I can’t believe I hadn’t read Tuesdays with Morrie until recently. You might have read in this post that I found out about it from Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday podcast. I bought it right away and read it in a few days. It’s a quick read, but packed with meaningful content.
If you want to read it and be surprised by what the book is about, don’t continue reading. I’m going to include some excerpts and thoughts from my favorite parts of the book.
I love how Morrie, being a professor, turned his visits with Mitch (the author and a former student) into a class. The curriculum — the meaning of life. It’s a pretty bold class to teach! Can you imagine teaching it? Where would you even begin!?!
Morrie was dying of ALS, and knew it was just a matter of time before he couldn’t talk and visit with people any longer and he wanted to make the most of the time he had left.
Excerpts from the book are in italics. Bolded words and phrases are my emphasis.
Mitch wrote, He told his friends that if they really wanted to help him, they would treat him not with sympathy but with visits, phone calls, a sharing of their problems—the way they had always shared their problems, because Morrie had always been a wonderful listener.
Yet he refused to be depressed. Instead, Morrie had become a lightening rod of ideas. He jotted down his thoughts on yellow pads, envelopes, folders, scrap paper. He wrote bite-sized philosophies about living with death’s shadow: “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”; “Don’t assume that it’s too late to get involved.”
I love this. That until the end, Morrie wanted to get all of his ideas out! I feel like that’s going to be me. Jotting down notes and ideas and sketches until the very end. My notes might not be as profound as Morrie, but I have a lot up in this head!
“Have you found someone to share your heart with?” he [Morrie] asked [Mitch]. “Are you giving to your community? Are you at peace with yourself? Are you trying to be as human as you can be?”
Wow. Big questions to be asked. Can you answer them yourself? These types of questions I think can really help you evaluate your life and change what you are doing if you aren’t happy with it. They help you put what’s important into perspective.
I know I’m so lucky that I met my husband so young, and we have been so happy ever since. I mean like so happy. I’m still so in love with him and he’s just the most amazing husband anyone could ask for. I won’t go on and on about it (because I could) but I just know how lucky I am in that department, and I can answer the question Have you found someone to share your heart with? with a quick — YES!
Giving to my community is a harder one. I feel like that’s part of my job here on my website. 95% of my content isn’t sponsored (so I’m creating it at my expense for you for free) — and if can help just one person, then I feel like I’m giving in some way. My community is more digital. I have several close groups of friends, and considering I just moved into a new neighborhood, I haven’t really created a community around that yet. I’m working on it. I try to give my time and experience and expertise and advice to students and my interns, and when I speak on panels, etc. I see that as a form of giving to my community. Anytime I’m hosting an event and people come, I’m happy to answer any questions they have in person. So I think I give back in these ways the most right now. I also will sometimes help people promote things that are important to people I know, or things that I have some sort of connection with. Usually I’m getting nothing out of it, nor am I getting paid, and I have to choose carefully as to what I help support because otherwise everyday all day I’d just be promoting events and things to you, which is why am SUPER selective about what I will help promote. I’m sure there will be more ways I can give back in the future as well, but for now I feel like my giving back is focused on my community of women who are either entrepreneurs or trying to something of that nature.
Am I at peace with myself? Well this is a hard question. In some ways yes, in some ways no. But I think that living with regret sucks, so I try really hard not to dwell on things and just do what I can everyday that helps me be at peace with myself. Way too much and way too personal to get into more of this!
Am I as human as I can be? Honestly, I’m not a super sensitive person. I have thick skin, and it takes a lot to piss me off, get me mad, or hurt my feelings. So in that way, I sort of think other people should buck up and stop being so sensitive about things that, in my opinion, aren’t worth the grief or sadness or whatever. Why waste one precious moment of this very short life on feeling ways that suck? I try not to. But I realize everyone has their own feelings, etc. This is just how I am and I realize it’s not the norm. I’m very, do it yourself, help yourself, get over it, move on. Like you are the only thing standing in the way of your own happiness (in most cases). Yes, I realize there are chemical things like depression, and that’s different. But at the same time, I also think a lot of people just get their panties in a wad about the MOST ridiculous stuff. And I think everyone needs to take a big chill pill and just breathe for a minute and think about what’s really important. But when it comes to people who really have real hardships, I feel very deeply for them. I have a really hard time watching movies like Lion because I literally can’t breathe and am doing the ugly cry for hours just thinking about those poor kids and what they have to deal with. So when it comes to being human in that way, and being empathetic when people are really hurting, I feel like I am. But when it comes to dumb shit and people being overly sensitive and ridiculous I think I’m “human” in another way. A get your ass of the couch and help yourself way. Sometimes that’s what people need to hear.
