My Hallelujah Thanksgiving

It might sound strange, but Muppets are necessary for me at this time in my life, because they remind me there is hope. You see, there are places in my mind and heart – doorways really – full of such sorrow that I do not want to enter. Yet these doors get blown open over and over again with each trauma, whether it is personal, national or global. Our relentless erosion of life, in all its forms, such as in Aleppo, Standing Rock, our President-elect, my own wounds – all point to this wearing away of life, and right now wearing away my ability to be hopeful.

How interesting that a frog, pig, a couple of old geezers, a foul-smelling talking green monster in a garbage can, an 8-foot yellow bird, a falsetto voiced ball of red fur, and a myriad of other strange creatures can lead me to ponder and write about some of the most important, yet uncertain, things in life

In their own childlike manner, the Muppets invite me to connect to life, help me make meaning of my life. They remind me that there is some measure of comfort, safety and certainty in the world, when what I see is cold, uncaring and destructive.

Over the decades, I have vacillated many times between joy and despair. In the times of despair, too overwhelmed by deeper layers of wounds to understand my world, I have been able to find resilience, faith and courage to return to the life. Each time I have returned to a place I can call home – me.

The Unforeseen Roll Call of Fallout

Then one day in February this year I found myself smack in the middle of ICU for a week, no longer able to breathe on my own. That ordinary, involuntary mechanism of the nose, mouth and lungs had been taken away. It’s that breathing you do when you first come into this world when you no longer use your amniotic sac for life. The kind of breathing you never think you will abdicate or have to learn how to do all over again.

As the months have ticked by, the ongoing roll call of past traumas has marched through my life. Experiences and memories have surfaced, triggered by this event – times when I could not breathe, was not allowed to breathe – and I have lost my balance. I have become unable to see the beauty and disaster, the joys AND the sufferings that had always earmarked my life as my wholeness.

Now I wonder sometimes if what I am immersed in, the fallout as I call it, is the time my resiliency meter will finally register zero. Back in March, as I emerged from the hospital after almost three weeks, my “self’ as I had know her was gone. I had become accustomed to knowing there always this tiny piece of perseverance, my foundation – the SELF. It had been my rock to stand on through traumas, accidents, addiction, deaths and great loss in life. Psychologically we need to be able to negotiate life conditions and navigate challenges with this “self” and I discovered that what I had known of “me” was no longer.

Becoming the Dark

I find myself thrown into major depression – not being in the dark, but becoming the dark. I had always thought of myself as tough, like one of those people who could survive anything. Now I’m not so sure. Everything there is to do seems like hard work. When I see a voicemail on my phone, all I can think is that there is something else to take care of, to manage. And I have nothing left.

It’s tough to describe… I am watching a movie of myself. The woman I had known and thought I was, left several months back, and what is before me now is devoid of content. Or sometimes I think, “It’s lunchtime, so I should make some food, but I’d have to get the food out and put it on a plate and cut it up and chew it and swallow it, and it feels like the Stations of the Cross.”

I know this sounds ridiculous to many. I know most everyone has no problem listening to messages and returning calls. Most people manage to eat lunch and organize themselves to take a shower and go out the front door to work, to run simple errands and it’s not a big deal, and yet I am unable to figure out any way around it. And so I feel myself thinking less and feeling less. It’s a kind of nullity.

It’s as if a vicious predator came to my home a few months ago and took my breath, didn’t ask me. This demon penetrated its way into me, and now all I am is a troubled stranger lingering between hope and desperation. Lingering on a fragile rope that spans a bottomless, dark ravine and I am suspended too far from either side to see anything with clarity.

I feel afraid and lost in my own backyard. I remember during active addiction, using was really a slow march to death. I think this is like a slower way of being dead. But I stay alive. I had the choice back in February to leave… I even went and checked out the other side, but some part of me decided to stay. It’s like a funeral in the brain, as Emily Dickinson puts it.

The Hallelujah of My Muppet People

I have been thrust into a powerful crisis within myself, and I can’t turn it off. A dear friend listening to me simply said, “You need to let yourself die. That is what is happening for you. And now you need to let a hospital help you too.” Of course, that brought on a resounding “NO WAY!” I can’t begin to tell you hard it can be to see all the creative ways of transforming depression. And that is the Hallelujah of Thanksgiving – take the gift of healing being offered you in any given moment. Hallelujah means “praise.” Specifically, “praise the Lord,” but ultimately it is praise of what is holy, it is the ultimate expression of thanksgiving – however it presents itself.

I have a psychiatrist, therapist, a few friends, and family members who check on me regularly, who help me find my way, who listen even when they know they can’t understand. These are the “muppet people” in my world. Muppets are all different voices and colors, with idiosyncrasies, talents, frustrations and silly ways, yet they each have no doubt WHATSOEVER they belong to each other. AND they need each other for every kooky, crazy, scary adventure in life.

My “muppet people” remind me that while I may not always know WHO I am, I can know WHOSE I am. To ask “Whose am I?” is to extend beyond my world and wonder who needs me? Whom do I love and who loves me? With every word and action, whose life is altered? Who calls on me and whom do I call upon? Whose trust is placed in me? Whose lives am I entwined with?

