Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer retreat in Connecticut 2009

If all goes well (and as my mother would say, don't give it a kinnahura) in a few hours I should be on the road with my friends John and Marsha heading to a retreat in West Cornwall, Connecticut. It's the Unity retreat I've gone on for the past three or so years, or is it just two? I can't remember. This year the theme is "Follow The Yellow Brick Road" I believe. I don't care. I just love being at the Trinity Conference Center, which consists of a two-story large house with about fifty or so guest rooms, a few other smaller houses scattered on the property, ten or so acres of land with a river running alongside it, (the Hoosatonic River). The food is delicious, all locally grown and healthy, not vegetarian, but plenty of veggies and salads and desserts to choose from. I can't wait to breathe in the clean air, take walks and get some exercise, meditate and get out of the city. A few weeks ago, I told Paul, the founder and minister of Unity, that my mother recently died and I had a few other difficult issues on my plate and he said, that's why you're here. This community is going to take care of you. So I look forward to being with lovely people and soaking in the support and love.

The first time I went on the retreat I barely knew anyone, I had only gone to their concert and enjoyed the music after a friend invited me. It was during a time my mother had pneumonia and was on hospice care. I signed up for the retreat on an impulse and I became "the woman who didn't know anyone and had the guts to come on a retreat." Now I am going to be able to feel all the feelings that come up for me and to know that I will be safe.

After the retreat, I'm going to visit my dear friend Julie and her husband Keith in Bethel, Ct. for the 4th of July. I am looking forward to that too.

Have a great holiday weekend.

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's so easy to look at someone else's bad relationship

I have a friend who is brilliant, and absolutely beautiful, and successful, and she is married to a guy who is a jerk. Who doesn't appreciate her. I won't go into details about it, but let's just say to any objective outsider, you'd have to say, "Hey, why are you bothering with this moron?" He's handsome and successful, but that's about all he's got going for him. His behavior is totally unacceptable.

You realize though that events have to play themselves out and eventually life has a way of getting where it has to go. It's hard when you're watching though and you want to say "Kick him out already!"

It is so much easier to look at someone else's relationship, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Moving through the pain

I keep recalling when I gave birth and thinking that what I'm going through now feels incredibly painful, but also in the end, I think it will be worth it. I remember when I gave birth it hurt so much and I didn't have an epidural (not because I didn't want one, but because by the time we got to the hospital I was already eight centimeters dilated, so it was too late.) In the middle of the pain, as the contractions intensified, I had a few moments of thinking, never mind. Let's not do this, keep the baby inside me, skip the birth, let me just stay pregnant forever.

If you've never had a baby, I'm sure you've worked on some major project, or work effort, or some health issue, or care-giving, or something just felt too difficult. And it's not like once you've finished, or had the baby, or recovered, or whatever, that it's easy. There are always struggles and in the middle of the pain are glimpses of what will be and hanging onto that keeps me breathing and moving through the pain. And I haven't even mentioned the grief I'm experiencing about the death of my mother.

Maybe I could get an epidural now?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Weekend at Robin's

It wasn't exactly fun. It was rather difficult and as a friend of mine said yesterday, who has been through similiar rough times: "There's no way to get through it except to go through it."

Saturday night was the worst. I finally emailed my brilliant therapist, Michael Eigen and he wrote me this:

"You are feeling what you need to feel.

Nothing lasts forever.

Meanwhile, you are being asked to continue growing, perhaps in ways you can't fathom or imagine.

You are not done meeting yourself or meeting others.

Now, one small step after another, or for a time, no step at all."

That helped. Also, he encouraged me to feel my anger. That it was entirely appropriate. I think that when I feel very sad, it's often repressed anger.

And then on Sunday, after running into a friend at Unity, I decided to go to the Mama Gena graduation for the latest mastery class. It was just what I needed. It lifted me up, reminded me to look for my pleasure every day, to know that I am not alone, that I am part of an amazing sisterhood of women everywhere, and to dance.

And my thoughts are with the citizens of Iran, who are going through such a difficult period in their history. And Iraq, and everywhere, there is so much suffering.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Going to the hardware store for oranges

I've heard this expression over the years and it can relate to all kinds of things, but in this case I'll just be cryptic and leave it at that. Let's just say I'm alone now and it's not an easy time. I miss my mom, I miss Zoe, I feel lonely, it's been raining for something like the past 160 days, the sky is gray and I'm sad. But as Pema Chodron says and my therapist too, feel it. I just talked to my friend Helene and she recommended eggplant parmigiana, which I think is an excellent idea. There's a great Italian restaurant not far from here, so I ordered myself some and I'll call Helene later and we'll compare our eggplant parmigianas. (Is that the plural?)

Anyway, what else? Iran is a pretty terrible place right now. I hope they overthrow everyone and that's probably not going to happen, but it's amazing how many people are turning out and protesting. And they're not sitting around feeling sorry for themselves that they keep going to the hardware store for oranges, they're actually doing something significant..trying to get rid of those horrible disgusting leaders whose names I can't spell.

