Ignorance is Bliss

The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that made me sit up and take notice.  It said, “Ignorance is NOT bliss!”  At first, I loved it.  I am a the-truth-will-set-you-free kind of girl.  But I stopped to think about it for a while more.  Is ignorance really bliss?  Or not?  Never?  Or sometimes?

So I did a little digging about the origin of the phrase and found the original poem written in the 1700’s by Sir Thomas Gray. Gray nostalgically reminisces about the bliss of youth with its carefree days unaffected by the realities of adult life.  The poem reveals Gray’s double perspective that not only is ignorance bliss but knowledge is misery.

Ignorance has its place in life during childhood.  Parents are obliged to protect their children from knowledge which is too much for them to bear, too confusing for their minds to process.  For a time, children can operate successfully under the “need-to-know basis” of adult protection.  But ignorance, or lack of awareness, only works if there is a mindful adult to do the protecting.  Otherwise, the news media will educate on behalf of un-invested adults.

As we grow and become independent, we are obligated to develop an adult mind of our own. Events occur that require our attention. Either the events in our families and our communities will define us, or our response to the events will. We always have a choice.

Grown-up knowledge brings an awareness of the world.  Whatever idealizations we had are altered by real life.  This is a necessary part of growing up.

In this life we will see much suffering. We will also see many joys. If we are not mindful and intent, suffering and pain can become the focus. One need only watch the news.

Sometimes, I long to return to the days before I understood what membership in adulthood would require of me. Those peaceful moments of play and unawareness of suffering.

Instead, I have an obligation to respond to my insights and awareness as an adult

  • Either an event will define you, or your response to the event will. You choose.
  • Love is more powerful than pain.
  • People in pain often speak quietly because the world is not prepared for their brand of heavy.
  • Death does not end a relationship – it forever changes it.
  • Everyone has a story worth telling and worth hearing. Once you know a person’s story you are forever connected to their joy and their pain.

At this time of the year, many have heavy hearts and are confused about how to navigate the:

  • Death of a loved one
  • End of a relationship
  • Diagnosis or reoccurrence of an illness
  • Job loss
  • Move across the country
  • Separation or divorce
  • Family turmoil and strained relationships

The list goes on … and there are often children involved.

 It’s okay

It’s okay to cry

It’s okay to laugh

It’s okay to be angry

It’s okay to ask for help

It is okay to be quiet for a time

It’s okay to change traditions – or not

It’s necessary to make space for your pain

Hope will return

It’s okay


Once we learn something, we cannot unlearn it. We are no longer unaware of pain in the world around us. Awareness requires action. Action generates hope … and hope is a wonderful word for any time of the year.

If you, or someone you know, can use encouragement, coaching or counseling during this season, please share this blog and my contact information. It would be my privilege to be a partner through pain – to hope.


Ms. Cheryl Held
Held Together Counseling and Coaching


How can we make a well-articulated NO feel as comfortable as a whole-hearted YES?

There is something about the holiday season that makes me pause to consider motivation for overcommitting and the tendency to be busy?

Why are we unable to say no?

What is our need to say yes just because someone asks?

If we are brutally honest, there are questions to consider about our motivations for over commitment – our tendency to be busy.


Is it about receiving recognition from others?

Are we looking for a pat on the back? Or trying to keep everyone happy – even those who wouldn’t be pleased regardless of what we did? Are you saying yes in an effort to stand out? Are you exhausted and still saying yes?

If so, we may be spreading ourselves thin by committing to that which has no long term value or honest interest to our goals. What if others withhold the pat on the back, or the recognition we want?  We are left feeling empty but still crazy busy.


Is it about money?

The drive toward financial security can cause us to believe that what we have is not enough. It encourages workaholism.  We say yes to making our schedule over booked.

We commit our time to things that take us away from the essence of our professional selves. Some believe that with higher income comes deeper respect.  Self-respect is not measured in dollars.


Is it about your passions?

My daughter is one of those people, who at a young age, focused intently on what was interesting to her. She was inherently good at discerning how to use her time (not always what I thought she might want to be interested in!) and what she wasn’t. She remains true to herself and her passions to this day.

I am passionate about a wide variety of things: art, family, children, life coaching, death education, mixed media journaling, faith in God, cooking, relationships, friends, writing a book, teaching, learning, travel, process oriented art … you can understand why being passionate becomes exhausting, confusing and overwhelming.

We live in an age when those of us with a wide range of interests have vast access to information and opportunities pertaining to our interests. There is no end to the possibilities for over commitment.  Causes are worthy – needs are real. Resources are limited.

  • What would it mean to take control of your schedule?
  • Are you willing to stop saying yes too many times?
  • Can you narrow your focus toward a more grace centered and committed approach?
  • What would a less harried life, filled with more joy, look like to you?


How can we make a well-articulated NO feel as comfortable as a whole-hearted YES?

This time of the year, we have finite time and energy. We need to be careful about how our resources are spent, and consider what the motivation is.

  • Saying no allows other people to say yes. They can step up to use their time, energy and resources.
  • Delegating responsibilities is an excellent use of leadership skills in the home, in the work place, and in philanthropic situations.
  • Asking for help gives others the opportunity to serve and use their talents. Asking for help is a sign of self-awareness, it is not a sign of weakness.


May we be motivated by simplicity in this season.

Let your YES represent the essence of you!

Partnering with people in the process of life coaching toward effective decisions is a privilege for me. If you, or someone you know, would benefit from life coaching or counseling during this season, please share my contact information.


