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the view from here

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on May 28, 2014 3:37 pm

I just returned home from the funeral of an 88-year-old man, the father of a dear friend of mine. Marty served in World War II and Korea, believing deeply in his country . He also believed deeply in education and learning and became a teacher for the next 35 years. He also believed deeply in playfulness and did that quite well also.

But was right at the end of his life that he had a very enlightening conversation with his beloved grandson. Shawn considers himself a deeply spiritual person whereas his grandfather was an atheist. And finally after years of discussion and debate, they agreed that at the end, there is a big ball of energy and that ball of energy is love.
And they agreed that ball of love is God.

So this got me thinking about love, God and believing deeply in something.

You see not only did Marty believe deeply in so many things, he lived his life according to his deepest values. How many of us can say that. There is research that suggests that if we live our lives consistent with our core beliefs about what we feel our lives should be about, we are more likely to be happy and more secure . Maybe because Marty did that, he was more comfortable being playful.

I've long believed that the last thing we lose in life is our ability to love. And as theologian and bioethicist Stephen post queries and his newest book: "Is the Ultimate Reality Unlimited Love?", perhaps it is that love, that thing that many have called the primary emotion, that sustains us and the world around us..

Marty's message is pretty simple and universal. Know what your deepest values are and live your life accordingly. And love deeply as many people as you possibly can. And then love more people more deeply tomorrow.

Thank you Marty

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Jun 11, 2014 3:43 pm

Yesterday was my 68th birthday. It's amazing that I have lived this long with this disability that is so devastating to my body. As I practiced my meditation yesterday morning I experienced my breath as though it was my first.
I can't stop thinking about how precious and fragile this life is and how fortunate I am to be given this thing called life.

My daughter Debbie surprised me at dinner Monday evening. A surprise that Joan had arranged in advance. It was a wonderful evening filled with lots of laughs and love. But when she got home and called me the following day she was much more reflective: "hey dad, there's something I wanted to say to you last night but never did…"
After several moments of silence during which I knew she was tearful, she said: "what I didn't say this how grateful I am that you are here having a birthday." We both cried together – tears of gratitude. And when we hung up, I told Joan how grateful I was to have conversations like that with Debbie.

Could we have done that if we didn't live together knowing life was this fragile? Could I love Joan as deeply as I do without knowing how precious these things like love and compassion and laughter and life itself really are?

Quadriplegia carries many gifts and much adversity – just like life itself.

Please take care. Please enjoy.

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Aug 13, 2014 3:44 pm

I just returned from a wonderful vacation in Alaska. I went to Africa last summer so I guess I am covering every country in the world alphabetically. But does this mean I will be going to Afghanistan next summer? I'd rather go to Amsterdam or Albuquerque!

But what struck me about this amazing trip was what I could and couldn't do and how we felt about it.

 I took my first cruise about 20 years ago from New York to Bermuda and I was thrilled that I could get around on the ship and there were people to help me with my food. There were no exciting excursions so everything was perfect.

About 10 years ago I went to the Panama Canal and I was frustrated because there were so many exciting excursions that I could not go on. They were able to arrange individual tours for me, but they were very expensive. Nevertheless, I had a great time.

Then about 6 years ago I went on another cruise and I could hardly go on any excursions. And although I was still happy to be on the beautiful ship with great scenery, I was even more frustrated.

On this cruise, I still could not get on most of the excursions. Nevertheless I was so very happy with the few I could go on and didn't spend much time thinking about what I couldn't do. This cruise was one of the best I've taken. And why? Of course the scenery was gorgeous, but I had been to Alaska before. Sure, part of it was that I was with someone I love. But I think a large part was the phrase "thinking about what I couldn't do".

It reminded me of a conversation I had with my father several years before he died. He would often repeat that he was ready to leave this life even though he was physically healthy and had a pretty good life at the time. Finally I asked him if he was really ready to die. He said that he was on "some days". I asked him about those days and he told me that on the days he wanted to die, all he could do was think about his daughter who had died, his son in a wheelchair and his wife who had recently died: "those days I am ready to die."

