Monday, September 29, 2008

A difficult day

I couldn't think of a single thing to say at the end of a day like yesterday, with the stock market dropping 778 points. So I threw something up, but now I want to just say, what the fuck?

I don't understand this really - I mean, I know that there are "experts" who say there has to be a bailout, because "look! 1.2 trillion dollars lost in one day." But was it really lost? How do you lose a trillion dollars? And then today if the market goes up, is it suddenly found? I was reading the "experts" on the Huffington Post yesterday and they were writing about the bailout being unnecessary, helping Wall Street, not Main Street, and then I found out that the Dow dropped 778 points which will affect everyone and that lenders won't be able to lend, and therefore the economy may collapse - but really won't that mean that people with money can buy lots of stocks and get great bargains and then when the market goes up again, they will be even richer? Through all of this, I can only suggest remembering to breathe, since other than writing letters and complaining, what else can we do?

Our beloved Lucy, the 12 year-old beagle is having another surgery on her ear, she has another huge blood clot. The cost: $800. I can understand why people are having to abandon their pets, when vet costs are so high.

One of the people in our monologue night has dropped out. Jake - our wonderful Jake who had all the experience producing shows. We are now waiting to find another person to participate. This is stressful too. I did find a prop I needed - red cowboy boots.

Today I am going to visit my mother. That is never easy. Before I leave, I will do my meditation and try to maintain a zen attitude all day. That requires much breathing and possibly ice cream.

In honor of my cousin Rosanne, I may take a trip to Coney Island, which is just a few stops on the train from my mother's residence. Rosanne and I used to sneak off to Coney Island and ride the Cyclone, the famous wooden roller coaster, screaming our heads off and getting back on the line to do it over and over again. The Cyclone seems a bit like life these days.


I'm not writing about Roseanne, the comedian, I'm writing about my cousin Rosanne. Yesterday I found out that she died. She died six months ago and no one in my immediate family knew about it.

There were four first cousins on my mother's side of the family. My sister Dale and my cousin Susan, are seven years older than my cousin Rosanne and me. Almost every Saturday of my childhood the entire family, aunts, uncles and cousins, would gather at my grandfather's house in Bed Stuy and have big family meals, straight out of a Woody Allen movie, with lots of arguing and lots of food. Rosanne and Susan were both only children. Rosanne's dad, Abe, was the oldest sibling and he worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. His temper was legendary and his wife, Margie, was a Lucille Ball lookalike. I always loved to stay at Rosanne's apartment on Lenox Avenue in Brooklyn because it was so different from the suburbs. (Which she loved.) They lived in a small two bedroom apartment and they didn't seem to have a lot of money, but Rosanne got everything she wanted. Her room liked like F.A.O. Schwartz. She also got spanked, a real over the knee kind of punishment - which never happened in my house. We got hit, but never spanked. I always felt so sad for Rosanne when she got spanked while I was staying with her. It was so humiliating, although I was never in the same room, I could hear her cries. She also ate ketchup sandwiches every night before she went to bed, probably until she got to high school when she became quite a goddess. She had very long, straight brown hair (I was jealous, I had to set mine on giant rollers and sit under a hair dryer for over an hour - I was more the Roseanne Rosanna Danna type.) Boys were always falling all over themselves around her.

She became a midwife at a large city hospital and got married in her twenties. Her husband was an anesthesiologist and soon after they had a baby, a son named David, her husband died.

She moved to Florida and her parents joined her there. The three of them raised David. She ran her department in a large public hospital and never remarried. Everything was going well, until around 10 years ago, when she contracted Hepatitis C. I don't know many of the details because, as adults, we weren't very close. Her parents died. I'd moved to California in my twenties, then back to NY and we lost touch. I got my information from Dale, who remained in contact with Rosanne. We have such a small family, there weren't many weddings or Bar Mitzvahs. People live all over the country and we don't communicate very often, other than an occasional holiday card. There was one family gathering at our loft in SoHo, probably in 2000, because I remember that Zoe and David and several other members of the family went to the top of the World Trade Center.

Yesterday, I got a call from my nephew Andrew (Dale's son) that he had heard from David that Rosanne died in March. She was sick with Hep C, Lupus, Arthritis and Restless Leg Syndrome and the pain was too much for her. She stopped taking her meds and died. She never called hospice, or anyone in the family. She was constantly fighting with her insurance company for coverage, David was her only support, and she'd had enough. David has no contact with his father's family and he waited six months to call us. I spoke to him last night and I may be going to Florida in a month so hopefully, we will see each other. He is twenty-three years old and he has very little family. He decided to join the Navy and will be inducted next February. Dale has invited him to stay with her and her husband in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving.

I'm sorry that Rosanne had so much pain at the end of her life. I'm sorry I didn't know how sick she was. I'm sad that David waited six months to tell us of her death, but I hope that we can be more of a family to him in the future.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Goodbye Paul

Long day today. I went to Mama Gena's for the first time and sometime in the middle of the day, I checked my BlackBerry and found an email from The Huffington Post which said, "Paul Newman dead at 83." I was stunned. I knew that he'd been sick, but I really was shocked that he was dead.

The day was spent with a group of women, talking about claiming our power - as sexual beings - beautiful, talented, smart, successful, hot - it was exhilarating and wild and funny. I can't tell you more than that really, it's the kind of thing you have to experience. But maybe by the end of the workshop (it last for four months) I'll have something more to share. Right now, I'm in the thick of it and it's a bit...well, wild.

But I have to say that when I saw that post that Paul Newman died, I felt sad.

On the way home I read the Times obit and thought about all that Paul Newman had accomplished, the brilliant roles he'd played, his fearlessness as an actor, choosing to play characters that weren't always likable (unusual in Hollywood.) His race car driving and his love of Joanne Woodward and his kids. The loss of his son Scott (who I'd imagined when I was in my twenties living in LA, I would meet and date - I lived in a fantasy world, and he died so young.)

And then, since 1982, "Paul Newman's Own" business began, and became a huge success, donating all its earnings to charities. What a smart, talented, generous and decent man he seemed to be

I had his poster up in my room for years when I was growing up. I had it in my room when I was in high school and it went with me to college. I had two Pauls I loved, Paul Newman and Paul McCartney, but I think I always loved Newman most. It may have been his intelligence, that showed in his gorgeous blue eyes. He just was it. The perfect guy.

Once, years ago, we were on the same flight, LA to NY. I can't remember if Joanne was on the flight, I was just excited that Paul Newman was going to be on the same plane. But I remember thinking, "He's short, isn't he?" And as often happens when you are in close proximity to someone you've worshipped, they rarely live up to the fantasy. And then years later, I was in a theater with a friend, and Paul and Joanne were sitting a few rows ahead of us. It just seemed so natural to see them there. They were a handsome couple who clearly enjoyed being together.

I guess the magic is in the films. I couldn't keep my eyes off him in roles like Cool Hand Luke, Hud, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Long Hot Summer, and some of his later films, The Verdict, The Color of Money, The Road to Perdition.

