocked into a new season. Though the calendar had not yet declared the first day of winter, the sudden chill in my bones left me certain that the warm, sunny days of autumn were past. Just the week before we’d walked aroundin sweaters and sweatshirts. Now we’d need overcoats and hats just to head to the car. Despite a lifetime of four-season living, the instantaneous plummet of temperature seemed a surprise. You’d think I’d have learned by now. After the spring day my spouse walked into the house carrying a diagnosis of certain
We argue about the garlic in the guacamole. He storms outside. I stand at the bathroom mirror, my shaking hand focused on my mascara. I hear the front door open, his footsteps coming up the stairs. He opens the door, and silently pounds his fist into my gut. “Now you can tell your friends I abused you,” he said calmly. A feminist activist and fierce advocate for victims of intimate partner abuse, my own life had become a constant eggshell dance. I justified buying a two-dollar tube of lipstick or a lunch with a friend. I defended a night at the
As days darken sooner and mornings lighten later, I mark September’s close with acute awareness. Forty years ago this month, my perfect newborn Benjamin arrived to instantly mark a change of life’s seasons. Two weeks later he took his place in the Pack ‘n’ Play in the three-room office of my solo start up law practice where a university student was my part-time secretary and occasional babysitter. In the 20 years of life that followed I had my second child, divorced, lost a brother, and remarried. The little firm steadily grew. In 2001, 9/11 changed life for us all. For
Majestic castles, breakfasts overlooking the sea, gorgeous green against ancient stone. Scotland was grand. Arriving home without my luggage was not. I typically prefer to pack lightly. I once went a week in Costa Rica with a single small backpack. But for this trip, I was ready for all occasions. The predicable rain, the fancy dinner with fancy lawyers, and the right outfit for when the perfect Scottish selfie moment arrived. When my travel companion’s bag arrived a day late, surely mine was not far behind. I’d had delayed bags before. Despite my daily grumbling, I had had a good
“It’s so green,” I said, breaking the silence of our Sunday drive. Recent rains brought a lushness to the landscape of rolling hills and rural homesteads. No flooded fields. No drought withered crops. Just miles of gorgeous green. Like many a sitting meditation, my moment of peaceful bliss is instantly disturbed by my mind leaving the now. Ashen images of the apocalyptic aftermath from wildfires appropriated my vision. “It makes me think of Maui,” I said. My driver looked straight ahead without response. He continued on the unmapped route. The windshield wipers popped on periodically to accompany “Hey Jude” playing
I turn the calendar to August. Instantly I’m aware it’s the final true month of summer. If I’m going to lounge by the pool, nap in a hammock, or taste the ice cream cone melting from the summer heat, I’d better get crackin’. I admire people who effortlessly build the pleasures of play into their life. The practical joker. The GIF giver. The play in the pool just because it’s Tuesday type. They don’t wait for a season of fun to enjoy it. In contrast, I tend to take myself and my life too seriously. My “Do your homework first
We now have no mothers nor fathers. Adult orphans one could say. We cousins have become the elders in our clan. Our mothers were all children of the Great Depression. Two of the three married alcoholics. Two saw one of their children die. All were widowed. All found comfort in their faith. Growing up we had no Sandman family reunions or holiday celebrations with a houseful of cousins. We were strangers most of our lives, until texts reporting deaths drew us closer. I pull into the Pizza Ranch in Fort Dodge a bit before noon on a Friday in June.
Some might call it an addiction. I’m a daily user and I can get it 24/7: News. Updates roll in round the clock. Public radio posts the number of killed innocents in Ukraine. The New York Times reports on 30 million people in refugee camps. Should I miss anything, there’s always a podcast to educate me on the Afghan girls banned from education after 6th grade. So much news. So much bad. With each sad story a tiny bit of energy drifts out of me. Soon it’s the sort of malaise one feels from excessive Instagram scrolling seeing seemingly everyone
I felt pressure in the center of my chest. My body spoke intently what my mind was thinking. This hurts a little. We’d planted seeds a week or two before. I am filled with the excitement of a second grader when their little green heads start to poke up out of the darkness. But seeds clumped closely together meant too much competition for water and nutrients, and they’d begun to grow pale and leggy. For the parsley and peppers to thrive, letting go of many of them was necessary. My heart ached as I gently pulled their delicate white roots