Letting Go When There Is No Rope Left

Letting Go When There’s No Rope Left

I have a friend who is trying to get divorced. This has been going on for two years. The marriage was a good length, (ten years), and a good part of it was not unhappy but the divorce has turned into a nightmare of hatred, accusations, bitterness, anger, paranoia and deep despair on the part of both parties.

There were no children involved, several properties purchased together, and a long stream of expenses for their life paid for by my friend who gave his partner free rein to do what she wanted in terms of the household accounts. By the time he realized most of his money was gone it was too late for reason or recompense: his life had become unbearable as daily verbal abuse had escalated to the point of physical pain. There was no surviving the atmosphere in the house, no love left between the two marital participants, and so my friend left.

His partner filed for divorce immediately and thus began the long history of demands for money, property, shares in imagined earnings, financial reports, tax returns, and appearances in court, depositions and more depositions. Interestingly enough, at this point in time my friend’s net worth had diminished to one tenth that of his wife’s yet she continued to threaten, hire new lawyers, fire old accountants, make new lists about what she wanted, hide possessions from my friend, and make her life’s goal destroying her husband.

Now I ask myself “Why?” If I were in the same position would I behave in the same way? Of course not. I am a reasonable person who likes to work things out and find reasonable solutions to problems. I like to have situations that are emotionally complicated solved as smoothly and expediently as possible as drawing them out only serves to upset one’s health and make oneself look like a fool in the community. People that continually fight over nothing and act in irrational ways are usually ostracized by others and find them alone and unloved in their lives. Who would actively make a choice to live like this?

Why am I writing about this today? I think it’s a really good lesson to all of us about how to destroy your life and your Karma. Holding anger, retribution and bitterness inside yourself is a good mechanism to destroy your own life. I think it does more damage than smoking. Imagine inhaling all that rage each day with every breath and then imagine not being able to release it. Imagine getting into arguments with everyone that surrounds you and then not having any real friends left. Imagine acting in a way that is dangerous to you and to others. Then take a breath and wonder why.

I think people get so caught up in their battles they forget why they began them in the first place. Much like all the needless wars we have been involved with we often can’t remember why we started to hate each other. We forget our compassion towards others and towards ourselves. We exist on our own fear and we can’t even see how it is destroying our lives. We lose all reason and all awareness of our own behavior and become fearful individuals who are living solitary lives as it becomes too risky to trust anyone else.

How many stories out there are like that of my friend? How many people hold on to old stuff as its familiar: pain is familiar. It may not be pleasant but sometimes fear makes us choose the familiar rather than the new as the new cannot be predicted.

I am no angel. Believe me I know that and I am aware of my own failings just as others are. I am writing this to make sense of the situation to me as well as to you as it seems so insane. The only thing I do know to be absolutely true is that operating from a fear based self will ultimately ruin your life and leave you with no friends or family to support you. In the end as they say we die alone but I hope when I die there are people who love me all around who can send me on my way to a new plane with love and joy. After all, there is really nothing else worthwhile in life but love.

 

Losing a friend you thought was already lost

Cover of "Gone with the Wind"
Cover of Gone with the Wind

I read the obituaries every morning as many people do. I have no idea why we do this. I look for reasons why people died, how old they were when they died, who survived them, etc. The other morning I saw that my childhood friend had died in February of a long term illness. There was a lovely picture of her taken when she was about 20 I would guess. I have no way of knowing as I last saw her in ninth grade at the graduation of Greenwich Country Day School. She was no longer my best friend having abandoned me for Phyllis and Priscilla and so we barely spoke on that day. I do remember feeling sad I was no longer friends with her and wondering what I had done for her to have lost interest in our friendship.

Betsey befriended me in fifth grade and whatever she told me to do I would do. I went to her house when she still had one (her father later left her mother) and spent the night many times. Her mother had a raspy voice, chain smoked L and M’s, and seemed sharp and unfriendly but stayed out of our way. She had two older sisters who were very glamorous and kind to me. I liked going to Betsey’s house as there was little supervision and we did whatever we wanted. Once in a while we would go bowling, something I never did with my own family.

