Ferguson

So today on Facebook I posted a piece written by a black woman who was raised by white parents which Gloria Steinem had originally posted. It’s been up for a few hours and there’s only one comment. No likes. A friend of mine “unliked” it saying it was biased. I think it’s right on. The writer describes what it’s like to be black in a world where racial profiling is a part of our national profile. It’s a very moving and passionate piece expressing what the writer feels in her own life and asking us, the white people of the world, to do something. She says that prejudice can only be changed by the people who are prejudiced. We are all prejudiced. We can’t help it. No matter what the reality was of the shooting incident in Ferguson, the cops there would probably have hesitated if the guy had been white. Yes, he may have robbed a convenience store prior to the incident, but that mean he should be shot on sight? The only way we can have true equality as a society is if those of us who are in the position to speak up do so. What would it be like if everyone was “colorblind”? It’s not up to the underdog to change things, it’s up to the people of the world who never had to worry about being the underdog. Change happens at the top of any organization. If everyone made an effort to look at their own misplaced fear of those who are different than we are, interesting and positive things will happen.

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.

 

Heart

Subject: heart
I was waliking in San
Francisco and I felt a sudden jump in my chest: a kindove a flip flopping or a fist turning or maybe more like something foreign inside me that was trying to get out. I kept on walking as that’s what I do. I was the master of my heart.

Other times in my life my heart had tried to get the better of me and I had prevailed. Sometimes, cruelly I thought, it was at night just when I was going off to sleep. I had to remind it rather sternly that I was tired and had no time to play jumping games. Just a small cough or a walk to the bathroom was usually enough to discipline it back into shape. Until this time, that is.

I had a doctor’s appointment up the hill and I was right on time which I usually am so I kept on walking. The hill seemed steeper than usual and I, more breathless than usual, but onward and upward I went.

My heart kept jumping.

I found my new doctors office, checked in, filled out the forms, chatted with his receptionist, all the while noting my new internal enemy. I commented to myself how calm and controlled I was during the examination of my nose, throat and ears. I commented to myself how impressed the doctor would be if I had a heart attack right in front of his very eyes without a word of complaint! I think I was kidding here.

Finally, at the end of my visit, I asked the receptionist if my internists office was on the floor we were on now and she said yes. I found my way there, sat down in the waiting room, and told Serena my heart was out of control. She looked at me with concern, brought me in the back room and had the doc come in.

Apparently my heart was stuck in arythmia and I needed to go immediately to the Cardiac Lab for an EKG and so I did. Except I wasn’t allowed to walk on my own and was taken by a very nice medical student who was there to observe what happened in the course of a typical day in a doctors office.

The cardiac lab seemed weirdly abandoned which I quickly learned was true as it was lunch time. The tech assigned to me was from Egypt and efficiently attached wires to my chest all the while commenting on the fact that it was lunch time. Once she got the EKG machine up and running her tune changed and she exclaimed to the medical student to take a look at my heart! Of course this was unprofessional and very alarming, needless to say, but she did it anyway. The two of them stood looking at the monitor for a good five minutes all the while commenting and exclaiming. I was in deep conversation with my heart asking it to just stop this behavior.

Clearly my heart was enjoying all the attention as it kept right on with its really weird rhythm. At this point I as fluctuating between total terror and a nice and calm feeling of detachment. I’ll take detachment any day given a choice.

Later, while sitting with my brand new cardiologist, I was shown the places in the EKG where I had been able to disrupt the heart rhythm all on my own. All I felt was frustration that I wasn’t able to stop it completely.

Its disconcerting to lose control of your heart as you feel frightened about the next time .You know there will be a next time. It’s as if your heart has been working up to this for long time. Though I now have a bottle of pills in my purse that may or may not stop the arythmia I don’t feel safe. I feel anxious but also more peaceful. Its hard to explain.

I have learned that this is a very common condition and that this condition can cause a stroke which can kill you. I really don’t like that idea. I don’t like the idea of drooling, l don’t like the idea of losing control of a part of my body, and I really don’t like the idea of dying.Aparently this condition is hereditary. My father died of a stroke. I am not sure he had arythmia but I would bet on it. He had everything!

