Honoring a life. Choosing the right story.
My thoughts on how to write a eulogy.

 
 

“Alex: I was wondering if you have any advice on writing a eulogy, especially for someone you were very close to?

I’m struggling with how I feel and what to write. I don’t want to write a ‘shopping list’ of memories and great qualities. Could you help, please?” –Jo

 

First of all, Jo … I hope that you’re OK. I’m sending you a full-body hug.

To be honest, I’ve never written a eulogy before. Not a formal one, anyway.

I can say this, though:

When I think about people I’ve loved, who are no longer here, I generally don’t think about their “accomplishments” or “accolades.”

I remember what they taught me — and how they made me feel.
 

I remember how Uncle Adam made me feel like it was OK to be completely ridiculous and silly, in public — without caring what other people might think.

Adam had Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable physical tics and outbursts. One of his tics was to yell curse words. We made a deal — when I was about six years old — then whenever he said “shit!” in public, then I could say it, too. We’d do it together, bellowing out of the open windows in his car, and laugh hysterically. We were quite the pair.
 

I remember how Great-Aunt Mimi taught me that you can grow old — really, really old — but still keep a young, playful heart.

Mimi lived in her own home — and drove her own car — well into her nineties. She swam every day, played card games, and met friends at her favorite Jewish deli (she always got a toasted sesame bagel, sliced into thirds, instead of in half. More surface area for jam, that way.) When she died, she was ready. She had lived well, and had no regrets.
 

I remember how Grandma Helen always made me feel welcome in her home, and taught me the meaning of “hospitality.”

Helen had a special fold-out cot and a sleeping bag with my favorite canine cartoon characters — the Pound Puppies. She kept Kraft American cheese singles in the fridge (because I loved them) and chilled the salad plates before dinner (because “that’s just how it’s done.”) My parents jokingly call me “the Martha Stewart of the family,” and looking back, I’m sure I inherited my love of simple domestic pleasures … from her.
 

I’ll bet you remember a lot of things about the person you lost, too.

You say that you don’t want to “write a ‘shopping list’ of memories and great qualities,” and that’s understandable.

Instead of making a list, perhaps you can share just one story.

A story about what that person taught you — and how they made you feel.

 

“_____________ was the kind of person who always made you feel _____________.

_____________ taught me how to _____________, and taught me the true meaning of _____________.

(As a perfect example: I’ll never forget that one time that we _____________.)

Because of them, my life is richer. Because of them, I know that _____________ is what really matters.”

 

I’ll leave you with this brilliant reminder, from a woman who is deeply missed by so many:

 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

―Maya Angelou

 

Good luck, Jo.

When you speak from the heart, you really can’t go wrong.

I know that whatever you choose to say … will be just right.

xo.

 
 

Still trying to “find your voice” as a writer? Um … That’s not how it works.

 
 
 

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” –George Bernard Shaw

 

There seems to be a myth percolating through certain parts of the writing world that everyone is born with a naturally amazing + perfectly-formed “writing voice” …

… but cruel “society” stomps it out of you, with all those darn rules and creativity-crushing expectations!

Alas! You just need to “find” it again!

Um, no.

 
Your “voice” is something you create — not something you find.
 

You weren’t born with a naturally amazing + perfectly-formed writing voice, any more than my brother was born with a naturally amazing + perfectly-formed capacity to play the saxophone and compose award-winning jazz pieces.

He created his voice as a musician, through daily practice, for decades. He’s still practicing. Always will be.

As a writer, you need to create your voice, too.

 
Creating your writing voice doesn’t have to be grueling or unpleasant, of course.
 

You can refine it by scribbling poems on bar napkins … by sending a sexy text to your sweetheart … by setting a two-minute timer and pouring your heart onto the page … by polishing up your bio … by writing a long overdue “thank you” note to someone you admire … drumming up a new blog post … or by crafting an email, with just a little extra love + care.

 
Our lives are saturated with words.

Opportunities to practice writing — to create your voice — are everywhere.

Seize the chances + enjoy the process.

And remember:

 
You can’t “find” something that hasn’t been created, yet.
 

xo.

 
 

If you were the BEST in the world at what you do, how would you behave?

 
 

A few years ago, I hopped on a plane + scuttled into a business conference in NYC.

While I was there, nervously crossing and uncrossing my legs in the audience, waiting for my mind to be blown + my game to be changed, the conference’s founder, Marie, asked a simple question, onstage:

 

“If you were the BEST in the world at what you do, how would you behave?”

 
 

I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but those sixteen words? I’ll never forget.

Whenever I feel off-kilter or unfocused, it’s those sixteen words that bring me back to my center, and bring out my best.

So today, I’m asking:

 

If you were the BEST in the world at what you do …

 
 

: Would you wake up at dawn, set your intentions for the day, and get cracking?

: Would you spend 15 minutes an hour on Twitter, or 15 minutes a day?

: Would you obsessively check your email, or would you keep your inbox CLOSED for the majority of the day?

: Would you agonize over other people’s careers — people who seem more successful and popular than you — or would you celebrate their successes and learn from their triumphs?

: Would you waste valuable energy fretting and frittering with minutia (document formatting, toilet cleaning, button mending), or would you hire professionals to help you create space in your life?