Betsey told me in fifth grade I needed a bra: not because I was very developed but just because” every fifth grader needed one”. She took one from her sister’s drawer and told me to try it on which I did in the privacy of her bathroom. It was made of a harsh type of cotton and had straps with lengths sticking out which you pinned into place with small gold safety pins. When I wore the bra I felt incredibly sophisticated and old but nervous. What if someone touched my back and felt the strap and knew I was wearing a bra! What a terrifying thought!

In order to wear the bra I had to hide it in my drawer at night and then pack it in my school briefcase, carry it to school, and change into it in the girl’s room under Betsey’s supervision. The whole process seemed so time consuming but worth the excitement and the attention I seemed to get from Betsey for my obedience to her rules.

Betsey also taught me swear words which I did not know at that time. Today this seems startling but in the 60’s it was not surprising. I learned the three swear words that Betsy said were important to learn.  “Shit” “fuck” and “dick”.

I found the words very difficult to define and kept returning to Betsy’s side asking her to let me know once again what they meant. I didn’t dare say them out loud and neither did she but writing them was also out of the question. I remember running back and forth most of that school day so I could remember the words, define them, and someday use them.

Once, about five years later out of the blue, Betsy called me and asked if I wanted to sneak out of my house and meet up with her. She said there would be a boy who could drive. I was really torn by this invitation as I never did anything wrong. It simply wasn’t worth the repercussions but Betsey’s invitation seemed irresistible as the “boy” was incredibly cute. I had seen him around town, he was a bit older than we were, and was considered   really cool and very bad. Having never been in a car driven by anyone under the age of 40, I couldn’t resist.

As it turned out, my parents were out of town and our house was “loosely supervised” when this was the case. We had a nanny but she put my youngest sister to bed and then went to sleep herself by 9. At 9:10 I was downstairs trying to open the door without making a sound convinced I would be caught. I had no idea what I thought would happen but it wouldn’t be good. I finally opened the door and slipped out into the warm night air. It was very dark and I had no flashlight but I could see some outlines of the drive and the road behind it. I walked slowly past the night shrouded house of the Toby’s thinking of Button tucked safely in her bed and thinking to myself I must be really a wild child.

Waiting in the dark at the end of Meadowcroft Lane for Betsy and her crew was endless and by the time their car arrived I was a wreck. For some reason which I will never understand Betsy got out of the car and wanted me to sit next to Peter, the bad boy who was driving. In this position I felt as if I had been kidnapped by a scary witch on one side and an irresistible prince on the other. Hot and cold, yin and yang, good and bad, god knows what was happening but one side felt really good! Peter’s thigh was about as exciting to me as seeing Rhet Butler carry Vivien Leigh up the stairs in ”Gone With The Wind”. I could barely speak I found it so intoxicating. At one point the bad boy took his foot off the accelerator and moved my leg closer telling me to steer and use the gas pedal which of course I did.

Looking back on that night I see how important it was to me in my life of mostly dreams and few actual adventures. Sneaking out of my house at night, being driven by a bad boy around town, feeling the arousal a teenage boy could create, in me: it was an amazing memory for me to take out from time to time and smile over. Nothing happened. No one was hurt. No one even missed me, but it was magic.

So there was an obituary for me to read about my friend who created the memory but was lost to me for the rest of her life. As it turned out, she lived for many years less than five blocks from where I lived with my young family yet I never knew it. She worked cleaning houses for years and had her own small company. She never married or had children and died with her sister and a friend. by her side. I felt sad reading Betsy’s obituary as her life didn’t seem as large as her spirit and I was sorry. I will always be grateful to her for my night of magic.

family wall

In our house in Maine there is a family wall where many memories are drawn or painted. The first measurement of a child’s height was done about 35 years ago when my daughter, Christina, was 2 years old. The wall is now covered with lots of memories and people who visit continue to make more of them. This house is the only house I own which I have owned for this long a period of time. In my real life outside of the months of summer I buy and sell real estate like a grass hopper. I love to move. I love exploring the new property and finding new nooks and crannies to hide in or hide things in. It makes me feel as if I am reinventing myself all over again which is a good feeling. I have noticed there are two different groups when it comes to houses: those that move and those that do not move. Neither group is better than the other , just a different mind-set. I think I like to move because movement seems to be a better feeling than stillness. Stillness can be sobering.

