Thursday, September 27, 2012

Good Advice from Morrie Schwartz

   From the book Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Do I whither up and disappear, or do I make the best of my time left?

Accept what you are able to do and what you are not able to do.

Accept the past as past, without denying it or discarding it.

Learn to forgive yourself and to forgive others.

Don’t assume that it’s too late to get involved.

Death should not be embarrassing.

Am I going to withdraw from the world, like most people do, or am I going to live? 
I’m going to live – or at least try to live – the way I want, with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure.

There are some mornings when I cry and cry and mourn for myself.  Some mornings, I’m so angry and bitter.  But that doesn’t last too long.  Then I get up and say, “I want to live…”

I’m on the last great journey here – and people want me to tell them what to pack.

Dying is only one thing to be sad over.  Living unhappily is something else.

Have I told you about the tension of opposites?  Life is a series of pulls back and forth.  You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else.  Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t.  You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted.  A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band.  And most of us live somewhere in the middle.  Sound like a wrestling match?  Yes you could describe life that way.  So which side wins?  Love wins, love always wins.

Death is the great equalizer, the one big thing that can finally make strangers shed a tear for one another.

The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.

Love is the only rational act.

It’s only horrible if you see it that way.  It’s horrible to watch my body slowly wilt away to nothing.  But it’s also wonderful because of all the time I get to say good-bye.  Not everyone is so lucky.

Everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it.  If we did, we would do things differently.  To know that you’re gong to die, and to be prepared for it at any time.  That’s better. 

How can you ever be prepared to die?  Do what the Buddhists do.  Every day, have a little bird on your shoulder that asks, ‘Is today the day?  Am I ready?  Am I doing all I need to do?  Am I being the person I want to be?’

Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.

The fact is, there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people may stand today if it isn’t the family.  It’s become quite clear to me as I’ve been sick.  If you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all.  Love is so supremely important. 

Love each other or perish (by the great poet Auden)

Spiritual security – knowing that your family will be there watching out for you.

Detachment doesn’t mean you don’t let the experience penetrate you.  On the contrary, you let it penetrate you fully. That’s how you are able to leave it. (said after a particularly violent coughing attack)  Take any emotion – love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I’m going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness.  If you hold back on the emotions – if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them – you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid.  You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief.  You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails.  I know that you think this is just about dying, but it’s like I keep telling you.  When you learn how to die, you learn how to live.

On the subject of crying:  Turn on the faucet.  Wash yourself with the emotion.  It won’t hurt you.  It will only help.

On fear:  If you let the fear inside, if you pull it on like a familiar shirt, than you can say to yourself, “All right, it’s just fear, I don’t have to let it control me.  I see it for what it is.”

On loneliness:  You let go, let the tears flow, feel it completely – but eventually be able to say, “All right, that was my moment with loneliness.  I’m not afraid of feeling lonely, but now I’m going to put that loneliness aside and know that there are other emotions in the world, and I’m going to experience them as well.

On dependence:  I’m an independent person, so my inclination was to fight all of this – being helped from the car, having someone else dress me.  I felt a little ashamed, because our culture tells us we should be ashamed if we can’t wipe our own behind…. And you know what?  The strangest thing.  I began to enjoy my dependency.  Now I enjoy when they turn me over on my side and rub cream on my behind so I don’t get sores.  Or when they wipe my brow, or they massage my legs.  I revel in it.  I close my eyes and soak it up.  And it seems very familiar to me.. It’s like going back to being a child again.  Someone to bathe you.  Someone to lift you.  Someone to wipe you.  We all know how to be a child.  It’s inside all of us.  For me, it’s just remembering how to enjoy it.  The truth is, when our mothers held us, rocked us, stroked our heads – none of us ever got enough of that.  We all yearn in some way to return to those days when we were completely taken care of – unconditional love, unconditional attention.  Most of us didn’t get enough.

There’s a big confusion in this country over what we want versus what we need...  You know what really gives you satisfaction?  Offering others what you have to give.  I don’t mean money…I mean your time.  Your concern.

When I give my time, when I can make someone smile after they were feeling sad, it’s as close to healthy as I ever feel.

I decided what I want on my tombstone:  A Teacher to the Last.

I believe in being fully present.  That means you should be with the person you’re with.

I’ve learned this much about marriage.  You get tested.  You find out who you are, who the other person is, and how you accommodate or don’t.

There are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage:  If you don’t respect the other person, you’re going to have a lot of trouble.  If you didn’t know how to compromise, you’re going to have a lot of trouble.  If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble.  An if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have  a lot of trouble.  Your values must be alike.  The biggest one of those values:  Your belief in the importance of your marriage.

People are only mean when they’re threatened.

In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right?  And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right?  But here’s the secret: in between, we need others as well.

On dying:  Don’t let go too soon, but don’t hang on too long.

Be compassionate and take responsibility for each other.  If we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place.

This disease is knocking at my spirit.  But it will not get my spirit.  It’ll get my body.  It will not get my spirit.

Forgive yourself before you die.  Then forgive others.

I mourn my dwindling time, but I cherish the chance it gives me to make things right.

As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling for life we had, we can die without ever really going away.  All the love you created is still there.  All the memories are still there.  You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.

Death ends a life, not a relationship.

On the important questions:  As I see it, they have to do with love, responsibility, spirituality, awareness.  And if I were healthy today, those would still be my issues.  They should have been all along.

On Love:  In business, people negotiate to win.  They negotiate to get what they want.  Maybe you’re too used to that .  Love is different.  Love is when you are as concerned about someone else’s situation as you are about your own.


  1. Love, love, love this posting.

    Thank you and thank you for pouring love, money, work, and hope into your home, which I KNOW must be wonderful.


  2. Sue: Greetings. Dean K Miller here. I am trying to locate a "torchy" that left a comment on my guest post at Julie Musil's blog. Is this you? If so, you've won a copy of my book. Let me know at

  3. I love the Morrieisms too. What a wise man.

    Did you know my entire writing career began in Loveland. Good old Interweave Press and Linda Ligon. Fond spot in my heart for the area and people.