woman having aha moment

My aha! moment.

I read a lot of memoirs, not just to study my craft, but because I’m fascinated by the human experience. I love being invited into people’s lives, especially to witness how they respond to and grow from adversity. 

When I read or hear another person’s story, I almost always learn something about myself. That’s what I believe most memoirists hope to accomplish—that their words will connect with a reader and result in an aha! moment.

Memoirists hope for Aha! moments for their readers.

I recently read Dying To Be Me, by Anita Moorjani, a story about a near-death experience (NDE), which gave me several aha! moments.   

Merriam-webster.com describes NDE as 

“an occurrence in which a person comes very close to dying and has memories of a spiritual experience (such as meeting dead friends and family members or seeing a white light) during the time when death was near.”

If the concept of NDE is too woo-woo for you, bear with me; I’m not going to go all new agey on you. 

After returning to her conscious life, the author realizes that everything she needs to be happy is within her. It got me thinking about the simple life I lead. I can’t say I don’t need anything beyond myself to be happy, but I know the sources of my happiness are easy to come by and close at hand:

Good music. A quiet afternoon with the house to myself. My garden. Losing myself to my writing. Coffee set to automatic brew in the morning. Chilled chardonnay outdoors on a warm evening. A good book. Snuggling deep into the covers at night. Knowing that I have loved ones in my life (although I don’t need them with me at that moment in order to be happy.) 

I haven’t always considered a simple life a good life. It’s not that I wanted a fancy or expensive life, but I thought I wanted a busy life with more going on—more people, more activity, more excitement. Even though, for an introvert like me, more people and activity and excitement is decidedly not more fun.

I’ve often felt ashamed of my simple life. When acquaintances talked about their upcoming vacations or their weekend outings, I sometimes dreaded being asked what I have planned because usually the answer was “nothing.” 

But now I realize my ability to be content and happy with the simplest of things is a gift, not a curse. 

My aha! moment: being content with a simple life is a gift. Click To Tweet

Instead of answering “nothing” to inquiries about my plans, I need to regale my listeners with my excited anticipation of savoring my coffee, puttering in my garden, sitting on the porch at night.

Even reading that sounds like perfection to me.

What a gift that I have awakened to this appreciation. And I didn’t have to go anywhere to receive it—not to the ends of the earth or the edge of existence. The appreciation is within me every moment.


  • Karen DeBonis

    Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, the entangled mix told in her memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" forthcoming in spring 2023. Subscribe today to receive Chapter 1: A Reckoning.


  1. Magic In The Everyday on April 12, 2018 at 9:02 PM

    Love this so much!

  2. Michael DeBonis on April 12, 2018 at 10:21 PM

    Nice article dear. I love a simpl life too.

  3. Sheba Olenik on April 12, 2018 at 11:17 PM

    Thanks for making me smile during a rainy evening, while my little goodie snuggles up to me in our couch.

  4. Paula Ransbury on April 13, 2018 at 12:39 AM

    So perfect Karen. Just reading about your simple life is relaxing!

  5. Karen DeBonis on April 13, 2018 at 11:45 AM

    Thanks Paula! Appreciate your comment 🙂

  6. Joanne M Janssen on April 14, 2018 at 12:18 AM

    I love your writing, Karen. It always makes me smile. You definitely have a talent for making me want to read more. I can’t wait for your memoir.

    • Karen DeBonis on April 14, 2018 at 10:19 AM

      Joanne! Thanks for your comment and your beautiful compliment! It energizes me to keep working on my memoir, which eats up so much of my time and energy. But I know it will all be worth it!

  7. 364life.com on April 14, 2018 at 8:36 AM

    Sounds like you found happiness in your own backyard. Simple and sweet.

  8. Penny on April 14, 2018 at 10:00 AM

    Loved this one. Easy read for me-and I totally relate. I LOVE being home and the simple things. Many people don’t appreciate those small blessings anymore and always gotta be on the run or are bored and I’m just the opposite-like this morning, enjoying a coffee on the front porch, just listening to the birds chirping away because they know Spring is here (even though a slow start)before all the hustle and bustle starts for the day

  9. Karen DeBonis on April 14, 2018 at 10:21 AM

    Oh thank you, Penny! We sat on our porch for a bit last evening – that was our initiation to spring. Being still is a great way to start and end the day.

  10. Karen DeBonis on April 25, 2018 at 9:25 AM

    How about “dump the website that makes commenting so difficult?” Oh wait, I already did that once. And here I am again, finding another wonderful comment of yours in my spam bucket. Thanks again, Rosemary, for sharing your thoughts. Wine is good!

