Tag Archives: Rachel Z. Cornell

Our NEED to Know

In life there are a lot of lines we have to learn to straddle. There’s the line between acceptance and hope. This is essentially what I’ve been talking about in previous posts. There’s another line however the one I’m addressing here, the line between the known and the unknowable.

I’ve been derailed by the election this last week, and more assuredly I will be today. So instead of fighting it, I’m going to lean in and talk about this waiting and wondering that’s been going on for the last TWO years.



So as a nation STANDS in LINES waiting to exercise the right to vote, lets talk about this line between the known and unknowable.


It is in our nature to want KNOW. I think this need for us to come up with solutions to all that is unanswered has something to do with our big evolved brains. If you feed any healthy adult brain a question it will work on computing an answer, often relentlessly, until it has something that satisfies it.


I think this is why I’ve recently been drawn to sports (I know this seems strange, especially for me) for this very specific reason of wanting an answer. With so much uncertainty in my life and in the world, sports offers something unique that every day life does not. An answer. Not only an answer, but an answer in a finite amount of time. At the end of a game, there is a winner and a loser, period, game over. There is a satisfaction to that.


Jokes also give us this “here’s a question and here’s your answer” kind of satisfaction. Why do you suppose we love puzzles? It’s brain candy right? Our brain digs a question it can work on answering.


We will chew and chew and chew on an unanswerable until we find something that satisfies our brain enough so we can move on. I think we have developed religion in part for this very reason. There is something called “God of the Gaps” that talks about this. This is the idea that religion provides answers for the unanswerable. So what do we do with something we can’t answer or the answer is a long time coming? We have to learn to be comfortable with the unknown. Because most of life is spent in the unknown. Because most of life is not the Steelers vs. the Raiders.


We have had two years of sorting and sifting through candidates, talking, watching, speculating, thinking, arguing, campaigning and finally we have come to the day of the decision. By the end of today we will know who the president of the United States is. Then, of course, as soon as that question is answered, new ones will surely be asked. How will he do in his new post? Who will he chose as his cabinet members? Will he be able to solve any of the many problems the last president dished up for a nation? You see, the questions don’t end with today’s president elect. They simply shift.


Aside from sports, puzzles and jokes, that’s exactly how life is. Life is mostly filled with questions. The ones that are hard to answer, exciting or painful to wait for, only yield to still more questions.


We need to straddle the line between a desire to know and being comfortable with the understanding that we spend almost all our time involved in the unknown.


After Shock

3 things to think about and expect to experience after a major life shake- up.

1) When you are handed an unexpected blow, a challenge you are forced to face, you need to also know that your live has forever changed.  

2) Accepting these changes are likely to be painful.  You almost certainly will need to grieve.   

3) If we you ask a bit of your shattered selves, ask that you have awareness. Keep a soft eye open for a specialness so tender in the aftermath of a trauma that it may awe you to our core.  Strangely, this little, tiny sprig of hope is often best seen in the darkest hour.   

I will be addressing these three points in the days to come.  I’m a slow poster as you know, but most of the following posts have been stewing for a while so expect them in quick succession.



Winston Churchill said: “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

The night before my apartment burned down, I was lying in my bed weeping and praying for a less chaotic life. My life was adrift and I was collecting bad habits as I moved aimlessly through it. I was smoking and drinking to excess and was in a bad, on-again, off-again, relationship with a boyfriend. I was so sad and so lost. I prayed and I cried.


The night after the fire I was propped up in a hotel room bed with a cat and a dog, both injured but alive. I gulped a tear filled laugh, as I thought about my desperate prayers from the night before. ….Had I gotten the less chaotic life I asked for?


I had less stuff, that was for sure.


The time following the fire was character building to say the least. Starting with the dreaded phone call to my father, also known as Lt. C. K. Zamek of the Waterford Township Fire Department.


The fire was considered “suspicious” so there was an investigation. A water main had broken and destroyed the uninsured woman’s apartment below mine so there was a lawsuit. The dog, which I was not suppose to have in the apartment, and belonged to the exish-boyfriend, had gotten severely burned and was in need of around the clock care. It seemed everything had gotten even worse.


The exish-boyfriend had become a suspect. The investigation DID prove he was likely responsible for the fire (totally unintentional I need to add in his defense). It was at this point that he had decided to tell me that he was seeing someone else.


…So, at least now I knew what it felt like to hit bottom….


At this point you might think I’m going to tell you to be “careful what you pray for.” But I’m not going to do that, I might suggest you “brace for it,” but not to be careful. You see, after being “liberated” from my home, my belongings, and an unhealthy relationship things started to become clear to me and the first principal for dealing with life’s major upsets began to emerge.


