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.
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.
It doesn’t get any easier to find someone…everyone thinks it will get easier as they get older, but guess what? It feels worse. The other night I was minding my own business, well kindove minding my own business, and circulating at a wonderful dinner by the Truckee River in Lake Tahoe when across a crowded room I saw a guy! It was hard not to miss him. Tall, cool, like the Marlboro man but in an artistic mode. I was entranced and captivated and though I am close to retirement age I couldn’t help but get a little short of breath. Subversively I watched the man. No wedding ring. No sign of a hovering female. No apparent behavior that said, “I am weird.”
I said to myself don’t even think of it, Lucinda. I sounded very strict, even to me. I have made a pact, you see, to not even think of getting involved with a man again unless there is a chance of a lifetime commitment. Let’s face it, there’s not much of a lifetime left for me. So maybe that’s not much of a wish, but I am taking it very seriously. I am not going to be swayed by shoulders, beautiful bone structure or tiny hips. Well, maybe I will take them in, but not be swayed by them. Oh no, I am looking for a serious heart companion. Someone who will watch my back. Someone who will adore me and I will adore back in the same amount. Well, maybe he will adore me a tiny bit more because it is always better to be the beloved rather than the lover.
Anyway, back to my story. I refused to acknowledge in any way I was interested in this man and asked the universe to be in control of the attraction. Before I knew it we were sitting side by side having dinner. I swear I am innocent in this. I did not bat an eye nor beckon a baby finger. I just sat back and allowed it to happen. I found him fascinating. Everything we spoke of seemed to resonate with me which was so weird I couldn’t eat any of the meat which was the feature of the evening. That’s another story. Large haunches of meat roasting over a fire. A meat spectacle!
Any way I had no idea how to respond at the end of the evening when he gave me his card and asked me to contact him. I think I made a joke but to tell the truth I have no idea what I said. I felt like I was 14. The next morning I ran into him again as I was hanging out with an old friend of his. We had lunch together and there it was again. That sense of knowing all about someone and wanting to know more. I really wanted to hold his hand. 24 hours later I sit at home after a three hour drive and have no idea what to think.
Do I email Him? Will he email me? The whole thing is so wonderfully silly but also painful and frightening. Most people would say just enjoy it and have fun but I can’t do that. I find it incredibly stressful and I feel tired and somewhat hopeless. Just after I meet this wonderful creature who seems very interested in me and what do I do? Want to run away and hide or have him immediately come over here and live with me for the rest of my life. This is insanity. I can’t do this dance which is why I made that commitment to myself about finding a lifetime companion but I have no idea how I am going to find one if I can’t stand the initial heat?
So what is my point here? I guess my point is that we are presented opportunities in life that require attention and taking a risk and though I am longing for a partner of my heart, I find the feelings so intense I am often unable to comprehend them.
Yesterday I went to visit an old friend who is 87 now and mostly stays close to home. She moves about with a cane and is in pain a lot of the time but her mind is as sharp as ever and her memory is filled with the most remarkable things. I visit her every few weeks or so not out of duty but out of a real enjoyment of her company and a delight in her sense of humor and knowledge of the world.
It strikes me that she has spent quite a bit of time revising her past: changing dates and reasons why certain things happened, revising her opinion of certain people and generally, as a chess player does, has moved and rearranged her life pieces so as to make her own life seem more palatable to her. Each time we visit together I am struck by the changes she has made in her history. Sometimes they involve changing dates things happen and sometimes they involve reasons why she did certain things.
I have known her for a very long time, however, so I know what has been altered to fit the new picture of her life. I admire her for doing this reshuffling as it has made her life more palatable to her. Though she is angry still at certain things that happened, she is less angry at herself which was the most difficult thing for her to deal with. At the end of her life she is still the feisty, proud, intelligent woman she was when we first met: unwilling to compromise about life or her position in it. She is also one of the bravest women I have ever known.
Once, when we first met, we were traveling somewhere in a car driven by her cantankerous husband whom everyone feared, including me, as he had a terrible temper. The husband, who had drunk a few glasses of wine, missed his exit on 101 and suddenly swerved across three lanes of traffic with a total disregard for other cars and speeding along at 84 miles per hour. From the back seat where my friend and I sat, I let out an enormous scream as I was terrified of dying in the moment. The husband pulled over to the side of the road and turned around in his seat to ask in a scary voice, “Who said that?”
My friend said without missing a beat, “I did!”
