Monthly Archives: September 2021

A Magical Elixir of Life

Gilgamesh Cunieform

Gilgamesh and his best friend Enkidu had many adventures together. Then Enkidu died. Gilgamesh was inconsolable with grief and loneliness. But he was also afraid of his own death. He spent the remainder of his life searching for a magical elixir that could allow him to live forever.  

Gilgamesh was a mythical king of Uruk, a Sumerian city-state in what is now Iraq.  His story is told in the Epic of Gilgamesh, written between 2150 – 1400 BCE.  It was the first major piece of literature in the western world and has survived only in fragmented form. One version includes a story about a man who saved his family and animals aboard a boat during a great flood (probably a floating reed platform like those used for millennia by the Marsh Arabs until Saddam Hussein gassed them to death in the 1980’s).  Today we know the Old Testament adaptation of the story as Noah and the Great Flood. 

Gilgamesh’s story may have been written over 4000 years ago, but he was not so different from us today.  We are still looking for the magical elixir of life.  Gilgamesh hoped the gods would tell him the secret to immortality but they never did.

Today, our “gods” are the allegedly scientific studies on the benefits of exercise and healthy food.  I say alleged because the studies usually provide conflicting advice and are often sponsored by industries that have a stake in the outcome.  

For example, years ago a study told us not to eat eggs because they have cholesterol which is bad for us. Then a study told us that eggs are loaded with protein; so they are good for us. The poultry industry celebrated.  Another study told us sugar is bad for us because it can cause diabetes. Then a study claimed that lab rats died from consuming massive quantities of saccharine and other sugar substitutes.  Suddenly sugar was good for us again. Sugar beet farmers and sugarcane refineries rejoiced.

Along with dietary changes, we’re told to exercise regularly.  Anyone with the requisite income can buy a Pelaton exercise machine and a subscription to have a 20-something fitness instructor haranguing them via a video link.  After we pass the age of 40, do we really think we’ll look ripped like a 20-year-old? Do we really want to?  I’d rather sit in a comfortable chair with a suitable beverage and a bag of pretzels while I watch 20-somethings playing soccer or football. 

Here’s what all the pundits of longevity never admit.  If we live forever, we’ll outline all our friends. We won’t have anyone to talk to who shares our life’s experiences. We’ll end up as lonely as Gilgamesh was after Enkidu died.  Instead of agonizing over living forever, why not accept that the magical elixir to long life is a sense of humor and enjoying time spent with friends, family, and our favorite foods?

Norma Shirk is an author, speaker, business owner and an attorney. In 2011, she founded Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, LLC (, a human resources consulting firm for small employers. 

She writes a weekly blog that alternates between human resources issues ( and history (History by Norma,  She is also a founder and monthly contributor to the Her Savvy blog,   In 2018, she published, Psycho Bosses and Obnoxious Co-Workers, an amusing look at workplace behavior.

Ms. Shirk frequently speaks to a variety of audiences on topics ranging from human resources issues to historical events and persons.

She may be contacted at

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The Other Side of the Couch – Don’t Wait

Photo by Todd Trapani on

Twenty years.  Hard to believe it has been twenty years.  The pain has receded; it isn’t daily now as it was in the first several years.  When it returns it is tempered now by sweet memories of better days.  The things we did together, the moments of laughter we shared, the trips we took – these are precious now. 

Twenty years.  Hard to believe it has been twenty years.  The pain has receded, but when it returns it is jagged and still painful and hard to understand.  The pain has not been worked through – it seems instead burned into our memories without healing.

Today, September 11, has two meanings for me. 

First, this day would have been my dad’s 101st birthday.  He was born in 1920, and he died unexpectedly on the 5th of July, 2001.  The first anniversary of his birth occurred on the day that the 9/11 attacks shook our country to the core.  Now, twenty years later, we are remembering as a nation that terrible day.  I, as a single human being, am remembering both the terrorist attack and the loss of a beloved father.

The most important lesson for me out of all this loss is a simple one.  Don’t wait.  Don’t wait to visit loved ones. Don’t wait to say you love them.  Don’t wait to take that trip, to write that story down, to share happy memories.  Our time on this earth is not a given, and we never really know what is ahead.

I didn’t know on July 1, 2001 that the phone call I had with my father would be the last time I heard his voice.  Thousands didn’t know on September 11, 2001 that they were saying good-bye for the last time.

Don’t wait.  It may be the last thing you ever get to say or do.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at
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Happy 5782

For the Jewish people, this week marks the beginning of the year 5782. It’s been quite a year for everyone, not just for the Jews. Now some may say I’m taking the easy out by re-publishing an old post from Rosh Hashanah 5780, but let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to reflect back on the “before times,” a little? So, without further ado, I present, “Happy New Year — Asking for Forgiveness.” Here’s wishing everyone a happier, healthier, sweeter year.

As I sit writing this month’s post, I am in a contemplative mood.  The Jewish High Holidays are around the corner, in fact as of the publication date, it is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  And the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, are also called “The Days of Awe.”  These are the holiest days for us and an opportunity to reflect on the past year, to take stock of ourselves and our lives and to think about how we can grow into better versions of ourselves in the coming year. 

One of the most important things we do at this time is to ask forgiveness of those we’ve wronged or hurt during the year.  It is customary to do this in person but in these days of electronic communication, many accomplish this task via social media.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe it is always appropriate to ask forgiveness in whatever fashion is available.  But much like sending an email thank you note, to me it falls in the “better than nothing,” category.  In other words, not as personal and seems like the easy way out.  But…better than nothing.  There is also the mandate that if you are the person who is being asked for forgiveness, that you must try to accept.  If, after three attempts you cannot accept, the person doing the asking is “off the hook,” so to speak. 

Why all this focus on forgiveness being asked for and granted?  I don’t have a rabbinic answer, but I do have my answer.  To be honest, I have a very difficult time admitting when I’m wrong.  I know I inherited this from my dad and try as I might, it’s probably the thing I struggle with the hardest in relationships (ask my husband for more on that).  But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that admitting you’ve been wrong and asking for forgiveness is one of the strongest things a person can do.  Taking responsibility for our actions, I believe, is fundamental to fostering and maintaining healthy relationships.  Not only that, but granting forgiveness when asked is also fundamental.  These behaviors serve to level the playing field between people.  Recognizing our basic, common humanity, moving beyond our mistakes and even loving each other in spite of it all is perhaps the trickiest, and yet, most rewarding thing in a relationship. 

This coming year, I hope to become better at admitting when I’m wrong, asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness to others.  And while I can’t actually ask each of you in person, I’ll take advantage of this forum to ask for forgiveness if I’ve hurt or wronged you in any way.  To those I can ask in person, stay tuned.  And to everyone, here’s wishing a happy, healthy and sweet New Year, whatever your faith, tradition, practice or belief.  Because who couldn’t use a little more happy, healthy and sweet? 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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