Principal #1

You don’t pick-up the pieces and get on with your life. Oh no. When your life is shattered, it’s not going back to what it was before the fracture. A fire teaches this principal really well. Once the photo album, cross country skies, and antique bedroom-set turns into so much soot, they do not, they can not, turn back into the items you once knew them as. Similarly once a life goes through a monumental shift it can no longer return to what it once was. After a life has “fallen apart” it needs to become a new life, with new parameters.

That’s all for tonight. Please feel free to comments if you would like and  come back for more of this conversation.  In my up coming post, I want to review of what I mean by “new parameters” and then talk about the next step in “How to Move Through Hell”.


(Click to follow my updates on twitter)



(ps: I’ve been getting comments, emails and sweet tweets wishing me the best to recover from the fire.  I see that in my story I did not make it clear when the fire was.  This is not a recent event in my life but it was an important one.  Life today is rich and full with good people and a great husband in it, I live a clean and sober and healthy life these days.)



I am writing a piece about this topic. I would love for you to take this poll in advance of the post!

The Pain in Positive Thinking

Next Teleconference


Just a reminder, my next teleconference is:

September 27th 

3:00 – 4:00 PM EDT

If you’re interested in participating, please fill out the form on the contact page.  Once I get your email I’ll send you the phone number and access code you’ll need to join in the conversation.  After you have done this once, you’ll automatically be informed of all future calls.

There is no charge for the teleconference, except what your long distance carrier charges for a call.

The Call

The conference call is set up in an informal format.  I will introduce the topic and then the rest of the call is open to question and answers. 

During Saturday’s conversation we’ll be addressing the pain that can be caused by “Positive Thinking” and “Affirmations” I will explain how making one small shift in your “positive thinking tools” might make a huge POSITIVE shift in your life.  

How to Worry: A Primer

I wrote this in the morning and it’s getting moldy just sitting in my draft bin.  So, because I don’t want you to be without some new worrying skills, I offer you…

How To Worry!

My friend Susan recently said to me, “it seems your thinking in the shower produces good ideas.”  WELL, I DID have some ideas about worrying in the shower this morning, so lets see if she’s right.

I worry.  I would like to say it’s genetic and not my fault but the bottom line is “I” worry and “I” am responsible to do something about it.  Worring is a sink hole in the path to my best efforts.  I don’t want anything to come in between me and those goals, so I’ve been looking for ways to be with, respond to, and/or reduce worry.   I think I have figured out how to reduce the hold worry has on me, without ever really trying to make it go away. 

To do this, I start with something I enjoy.  I really love  Sundays for example.  I love my Sunday paper and watching CBS Sunday Morning.  Public Radio programs on the weekends are my favorite and I even…wait for it…like Sunday football.

Here’s my first point:

In the shower this morning, I started to worry.  Random worries, that’s how it is for me.  What will happen when the market opens tomorrow?  What if I can’t make enough money at X.  What if that X becomes President?  Can I get a visa to move to another country if he does?”  Just a slurry of fret. 

As I was soaping up I thought (this is important) “It’s Sunday. I love Sunday’s so I’ll just worry about all this stuff tomorrow.”  Put off the worring until later!  Why not?  It’s not going any place. I don’t have the answers right now so why screw-up my Sunday with it? 

I think I have stumbled onto something really great for us worriers.   Tell yourself,  “I’ll worry about this tomorrow, or in an hour, or few minutes.”  You are not denying the worry it’s moment, you’re just telling it, “we’ll talk later”. Worry actually seemed alright with all of this, and it seems, as long as I don’t deny it, it’s alright with being back burnered.  This “free floating foreboding” kind of worry seem OK with it at least.

I think this way of talking to our worries is really healthy and here’s why.

1)  We are not getting pissed-off at ourselves FOR worring.  It is very, very, good for us not to get mad at ourselves, better than eating super foods I think.  Because beating ourselves up for worrying is an insidious and corrosive thing to do. Not only are we upset that we are a “worrier” now we are both worried AND MAD at ourselves for being a worrier.  Good Lord…ISN’T IT TIME WE THROW OURSELVES A BONE?!!! ?

2) Next good thing.  Lots of us worrying types are also….procrastinator types.  Also a good thing.   BECAUSE we have experience in putting things off until later.  So not a big stretch to think, “I’ll worry about this a bit later.”  I love this.  Seeeee, the things we are used to chastising ourselves about have all come in handy.

3. By putting off what we worry about today until tomorrow, fills in that sink hole so it’s easier to take steps in the direction of ones goals.  Even hard steps.  If we can just put off the worrying we can do something that can, strangely, deflate the very worry that was keeping us from our greatest selves.  Can I hear a Wooo Hoooo?