Basically – I am me, because of you. No way around it. I have that covenant with all. My muppet people remind me to trust the pattern of life they see, even when I can’t see it. They tell me life still wants something from me. They echo a familiar voice, by mirroring back my own powerful, life-giving storytelling. Each of their voices reverberate inside, telling me that their life matters because my life matters.

It’s in gentle, quiet ways – cooking me a meal, sending a text, making jokes about mental illness when needed, and basically sharing their own stories, reminding me of our common humanity. Often times it is done silently – with their simple presence.

I don’t know what comes next, what comes now or what will be required of me as I continue to touch the dark ooze of my psyche and my heart. What I do know is that if nothing is wasted in nature, then the same must be true for me, for you, for all our lives – nothing is wasted.

Today, my Hallelujah Thanksgiving is remembering I am not falling apart for no good reason, but rather, dying so that the pieces that need to come back together will, and the new pieces that have yet to be born can be birthed, stronger than I can ever imagine, in my broken open places.

One day I hope I can say to another, “I have been this way and there is a way through.” In the meantime, I sing the “Hallelujah” words from Leonard Cohen:
There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

I give thanks for my “Muppet People.” May you give thanks for yours. Let us sing Hallelujah so each can know the “praise of what is holy,” which is their own holiness and WHOSE they are. Blessings!


  1. Joy Cleary November 24, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    I need you. I love you. You are one of those rare people in my life that I have spent very little time with but that for some unknown reason are important to me. I would feel more ‘lost at sea’ if you weren’t here.
    The velveteen rabbit was so dear because it had had so much wear and tear. You may have lopsided ears so it is now difficult to hear some things, and you may be missing one eye so it is difficult to see your way but know that you are loved because of your humanity. Because you are Real. I give thanks today for you being real.

  2. Dave Cooperberg November 24, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Wow! I am so touched. Tears, memories arise, and the clarity of your prose. Love you for you, your open sharing, and of course your sometimes wicked sense of humor. Funny how the very first time I met you, I KNEW you. There was this basic connection. It hasn’t happen that way very often in my life. Maybe it can as I open up more. But I am forever grateful (I spelled great-full at first) for you, and all the other ‘yous’ in the world who help me see/be me, and appreciate being alive. By the way, I recognize that space where getting up out of bed seems to take herculean efforts. I don’t think I knew that phrase, ‘One step at a time’ back then, but it fits. You make my Thanksgiving. And now I am going to share this with someone who I think could really be helped by hearing you. Thanks again.

  3. kelly isola November 24, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Thank you David. I so deeply love your presence in my life. ❤️❤️❤️

  4. kelly isola November 24, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Thank you sweet JOY of my life. 🙂 Make a beautiful day and may we always be REAL! ❤️❤️❤️

  5. Maria November 24, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Thank you Kelly
    Thank you for the Whose I am. It’s a great perspective. Glad you have muppets.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  6. Elaine Meyer November 24, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Absolutely poignant. You are the hero in this story, coming from this experience and helping us all to understand by providing a glimpse into who you once were and who you are coming into being. Your words have the power and potential to help others dealing with NDEs. Much love and respect, my friend.

  7. kelly isola November 24, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Love you truly, madly, deeply. And you are an integral part of my being and becoming. ❤️❤️❤️

  8. Judi November 24, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    I love you and care deeply.

  9. Nance November 24, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    Your the window cracked open allowing fresh air in. Your that break in the clouds, a burst of light, you know the one that makes you go, “wooooo” and makes your eyes open wide taking in the colors. Yes that’s you. Your the one opening doors to show possibilities. Your the teacher and the student. The patient and the healer. The song and the sweet silence. We are all so much better because you touch our lives and heart with your teachings. You challenged me to open my eyes to take it all in. The bad and the good. They go hand in hand. Negative and positive. You lead me to balance. Our bodies are such a frail vessel of chemicals, hormones and bones. Yet incredibly resilient too! What you experienced, during your hospital stay. It is proof of your strength and your resilience. It was Understandably a core shaker. a big doozy of a reality shake up! You fighter for life, kicked its ass! You champion of wellness! I hope soon after your body gets stronger and your axis has centered. You will be SO MUCH more at peace with what you experienced. I can’t even come close to imagining what it felt like during or after that. But I can understand how it would knock a gal off balance. So you take care of yourself and take as much time as you need to feel better. It isn’t a race, take as much time as you need. I have and always love to read your thoughts. Listen to your talks. For the moment, I pray for the day you find pleasure in just simply opening your eyes when you wake up in the morning. Sweet Soul, love to you and the most radiant vibrant healing energy to wrap around you.

  10. kelly isola November 24, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    thank you nancy, your words have made the sun come up in my heart. bless you for blessing me! xoxo

  11. Christine November 25, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Wow! You are a blessing and an inspiration. I love you! ?

  12. kelly isola November 25, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    right back at ya! <3 <3 <3

  13. Carla McClellan November 25, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    Kelly as always you touch the heart of the questions that matter. I love you and so enjoy your writings because I see life differently through your eyes and feel life more preciously.

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