The upside down surprise cake that is my life comes from a recipe. Arianna Huffington shared it with me on her 2014 book tour for Thrive. She promised me and the New York City Center theatre of listeners that we can thrive any time, no matter what. We may not control what happens in life, but we have the power to interpret it. This lens plus the toolbox of mindfulness, meditation, yoga, enough sleep and surrounding yourself with a ‘thrive tribe’ of friends is the recipe to create and sustain a life of well-being, wellness and wonder. Below is a song I wrote that encapsulates her recipe and how it changed my life.

Thriving back then felt inconceivable, surviving itself was a challenge. My mom had died suddenly. I was getting divorced. After 25 years as a New York City songwriter, I was moving home to Vermont to be an innkeeper. I was as wobbly as a newborn colt, but Arianna reached out her hand. She also invited me to write and share my story. Day by day, season by season, year after year, my ever increasing joy proves she’s right.

But recently, I’ve been thrown from my happy horse. My Kryptonite has returned. A conflict that’s been brewing and swelling for years will inevitably crescendo in court. Stress, frustration, overwhelm and anger have replaced all my thrive-driven habits.

Negative thoughts create negative actions. I see how these bad patterns spiral. I feel myself sucked into this toxic vortex – I don’t want to lose all my joy! But how do you resist the pull of the tar pit? How do you sidestep a cyclone?

I think of the iconic black and white photo of workmen dangling high above Manhattan. As they took out their lunchbox, impervious to the dangers, I force myself to calmly open my toolbox to thrive.

I notice my stress like an outside observer. I let it unfold without judgment. I refill my well with sleep that fortifies and reboots me. I watch shows with feisty protagonists like Wonder Woman and Miss Fisher. Their moxie and resilience inspires me.

And when I’m ready, I emerge from my cocoon to walk my dog, cook and reach out to friends.

I sing from the rooftops the mantra I made up for my son when he was anxious about high school admissions: NO MATTER WHAT, WE CELEBRATE! And, no matter what the judge decides, I will celebrate that it’s over. No matter what, I choose to thrive. 

So here’s Arianna’s recipe, tweaked just a little:

1. Observe and acknowledge your feelings without judgment.

2. Give yourself privacy and time to rest.

3. Instead of shutting down, force yourself to reach out. Allow people who love you to support you.

4. Say yes to activities that give you pleasure.

5. Write in your journal first thing, last thing, and any time in between.

6. Eat nourishing food that you prepare yourself. 

7. Move your body on a walk or at the gym to release your emotions.

8. Look through old photos like you’re savoring your own time capsule. It will flood you with positive feelings and reconnect you to your happy place once more.

9. Turn your feelings into art, no talent required. Creativity always leads to catharsis and clarity. 

10. NO MATTER WHAT, CELEBRATE! Things will look up immediately.

Nothing has changed except my perspective, yet that alone is everything. From a thrive mindset, anything is possible. I promise Arianna is right.

Thank you, Arianna, then and now, for being my INNspiration. May her recipe inspire you too to thrive, and bloom and grow forever.


  • Melissa Levis

    Singing Vermont Family Innkeeper

    Wilburton Inn

    Melissa Levis thrives every day as she exuberantly celebrates her mid-life renaissance. After 25 years as a New York City songwriter, Melissa took a leap of faith. She traded her unhappy marriage and skyscraper on the Upper East Side for a 'Green Acres' life in Manchester Vermont. Now this prodigal daughter is a singing family innkeeper beside her father, siblings, son and Canine Concierge, Jetson, at the Wilburton Inn. Melissa shares her enthusiasm for decorating, party throwing, parenting, hospitality, traveling, and of course her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Parisian beau. Melissa wakes up happy full of wonder and appreciation for her ever winding Yellow Brick Road of adventure. Melissa spent the past 30 years writings and performing Custom Songs for philanthropists, politicians, movie stars and CEOS. From 2005-2015, she was an children's rock star performing for thousands of kids every year helming her band, Moey’s Music Party. Her CD, “Princess Revolution!” received a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Melissa began her career leading a cheeky Hamptons rock band, Melissa & the Moguls. Their CD was "Ooh La La Hamptons!" Her award-winning musical, “The Joys of Sex” transfered from the New York Fringe Festival to a million dollar run Off-Broadway. Melissa has been profiled in The New York Times, The New York Post, Harper's Bazaar and others. She loved writing for the Huffington Post and is honored to write for Thrive Global. She is a graduate of Middlesex School and Brown University and has an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from New York University. She gave a TEDx talk on the Midlife Renaissance.