Five Things I Hope We All Learn Before We Die

TL;DR: We cannot change anyone but ourselves. Get out of you own head to relieve your pain. Pay attention to what you loathe and run from. These things point you toward your heart, your purpose, and your mission. You are a perfect, whole, and treasured culmination of thousands of years of evolution and love. And so is every other freaking person in this world.


Happy Mother’s Day to you. To you who have a mother. To you who believe you have none.

To those who feel loved and cherished, I’m so glad. To those who do not, I’m so sorry.

To my own daughter, thank you for bringing me to parenthood. I think one of the richest lessons of loving a small vulnerable person is holding tight to the third rail of mortality.

Now I’ll offer a few lessons I hope we all get a chance to learn before we die. I share these with a humble awareness that life teaches us through love and action, not typically through blog posts.

“There’s a Tibetan saying, wherever you have friends, that’s your country, and wherever you receive love, that’s your home…whoever gives you love, that’s your parent.” – His Holiness the Dalia Lama

Five things I hope my daughter, and we all, learn before we die.

1. We cannot change anyone else. We can only save ourselves.

We may hold no responsibility for the crazy mad mess of our lives. For the bad childhood, the broken marriage, the leaking ship without harbor. Yet we are the only ones who can write the end of our story. We are the only one who can save ourselves.

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble

and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice

which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do

the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

2. In the midst of pain, get out of your head.

In the midst of great pain, it is possible to love life if you can look outside your own suffering. This can include random acts of kindness, narrowing your attention to the simplest pleasures, increasing self regulation, connecting with others, and interacting with something bigger than yourself.

05 12 19 (3).png

3. Listen to yourself. Know yourself.

Remain curious, open, and spacious about the mystery of who you are in this very moment.

  • Pay attention not only to what lights you up and draws you forward.

  • Pay just as much attention to what you loathe. What you run from, what you judge and envy and despise and long for. Walk toward that which you would run from.

  • All these emotions point you toward your heart, your purpose, and your mission. And they can give much information about your blind spots and where you have more growing to do.

Daughter, you don’t know any of this. When you are older I will explain how I walked the long way to work to avoid seeing the man’s body. The one who died. And I had no peace till we went back to that bridge and said goodbye and that I was sorry for his pain. And that I hoped he found peace or at least freedom from suffering. We must walk toward the abyss.

“If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you.” From the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.


4. Care for yourself, feed yourself, as you would the love of your life.

Love after Love by Derek Walcott:

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.


You will love again the stranger who was yourself.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored for another,

who knows you by heart.


Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

05 12 19 (2).png

5. The Key and Secret:

You are a perfect, whole, and treasured culmination of thousands of years of evolution and love. And so is every other freaking person in this world. Life is more delicious when you act on this knowledge.  

*Commenting has been fixed so you don’t need to log in to comment. Please comment as you wish. What do you hope your children learn before they die? What would you love to teach them? What do you know you can’t teach them?

I hope you all have a dear adventure.

Love, Kerry