Friday, September 30, 2011

Two years ago tomorrow, October 1, 2009

I mentioned that sometimes I look back at where I was a couple of years ago, to see how far I've come.  

This post was quite striking - it was titled "Cafe Metro and the God of Carnage."  

What a difference two years make.  I'm back in Manhattan, I'm working and so happy to feel that my life is at least about being of service and being productive.  My play is moving along - who knows if anything will happen, but it's great that people are working on getting it up.  I've dated some very nice men.  I'm dealing with life - some days are challenging and some days are easy, but I am filled with gratitude for how far I've come.  I don't cry in restaurants.

October 2, 2009

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.  

As a footnote, yesterday, my mother's former aide, Janis, was visiting in the building for Rosh Hashanah.  I had suggested that she work for my upstairs neighbor's mother and it has all worked out so well.  It was difficult for me to see Janis, after so many years of spending weekends with her and my mom.  But it was great too.  And I'm so happy that she is working with a lovely woman who adores and appreciates her.

Dancing with what is

Last night, at 1:30 am, Lucy, my 16 year-old beagle had to go out for a walk.  This rarely happens, but  it means something is wrong and I will probably have to take Lucy back to the vet.

The other day, on my way to work, something told me to go to the vet to buy Lucy some of her special dog food.  I didn't really feel like going that morning, but my feet seemed to take me there.  I walked into the animal hospital and there was one person sitting in the waiting area, a very dear friend of mine.  She was there to put her cat, Dash, down.  They were putting in the catheter.  I haven't seen my friend in almost a year, other than on Facebook, even though we live across the street from each other.  Our kids were friends since they were 3 years-old.  We have been through many life events together, loss of parents, divorces, all kinds of changes.  We were together at the gym when the first plane flew into the World Trade Center.  Our families marched together with candles after 9.11. 

I stayed until Dash was euthanized and we walked back to SoHo together, talking about loss and life.  It was beshert, as they say in Hebrew, or Yiddish, or whatever language it is.  It was meant to be.

We dance with what is in life - make the best of sometimes really difficult situations.  For me, literally dancing, putting on music and letting myself dance, has been a lifesaver.  A life changer.  It changes our outlook on life when we move our bodies.  My life changed dramatically when I started dancing again.

Some days, I don't feel like dancing.  Most days, in fact.  But running on the treadmill with music accomplishes the same thing for me.  My body and my mind shift gears. Yoga does this for me too, I think I'll put on some music and dance and then do a little yoga.  I'm tired and worried about Lucy, but I think it will help if I can let myself dance with what sixteen year-old dog is not feeling well and that makes me sad.  But it's just life.  Dash was 18 years-old.  She had a good, long life.  She was loved.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coffee as an antidote to depression

The New York Times reported yesterday that women who drink coffee are less likely to be depressed. This is news?  Coffee got me out of bed and moving for years.  I didn't drink it for many years and a couple of those years I was extremely depressed. 

Don't Buddhist monks drink green tea all the time?  Caffeine is the most addictive psycho-active drug in the world.  According to the article, "further research studies will be needed to understand caffeine's affects."  Why don't they just drink a cup?  And save the hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be wasted on more studies?  And why don't they talk about men?  Men drink just as much coffee as women. 

I'm going to San Francisco next week to visit my daughter, who used to work in a coffee house.  I will do my own studies there, since there are coffee houses on almost every corner. 

Monday, September 26, 2011


Maybe it's because I am going to visit my daughter next week, or maybe it's because after many days of rain and clouds, the sun is shining - whatever the reason, I am feeling happy today. 

It's not that I don't often feel happy, I just don't write about it very often.  Maybe it's because there are a group of young people downtown protesting near Wall Street and it makes me happy that this young generation is finally taking the stage.

I also feel encouraged about our President, who seems to finally be acting like the person we elected - standing up to the Republicans and the Tea Party.  Sometimes it feels like the only people who have the courage of their convictions are people like Jon Stewart, Michael Moore and Bill Maher. 

I am not happy that there are so many problems in this world.  But for this moment, as I look out the window and see the sun shining and beautiful light - and I know that in just a couple of hours I will be riding my bicycle along the river - I feel grateful for my life.  Being alive is a great gift.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Sometimes, when I haven't written in awhile, I like to look back to where I was two years ago and see how far I've come. (Or not.)

I have been feeling a bit blue lately and my first thought was, "Well, you're not married anymore, so you should feel relieved and happy!  And free!"  And a part of me does feel that, but also a part of me recognizes that my ex was not the cause of my unhappiness, really no one else is responsible for my moods but me.  I am responsible for myself and therefore there is no one to blame or criticize (not even myself.) When I looked back this morning, I read this quote from Pema Chodron:

"The first noble truth says that if you are alive, if you have a heart, if you can love, if you can be compassionate, if you can realize the life energy that makes everything change, and move and grow and die, then you won't have any resentment or resistance.  The first noble truth says simply that it's part of being human to feel discomfort."