This election may have really pissed him off. He was such a liberal Democrat, so politically astute. I'm sorry that he's gone, he seemed to really enjoy life. Maybe the last eight years were too much for him. I know they've been for many of us.

I guess it is a good reminder of why I'm at Mama Gena's. To have passion, to do the work that you enjoy, to be in love, to give back. To be someone like Paul Newman, and have a life like he had, would be a major blessing. It doesn't get much better than that.

We will miss you, Paul. Those of us who love film, many generations of us who admired your work, will miss you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Warren Buffett's example

Interesting article from the NY Times today. I swear I saw Buffet in Central Park today. Or else he has a twin.

Monologue Show!!!

Okay, may I just say that this is scary? Doing a real performance, four nights in a row? I'm used to writing at home in my sweat pants and standing on the side of the theater, hiding. Now I'm going to have to put on a little make-up and speak.

Oct. 30 - Nov. 2nd Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 pm. Sunday at 7 pm.


Where Eagles Dare "Blackbird" Theatre
347 West 36th Street 13th Floor
Betwn 8th - 9th Avenues

Four women, four stories. Jake Lipman, Karen Fitzgerald, Shawn Kane and me.

More will be revealed as we finalize our plans. But it's soon!! Oy vey! Tickets will be on-line on Smart Tix soon. $15/$10 with student I.D. There will be Halloween candy on Friday night.

A day at a time, a day at a time

Breathe. I missed Bush's speech last night, I never would have slept no matter what drug I took. Where are all the economists in this country? Why are we listening to Henry Paulson, who's one of the guys who got us into this mess?

Can I just say that Steve Schmidt, Karl Rove's devious protege, McCain's campaign manager, the man behind the Palin decision is a PIG. McCain's trying to hide from the debate now and put the focus on fixing the economy and we all know how knowledgeable he is about economics.

Number one on the agenda: make every CEO of every company in American who have given themselves multi millions in bonuses in the past year pay every freaking penny back to tax payers. (I'd like to go back further, but I know that will never fly.)

Anyway, will they hide from the debate? Let's see. I wonder if Bush is freaking out. What a legacy. Is there one thing his administration hasn't ruined? Please let me know if you can come up with something.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The storms and the clouds

I have trouble sleeping. I frequently wake up several times in the night (more often when I hear my daughter moving around - since she is awake most of the night - and then I really can't fall back to sleep.)

Sometimes I wake up and do some meditation. Last week (that week of economic horrors, which is continuing this week) I read the NY Times all night long, in bed, on my BlackBerry, following the financial markets around the world and reading op-eds. (I realize, of course, that this is not considered a cure for insomnia.)

Occasionally I wake up in a panic and that's what happened to me the night before last. I woke up with a headache (from slipping in more caffeine during the day) and I couldn't get back to sleep. And then I couldn't stop listing all the things in my life that I feel I've failed at, or everything that's gone wrong with the world, or whatever. It was just a very very bad night. On nights like that I think "what is actually so great about life?" I can't even remember simple things like French Toast, or a walk in Central Park, or Paris. I'm just in it - "it" being the blues, the hopelessness. Really, what I need to do is have a good cry, but I have a hard time crying. So the feelings get bottled up, clogged, and the headache continues and it's a struggle to get myself to do anything.

There are many things to be upset about: my daughter not knowing what to do with her life, the work I've found in the past few years, real estate, seems to be "shifting" (as one of the heads of a big NYC real estate company describes it.) The economy is in the toilet ($700 billion dollar bailout?) Friends are dealing with life threatening illnesses, Steve has to have two eye surgeries in the next month and Lucy (our beagle) has another ear surgery next week. Probably the most important election that we've had in a long time is coming up in 46 or so days and who knows how it's going to turn out? SARAH PALIN. The war continues, costing a billion dollars a day (is that possible - see Thomas Friedman's NY Times column today), the cost of everything is skyrocketing, Javier Bardem is never going to ask me out, and I feel old, frumpy and tired.

So yesterday morning, before I sat for my mediation, I did some reading and one of the books I picked up was Regena Thomashauer's book "Mama Gene's School of Womanly Arts." (This is part of my homework for the course I'm taking.) I read this:

"Treat a woman like a Goddess, she rises to the occasion. That's a tip that will take men far in the world of women. Worship her, and she will give you the best she's got."

It’s been a long, long time since anyone treated me like a Goddess.

I am a Goddess. (I really am, I really am…if I say it enough times, perhaps I will believe it.) We are all Goddesses and Gods. We don’t all know it (unless we’re Donald Trump.) How do we live a life that allows us to feel fulfilled, to know that whatever journey we are on is the one we need to be on, and to feel whatever feelings come up (no matter how painful) and to know that they will pass.

This course for women is based on the idea of seeking pleasure in your daily life and doing what makes you happy. I'm not quite sure what that is anymore, but I think it's a worthwhile pursuit, to figure it out. I looked at the inside jacket of the book and Regena Thomashauer ("Sister Gena") had written this: "Sister Goddess Robin - Welcome to Fall Mastery! I am looking forward to meeting you. Yes! To all of your dreams and desires! Love, Mama Gena." And for some reason that made me cry.

As the day progressed and my headache eventually went away, I felt better. And last night, I decided to take no chances. I took an Ambien.

“The sky and the sun are always there – it’s the storms and the clouds that move through.” (Pema Chodron – “When Things Fall Apart.”)

Monday, September 22, 2008

The view from here

I taped The View today because Bill Clinton was on and I just watched it. I miss him, even if he did go a little nuts on the campaign trail and may have cost Hillary the nomination.

His suggestions about the economy were: go ahead with the bailout (what choice do we have) but allow people all over the country to re-finance their mortgages with payments they can afford, so that we could actually make some money. That's what they do in Iowa, by the way, where farmers have had to re-finance their mortgages for years and it is one of the only states that routinely does that.

It was great to hear him talk about the issues (although he wasn't tremendously enthusiastic about Obama - maybe some sour grapes?) Anyway, I can't wait until the debate this Friday night. I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high (remember Gore vs. Bush?) Clinton did say that he thinks Obama will win the election because: a) more than two thirds of the country is struggling financially and the Wall Street crisis is certainly leading to deep distrust about the Republicans, b) diversity is increasing - racial, religious, cultural, etc., and that is the Democratic demographic, c) Democratic registration is up and Republican registration is flat. Of course, we still don't know what's happening with the voting machines.

Frank Rich said in his column that Joy Behar was becoming the new Edward R. Murrow. You go Joy! I loved the way she confronted John McCain last week and I like her. I would love to see Sarah Palin come on the show. She wouldn't dare. I also appreciate Campbell Brown's criticism of the McCain camp and their chauvinistic treatment of Palin, keeping her "safe" from the press.

And this is one of the best things I've read lately. Aaron Sorkin's imagined scene between Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and Obama in Maureen Dowd's column yesterday in the NY Times, this is the final speech:

"BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!"

