Changing Our Orbit in the Time of Coronavirus

Originally published on Thrive Global by Ann Brasco, see HERE:

greg-rakozy-oMpAz-DN-9I-unsplash (1)


The world has spun out of rotation. We name what we believe this to be, but behind it’s scientific name and statistics its meaning is elusive. Some call it ‘The Great Pause’. Indeed it’s a pause, and yet the very phrase conjures a rest of some sort – but not a rest for all.

Perhaps the most egregious oversight is to pretend that this is the same for all of us. Nothing is ever the same for all of us, and this is where the sacredness lives on every front if we stop pretending.

For the anxious who have hid it so well for so long, this is the matchstick of fear struck against the powder keg of anxiety that sits inside them each and every day. For a single mom, it’s the heinous looks of disapproval cast upon her when she tows her little ones into the grocery store for milk because she has no one to leave them with. For the wealthy investor, it’s the fear he will lose it all. For the hourly worker living paycheck-to-paycheck, it’s the fear he too, will lose it all.

For some, this has been a step off the hamster wheel of busyness and achievement, to start a new hobby, read more books, get into better shape, or face the prospect of spending more time with one’s chosen partner or even themselves and all the darkness and light that may carry with it.

For some, it’s a faster, wilder race on the hamster wheel and that wheel is on fire. These caged, fire runners are the nurses, doctors, first responders, farmers, store clerks stocking shelves and ringing up customers, garbage collectors, custodians, and gas pump attendants. They put the value of human life ahead of cautious safety for their own. They strive to provide for their families even when their lives are on the line.

For some, this has been a tsunami of grief sweeping away the lives of friends, family, and loved ones – carrying with it in its fatal current so many folks who we assumed would leave this world in a quieter state of peace.

For some, this has been a grand inconvenience only wished to be hurried away. It has been a halt in their shopping sprees and cocktail parties, or in their leisure to run errands, or in trips to sit on the corner barstool. Many hem and haw how they would love to shut the door on it and return to the way things were. It has been said about the way things were, that somewhere along the way we began to value things and use people rather than value people and use things. It seems that this wasn’t a single monumental choice made at a moment in time but a choice made by millions of us, thousands of times over, at work, in our marriages, in our courtrooms, in our universities, on sports fields, in entertainment, and even in the leadership rungs of our religious institutions. It has been a repetitive, conscious choice, a short sale of our virtue, at the crossroads of each generation, each culture, each societal rung, and at so many decisive pits stops along our way.

For some, this is a faint song in the distance with a call to return to hear the music. It’s a call to slow down, to lead with deliberation, to proceed with discernment, to return to conversations that matter, to listen with precision to the nonsensical utterances of babies, and to blanket children with patience for their curiosity. It is a call to celebrate dinners around the family dining table, to take time to rest, to take time to listen, to make space to stumble and re-route and rotate off course, to protect what you love, and let those you love know they matter before its too late.

For some, there has been the implosion of financial devastation and the chaos of having to determine how to afford the lives thru methodically constructed. If we all can free ourselves from the weight of this soul-crushing debris just long enough to take a deep breath, we may find that open space to let the smallest bits of life inside.

When our earth has been shaken, all that does not matter is falling away. That argument at work, that grudge against a relative, the new kitchen remodel that was going to be life changing, the 25 year-reunion that was the motivational finish line, the eggshell relationship that can’t stand the weight of stress is airborne and often out of reach. When all of the pretense of order is tossed about, some of us try to hold on stronger to what we thought was ours that we find flying away. Others let it fly.

We fear that we have somehow now landed ourselves across the threshold of vulnerability. It seems that we have always been just a diagnosis, an infidelity, an accident, or a betrayal away from taking note of the fragility of life that cradles us with its mystery.

When our earth is turned on its side, the veil between this world and the world that precedes us and follows us is lifted. Those that have trudged before us and made a path, through scarcity, depression, wars, famine, human atrocity, violence, and apathy seem a bit closer. Those that have left us and moved on to the next world feel near, in recollection, in curious memories that arise, in spirit, and in that small voice with no sound that tells us they are near and to remember who we are.

What if we quieted our egos? What if we embraced our spirits? What if we found enough quiet in the world around us to hear what our souls have to tell us? It is imperative we do this. Our world depends upon it. We must hush fear and turn towards the uncertainty. We must take our broken parts and our cracked-open selves and face uncertainty the way a flower faces the sun. It will be alright even if it’s not alright. Because we are in this world and not of this world. Because no matter what happens to us in the future we know Who holds our future. And because we know in the splices of integrity in the smallest particles that embody who we are, all that happens to us and around us – whether its great obstacle, obscene atrocity, or undeserved forgiveness, mercy, and love, is always happening for us. This whole messy life, is not one of fairness but one of phenomenon, and is unfolding in our collective favor.