If we are going along fine and then the sink hole opens up. Not a problem.  Just try a few things.  First, see if you can put off the worries for a few more minutes while you just get your ass out of the mud.  Still stuck and sinking fast.   Reach for “support”  don’t ask for a rope, can’t ask to be rescued.  But you can and should ask for support. 

4. Here’s how to get support.  Contact someone you know that has your very best interest in their heart.  NOT the person who’s used to tossing you that rope every time your sliding.  If you don’t have someone you know can give you support. COMMENT on this blog post or  CLICK MY CONTACT PAGE! and write me a note.  I for sure have your back!  I will scream myself horse for you and I don’t keep a single rope in stock! 

So just write : Rachel, I want to _______ but I’m in the sink hole and am just sinking fast.  We will find out what you need to do for yourself to get outa that muck.

There’s also this…

5. You can always go ahead and be worried and stuck.  Yep.   I would actually strongly suggest you write out everything that’s dogging you.  You might be able to see it for what it is much better this way. You will end up with a list of stuff you can and can’t do things about.  This is a very handy list to have.

To review:

1. First find something you enjoy that’s right in front of you.  A cup of coffee, late afternoon light, the chair you’re sitting on, your old hound napping by your side.

2. Think, why mess-up this thing I enjoy by getting worried about stuff.  I will worry a little later and just enjoy this.

3.  Since I’m not worring right now, what one little thing can I do in the direction of something I want in my life? 

4. Start doing it.  Soon as you feel the ground giving way, maybe even before, seek support.  Support and rescue are not the same thing.  Ask for a “you go girl” or “go dude” from someone who you know has your best interest in mind.  Do not ask for a rope.  The rope, by the way, might get you out of THIS sink hole but it WILL swing you into a deeper one. Mark my word.  Keep moving.  Worry will have a harder time finding you if you’re in action!

5. But, if you can’t keep moving,  worry, but worry on paper. Write down all your worries.  Then you’ll have a list of what you can and can not do anything about.

How to be as Limited as Mozart

I was invited to be a guest poster on the blog “Catskill Cottage Seed“.  It came out of a post that Richard, the blog author, wrote about embracing limitors.  I had submitted a comment which developed into the following post on his blog. 


Guest Post

by Rachel Z. Cornell of Why Not Rachel

(Rachel is a legally blind blogger, speaker and author of upcoming book, Life Without Limitations. You can follow her on twitter @dreaminaction. Her comments on our post Embracing Limitors developed into the following:)  

Maybe it would be helpful to think of parameters in terms of a piano for example. A piano has 88 keys, but this number didn’t seem to limit Mozart. There’s only a measley 26 characters in the English language and yet Shakespeare seemed to do just fine expressing himself with such limitations.   

I think our struggle comes from 1) something being  taken away from us and 2) wanting what we don’t have .  This is nearly the same issue but let me take them on one at a time.   
When something’s taken away:
If I told you that the alphabet has too many characters and I’m going to need to take the E and the G from you, what would you do?  Well you would struggle to write for a while.  Look at that sentence I just wrote without it’s E and G.  Wll you would strul to writ for a whil. Hmmm, I’ll need to figure out how to write this without any E and G’s.  What might I write? “Words will form with difficulty for a bit”  That was hard.  You try it.  So just think how it might be like to be the guy with two legs all his life and boom, now he has one? It will be hard for a while.  He will need to create a new way of moving his body.  This is working with the parameters you have in any given moment and make something amazing with what you have.  
I do not consider my eye sight a limitation.  It’s frustrating at times, but you know, fussing with that sentence above was frustrating too.  Without the nature of my eye sight the trajectory of my life would not have gone in the direction it has.  I would not be likely be writing a book about living a limit free life if I had 20/20 sight all my life.  
So what about wanting what we don’t have? 
My husband often says “our greatest disappointment comes when we compare ourselves to others.”  It’s smart, but I wish he wouldn’t say it when I’m whining about something I wish I had. 

It’s not unreasonable to want something.  I want to drive.  I also want to remain alive, so I don’t drive.  It’s reasonable to grieve something. “I want to walk with both my legs”, from the person who’s lost one of them. This is not the same as saying I want the latest iPhone. I can want to drive myself to meet a friend for coffee, but for me to hang out at home wanting something that’s not going to happen is messed up.  I have to get clear about the more important want and go figure out how to do it with what tools I have available to me.
These two points really are one in the same. 

Have you had to find a new way to do something in your life?  I am not big on the idea of “picking up the pieces” by the way.  If things are in pieces, things have changed forever.  I’m big on evaluating the situation and working with the parameters as they present themsleves in a given moment.