Mon Dieu

Where did the weekend go? Was I not on Sarah Palin/election alert? I think not actually. Seems that I let it go for the most part, other than tentatively making plans to go to Pennsylvania the weekend of October 25ish to register voters and twist their arms until they agree to vote for Obama.

I was acupunctured on Saturday morning and had the best night's sleep I've had in a long time. I was told I need to detoxify, which is always a good idea. But how? Stop eating bad food and watching too much news coverage?

I went to see "Five Flights" a play by Adam Bock (really nice guy) at a small theater company run by Jake Lippman, one of my fellow monologue performers. She (yes, Jake is a she) both produced and starred in the show and was really fantastic. She has a full-time job in finance and her own company and we'll be producing our show soon so I'm glad she's in our group. Before the show I went out to dinner with my friend Karen (who's also performing her monologue with us) at a restaurant called Market or maybe it's Markt..anyway, we split a salad and then ordered a slice of their chocolate cake, which is more like a giant slab suitable for at least four people. We ate most of it and enjoyed every mouthful.

Yesterday, Steve and I did an open house at a lovely apartment in Park Slope, in a gorgeous townhouse on one of the most beautiful blocks in Brooklyn, a block and a half from Prospect Park. We sat on the stoop since it was such a gorgeous day and as people arrived, we took turns showing them the apartment, a two bedroom with an enormous outdoor deck. The asking price is $920,000. Over 25 people attended and it seemed that everyone loved it and everyone is terrified to do anything right now, given the state of our economy. I can't blame them...although as a buyer, this is probably a good time to buy, especially if you're planning on staying somewhere for at least five years.

This morning I finally finished "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron. I loved the final chapter "The Path is the Goal."

"If there's any possibility for enlightenment, it's right now, not at some future time. Now is the time."

It reminds me that wherever I am, or Zoe or any of us are - whether it's a difficult time or an easy time, it's a time to learn and to grow. "It's an insecure way to live. We often find ourselves in the middle of a dilemma - what should I do about the fact that someone is angry at me? What should I do about the fact that I am angry with somebody?" (Who is possibly voting for McCain?) "Basically the instruction is not to try to solve the problem but instead to use it as a question about how to let this very situation wake us up further rather than lull us into ignorance." (Which is so easy to do.) "We can use a difficult situation to encourage ourselves to take a leap, to step out into the ambiguity."

"That is why it can be said that whatever occurs can be regarded as the path and that all things, not just some things, are workable. This teaching is a fearless proclamation of what's possible for ordinary people like you and me."

So here we are today, on our path. The economy is a mess, the election is insane (loved Maureen Dowd's column with the fictional conversation between Jed Bartlett and Obama), Bush is still President and if McCain wins I'm moving to Mexico. So far this morning I've walked the dogs, had a half a cup of coffee, read the headlines of the Times, browsed the Huffington Post, watched the opening of last weekend's Saturday Night Live, meditated, finished the book, written this post, and it's only 9:23 am. I'm going to do a little yoga and then I'm off to work and my Womens' Group meeting.

Have a good one!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The party's over

From Bill Moyer's Journal, Friday September 19, 2008

Richard S. Fuld, Jr. Lehman Brothers - 5 years on the job - $354,000,000.00 bonus money 2008

Merrill Lunch - John A. Thain - 5 months on the job - $15,000,000.00 bonus

Merrill Lynch - E. Stanley O'Neal - $161,000,000.00 bonus (after reporting 8 billion dollar loss)

Bear Stearns - James Cayne - sold stake in company for $60,000,000.00 (after the collapse)

Freddie Mac - Richard F. Syron & Fannie Mae - Daniel H. Mudd $24,000,000.00 on top of their salaries after the demise of these agencies

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Broken Heart

This takes a few minutes to read, but is well worth it. It's not about politics, or Wall Street, it's about life:

When the Wounded Emerge as Healers

The study of religion is like a labyrinth.

by Kimberley C. Patton

Attending this beautiful service each year, I have wondered sometimes what I might say if ever I were asked to address a graduating class from Harvard Divinity School. First, what an honor it has been to encounter the religious traditions of the world with you, to witness your intellectual insight, your spiritual courage, and your moving commitment to so many forms of ministry—to accompany you on these short, intense years of the journey, all the while trying not to drown in the river of my own life as it repeatedly refused to run in pre-carved channels.
Time and again, by your example, by your passionate engagement with vocation, you taught me not to fear the unruly flood of life as it is lived, often so different than life as it is planned; not to avoid the place past the bend where the flood turns into plunging falls, but to embrace it, row toward the embattlement, as Mary Oliver says. For to turn the boat around is to live a life out of fear, not out of love, a life not worth a bent penny or a scuffed shoe. To row back up the river is to try to exempt oneself from being acted upon by the forces that so urgently carry us all, not toward safety but most surely toward salvation. These are the same forces described by the religious traditions of the world, whether their sacred histories exist in texts or rock paintings, forces with which we live in relationship, whether we like it or not. You have known this, and have shown it to me even when I could not face it. The truth is that you were always the teachers and I was always the student.

The study of religion has never been a "field" for me as much as it has been a labyrinth. Having entered this maze, like many other scholars, I have never truly emerged, lost in a world well beyond my comprehension or "control," but whose twists and turns I continue to follow because I must, sensing that there is somewhere, hidden deep down, a chamber I probably should avoid but cannot. To study religion is to encounter a fire—a funeral pyre at times, the burning nest of a phoenix at others; a river of ashes into which I wade at dawn straining to hear the Gayatri mantra; an alchemical crucible; a Pentecostal shout; a frog's splash, awakening Basho. It is the majesty of the Kol Nidre or the Ethiopian Orthodox liturgy; the first steps of the hajj; a Maori war outrigger flying across the surf, the realm of the sea god Tangaroa; the Delphic Pythia raving on her tripod; a carved fertility figure beneath a woman's bed in Ghana; the traces in the red clay-pans of the Balgo Hills left by Rainbow Serpent or Barking Spider; the rainy slopes of Wu Tai Shan where dragons fly; a Tibetan sand mandala of a thousand colors, days in creation but seconds in destruction; the roots of the great bo tree snaking through the walls at Anuradhapura; the library of Alexandria; the tender faces of Elegua and Guan Yin; the spinning orbits of Sufi dhikr; the swinging candelabrum at a monastery on Mount Athos, tracing the gyres of the heavens; a classical Mayan ballgame, kinetic, balletic; the flutes broken by a human sacrifice as he climbed the final steps of Templo Mayor to become the food of the gods.

Human religious expression is a feast; a lament; a sickness; a hospital; a massacre; it can be the gale-force wind behind great movements of liberation and change for the good, or it can be a theater of systematic depravity. It can dignify human beings or degrade them beyond recognition.