Now I need more tests to see why the upper and lower chamber of my heart are not getting along. There are things called “rogue cells” that disrupt heart rhythm and the cure is extermination of these cells through a process called “ablation”. Sounds like a skin procedure or a religious event. I wonder if I will be purified or remain in the underworld. I also wonder how long I have.

This Year

NobelPrizeSymbol
Image via Wikipedia

The year my heroes died

This year quite a few of my heroes and friends died: Howard Lester, Walter Shorenstein, Dodie Rosecrans, Dick Goldman, and on and on. Yes, it is true that for the most part their lives were long and fulfilled but I still miss them and always will.

 I wonder if we are creating heroes as we did in past generations. People who accomplish a lot in their lives and give away a lot in return without looking back to see if what they have given away is still helping to make them more important. I love to have heroes and to me, heroes have been people who march to the beat of their own drum without looking around and listening to what others around them are playing. I know Howard did this as I was lucky enough to have a conversation with him about his “Maverick” side.  Walter, Dodie and Dick were the same.

Dodie was vibrant, curious and very intelligent until her dying day and spent her life in a state of exploration and excitement about one thing or another. She could have cared less about someone’s background or wealth when she included them in gatherings at her home. She cared about creating new ideas and putting different people together for various causes.

Walter and Dick accomplished a lot in their work lives and gave a lot in their philanthropic lives. Howard ‘s generosity was apparent at his own memorial mass where a few spoke of his many charitable gifts and the difference he had made in the world.

I wonder where we are going to come up with another generation of like-minded people. People who give without looking back and people who are compassionate members of our community. I wonder who in the younger generation will fill these shoes and have a generous and mature approach to managing and contributing their wealth? Even if people do not have great wealth I wonder if they will keep on giving.

I found a hero in today’s New York Times: Liu Xiabo, a Chinese poet, writer and dissident who was awarded the Nobel Prize. As he is in prison he will not be able to accept it but his work is the kind of work that makes me think of heroes. He has been outspoken in his criticism of the Chinese government and as a result of this has spent much time in prison.

His statement at his court hearing was quoted by the Times:” I have no enemies and no hatred. Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience.”

All I can say is that is a hero.

Much like my friend, Marla Ruzika who was killed by a car bomb in Iraq while counting civilian victims of war, and countless others who devote their lives with passion to improve the lives of others, thank you for living!

I look forward to reading and meeting more heroes in my life and being very grateful we have them in our world. Maybe some would argue that business leaders are not heroes but in return I would say that without the funds many contribute we would not have the world we do. Just as without the words of dissidents like Liu Ziabo governments would not be challenged into change and the lives of many see improvement and more freedom.

Holiday Thoughts

Cover of "The Nun's Story"
Cover of The Nun's Story

This time of year is always interesting as on occasion, despite attempts at maturity and evolvement, one may revert to a child’s perspective and remember all of the excitement and expectation surrounding Christmas. In our house acquiring the tree was always an interesting adventure. Our mother would ask who wanted to go on this adventure and we would all scream “yes”. Our car was one of those old fashioned “woodie” wagons with no seat belts or electric windows. The back seat could be flattened out with the help of four usually swearing men. There were six children in our family and we were spaced like Catholic children though I was repeatedly assured we were not Catholic. Cynthia Paterno lived next door to us and tried to convert me all the time. Apparently good Catholics gave all their allowance to their neighbors. Once I took all of the clothes out of my closet and made an altar out of my mother’s show boxes but when I lit a candle in there one caught on fire.

I liked being a temporary Catholic. I prayed every night and put a white towel over my head like Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story and admired myself a lot in the bathroom mirror being careful to look pious. I knew I would never sleep with a boy until I got married and that I really wasn’t supposed to actually swallow the wine during communion. I knew that good catholic girls didn’t wear patent leather shoes because boys could see their underpants if they did. I learned that if you did something wrong no matter what it was you went to confession and told the priest what your sin was. He would give you a penance and you would be forgiven. A clean slate.