Curious, I said "but dad, those things are true every day. So what about the days you aren't ready to die?" Oh that was a simple answer: "those days I'm not thinking about those things, I'm more likely to be thinking about what I'm having for lunch!"

It's all about how we think about it, not how it is.

Re: the view from here

Posted by RonW on Aug 19, 2014 7:22 pm

An Alaskan cruise is on my radar, but it is difficult because my primary caregiver can't help me without help and some of the things we have to do  are hampering progress.

My four Caribbean cruises have allowed me to defy the rules regarding excursions by getting the owners to take me in my spare portable wheelchair or lift me to seats where I could go along.  I rode in a powerboat offshore to Stingray City, rode in a helicopter over Grand Cayman Island, rode on a bamboo raft down a river in Jamaica and spent an afternoon alone in my electric wheelchair, occasionally getting stuck at a national park in Cozumel.

People can view videos of my adventures, including an exciting airboat ride, by visiting my website at and clicking on MyTube.

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Aug 27, 2014 2:07 pm

hi Ron
what wonderful adventures you have had. Please do what you can to see this magnificent  land of Alaska.  The views are breathtaking and can only make one feel so very humble and grateful.  I left feeling how precious  and fragile  this land is.. Needs to be seen and appreciated by all who can

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Oct 8, 2014 4:51 pm

hey everyone,
I must apologize for my absence  these last few weeks as my computer was having difficulties in its relationship with the Reeve foundation website. Boy, I can handle difficult relationships between humans, but dealing with computers is way above my pay grade.

Anyway, we figured it out and I just have to log on from a different  web browser.

Reminds me of what happened about 15 years ago when my radio show was national. Somebody told me that I should announce that we are being podcast. So at the conclusion of my show I said: "great news, we are now being podcast." Then I went on to say "I have no idea what that means, but I think it has something to do with green and water and frogs!"


Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Dec 17, 2014 1:45 pm

These days are the darkest of the year. That's why most every religion has celebrations this time of year-we try to bring light into the darkness.

And sometimes events make the days dark. Sudden death of a loved one, trauma or the anniversary of a painful loss. It can be illness of a loved one or a series of stressors, but they make the days dark indeed.

These are my darkest days. December 20 is the 35th anniversary of my accident and for some reason, I want to this year to the house I left that fateful morning, to revisit the drive on the turnpike. Not in any morbid way, but just to reconnect with that young man on that day.

The following week would have been my 45th wedding anniversary. The first 10 years were wonderful and Sandy and I had our 2 beautiful girls all adored each other. 10 years later I broke my neck and things began to unwind. She left the marriage after 10 years and a couple of years later died of anaphylactic shock. Despite everything she and I always loved each other.

My son-in-law became ill as did my girlfriends sister, who has MS.

Dark dark times for me. And I doubt there is anyone reading this that hasn't experienced dark times.

During these times, bumper stickers, slogans and reassurance are of little value. Being reminded of all the good things we have can be annoying. But you already know that. And certainly beating ourselves up for not being able to do what the slogans tell us to do makes things worse. What now?

Sorry, but I don't have any slogans or 3 steps to making yourself feel better.

Here's the truth. When you are in a hurricane, that's not a time to appreciate that the rain nurtures the flowers and it's not a time to think about all the good things in your life. When you are in a hurricane the only thing you can do is hold on until it passes.

There's a reason I called these times dark. Starting December 21, we go into the coldest time of the year where our energy is down and we tend to put on weight. All part of the evolutionary process. But starting on December 22, the days get later and begin moving towards June 21 which is the brightest day of the year.

And this happens regardless of anything we do, say or want. so relax everyone, these times almost always pass. Unfortunately,  when we are experiencing wonderful times, they pass too!

Please take care

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Jun 17, 2015 3:36 pm

Sorry about not being around, but I was traveling to Europe. The trip was wonderful as I saw things I never thought I would see. We landed in Barcelona and that is a city that is probably more wheelchair accessible than most cities in this country. Then we cruised to Italy and Greece. I never thought I would see the David, the Sistine Chapel, the leaning Tower of Pisa or the Amalfi coast.