So, as long as I thought I could impart to you something oracular about the future—your future—something splendid or clever or wise, I never had this opportunity. That day did not come until all I could tell you about was the one thing that I truly can say I know, and that is the broken heart. Even if a broken heart does not lie in your past or present, it awaits you in your future, at some place, at some time when you will almost certainly be unprepared. But in myth, in ritual, and in theology, the broken heart is not a regrettable symptom of derailment, but is rather the starting point of anything that matters. As Laurette Séjourné describes the heart in ancient Mesoamerica: "The heart is the place of union where the luminous consciousness is made. . . . Human existence must reach out to transcend the world of forms that conceal the ultimate reality. This reality lives in the heart and must be set free at whatever cost. . . . Thus to reach one's heart, to possess oneself of it, means to penetrate into spiritual life. The operation is extremely painful, and that is why the heart is always represented as wounded, and why the drops of blood issuing from it are so significant that they alone are a sufficient symbol for it." The religious imagination reveals the broken heart as the very best means to wisdom and growth, even when it disrupts the dreams and goals that have inspired us; even when it overshadows the résumés we craft or the faces we publicly present; even when it scatters the ducks we have so carefully lined up in a row. If we are associated with Harvard in any way, we have learned in our various ways to marshal those glossy ducks in tight formation, and to keep them waddling under strategic control.
But there have been or will be times in all of our lives when the ducks will not line up. They scatter and squawk, or they are devoured by a starving coyote. Far from being distractions, these times of apparent anarchy are the most important times in our lives, and again, this is an ancient idea. For it is highly likely that during such brokenhearted, disorienting times, illusions will shatter; old ideas and attachments will be burned up; old ways of being will dissolve; and the one thing or person or way of life we thought we could not live without will be taken from us. These are times when we will learn compassion, what in Buddhism is called bodhicitta, the awakened heart, times when the unbearably wounded will themselves emerge as healers.

My students say to me sometimes, as they apply to doctoral programs or jobs in parish ministry, "How shall I account for the two, or the ten, missing years on my résumé? How should I explain the gap?" And how I wish I could always answer them, "Tell the truth. Say, 'I took in a child whose mother was in prison and sang her to sleep every night while she cried. I worked the night shift in a rifle factory. I battled an addiction, and I won. My husband was crushed by a boulder that fell in our own backyard, and I tended his grave. I worked as a stripper to save money to go to graduate school. My marriage made in heaven turned to hell. I fled to Caledonia. I fled to Paraguay. I lived in a monastery in Thailand where I came to see that all things, all things, are empty and undeserving of our outrageous attachment to them. I swapped dirty needles for clean. I took photos of skulls left by the Khmer Rouge. I cut down trees all day and made them into tables.' "
These are all true stories of the things my students have done during the "gaps" in their résumés. These experiences are how hearts are broken, and re-made; how souls are forged; how we become human beings with credible beliefs about existence itself.
The gaps on the résumé are the abysses into which we fall from time to time, and in the process, fall into the hands of the living God. The gaps are when the initiations take place. It is our profound ignorance that makes us ashamed of such times, living as we do in what storyteller Michael Meade calls this "uninitiated, out-of-control country."
Over and again, the world's religious traditions speak of the preciousness and power of the broken heart. The Aztecs called it tlazotli noyol, "precious, perforated, bleeding heart," without which the sun could not even rise one day. Its successor in Mexico, the image of the bleeding heart of the self-offering Christ, remains central in Catholic devotional piety. The prince Siddhartha Gautama escaped his protected palace compound in disguise, only to encounter burning suffering and mortality for the first time, and with his heart broken, set out in the middle of the night upon his path toward Buddhahood. He left behind his wife, Yashodhara, and their newborn son, Rahula, little "Fetter," who also awoke to their own new lives of broken-heartedness. The psalmist reminds God that even if He turns in disdain from burnt offerings and elaborate sacrifices, He cannot ignore a broken and contrite heart. And on the Day of the Resurrection, writes the Sufi commentator Maybudi, God will welcome into the house of His friends only the burnt, the broken, and the grieving, only those washed and purified by their own tears.
Tears are the holy water of the broken heart. "All through history," writes Clarissa Pinkola Estés, "tears have done three works: called the spirits to one's side, repelled those who would muffle and bind the [simple] soul, and healed the injuries of poor human bargains."
Harvard is a place of astonishing light; but, even at the Divinity School, it is also a place where, in the shadow, very poor human bargains can be made. I have made many such bargains myself, and my tears have not yet healed them. The shadow side of Harvard's obsession with excellence is the relentless fear of failure, insecurity, and the reluctance to ask questions that might reveal one did not come to Harvard already knowing everything. But as both myth and cognitive psychology show, failure is how one learns; indeed, it is the most important element of the natural process of learning. And entering new territory one does not already "control," without a passport, is how one keeps moving outward from the known center, how one avoids calcification, how inquiry and wonder are not stifled by self-righteousness.

The shadow side of Harvard's obsession with productivity is compulsion, the inability to relax or to rejoice in what has already been accomplished, or even more, to see the value in latency, dormancy, or rest. As Martha Beck observes, Harvard is a place where lovers sign letters to one another, "Wishing you a productive summer." How can we learn not to panic as future ministers or scholars or mothers when we are "not getting any work done" or when we lose direction altogether, when there is no plan, when the manuscript is delayed or the child is ill, when the love affair sours and there is no point in getting up, when the beloved sister or brother unexpectedly dies, or when we are suddenly called to make pots, to sit with dying people, or to go to Brazil? Or when the sheer cruelty, racism, and blindness of the world can be kept at bay no longer, but storm our inner barriers, making normal productive life impossible? Yet in these "degree detours," and later, in these career detours, lie gestation and receptivity, what the Japanese call "hollowness" to the divine. In these nonproductive times, new things are hatching, being born in the darkness, if only we do not panic.
And even in the absence of traumatic events that seem to impede our progress, we remain cyclical beings in our creativity, not consistently humming machines. In his book Crossing the Unknown Sea, the poet David Whyte observes: "Human beings left to their own devices—a very rare event—seem to work according to the quality of a given season and learn similarly in cycles. Good work and good education are achieved by visitation and then absence, appearance, and disappearance. Most people who exhibit a mastery in a work or a subject have often left it completely for a long period in their lives only to return for another look. Constant busyness has no absence in it, no openness to the arrival of any new season, no birdsong at the start of its day. Constant learning is counterproductive and makes both ourselves and the subject stale and uninteresting."

And this is why the academic calendar, or the calendar of any organization into which we try to fit ourselves, with artificial seasons and ritualistic deadlines imposed upon the rich and protean stories of our lives, can be a kind of crucifixion. This is why it can be hard to tell our stories, or to live our lives with honesty. This is why we fear or hide the broken heart.
Like the wider American culture, Harvard also lionizes the loner, the brilliant individual who has won some high-level game of musical chairs where 150 players contend for 8 seats and the music is by Mahler. But the shadow side of this individualism can be a lack of appreciation of collaborative work, coupled with a malignant sense of scarce resources: a zero-sum game whereby your victory somehow diminishes me, and if you are recognized, I am robbed. Lost in such shadow are the unique gifts and the unique destiny belonging to each of us, which no one can take from us.