: Would you accept every new client, opportunity and request that comes your way — or would you choose your projects with gracious discernment?

: Would you raise your rates?

: Would you take a sabbatical?

: Would you sell your TV?

: Would you write a book?

: Would you hire an assistant?

: Would you do what you say you’re going to do?

: Would you make yourself more accessible, or more elusive?

: Would you take, teach or curate a course?

: Would you slice negative people out of your life?

: Would you learn how to meditate?

: Would you change your name?

: Would you change your entire daily routine?

: Would you change, simplify or straight-up kill your to-do list?

: Would you fill your days with objects, scents, music, textiles, fonts, colors, literature, systems, foods, festivities, experiences and HUMANS that make you feel strong / vibrant / galvanized / greater-than?
 

Would you scrabble along, or would you SOAR?

 

Think about those questions.

Then … go be MORE.

xo.

 
 

Got “email insecurity?” How to stop hovering over the SEND button and hit it, already.

 
 

“Alex: I was wondering if you have any tips to help with ‘email insecurity.’

I have an extremely annoying and time-wasting habit where I write an email and then AGONIZE over sending it. A simple two-sentence email can take me forty minutes to write because I re-read and re-write it so many times. Help!” –K.B.

 

Ah, yes. Email insecurity. A common plight.

Right up there with Internet Penis Anxiety.

I have 3 steps for you. Here we go:

 

1. Write an “easy” email, first.

Before tackling that “tricky” email, start by writing an “easy” one.

Say, a cheerful note to a friend. Or a fan letter to someone you admire. Something that feels low-pressure and effortless.

This will help to activate the part of your brain that’s associated with fluid communication and improvisational, creative problem-solving — instead of the part of your brain that’s associated with the paralyzing “fight or flight” self-preservation response.

 

2. Decide what you want your reader to feel, know and do.

Ask yourself the following three questions:

How do I want my reader to feel?

What do I want my reader to know?

What do I want my reader to do?

Once you answer those questions, getting straight to the point — without over-thinking or second-guessing — should be much simpler.

 

3. If all else fails: add your voice.

I’m a big fan of responding to delicate, sensitive emails using an audio note, rather than a written email.

You can record a quick message using Vocaroo (it’s free!) and then attach the mp3 file to your email.

In your email, say something like, “Hey! I’ve responded to your question with an audio note. See attached. Enjoy.”

It’s very unlikely that you’ll be misunderstood, once the person you’re responding to hears your tone of voice.

Plus, voice notes are rare these days, and kinda fun — they’ll be excited just to hear you, in the first place!

 

Most of all …

Remember that every time you place your fingers on the keyboard to blast off an email, you have an opportunity to add to the love in the world, or subtract from it. To elevate somebody’s spirits, or deflate ‘em. To make somebody’s day, or dampen it.

Choose to be a Daymaker.

They will feel the love, in every word.

And you’ll never have to stress about hitting “send.”

xo.

PS. Do you suffer from “email insecurity”? What kinds of emails throw a wrench in your day, or take up waaay too much time?

 
 

Hello, self. Guess what? I like you.

 
 

I have been called a “relentlessly positive person”, but there was a time in my life when I did not like myself very much.

I did not like my body, so I starved myself (almost to death).

I was distressed about my sexuality, which seemed “different” than my friends at school.

I had obsessive tendencies that I didn’t understand or know how to manage.

Oh, and toss in a little perfectionism + over-achiever-itis.

Hello, self-hatred! Why, how do you do?

 

Writing became my way of reconnecting with the parts of me that I did not … hate.

Writing a poem, a short play or an article for my student newspaper made me feel helpful, creative and proud.

Writing in my journal helped me to remember my good qualities … to celebrate happy feelings + bright spots in my day … and to dream + lean into the future that I wanted.

I remember scribbling in my journal, ten years ago, at age nineteen.

I made a picture of me as a grown-up woman. Strong, sexy, smiling and happy, with long, flowing, rainbow-multi-colored hair, super-cool aviator sunglasses (essential, for some reason!) and books and artwork all around me.

I wrote in the margins: Published author. Professional writer. Owner of a sanctuary + center for artists. True love.

 

A decade later, here I am.

Published author. Check. Twice.

Professional writer. Check.

Owner of a sanctuary + center for artists. Do amazingly fun workshops count? I vote … yes.

True love. Oooooh. Yes. (Babe, if you’re reading … and I know you are … hi. :)

 

There are so many ways to open your heart, heal old wounds + hurts, and carry your life in the direction that you want.

For me, it’s always been writing.

Maybe for you, it’s dancing, painting, deep conversations with friends, meditation, soaking in a hot tub, or simply making a plan and devoting yourself to it with your whole heart.

Marching, marching. Moving ever-closer to who you want to be + where you want to go.

 

Who were you, ten years ago?

What did you want?

Do you like yourself more today, than ever before?

Or do you still have a long ways to go?

 

Wherever you are, I hope that right now, you’ll write down one thing you really like about yourself.

 

“One thing I really like about ME is ________________.”

 

And if you’d be so kind, please add your “I like me!” note to the comments below.

 

In the beautiful words of my hero, Mister Rogers:

“I’m proud of you.”

And:

“It’s you I like.”

xo.