Sunday, April 29, 2012

Jessica Posner

I don't normally buy Vogue, but today I was waiting endlessly for a subway to arrive and I finally broke down and bought a copy to pass the time.  I was blown away by a story called "Learning Curve" about a young woman named Jessica Posner, who went to live in Nairobi for the fall semester of her senior year.  She ended up living with Kennedy Odede, a young man from Kibera, Africa's largest slum, the size of Central Park, in Kibera, where more than a million people live without proper roads, a sewage system, electriticy, police, hospitals or schools.  Kennedy is a young social activist who created Shining Hope for Communities in Kibera, an organization to educate the residents of Kibera about AIDS, gender violence, sanitation and microfinance.

Kennedy eventually had to flee Kenya during a political uprising and he ended up getting a scholarship to Wesleyan University, where Jessica also studied.  Together, amazingly -- they were able to create a tuition free school for girls with 100 students, a 100,000 liter water tower that provides clean water to 2,000 households, a clinic that treats everything from typhoid to pneumonia, and offers pre-natal care, HIV testing and treatments.  They've constructed public restrooms and sustainable gardens.  Newman's Own Foundation contributed $1,000,000 and they are now getting funds from other investors.  

Jessica is only 25 years-old and Kennedy is 27.  I am so inspired by what they have been able to accomplish so far and I can only imagine how much more they can do.  If you can, read the story in the May 2012 issue of Vogue, page 112, "Learning Curve."  I will post a TED talk that Jessica's going to do in June, I can't wait to see it.   

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Change

While doing research for the re-write of the ending of the play, I read Dr. Christiane Northrup's work on menopause in "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom" and I was pretty blown away by what I read.  I'm sure I read some of this years ago, but I hadn't looked at it in a long time.  It really mirrors my own life experience and though I'm still in transition, overall, this is what has happened to me:

Dr. Christiane Northrup’s “Women’s Body, Women’s Wisdom” -- on perimenopause and menopause:

“No other stage of a woman’s life has as much potential for allowing a woman to understand and tap into her own power as this one – if, that is, she is able to negotiate her way through the general cultural negativity that has surrounded menopause for centuries.  This negativity has been challenged and changed significantly in the past decade as women of my generation, the baby boomers, enter menopause by the millions  As a result, this climacteric experience is now significantly different from how it was for our World War II- generation mothers.”

…”a woman is likely to live thirty to thirty-five years following menopause, making menopause ‘the springtime’ of the second half of life.”

…”the important point is that the silence surrounding this process has now been broken by the women of the baby boom generation.” 

…”women are freer than ever before to pursue creative interests and social action.  These are the years when all of a women’s life experiences come together and can be used for a purpose that suits her.” 

“If you want to know where your power really is, you need look no further than the processes of your body that you have been taught to dismiss, deny, or be afraid of.  These include the menstrual cycle, labor, and the mother of all wake-up calls, menopause.  The years surrounding menopause are a time when most women find themselves at a crucible, having all the dross of the first half of their lives burned away so that they may emerge re-born and more fully themselves.  Menopause can be likened to adolescence in reverse, the same stormy emotions we experienced during puberty often returns, urging us to complete the unfinished business of our early years.” 

“Perimenopause is the wake-up call of the entire life cycle.  If we’ve been pressing the snooze button on any parts of our lives that need attention, the years surrounding perimenopause will bring them to our attention in ways we can no longer avoid if we are to truly flourish in the second half of our lives.  Once a women understands that the true meaning of menopause has been inverted and degraded, like many of the other processes of her body, she can reverse this programming and make her way through the rest of her life fortified with purpose, insight and pleasure.” 

“During this stage, she is more apt to tell the truth than ever before in her life and less apt to make excuses for others.  Many women quest for peace of mind against a background of turmoil and change as they end twenty-year marriages, have affairs, get left by their parents, face the empty nest, start new businesses, and explore new facets of their identity.”