Now that I am grown up and no longer a Catholic I wish I was one. How nice to have the ability of simply telling someone what you had done wrong and being forgiven for it. I think that no one does things that are consciously mean unless they are 14 or a criminal. Relationships are just tricky as we are all so fragile. A friend said to me the other day that you couldn’t reason or understand someone else and have a good relationship if the other person really didn’t want that good relationship. I think that is a very wise thing. We sometimes worry and think about all of the things we have done that are wrong and wonder why another person is angry with us and this is a waste of time. It is better to assume that sooner or later you will find out the truth and that in the meantime all you can do is think loving thoughts. Feeling guilty is a waste of time. Feeling shameful is, too.

This time of year it is important to tread lightly on the earth and with each other. We are all still hoping for a miracle.

Death, Dying and No Explanation

Recently there has been a lot of talk about death in my circle of friends. Friends have died, some old some not, and there are a few articles in the news about suicides in the younger generation. I find death very hard to pin down in my own Meta analysis of life as I am not afraid of it nor do I worry about it but I can’t specifically explain why this is.

It has been clear to me from a young age that death is not an end, but a beginning. I remember when my Grandfather died how upset all the adults were in our family. I felt sad to miss his company but not sad for him. In fact, I knew that he was now in a place where he could experience joy and peace. I was seven years old and I could clearly see him there.

I am not a particularly religious person: not catholic or even very Protestant but I have always understood that death was not bad or frightening or something to spend one’s life in fear of.

I know I am really lucky to have this inner belief as very few out there seem to feel as I do. Particularly men. I have quite a few men friends who are freaked out at the thought of their own death. They become depressed when they have a slight medical problem and convince themselves they are dying. In this image they feel fear, remorse, but mostly loneliness. I think this is true because that’s what I hear in my healing work. Maybe men fear death more than women because they often have trouble being vulnerable with people and may have lives that are not authentic with close ties to others they love. It seems to be that the more success you have the less connected in a genuine way you are with others in your life.

I know, I know. Some of you will say I am taking this too far. Perhaps I am. My father was terrified of death and really angry at the same time. After he died we found books from the Hemlock Society in his library as what he feared most was being incapacitated and having to be dependent on the care of others. He died alone and angry and refused to allow his wife or family near him. He just wanted to go out mad and he did.

I guess I would like people to consider that there is more after we die. There is more than what we imagine. Maybe death is a door to another world where life is very different but not frightening.

I have been with a few people when they die. I always find it a privilege. I know that playing Frank Sinatra is better than Rachmaninoff and whispering that you love the person with a laugh in your voice is better than filling their ears with your tears.

“The Razor’s Edge”

Cover of "The Razor's Edge"
Cover of The Razor's Edge

Why The Razor’s Edge is still so appealing….

Recently a good friend of mine recommended that I read The Razor’s Edge and so I picked it up on my way to Lenox, Massachusetts.  Once I began to read the book, I was hooked as I found it to be a great story about the meaning of life. Unlike the popular hit of paper and film. “Eat, Pray, Love”, I was engrossed in the movement of the main character and his approach to and passion for understanding life and finding purpose. Why did this book so deeply touch me? I recommend that you read it if you haven’t already.

I have always believed that if I tried hard enough and kept searching long enough I would reach a place of understanding of my life and my purpose on this earth. I assumed that others felt the same way as I do. As life has gone on I have begun to understand  that some share this quest of mine while others are content to merely live out their lives and do what is expected of them, rarely questioning the path they find themselves on. If you are lucky enough to have been born into a family with resources it is obviously easier to be on this quest for meaning as you have more time on your hands. Let’s face it, if you have to struggle to pay your bills or have serious health issues, or have been  fired from a solid job after 20 years as many have today, you don’t have the luxury of sitting back and reflecting on what the meaning of life should be. Your focus is on basic survival and what it means rather than what your path should be.

Having children also prevents a lot of reflection as once you have a child you will never again be responsible for just yourself: you will always have someone more important than you to look out for. While I understand that it isn’t a good idea to put the life of your child above your own, I think it is practically impossible to avoid not doing this once you have one. My father used to say, “You are only as happy as your most unhappy child.” And I think there is some truth to that statement.

