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Rolling Stones Wisdom

July, 2021

Growth Amidst Adversity

I drop everything for the Rolling Stones.

The opening notes of many great hits by this 1960’s rock band instantly conjure my beloved sister, Margo. The Stones’ music takes me back to a time when Margo was a fearless, spirited, teenager who shared her albums with her kid sister. That’s already a good enough reason to drop everything! I didn’t understand a lot of the song lyrics back then. And quite honestly, I still don’t!

A few lines rattled around in my head in the initial months after Margo’s death in 2013. There is wisdom in the following Rolling Stones lyrics but eight years ago, I admit I was fixated on the first line:

You can't always get what you want But if you try sometimes, well, you might find You get what you need

~ Keith Richards/Mick Jagger

When facing the death of a sibling or loved one, loss of a job, severe injury, life-threatening illness, or any other heartbreaking events, can we really entertain the suggestion that we might get what we need? Nah. That’s too tall an order. Especially if you assume that “get what you need” is going to be something good or great.

That’s where the FOG rolls in. You may already know this familiar acronym; it’s often applied to situations that test the heck out of us. A FOG is a Frigging (or insert a more expletive version of that word) Opportunity for Growth. If you are experiencing a FOG right now, you have my deepest sympathies. It stinks. If you’re like me, you may not be able to stop cussing. Heck, you may not be able to do much of anything. This is understandable!

Who wants to hear that a current crisis or loss is an opportunity for growth? Any volunteers? ;-) It’s tricky figuring out the best time to consider this possibility. I have no secret recipes.

“Crises help us to lay down petty grievances and

reorient once more to what matters.

Crises impart a sense of purpose,

what many of us starve for day-to-day.”

~ Lisa Wells, in “Views on a Pandemic.”

Growth does happen. This isn’t just my personal experience in the wake of multiple losses. I see it repeatedly in those who, at some point, are willing to ask themselves how their hardship presents an opportunity for growth.

Perhaps the Stones were influenced by the writing of a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist when they wrote “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” . . .

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart

and try to love the questions themselves,

like locked rooms and like books

that are now written in a very foreign tongue.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

One of the best questions anyone ever asked me when I was deep in the doldrums of grief was, “what wants to be known?” The query posed a challenge to reflect on what might not yet be apparent to me. What was knocking on the door of my awareness?

Eventually, answers came. Sometimes they hit me over the head. Literally! Concussions have repeatedly sent me the message­ that I need to slow down. Be more mindful. A whopping case of whooping cough taught me to take better care of my lungs, especially when mourning. Margo’s death nudged me to grow as an artist.

I offer these examples to suggest the answers will come to you, too. They may take more time than you want. That was true for me, but the journey towards more joy was worth it.

So if you ask yourself during your next FOG (because none of us are really exempt), “what wants to be known?,” take dictation! Better yet, ask yourself, “what wants to be grown?” Because that’s where the profound promise embedded in the Rolling Stones’ lyric may come true. Because “if you try sometimes, well, you might find, you get what you need.”

Perhaps the most radical act of resistance

in the face of adversity is to live joyfully.

Nurturing joy, of course, isn’t the same as negating

reality or suppressing difficult emotions.

~ Ari Honarvar

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Prompts For Joy

Why not celebrate the Rolling Stones with this month’s Prompts for Joy? Bet you can’t suppress a desire to get up and MOVE if you take a look at these! That, alone, is bound to bump up your joy meter.

Click here for one of Margo’s favorites (and therefore, one of mine).

Click here to time-travel back to 1968.

And a few bonuses! (Because it’s impossible to pick only two!):

Click here for a soulful "Love in Vain."

Click here for a two-fer: Ruby Tuesday/You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.



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Why Assemble a Life? An Interview with Author and Artist, Martha Clark Scala

What motivated me to write Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself)? Check out this video to find out. Comments and feedback welcome!


Pictured Above

Top: Big sister in the Late 60's. Photographer unknown.

Below: A sample page from Chapter 14 in my memoir, Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself).


The Clark household, where Martha was nicknamed Happy, was utterly devoid of religion, yet for Martha it was a place of magic and divinity. A divinity to be found in the resilience of family members, the joy of household pets, and the creative juices that produced her father’s many paintings. In these, she finds a faith unencumbered by ritual and churchbound conceits. And this may be the purest faith of all.

James Hanna, Author, The Ping-Pong Champion of Chinatown, The Siege, Call Me Pomeroy and more.

Above, a sample page from Chapter 14 of Assembling a Life. This memoir is loaded with color photos (and some black and white) on just about every page. A visual feast.

For additional book reviews, click here. To purchase the premium softcover or e-book versions of Assembling a Life, click here.


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