So I accept that I feel some discomfort today.  And I also acknowledge how far I've come from two years ago and how grateful I am for everything - all the difficulties and all the accomplishments.  I won't list them, I'll simply say it's been a period of reorganizing.  In a grief workshop I went to two years ago (you can look back at that blog post, which was in October 2009) the leader of the workshop talked about different periods of grief (other than the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross model) - and the final stage was reorganization.  That is where it feels I am today. 

And although the country and the world is in no better shape (well, actually worse in many ways) I feel encouraged that there are some interesting people showing up, including Elizabeth Warren, who talks about truths and ideas for the economy that make sense.  My hope is that Wall Street will be held accountable for their part in the mess we're in.  Is this dreaming?  No, I don't think so.  I think we are slowly starting to wake up from the past thirty years of policies that have almost ruined our country - and that now we will make changes, we will get mad as hell, and I feel hopeful that the stage we are moving into as a nation is "reorganization."  

Monday, September 19, 2011

A message from Kabbalah

Every morning I receive emails from some spiritual source or another and today I read one from Yehuda Berg, who write about Kaballah. 

He wrote about negativity and it seemed so perfect for what I have been going through recently, I thought I would share it:

"One of the greatest things we can learn from Kabbalah is how to pass through the pain of life without suffering.

The Zohar explains that pain purifies and removes the shells of negativity (klipot) that surround our inner Light, and that suffering is resistance to this pain. The klipot are created by our negative deeds, and they cover and limit our spiritual development. They are barriers between us and the Light.

We often approach our daily lives with the mindset of avoiding pain at all costs. And the moment we do feel it, we immediately look for ways to anesthetize ourselves. The Zohar teaches that by resisting the pain, we are only creating bigger problems for ourselves in the future. Pain is transitory but suffering sticks around and keeps us stuck.

With klipot constantly clinging to us—these negative shells make it hard for us to grow and change. But if we want to go to our next level in spiritual awareness, love, friendships, career, we need to go through the painful process of separating ourselves from our klipot. And we separate ourselves from our klipot every time we put our all into a job and it fails, every time someone we love goes away, every time our trust is broken—in other words, every time we take a risk and get hurt.

Contrary to what it feels like in the moment, pain is actually a sign that something good is on the way. Think about painful moments in your past. Does what I am writing ring true for you?

This week, it’s important to remind ourselves that the pain is good—it’s our klipot cracking. And once this separation heals, we will be stronger, healthier and one step closer to our true fulfillment."

Friday, September 16, 2011


For some reason, I've always found mornings to be my worst time of day.  Some mornings are fine -- this morning, for example, even though it's really cold out and I am not happy about that, I feel great.

But many mornings are very challenging for me.  I wake up with a sense of gloom and I really have to pull myself out of it.  I know I'm not unusual, many people feel that way in the mornings and I've heard of others say around 3 pm they start to get depressed.

I don't know how anyone can not be depressed these days.  I'm glad that George Bush is no longer our President, but the world is a mess, politics are disgusting, hundreds of thousands of innocent lives have been lost in the past ten years, the economy is...okay, now I'm probably depressing anyone who might be reading this.

Somehow, despite these feelings of despair, every morning I meditate and yesterday, when I was feeling really sad, I suddenly remembered Pema Chodron's words to "lean into whatever you're feeling" so I did.  I said, "I feel really depressed. I just want to stay in bed."  And then I meditated, read, went to the gym, made a few calls to friends who are going through difficult times and by 10 am, the feelings past.  Like clouds in the sky, they seem to always move.  It's an interesting business, life.  I want to feel that what I am doing is of service and I'm not quite feeling that these days.  But I show up and do my best and trust that I will find my way.

I just finished a new draft of "Scrambled Eggs" (I still hate the title) and now I feel that it's so much closer to where it should be.  So this morning, when I woke up, I didn't feel any despair.  I felt cold, but happy. 

Monday, September 12, 2011


Yesterday was a difficult day.  I was walking up Broadway in the 70's and I heard bagpipes.  It brought me back to that period after 9/11 where there were constant funerals and you frequently heard bagpipes.  The ceremony was at Engine House #25 on the upper west side.  I saw all the firemen (I didn't see any women at this firehouse) wearing their dress uniforms.  It was very moving. 

The whole day seemed very sad and I still can't believe ten years have passed.

At night, I got a text message from my neighbor, Barbara, that there were seats available at a screening of the Bill Cunningham NY film at the Crosby Street Hotel, so I ran over to see it (again) and afterward the filmmakers discussed the making of the film.  That was a good diversion from the day.  Bill Cunningham has never seen this wonderful film about him.

