What Is Your Recipe?

There is no doubt that this year continues to be challenging for so many. Some days my heart is heavy from the chaos and turmoil, and I admit that I shut down, so I can shut it out, albeit for a few moments of quiet.

In those moments of stillness, where I can gain a bit of perspective and somehow press reset, I keep telling myself we will come out on the other side. I look for signs of hope amidst the storms that rage both within me and around me. I am encouraged when the sun manages to peek through the tiniest slit in the cloud or when I see a leaf fall so gracefully from its branch.

I wake each day grateful that I opened my eyes and that even though circumstances are not ideal, they are manageable. Sometimes, the dark clouds block my lens and hover over me with a heaviness that is difficult to describe. Those down days are not always easy to navigate.

I fight with my inner critic.

I clamor about in the wake of not feeling like me

I stumble over the what-ifs

Sometimes I fall

Yet, somehow I can put one foot in front of the other and move forward because I know the significance in the steps.

In her early eighties, my mom learned to walk again with a prosthetic leg. Her determination, her strength, and her resilience are what propel me forward. She was incredibly proud of her accomplishment and did not let her disability and health challenges define her. Instead, they motivated her.

I wasn’t there when she took those first steps, but I can imagine the glint in her eye and the smile on her face that day. And I heard the overwhelming joy in her voice when she called me to share the news. She was fiercely proud. My heart swelled upon hearing her news – a celebratory moment marked by her courage in the face of fear.

Her sheer will was never short of intoxicating, and it is no doubt the elixir that carries me through time and again. There have been many days since her passing that she’s been the shadow in the darkness. Her presence is a constant reminder of perseverance. And she did just that right up until the day she left this earth so she could finally rest.

I guess that’s one of the reasons why, on a quiet, cold, and dreary morning my thoughts turn to her. There is comfort in her memory and hope, faith, and gratitude in her story.

She could have given up. She could have retreated to a dark place. She could have let the darkness veil the light.

But she never did.

She experienced dark days for sure, and she met her fair share of unpaved roads. She cried when she thought no one was watching. She suffered immense physical and emotional pain at times from a body that tried to stop her. She even survived a coma in the winter of 2007 only to wake and ask my niece, “where the hell have you been?” Her humor was the comic relief we always needed, and her heart was full of golden kindness even though she could sometimes paint a tough exterior. My aunt used to say on occasion that my mother was a seer. I now understand what she meant, and I feel it deeply too.

I often think about her journey these days, as I set about in this sea of life that can be all-encompassing. Waves crash, tides move in and out, and sometimes treasures are deposited in the sand – reminders of the blessings and perhaps souvenirs of our trials.

We get carried away in our distractions as we fight to survive among the chaos and uncertainty. Somedays, we may even be desperately trying to hold on to anything that will keep us afloat. We seek many things in our lifetime, or at least I know I have.

Yet I keep asking myself, what is it that I seek?

As I ask myself this question, I keep returning to the values instilled in me by two loving and caring parents and the tenets I live by, thanks to my mom’s sage advice. What I seek is something deeper, something more connected than the surface area of life.

I’ve had time to reflect and think about the pathways I’ve traveled. They aren’t necessarily the ones I thought I would seek, and in some cases, I believe the connecting roads sought me. What I desire you cannot put a price on. It isn’t indicative of the car I drive, where I live, or the clothes I wear. I used to think that those things mattered. However, when I look at my life in all of its beauty – and sometimes trying – imperfections, what I seek cannot be bought.

I’ve learned much from the stories of my mom’s life. She modeled that what I seek resides inside of who I am. It’s all the bits and pieces that shape me, enable me to grow, guide me, and, yes, even hold me back at times. Emotionally and physiologically, we are intricately wired. We are unique in who we are and maybe even complicated. We are a recipe for many things. And no matter the severity of the storm or the imposing barriers, you are here for a reason. And that might just be to rise above the storm inside of yourself and create the recipe for your life like only you can do.


Laura Mikolaitis
Laura Mikolaitis
Laura credits her writing, which laid dormant for years, to her late mom, who always believed in her. Writing unabashedly from the heart and inspired by millions of moments, three tenets of evergreen advice that her mom always shared with her are her guiding principles. Whether it is poetry, fiction, or a personal essay, her love for the written word feeds her mind, body, and spirit. Laura’s creativity also comes to life in her passion for photography. Her ongoing love affair with the moon, her joy for family and friends, her connection to nature, and being a loving canine mom often become some of her best subjects. Laura has held many roles throughout her professional career, including Brand Manager, Project Manager, and Director of Global Business Development and Sales Operations. In addition, she has a background in consumer-packaged goods, manufacturing, and textiles. Laura currently works in biotechnology for Berkshire Corporation as their Product Marketing Manager. She holds a Master of Science degree in Communications and Information Management from Bay Path University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from SUNY Oswego. Originally from Northern NY, Laura resides with her husband and canine child in a small town in Massachusetts that captured her heart years ago.

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    • Thanks so much, Larry. We do indeed find both spiritual andlife knowledge from our parents. I find too that when I need my mom’s nudge the most, I often smell her perfume – a subtle reminder that she is always there in the wings watching over me.