The Razor’s Edge resonated with me as I have never been able to lead a life of leisure, even now at my advanced age. I find parties exhausting and cocktail parties, the most exhausting. I hate having to dress in “appropriate” clothing though I love beautiful clothes.  When I find myself in lovely restaurants I often feel frozen as if I am an actress in a play. It is extremely rare for me to be able to sit at a table with someone for more than an hour or so and when I find I have done that I know I have found a treasure of a human being.

This novel speaks of society and our role in whatever society we are a part of, and examines the value of a life within certain groups versus a life lived without expectations of behavior and only a quest for meaning.  Taking the path of enlightenment may mean giving up structure as well as acceptable behavior in order to find one’s soul.

Recently I have been feeling as if I am not sure where I should live or what my path should be. I have lived on both coasts: one is better for me socially and the other, professionally. I find myself dissatisfied with only a good social life and long for satisfying work, and when I am happily working I feel lonely returning home at night to an empty house. I know there is a reason I am facing this challenge as I know I have to make a decision about where to live very soon. I think as you get older you find yourself thinking about how many years you have left on this planet and what kind of life you want to have. To me, the best life is one filled with love and where you believe you are making a contribution to the world around you. Finding that life is what I am up to now.

I loved the book because I am also searching for a meaningful life and I feel as if I have to make a type of vision quest to do it. Most of my life I have been too easily influenced by the opinion of others, though no one that knows me would agree with that statement. I think we all are. Finding our bliss, as Joseph Campbell stated, can only be done by focusing on what it is that brings us joy. For me, it is often helping others, making them laugh, donating to charities, or just having someone in my life that I cherish and love to come home to at the end of the day. In my heart I am a pretty simple person. I started out that way and find that the older I get. The simpler I become.

The happiest life I can imagine is to live with someone you love very much and have work that brings you great joy, whether it is a certain regular job or more creative endeavors. I wonder how many of you agree with me and are lucky enough to have both.

Mercury and it’s bad habits

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...
Image via Wikipedia

mercury is in retrograde for the next couple of weeks so don’t expect things to go smoothly. Plus there is a Piceas full moon this afternoon around 1:30. If you try to work anything out with someone you will undoubtedly find yourself frustrated. People these days seem to be lacking good listening skills. They listen with “me ” ears and so all they hear is “me” things. This is not so good for understanbding.As a matter of fact, listening this way makes it impossible to come to agreement on anything. I think everyone is frightened of what is going on in the world whether or not they are rich or poor, male or female, old or young. Things right now are a mess. I read the other day that Americans have no faith in the stock market and are not investing there. Duh! Does it take a NY Times reported to explain to us? I think it’s pretty obvious why. One of the biggest issues is the fact that the media seems to believe they can convince us that it is safe to invest in the market again, safe to buy a home again. We lost faith in the media some time ago and probably won’t get it back for some time. If the media continues trying to persuade us  the market is a safe place to be , we may never have faith in news again.Even Warren Buffet is trying to persuade us that now is the time to jump in. Well, guess what? none of this hype is working and won’t be for some time. “Save your nuts”  is still my motto. Don’t have any important conversations either today or tomorrow. Get out in the sun with your Dalmatian stones and skip a few! Buy rice futures. After the weather issues in Pakistan they will go up fast!

Leave time to cool off…

Hot Things

If you take something off the stove after it boils and let it sit, after a while it will cool off.

This is my latest credo in life.

It works for everything.

Love affairs

Arguments

Business decisions.

It is just a great mantra for life.

If something feels too hot to handle then let it sit and you will understand it better.

If you meet someone who makes you speechless, wait and see how you feel after a few days without thinking of them.

If you argue with someone you love, don’t be needy and dependant, give them the space to heal.

If you have to make a decision that fills you with anxiety, wait until you know the answer.

Don’t send emails immediately.

Don’t kiss on the first date.

Hold your breath and believe in magic and buy some Dalmatian stones for joy and fun.

Take a drive out to Marshal and stay at Nick’s Cove and you will believe again in Nick and Nora or Bogie and Bacall and all your dreams will be revitalized.