I woke up this morning around 4:45 am from a nightmare about my dog, Lucy, dying.  She's 16 and she's definitely starting to look her age.  My father was in the dream, he and I were in the vet's office and I had to leave the room.  He came to tell me that Lucy had died.  

Since our dreams are supposed to be about ourselves...was it a part of me that died?  I'm not sure.  

My other neighbors, Louise and Charley, lost one of their beloved dogs two weeks ago.  His name was Truman and he was a very sweet dog and only 4 years old.  

I'm learning how to sit with the feelings and this week I feel some dread about life and work.  But I also know that I need to stay in this one day and not worry about the future.  

And right now, Lucy is sleeping nearby, and I am so grateful that she is still in my life.  On 9/11, when we went out to pick up our daughter, Zoe, from school in the midst of that nightmare, we didn't know if we would ever see Lucy again.  Ten years later, almost everything in my life has changed, but Lucy is still here with me.  I love her so much, we've been through a lot together, including losing Lola.  I think I'll go give her a big hug and a kiss.  And then I'll take her out for her walk. The sun is shining, it's going to be a good day. 


Sunday, September 11, 2011


I don't believe that there are any words that I can write that will have much meaning, I think that the images of that day and probably the images that we'll see today will be far more moving than anything I can say.

I am angry that ten years later we have gone down a path that we should never have gone down and that rather than finding a way to communicate and come to some kind of peaceful co-existence in a very fragile world, we have only added violence to violence.  

Some days I feel despair about the state of the world and then other days, when I think about the spiritual leaders who have come forward, like Eckhart Tolle and Pema Chodron, and the increased interest in meditation and prayer and non-violent communication, I think that maybe there is a growing movement for change and peace.  

My personal life has changed dramatically since that beautiful summer day in September that turned into a nightmare.  These past few difficult years for me have been an opportunity for spiritual growth.  For the hundreds of thousands around the world who lost their loved ones senselessly, in wars and violence that never should have happened, I don't know how they have found their way through it.  

I hope their lives have been transformed in wondrous ways - as often happens when catastrophes occur.  

I know that some of them have found support through their connections with each other. I read somewhere recently, that crying with others around you is healing.  I found that through Friends In Deed. I wish there were thousands of FIDs around the world.

Really, there are no words. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The difficult "C"

I recently found out that a dear friend, a man who has been there for me so many times over the past eight years, has been dealing with cancer.

He's finished with radiation and they're certain it hasn't spread.  It's next to a bone in his leg though and the radiation caused damage to the bone, so he is now living with some pretty intense pain, which makes it difficult to walk.

I just want to say how much I am praying for my friend.  He's been a huge support to many people and now I hope we can all repay him in whatever way he will let us.

If anyone has suggestions about how best to be of service to someone who really resists asking for help, please let me know.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

More awake in our lives - and laughing too

"We sit in meditation so that we're more awake in our lives." Pema Chodron

Sometimes I just want to laugh and I need to laugh.  If you haven't seen "Modern Family" - watch it.  It is truly funny.  

I know Ty Burrell, who is one of the stars of the show.  He's one of the nicest people I've ever met and incredibly talented.  I couldn't be happier for him - to be so successful in a role that no one else could play as well (at least in my opinion).

Friday, September 2, 2011

This very moment is the perfect teacher

Last night, we watched Spielberg's documentary about 9/11 - at least two or three hours of it.  It was so moving, so emotionally trying and so beautiful. 

The title of the next chapter in "When Things Fall Apart" is this very moment is the perfect teacher.  I was thinking about the anniversary of 9/11 - now ten years.   I was remembering all the feelings of that day, with my ex-husband and my daughter, with our downtown community.  I think I have never experienced anything as profound as that experience, other than giving birth to Zoe.  It was quite a learning experience - mostly about the power of community, and going through difficult feelings, of friends and a city coming together.  Of hatred and forgiveness and of feeling so out of control as our country moved in directions that felt so wrong to so many of its citizens.  It feels like we've been shut down for these past ten years and maybe now that politics feel so out of touch with real life - now that we have a Tea Party and Republicans who are trying to destroy the middle class, maybe something will wake us all up. 

It is quite uncomfortable but as Pema Chodron says, "feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually clear moments that teach us where it is we're holding back.  They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we're rather collapse and move away."

To me, that is where this country is right now, collapsed and feeling hopeless.  Maybe we need to really lean in and perk up.  Maybe this anniversary of 9/11 will bring us back to life, to letting go of the grief and seeing the power of what can be done in the shadow of such a horrific event; life and art, incredibly difficult hard work and genius will be so evident in what they have created in such a sacred place.