“At mid-life, a woman looks back at her life and ponders where she has been and how far she has come.  Now is the time when she grieves the loss of any unrealized dreams she may have had when she was a young woman, and prepares the soil for the next stage of her life.  She grapples with many of the issues that coincide but are not directly associated with hormonal function, such as caring for aging parents with health problems while also wanting to focus more on herself, perhaps by traveling extensively for the first time or going back to college.  Depending on her degree of success or perceived success in life, she may find herself in a crisis that is not so much psychological as it is developmental.  How she negotiates this crisis will affect her health on all levels as she goes through menopause.”

“This is a time when many women, myself included, begin to manifest some of the fierce need for self-expression that frequently goes underground at adolescence.  I like to think of mid-life women as dangerous – dangerous to any forces existing in our lives that seek to turn us into silent old ladies, dangerous to the deadening effects of convention and niceness, and dangerous to any accommodations we have made that are stifling who we are now capable of becoming.  By the age of 45, I found myself deeply engaged in the process of scrutinizing every aspect of my life and my relationships in an effort to eradicate any dead wood that either held me back or no longer served whom I had become.  My tolerance for dead-end relationships of all kinds began to evaporate.” 

“Women in mid-life are at a turning point: Either we can continue living with relationships, job, and situation that we have outgrown – a choice that hastens the aging process and the chance for disease dramatically – or we can do the developmental work that our bodies, our hormones, are calling out for.  We must source our lives from our souls now. Grow or die.” 

Monday, April 23, 2012

On real estate and writing

I just came back to The Corcoran Group, my old company, and I'm also working on a re-writing for the ending of the play.

Stressed out is how I'm feeling.  

I keep wondering how some people handle anxiety so well and others don't.  I haven't had time to do Pilates or Yoga, but I do still take time to run and always walk long distances.  Meditation also helps.  

I was talking to a good friend whose father is dying, and dying, and dying.  One day it looks like the end and the next day he's feeling better and the truth is, no one knows.  I remember those days of watching my own mother and how difficult it was.  

It's Monday morning, it rained hard all night and will probably continue to rain most of the day.  A week from today is my birthday and I guess one of the gifts of aging is that I really don't mind.  I saw Jane Fonda's TED talk on aging and it really expressed how I feel about it.  Dancing seems to be the best reflection of how alive I feel, how much joy and pleasure I experience when I dance.  Even with the bad knees and the aches and pains, it's just so much fun.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Goodbye Larry

I had a boyfriend when I was a senior in high school and he was a freshman in college.  His name was Larry Cohen. We went to the same high school, but he'd been "going steady" with another girl for years and they broke up when they graduated.  He was brilliant and incredibly funny, I always had a crush on him. 

When he came home on his first Christmas break, we started dating.  Our first date was on Christmas Eve and Larry borrowed a car from one of our teachers (I can't remember how that happened) but we ran out of gas at 10 pm, when it was snowing and there weren't many gas stations open.  I remember Larry left me in the car and walked to find a gas station.  It was not the best first date, but we became a couple and I really liked him.

Almost every day I would receive a small white envelope in the mail from Larry that first year.  The letters were short and funny, all about college life - he went to Cornell - and he liked it, but pledging fraternities was a nightmare for him.  He ended up getting into only one - and it wasn't one of the fraternities he wanted to be in.  At the end of the school year, he dumped me, right before my senior prom, because he was having "an identity crisis."

I was crushed, it was probably the first time my heart was broken.  We got back together two years later and we had some great times, but in the end I broke up with him and his heart was broken.

We lost touch over the years - he got married very young, in grad school and he became a clinical psychologist and a professor.  He and his wife had two kids, a son and a daughter.  The daughter was born with infant seizure disorder and it was devastating.  She's grown now, but she has many physical and developmental issues to deal with.  Fifteen years ago, Larry had colon cancer, but he beat it.  We got together a few times over the past ten years or so, meeting for lunch or speaking on the phone.  We hadn't spoken since 2008 and recently I had been thinking of calling him. 

I found out yesterday that he died on April 1st.  He was a professor at the University of Delaware and I imagine his students loved his intelligence, his kindness and most of all his sense of humor.  I don't know too many people who could make me laugh the way Larry did.  We hurt each other, but I think we also loved each other.  I'm so sad that I never made that call.  Larry, I will miss you.