Illustrator: Yulia Brodskaya
In the past ten years I have survived an asymmetrical bob, a high-risk pregnancy, a malignant melanoma, a sneak preview of Shutter Island, and diabetes. I've watched someone I love die of AIDS and someone I most definitely do not love sit in the White House. I have become acutely aware of the fact that bad guys often win and nice guys sometimes finish last and the karmic wheel takes its sweet time to spin around and set things right. My rent has been raised, my enthusiasm has been curbed, my kid has been bullied, and I can't find a pair of silver sandals to save my soul.
But here's what I've figured out about putting one unsandaled foot in front of the other and trying to move forward in the midst of sorrow and chaos:
1. People have vast reservoirs of tenacity and resilience. All those days and nights that I was so sure I couldn't get through have come and gone. I'm still here and so, my friend, are you! It turns out we can only eat chicken potpie in our underwear and watch an endless loop of Law & Order reruns for about a week before a better angel urges us to say goodbye to Sam Waterston, shave our legs, and get back out there.
2. Find yourself a friend, a shrink, a stranger at a bus shelter: It doesn't matter who, as long as it's a person who doesn't have an agenda. We all need that one someone in our lives who doesn't hear what we have to say filtered through the prism of his or her own needs. Think Switzerland. Okay, that's a bad example because Switzerland only pretends to be neutral while hiding the money of war criminals and forcing jet-lagged tourists to eat fondue...but you get the idea.
3. Do something—anything—for somebody else. I promise, it'll help you feel a little bit better.
4. Do something—anything—for yourself. I promise, that helps, too.
5. If you're going to rent a movie, shoot for something frothy. A screwball comedy that revolves around a plucky, maribou-wearing, Champagne-sipping heroine who ends up with Cary Grant will do a whole lot more for your sense of well-being than Lars von Trier ever could.
6. Step away from the lasagna, ma'am. It is your God-given right to splurge from time to time (see aforementioned potpie), but if you've lost your health insurance, your home, your one true love, you do not want to also lose the ability to tuck in your shirt.
7. Never underestimate the power of a perfect comeback. Sometimes words aren't even necessary. I've spent years perfecting a simple smile that says, "Please know that I plan to systematically destroy you when you least expect it."
8. Let's face it, if you don't have anything in your life worth crying over, you probably don't have much of a life. So crying is definitely allowed, but (and lord knows, this is easier said than done) see if you can't keep the whining to a minimum.
9. Dwell in possibility. Only the limits of your own imagination (and a restraining order) can keep you from deciding that Benicio Del Toro is your destiny.
10. Forget about what you can't do. The other day I overheard a snippet of conversation my 6-year-old was having with her pal. "Wait," she asked, "what are my superpowers supposed to be again?" We all have superpowers (I myself happen to look very nice in navy), and we all forget them from time to time. Meet an old friend for lunch and have her make you a good, long list of yours.
More From Lisa Kogan
From the May 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!