Blah. That's how I feel. This morning I was thinking how I haven't really been crying that much. And on NPR, on the show Speaking of Faith they were playing spirituals, talking about a singer who had recently died, and they played "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child" and that did it. Lots of tears. The tears feel good really, I feel worse when I am just depressed and sad or angry, or whatever and I don't cry.

Zoe's in California and Steve is too. I'm so hopeful that she will get an apartment and a job in San Francisco and things will go well for her. I know that they're having a good time, because they are at the land, the beautiful piece of property Steve owns with our friends Loren and Libbe and I'm sure they are having a wonderful time. It's hard to be sad when you're sitting in that gorgeous place, surrounded by nature.

I guess even though I feel sad, I do feel alive and I have support and friends who are there for me. And my beloved dogs, Lucy and Lola are here with me. Lucy is always sitting beside me or near me and she is my best friend.

And eggplant parmigiana is on the way. At least you can always call an Italian restaurant and get Italian food.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Goodbye to Mom

One of the important lessons I learned from my mom's passing is to ask for help (which I'm not good at) and listen to advice from people you respect. My friend Judith suggested that I write something about my mother to read, some remembrances. So I wrote the following, which described Helen pretty well, I think:

What can I say about my mother that I haven’t already said?

When I was growing up, I often longed for a different kind of mother. I wanted the television mother, Donna Reed, the mother on Father Knows Best, the kind of mother who wore nice dresses and aprons and baked cookies. That wasn’t my mother.

My mother couldn’t wait to get back to work and work she did, full time, bookkeeper, accounts receivable. I can just imagine the phone calls my mother made to people who hadn’t paid their bills on time. And I would re-enact them except that there’s a rabbi present.

You can imagine them: “Where the blank is your blanking payment?” She was very good at her job. She should have worked for the mob. She learned a lot of vocabulary words from her oldest brother Abie, who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

My mother had two very handsome older brothers, Abie and Jack, which made her very popular with her girlfriends and she had a beloved younger brother David. David died when he was 13 or 14 – he got into a fight. I’m sure that absolutely shattered their family. And then ten or fifteen years later she lost her beloved mother, our grandmother Rose, whose greatest joy, besides her children, was to go to the movies.

My mother often complained (loudly) about my dad, Lew, who was as eccentric in his own way as my mother. They truly were both characters (and great material for me as a writer.) They are now immortalized in two plays.

I think in their own way they loved each other. I know he adored her.

On the weekends, all the fathers on our block would get out their lawnmowers and mow the lawns and my mother would mow ours. One summer she dug up the entire front lawn to put down sod. New lawn in squares. She did it by herself. My father knew where the car keys were and where the couch was, he had no interest in getting his hands dirty.

She had a full time job, she did the gardening, the cleaning, the cooking, the laundry and she had very little help. Dale and I had enough to do with studying for school (this is me being sarcastic).

My mother hated to travel – she always said there was no place like home - and then when I moved to California and she finally came to visit, she fell in love with it and always wanted to come for a couple of weeks. That’s when I moved back to NY.

When my father died nineteen years ago, we all thought, “Oh, no, how’s she going to live alone?” It took her a year to adjust and then at 77 she entered one of the happiest periods of her life. She became a volunteer at the hospital, drove her 1987 silver Honda Accord all over town, had Sunday brunch with her friends, Maddie and Lenore, did crossword puzzles, watched Judge Judy religiously and continued gardening.

She did really well for a long time, until she started to get sick a few years ago. And then she fought for life with an amazing ferocity, through countless illnesses and two hospices stays.

My mother had certain beliefs that were fairly unshakable. She hated people from the Bronx, they were too fancy, she said. My father’s family was from the Bronx. She was Brooklyn all the way. She was a solid Democrat, but felt sorry for Richard Nixon when he resigned. She believed that it was important to always look your best no matter how bad you felt. Lipstick and red cowboy boots were essentials. She believed that you can judge a book by its cover.

She loved men but not OLD men and once, about six months ago, she informed me that she and a twenty something year-old very handsome aide at the nursing home were engaged to be married. She wondered should they announce it in the NY Times? And would I mind? And she didn’t even really have dementia. Maybe they were engaged? Maybe he thought she was rich?

My mother taught me to be myself. To not care about what people think of you. To do what you love, and do it with passion and enthusiasm. To be honest (except when you play solitaire, then you can cheat). To work hard. Harder than anyone else.

And to never never never give up. They attribute those words to Winston Churchill, but I think it was really my mother who said them first.

Mom, it’s time to rest. It’s okay. You’ve earned it.

