6 min read

Book: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (8/10)

A reread from my teens, just like The Alchemist. This is way better.

Morrie’s life is a story on how to live your life as a novel, not a textbook. He wasn’t a superhero who always lived up to his ideals and never felt bad for himself. He does, but he always chose not to act on self-pity. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. In the end he dies… The point is not what happened, but how.

On what it means to really live, not how you “should”. You intend great things, but make mistakes. You’re not defined by how perfect you are, but by what you do after you do something you are not proud of.

This is one of my favorite lines:

I am not proud of this, but that is what I did.

I assumed it’s a cliche book that tells you to quit everything and be merry, but it’s not. Another favorite:

When you’re in bed, you’re dead.

It’s incredibly powerful when you’re feeling depressed and want to disappear, deluding yourself that this is the best thing, for you and for the world. It’s not.

Check out Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson

by Mitch Albom. Notes below.

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.

He was intent on proving that the word “dying” was not synonymous with “useless.”

He refused fancy clothes or makeup for this interview. His philosophy was that death should not be embarrassing; he was not about to powder its nose.

When all this started, I asked myself, ‘Am I going to withdraw from the world, like most people do, or am I going to live?’ I decided I’m going to live — or at least try to live — the way I want, with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure.

There are some mornings when I cry and cry and mourn for myself. Some mornings, I’m so angry and bitter. But it doesn’t last too long. Then I get up and say, ‘I want to live…’

I am not proud of this, but that is what I did.

I had no good excuse for this, except the one that everyone these days seems to have. I had become too wrapped up in the siren song of my own life. I was busy.

Have you found someone to share your heart with? Are you giving to your community? Are you at peace with yourself? Are you trying to be as human as you can be?

The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. We’re teaching the wrong things. And you have o 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.

He tells me I need to be “fully human.” He speaks of the alienation of youth and the need for “connectedness” with the society around me.

The thing I’m learning most with this disease? The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.

I asked Morrie if he felt sorry for himself.

Sometimes, in the mornings. That’s when I mourn. I feel around my body, I move my fingers and my hands — whatever I can still move — and I mourn what I’ve lost. I mourn the slow, insidious uway in which I’m drying. But then I stop mourning.

Just like that?

I give myself a good cry if I need it. But then I concentrate on all the good things still in my life. On the people who are coming to see me. On the stories I’m going to hear. On you — if it’s Tuesday.

I thought about all the people I knew who spent many of their waking hours feeling sorry for themsleves. How useful it would be to put a daily limit on self-pity. Just a few tearful minutes, then on with the day. And if Morrie could do it, with such a horrible disease…

You need someone to probe you in that direction. It won’t just happen automatically.

When I have people and friends here, I’m very up. The loving relationships maintain me. But there are days when I am depressed.

Everyone know they’re going to die, but nobody believes it.

Love is so supremely important. As our great poet Auden said, “Love each other or perish.”

It’s not the same as having someone whom you know has an eye on you, is watching you the whole time.

This is part of what a family is about, not just love, but letting others know there’s someone who is watching out for them. … Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame.

There is not experience like having children. There is no substitute for it. You cannot do it with a friend. You cannot do it with a lover. If you want the experience of having complete responsibility for another human being, and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children.

By throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, ‘All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.’

All younger people should know something. If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it will happen anyhow.

Do the kinds of things that come from the heart. When you do, you won’t be dissatisfied, you won’t be envious, you won’t be longing for somebody else’s things. On the contrary, you’ll be overwhelmed with what comes back.

When you’re in bed, you’re dead.

When Morrie was with you, he was really with you. He looked you straight in the eye, and he listened as if you were the only person in the world.

I believe in being fully present. That means you should be with the person you’re with. When I’m talking ot you now, Mitch, I try to keep focused only on what is going on between us. I am not thinking about something we said last week. I am not thinking of what’s coming up this Friday. I am not thinking about doing another Koppel show, or about what medications I’m taking. I am talking to you. I am thinking about you.

When the final moment came, Morrie wanted his loved ones around him, knowing what’s happening. No one would get a phone call, or a telegram, or have to look through a glass window in some cold and foreign basement.

If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don’t knwo how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. if you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike.

And the biggest one of those values, Mitch? Your belief in the importance of your marriage.

In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right?

But here’s the secret: In between, we need others as well.

Love each other or die.

It’s not just other people we need to forgive, Mitch. We also need to forgive ourselves. For all the things we didn’t do. All the things we should have done. You can’t get stuck on the regrets of what should have happened. That doesn’t help you when you get to where I am.

I always wished I had done more with my work; I wished I had written more books. I used to beat myself up over it. Now I see that never did any good. Make peace. You need to make peace with yourself and everyone around you.

It’s not contagious, you know. Death is as natural as life. It’s part of the deal we made.

That’s what we’re all looking for. A certain peace with the idea of dying. If we know, in the end, that we can ultimately have that peace with dying, then we can finally do the really hard thing: Make peace with living.

Death ends a life, not a relationship.

In business, people negotiate to win. They negotiate to get what they want. Maybe you’re too used to that. Love is different. Love is when you are as concerned about someone else’s situation as you are about your own.

I know I cannot do this. None of us can undo what we’ve done, or relive a life already recorded. But if Professor Morris Schwartz taught me anything at all, it was this: there is no such thing as “too late” in life. He was changing until the day he said goodbye.

Lessons that sound important, but I didn’t understand:

The truth is, Mitch, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.

If you really listen to that bird on your shoulder, if you accept that you can die any time then you might not be as ambitious as you are.

Detachment doesn’t mean you don’t let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you let it penetrate you fully. That’s how you are able to leave it.