  1. Laura, it’s hard to build upon the thoughts that you have laid out, as others who have been here before me have so beautifully chronicled thoughts and perspectives which so concisely tell of what sits in my own heart. To be truthful, Mark O’Brien says things that scare me, because he is able to so quickly conjure up a thought of literature and a quote from a classic, that I despair at how woefully unschooled I am in the reading of great literature. The reset button, the pause button are two buttons worn and too reflexively used in my repertoire… to slide on my headphones and take my friend Oliver and retreat to the dark and silent streets, to listen to others engaging and putting forth ideas that I silently nod to. Your mom being your muse and your inspiration is a beautiful thing. My mom is 91 and still with us, both my parents are, and I challenge her to embrace life, they are in good health but all she can do is mourn for all the things that she feels make it less than perfect. And in that statement I see my own challenge to help her overcome her morose outlook… knowing full well that rescuing her endangers my own fragile psyche. I love how you find the triumph in taking steps, grand or small… as moving forward is where growth and connection await. Your words and lovely introspection are not to be mourned or second-guessed, it’s in the building of that self-awareness and self-knowledge that lead us to wherever it is we are destined to go. Carry on Laura, you and Finley embrace life together… and each day is a good one, and some days are just better.

    • Tom,
      Wow. Thank you for this beautiful and reflective contribution to my essay. I’ve read it twice now, and both times I savored your words and let them resound.

      I agree that Mark’s ability to quote literature is an ability that I admire. I’ve read many books in my lifetime, but readily pulling quotes isn’t something I can easily do,

      We share something in common, Tom because I too love to retreat to the dark and silent streets. There is something so calming about yet mysterious too. I guess in some ways; the night is also my muse. I am drawn in by its sanctity, and I revel in the magic of the moon and stars.

      God bless both of your parents, Tom. You are so lucky to have them still with you. As for your mom, don’t give up on her. She may embrace those moments when you least expect it. I suspect your challenges to her do not go unnoticed. My mom was set in her ways too, but that was part of who she was – and I came to understand her more, especially in her last few years with us.

      Thanks again, Tom, for this heartwarming engagement. I appreciate you and the insight you so wisely share.

  2. Thank you Laura for your stories and the unique recipe for your life that they have created. I too watched my feisty mom pick herself up again and again, after each surgery and each setback, and find ways to live her most fulfilling life under the circumstances of the moment. She too was fiercely determined and she modeled for me what it means to make the most of any moment. Your sharing brought my own memories flooding back, for which I am most grateful. Stay strong. Stay connected. Stay courageous. And keep writing!

    • Thanks so much for these uplifting comments, Minx and for sharing a bit about your mom. It is these stories that keep us connected and grounded, and help us to reflect upon the people who have left lasting impressions on our hearts. I am forever grateful for the ones my mom left with me, as they help me to “stay strong, stay connected, stay courageous.” I love that mantra, Minx. I wish you well.

  3. Thanks so much, Carol for sharing the exchange between you and your mom. I agree that many have seen dark days and forge ahead regardless. It takes grit, that is for sure. And so many do it without complaining. I’ve been saying a lot lately that all you can do is put one foot in front of the other because at least that way you are moving in some direction. We are dealt so many hands in our lifetime, and I like to believe that each one helps prepare us for the next.

    My mom was an incredible human, and one of the strongest and most determined that I’ve known thus far. She certainly left an impression on so many she interacted with over the years. And I’ll always be grateful that she’s watching over me.

    I appreciate your kind words, Carol. Thanks so much for adding to this conversation.

  4. Laura, your story reminds me so much of this passage from Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces: “Looking back at what had promised to be our own unique, unpredictable, and dangerous adventure, all we find in the end is such a series of standard metamorphoses as men and woman have undergone in every quarter of the world, in all recorded centuries, and under every odd disguise of civilization.”

    This is how you expressed the same notion: “Waves crash, tides move in and out, and sometimes treasures are deposited in the sand – reminders of the blessings and perhaps souvenirs of our trials. We get carried away in our distractions as we fight to survive among the chaos and uncertainty.”

    There it is. That’s the human condition. That’s the hero’s journey. That’s our journey. The more we accept, the more there is to celebrate along the way.

    Thank you for this celebration.

    • Mark, thank you for these lovely sentiments. They truly touched my heart. I’m not familiar with Joseph Campbell’s book, but the passage you share is beautiful. Life is a series of celebrations, and millions of moments that shape us and change us. As you say, it’s our journey, and yes, the more we accept, the more there is to celebrate along the way.

  5. I resonate with so much of what you said in this beautiful piece, Laura. I’ve shut myself down many times since the pandemic started, to protect my energy (or maybe my sanity). My Mom and I were talking the other day and she said ‘you know, Grandma was on her own for 4 years while Grandpa fought in WWII. She didn’t complain. She just did what she had to do.” So many generations saw dark days–worse than what we’re experiencing now. But, I agree. We’re all here for a reason and I do believe that everything is unfolding the way it’s supposed. to. Thank you for sharing the lessons from your mother. She sounds like an incredible human.