We are in an economy now where there is a lot of stillness interjected without sharp periods of insane fluctuation in the financial markets. Many still believe we are on an upswing. I do not and have not as you will know from my older posts. How can we pull ourselves out of this recession with so much accumulated debt in our government and those of other countries in the world?

So I say “STORE NUTS!”

Just like the squirrels do in time for a long winter we all need to store nuts. Don’t suggest this, our government officials tell us as we ned people to spend to end the recession That seems like a Catch 22 to me. Tell everyone to spend their savings so our economy will improve but what about what happens if people do just that and our economy gets even worse? We all need nuts in our trees to survive what looks like a very long winter.

So I have an idea. What if we all stored nuts and then added a few more for people who didn’t have enough?Wouldn’t that be a good plan? The world is different now and will become more different and less safe. If we band together and help each other life would be better for most.

I don’t have a huge network of family where I live but I do have a large network of friends I am grateful for. I would like to have a wall in my house here of all my friends heights and their small drawings as it would keep me company at night.  Maybe I will begin that project soon.

Jobless in the bay area: Interviewing skills

Jobless in the bay area

Today I was lucky enough to be visited by an old friend who I hadn’t seen for 10 years or so.

She came because she wanted some interviewing advice and that is what I used to teach: how to sell yourself, how to work a room, how to get the job of your dreams. I stopped teaching because it was incredibly tiring and I had run out of hope to give people.

I found that today I really enjoyed doing my old job again and was helpful to my friend which is what it is all about to me. We spoke of her past employment and what she wanted now and then we spoke of how weird it is to be older and unemployed and having interviews with people 10 or more years younger than you.

I found this point the most interesting one as it is true for so many people today. You work hard, make a good living, advance up the ladder of corporate success and then lose your job. You have to begin a long search, learn to sell yourself all over again, and face the fear of never finding a job.

I find the younger generation hard to deal with as they seem to have no sense of humor. I often find myself out with a group of people younger than me and I notice they are really not having that much fun. Often they drink a lot, the men talk sports, and the women talk about schools for their kids. In this regard nothing has changed from my generation.

The one different thing is that my generation knows how to have fun! We had great music for fun. Anyone who grew up in the sixties and danced to the Beach Boys, kissed to the Beatles, and went to a Rolling Stones concert knows about fun. Fun is just good old sweet fun. Like spending an entire afternoon in a grassy field making out with your boyfriend.

My friend who is on a job hunt interviews with mostly young men and she isn’t having much luck. I think she isn’t having luck because it is really hard to establish rapport with a guy in his late thirties or earl forties. They don’t know the art of small talk the way we do. Small talk makes the big talk which comes after so much easier. These guys may also be threatened by a woman who is older and infinitely more qualified that they are. In any case they do not feel comfortable establishing a rapport and go right into hard core interview questions.

You know what I told her to do? Wear a pretty dress rather than the black suit she always wore to interviews.  Well, that’s not all I told her to do but I did recommend that she do that. I think wearing a dress at our age to a job interview shows you have a good sense of self and that you are comfortable in your own skin. I think the old days of dark suit interviews should be swept out the door.

My friend did tell me that once she was 40 she vowed to wear all the pink she wanted to the office. So now she needs to remember that. We all do. It’s so hard to face fear and act as if you have none. People get hired who seem confident and competent. Acting fearful is a bad thing in an interview. It’s not so much the pretty dress as the attitude that says I am comfortable with myself and I get along with people.