The fact is that we are perfecting not our résumés, but our obituaries. We are all headed to one common destination, and there is not a lot happening there. As Andrew Marvell wrote in the poem To His Coy Mistress, English literature's most elegant mash note, "The grave's a fine and private place; but none, I think, do there embrace." Against the meaninglessness of death, the Rajasthani woman poet Mirabai sings of the soul's passionate yearning for the absent, beautiful face of Krishna, the dark Lifter of Mountains. Amid auspicious wedding songs, on an altar of pearly tears she herself has shed, Mirabai, the bhakta, offers herself as a living sacrifice to God, and cleaves to that union through the tumult of birth after birth after birth, life after life. "Don't go, don't." Who has not cried out these words? In her complete surrender to love, Mirabai effects her own freedom from the wheel of samsara. She initiates herself.
Looking deep into the religious traditions of the world, one learns that we need not fear these initiations, these times of breaking apart. The soul cannot grow or change without them. What the human ego or the human body experience as traumas, the soul instantly recognizes as opportunities to shed what is no longer needed. When the heart is broken, the soul is released from its prior constellations. It begins the ancient process of dissolution, dismemberment, and new life. The soul rushes toward rebirth. This is not a comfortable process. But it is a normal one.
In the words of Jalaja Bonheim: "[M]ake no mistake: those who tell us we can have whatever we want, be whoever we want to be, and have full control of our lives are merely playing into our desire to avoid the discomfort of feeling our vulnerability. True wholeness has nothing to do with getting what we want. Paradoxically, we achieve true wholeness only by embracing our fragility and sometimes our brokenness. Wholeness is a natural radiance of Love, and Love demands that we allow the destruction of our old self for the sake of the new. 'If anyone needs a head, the lover leaps up to offer his,' says the mystic and poet Kabir. Life did not intend for us to be inviolable, but to be used for fodder for its workings. We are meant to be chewed up and digested and transformed into the blood and sinews of the world."
Life did not intend for us to be inviolable. Instead we are to be transformed into the blood and sinews of the world. To this end and purpose we can turn, in love, without fear, without ambivalence, letting the ducks break rank when they must, letting them fly where they will, into the air, into emptiness, into the breast of God, whose mighty and broken heartbeat joins with our own until the end of our separate lives, when the sound will become one, when we will see that all our ideas of self and emptiness and God were not enough.
May God bless you and keep you always.

Kimberley C. Patton is Professor of the Comparative and Historical Study of Religion at Harvard Divinity School. Her book A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics, edited with Paul Waldau, will be published this year by Columbia University Press. These words were delivered last June to HDS's graduating students.

A few ideas

I've put myself on a restricted diet of television news and limit my NPR listening time as well, because I find that it overloads my brain and moves me into the territory of major anxiety. But I did want to say that while I was taking my shower just now I had a few ideas for this financial crisis we're in. But now I can only remember one of them. Hopefully as the day progresses, I will have more.

First idea: all the CEO's and top executives of companies that have gone bankrupt or needed bailouts, like AIG, Lehman, etc., should have to return every last dime of this year's bonus to their employees. And EVERY company whose earning are in the red should not allow their top executives to receive ANY bonus money, that money should go to something - severance pay for employees who've lost their job, employees' 401k's, anywhere but their pockets. And that should be mandatory.

And why aren't people more pissed off? I keep remembering that line in Michael Moore's film SICKO about how people in France march against the government whenever they are mad about something and how we in America, feel afraid, or hopeless, or whatever.

Okay, I have to think of more ideas. Throw the bums out! Is my number one idea. They have brought this mess on and they deserve to be fired, tarred, broke and jailed. (And not in a country club jail.)

ANOTHER IDEA: Take the money that Iraq has in our banks and use it for the war. Stop spending another dime of US money. Period. Before we have no money left to use.

Question: Has anyone noticed that Obama seems to have disappeared lately from the news? No covers on magazines, no photos in newspapers, some television coverage, but he seems to be a little bit off the radar... why is that?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One of those days

The Dow fell over 400 points today and I am not hysterical. I've been worrying about the stock market for years and always felt that we were headed for some serious shit - and here it is and I'm just watching it and not hyperventilating. I don't know why. For some reason, I felt happy today. It's odd how certain days you can feel like Chicken Little, "the sky is falling, the sky is falling" and other days, even under really difficult circumstances, you can feel okay.

I think it's because I had a day of connecting with different people all along the way. I got a phone call from a lovely young woman who is going to grad school and we had a nice chat about Brooklyn and her life here. I rode my bike to Park Slope and went to a meeting and heard a really brilliant speaker and then talked to another young woman who is looking for a job. I worked for a few hours and met some of my colleagues at an apartment and they said what everyone is saying, the market is very slow. And then I took a long walk in my neighborhood and met Zoe and we sat together in Fort Greene Park.

Oh - the best part of the day was hearing from my writing partner about a project we are working on and he had a brilliant idea - that really started my day off well. I made an appointment to go to a school on Friday and do some research on a subject we are interested in.

I signed up to take a workshop called "Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts" - which I thought was kind of crazy, but then I found out that Dr. Christiane Northrup, the Maine gynecologist, is speaking there and she highly recommends it. I respect her - so I signed up. Pretty soon you may see me wearing high heels and a little cleavage. (Which would shock me.) And I will be going to Miami Beach for a weekend with the course - and that sounds like fun. And fun is something I don't have much of in my life and I think that has to change.

(I often don't know what to do for fun. When I was a kid I loved riding my bike...still do, dancing, singing, going to movies, reading, swimming, hiking, being with friends. Zoe and I used to have fun when she was younger - we'd go on adventures together. We don't do that so much anymore.)

Okay, financially things look bleak. I have no idea where we're headed and I can't do anything about it. My mother says when her family went through the Depression they didn't suffer too much because her father was a baker and he always brought home bread for their family and all their neighbors.

The election looks terrifying. In one poll today Obama finally has a slight lead. Maybe the fact that the economy is in such disastrous shape and McCain actually said that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" will show people just how ill-informed he is. And that the policies of the Republicans have gotten us into this mess. Donald Trump just announced that he is supporting McCain. I can't stand Donald Trump.

Maybe the timing of all of this is good. Maybe the 9% of undecided voters (in the CNN poll today) will decide that four more years of Republicans in office is more than any of us can afford.

Monday, September 15, 2008

No Doubt

Sarah Palin's answer to Charlie Gibson's question about whether or not she had any concerns about handling the job of President of the United States, was something like, "No, Charley. I don't have doubt, I didn't blink. I can handle it. I can handle the mission." I know I'm paraphrasing, but that moment keeps haunting me. I wonder if Bush ever wakes up in the middle of the night, now that he's nearing the end of his second term, thinking, "Wow, a complete fucking mess I've made of this country." I bet Laura does. (Which is probably why she smokes.)

Yesterday, while walking on the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer walk, I was talking to someone who said her chief concern about Obama is: "He will take away my home. He will take all my money." I didn't even have enough presence of mind to respond other than to say, "Whaaaat?"

