Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

A Simple Forumla for a Sweet Life

How to be happy + live a meaningful life.

My friend Michele was on hospice homecare for 4 years, when you’re only supposed to be end-of-life material for 6 months.

So she quit hospice. Not because she died. It didn’t matter what the scans said, she reasoned, because she felt brilliantly alive. In fact, she sparkled, despite the way cancer had inched through her body and marred her brain, her bones, and so many other organs and structures.

That’s not to say she didn’t have pain or fatigue  She did, but she took personal responsibility and learned how to manage it as best she could.

What’s Keeping You Alive?

Once, I asked Michele, “What’s keeping you alive?”   This is what she told me.

  • Loving life, really loving life.
  • Helping others.
  • Meditation – two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.
  • Self-hypnosis, particularly when the pain was strong.

I would break out her formula like this:

Personal Responsibility + Positive Attitude + Selfless Service = A Good Life

I like this formula.  And I think it works whether you have a serious illness or not.

Personal Responsibility

No amount of doctors and pills will extend your life forever if you don’t exercise at least a modicum of self care.  Find your medicinal remedies and engage in them regularly.  Even better, embrace preventative care so you can stay as healthy as possible, as long as possible

Most people don’t stop when signs of illness appear.  They think life is in the action, until they’re forced into inaction and must find another way.

If you’re too busy for self-care, here’s two questions for you:

  • Are fully present and enjoying all the busyness?
  • Or is staying busy your habitual way of being, an unhealthy drive to please, or a fear of quiet?

Slow down now, at least once in a while.  Truly taste each morsel of your life. You don’t have to meditate 4 hours a day like Michele, but find the level of self-care that nourishes and invigorates you.

Positive Attitude

Over the time I knew her, during her “terminal” illness, Michele orchestrated large garden parties once or twice a year, replete with good food, a dance band, and a charitable pitch.  She even had her “Celebration of Life” long before she died.

Eventually, the cancer in her brain made her virtually blind, and she relied upon a portable oxygen supply.  Nevertheless, she donned her sunglasses and presided over her parties like a queen, smiling endlessly.  Everyone flocked to her to say hello, enjoy her presence, and receive her wisdom.

Another time, when she had lost a frightening amount of weight, at her husband’s invitation, she went on a shopping spree at a low-cost store and filled her basket with clothes that would fit a skinny teen.  She found the whole affair delightful.

Occasionally, Michele traveled to be close to the people she loved or to have a special holiday with her spouse.  Given her condition, this wasn’t easy and some people might have considered it unsafe considering the state of her immune system.  But she prioritized her family connections over staying home in what might be an illusion of safety.

Although I never witnessed it myself, I’m sure Michele got grumpy and unfriendly at times too.  But for the most part, she made a commitment to choose joy and embrace life whenever she could.

Selfless Service

In her earlier years, Michele involved herself in civil rights.  In her later years, she focused on youth programs.  In between, she actively helped others in myriad ways – both individually and as a change agent for organizations and communities.

When she was no longer able to lead herself, she mentored upcoming leaders who sat by her bedside.  A highly skilled psychotherapist, Michele offered to teach me self-hypnosis to address long-held traumatic stress.  Michele gave freely with all her heart.

Do You Have Your Own Formula for a Sweet Life?

This formula for a meaningful life kept Michele ticking, creating, and giving for years and years after she left hospice care for that first time.  I think it also demonstrates the potential power of mind over matter.

I’m not saying you should adopt Michele’s formula.  But I hope her joyful recipe might inspire you to formulate your own and thus live an equally rich and intentional life.

Michele passed on at the end of May 2016, about 5 years after she discontinued her initial period of home hospice.  This post is my tiny tribute to Michele, my way of sharing her special wisdom with my world, and my celebration of her enormously beautiful life.

What’s your formula for a sweet life?  I would love to hear.

Thank you so much for reading.  I would be so grateful if you were to share this post! May you be well, happy, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra


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  1. I cannot improve on Michele’s formula, Sandra. I think she was quite amazing and had tapped into some really universal priniciples for living a joyful and fulfilled life. Maybe for me, adding a time for some personal creative work such as painting, drawing and writing and reading poems is essential, but the giving is so life affirming. Wayne Dyer told a true story about how his really bad knee was healed immediately when he forgot about it and caught a woman who was falling down some steps when he was behind her. The knee was instantly healed! I will never forget that! And self-care is SO important as well as finding balance in your life. I am a work in progress so I am not “there” yet, but I try to keep all of Michele’s principles (I like that better than “formula 🙂 ) foremost in my mind. Love to you! <3

    • That’s such an inspiring story, Jean! Miracles are truly possible. Yes, I like the idea of creative time too. It’s certainly important in my life. That’s why I think we each need to find our own formula. Michele’s is really good, but you’ve giving it the perfect adjustment for you. “Principles” – that’s very nice! I’m not there yet so we can walk together on our path!

  2. Excellently written and a beautiful tribute to Michele. A fantastic formula for life as well.

  3. MaryJo Comins

    Marvelous tribute to a great teacher (as in, “by your example you will teach”). I love affirmative stories like this. I heartily agree with and have spent decades developing and honing Michele’s principles in the formula you have offered for myself. As Jean Sampson mentioned above, time for creativity in some form is a crucial element of my own self-care. In fact, it is meditation. Thank you, Sandra, for yet another uplifting post!

