Saturday, October 31, 2009


Yes to honesty and transparency.
Yes to fun.
Yes to life and all the possibilities.
Yes to friends and love.
Yes to dancing.
Yes to being in the woods and breathing in nature.
Yes to pleasure. 

Yes to taking risks.
Yes to living in the moment.
Yes to giving and receiving.
Yes to me.
Yes to you.
Yes to meditation and listening to the small, quiet voice.

Yesterday before I went into the meeting with our divorce attorneys a friend of mine suggested that I just simply ask God to show me a sign that he/she/whatever was going to be there with me. I sat on the bench and asked the question and immediately heard these words very clearly: "Oh, Robin, yes I am here with you! I am so totally here with you." 

Dick Gregory said this line and I've always loved it, "God and fear do not belong in the same sentence."


Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I would really love to have something really funny come out of me now, because God knows we all could use a good laugh.  One benefit of having George Bush as our President was that you had to laugh now and then or you would lose your mind.  President Obama is not that funny, is he?  And he's definitely trying to accomplish something, but what's up with those Democrats?

They are definitely not funny. 

I love that Jon Stewart can make us laugh even when we've lost most of our money in the stock market and we can't come up with any kind of health plan and I wish he could sit in on my divorce meeting that's coming up.  That would definitely lighten the mood, wouldn't it?  I would never divorce Jon Stewart, he's too cute.  And though I know he has thirty or so writers, he is pretty quick on his feet when it comes to humor.

And in my next relationship, humor will again be at the top of the list.  So now let's all take a deep breath, try to find something funny to at least smile about, and don't forget to exhale.  

Monday, October 26, 2009

Divorce primer

This week and next week my husband and I sit down together with our lawyers.  I haven't seen or spoken to him in two months.  A lot has happened in two months.

I think I mentioned that I have been receiving a daily "divorce support" email that is a bit too religious for me...but every once in awhile I read something that resonates.  I've been feeling like I need time for myself before I do any serious dating, and this is what I read over the weekend:  

 "If you come out of a relationship and then immediately jump into another one, your heart does not get a chance to fully heal; therefore, you are walking along wounded emotionally. You are vulnerable, then, to starting this new relationship without a whole heart, and you're going to try to suck your need for acceptance and significance out of this person all the more. You're not really in the relationship for the other person. You're in it for yourself."

I know of one couple who met a few months after he and his wife split up and they couldn't be happier.  I know that in his case, his marriage was such a disaster, his wife was (is) a non-functioning alcoholic, so although he was physically there, he had left long ago.  He was ready to fall in love and he got lucky.  And so did my friend. They have four kids between them, plenty of problems, but they adore each other. 

I don't know what my future will be, but I know that right now I am in a good place and I am grateful.  After many months of coping with so much loss and more tears than I have cried in my entire life, I feel stronger than I have in a long time.  That doesn't mean I don't feel waves of sadness and fear.  It just means that I have to "keep praying and moving my feet."  


Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Opening Ourselves to Love"

Last night I went to Leonard Cohen's final concert in the NYC area, at Madison Square Garden.  I went with a man I'd never met before, who drove in from New Hampshire, who originally invited my friend Karen because his wife couldn't go, and because Karen is out of town, she suggested that I go instead. Got that?  The tickets were given to him as a gift, he adores Leonard Cohen, and he wanted to go to the concert with someone who would appreciate seeing him.

Wow, did I appreciate it seeing him.  It may have been the best concert I've been to in my life.  Leonard Cohen is seventy-five, he performed for over three hours, the musicians he shares the stage with are all unbelievably talented, and he couldn't be more generous in giving them each time in the spotlight.  And his music...and his lyrics...he sold out Madison Square Garden - over 20,000 people who seemed to know every song.  I wish I could see him again.  He spent five years in a Zen Monastery.  He is a genius. 

Then this morning, I was reading "The Language of Letting Go" by Melody Beattie and I thought it was worth putting it on the blog today, in honor of the generous gifts I received last night and also during this entire challenging year:

 "Opening Ourselves to Love

Open ourselves to the love that is available to us.

We do not have to limit our sources of love, God and the Universe have an unlimited supply of what we need, including love.

When we are open to receiving love, we will begin to receive it.  It may come from the most surprising places, including from within ourselves.

We will be open to and aware of the love that is and has been there for us all along.  We will feel and appreciate the love from friends.  We will notice and enjoy the love that comes to us from family.  

We will be ready to receive love in our special love relationships too.  We do not have to accept love from unsafe people - people who will exploit us or with whom we don't want to have relationships.  

But there is plenty of good love available - love that heals our heart, meets our needs, and makes our spirits sing.

We have denied ourselves too long.  We have been martyrs too long.  We have given so much and allowed ourselves to receive too little.  We have paid our dues.  It is time to continue the chain of giving and receiving by allowing ourselves to receive.

Today, I will open myself to the love that is coming to me from the Universe.  I will accept it and enjoy it when it comes."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"The Boys Are Back"

Yesterday, at a Writers' Guild screening I saw Michael Moore's film "Capitalism: A Love Story" which I thought was really important and worth seeing.  Today I saw "The Boys Are Back" with Clive Owen, which I thought was wonderful too.

This is one of the great privileges of being a member of a guild, that we get to see films before they are released. I found this one very moving and as a parent, I remembered many of the struggles I felt raising my daughter.  The story takes place in Australia (the scenery is extraordinarily beautiful) and the plot is Clive Owen's character loses his beloved wife and has to raise his young son alone.  He has another son from an earlier marriage who comes from England to stay with them.  It's beautifully acted and directed.  Both young actors are fantastic, and Clive Owen is better than I've ever seen him. 

I went with two friends, Karen and Barbara, and we all loved it, although it was quite emotionally difficult.  I'm glad I saw it.  I'm glad films like this are still being made.   

Monday, October 19, 2009

We are mad as hell

I have been waiting for thirty years for someone to talk about Ronald Reagan and how his administration was the beginning of the end for this country's middle class.  I know that there have been others who have made documentaries and written books, but Michael Moore's film "Capitalism: A Love Story" documents the years of Wall Street and corporate control over this country and our economy, over why we find that 1% of the population controls something like 95% of the wealth and all the rest of us are being completely screwed.  I think that this victim mentality, which I have to admit I buy into frequently in my own personal life, makes us feel powerless  and we are not powerless!  We live in a democracy and it's up to each of us to write letters, march and yell about bailouts and health care and foreclosures and quietly putting up with the lies and misinformation.  

Why Obama put Geitner and Summers in charge of the Treasury Department is an abomination.  Why he hasn't gotten rid of them yet is unconscionable.  Honestly, I got a C in economics, but even I know that we as a country have got to stand up and insist that we will not allow corporations to be more important than citizens and there are basic human rights for health care, the right to work, the right to have a home, a list of rights that we deserve to have.  Franklin Roosevelt laid them out out in a speech near the end of his life, which Michael Moore was able to dig up and put in the film.  

I know that whoever reads this blog is liberal and I am preaching to the choir, but it's so important to talk about this with everyone you know - to open up this conversation and to let it be known that we don't want Goldman Sachs' former executives running our government anymore.  We elected Obama because we want change - and no matter how rich or how poor we are, we do each have a vote.  I will not vote for Bloomberg - I know he will win, but I want to send a message that we are mad as hell.  Go see Capitalism: A Love Story and rent Paddy Cheyefsy's masterpiece "Network" if you haven't seen it in a long time.  

As Michael Moore said in his film "Sicko" so many of us feel that we have no say in our government, but we managed to elect Obama and yet there is so much more we can do and we must do.  

I'm all for breathing and spirituality and all that - but we are at a crucial time in this country's history and if we don't do something, we will all literally be screwed.  

Spend the ten or twelve dollars and see this film.  Please.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

The heart

This morning my friend David sent me a Pema Chodron quote that is so beautiful I had to include it:

"When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless.  You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wall Street bonuses are an outrage, Michael Brewer

Is anybody else enraged that the government bailout has now netted Wall Street executives even larger bonuses and that someone in our government (like the President) needs to say, "Hello?  Pay us back, you're not getting these bonuses!"

I am furious and I don't understand why this entire country isn't rising up and saying "Enough."  Or: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."  

Are we so worried about our own problems that we can't collectively think of ways to rise up and express our disgust and our outrage?  Are we in a coma?  I'm ready to go to Washington, or march on Wall Street, or help organize marches all over the entire country.  I'm going to write letters to our senators and to the White House.  I have no ending to this other than we need to wake the fuck up.  

I was just reading another blogger's post just now about the Michael Brewer story.  I didn't know about it, I guess I haven't been keeping up with the news lately.  But it's a horrible story about a fifteen year-old boy in Florida who got in trouble with a group of boys and was doused in rubbing alcohol and set on fire. He has burns over 80% of his body and when the leader of the group was arrested and questions, he laughed about the attack.

Whatever happened to GUILT?  That was one of the subjects of a talk I went to last night by Mike Eigen at the National Psychological Association of Psychoanalysis (NPAP) and it's a very important question.  His book, "Flames of the Unconscious" talks about this and it relates to both of these stories.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Looking for the bright side

One of my greatest pleasures in life is to make people laugh, but lately I haven't had too much of a sense of humor.  I should watch more funny movies and try to reawaken my inner comedian but it's tough going when you're not "in the mood." This morming I played tennis with my dear tennis buddies and I have to say, I couldn't concentrate at all or take much pleasure from the game.  (This isn't the funny part.)  My tennis skirt was too big (a benefit of being depressed is the weight loss, which, I have to say is definitely one of the perks.)  

It does seem that life has been particularly rough in 2009 for many people.  Oh, now I remember what I wanted to write about: Friends In Deed.  I have been going there on and off for the past few years.  Friends In Deed is a non-profit center in Soho which helps people who are dealing with illness, care-giving or grief.  It started twenty years ago as a response to the AIDS/HIV crisis and has expanded over the years to include all illnesses, and to those who are caring for people.  Six times a week they offer "big groups" where people come to talk about whatever is going on for them. They also offer free counseling, massage, Reiki, volunteers who are available to go to doctor's appointments, nutrition counseling. One of the sayings they have is that "the quality of life is not necessary determined by the circumstances of your life," (or something like that.)  All I know is that when I go there, I generally have a good cry, listen to others, and empathize.  And I always feel better when I leave.  Sometimes we even have a good laugh, too, which is hard to believe, but true.  Then we are all grateful for the reminder that it's possible to maintain a sense of humor in the midst of some pretty tragic circumstances. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dark night of the soul, part II

The doctors saved my sister and her leg, although she had to go through five surgeries in two months and remained in the hospital on Long Island.  After my mother's first month in the hospice, the social worker came to me and said, "Well, it appears your mother isn't dying yet, so we can't justify keeping her here.  On the other hand, moving her now would be difficult - where would you move her?  And with your sister in a hospital too, it's probably too much for your to deal with.  We can keep your mother here for another month, but you would have to pay out of pocket."  

I was so distraught, I said yes.  It cost us $17,000 and my mother stayed at Jacob Perlow for four more weeks until she had to leave.  We still had no idea what her prognosis was, but I found a nursing home in Brooklyn, not far from where I lived.  After one month, the hospice aide suggested that we move her to another nursing home, farther away from where I lived, but much less dreary.  My mother wasn't really aware of what was going on, so I had to make all the decisions.  By February, my sister was home in Pennsylvania and my mother was now in the fourth nursing home she'd been in in two years.  And I haven't even mentioned my daughter yet.  She was sixteen at the time, didn't like her high school, didn't want to go to school, didn't see me much because I was either at the hospice or the nursing home, or walking across the Brooklyn Bridge or in Central Park to keep myself sane.  

And that's when I got sick.  It was only the flu, but it was enough to send me to bed for a week.  Lying in bed, thinking about my mother, my sister, and my daughter, and the past few months, and that several really close friends were sick with cancer, and that it was February... I kept thinking, "What is so great about life?  All I've seen these past few months is death and illness and misery." 

I remember lying in the bed with my laptop and writing emails to friends, asking for some answer as to why there is so much suffering.

One of my friends (my very wise friend, Jacqui, who always seems to be there for me at my lowest times) asked if I'd ever heard of a book called "The Widsom of No Escape" by Pema Chodron.

I had heard of it, in fact it was sitting in one of my bookshelves.  I'd been in a writing workshop in Los Angeles for a couple of years, and the leader of that workshop had given me a copy years earlier when she visited New York.  I remember that I tried to read it, probably read the first page, and put it on the bookshelf.  

On Jacqui's suggestion, I dragged myself out of the bed and searched for the book.  I found it and read the inscription which was from 1993, eleven years earlier.  

The first chapter was entitled "Loving Kindness."

"There's a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been been on the earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable.  You can see this even in insects and animals and birds.  All of us are the same.

A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet.  To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is.  If we're committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we're going to run; we'll never know what's beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.  

When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is sort of subtle aggression against who they really are.  It's a bit like saying, 'If I jog, I'll be a much better person.'  'If only I could get a nicer house, I'd be a better person.'  Or 'If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person."  Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say, 'If it weren't for my husband, I'd have a perfect marriage.'  'If it weren't for the fact that my boss and I can't get on, my job would be just great.'  And 'If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.'

But loving kindness - maitri - toward ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything.  Maitri means that we can still be crazy after all these years.  We can still be angry after all these years.  We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness.  The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already.  The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are.  That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest."  

"...the key to feeling more whole and less shut off and shut down is to be able to see who we are and what we're doing.

The innocent mistake that keeps us caught in our own particular style of ignorance, unkindness, and shut-downness is that we are never encouraged to see clearly what is, with gentleness.  Instead there's a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, and that if we could just learn how to get away from the painful things, then we would be happy.  That is the innocent, naive misunderstanding that we all share, which keeps us unhappy.

Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives.  It's about seeing how we react to all these things.  It's about seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat.  It's about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness.  Throughout this month of meditation practice, we will work with cultivating gentleness, innate precision, and the ability to let go of small-mindedness, learning how to open to our thoughts and emotions, to all the people we meet in our world, how to open our minds and hearts."  

"...The other problem is that our hang-ups, unfortunately or fortunately, contain our wealth.  Our neurosis and our wisdom are made out of the same material.  if you throw out your neurosis, you also throw out your wisdom.  Someone who is very angry also has a lot of energy; that energy is what's so juicy about him or her.  That's the reason people love that person.  The idea isn't to get rid of your anger, but to make friends with it, to see it clearly with precision and honesty and also to see it with gentleness. "

I was very angry when picked up that book.  I was pissed off at my life, my responsibilities, the mistakes I'd made.  Somehow that idea of maitri really moved me and in acknowledging the anger that I felt, some of it dissipated.  

I began mediating, I kept reading Pema Chodron, and changed many aspects of my life, including allowing myself to ask for and accept help. 

Now, five years later, I find myself in another very difficult period of my life.  My mother has finally died, my marriage is ending, my daughter has moved away from home, there are so many changes.  But now I see these changes as opportunities to grow.  Growing pains still hurt, but I think if I keep on meditating, and accepting what is, I'll be okay.  

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another dark night of the soul or how Robin found Pema

In the last two posts I wrote about a difficult time in my twenties.  Today I'm going to write about another challenging time - not so long ago.  

In late 2004, my mother was suffering from Peripheral Vascular Disease ( which caused terrible pains in her legs.  That led to one health crisis after another: horrible infections in her feet which almost went to the bones, the possible amputation of her legs (I've learned this is something that doctors often to do older people and in my mother's case it was unnecessary), diabetes, kidney failure, tremendous weight loss.  

There were so many problems, I felt that rather than staying in a hospital and being tortured with unnecessary procedures, perhaps it was time to consider hospice care.  I knew a little about hospice care because a friend of mine volunteered at Jacob Perlow Hospice.  

When the hospice doctor who came to examine my mother called me, I was walking in Central Park, the place I go to calm down and breathe.  He said, "I have never in all my years seen a patient so desperately in need of hospice."  

They rushed her that afternoon from Long Island College Hospital into Manhattan's Jacob Perlow Hospice, at Beth Israel Hospital, where Pippa volunteered.  Pippa met us there and introduced me to the staff (my mother was completely out of it and had no idea where she was.)  My friend Bella came too, took one look at my mother, and I'm quite positive she thought, "Oh, God, it's just a matter of days."  

The hospice doctor on duty told me later that evening, "I think this weekend will probably be the end for your mom.  She's not eating and her organs are shutting down.  I wouldn't recommend a feeding tube, I just suggest we make her comfortable."  

The woman in the bed next to my mother got a feeding tube.  I remember sitting with her husband, a man in his 70's from Poland.  Most of the conversation was him talking about his wife coming home.  I don't know if he understood completely that this was a hospice and his wife was extremely ill.  I just listened.  She died on Sunday.

My mother made it through the weekend and then the week.  I had signed all the papers, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR), a Living Will, Power of Attorney.  Everything was in order.  She weighed around 85 pounds and looked like a Holocaust survivor.  The hospice was the saddest and most comforting place I have ever been.  The staff was amazing, kind, gentle, caring.  Julliard students performed mini concerts in the hallways. Students from the Swedish Institute of Massage gave free massages to the patients and their families.  Delicious suppers were delivered twice a week from two of Danny Meyer's restaurants, Blue Smoke and Tabla.  Those two nights had more volunteers and family members than any other night.  It almost felt like a party.  

My mother survived one week, then another.  I remember many of the patients calling out for their mothers.  I remember that almost every one of her roommates died.  I remember feeling very alone, because none of my family members were there with me.

They took some x-rays and found a tumor in my mother's lung (I think she'd had it for years) and they suggested that if she was still alive by the end of the following week, she should go to Calvary Hospital, which takes cancer patients.  I didn't know what to do, but I begged my sister to come to see my mother, so finally she drove down from Pennsylvania with her husband.  She told me she had a cold and there was no way they would allow her into the hospice with a cold, so she went Christmas shopping instead (it was November 2004.)  As she and her husband were loading presents into the back of their SUV, a driver swerved off the road and ran right into her.  She flew 15 feet into the air and was rushed to a hospital on Long Island.  

I was on a bus headed up Central Park West when I got the call from my sister's son, Andrew.  "My mother got hit by a car and they don't know if she's going to make it. She's being operated on now."

This was the start of a very dark night of my soul.  

To be continued.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Frozen trout and a spiritual path, Part II

Okay, so I went up and down on the scale and after that night of binging, I knew it had to stop.  How I was going to do it was a mystery.  All I knew is I had to do something because it was constantly on my mind.  "What will I eat for dinner?"  "How many cookies can I eat?"  "Nothing fits, I look terrible. I hate myself." 

Honestly, I don't know how this happened, I may have just taken out a phone book and looked up Overeaters' Anonymous and then went to a meeting.  I didn't know anyone there. I didn't know anyone who ever went there.  I think the meeting was in a church off Fairfax, south of 3rd Street.  

I looked around at the people and I was surprised to see that most of them were not overweight - in fact, many of them were quite thin.  I sat in the back of the room and listened to what people had to say. They talked about their experiences before coming into OA, being fine during the days, but eating all night long...peanut butter out of the jar, ice cream, cakes, cookies, stopping at fast food restaurants and buying giant meals. Several of them talked about food plans, eating three times a day with nothing in between, writing down what they ate, calling their sponsors, and they spoke about a higher power.  
How I was going to just eat three times a day with nothing in between was incomprehensible to me, a major nosher, but I figured with all the stupid diets I'd been on, I could probably do that.  I could write down what I ate and get a sponsor, and I did, that night.  I can't remember much about her, but she was very nice and she helped me get the eating under control.  I also remember thinking, higher power?  No way.  But I went home that night and I called the therapist I was seeing at the time.  He was kind of an odd guy, he ended up marrying Florence Henderson of all people, but I vaguely remember the conversation we had.
"The people at the meeting were really fit and attractive and they really seemed to have their food issues under control.  I want to be like that, but they talked about God and I just don't believe in God."

"Well... can you fake it?" he asked me.

"Fake it?"

"Yes. Pretend you do.  Just for the sake of trying to lose the weight." 


I never grew up with any sense of there being a God.  We were Jewish, but that meant lighting candles on Friday night and eating corn rye with sturgeon on Saturday mornings and bagels and lox on Sunday.  So for me being Jewish had major perks, especially on the weekends. Now you know where the eating disorder began. And it also meant that everyone in the world was either Jewish or not.  I didn't know much about other religions, "He's a Jew, she's not."  "So what is she?"  "Not Jewish."

We never prayed.  We rarely went to temple except for weddings or bar mitzvahs.  I didn't go to Hebrew School.  My parents never said, "Oh, dear, let's pray for this or that..."  They did say "Goddammit" a lot.  I was told that Jews never got on their knees to pray.  Ever.  I loved scenes in movies or television when kids said their prayers at night beside their bed.  I thought that seemed like a really lovely idea, but I was never allowed to do it.  I think I probably snuck it in a few times, "God, could you get me that doll I want?  Or the bike?"  I never prayed for world peace, although I did pray during the Cuban missile crisis that the world would not come to an end.  And I remember after Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King died asking God to please stop all the killing of our leaders.   

You're wondering what this has to do with a frozen trout, right?  
I decided that night that I would "act as if" and write down the food I ate each day and call my sponsor.  I went to meetings all over town, several times a week, and listened to stories even worse than my nights of binging.  I discovered that you could also go to open AA meetings and listen to really dramatic stories of people in recovery from alcoholism. (As a writer, this intrigued me so much I actually became addicted to meetings.)  I started writing the steps, but I don't remember how far I got.  The first step is "we admitted we were powerless over ________(food, alcohol, money, whatever) that our lives had become unmanageable."

I learned that addictive behavior can be to many things: alcohol, food, shopping, gambling, sex, pornography, religion, television, computers, gossip, George Clooney, the list is pretty much endless, and the one that I have recently realized is my worst addiction, people.  Taking care of people, trying to "cure" them, knowing what is best for them. I guess I always thought I was Lucy in the Snoopy comics, offering advice.  The people program is Alanon - and it's about growing up in a home with alcoholics (even high functioning ones), or some kind of dysfunction, or marrying an alcoholic or someone with a serious addiction, or having a child or relative who's addicted to something.  It's vaguer than AA or OA or other addictions. And it's harder to solve in a way, because most of us are in contact with people every day, our friends, family, the people we work with, etc., and a lot of our reactions are rooted in our childhood responses and emotions.

Anyway, back to food.  I dropped the weight and kept going to OA and open AA meetings in L.A. for several years. When I moved to Manhattan, I could never find a meeting that felt comfortable to me, so I stopped going.  I have, over the years, had a few "slips" - especially after 9/11. I will never say that I am "cured."  But I have learned to eat what my body craves and to stop eating before I get uncomfortably full. For people who have no eating problems it's hard to understand.  I have no problem with alcohol.  If I never drank another sip of beer or wine, or any kind of alcohol, I couldn't care less. But a life without ever eating another piece of chocolate cake would seem a bit sad to me.

My concept of a higher power has become something I cannot imagine living without.  I meditate and ask for guidance and I have never been let down.  There are a few people in my life I trust to give me the kind of divine inspiration I need, if I feel lost.  I have never had another experience like the one I did that night almost thirty years ago, but I certainly had some difficult nights.  
One day at a time, I'm trying to become a better person and I can honestly say it's one step forward and two steps back.  
I don't know if any of this makes any sense to anyone, but it's just my story. This year, because of my separation, I haven't been able to eat much.  I'm trying to enjoy the fact that I'm thinner now than I was when I was in my early 20's.

Last May, when I went to Miami, I put on a bikini for the first time in over thirty years and I have to say I looked pretty good in it.  And when I go back in November, I'm going to wear it again.
And I believe that for anyone suffering with compulsive eating, there are answers.  It may take a while to find what works for you, but it's out there. 
I believe now that my eating had to do with loneliness.  And while I still feel lonely sometimes, it's nothing like it was when I was younger, when I was growing up in a house that was chaotic and when I was living alone in a strange city with few friends other than a box of Pepperidge Farm cookies.  Or even when I was married and raising my daughter, while my husband was on the road.  
Now, in fact, I enjoy being alone much of the time.  And I always feel somehow, I'm never really alone. 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Frozen trout and a spiritual path

Years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, living in Los Angeles, I had what is now commonly known as "an eating disorder."  At the time, I just thought I had a little weight problem and that I simply enjoyed eating.  A lot.  I didn't realize that I wasn't really enjoying it that much, although sometimes I did. It seemed normal to me to eat the entire box of the Pepperidge Farm cookie assortment for dinner.  Or late at night to eat tablespoons of peanut butter straight out of the jar.  Or to eat an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting.

Mostly I used to food calm myself, to change my mood, to take my mind off bigger problems by focusing on the scale and the five, ten, fifteen, twenty - almost thirty pounds I could gain.  The most I ever weighed (although I can't swear by this, because at a certain point I was too afraid to get on the scale - and aside from a thirty-two pound weight gain during pregnancy)  I weighed at least one hundred and fifty pounds when I was twenty-seven years old and 5'4" tall.  And that was too much.  (And I stopped getting on the scale, so it could have been an even higher number.)   

I'd tried every diet that was out there.  The grapefruit diet, the cabbage diet, I fasted for seven days, lost seven pounds and then gained them all back in two.  I tried the Atkins diet (steak, bacon and all the butter you can eat.)  I gained five pounds and wanted desperately to kill Atkins.  I never did Weight Watchers, and I'm not sure why - maybe because my best friend in high school did and she lost weight, so I didn't want to be a follower?  I tried hypnosis.  I smoked instead of eating and ended up eating and smoking.  I could lose the weight as long as I sticked to a program -- and then just as easily gain it all back and add a little more.  And I truly hated myself for not having the will power and self-control to stop this insane behavior.  I remember thinking, the pleasure of eating a brownie is immediate and the loss of ten pounds could take six months.  So I ate...and ate.  

I remember clearly the lowest point in my struggle, the night that really showed me I was out of control.  I can't remember what precipitated it - what "crisis" - but I do remember vividly standing in my kitchen, eating just about everything I could find in the refrigerator and the cabinets.  I remember eating a loaf of bread, cans of soup, crackers, peanut butter, all the cheeses and cereals.  I probably cooked some pasta and rice.  I remember getting fuller and fuller and more depressed and then finally, when there was nothing left to eat, I looked in the freezer and found a frozen trout.  

I thought to myself, "Okay, I can eat this," since that was pretty much all that was left.  I opened the package and unfortunately there was a head attached to the body of the trout and this was a problem for me.  At the time, I couldn't eat fish with heads attached (I have since grown out of this.)  So I called my neighbor Phillip, who was an actor/fisherman, and asked him if he could do me a favor and come downstairs and cut the head off the trout so I could eat it.  He probably said something like, "No, Robin, don't be silly.  You can do it.  Just turn away, pick up the knife and smash it down on the fish."  So I did, I clearly remember turning away and slamming the knife down a few times until I did cut the head off.  And I also remember thinking, "This is nuts."  (Oh, wait, I ate some nuts too.)  
I ate the trout and then I got into the bathtub (I often took a bath after binging to calm down.)  And I remember crying and thinking this is the worst I've ever been.  I cannot do this again.  
I knew I needed help because I was really miserable.  I was too embarrassed to tell anyone about my insanity with food.  But I knew I couldn't go on eating, binging, isolating myself and crying in my bathtub. 

To be continued.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Somewhere in the late 1930's or early 40's, my father started working in the Butterick Building in downtown Manhattan.  The building was owned by the company that invented sewing patterns and is located at 161 Spring Street, in the neighborhood that eventually became known as "Soho."  He was a printer and started his own business before World War II.  When the war broke out, he was drafted and closed the business, but he came back to that building and he continued working there for the rest of his life.  He worked for a book bindery, Sendor Bindery, and continued working until he was seventy-seven years-old, until the day he had a stroke. (He had a stroke in 1990, right after eating lunch in one of his favorite restaurants.  We were on vacation at the time, in Antigua, and I rushed back to be with him in the hospital.  All he said to me, when I saw him in the ICU was, "I had the fish."  Food was a big thing to my dad.  He suffered another massive stroke a few days later and died within two weeks.  It was a blessing.)   

Anyway, somewhere around 1976, I remember meeting him for lunch when I was visiting from Los Angeles.  It was the first time I ever saw Sendor Bindery, which was owned by two brothers, Morty and Bernie.  There was a big plant on site and it was fascinating to see the books actually being bound and to meet all the people who worked for my father, who was the production supervisor.  My dad and I went out to lunch to a restaurant on Spring Street, I forget the name, but it was very hip, and everyone knew him.  I didn't know anything about Soho at the time, but I think I fell in love with the neighborhood then.  I had no idea that ten years later, I would move into a loft on Mercer Street, in the heart of Soho, with my new husband, and that we would raise our daughter Zoe there.  It was a great place to grow up, filled with interesting people and lots of kids, playgrounds and art galleries.

We left our loft in 2003, when Zoe was fifteen, and moved to Brooklyn.  I have even deeper roots in Brooklyn, my grandparents moved there somewhere around 1910 and every Saturday for most of my life we visited my grandfather and his second wife, Fanny, in a house on Kosciusko Street, in Bedford Stuyvescent. (My grandmother died around 1946, I believe.)  It was much more interesting in Bed Stuy than it ever was in Plainview, Long Island, where we lived. I loved sitting on the stoop with my cousin Rosanne, watching the girls play double dutch.  We were too shy to ask to join them, but we loved walking to the candy store around the block and getting Cokes, Hershey bars and comic books.   

As much I have enjoyed living in Brooklyn these past few years, both Boerum Hill and Fort Greene, I have to say that I always longed to move back to Manhattan.  

And so I have.  With the help of so many of my friends, I was able to pack, sell, and let go of old "stuff" - so that I could begin living my new life.  (Although there's still more work to do, it will finished by the end of the month.)  And the friend I am most grateful to, is the friend who has invited me into her Soho loft for a period of time, so I can make this transition to my new life.

Gratitude doesn't begin to express my appreciation to everyone who has been there for me.  I've also learned much more about the sorrow that accompanies all these losses and changes, and now I can try to be there for friends who will go through them in the future.  

It seems that my family is doing well.  Zoe is finding her way in San Francisco, Steve is busy in Spain and the dogs seem to be adjusting well to having two moms.  Old friends have come back into my life and new friends are always welcome.  As I was meditating this morning, the thought came into my head that I have absolutely no idea what will happen in the future and all I need to do is show up.  There were days in the past six months when I thought showing up was too hard.  But here I am and I have to say, I'm looking forward to today.  

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Goodbye to all that

I have quite a few goodbye posts on this blog.  Goodbye to my mother.  Goodbye to Paul Newman.  Goodbye to George Bush.  I don't actually have one of those, as I recall, but I probably should have. It was definitely one of the happier goodbyes we've had in many years.

As I get closer to leaving this loft I feel sadness and loss and is finality a feeling?  It's shutting the door on a family, on years of being together through so many life events, through really joyous times, and many not so joyous times.  It's an ending and a new beginning for all three of us.  (Five including Lucy and Lola, who seem very confused about the whole thing.)

I have no idea what our futures will be, no one knows.  But for so long I thought I knew who I'd spend the coming years with - and now I don't.  I'm on a new journey, on a completely different path, and I keep wanting to turn back to the familiar. But then I know what was behind me and I do want to keep moving forward.  I mean, really what choice do I have?  

I've also become more comfortable with feeling two conflicting feelings at the same time, living in the gray areas. know what?  Who cares?  Today is my dear friend Charley's fiftieth birthday and he's spending it in Scotland with his beloved wife and son, which was a dream of his. That is something to be excited about!  And it's a beautiful day and the leaves are just starting to turn, and I'm hoping to visit an old friend upstate soon, and I have a place to live in my old neighborhood Soho, and Lucy and Lola are here by my side, and Zoe is living in San Francisco, in a beautiful neighborhood with two nice roommates and Steve's just had a great success with his photography show in Spain. And - my writing partner, Gary, just wrote a great ending for our play, "Scrambled Eggs."  

I could write about all the horror in the world - the terrible earthquakes and the tsunami and all the deaths -  and the disastrous leadership we have in this country, the lack of leadership - but I won't right now.  I'm just grateful to be alive and to enjoy this day, October 4, 2009.  

Happy 50th, Charley!  I hope you are having a marvelous time with Annie and Joe-Henry.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pema Chodron

I often quote Pema Chodron, since she is such a brilliant writer, and I thought it would be worth sharing her bio.  This is from the Shambala website: 

"Ane Pema Chodron was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in 1936, in New York City. She attended Miss Porter's School in Connecticut and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley (Go Bears!). She taught as an elementary school teacher for many years in both New Mexico and California. Pema has two children and three grandchildren.

While in her mid-thirties, Ane Pema traveled to the French Alps and encountered Lama Chime Rinpoche, with whom she studied for several years. She became a novice nun in 1974 while studying with Lama Chime in London. His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa came to England at that time, and Ane Pema received her ordination from him.

Pema first met her root guru, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, (the "Vidyadhara") in 1972. Lama Chime encouraged her to work with Rinpoche, and it was with him that she ultimately made her most profound connection, studying with him from 1974 until his death in 1987. At the request of the Karmapa, she received the full bikshuni ordination in the Chinese lineage of Buddhism in 1981 in Hong Kong. She first met Ayya Khema at the first Buddhist nuns conference in Bodhgaya India in 1987, and they were close friends from that time until her death.

Ane Pema served as the director of Karma Dzong in Boulder, Colorado until moving in 1984 to rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to be the director of Gampo Abbey. The Vidyadhara gave her explicit instructions on running Gampo Abbey. The success of her first two books, The Wisdom of No Escape and Start Where You Are, made her something of a celebrity as a woman Buddhist teacher and as a specialist in the mahayana lojong teachings. She and Judy Lief were instructed personally by the Vidyadhara on lojong, "which is why I took off with it," she explains.

Pema has struggled with health problems in the past five years but her condition has improved and she anticipates being well enough to continue teaching programs at Gampo Abbey and in California. She plans for a simplified travel schedule with a predictable itinerary, as well as the opportunity to spend an increased amount of time in solitary retreat under the guidance of Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.

Pema is interested in helping establish Tibetan Buddhist monastacism in the West, as well in continuing her work with western Buddhists of all traditions, sharing ideas and teachings. She has written five books: The Wisdom of No Escape, Start Where You Are, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times and The Places That Scare You and No Time to Lose are available from Shambhala Publications. She recently completed a new book called "Practicing Peace in Times of War" that will be published by Shambhala Publications later in 2006.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cafe Metro and The God of Carnage

Yesterday was a productive day as I continued packing and occasionally checking in on Facebook.  There was a good debate going on among people I don't know, regarding the Senate finance committee's rejection of the public option.  I enjoyed reading their comments as I sorted through old boxes of tax records.  (Later on, I watched the Daily Show and continued to be amazed at how ineffectual the Democrats are in governing with a majority of votes in Congress.  You'd think it was 1994 when the Republicans took over both houses and Newt Gingrinch was in charge.  It's so depressing really - what is wrong with them??)  

Anyway, in the late afternoon I went to a meeting of freelance people and we talked about work.  After the  meeting, a friend of mine said to me, "Wow, you look fantastic!  Radiant."  A couple of months ago, my friend Mia told me,"Tragedy becomes you."  

Maybe it's the release of so many emotions and the stress that taking care of my mother has been on me for so many years. I appreciated the compliment and I was in a good mood.  A friend of mine gave me her ticket to see "God of Carnage" last night, because she has a bad cold.  The cast is James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis and Jeff Daniels.  I was excited about seeing the play and just before I went to the theater I stopped at one of those ubiquitous cafes that are all over the city, I think it was Cafe Metro, or maybe it was Cafe Europa, on 7th Avenue between 31st and 32n Streets.  I ordered a small vegetable and rice soup and sat alone at a table.  It was close to seven p.m. and it was dark out already, and as I sat in the cafe eating my soup, I suddenly started to cry.  

I can't tell you how many times I've eaten alone at one of those cafes.  But suddenly the combination of knowing that winter is coming and it's so dark and cold (last night was particularly cold), and feeling unrooted, missing my family, worrying about the dogs, knowing that soon Steve and I have to sit down with the lawyers, all of that hit me and I couldn't stop crying.  I didn't make a scene, I just quietly sat there trying to eat the vegetable and rice soup.  I called my dear friend Lisa and couldn't reach her, so I left a message.  Within two minutes she called me back from the checkout line at Whole Foods.  

Lisa went through a divorce about ten years ago and her advice always is: you have to go through the pain to get past it.  And it will get better, much better - eventually - but not until time has passed and you've processed the feelings. 

I felt much better talking to Lisa, finished the soup and walked uptown through Times Square to the theater.  I met a woman I'd never met before, my friend Barbara's friend, Robin. She was very easy to talk to and loves to go swing dancing, so we agreed to go out together to dance.  

The play was about two married couples who meet to discuss their young sons - one of them hit the other with a stick, knocking out two front teeth.  Within half an hour they're all arguing and it's clear that both marriages have serious problems.  James Gandolfini delivers a speech about marriage, about the difficulties inherent in sharing a life with someone, raising kids, coping with losses, and aging parents, and all the crises that come up over the years. I have written similar speeches over the years myself.  I didn't love the play, the characters were all basically unsympathetic, but I definitely related to the subject and it was a true pleasure watching excellent performances.  

I thought about Pema Chodron quite a bit last night, as I was feeling all the emotions and I knew that just having them, and allowing them to move through me, is exactly where I need to be right now.  Things are falling apart... and they are also slowly coming together.