As a friend of mine said, if people in this country are really stupid enough to vote for McCain and the Republicans again then we are in such a sorry, sick state, that nothing we can say or do is going to heal it other than to go through the sickness and hopefully come out the other side.

I am finishing the Russian novel "Oblomov" by Ivan Goncharov (it's 450 or so pages and it's taken me awhile) - but everything is finally working out for Oblomov, who spent most of his life in bed avoiding any kind of responsibility or stress. Truthfully, as crazy a life as that is, it's looking better and better to me.

And maybe we could ship Sarah Palin to Russia, since she can see it from Alaska?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Sky and the Sun

I woke up again this morning very early, around 5 am, and couldn't get back to sleep. I seem to be sleeping about six hours a night and waking up early and dragging through a good part of the day. And then I have started slipping caffeine into my diet again and I'm not so happy about that.

Meditation also seems to be more of a struggle for me lately and I realize that when I'm not at least trying to meditate every day, I feel worse, sadder.

There's not much tougher than feeling that you've failed at something and right now I'm feeling a lot like a failure as a mother and in other parts of my life. Intellectually, I know I've done my best and beating myself up isn't going to help anyone. It's how I'm feeling and eventually it will pass. I'm also having a rough time with my husband and our living situation. I don't have a room of my own anymore and it's driving me a little crazy. It's my fault, for not being able to say what I needed. I need a room of my own, it doesn't have to be much, but I need a place to be by myself.

So because I was so down, I thought I'd better give meditation a shot this morning and also do some reading. I picked up Pema Chodron's book "When Things Fall Apart" - and once again found exactly what I needed to read. This chapter is called "The Trick of Choicelessness" and it's about "Samaya" which means "not holding anything back, not preparing our escape route, not looking for alternatives, not thinking there is ample time to do things later." It's about "total commitment to sanity, total commitment to our experience, an unconditional relationship with reality."

"...through years and years of gentle training and honest, intelligent inquiry, we begin to trust our basic wisdom mind. We find that we have an essential wisdom, an essential good heart, that is stronger and more fundamental than our unkindness and aggression."

"It's like finding that the sky and the sun are always there and that it's the storms and the clouds that come and go. Somehow, feeling that we are ready to have no exit just occurs by itself."

I started feeling more able to sit with the place that I am at and continued reading.

"At first, meditation instruction is all we have to keep us from dissociating from our body, speech and mind. Year after year, we just keep practicing coming back to our own experience of being in the present moment."

"We are thoroughly conditioned so that the minute the seat gets hot, or we even think it's going to get hot, we jump off. The trick is to sit on the hot seat and have a commitment to our experience of hot-seatness. With or without a formal samaya (relationship) to a teacher, this remains the main point."

So I guess that for today, I wanted to be able to stay with my feelings and be okay with them. And not have to distract myself with eating, or shopping, or watching TV, or getting angry, or whatever would take me away from the feelings. And that is hard. It really is.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Eve Ensler on Sarah Palin

I feel the need to take a break for a few days from commenting on this election. Especially since I just watched Charlie Gibson's interview and he really pulled back from asking her tough questions and challenging her answers. It all felt so pat and rehearsed.

So even though I'm going to try to take a break from criticizing the Republican ticket, that doesn't mean I can't post something that I think is worth reading. Thank you, Eve Ensler.

Eve Ensler, the American playwright, wrote the following about Sarah Palin.

> Drill, Drill, Drill

> I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it's their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

> I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more=2 0insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

> But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, o pening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

> I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

> Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God's plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin's view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is20here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, "It was a task from God."

> Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist's baby or not.

> She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.
> Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.
> Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.
> Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

> I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move to wards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal bur ning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

> If the Polar Bears don't move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, "Drill Drill Drill." I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.
> Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life.

> Eve Ensler

> September 5, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001

I was at a gym on Mercer Street near Bleecker, about a quarter of a mile from the World Trade Center. My friend Patty and I were on stationary bikes and we looked up at the televisions and noticed that there was a close-up of a building with smoke billowing from what appeared to be a hole. The caption read something like "small plane accidentally hits World Trade Center." People started gathering at the TV's and I decided to leave the gym and see what it looked like for myself.

I went down to the locker room to get my stuff and told a few women what had happened. One of them had a friend who worked at the World Trade Center and she took out her cell phone to try to reach him. He didn't answer.

I left the gym and there was a crowd of people standing on the street. I said something like "Strange accident, right?" And a man said to me, "It's no accident. A second plane just hit the other building." I looked downtown and saw massive amounts of smoke billowing and stood there for a few minutes in shock. Then I started running down the street to get home. I went into our fifth floor loft and Steve wasn't around. I found him on our roof, with his camera. He told me that he had been sitting in his studio and he heard a really low plane go by overhead and then he heard the sound of the crash a few moments later. My office had a small window that faced downtown Manhattan and he could see the smoke coming from the north tower. He ran up to the roof and brought his camera with him. While he was up there, he saw the second plane crash into the south tower. We listened to the transistor radio Steve had brought up the roof. I looked through the camera lens, but Steve had warned me that he could see people jumping from the windows and I didn't want to see that. Soon we were joined by a few neighbors. I had a therapy appointment on the Upper West Side scheduled for 11:30 and I called my therapist to tell him what had happened. He thought I should come anyway, but I didn't want to go anywhere at that point. We hung up and I looked out the window again and then I believe my phone rang and someone was calling from L.A. As we spoke, I suddenly felt something like an earthquake and our connection was cut off. I looked out the window and just saw smoke - I'm not even sure that it registered in my mind that one of the buildings was gone. I ran upstairs to the roof and then I could see that the south tower had collapsed. We all watched in silence mostly, with the radio on, stunned. Our daughter, Zoe, who was in 8th grade then, was at school, and we were trying to decide if we should go and get her. I went downstairs again to our loft, heard some loud voices from the front of the building and I could see people running up the street covered in gray ash. And then I felt another huge vibration and I ran back to my office and saw even more smoke and knew that the second tower was gone. I called my therapist and told him that both buildings had collapsed and he didn't believe me at first. He said, "That's impossible."

We decided then that we should go up to Zoe's school and pick her up. We walked there, not knowing if the subways were safe, if all of NYC was going to be under attack, not knowing what the hell was going on. The school was totally chaotic. A friend of Zoe's parents both worked at the World Trade Center and her brother went to Stuyvescent High School, which is nearby, and she didn't know at that point that all of them were safe. We brought Zoe and her friend Willa home, stopping to buy some water, and then we gathered in front of the television. I don't know exactly what the girls were thinking and feeling at this point, it was probably too much to take in. I know it was for me. It felt like a dream.

We heard about the Pentagon and the plane in Pennsylvania. I honestly don't remember anything about the rest of that day. I remember a few days later, going to a candlelight vigil in Little Italy with our friends and neighbors and baking cookies for the fire station near our home. They had lost something like ten firemen, as I recall. What I remember most from that time, from the weeks afterwards, was the smell that lingered for so long, and the sadness that engulfed the entire city for a long, long time. I also remember a feeling of community and compassion in the city that I'd never experienced before or since. It was the best and worst of times.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On a More Serious Note...

