by Apr 21, 2020

I’m going to start offering some podcast follow-on musings here on the blog. If you’ve listened to episode 20, “From Surviving to Living,” then you heard a few new show features that I hope you liked!

When we recorded the episode, it was the one year anniversary of Elaine’s husband’s death from a rare and aggressive form of cancer. His death was fast and furious and utterly shocking, as Ken was healthy, vital, brilliant, and full of capacity one minute and then utterly withering the next. Elaine was left with unimaginable amounts of logistics to deal with including finances and Ken’s business.

In addition to that, Ken passed the day after Elaine’s 60th birthday. And three days before that, Ken and Elaine became grandparents for the first time to boy/girl twins. Ken never met the babies in person, but he was able to see a video of them. You can imagine how intense and impossible this all was. The extraordinary gift of these beautiful new babies coming into the world just as Ken was slipping away.

As many of you know, in the summer of 2017, I learned that my marriage was ending. And so Elaine and I have found great comfort in walking—and even trying to make some sense of our own paths of grief—together.   

As I thought about this episode after we recorded it, I thought I would ask you guys – on the socials – how you would define “surviving” and “living” and the indicators of each in your own life.

What struck me as I was writing out the question on FB is that surviving isn’t different from living. Surviving IS a stage of living. Being in survival mode is a part of life. It’s not the way we prefer to live our lives, but sometimes we just have to. And we need to have compassion for ourselves (even though it’s hard) when we find ourselves in survival mode.

In my conversation with Elaine, we talk about a sacred “tap on the shoulder” she received recently, an invitation to walk toward living a bit more, permission to let go of surviving a bit.

We started to define what these two stages look like to us, in our own lives, and what exactly Elaine was being invited toward. So listen in to that conversation.

But I also wanted to share some of your wisdom here, too.

“I’m living when I start writing again, plain and simple.” -JR 

“I have had no choice but to ask God to bring me through one hour at a time.” -JP

“I’m living when I give back. When I volunteer and come alive with passion for loving people.” -ML

“I’ve taken a million baby steps and a few great big ones the last few years.” -JR

“Indicators of Living = feeling nourished, grounded, having routines, having hope, looking at the bigger picture, experiencing resilience with health, ability to laugh, wiggle room with schedules, connection with purpose, making progress.” -KC

“I went through a lot of health issues and multiple surgeries with a lot of unanswered questions. I mostly spent my days lying in bed just wishing I could go back to being the wife and mom I was before. . . I wasn’t mentally, emotionally, or physically as available as I used to be. I was surviving. Just breathing and getting through the day. Now that I found out what my issue was and am receiving lifelong treatment, I am better than I have been in probably 15 years. I’m more than just alive and breathing, I am thriving and I am able to be there for the ones I love in the way that I desired. That to me is living.” -NB

“Slowing way way down, recognizing God is bigger always, noticing what is small, pursuing what is true, learning that love should be beneficial to both and all parties involved.” -JW 

Love these reflections from the community. You can join the discussion on my FB page @tankersleyleeana.

Love upon love,



is a writer, mother of three, and storyteller.

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