I’m thrilled to announce a new Q & A feature on my blog, a series of interviews with luminaries around the world. And I’m overjoyed to reveal my first conversation is with the incomparable Arianna Huffington!
The focus of every discussion will be grief and resilience. I’ve always been fascinated by the many ways loss can fuel enormous change and personal growth. My interest soared even more when I was named a contributor to the November issue of O, the Oprah Magazine and wrote an essay about the power of nostalgia to transform lives. If you’re curious about this topic, you can read about The Reflection Effect here.
Arianna and I met five years ago in the hair and make-up room at CNN. We were getting ready to appear on different shows and we briefly talked about my new book at the time, Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impacts the Way We Raise Our Children. My memory of that discussion is generally a blur. I mostly recall being in awe of her. Her work founding The Huffington Post had always inspired me, but it was her outsize warmth and generosity to everyone around her that afternoon, including me, that sparked my deepest admiration. And now, with the launch of her latest endeavor, Thrive Global, just a few weeks away, I am once again amazed by her singular kindness.
I’m so grateful that even with her new company’s November 30th start, Arianna took the time to reflect on the uplifting and empowering lessons revealed in my latest book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. Indeed, there’s a connection between the lessons in Passed and Present and the mission of Thrive Global. Loss is part of life, but it’s how we choose to harness these setbacks that can reduce burnout, spark creativity and productivity, and improve our health at home and in the office. Growth and resilience are driven by these unexpected factors.
Here’s my full interview with Arianna Huffington.
Allison: Loss is a great teacher. In what way have you derived greater joy and meaning from life following loss?
Arianna: There’s nothing like loss to help you put your own life – especially disappointments, failures and setbacks – in perspective. And this is one of my mother’s legacies that I particularly try to honor. She had a gift for finding beauty in the moment. And her conception of beauty was very much tied to the way she experienced time. After she died, I realized that she and I had an unspoken deal: hers would be the rhythm of a timeless world, a child’s rhythm; mine was the rhythm of the modern world. While I had the sense every time I looked at my watch that it was later than I thought, she lived in a world where there were no impersonal encounters, where a trip to the farmer’s market happily filled half a day, where there was always enough time for wonder at how lovely the rosemary looked next to the lavender. In fact, going through the market with her was like walking through the Louvre with an art connoisseur — except that you could touch and smell these still lifes.
Because however blessed our lives, we have, if we’re lucky, about 30,000 days to play the game of life. And that’s not morbid. In fact, it’s wisdom that will put all the inevitable failures and rejections and disappointments and heartbreaks into perspective. Because as a great Onion headline summed it up, “World Death Rate Holding Steady at 100 Percent.” So let’s stop sweeping it under the rug. That’s a modern impulse. Ancient Romans would carve “MM,” Memento Mori (Remember Death), on statues and trees — to put every victory and every defeat into its proper perspective.
Allison: Being proactive about remembering loved ones makes you happier. Have you found this to be the case?
Arianna: Absolutely. It’s why I am constantly invoking my mother, both privately and publicly, from quoting her (“Don’t miss the moment” was her favorite saying) to dedicating my book, Thrive, to her
Allison: What one memento reminds you most of your mother?
Arianna: A photo of my mother and me taken at my wedding rehearsal. The way she looks at me in this photo so perfectly captures the sense of unconditional loving she gave me all my life. Even as I was going for my dreams, I knew that if I failed she wouldn’t love me any less. And that made me less afraid to fail.
Allison: Where do you keep this photo?
Arianna: I’ve hung this photo on a wall in the foyer of my apartment among my other most treasured family photos, including many of my daughters through the years.
Allison: What is the most satisfying way you’ve developed for keeping your mother’s memory alive?
Arianna: There are many ways, but what stands out is keeping my mother’s memory alive through food – especially bringing people together for conversation around a meal. My mother was always cooking, as she believed that if you didn’t eat something every twenty minutes, something terrible would happen to you!