We All Need a Laugh!

Shock and Awe

I was trying to meditate and I just had to write this. I have to vent. I AM SO MAD. I cannot believe that anyone in this entire country would even contemplate voting for another Republican administration given the fucking mess this country is in. How bad does it have to get before they wake up and smell the coffee?? Do we have to be on bread lines?

I get it. McCain and Sarah Palin are like your cute old grandpa and your hot cousin. She's a little like Roseanne when she first came on TV, but much prettier. She's hot, she's a babe, men like her, women like her, but PLEASE?? How could anyone in their freaking right mind choose to have four more years of these assholes being in charge of this country and sending us further down the toilet? I can't stand listening to her speak. She did a great job at the convention performing her speech, but now I cringe when I hear her voice saying the same old b.s. every day.

I understand that a war that's costing us billions (or is it trillions at this point) doesn't seem to hit home. It's far away in a country called Iraq which is somewhere over there in the Middle East. Far. I understand most people don't give a shit about the environment. As long as they've got gas for their cars, air conditioning and heat - who cares about the future? No one cares about what we will be leaving our kids? No one cares about a health care system that is good at making insurance companies rich and not good at taking care of patients? No one cares about the enormous debt this country has? Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae have trillions of dollars in worldwide financing - if they had gone down the tubes we would have had a worldwide financial meltdown. And Bush and Co. have brought us here and McCain & Palin and Co. will continue these policies and we are getting so fucked.

I just don't understand it. I understand that Obama is a tough sell for some people, but under Democrat administrations this country has flourished economically, which is not true historically for Republican administrations.

The other day my sister went to get her hair done in the small town in Pennsylvania where she lives. They asked her what she thought of Sarah Palin and she said, "I can't stand her. She's a bimbo." (That's my sister.) They were shocked. They said, "You are the first person all day to say that. Everyone loves her!" Charlie Gibson, you have the first crack at Sarah Palin. If you fuck this up, I'll never forgive you.

This is really scary. It really is. And I think it's one of the reasons I've been feeling so down lately. Venting helps. Women - where are you in this? Talk to your friends, talk to your co-workers, let's do something to stop this train wreck. PLEASE.

Thanks. I feel a little better. Not much.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I've just watched (in the past four days) 11 of the 12 episodes of Californication. It's good, really well written and David Duchovney is terrific, but no wonder he had to go to rehab for sex addiction! What male, when faced with getting naked with so many absolutely stunning women (all under 27) would have been able to resist? All the women are tall, long-limbed, long-haired beauties who all look alike, except for the one woman he's in love with, the tallest, longest limbed, longest haired stunner, who's smart and is the mother of his daughter, (who's short and has bangs) and is a rocker in training. David plays a hip NY alcoholic writer turned bitter Hollywood screenwriter, who has a bald agent/best friend with a heart of gold. (Played adorably by Evan Handler). His relationship with his daughter is charming.

Sounds terrible but it works and I like it, lots of sex. Who doesn't like sex? Who doesn't need sex?

Living With the Pain

I was just meditating and some sad feelings came flooding over me. I don't think that's supposed to happen in meditation, but maybe it is.

I've been here before. I know it doesn't last, but when you're in it, it's not fun and it definitely makes me miss the ability to eat a giant cupcake or to go shopping without being overwhelmed with guilt. Those two addictions are pretty much off the table, although I do slip up now and then. The other day I bought myself a watch for a hundred dollars, simply because it was reduced from $380 and I thought, "Wow, what a deal. Can't pass that one up."

So - back to the blues. My beloved dog, Lucy, is sick again. She's 12 1/2. We got her from the ASPCA when she was 4 and although it wasn't love at first sight (she was cowering in her cage), as soon as she came out she climbed in our laps and started licking us, then we knew she was our dog. She is simply a kind, sweet, adoring, loving, neurotic god (oh, I actually wrote that) DOG, who has been with us through more ups and downs than the Cyclone at Coney Island. I remember leaving her in our loft on 9/11 to run up to Zoe's school to pick Zoe and her friend Willa up, wondering if we'd ever see Lucy again. (We weren't sure what was happening at that point.) She's been there for me while I've been the primary caregiver for my mother for the last 7 years. She's been there when we all took turns being seriously depressed. She's moved with us three times in the past five years. She's tolerated sharing us with Lola, who has a bit more of an outgoing personality than Lucy.

The last time Lucy had surgery, this past summer, I was reading a brochure in the vet's office about dealing with the death of a pet. I will try to bring home a copy today if we're at the vet's office again. At the time, Steve's father was dying and I was reading this brochure and thinking that as much as we love humans, and we obviously do - our animals are with us every day of our lives, through all kinds of struggles, they're often the one constant in our lives and they love us unconditionally (unlike any human I know.)

UPDATE: Just came home after two hours at the vet. Lucy's got a pretty bad urinary tract infection and another hematoma in her ear. She has blood in her urine and was throwing up this morning, but hopefully with the antibiotics she will be feeling better in just a few days. I brought home the brochure about losing a pet, the one that really got to me that time I read it in the vet's office. Here is the quote: "For some, losing a pet can be a truly devastating experience. The animal was an important family member who provided unconditional comfort and support over many phases and changes in a person's life. As you begin to reflect on what has happened since your companion came into your life, a certain chapter in your life closes. As animals commonly live for 15 to 20 years, these life chapters often include major transitions such as becoming an adult, moving homes, changing jobs, marriage, children, relationship endings, etc. Obviously then, may memories are associated with a pet, all of which come to the surface when the pet dies."

That really got to me.

So aside from feeling sad about my dogs' eventual deaths (Lola's only 6), my concerns for my daughter, and money issues, and worry about my family and my friends' health (Steve has to have eye surgery soon) and I always worry about my own health, and let's not even get into the election...and the environment and the war and the economy and and and...

...wondering how I got here in my life, to the place that I am at, which doesn't feel so good right now. I just don't quite understand it.

I think that one answer may be yoga. I think I have to continue with my meditation and find a good yoga class because at other times in my life yoga has helped me. I also know that this feeling will pass and that life is really about the ups and downs and all the challenges. And that all the answers are inside of me (according to that book I recommended a few weeks ago) - even if I don't really have a clue about how to find them.

I think I'll do a few yoga postures and start with Downward Facing Dog, in Lucy's honor. And if any answers come, I'll let you know.

Monday, September 8, 2008

New Post

How is that for creativity? "New post." This is going to be a random exercise in writing something, because I have been having some tough days and I need to loosen up my brain with some unconscious writing. If you're looking for something well-organized and deep, I would probably stop now, because I haven't a clue where this is going.

I only decided to write because when I looked on my friend Mia's blog, I noticed that my blog hadn't been updated in three days and surely there must have been something that's happened in 72 hours that doesn't concern Sarah Palin (I have a ban against writing anything about her for at least a week.)

So what have I been doing? Trying not to let the fear that is lurking in my soul devour my body. Trying to say this Alanon mantra: "I am enough, I have enough" and one more enough that I can't remember. Or as my friend Annette said, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH."

