Some books about death are a slog. This one isn't. It uses the awareness of death to point one towards seeing the brightest path to life. Clear concise chapters followed by valuable practices at the end of each.
...its simplicity, directness, clear organizational structure, and complete lack of pretentiousness that make it an easy-to-use tool that may prove to be of immense value to those with the courage to use it.
dr. Greg lagoy (R.I.P. ❤️😇💔)
Alive for now is not a book about death. It is a book about life and evaluating if you are living your best life. While that sounds like a huge task, what I love about most about this book is that it gives the reader straightforward weekly practices to address the things that matter most in life.
Robin murby (mom ❤️)
About the Author
While working as an Occupational Therapist in the hospital setting, Jessica felt drawn towards hospice and became a Liaison with Hospice Maui shortly before she was diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine tumor. Through each of these experiences, she began to question if the general avoidance of death might limit one’s capacity to fully live in ways that are not apparent until it’s too late. Jessica created Alive for Now as a means to address all that she found to be easily avoided for a lifetime, with the intention to enrich one’s life in the process. Jessica currently lives in New England and shares this work through Zoom sessions, podcasts, workshops, and retreats.
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Why do we say / act as if we’re good all the time? I’m not convinced that that’s the whole story. A participant in one of my workshops pointed out that he usually gives the ‘highlight reel’ when someone asks how his weekend was, he said, ‘I don’t tell them about the 12 hours I spent depressed in bed watching Netflix, I just tell them the good stuff.’ My co-facilitator and I immediately broke out into that ‘knowing laughter’ upon him admitting this. It was like he broke the social norm and said the taboo thing re: his own sadness, and in turn we felt incredibly relieved and connected. Lately, I’ve been wondering a lot about this phenomenon, my question is, what does it potentially do to others when we hide that sad part? What if the person asking also spent 12 hours in bed depressed and they go on thinking everyone else’s life is so great as they share their highlight reel as well and hide the rest?
I got high by accident the other night- I won't go into the details of how it happened but I will say it’s a very different experience to be high without knowing you’re high. And something happened that was familiar yet so easy to forget when I’m feeling good… it’s that old voice that comes in and gives all the examples of what a piece of shit I am. All the things suddenly flood in to feel shame, regret, etc. about, displaying all of the evidence piece by piece. It was hard to believe anything else was true.
I asked a few therapists that I know about this… is it typical for people to struggle with these thoughts? With this voice? Is that what we’re all referring to when we mention the horrific thoughts that comes in at night when we’re trying to sleep? They all confirmed this is incredibly common. I asked another few friends for confirmation as I was recovering from my ‘being high without knowing I was high’ experience (btw, they’d hinted at it in moments in the past, but mostly have just given glimpses, likely for fear of being ‘found out’ as well) these friends confirmed these feelings, the insecurities and worries took slightly different forms depending on their deepest source of pain, but overall, they sounded the same.
Two days later, I facilitated a workshop on regret which went into a lot of depth. Everyone, no matter how different their life experience or age, shared feelings of shame, insecurity, regret. Everyone struggled with their relationships in some way. Everyone questioned their worthiness. And I felt a healing over the simple fact that everyone was sharing this side of their lives, and realized this has happened many times before. I have recognized this truth, and then forgotten again, thinking that I’m alien for it, which reinforces the separateness and increases the shame. Again, they sounded the same.
This reminds me of something a friend put into words that I had never said out loud but I deeply resonated with- when she first arrives at a retreat, she judges everyone, assuming their lives are simple, shallow, perfect, and then a few days go by of being in a place that’s outside the social norms and niceties, and people start admitting what’s under the surface. By the end of the retreat, she loves everyone there, understanding exactly why they ever act like an asshole, recognizing our universal humanness which includes pain, confusion, shame. I have experienced this phenomenon as well, and imo, instead of our greatest fears coming true of believing we’ll be ostracized for these darker feelings, we are often more loved and connected for it. And then we slowly forget again as we reintegrate back into the regular world and revert again to putting our defenses up and telling the lie.
You could argue that myself and everyone I asked is insane or sensitive or particularly traumatized in some way. But as I get close to anyone I realize their life is much more complex than it seems and that this feeling is somewhere.
When I’ve admitted to having these darker internal experiences more publicly in the past, I've been asked if I’m okay, I’ve been questioned if I’m suicidal, which adds to the lie because again it denies that these feelings are a typical part of our human experience. I think it’s true on some level for all of us, and that the lie is upheld for fear of being found out and ostracized.
If this lie doesn’t exist…
...then why would we take it as normal to do the 10000000 things to distract ourselves from being with our own thoughts?
…then why would people kill themselves that we thought were fine?
…then why would so many people resonate with Brene Brown’s work on Vulnerability?
…then why are we so often fooled into thinking others’ lives are perfect until the divorce happens or something else breaks down?
I’d go as far to say that we’re all hiding it, and I’ll go even further by saying that it’s a crime against one another to do so.
The real lie is in believing that voice that says we’re worthless in some way, that if we were fully seen we’d never be fully accepted and loved. And the shame is in pretending as if we don’t feel it. Maybe we should stop telling the lie.