THE BLOG

What's the Hardest Lesson You Had to Learn?

02/17/2011 10:56 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Recently, I've been asking you lovely readers to let me know if you have any questions or topics you'd like me to address in a blog post. I've received some amazing, deep and deeply heartfelt questions. Stay tuned to hear riffs on issues such as:

  • "How can I maintain hope and foster hope in others in difficult circumstances?"
  • "I am interested in the subject of empathy -- and especially cases when empathy is so strong that some people's emotions and thoughts trouble you for days after. What to do?"
  • "How to overcome the fear of loneliness with an open heart. I've been longing for love and missing the intimacy that I had with my ex since our relationship ended 15 months ago."
  • "Any tips on maintaining relationship with chronically negative people? I'm a positive person. They're bringing me down!"

Great questions and issues. But thought I'd start off with something a little more personal. This one was from Angela:

What is the hardest lesson you've had to learn so far in your life? And (I have to ask two) if you were marooned on a desert island and could have three things along to make your stay more tolerable, what would they be?

First off, I appreciate the personal questions, Angela, so thank you. The hardest lesson I've had to learn in my life is that aging is real. It is so painful to watch the graying of those around you, much less your own. When I see that my husband's black-as-coal sideburns are now flecked with gray, I feel overwhelming tenderness for him and connect on the spot with his vulnerability. (By the way, I personally may have an entire head of gray hair, but since I've been dyeing it every color in the rainbow since I was about 16, I basically have no clue.) I see his aging and death unfurl before us and I feel a sock to the gut. And forget about my own aging. I can hardly bear to look at myself in the mirror. When I catch a glimpse, I wonder who is that middle-aged lady. And then I look again, and by some optic trick, re-image myself as someone I recognize/want to be, someone youthful and smooth. It's almost like some inner terror gets its hands on the lens and refocuses me into a more pleasing visage. It's weird. Aging is painful for everyone, but for Westerners and women, I think we make it especially hard on ourselves, do to worship of youth culture, etc. So that is extremely difficult.

As far as the marooned on a desert island question... I get three things? Excellent! I would like the words of my teacher, my husband and lots and lots of paper and pens. We could scrounge for bottles to stick our missives in, toss them into the big blue sea and hope they end up where they're supposed to go. Hey, that's not too different than what I do in my non-desert island life. Weird.

Thanks, Angela.

And if you, dear reader, would like to suggest a topic/ask a question, let's do this thing. Email me or post in comments.