Begin With the End in Mind

When I taught high school English, I often advised my students to begin each paper with the end in mind. It took me a while to convince them that you have to know where you are going if you ever intend to get there. It made perfect organizational sense to me. It still does. And now, when I plan a book, I pen the last few lines of the story before I even write the first. I like a proper resolution, a satisfying end, and I enjoy working toward that goal with each chapter, each twist of the plot. Somehow, thinking backwards works for me. But life isn’t a carefully designed novel; It is wildly unpredictable, filled with ambiguous circumstances. More often than not, we are stumbling into the

The Good Patient

I am a good patient. I make polite small talk with the medical folks and bake cookies for the nurses. I smile and say “thank you” after they have stuck me with a needle. I try not to call too often to ask about test results, and go to my appointments, on time, I might add, prepared to take notes so that I can be labeled “compliant.” I even dress nice for chemo and scans. Somehow, in my mind, if I am pleasant enough, show appreciation, and act agreeable, they will consider me worth saving. Yeah, I know, it is a whacky way of thinking, but I can’t shake it. Let’s face it: as children, we are given messages that how we perform is who we are. Approval is tied to good grades and decent manners. H

Take my Hand

A study conducted a few years ago had subjects receive a mild shock when certain images appeared on the screen. After a few moments, the participants, in anticipation of what was to come, began to experience rapid heartbeat, the classic sign of fear. Then, they were allowed to hold hands with a loved one. Their breathing calmed; the stress response was markedly diminished. None of us should be surprised by this. We have all been in scary situations where the comforting presence of someone who truly cares for us made a difference. And this seems to be a universal phenomenon, a human response to stress. In fact, in various cultures around the world, the folks who live the longest are those wh

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