Recognize Your Life

Recognize Your Life

Years ago, before my medical conditions forced me to retire from a teaching career I so loved and valued, I enjoyed ending each year with my eighth graders by handing each of them a final note. It felt right to attempt to give meaning to our year together in words. The students I taught meant the world to me and I only wish I could have been able to keep in touch with each of these young people to see how each of their lives would unfold.

Ellen Lenox Smith

With this extra time at home, I just stumbled upon one of those letters I handed out my last year teaching. I would like to share a little of it with you in hopes to give you some food for thought as you work to live life during this period of such dramatic and unexpected challenges.

     The rocks are the important things - your family, your health, things so important to you that if they were lost, you would be nearly destroyed.

     The pebbles are the other things that matter, like a job, housing, transportation, food.

     The sand is everything else - the small stuff.

     If you put the sand into the jar first there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks.

The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that really are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Share with your family and friends. Take time to take care of your health. There will always be time to go to the mall, to a party or even be on the computer.


As we all struggle to make sense of the chaos around us during the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s focus on the most important gifts life has provided and attempt to hold on to these gifts as we make every effort to maintain some semblance of normalcy. And if you know anyone who has lost someone, we can all understand how horrifying that must be. We are all a part of this incredible human family so let us support our grieving brothers and sisters in any way we can in their hour of need. Those reading this are most likely either caregivers or like me, who are the medically compromised individuals who will be in danger if we contract this virus. So let’s put as much effort into keeping safe - let others shop for you, order online and get creative at home finding things that help you feel happiness, purpose and perhaps a more intense sense of being part of a caring human family. If we spend every waking moment listening to the news, stress levels will remain much too elevated. Getting updated is extremely important, but to put yourself on overload will not serve your emotional health in a positive way. Let’s try to stay as positive as possible and remember to reach out to those also scared, possibly alone and trying to survive this too. May we all get through this together and be sharing our stories and comments together for many years to come.

May life be kind to you,

Ellen Lenox Smith

Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain- And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.

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Authored by: Ellen Lenox Smith

Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website.

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Stacie Wagner

Managing anxiety in your life is one of the most important life skills that can ever be taught. Thank you for all your years teaching our youth about that management and about how your time and resources are valuable. What beautiful memories you and they must hold dear ❤️


Hello Ellen, I was very touched with your post about the 8th graders at the end of the school year. I also was a teacher for more than 20 years. With all the technology today, teachers have it made. I am sure you were a wonderful teacher and your students will remember
you fondly for the rest of their lives. I think you made an impact in their lives and that is what you hope for as a teacher.


Ellen, I love the picture you paint with subjects that we all can relate to; stones, pebbles, sand. Fill up our lives with important necessities, people and things that bring joy, adventures, and not to stress over the sand that gets in our shoes, irritating our skin. These times remind us to slow down, reflect on the people and things that are most important, be kind and generous, love each other.