Answer those questions for yourself, see how you feel. I still have a lot to work on, and these questions are super personal so obviously I wasn’t going to get into every detail, but answering them is a good way to check yourself.
“Dying,” Morrie suddenly said, “is only one thing to be sad over, Mitch. Living unhappily is something else. So many of the people who come to visit me are unhappy.” Why? “Well, for one thing, the culture we have does not make people feel good about about themselves. We’re touching the wrong things. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own. Most people can’t do it. They’re more unhappy than me—even in my current condition.
I envied the quality of Morrie’s time even as I lamented its diminishing supply. Why did we bother with all the distractions we did?
SO MANY DISTRACTIONS! It’s hard just to push the distractions away and do your job, be present with your friends and family and actually LIVE LIFE! I’m constantly trying to rid myself of distractions and fully focus on what I’m doing. I think it takes a lot of discipline to do that.
In DC there are a lot of people who work with sensitive information, and therefore they cannot have their phones in their offices. Outside of secured floors you will see lockers with tons of phones in them. Can you imagine doing your job for 8 hours a day and not even having your phone in the room? You’d probably get so much more work done! I feel like the phone is the #1 distraction for most people. Next is having any tabs open on your computer that don’t help you DO your JOB. Close those tabs! Put your phone in another room, heck, turn it off! I don’t allow any notifications on my phone. None.
Morrie had told me: “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing the things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.“
“If you really want it, then you’ll make your dreams happen.”
I believe this so much. If you really want something, like REALLY want it. You will make it happen. It’s like how Elizabeth Gilbert said in Big Magic, if you love and want something enough — whatever it is — then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.
There’s a shit sandwich that comes with every dream and you have to be willing to eat it to get there.
I wondered if I were in his shoes, would I be consumed with sad thoughts of all that I had missed? Would I regret the secrets I had kept hidden? … When I mentioned this to Morrie, he nodded, “It’s what everyone worries about, isn’t it? What if today were my last day on earth?”
“Everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently. …there’s a better approach. To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That’s better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living. 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?’ “
“The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”
I’ve dealt with a lot of death at a young age, and my husband was in a really bad car accident and easily could have died — so I think that I live a little bit like this already. I would say that I’m a little riskier when it comes to a lot of things, because I feel like I never know how long I will live. I don’t do anything too crazy. My husband and I work hard at our jobs, we spend within our means, etc., but at the same time, I choose to do my own business, when I know I could go out and get a job working for someone else and make probably double what I make doing this, or more. I choose not to because I love what I do, and I love the freedom it gives me. It’s a bit of a risk, but to me, it’s worth it.
When it comes to my death, it’s something I think about a lot. Not like my actual death — I keep telling my husband that we are going to die together in our sleep holding hands when we are old. He doesn’t believe me. I think about, if I died today, what mess would I leave him with? I take care of all of our bills and things and he would have to figure everything about our household and my business to get it all in order. So I have a personal project to make that as easy on him as possible if I do die before him.
I do think that all the people I am close to and love, know that I love them. When I get real tipsy, I start FaceTiming my siblings and cousins and telling them how much I love them and miss them. I’ve always thought about writing people letters and keeping them somewhere for if I die. Sounds so morbid, but if a friend or family member died unexpectedly and left me a letter — I’d lose my shit, but be so happy that I would get to share that additional moment with them through a letter.
But I think the real lesson Morrie is trying to teach is more about living the life you really want to live. And doing it NOW. Because there might not be a later.
These are just a few lessons from the book, it really is a MUST READ for everyone if you haven’t read it before.
Have you read it? What did you think? Did anything stick with you? Have you read any other books like this?