At the end, the Rabbi reminded us that my mother had lived almost a century. And that was an amazing accomplishment.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Second day as an orphan

I am filled with so much gratitude this morning, for all the love and support I received yesterday. My friend Jodi said, "don't be alone." So, Barbara came over and spent the entire day with me. We talked and worked on a proposal I'm doing (with lots of help) and we sat in the park with the dogs, had lunch and talked with Zoe. Jodi also sent out an email to a group of friends about my mother's death and I got phone calls all day from everyone expressing love and support.

I posted the news on Facebook, since I have so many old friends who did know my mother and I got many kind words there too. People are coming to the funeral - when my dad died we had hardly anyone there. I know that the numbers don't matter, it's who is there and how they felt about the person who's died, but my friends are coming to support me and I am so grateful.

I have found, in my semi-old age, that pretty much nothing is as important to me as feeling part of a community of friends. No amount of money, no job, no success, all of it is great and I would love abundance and recognition and a beautiful home and travel - and I am so deeply thankful for my life and the connections I feel with friends I've known for forty years and friends I've know for six months.

Loss is always sad, but as my friend Bella says, challenges come in three's and I hope that is true. I could use a little rest for awhile. I did just think about next week and what I have to do and for a moment I said to myself, "Maybe on Monday I'll go see my mother..." And then I remembered that I no longer have a mother to see...except in photos and in my mind and in my heart. And on the stage, when she inhabits me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

As I wrote those words...

A little while ago I wrote the words "I wish for my mother to have a peaceful death." And just about the time I wrote that, she died.

She was ready. I didn't think it would happen that fast, but I guess it was a blessing. And the other wonderful blessing is that Zoe was here with me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cancer is indeed a bitch

The biopsy on the mass in my mother's intestine was confirmed to be bone cancer, which spread. How much it has metastasized is not yet known, but tomorrow morning I meet with the hospice people (for the third time in four years.) I don't think she can cheat death this time. My mother is so strong and amazing, I have to say it's been a privilege to witness her struggles and her determination these past five or so years. She's had a good long life and my prayer is that she not have to suffer.

The losses feel overwhelming right now, but I have so much comfort from dear friends and my family. As Pema Chodron says, "this very moment is the perfect teacher."

Here's a story from "When Things Fall Apart."

I have a friend dying of AIDS. Before I was leaving for a trip, we were talking. He said, "I didn't want this, and I was terrified of this. But it turns out that this illness has been my greatest gift." He said, "Now every moment is so precious to me. All the people in my life are so precious to me. My whole life means so much to me." Something had really changed, and he felt ready for his death. Something that was horrifying and scary had turned into a gift.

I wish for my mother a peaceful death.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The ripping of flesh

One night, a few weeks ago, I was looking around on the internet for some kind of divorce support group. There is actually a website called "The First Wives Club" - or something like that and I looked at that awhile ago, but I somehow managed to sign up for 365 days of support emails, not knowing they would turn out to be a bit more religious in nature than I'd realized. So I read them anyway and they usually are relatively okay to read, but today's was way over the top. You judge:

When a couple marries, they are no longer two individuals. They become what the Bible calls "one flesh." Genesis 2:24 puts it this way: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

Unfortunately, people make decisions that lead to the breaking of marriage bonds. To better understand the extreme pain of separation and divorce, think about what happens when a marriage bond comes apart. The married couple does not revert to being two individuals again. Instead, they become two parts of the same one-flesh marriage, torn away, with huge, gaping emotional wounds.

Dr. Myles Munroe shares: "People will say, 'Well, my husband and I separated.' That's not true. You tore, and that's where the hurt is. You actually tear, and parts of you go with the other person. That's why breaking a relationship is so difficult because you lose a part of yourself forever."

Don says, "There wasn't an aspect of my life that wasn't torn and ripped. There was pain in parts of my body that I didn't even know pain could reach."

Jesus describes this one flesh relationship:

"So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Mark 10:8-9).

Dear God, what happened to my marriage? Place Your healing touch on my gaping wounds. Save me, Lord. Amen.

Okay, so I'm not feeling THAT bad. I am wearing a band-aid on my thumb, but that's about it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


It is hard to go through a separation and there is plenty in my life to feel sadness and fear. But I also know that there are far more difficult challenges in life. Challenges that have to do with life and death, loss of people we love, fear of our own mortality. I guess suffering brings us closer to God, if we believe in that - and if we don't, I think we find something we can believe in - taking care of our bodies, meditation, yoga, whatever helps and gives us comfort.

I feel very much a part of humanity now, very much in the moment, the pleasure of a beautiful spring day, time spent with my dogs in the park. Whatever I can find that gives me comfort, I am appreciating. And I am filled with gratitude for the people and four legged friends I have in my life.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Stress and more stress

I just have to say that living with family members and going through transitions, and dealing with other people and their anxiety, and trying to have a little time to meditate and breathe, and trying not to take on the anxiety, is impossible. For me.



Deep cleansing breath.

Walk the dogs.