  11. W. Dan Schelde on July 25, 2018 at 12:09 AM

    The golden cord lies cut in the dust of the earth. The cup of life poured out. The candle snuffed.
    Darkness full of pain. I don’t remember this. Is this death? LIGHT ! An eye held open. Searing pain accost my chest. Nothing will move. Frantic activity, people I sense but can not see. Voices! They must be loud but I hardly hear them.
    The pain STOPPED ! Everything stopped. Light! Am I in light? Am I light? Is this life or death or what really is life?!? Calm. Euphoria! Am I a crystal spark of light? I think I’m in light. Light I sense but don’t understand. Is this a second or all of time.
    There is time without sequence. Can the one exist without the other? Whatever was me is bleached by the sun and scorched by the moon. I was baked by all the power that is the multiverse. I walked in a mist. It soaked up my pain. Running in the rain for the briefest moment and all of time.SO COLD! So cold it burnt. It burnt away my doubts. Clarity! Fear was gone. I could feel. I could believe. I could know.
    THEN some Thing, One, Entity Said? Thought? Made me aware!?!
    ” You don’t have to go back. You can put aside your pain. You don’t have to struggle anymore.”
    “Really?” Okay, not the most intelligent answer. Cut me some slack, I was new at this.
    ” You can put aside your struggles. There is a little girl that could use your help Some other people too. It will be alright, others can do it.”
    “You don’t have to go back.”
    At the time the only one I thought off as my little girl was my wife.
    “He!! ,my wife will be better off with out having to take care of me. She’s gonna be busy enough taking care of our son. I must be pretty messed up.”
    “You are “petty messed up.”. A little girl will be all right.”
    Now usually I have an almost immediate grasp of the obvious but it wasn’t one of my better days.
    “Just Okay?”
    “Better if I go back?”
    “Some other people too?”
    “Yes.” “But you don’t have to go back. Things will be alright. You won’t have to be hurting all the time.” “If you go back it will be worse than you imagine. Your body is failing- BADLY. YOU do push it.”
    “Yuh think?”
    Yes I do. You push it SMARTASS! I do not foresee that changing.”
    ” Oh s#:t ! I always have pushed the envelope.”
    “Yes. You have.”
    I knew the darkness. It was blacker then the space between the stars. The hands of the inhabitants of the infernal regions clutched me! I stared into VOID! A place and a nothingness at the same time. It was deeper then eternity. It stared back INTO ME! The claws of the denizens of darkness strove to hold me! I had known the light. I could make my way back. No wants, no conflicts, none of our human prejudice and stupidity. I felt the belonging of the light. I reveled in it’s beauty and compassion. I could not stay, not yet. Have I learned enough? Don’t over think it, choices made. Now I really can teach. I’ve found how little I know. How much I still have to learn. That’s the hardest lesson. The one we have to teach to our self.
    A spark! A glimmer of light through closed eyelids. A jolt of pain sharper then anything I’d ever known. VOICES! Thought? Put any two concepts together.
    I woke up. Out of a coma that lasted 12 days. Died they told me , once for 33 seconds ( Didn’t scare them. I was hooked to all the machines they thought remotely needed with others there just because ), the next time I died for 2 minutes and 48 seconds. That freaked them out , one of the nurses told me afterwards, because I flat lined the E.E.G. for a little over two minutes. Yes, thank you, I’ve heard the brain dead jokes. I still can’t get a good answer to how I came out of a coma I wasn’t even supposed to be able to get into in the first place.
    I died a third time to pay the law of three. The doctor took the main line, they’d had to use to clean my blood, out wrong.
    It was the shortest time I was gone. They got me back pretty fast because they had plasma and O-Neg in the ICU to hang if they needed it. It was the hardest time to come back from where the living ( or whatever you’d call it ) was easy. If I’d know my talents in the “Craft” would be honed and I’d be able to go “elsewhen” and ” otherwhere” – planewalking, it would have been a no-brainer. Even though the shorting of my VNS and beating on my CNS brought cascading health problems that would put me in the hospital for 8 1/2 years out of 25. Even though it took me 6 months of therapy to learn to walk, talk, feed myself and dress myself, I’d still do it again. I’ve seen suffering enough that death is an old friend. I’ve been a voice in the dark to ease the way, and ears to listen when Death hovers near and family and friends have all taken that path.
    I saw a young girl in an ER. She looked frightened and alone, clutching a Teddy Bear like it was the only reality. My suspicions were verified when a nurse walked through her. I called her over. I don’t know how long she had been there, but she lit up like a light bulb when somebody noticed her. We talked a bit and I helped her pass over. I’ve just done the mundane. I helped a janitor get his GED and student nurses with tutoring. I’ve tried to be a bandage on a suffering, bleeding world.
    And that little girl I was informed of, we didn’t know that my wife was pregnant when I died. Later that year we had — wait for it — a daughter. She has grown into an accomplished young woman. Plays two musical instruments, fluent in Russian, marshal arts black-belt, helps in food pantries and lunch programs, and has two Masters degrees. She has done every bit of the heavy lifting on all these achievements . Many people have helped her. I ( because I was lucky enough to become more and more immobile ) got to be a stay at home dad. There was always a place with an adult to be safe and have fun with friends. I also got to touch the lives of some great kids. So I guess that entity(ies) was right. BETTER

    If some of the dialogue seems a little disjointed, I had to take it from an old notebook that an orderly took down for me soon after I came out of that coma. I wanted to get it down while it was fresh in my mind. If I had waited, I don’t know if I would have believed it myself.

    I hope you enjoyed this part of my story.
    Teacher, Philosopher of the vagaries of life,writer and persistent irritant to push people out of their comfort zone and make them think.
    You have my E-mail address for my working address so I check it every day or two. Drop me a message anytime. I love to converse with another writer.

    • Karen DeBonis on July 25, 2018 at 9:56 AM

      Fascinating, W. Dan. What a rich and fulfilling life you came back to, in spite of your illness.

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