 I cannot get over how fortunate I am and I just keep saying thank you for all of my good fortune. I still don't know what I have done to deserve all of these gifts.

That's not to say this was an easy trip. There were several ports I could not get off because it was tendered and they can only accommodate manual wheelchairs. I think the airline may have been to the frame of my wheelchair as they were putting it in baggage because I have had back and neck pain since I've been home.

And then there were the cobblestones… What a nightmare for those of us in wheelchairs! Even going over them one brick at a time, I could feel my body being shaken and my blood pressure going up. And I can't even remember how many times all of that jarring put me in dysreflexia. Not fun.

So I figured while I was in Rome I would call the Pope to talk about these cobblestones. After all, he is a compassionate and socially minded guy, so I figured he would be open to the idea of putting black top on top of these damn cobblestones. So I called him in the morning, but he was in a meeting. When he called back, I was in the Sistine Chapel and my ringer was on. And so it went, we just played phone tag all day. Maybe we can chat when he comes to Philadelphia in the spring. Oh boy, I just remembered we have our own cobblestone issues here around Independence Mall. That's embarrassing!

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Jul 15, 2015 3:15 pm

I'm leaving this afternoon for a silent meditation retreat. And to be honest, I am a little nervous this year. Every year the first day or so is difficult because I am unable to run away from my demons. I can't get up and answer emails or ask my nurse to get me a snack or return phone calls. When my anxiety goes up I have to just sit there. By the end of the retreat, I realize that my demons are as old as I am and they are tired also! They still carry the same thoughts and emotions, but when they bare their teeth, I realize they are dentures!!

But this year feels different. I just had my 69th birthday, I gave up driving, I'm cutting back on my professional practice, I am more tired and I'm having more dysreflexia. I'm entering a new stage in my life as we all are every day. And like the rest of us, sitting with our fears or sadness is unpleasant. But once I sit with the truth of my life, somehow I feel more alive. This season is more precious, the leaves seem more vibrant and the love for my family and friends seem to be even richer and more rewarding.

This business of life, sure is a fragile and wonderful thing.

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Jul 29, 2015 3:29 pm

the retreat was wonderful. And difficult-like most of them are. It's 5 days of silence and we are left sitting with our demons. But at the end of 5 days, you get used to those demons and they are not nearly as threatening as they were when we got started. So instead of "running" away from them, like most of us do, when we sit with them for a while they seem to change. by the end of 5 days, I realized my demons were also 69 years old and were a little forgetful! So what's to be scared of?

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Sep 9, 2015 9:49 am

September 8 was the 30th anniversary of my radio show: "Voices in the Family" aired on WHYY, Philadelphia's local NPR affiliate. (If you're interested in listening, we are also podcast on iTunes).

Anyway, we had a major event during which I announced to a live audience that as of Thanksgiving, I no longer be doing weekly shows. After 30 years, this 69-year-old guy chose not to be as busy as he has been for most of his professional life. It was/is the right decision. And it was the most painful decision of my life.

I began doing the show 5 years after my accident. This was a time when everything was settling in and I was beginning to realize what my life was going to look like. At the same time, my marriage was falling apart and I had this great fear that my wife would leave me and I be alone (which is what happened a few years later). So I was in the midst of a very deep depression when I started doing the show.

As many of you know, I felt so broken and like a burden to the world that I felt I had no value. So I hid the fact that I was a quadriplegic because in my insecure mind, I thought if my audience know then they would lose all respect for me. That was in 1985 when we were a tiny tiny minority of the population and most of us either stayed home or in nursing homes.

When I finally had the courage to tell my audience who I really was-a quadriplegic who had a difficult life. A person who was a good psychologist, a kind and compassionate person and one who was also insecure. The audience responded with open arms and open hearts and have been sharing their stories for 30 years. It has been mutual love between the audience and me, so saying goodbye opens painful memories from right after I became a quadriplegic.