    • Thank you, Mary Jo. I’m inspiring by your dedication to these principles with some time for creativity added in. That’s important for me too. What you’ve said is so touch. There really are so many teachers in our life when we take a moment to look around.

  4. What a beautiful person and beautiful life….and your loving tribute has so inspired me so thank you Sandra….I also don’t think I can improve on her recipe for a sweet life….so I will take it and work to achieve it!

    • Thank you, Donna! Yes, please take it. I think you already live these principles as best as you can. For me too, it’s embracing it all the more.

  5. This is a beautiful tribute and what a testament to embracing life! I love that she held garden parties and Celebrations of Life. This is what happens when we prioritize what really matters. Sharing this!

  6. How beautiful this is Sandra. I love the celebration of life that Michele exhibiting as she lived her life to the fullest. This is such a brilliant and uplifting post. Thank you. 🙂

  7. What an amazing friend you have! Wish I know her myself. She is such an inspiration.

  8. That’s a very lovely tribute to your friend Sandra <3 And very inspiring for the rest of us without that incredibly challenging situation.

  9. Wow, just wow! What an inspiring, meaningful, touching post. I would have loved to have known Michelle. Thank you for sharing her with us.

  10. What a beautiful tribute to a courageous women. Michele’s story is truly inspiring. This is another reminder to find our way through life with joy! Thanks, Sandra!

  11. Michelle’s formula is perfect in So many ways Sandra! I think we all could do so well if we even adopted a fraction of her spirit, cause really thats what makes it all work right?! Her indomitable spirit made her LIVE truly and joyfully.
    This post is not just a small tribute…its a HUGE tribute to her life and her beautiful spirit. May she have more fun and joy in her soul travels ahead 🙂
    I often tell my mom who misses my dad and little brother(as do I) who passed many years ago, “I’m sure they are having a splendid party UP there and wondering why we mope around in our funny little world!” It always cheers her up and me.
    Thank you for the gift of this post Sandra. Made me smile wide and touched just the right chords.
    Love always,

    • You really put your finger on it, Zeenat, when you speak of having an indomitable spirit! I love your positive about the afterlife. Yes, why not think of it positively instead of being stuck in doom and gloom? I’m glad you like the post!

  12. What a beautiful tribute to honour your friend, Michele, Sandra! What an exquisite legacy she left with her formula for life. It is truly a testament to the power of the human spirit. It always amazes to see or hear about people rally their will and live from this place. Yes, my mother is also a person who has found the way to put mind over matter and continues to astound people who meet her…she defies what one would ‘expect’ someone who is 100 would be like.

    At times it is challenging for me to adopt this positive way of being in the world, as I find the world around me deeply impacts me. However, I do know from my own experience with health issues, that when someone is told something is impossible, or given a diagnosis of what the outcome should be, often we humans rally and show what is really possible when it comes to our true inner spirit. Thank you for sharing this sweet formula for living with us all. It is inspiring to see how a joy for life is such a great elixir and motivator to keep going and to defy the odds.

    • Hello Beverley, It’s so inspiring to hear that your 100-year old mother is astounding people with who she is and what she can do!

      I hear what you’re saying about being sensitive to the world around you. I’m very sensitive too! I’m still looking for ways to work with this myself and still be as fully present as possible. What you’ve said reminds me that we’re all in different places and we need to find the way that fits best for ourselves. Michele was so different than I am. I couldn’t manifest like she did, but I can manifest in my own way.

      It is amazing when people rally and show us that miracles are possible! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  13. I don’t know Michele but she sounds like a marvelous person. My role model for a wonderful life is my late grandmother-in-law. She was a tall, vibrant woman who had lovely red hair. She had many of the attributes you listed, but she also had a real hunger for life. When she was 99 she broke her hip and the doctors told the family that people of that age rarely recover from such injuries so they put her in a comfortable home for seniors and went about their lives. She wasn’t going for it in any way and not only fully recovered she returned to her own home where she lived out her days until she passed peacefully at 105.

    • What an inspiring story, Marquita! How wonderful to have such an inspiring grandmother. You know you have the same quality in your bones! “A hunger for life” I think is the perfect phrase to describe Michele too.

  14. My heartfelt condolences on the loss of your lovely friend Michele, Sandra. Mind over matter and a strong desire to live can create a longer life than the ones the doctors give us to ‘get our affairs in order’.

    I’ve seen it happen twice. One was with a classmate who was diagnosed with breast cancer around the time of the birth of her son and despite operations, cancer wouldn’t leave her. She finally left for Heaven but not before giving her son and family 10 good years by which time cancer had taken its complete toll. It was her willpower and passion for life.

    The other story is of another friend whose mother had a blood transfusion in Rome at the time of my friend’s birth which activated a gene and an incurable illness. She was given 5 years max but lived a full 30 years after her ‘sentencing’ to see her daughter get married and witness the birth of her only grand daughter.

    I believe in miracles and the indomitable human spirit.

    • These are such amazing stories, Vatsala! They really add so much to this article and strengthen its premise. Of course, we all have different karma so there’s no saying for sure, but we are also creating new karma with how we think, speak, and act right now. I feel so uplifted. Thanks for sharing these stories.

  15. Oh how I love this story, I had breast cancer and the Doctors were ridiculous. I told them NO to their healing and medicines. Had the cancer removed and made myself a priority. Hail to Michele and I am so sorry for your loss.
    She was an amazing woman who chose life and love over illness and doctors advice

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