I learned more from that moment that a lifetime of other lessons. She jumped in to protect me from this mean man and didn’t care at all what he thought or what he would do next. She wanted to protect me and did it without even an instant’s thought. I was too young to really get the enormity of the moment but as years have passed I see that this small story exemplifies most of her acts in life. She does the right thing. She did the right thing many times and in many situations requiring great courage which I will not go into here as they are so private.
When I got home last night I felt very sad and still do. I wish I could wave a magic wand and change her life to one where she didn’t have to suffer so much loss. I wish I could have known what I know now many years before this so I could have been a better friend to her. I wish I could somehow explain to her that I understood her suffering and applauded her for her bravery but in the long run, it wouldn’t matter to her. She wants neither accolades nor any pity: what she wants is respect and for people to admire her life. Admitting there were frailties or failures in it would not be something she wants the world to know about.
I am grateful for her friendship and for the example she has set for me in life. So often we think that we need to go deep into our life experiences in order to be healed and function more happily. We spend hours in therapy trying to relieve our pain and reach an understanding of our fears. What I have learned from my friend is that this path does not work for everyone. Some prefer to carefully reconstruct their history and alter a few dates and eventually sit with their version of life as that is the only version they can live with. Sometimes the pain of what life brings is too harsh to bear in reality so embellishing a life when your life is almost over serves a purpose which is now understood and respected by me.
All right, I will admit right here that I love Dr. Oz but this week he disappointed me. I returned from a bunch of frustrating meetings and flipped on afternoon TV only to find it was “how to take care of your man day” on Dr. Oz TV. At first, I couldn’t believe it. Here was a guy I had liked BECAUSE he was a feminist. His wife is a REIKI Practitioner, for God’s sake! What was he thinking? All these women jumping up to be the first to quote their recipe’s for a healthy male heart! All these overweight men being fawned over by their “oh so loving wives”! Where in the world is the “How to take care of your wives day”? Dr. Oz! What are you thinking? Do a show first on us! We are the ones that spend our days worrying about our men despite our knowledge of feminism and other important facts. We know we are supposed to put our men first in the eyes of America on the whole. How can you desert us like this?
Anytime you even think of doing a show like this, please do one first for women. Make it seem as if men really want to take care of us. We know we are all totally codependent but please help us out here. What would it be like if men were taught that the most important thing in life was to take care of their women? How amazing would that be? I, for one, have never been taken care of by anyone, not my husbands, not my parents, not by anyone. Do I care? Actually I like the way I have turned out. Feisty and cantankerous I may be but I can’t be described as anything other than independent. I hate the fact that I can slip into the “care for the guy” role. Hate it. But I know it is a part of my DNA. Dr. OZ! Please take a breath here. No more shows on male breast cancer. I don’t mind listening to prostate cancer shows or heart disease in men but don’t make us listen to more shows that find ways to show how we can help our men survive. Let’s have many more shows first on how men can help women survive and achieve! Now that’s how I really feel!
People are either getting better or getting worse as I see it. I haven’t been able to measure which side is growing the fastest yet but I have no doubt we will find that out in very short order. The angry and bitter group is getting frightened and more angry while the optimistic group is growing more positive and more compassionate. It truly is the dawn of the new era where survival will depend on cooperation: cooperation is a quality we Americans espouse but generally do not live by as we pride ourselves on our independence. We like the idea of every man for himself even though we now include women. There is a lot of rudeness going around and a whole lot of lack of respect. Families no longer have any loyalty to one another and grudges rise up out of nowhere and continue for years for no reason. No one knows how to solve things between people. Everyone holds on to the past as if it were a scaffolding for their lives. Yesterday I had a man come to clean my carpets. He was a sweet old man from the Czech republic and I left to go out and do some errands. When I returned I let myself in rather quietly and found him staring intently at the family photo’s which line my front hall. He looked as if he were trying to understand a science experiment.I wanted to take him out to dinner and explain to him that no one had total happiness . Families might look good in photo’s but many were filled with painful relationships. I wanted to adopt him for Thanksgiving dinner and invite many other abandoned souls. This is the way of the future. We need to create a new scaffolding based on love and reaching out to people not fighting with them.
There are Buddhists who say don’t let it stick the pain that is but I don’t believe they can do it themselves because no one can rid themselves of all pain as it is like a thorn in your heart that can be twisted and turned by absolutely anyone that comes along and then there are the old twists that still hurt if you see a song or hear a smile you have no choice but to be twisted all over again.
I say don’t look look away don’t think think nothing don’t choose someone who has no heart and someone that has already lied because lying is like smoking you think you have given it up but a slight smell of it wins you back seductively.