Nevertheless, I am reminded of my favorite Sufi saying: "when the heart weeps for what it's lost, the soul rejoices for what it's found." I am a man who deeply believes in that saying. So right now I weep, confident that when the tears stop at the door to my future opens, I will smile with open arms and say "good morning". And say that with great love.

And how much I wish that for every one.

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Oct 28, 2015 4:05 pm

I gave a talk last night at a local university in honor of their Disability Awareness Week.

The audience was filled with those who had visible disabilities and those who had no visible disability.

The title of my talk was the same as a Ted talk I delivered a few months ago: "I Broke My Neck and My Soul Began to Breathe." (By the way, you can see it on my web page

Anyway, I talked about not being seen for who I am, but being seen for how I navigate. But everyone in the audience had the experience of not being seen for who we are whether we are disabled or not. They've all experienced being seen for the color of their skin, their beliefs, their body shapes, their neighborhoods or their achievements.

And so we pretend. We pretend that we feel better than we really do. More competent and more confident. At least I did. I wore my mask for many years-for the first 3 decades of my life.

And then I broke my neck. As you know, the sense of grief and despair felt never-ending. I felt no one would ever understand me again and that I would be alienated for the rest of my life.

But after all the tears, that artificial mask of mine was shattered and gone forever. I could no longer pretend. So I had no choice but to become the person I am. Perhaps the person I always has been. A nice person who always tries to do the right thing. A person who suffers in life who wishes to be understood and love for who he is.

Just like you. And you and the rest of humanity. I wish you great understanding – even love


Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Nov 17, 2015 5:13 pm

I have mentioned elsewhere on these pages that I have been doing a radio show called "Voices in the family" on I've been doing the show for 30 years. And a few weeks ago I announced that I was stopping my weekly shows and instead doing a few specials a year.
This was the most difficult decision of my life. It's not giving up a job, it's not losing my identity as a "radio host", it's about losing a very intimate and loving relationship. And, believe it or not, that loving relationship is with our entire listening audience. And it's mutual!
So how did this happen? Easy. It's about vulnerability.
When I first started doing the show in 1985, it was just 5 years after my accident and I was in the depths of a clinical depression. Not only that, my marriage was unraveling and ended a few years later.
Back then, there were very few people in wheelchairs out in public, let alone quadriplegics. It was before curb cuts and accessible restaurants and so on. Because of that, I assumed that if my radio audience knew I was a quadriplegic, they would turn off the radio. After all, I didn’t believe I had much value back then, so why should they?
A couple of months later we had a show on learning disabilities. I had significant learning disabilities and had many experiences of failure in school. So I felt great shame about my failures. While the show was on, I felt that if I didn’t say anything about my experience, I would in an effect be lying. So I opened up to the audience and told them my story.
The response was extraordinary. They didn’t turn their radios off, but they opened their hearts. They told me their stories and thanked me for sharing my. That’s when I began to feel a sense of intimacy with my audience.
The following year we did a show on disabilities and my guest was the late rhythm and blues star Teddy Pendergrass. That’s when I told my audience about my story. A story of trauma and suffering and the story of love and gratitude.
My audience expressed such loving kindness towards me and I felt that towards them.
You see, I learned that without vulnerability, there is no intimacy. How can we truly be intimate with another person if we are living behind our mask? When our hearts are closed, we cannot feel the loving touch of another person.
So when I say goodbye on Monday, it’s not about radio or titles, it’s about wheeling away from a mutually loving embrace.
Thank goodness I will still be doing 6 specials a year. I will still be able to care for and be cared for my audience. My friends.

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Dec 16, 2015 4:11 pm

Last week I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Again. Shaking chills and high fever leading everyone to suspect a urinary tract infection turned into sepsis quickly. It turns out it was “only” a severe UTI.

My doctor quickly put me on IV antibiotics and ran lots of fluid through my veins. And I responded quite quickly to be discharged just a few days later. 24 hours after that, I felt pressure on my chest and I was panting. A return to the emergency room and a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. I had fluid around my lungs and heart. That’s because my body wasn’t able to excrete the fluids I received at the hospital.
So here I am 48 hours after this event that was both remarkable and unremarkable. Not the first time for me and probably won’t be the last. But most of you reading this already know the experience.

