In 2004, Smith wrote a small guide to personal empowerment called Inspirational Vitamins, choosing 16 words (such as trust, gratitude, and awakening) that she calls key nutrients for creating healthy emotional lives. In her new book, Lies at the Altar, Smith adapts traditional wedding vows to show how couples might enter into marriage with out-of-sync notions. ("Forsaking all others," for example, could mean different things to different people. Is it a promise to be monogamous? Or an exclusion of other close friendships?)

One of Smith's vitamin words was hope—but with a caveat. "Hope without action is destructive because it goes to magical thinking," she says. In times of heartache, she's seen clients cling to hope to avoid grieving. But as Smith has learned, if you can't grieve, you can't move on. A year after she found a man who cherished and respected her, she witnessed him collapse in cardiac arrest at age 49 on a remote beach in the Caribbean. "The lesson was about not postponing joy," she says, "and about the ability to transition when you simply don't want to. Life has its seasons, and you must be able to transition or you'll be wearing a parka in the summer and a bikini in the winter."

If Smith's own life can serve as a blueprint of change for others, that's just fine with her. "There's a passage in Ezekiel that asks: Can these dry bones live again?" she says. "My own life has had such dry spells, such desolate times, but I know that dry bones can live again, that hopeless things can be turned around, not with magic but with hard work. I feel that's what I'm on the planet to talk about."


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