You may hold this time as a great pause or as a collision that has knocked us clear off our rotation, but what we do with it matters much more. Some will seek to piece back together the remnants of the way many of our broken lives were. Some will save lives. Some will tend to souls. Some will drink themselves into a deeper fog. Others may just wait until the spin out is over. Many of us will treat this as a crisis. The origins of the word ‘crisis’ are equated with a true decisive point.

We are standing, sitting, crawling, and stumbling along the fault line of a place where we can change course. What will you orbit? What will you do?

The Art of Rick Allen

15349603_10210695126270258_2743125175523321080_nI recently chatted with Rick Allen (famed Def Leppard drummer) about his passion for music, art, and work with veterans. Allen’s art collection is being showcased at Wentworth Galleries throughout the country. Def Leppard fans and art aficionados should check it out. There are mixed media pieces, sculptures, drums, and jewelry.
A couple of years ago I first interviewed  him. My mom died that week and the funeral was the day of his show. Two years later the very same week, he had a new exhibit. Strange how life comes full circle in different ways. 15390820_10210695123990201_3405644470247180260_n
Allen was such an inspiring person to talk to. No pretense. Interesting answers. Humble and clever. Good vibes. Here is my piece on it all on CLICK HERE to read. Let me know what you think.

The Living Gifts of the Dead


Patricia Ann Jones O’Rourke 1941 – 2014

Today is November 2nd, All Souls’ Day. The burning red and glittering gold leaves dance in the wind showing us both how to live and how to die.

Today would have been my mom’s birthday. It still is her birthday wherever she is.

Whether she’s flickering amongst the most brilliant stars, breezing through southeastern trade winds of Asia, sitting in Heaven beside Steinbeck discussing his use of characterization, walking her dogs with her dad or as I sometimes suspect, standing right beside us pushing us onwards, she remains an integral part of us.

Although the workings of the afterlife remain somewhat of a mystery to me, I am certain that mom never loved being in the spotlight for her birthday.

An educator for over four decades, year after year, our mom had told others that her birthday was in July. Never much for obligatory gift-giving or being the center of attention, she believed she had escaped the fanfare with a summer birthday.

It didn’t end there. Many birthday gifts I gave her ultimately ended up gifted to someone else. Despite the sincerest expressed appreciation, the gift then became someone else’s gift.

I later learned it was not because she didn’t value the sentiment, as quite the opposite was true. She valued things so much so that she wished to share them. She was excited to share with others. She understood the joy of giving much outweighed collecting stuff.

And here is the magical conundrum in it all. She minimized the annual attempts to celebrate her life yet treated each year of her life as a gift – a gift she could regift to others.

In honor of her life and memory, it seems fitting to share some truths she has shared with us. Whether you knew her well or are just meeting her through shared memories, consider practicing one of these shared truths to honor her and all those we have lost.


As saintly as mom was, she wasn’t the devout, statuesque type that we have come to know through traditional stereotype. She was a tireless advocate, a fierce champion of the weak and downtrodden, an indefatigable educator arming the next generation with intelligence, and full of passion and grace – the best kind of spiritual warrior.

1 If you must choose between laundry and reading to your children tonight, choose a good book.
2 With older children, read the same book your kids are reading so you can discuss it.
3 Excavate the courage within yourself to tell someone the truth.
4 Do secret good deeds. Tell no one.
5 Work hard.
6 Believe in what you do. Believe your contribution matters.
7 Hold your ground with children. It is ultimately in their best interest.
8 Keep secrets that have been entrusted to your care.  Make your word worth something.
9 Poke fun at yourself.
10 Still find things funny enough to laugh so hard at that you snort.
11 Embrace the parts of you that are cracked and vulnerable not just the strong parts.
12 Listen well to others. Hear the unspoken, as well.
13 Don’t panic – it won’t affect the outcome anyway.
14 When given the choice to discuss other people or ideas, choose ideas.
15 Know that moments matter much more than things. Always.
16 Infuse your life with compassion.
17 Treat the unknown like an adventure.
18 Wit is a saving grace of life. Humor is a silver lining.
19 When you can laugh or argue with your spouse, laugh.
20 Think before you speak.
21 Do not waste a moment of your time in conforming your life to the way others think it should look.
22 When playing with children, get down on the floor with them.
23 Advocate for the underdog.
24 Don’t fish for approval from others. Cultivate a garden of self-worth within.
25 Remember words have the power to inexplicably change things.
26 Take accountability for all that you are, the good, the bad, and the flawed.
27 Pay attention to how you fill the cracked parts of yourself and what you fill them with.
28 Pray daily. Pray pleas for help. Pray praises of wow. Pray thank yous of gratitude.
29 Let your authenticity shine. Let your brilliance of your authentic self shadow what it means to be perfect.
30 Fight for what you love.
31 Fight fairly.
32 Choose your battles.
33 Invite friends and those in need to your home. Don’t underestimate the power of breaking bread together.
34 Seek understanding before judgment.
35 Have a dance party with your kids, even when your children are old enough to have children.
36 Recognize animals as gentle souls. Learn from them.
37 Don’t be solely concerned with returning favors. Pay the kindnesses of others forward.
38 Be punctual. Value other’s time as much as you value your own.
39 Be an active listener to those who trust you enough in life to share their story with you.
40 Approach all opportunities that require new clothing with extreme caution.
41 If you must choose between a luxury to spend on, choose education.