Why is parenting truly one of the most insanely difficult jobs and what I find difficult about it is when your kid isn't doing what they are SUPPOSED TO DO according to OUR CULTURE, which is to follow the pack and do what every other kid their age is doing, even when you've never actually been a fan of following any pack. It's just hard when you want them to do what is really best for them, since you know exactly what that is, and they don't want to hear it. Because they have their reasons.

I'm reading a book about having an autistic kid and that is truly difficult, but it's also about wanting your kid to be right up there with everyone else's, doing what they are developmentally supposed to be doing. My friend's autistic son has an IQ of 155 and he doesn't know how to really be among "normal" kids his own age and I know how painful that's been for her. It does seem that just about everyone else I know has perfectly lovely kids who are all doing exactly what they should be doing, except once in awhile when they screw up.

Anyway, I feel stressed and I need a room of my own, but that went away along with the SoHo loft five or so years ago - and - compared to 99% of the world, my life is fantastic and I have so much to be grateful for, it's just not feeling particularly wonderful today.

Which is fine, it is what it is. Just for today.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Three Deep Breaths

Whenever you're standing in a line that isn't moving, or you're stuck in traffic, or your spouse or kid or a parent is driving you nuts, or someone at work is pissing you off, or you can't remember where you left your keys, or you are on hold listening to a stupid song from the 70's, or your computer crashed, or you accidentally forgot to pay a bill and you have a late charge, and then you bounced the check, or your pants are too tight, or you tripped on a hole in the sidewalk, or you want to throw something at the television, or you find out someone you like is voting for McCain -- take three very slow, deep breaths.

It helps.

If that fails, eat chocolate.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thank God it's Over

I've got McCain's speech on, but I can't really listen. What is there to say? It's making me sick. I heard a lot about his story and very little of any substance about what he would actually do to improve the lives of the people "he so desperately wants to serve." I didn't hear him explain how voting for Bush's policies over ninety percent of the time these past eight years qualifies him for being such a "maverick."

HOW is he going to change health care? HOW is he going to fix the economy? HOW will he improve education? Tackle environmental issues? End the war? I just cannot stomach this guy and this convention, which is 93% white. How sick is that?

I went to an Obama fundraiser tonight and I feel more hopeful that we can win. We only need five percent more votes than we got in the last election and that is totally possible. I can't stand the fact that Sarah Palin is being taken seriously because she was able to "perform" a well crafted speech (filled with inaccuracies) without making a complete idiot of herself. She has no right to be a vice presidential nominee. She should be terrified to debate Biden, but we know how well rehearsed she will be. I just hope that Obama and Biden will respond strongly to every attack. Tonight James Rubin, formerly of the State Department under Clinton, spoke at the fundraiser. He reminded us that "Republicans know how to elect people, they just don't know how to govern." He talked about how McCain doesn't view force as the option of last resort. He gave an example from 1994 when Clinton was under pressure to bomb North Korea and McCain was one of the senators who was pushing for that. Fortunately, Clinton used diplomacy. He talked about Bush's policy of not talking to Iran as being "childish" - I think that was the adjective he used. Not a productive foreign policy and probably one that McCain would continue.

(Rubin also mentioned seeing "HAIR" the night before with his wife, Christiane Amanpour and some friends, and how much it reminded them of a time when individuals were more passionate about their politics. I loved it for that reason too and really want to see it again.)

Whatever we can each do...five percent more. That's all. Five percent. We can do that. We can do what the Republicans do, get people to the polls. We can send a little more money. We can talk. We can vote.

And did you know that Sarah Palin's glasses have no prescription in them?!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Next Performance

Well, it looks like there will be another performance coming up in the fall. Matt just contacted us about our Level 3 workshop, which requires us to produce probably three nights of performances, with Matt as our director and us (Jake, Shawn, Karen and me) as the producers. We are all women, despite the names and we may have a woman singer as well. Fortunately, everyone has had some experience with production and I think (I know) we will be able to pull it all together. The hard part for me is that now we have to memorize our monologues and I have that horrible fear of getting on the stage and forgetting every line. I've had numerous dreams about that happening to me over the years and Chris Durang wrote a very funny play about that called "The Actor's Nightmare" which I better not re-read.

So - I will be making another kind of debut of sorts (no script) in a small-ish theater on 37th Street sometime in October or early November. And that is very exciting! And I hope I can lose at least ten pounds and find contact lenses that are comfortable before then. It's fun to have something exciting to focus on, especially since this election is really getting to me.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Labor of Love...sort of

Early this morning I was reading a book that's a series of interviews with my therapist, Michael Eigen. The interviewer asked him, "Do you believe in God?" And Mike said something like: "Yes... and maybe I'm agnostic...and atheist."

Which is kind of how I feel about God...and about marriage (or any long-term relationship.)

Twenty-four years ago today, Labor Day, Steve and I went out on our first date. It was a blind date, arranged by our dear friend, Mona. I immediately liked the sound of his voice on the phone when we first spoke. I changed my clothes at least four times before he arrived. And the first date was brilliant, couldn't have been better. We went to see an obscure independent film, "Sugar Cane Alley," had dinner at a charming French restaurant "Le Cukoo," sat at the Bel Air Hotel's pool and couldn't stop talking. We had (and continue to have) similar values: both lifelong liberal Democrats, love movies, travel, books, good food - have somewhat different temperaments (I'm more extroverted, he's more of a loner). The date was so good that I was convinced we would get married.

The second date stunk. It was as if aliens had abducted Robin and Steve and sent in clones who were speaking Russian and Portuguese. (I think it was too much pressure.) The third date (initiated by me) was okay. Good. And that pretty much sums up the history of our marriage. Great highs, pretty bad lows, and lots of years of in between.

The highs: moving to NY from LA, buying our first home - a loft in SoHo, the birth of our beloved daughter, Zoe. Years of professional success which enabled Steve to travel around the world and me to write and stay at home for Zoe, a book published, readings of plays and screenplays with some of the finest actors in NYC, wonderful vacations, summer trips to California, our two amazing dogs, Lucy and Lola, a move to Brooklyn and a great neighborhood, Fort Greene.

The lows: selling the loft because of financial stresses, career slumps, boring jobs, a dog that has peed all over our home and has been known to eat shit (we still love her), loss of close friends and family (both our fathers), bouts of depression, individual therapy, family therapy and marriage counseling, close friends battling illnesses, and the long time care-taking of my mother, who has survived hospice twice, four different nursing homes and rehab.

The in betweens. Life.

Over these 24 years I've cheated on Steve many times. First, in the 80's with Harrison Ford, then Brad Pitt (thanks to Thelma and Louise), George Clooney, Colin Firth, that brief rendezvous at the Mercer Hotel with Al Gore, (which I wrote about a few days ago), and now Javier Bardem and I are an item.

But as of today, September 1, 2008, I still love Steve. And I can't stand him. And if he ever needed a kidney (God forbid) - I'd be first in line.