After she left my sweet dog disappeared for a couple of hours. I felt terrible fear and was crying most of the time. I convinced myself she would never return and that I would never find another dog like her. I would be forever sad about losing her. She had been carried off by an enormous eagle that had eaten her piece by piece.  Can you imagine anyone thinking like this? Crazy, right?

Fear is crazy. It paralyses us. It makes us unable to live our lives with freedom and joy. It is the worst possible emotion I feel yet is is always simmering under the edge of our lives. As the book says we have to “Feel the Fear, and Do it Anyway”.

uses for curtains in London

I wrote a while ago about Fergie and her shame and it was interesting to read what people thought. Some were sad about it as I was and  some thought it was unimportant in light of what was going on in the world. I agree with both sides of the coin. When I saw the tape in which she was caught accepting a bribe I felt very sad for her and ashamed as well.I think, to me, it was a bleak example of what life is reduced to today for some people.I can’t explain it beyond that. It was more than salacious gossip, and more than frivolity in light of the world. It was a vision of what the world had done to a woman who had once had so much and now had nothing. No money, no self-esteem, no place in the world, and now she will be lost forever like so many others. We live in a time where many of us have lost a lot: some are living simpler lives and finding they enjoy it more and some have not felt any pinch at all. This last group is in the extreme minority, obviously but what feels different to me now is those that still maintain arrogance and lack in compassion are falling off the edge of the earth. In our world now we either look at what is happening with compassion or with fear. If we can use the lense of compassion I believe we will be able to help others who need help. If we use the lense of fear we will slowly drown pulling down others around us.

It’s like the dinner hour in some houses where the children all look to see who has more on their plate or Christmas Day when presents are counted in piles with names on them.

I will always remember the look of hopelessness in Fergie’s eyes. It is the same look many of us have. Sure I don’t spend much time thinking about her, but viewing that tape made me feel what it is like to be desperate.

What did you hear today?

I heard from a banker that he agreed with me on the market outlook, saying the “blip” in the market was a terrorist attempt to see if the stock market could be manipulated. Isn’t that interesting? There is a definite shift happening. I wonder almost hourly what my role should be in all of this. What can I do to help people? I think there are a lot of us wondering this which is a wonderful thing! If more people begin to wonder how they can help the world, the world will be helped. I am thinking about collaborative effort and had lunch today with a man who is working on a project with the Dali Llama. They are creating a program throughout universities for nonviolent negotiation skills: how great is that? The Dali Llama is magic. I didn’t learn collaborative skills in my childhood and am working on learning them now. It doesn’t involve using my intelligence only giving up my pride and letting go of any self-defense I am clinging to.

Don’t buy stocks now…

Something new in the universe..

Mercury is out of retrograde

But we still stand a chance of tipping off our axis.

If you think there are too many things that are off in the world you are right. The environmental issues are bad enough but the presence of nuclear weapons will be what destroys us. If only each country could decide to not be afraid of losing what they have and to give up weaponry, we might be safe. Without a universal decision to abandon the use of nuclear weapons on this planet we will eventually destroy it. It seems strange to me that the world cannot grasp this consequence. It’s like a smoker who keeps on smoking thinking they will avoid any health consequence. There is no other possible outcome than eventual disaster.

That is my thought for the day. That, along with a warning not to buy more stocks. Though most analysts are stating we have a recovery in progress, it is my bet that the European economy will fail in their attempt to bail out Greece and that failure will result in a bigger failure in our markets. Spread out your net worth as much as you can choosing bonds and hard assets. We are in for a time when money will be meaningless and arrogance, a thing of the past.