I sit here feeling very weak and experiencing my aging body. This poor body has been living with quadriplegia for 36 years. So what does this mean? The bad news is that in all likelihood this kind of stuff will likely be happening more frequently. The good news is that I am not actually dead yet. That’s very very good news for everyone but my insurance company!

knowing what I know about my very uncertain future, I look outside my window and see the bare trees with a beautiful gray sky behind them. Although I frequently look out the window and don't see a thing except for the to do list I am checking off inside my head. But today,I’m able to look out the window and actually notice how the trees move when there is a slight breeze, how the lower clouds sometimes move in one direction while the upper ones go in a different direction.

So what’s the difference between you and me? You may be younger, stronger and have a very different history. You may have different resources, different skin color, different values and so on. But…

Just like me, you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Just like me, aging can be sad or scary.
Just like me, you love this life. We all complain about different aspects of our lives, but 99.9% of us love having a life. That’s why aging and death scares us. That’s why almost all of us overcome what appears to be horrible events in our lives. We love this thing called life.

Sadly too many of us aren’t aware of how much we love

so I have an offer: if by any chance you have forgotten or never realized how much you love being on this earth, just respond to this post and I will help you remember. Not a Hallmark card, but a reminder!

May your holidays be filled with love and gratitude my fellow humans!

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Mar 30, 2016 5:02 pm

I recently had a session with a 50-year-old couple. The wife had become disabled 20 years ago as a result of a debilitating spinal disease that left her in extreme pain. And as part of the disease her hands were almost completely withered with 9 fingers amputated.

20 years ago they got through it. They tried to be strong for one another. They tried not to fall apart. And they were successful.

20 years later, the husband was finally able to let go and cried and cried and then cried some more. He said "this is my best friend and there she was screaming in agony and there was nothing I could do." And he cried some more. So did his wife. They cried for all they lost-including the ability to mourn together. They cried for their lost dreams and they cried for all of the pain that was buried inside.

A colleague of mine once said "all buried emotions are buried alive". They must find a voice and if not, we risk a part of our very humanity withering away.

But we cannot open up this level of pain without safety. Safety inside knowing that no matter what, you will be okay. And safety from the outside too, knowing that you are in a safe place and with a safe person who will not leave you, no matter what.

And with safety, growth happens. And with this couple, intimacy happens. You see, they no longer have to be strong for each other. All they have to be is human for each other.

Re: the view from here

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on May 11, 2016 5:16 pm

Did you ever wonder why you read these pages? Sure it is partly to look for solutions to problems. Clearly that's what happens with nurse Linda.

But even with nurse Linda, much of these "questions" are really stories. We tell each other our stories-whether it is difficulty coping or a pressure sore or an insensitive doctor etc.

The word is kindred spirits. We all want to be with people who "get us". But that's not just for people with disabilities, it's for all humans. As we age, we want to be with people who think like we do or who have similar problems to us.

Many years ago my daughter was having some very significant problems related to PTSD and a recently deceased mother. She was in therapy, hospitalized, back in therapy and so on. None of it helped. And then she was in a hospital in Washington that specialized in trauma. And what helped her more than anything, she said, was being with kindred spirits. People who understood her so she didn't feel so alone in the world.

Almost all of us have had the painful experience of feeling alone in the world. This is one of the most difficult and debilitating of all emotions humans can experience. And the cure? I think I've described it already, it's to be with kindred spirits. People we don't have to explain a lot to, people we can just picture shaking their heads with understanding as we tell our stories of leaking catheters or bowel accidents or family conflicts or depression. We all get that. And we are all part of a family we never wanted to be in. Nevertheless, we are here and we have a kind of international support group where we can feel everyone thinking: "of course I understand".

In that regard, this family could be even better than our biological family! Holding hands or shoulder to shoulder or whatever metaphor you want to use, we get through this with the help of each other.

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