Feel free to share this message.
I sincerely appreciate your support and your referrals.


Cheryl Held
HeldTogether LLC


Today we remember and celebrate the life of our son – a day that I have decided to call ‘the last of the firsts’ …

The pain of grief changes us.
Over time, grief itself changes.

Pain has a purpose in the journey; it is part of the healing, but is an unwelcome companion.

I have come to understand why some choose to deal ineffectively with the pain of grief – because confronting it is hard work. Grief leads us into an unfamiliar maze, and challenges us to figure our way out.

When it’s hard to think, when feelings are jumbled, when words don’t come – that’s confirmation that the maze exists, and you are in it.

The maze of grief is our new reality.

Grief is slow, unpredictable, and unsettling. It evokes the deepest, most unfamiliar emotions I have ever experienced.

Grief is palpable – a full body experience. It is at times dull and achy or weighty, while at other times raw and crushing. The maze can be overwhelming, leaving the mourner empty, yet simultaneously filled with thoughts and emotions that are unfamiliar.

In my maze, God was ever present. The essence of my pain made His presence difficult for me to comprehend. It is a daily longing of my heart to feel divine presence and peace.

The physical and emotional pain of grief is, at times, indescribable. Some are unable to enter into those painful spaces in the lives of others.  Being with us in what I have come to call ‘the sacred space of grief’ is intimate and vulnerable; authentic.

Entering into that sacred space means you recognize the pain, and you are not afraid to be in the maze of grief; present with us..

The maze is too complex to manage alone.

Grief is lonely.

To those of you who have been with my family through any part or every part of this crazy journey, please accept my gratitude.

Thank you:
For listening to our hearts
For offering comfort
For accepting silence and understanding our lack of words
For acknowledging our fears
For encouraging us toward wholeness
For recognizing that we are in a period of refinement
For not being afraid of the pain
For your words spoken authentically
For the hugs, the texts, the messages …. the love

Thank you for walking through this year with us.



I’ve come to realize that questions can be a friend or an enemy. Some people have the ability to ask a question in a way that promotes good conversation – that recognizes where I am, does not judge where I should be, and communicates hope. Others do not.

I have tried to utilize the art of asking good questions as a person, as a mom, as a friend and as a professional. There is an art to asking questions in the best of times and in the worst of times, but there is more to it. In the best of times, conversation comes easily. In the worst of times, when chaos comes, and families struggle to figure things out, questions either help or hurt.

Some people don’t ask good questions – the nature and intent of their questioning isn’t authentic; it’s judgmental or indifferent. The other person is left feeling injured or interrogated. Realistically there are three parts to the skill of asking questions:

  • Think first
  • Ask authentically
  • Listen to the answer

Let’s start an authentic and effective conversation by asking good questions:

  • What are you most afraid of?
  • What’s one good decision you made today?
  • What secret do you need to deal with?
  • Can you tell when someone is lying?
  • Has one person ever really changed your life?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What could you do better?
  • What are you most proud of?

There are unanswerable questions in life. The ones we avoid and that bring us to our knees. Wrestling with these questions can lead us into self-reflective opportunities for growth. The inability to answer questions is not the same as a failure to grapple with them.

Even a tough question asked respectfully, with kindness and compassion can change everything.

Remember, sometimes there is no need to ask a question. Instead:

  • Pray
  • Be still
  • Listen
  • Rest


Are ready to ask and answer some interesting questions?

Great Questions for Anyone

  • Who has been the most important person in your life? Can you tell me about him or her?
  • What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
  • Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
  • Who has been the kindest to you in your life?
  • What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
  • What are you proudest of?
  • When in life have you felt most alone?
  • If you could hold on to one memory from your life forever, what would that be?
  • How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • Do you have any regrets?
  • Is there something about me that you’ve always wanted to know but have never asked?
  • What do you believe about God?


Blessings to you, as you ask yourself and others authentic and respectful questions.




Accepting Responsibility

Accepting Responsibility


Have you ever looked at some of the people you know and wondered how in the world do they get themselves into such trouble?

How about professional athletes? Politicians?

How is it that their lives are so public but they sometimes lack accountability for their actions? We are often left to vote for the lesser of two evils, or cheer for the team … and not because we trust them or believe what they say, but because we are trying to understand how lives can go so terribly wrong on such a public arena.

I’ve just had a “big” birthday – one of those milestone numbers. It gave me an opportunity to look back over my life and consider some of the choices I’ve made – times when I came to a crossroads and made a poor decision. I’d like to tell you I learned from all of my mistakes – but I am a slow learner. Some mistakes I’ve repeated more than once. The consequences of bad decisions are painful and allow others to question our integrity or competence.

The good news is we can all learn to make better choices and decisions – but we have a teachable spirit.

  • Are you willing to look at the decisions that you make, or need to make, or have made, that are affecting your relationships?
  • Will you accept responsibility for your decisions? Life can be difficult. Are you responsible for your choices and your actions? Or do you play the victim and blame others?
  • You will be misunderstood in life. This may happen at work, in friendships or in your family. Others will see you and your decisions through their life experiences. How do you handle the inevitability of being misunderstood?
  • Speak the truth. Being responsible means being honest. Are you willing to speak the truth under difficult circumstances – when the stakes are high?

With a teachable spirit, and a desire for self-awareness, we can work together to help make life choices and decisions that you will be confident with.

If you have a birthday coming up, here’s wishing you the best of times.