42 Keep in mind that other people’s opinion of you, for better or for worse, are a reflection of them not you.
43 When anger is a catalyst, sleep on it before you respond.
44 Spend time in nature.
45 Send holiday cards. Value connection.
46 Be a fearless advocate for your children and family.
47 Be the most tireless and exuberant cheerleader your children could ask for.
48 Practice forgiveness. It is good for your soul.
49 When practicing forgiveness, don’t forget to forgive yourself.
50 Remember humility is an extraordinary strength even when mistaken for weakness.
51 Stand with others in their suffering. It is for the sake of yourself as much as others. It is transformative.
52 Be present. Immerse yourself in the now.
53 Rock a good pair of boots.
54 Don’t easily offer your children all the answers. Leave a breadcrumb trail. Teach them how to follow it.
55 Be careful not to allow other peoples’ opinions of yourself guide your actions.
56 Teach your children the art of sacrifice. Learn to say ‘no’ to them when necessary.
57 Be cautious around assumptions.
58 Be mindful that our mistakes and failures are really lessons cloaked in humility.
59 Concern yourself with what is right not with popular opinion.
60 Don’t let the small things distract you or steal your joy.
61 Choose a favorite charity. Donate time or money or whatever you can.
62 Infuse your children’s lives with confidence.
63 Be cautious of comparison. Comparison steals momentum and squanders joy.
64 Take the time to write those you care for letters and notes speckled with truths and kind thoughts. They will later grow into treasures.
65 Always find time to take the dog for a walk.
66 Care about the most vulnerable members of our population. They are us.

67 Do things outside your comfort zone. Push back on your fears.
68 Be mindful that you are your thoughts.
69 Do not accept every invitation to do battle.
70 Get comfortable with feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability. Try them on. Walk around in them, strut and get used to them because they never totally disapate. Tame them and then go out and try new things anyway.
71 Fail over and over and learn how to fail better. If you’re not failing often, you may not be trying hard enough.
72 When lost for an appropriate prayer, try this favorite night prayer of mom’s. Lord, guide me and inform me of all I need to know for tomorrow.
73 The person in the arena trying and stumbling deserves much more credit than the individual on the outskirts giving the critique.
74 Don’t let someone else hold your self-worth. If they do, take it back now.
75 Know that the most courageous choice is usually the best path.
76 Stick your nose in a book. Often.
77 Do not believe all that you read. Question the source.
78 Spend a few moments of each week doing nothing because it is something.
79 Believe that the universe, even in the darkest of times, is conspiring in your favor because it is.
80 Make it a point to learn something new each week.
81 Be interesting because you are interested in others and in life.
82 Live a life informed by faith.
83 Never aim to be better than others. Aim to be better than your former self.
84 Thankfulness is a repeated consistent practice. Happiness is a choice. There is great power in perspective.
85 The same life lessons show up disguised in different ways unless we deal with them face-to-face.
86 Be okay with spending time alone.
87 Develop a financial sense. If you’re not generally good with money, try even harder. Depending on someone else’s financial sense is one of the biggest risks you can take.
88 When a great song comes on the radio, turn it up loud.


87 Take the time and space to discover what you can contribute to this world. Pursue your calling with indefatigable enthusiasm.
88 Plant seeds whether you will fully see them harvest in this life or the next.
89 Take the less traveled road. Make your own path when you need to.
90 Lead by example.
91 Lead through service to others.
92 Cultivate gratitude daily.
93 Find meaning in your own suffering otherwise it is just pain.
94 Find dignity in your choices.
95 Become a spiritual warrior.
96 Be the heroine or hero of your own life.
97 Trust in God’s blueprint.
98 Leave the world a kinder, better place because of your time here.
99 Be mindful that this human world is the challenge …full of sacrifice, humbling, and opportunities to learn how to love. The next world is the reward.
100 Learn how to love abundantly and tirelessly before you depart this world.
101 Know the best is yet to come.

Happy Birthday Mom! Watch over us.

Building Trust


For all my friends who read The Newark Star Ledger, my article on building trust will be in the paper tomorrow, Tuesday July 1, 2014. For the link to the digital version, please click here. Thanks as always for taking the time to read what I have to share. 

For a full link to over 50 of my articles, please click here

(above photo credit: