Monday, March 29, 2010

The rain in New York

A year ago I was spending ten or so days in Spain with my husband, on one of the best trips of our life together.  Now we are separated and I am spending a week with my daughter here in NY.  It hasn't stopped raining for a few days, but it has been wonderful to see Zoe and be with the dogs.  Tonight we are going to a seder at an old friend's home and it happens to be right upstairs.  Zoe wanted to go to a seder and I'm so grateful to my friend Barbara, who is also inviting my friend Mona, who's flying in today from Los Angeles.  She reminded me that it is a mitvah (an act of human kindness) to have a stranger at the seder table.  Most people often say, "I'm sorry I don't have room" - but Barbara says "Bring anyone you know!"  What a mensch.

Several people reminded me that going through divorce takes at least two years to start to come out the other side.  I'm solidly stuck in the middle.  Not miserable, but not exactly happy either.  Some days are fine, great even, I feel on solid ground and doing my meditation, my spiritual practice, my gratitude lists, my awareness of how good my life is - how many friends I have - how much I love my two dogs and my roommate is literally AWESOME - and other times, I would like to crawl into bed and take some drug that would take away the pain.  And then I remember Pema Chodron's message, and pretty much everyone I read who says, feel it and it will pass.  So today I am feeling it, allowing myself to grieve and to remember the good times we had, especially on our trip to Spain.  A friend of mine told me that if you really feel the grief and let it pass through you, it probably won't come out twenty years later in some other way. 

I'm going to start taking an acting class in the next week and that will be an excellent outlet for the sadness.  

Today, in Moscow there were subways bombings and more than three dozen people were killed.  I wish I had something more cheerful to share today.  At least Obama managed to get a health care bill passed last week!  It's not perfect, but it's a good beginning.

There - something positive.  And my daughter is sitting on the couch, a few feet away.  A friend of mine came over yesterday and met her and he pronounced her quite terrific.  And she is and I love her.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Reconnecting with your kid

My "kid" arrived this morning.  She is twenty-two now and she is a wonderful woman and when we hugged each other I thought we would never let go.

Being a parent has been the most gratifying job/experience I have ever had and my relationship with Zoe has given me so much of everything I love in life - challenges, joy, fun, hard work, anxiety (okay, I don't love that, but it's a part of life.)

I heard a good quote that Georgia O'Keefe said, "I've been terrified just about every moment of my life, but I never let it stop me from doing anything."  I remember when I gave birth to Zoe twenty-two years ago I was terrified of the responsibility I suddenly had for this human being.  And I can't say that I did a stellar job of parenting, in fact for many years I thought I should win the "worst parent ever" award.  Now I know I'm just like most parents - trying our best, failing at some things, doing pretty well at others.  The measure of a person is not about the externals - it's about who they are inside - and Zoe is a remarkable person who is becoming more her true self every day.  I am so grateful to have this week with her and I want to enjoy every moment.  Right now she's napping after taking the red eye, so I thought it would be a good time to write.  I don't know if I'll have much time to keep up with writing this week - at least not on the blog.  But I will simply say how grateful I am that we have a good relationship, because I know how difficult it can be, especially when divorce fractures a family.  It will be interesting to see how open we can be with each other about how these past seven months have been and also, to respect the boundaries we may need to put in place if it's too difficult to talk about.

Lucy and Lola went as predicted, completely nuts when they saw Zoe.  What can you say about our beloved pets?  They are simply the greatest, most loyal company anyone could ever have.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pema's path

Earlier today I wrote a post about receiving a summons from my ex, suing me for divorce in the state of California.  I was expecting Zoe at the door, arriving from the airport, and instead, I got a summons.  It was my first time ever being served and it was quite a surreal experience.  (It turned out that Zoe is actually coming tonight on the red eye and will arrive tomorrow morning.  Thank God, because it was a difficult day.)

I wrote about the description my ex gave of me to the process server, which was actually quite flattering (especially given the description I would have given of him.)  But after I wrote the post, a friend of mine was appalled and said to me, "What would Pema say?"  So I thought about it and removed that blog post, but I thought I would put in a You Tube video of Pema talking about her own divorce and how she became a Buddhist nun.

Suffering is optional

"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" - a Buddhist principle.  It hit me because this morning, my daughter Zoe is arriving from San Francisco and I am both completely thrilled and also a bit anxious.  

The last time we were together, she was packing up all her belongings and leaving to drive cross country with her father.  The sadness of that day is still with me, even though I was happy for them to have that fantastic experience together, which really helped to create a strong bond.  

And now, nearly seven months later, both of us have had huge changes in our lives to deal with, quite a bit of pain and definitely some suffering. But Zoe seems to be thriving in San Francisco, and I am thriving here in NYC, living my completely new life.  I know that for both of us there is still sadness at the loss of our little family, but there's also going to be lots of happiness when she arrives - especially when Lucy and Lola see their beloved Zoe. 

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional, joy comes in small moments that happen when we expect it - and even more frequently, I think, when it is unexpected.  

I was looking back over some old posts I had written and I came up with this quote from Pema Chodron's "When Things Fall Apart" --  

  "The essence of life is that it's challenging. Sometimes it's sweet, and sometimes it's bitter. Sometimes your body tenses, and sometimes it relaxes or opens. Sometimes you have a headache, and sometimes you feel 100 percent healthy. From an awakened perspective, trying to tie up all the loose ends and finally get it together is death, because it involves rejecting a lot of your basic experience. There is something aggressive about this approach to life, trying to flatten out all the rough spots and imperfections into a nice smooth ride.... To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. .... To live is to be willing to die over and over again." 

I may die a little with the pleasure of seeing my daughter this morning!  I can't wait!  (And her plane is two hours late.)  

Friday, March 19, 2010

Crazy time

Someone recently suggested I read a book called "Crazy Time, Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life."

I always knew that divorce was horrible, at least for everyone I've ever known - and just a very small percentage have an easy time. For me, at times, it's felt unbearably painful.  I feel better than I did last year, but it's still very difficult.  There are moments of fun - like last night when I had a date - and remembering that gives me a very big smile.  I guess it's a gift when in the midst of pain, you get to experience pleasure too.  Life is hard AND it's also fun.  What an amazing gift to be over 50 and still feel desirable.  Wow....that's pretty good.  

I read this line in "Crazy Time" and it felt very true:  "Breaking up a marriage may be as common as Main Street nowadays, but when you finally do it, the psychological experience seems as uncharted as the dark side of the moon."  That feels so right to me, all the variables in every divorce are different.  But the common thread seems to be that there is pain involved in breaking up a family, moving forward to the unknown, letting yourself open up to other people and risking rejection.  And yet, I can't imagine not being here now, even though it's hard.  When I look at it objectively, I see that my life is pretty good and that so many people are struggling now with so much: loss of work, income, hope, health, not to mention the billion people all over the world who go to bed each night hungry and afraid.  I guess it's important to remember that I am part of something much bigger than my little divorce.  I feel grateful for the lessons I'm learning, even though I'd much rather read about them in a book or see them in a movie.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Today is the day my daughter was born 22 years ago...

...and I am so proud of her.  She's a person I admire and love. I respect her talents and her kindness.  I love her enthusiasm for life and for art, her loyalty to her friends, her intelligence and curiosity.  I enjoy being with her whenever we are together.  A walk in the park is a huge adventure to us.  We always have something to talk about and we have many things in common and many differences.  

She is coming to stay with me next week and I am so excited to see her.  This is the longest amount of time we've been apart and she has created a fantastic life for herself in San Francisco.  I look forward to visiting her there and meeting her roommates and seeing her apartment.  Lucy and Lola, our beagles, will be out of their minds when she walks in the door.

I remember that day she was born - at 11:11 am - and the first time I saw her.  She only weighed 6 lbs. 4 ounces and she looked a bit scrawny and had a very pointed cone head.  I'm so happy that I will see her next week and be able to give her a big hug. 


Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Time Stands Still"

Two nights ago a friend of mine was talking about the play "Time Stands Still" which I have been dying to see.  Laura Linney, Brian D'Arcy James, Eric Bogosian and Alicia Silverstone are in the play, written by Donald Margulies.  My friend said it was a great play and that I should see it.  I was thinking of taking Zoe when she comes to visit in two weeks, but then out of the blue, I got invited to see the show tonight.  

It was brilliant - I thought everything about it was perfect, great writing, excellent direction, fantastic acting, a terrific ensemble, important questions raised, fully drawn characters.  What a thrill it is when theater really works.  There's nothing like it.  The audience was so silent, so engrossed, it really lived up to the good word of mouth and great reviews.  The play is about a photojournalist who is nearly killed by a roadside bomb and she returns to NY to recover from her injuries.  She's in a relationship with a journalist who is ready to give up their life of covering wars and wants them to get married.  Questions of our sense of purpose, of love, friendship, our family histories, so many issues were raised it was hard to believe it was only a two hour play - the time flew by.

We saw Eric after the show and he took the subway home with us.  What a fun night in NYC!  Pouring rain, streets are flooded, and still it was fun.  Eric's going to get Zoe and me house seats when she comes and I know she's going to love the show. This is the second Saturday night in a row that I got to see really great theater for free!  I'm pinching myself. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Meditation mess

My meditation practice is terribly out of control.  I try, in the early morning, to meditate for at least fifteen or twenty minutes and I was successful at that for a long time.

But now, for some reason, I can't stop the chatter in my brain and I keep wanting to go on-line and look at the NY Times, or waste time on Facebook, or check email, or look at my astrological chart, or see what kind of camera Amazon is having a discount on, or whatever.

So, I am taking a vow, that right after I walk the dogs this morning, I'm going to come back and shut everything off (I may quickly check the camera deals first) and then sit and breathe and allow myself that time.  I don't know why I resist it, I always feel better and it's a lot easier than running three miles or taking a yoga class.  Five minutes can be enough - it's just about taking that time and allowing myself the luxury of being in the moment without cluttering my mind with nonsense.  Or allowing the nonsense to pass through without adding to it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dating again

I don't know what to say about this really except that it's amazing how easy it is to get back into the dating scene these days, if you're open.  It's lovely that I have so many men in my life who I genuinely like and who seem to like me.  It's fun to get to know people and I have a better sense of what I need in a man.  I need a man who makes me laugh and a man with big appetites for life - food, fun, experiences, adventure, connection.  I need a kind man, a man who isn't afraid to be open with his feelings and likes to communicate.  A man with a big heart, who's also smart.  I don't think that's impossible to find, do you?

And I hope he'd be willing to dance on the table if we ever went together to Opa in Miami Beach, or he'd at least enjoy watching me having fun dancing on the tables!  

I'm writing every day now and I have to say, today's writing made me cry but it felt so good to just let the words flow.  I love first drafts because for me, they are as Hemingway said, "always shit" - but they give me a sense of what I want to say and I don't judge anything (too much) as I write a first draft.

There's plenty of time for that later, when I get to the later drafts.  Sometimes I think I should just be writing and not dating, but then life would feel pretty serious and I've had serious for too long.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Helen Keller

My friend Barbara is going to see "The Miracle Worker" tonight and I just read this quote from Helen Keller, which I loved:

"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."  


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My daily readings

Every morning, before I go anywhere (other than walking the dogs) I make sure that I read something from my daily readers.  I discovered this years ago, when I started with a book that basically copied Twelve Step daily readers, although I can't remember the name of the book, I found it helpful during a difficult year.  

Now I read four books and each reading is about a page. Here were the messages this morning:  

1.  Taking care of yourself - setting boundaries - taking actions that are necessary in order to be responsible for yourself is important.  Caring for others is great, but not caretaking.  That was a big lesson in my life.  I'm not sure I've got it yet, but I am making progress.

2. Trying to figure out what is the right path, when your heart tells you something and your head tells you something else.  When that small still voice is screaming, "You're going to get hurt!  No, don't do that!  Stay away!"  How do you trust intuition and know what is the right path for you, and what is based on old voices that are no longer valid.

3.  Constructive criticism vs. hurtful criticism.  Consider the source!  

4.  Anger is another addiction.  We often use it as a default behavior, instead of an opportunity to take a few deep breaths and see what is really bothering us and why we feel the need to act out.

I need these daily readers and my meditation practice right now.  Sometimes it feels that accepting wherever I am in my life is quite easy and safe. Other times it feels very scary and that the future is a giant, terrifying unknown.  Today is March 9th and today all is well.  Spring is almost here and I am grateful for all that is good in my life.  There are so many blessings and I am so excited that my daughter is coming to visit me in two weeks.

But I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say that right now is a bit difficult and it's hard for me to write about it.  I can do as Pema Chodron suggests and say, "I accept, I accept" and take a few slow deep breaths and go about my day.  I love the prayer, "Please make me an instrument of thy peace."  I will look for some flowers and buds on the trees.  When I woke up this morning, the sentence (and lyric), "Today's going to be a great day" came to me so I posted it on Facebook.  I hope it is for everyone, particularly those of us who are dealing with challenging times.  

I'm also going to try to put some fun in my day, even if it's just a dance break or a bike ride.  And I'm going to remember the messages about self care, anger, constructive criticism and trust.  

I also apologize for any typos today.  I woke up really early this morning and I can't quite wake myself up!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Come Fly Away"

On a much lighter note, last night I went with my friends Roger and Cheryl to see "Come Fly Away" - Twyla Tharp's latest show.  I can't imagine anyone not enjoying listening to Frank Sinatra and seeing these gorgeous dancers move - with their amazing physicality, the sensuality and the fun of this show.  I haven't seen Twyla Tharp's other Broadway shows, so this was a treat - a free preview - a lovely evening with wonderful people I've met at Friends In Deed.  

Roger was one of the great cooks at the Mastery.  He said I was the most appreciative participant in all of the Masteries!  Maybe because they literally saved my life with their delicious meals, so lovingly prepared.  Thank you, Roger, for the food, the show and for your friendship! 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Food Inc.

I put off seeing this documentary for a long time because I knew it would be difficult to watch. 

It is now cheaper for people to buy entire meals at McDonald's or any fast food restaurant than it is to buy vegetables or fruits.  No wonder insurance companies are making billions of dollars - we are an unhealthy country, eating a lot of junk.  And the reason for this is that large conglomerates like Tyson, Purdue, Monsanto and Smithson control almost the entire food industry.  It is impossible for many people to buy free range chickens or meat that has been grass fed, rather than fed with corn, because the prices are too high.  The conditions in slaughterhouses for humans and the animals are disgusting and infuriating and our government isn't doing nearly enough to change that.  (Because our government is made up of people who worked in those industries.)  People are dying daily from contaminated foods - children are dying daily - how can we stand by and do nothing?

It is our responsibility as consumers to change this.  We can do it by buying locally at Farmers' Markets, buying organic and grass fed, free range chickens and meats, having a garden if you can, demanding organic foods be sold in grocery stores, stop buying so much junk food and altering the way we eat.  I didn't say it would be easy. 

I don't know how we, as a nation, can really alter the course that we've taken for over fifty years - but I do know that pretty much anything is possible. Even Walmart is providing its customers with organic foods now - so there are positive signs that change is coming. Please rent Food Inc. if you haven't seen it.  It is so worth watching. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"I accept, I accept"

Tonight my friend Karen and I went to hear a woman named August Gold speak. She was amazing.  She is a Unity minister, has a congregation in NY called The Sacred Center.  She has also studied Buddhism and the talk tonight was on accepting our burdens as gifts, that inside our burdens are the greatest gifts.  She talked about Pema Chodron - that she feels she is our most important teacher of Buddhism now and how Pema encourages us to sit with all the feelings, whatever they are, to not move away from the difficult stuff towards only the good stuff because we miss out on the gifts that come from going through the pain, sitting with the pain.  She quoted from the Tao about your life unfolding exactly as it is supposed to - even with the losses, the terrible jobs, the illnesses, the deaths, the divorces, the rotten girlfriends, whatever.  She talked about the evolution of birds - that when they got wings and had no idea what to do with them, they felt like a burden to them, like what are these things we have to carry around?  Until gradually they realized that they could fly.

At one point, she says to the audience, has anyone gone through difficult burdens and realized that there are gifts inside them?  So my hand goes up involuntarily and she immediately sees me and says, "Great!  Stand up please."  I didn't expect that, I just thought I was saying "Yes!"  And the next thing I know there's a microphone in my hand and I'm talking about my mom and the divorce and how it's all been a great gift because my heart opened up, I feel so much empathy, and spiritually fed, more alive and filled with gratitude for all the friends who rallied around me, all the love.  I don't even remember what else I said really, but she was excited. And I mentioned that I'd read Pema Chodron to get through a lot of the difficulties and she asked which books, and I said, "When Things Fall Apart" and "The Wisdom of No Escape" - then she mentioned the birds again and I said, "Oh, yeah, and my name is Robin," which got a big laugh.  She was very articulate and inspiring, and considering I have a few more hurdles to deal with, it really helped me to look at them as opportunities for growth and change. And also to remember that there will always be "burdens" and challenges as long as we are alive and to look for what the gifts are in going through them. 

Wherever you are, resistance doesn't really help.  "I accept, I accept" is so useful.  
Try it!  

A year of gain

I don't know why, but it seems like good things are happening all around me.  Today I got a call for a free massage at Friends in Deed and a trainer at my gym offered me a free training session.  And tonight there's a lecture by August Gold, who's supposed to be a fantastic speaker.  She's steeped in Unity and Buddhist teachings. 

I ran into someone on the street who I was happy to see and I receive beautiful emails from friends - men and women.  I got taken out two nights this week - once to the wine bar on Monday night (where we were given ridiculously enormous amounts of delicious free food) and last night to a screening and a fabulous dinner at North Square.

I started working on a book idea that Abigail, my loft mate and I have, and it feels great to be writing.  Spring is only TWO weeks away!  My beloved daughter is coming for a visit in only THREE weeks.  

I am waiting for Governor Patterson to resign.  He and his associates did something really wrong to a woman who was physically abused.  They abused her just as much as her boyfriend did.  He should not be our governor and I predict he will resign very soon.  He better!

I guess it's really a good time to be grateful for having this blog, which has chronicled this journey I've been on (not the real dirt - that will come out in the book.)  It's been a good source of sanity for me and perhaps helpful to a few people who read it.  I'm grateful to people have said that they've enjoyed reading it.  I'm grateful for having a home, so many good friends, my health (I ran 3 miles in 36 minutes today - and if I don't have a heart attack, I should be in really good shape soon.)  It feels amazingly great to run and have that endorphin rush.

Even though today is a gray day, it's not bothering me.  I'm living in the present moment and not in the future or the past.  I keep learning lessons and my best discovery is that often the worst times really can lead to the greatest life lessons and joy.  

Hopefully, this difficult period in our country's history will lead to some positive changes as well. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Coming around again

Yesterday I heard an amazing singer, Rosena Hill, at Unity of NY.  She sang some gospel spirituals acapella that were so soulful, everyone in the audience was blown away. Then she sang "The Impossible Dream" and killed us and then later on, the choir came out and she sang with them and I couldn't believe what a gift it was to be sitting in that audience and listening to that music.  I was so uplifted the rest of the day - I went shopping at Zabar's and then my loft mate, Abigail and I tried out a great hamburger place in the East Village and talked to the owner, who was divorced but still pretty angry after fifteen years. Fortunately, she makes excellent burgers. 

Then later at night, a feeling of doom and gloom came over me.  Divorce blues, fears of earthquakes on the west coast where my daughter lives, sadness about Chile, Haiti, the Congo.  I don't know where it came from - Sunday nights can be difficult.  I thought about kissing and having fun and that cheered me up a bit -- and then I did what I usually do when I'm having a soul struggle - I made a few calls, did a little reading, wrote, watched some mindless TV (last night it was the closing ceremonies of the Olympics) and then took a half a Klonipin and went to sleep...or passed out really.

When I woke up this morning, I took the dogs out for a walk and brought my ipod.  Two songs randomly came on.  One is a song that Zoe and I used to dance to when she was little - "I get knocked down but I get up again"  - by Chumbawamba.  And it made me laugh and dance a little on the street.  And then a few minutes laters, Carly Simon's "Coming Around Again" came on and that also lifted my spirits.  I had an email from a friend who reminded me how far I've come in the past six months or's always hard to see that in yourself, but I think it's true.  

I read a long article in yesterday's NY Times about depression, which I agreed with - depression is part of life, sadness is not to be medicated away (unless it's completely debilitating) and I went to the gym and ran three miles in 35 minutes - a personal best since I started running last month.  And then suddenly, I was back on track, back to living in the moment, back to feeling optimistic and also with lots of ideas for the book that Abigail and I've been thinking about writing together.

So thank you Rosena, Chumbawamba, Carly, treadmill, hamburgers, hamburger lady, dear friends; I pray for Chile and Haiti and everywhere else in the world and here's "Coming Around Again."