Square red planter

There is something very inspiring about an empty planter. Sometimes I leave planters unfilled for an entire season. This is disturbing to many and inspiring to others.I like the looks of this empty red planter because it looks as if it has been empty for a long time. This morning in the Times there is an article about the economy which suggests  the stock market can be turned around by a national mental condition  of positive thinking. That is, if a larger group of investors believes the market is on an upswing, it will be on one. I can understand this theory as it seems logical to me. However, I do not believe we should count on this theory to save our necks in todays economy. I do believe we are all still frightened about what is going on. We have never seen an unemployment rate as high as ours which is frightening. We have also never seen such a high rate of debt. I have no idea where to invest in the future nor in the present. Some say we should be investing at least 40% of our net worth outside the country. I believe that may be true but still have no idea where we should invest. Is China a good bet? Shall we bet on the future of Brasil or is India the place to look ? Scandinavia is also looking good to some. So back to the theory of stock market swings and the emotional state of investors. What if the emotional state of americans is positively affecting the market and causing the Dow to rise as it has over the past 6 months?Now it is winter and in winter the truth always comes out. There are still many foreclosures and in some state the rate is rising not falling.  People are filling the malls and buying things they don’t need for holiday gifts. Credit card debt is rising rapidly. A friend of mine recently lost her line of credit as the issuing bank canceled it claiming she had not paid the monthly fee on time. She claimed she had and protested the decision but to no avail. In the paper this morning there is also an article about a bank that changed its billing envelope to one without any markings. It was thrown out by many customers and the bank then collected late fees for balances due that were not paid. What is going on now? Is there a kind of game happening in the world of banks and credit card companies where the point is to trick the consumer out of their money so you win more money? This is a really paranoid way to think but what if it is true? What role would the government play in such a game?

I am disturbed about the way things are going and worried about our country. I think many people want to recession to be over because they have no attention span for deprivation. It is much more fun to spend what you want on things you really don’t need. It is easier and faster to go out and buy things rather than to look inside yourself and discover what fills the void without spending money. That’s my task for today. I am heading out to the paths in our neighborhood to find beauty and serenity and see if it makes me happy. I am hoping glances at the beauty of California will make me deeply satisfied with my Sunday. I hope it works as I am no better than anyone else. A visit to Nordstroms  is better than vanilla ice cream.

 

Why I hate Musical Chairs…and will I be loved if I am poor?

What a weird time we are living in! It’s really not a lot of fun to watch the economy and wonder what will happen to us in our small worlds. Each of us has a different way of responding  to the stress of  knowing there is really no safe place to put  money. If I hadn’t just bought a new bed I would seriously consider making a long slit in my mattress and hiding some there. At least I could sleep on it and feel safe.  I might have rich dreams! O. K. I did buy a mattress. So I can’t be destitute yet. That is certainly true. I remember playing musical chairs as a kid and an adult. The part I really hated was when there is only one chair left and two players. I wanted to just keep sitting on the chair. I have actually done this to the huge annoyance of the other player. The music starts and then you just sit there. not a great strategy! That’s how I feel now. Scared to  move out of my chair. Hovering on the edge of it while hoping the music will begin again. Recently, I have been thinking about how much of my identity is tied up in having money. It makes me feel comfortable and safe in the world. I feel more powerful and less afraid as I think I can take care of myself and don’t need anyone else. I think about all the money I have given away and that makes me happy, not scared. This is a weird thing as giving away money is the same as losing it in the market. It is simply gone from your life. If you chose to give it away then it becomes a gesture of control and somehow powerful. If you hold onto money very tightly you feel constantly afraid. Now I am struggling with the concept of not having money and not being known for the one who always buys dinner. Initially, I felt embarrassed by this possible outcome. Now I am toying with the idea of living a life where I have the same amount of money as most of my friends and I feel differently about myself. Almost as if I have become more real and more lovable. The thing I am beginning to like is dependency. I like letting others know I need them. Before this seemed to terrify me as I thought no one would like being depended upon and I would lose my friends.It seems fun to be cleaning my own house and making dinner for people. They may not think it is fun to eat the dinner but I am a big fan of alcohol before meals.I know this piece of writing sounds spoiled to some and incomprehensible to others but it is the truth to me. There are many advantages to having the ball for a long time and running the length of the field for an easy goal. There must be other advantages to finding  oneself on the ground and covered with mud. Tackled by the economy and rendered helpless. It certainly wouldn’t be my choice but then again maybe it would if I have the chance to believe in my own strength and my ability to survive.