Dr. Bernie Siegel

Dear Everyone,

I want to share this 2009 article:

I want to thank editor Bridget Albert for giving me the opportunity to write a regular article for the Bulletin.

Of course, she may have done this to avoid my writing any more letters to the editor. Why I addressed this column to everyone comes from a lesson I learned from author William Saroyan. In one of his stories an author says to his assistant, “You are a very good writer.”

“What are you talking about?”

“What’s on your desk is very well written.”

“That’s just a letter to my father.”

“Then just write a letter to everyone.”

The worst grade I received in college was in creative writing. I was a science major and lived in my head. Now I write from my heart. Being a multiple personality I have several hearts of various ages and you will get to know them all. I know I’m here because I’m not all there. What I want to do with my words is to help you go to “L.”

“L” is a place where you can Live, Love and Laugh.

Now some of you are ready to tell me about life not being fair and that I need to get serious.

“Life must be fair,” we are all complaining.

Life is difficult, not unfair, but when you learn to laugh and love you will find it is both meaningful and joyful. What helps me to survive is the kid who lives within me and who wrote a letter to the editor about his plans to create a fast-food franchise at the Woodbridge Town Hall. He is having a problem now working out what kind of outfits the town clerks will wear when we renovate and open up to customers. (There was a drive-up window, when I wrote this, for the town clerk’s office.)

I told Bridget I didn’t like writing a column because I feel, as Harry Chapin sings: “All my life’s a circle” and not a column. But I will overlook that and go on. For me life is about beginnings. Just as graduations are commencements and not terminations.

Now why live, love and laugh. Because we have a reason for being here and we need to build our lives out of the bricks of love and hold them together with the cement of laughter.

My wife is great at changing people’s attitudes and behavior. When I get loud she says, “You’re upsetting the animals.” Or, “You’re so handsome when you’re angry.” This has nothing to do with my problem but gets me to smile. When we go to the doctor she always greets the doctor with a comment about how handsome or lovely they look. It stops them cold, they smile, their reaction changes immediately and her surgery is delayed.

I want all of you to feel free to use her techniques with anyone you meet, as she does.

Also, when I talk about contributing love to the world do it in your own style and not what parents or other authorities have imposed upon you. If we don’t enjoy the day and can’t smile how will we ever survive? Monday people have more heart attacks, strokes, suicides and illnesses: so smile and enjoy “tonow” (the moment).

Is your smile real or put on to make others happy; while you feel anything but the desire to truly smile?

Ask someone, “How are you?” and what do you expect someone who has just learned they have a serious illness to say, “Fine.”

I find things to smile about because I know life is an adventure and who knows what is coming tomorrow. When I answer, “Better,” to the above question people always want to know what’s wrong? I say, “Nothing’s wrong. I’m just getting better.”

We are all wounded and I also answer when asked how I am, “Depressed, out of my antidepressant and my doctor is away on vacation.” Then everyone offers me their antidepressants and tells me their troubles. Try it if you think I’m kidding. We then help each other to heal.

I refuse to stop smiling. I don’t think anyone would come back from their grave and say, “Get serious.” I do think they would come back and say, “Lighten up.” In heaven, where I am an outside consultant, the most frequent question is, “Why was I so serious back there?” On earth the most frequent question is: “Where’s the bathroom?” So practice being childlike and smile.

Let a smile be your umbrella and protect you from the rain of fear and despair. Laughter is therapeutic. Cancer patients with a sense of humor live longer.

Stop reading this article and laugh for no reason for a minute or two. How do you feel now? And did the people around you start laughing too? Yes, we need to live in the moment one day at a time as animals and children do and create an authentic life so you do not lose your life to the desires of parents, teachers, clergy, doctors and other authority figures.

As my therapist, Woody Allen, said, life is “full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.”

So your assignment for the week is to watch the movie “Harold and Maude” and act as if you are the person you want to be. Life is about rehearsing and practicing and that’s why you are given so much time. We can all learn from our mortality. Think about what you would do if you had 15 minutes to live. We all run out of time at some point. So work at living and what makes you lose track of time and you may be surprised at how long you live when you don’t know what time it is.

Peace, Love & Healing,

Bernie Siegel, MD

P.S: MD can stand for Medical Deity, My Decision or My Disease.

Our cancer support group meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. They will be afternoons in September at Coachman Square, 21 Bradley Road, Woodbridge. If interested, contact Lucille Ranciato lranciato2@yahoo.com 203 288 2839; or bugsyssiegel@sbcglobal.net.

My books and CDs can be ordered through www.berniesiegelmd.com or directly via www.wisdomoftheages.biz. Put code 36 in comment box for discount.

Editor’s note: The late Bridget Albert was a former editor of the Milford-Orange Bulletin who died in 2014.