L is for Live, Learn, Laugh, Love


a-to-z-letters-lSitting on the bookshelf in our bedroom, you’ll find three full shelves of books. Above those, you’ll find two shelves of curios. Little things, like candles, fans, dolls, trinkets. You know, girly stuff. One of the things you’ll find there is a set of candles, in a wooden tray. On that tray, there is writing in front of each candle that reads: Live, Learn, Laugh, Love.

This is how I want to live my life. These are the four words that go with me everywhere I go. This, plus one extra word, is the recipe for having a fulfilling life, no matter how long or short it is in this realm.

When I’m getting down, when I’m feeling stressed, I can come back to these four words, plus the one ultimate word, and see what is missing and reset the balance in my life.

Let’s look at the four words and then I’ll reveal the one ultimate word.


Whether you pronounce it ‘liv’ or ‘lie-vuh’ doesn’t matter–they both work. You want to be Alive and you want to come at the world live, and then you really want to live too. Live as the verb, live as the adjective. Live life. Truly live it. Don’t let it pass you by. Don’t take it for granted. Live it, feel it, be an active part of it.


It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I’m always learning. Whether I’m reading, looking something up, channel surfing, talking to a friend–doesn’t matter. Everything I encounter is a chance to learn, to learn about life, to learn about other people, to learn more about who I am. But more than that, I make an active point of always learning. I’m taking some online classes right now from Stanford-yes, that Stanford–because I never want to stop learning. When I sit around talking, I frequently will say something, or someone or I will ask a question, and I’m off on an internet hunt to find out the answer. Four hours later, I’ll have fifty internet windows open, and will have read so many things.

I think it helps me in my writing. I know it helps me be knowledgeable about things. I enjoy the heck out of learning. The more I know, the more I know there’s more to know, so much more to know than my brain will never be able to hold or comprehend. But the quest for knowledge is the journey, the fun part. It’s not the knowing that’s exhilarating. It’s the learning.

It’s that moment when you cock your head to the side and said, ‘Huh. I did not know that.’

Now you do.




Oh, gosh… laughter has gotten me through so many things I never thought I’d make it through. We laugh at the hospital. We keep the nurses in stitches. Even when I feel like shit, I laugh. I read funny jokes. I surf the internet for stupid, inane stuff to make me chuckle. It raises my spirits. It makes me feel better. You’ve heard the old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine,” and I have found it to be so true. Of course, it doesn’t take the place of the other things you need to have in your life to have balance, but when laughter is tempered with love and the secret ingredient, it’s definitely a recipe for a better life.

Laugh often. Laugh at least several times per day. The bigger, the better. Don’t worry about crinkled eyes or bellies shaking or whatever…. laugh until tears stream down your face and you’re gasping for breath and your stomach aches from laughing so hard.

Whether you realize it or not, it’s GOOD for you.


Ah, love. We all crave it, even if we don’t admit it. We all need it. We would die without human contact and caring. There is someone out there for everyone, whether it’s a friend, a lover, a family member. Someone loves you. It might even be a stranger who has prayed for you, but doesn’t even know your name. Someone who would read about you in a newspaper article and cry if your life ended, cry for you, care for you. Love is important. It’s strange to some, but I love everyone. I do. The more un-love-worthy a person seems, the more I try to find something in them to love. They are a fellow human being, and that makes them a part of my huge extended family. Just like real family, you gotta love the bad apples, even if you don’t accept their behavior and don’t necessarily like them.

But beyond that, there is the love of family and friends, for which I would be lost without. If not for the unwavering friendship I’ve had in my life, especially of late, I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through all I’ve been going through. To have people who love you–to have someone who loves you there to hold your hand, look you in your eyes, tell you it’ll be okay, to rub your back, to kiss your forehead, to fix your hospital bed… hell, my Buffy even measured and dumped my pee–I mean, that’s true love right there.

I can’t explain to you how important that is to me, how much that has kept me ‘ALIVE’ instead of just being not dead. I can’t explain how comforting it is to know I don’t have to go through all of this alone. If this had hit me 10 years ago, the whole scenario would have been quite different, and quite scary to me. I’m so grateful I don’t have to do it alone and I have the love of my family and friends now.

Which brings me to the secret spice that is the glue that holds the recipe of life together: (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?)


I believe gratitude is the single most powerful emotion in the world–in the universe. It expresses love, it expresses thanks, it expresses happiness and joy. In a single moment of gratitude, you’re sending a signal to the universe, “Hey, I like THIS. I want more of THIS.” at the same time, you’re giving credit where it’s due too. The more grateful you are for what you DO have, the less you’ll notice what you don’t have. The more grateful you are for the good things that come your way, the fewer bad things that will come–and the ones that you think are bad, might just turn out to be good things, if you see them through the light of gratitude.

We all have to learn. We all have free will, and so does everyone else. So when something comes your way that looks bad, it might be nothing more than a learning experience that teaches you or shows you something you needed to learn or know. You don’t have to be grateful for the bad thing that happened, but you can be grateful for the lesson you learned and move on. Try to find something of gratitude in everything that happens to you. It’s hard. It’s damned hard sometimes, I know, but try.

I mean, after all, it’s tough to find gratitude when you’re living with a debilitating terminal illness–so if I can do it, what’s going on in your life that’s so hard and miserable that you can’t find at least a little gratitude in it for yourself?

Think about that… and then I’ll express the gratitude I feel that sometimes I can use my illness as a lesson or a warning to others, so they avoid the same pitfalls, and maybe I might save a life, save a heart, save a soul one day… who knows?

But know that I’ll take my final dying breath one day (hopefully many, many, many years or even decades in the future–one can hope!), and with that last dying breath, I know I’m going to be expressing my gratitude for having lived.

It’s the key to a successful and happy existence: gratitude.

Love and stuff,



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3 Responses to “L is for Live, Learn, Laugh, Love”

  1. Derek Odom says:

    Love this post, what a great idea! I’ve always said and believed that life is 100% attitude, and a bad attitude makes for a bad life; that’s just the way things go.

    Attitude is often not a choice we can make. At least, not one we can make easily. I was blessed with a very positive, upbeat attitude, so I get through a lot of life much easier than some other people do. I think folks with rotten attitudes can likely learn to have better ones, but in the end, we are who we are. You can’t turn a bulldog into a poodle.

  2. Amanda says:

    Hi Michelle it is so nice to be on your site, thank you so much for sharing, we can often take so many things for granted that once they are gone we really appreciate them. I know I take my health for granted, always promising that tomorrow I will take better care. Your blog is encouraging, I have a brother who has cancer ofthe bone and I wanted to encourage him to share his day to day, it may be comforting to him and others who share a similar situation. Blessings, Amanda

    Amanda – Realityarts-Creativity
    Art Blog

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