About 10 years ago, I was extremely depressed. I was what I like to call a card carrying member of the sandwich generation or given the times, “The Panini Generation.”

Like many millions of people, I was caring for a parent (my mom, my dad had already died) and raising a kid (my lovely daughter). And working full-time. And being a wife with a husband who was struggling with his business. And taking care of two beloved dogs (thank God for them). I looked like a refugee and felt like (insert your favorite expletive here).

I loved everyone and enjoyed my job — but the constant phone calls, texts, racing to emergency rooms, school meetings, individual and family therapy (I think we single-handedly kept New York’s therapeutic community going) — was just too much. I was on overload. I tried meditation, antidepressants (they ultimately made me feel worse), I ate too much, slept too much, watched too much TV, lived on caffeine, and felt like I was the walking dead.

I tried to live a day at a time and find pleasure wherever I could, but it was just too much. It felt hopeless.

And then the whole thing fell apart. After many years of being a caregiver, everyone died, left, or moved away — leaving me alone with my two dogs. And that felt even worse. That felt like the worst pain I had ever experienced. I fell apart — completely — I cried, I raged, I talked, I wrote, I laughed, I let myself fall apart and for a year and a half, I had the best mini breakdown I could have ever. And here’s the surprise: I recommend it. Highly.

I learned more spiritual lessons in that period of my life than I ever had before. Ever. And one of my favorite lessons, taught to me by Robert Levithan, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, was to embrace the word: “and.”

And. That’s it. Just “and.”

My life is falling apart, everyone left me, eventually even my two beloved dogs died — AND I feel alive in a way I haven’t in years. I don’t feel depressed, I feel feelings that had long been suppressed. Crying feels good!

The world is a mess, random shootings of innocent people and horrific violence seems to be happening all over the world — and the beauty of daily life and human kindness astounds me every day.

Our political system is a travesty, we are owned by huge corporations and both parties are equally bad and ineffective and petty and we can still have hope that life can and will get better.

I miss having a special someone in my life — and I am blessed to have an amazing daughter, loving and supportive friends, work that has so much meaning to me and to everyone I have the opportunity to come in contact with all over the world.

Every year we lose people we love, and this year was no exception. We lost close friends and people we felt close to even if we didn’t really know them — like Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joan Rivers. We still have so many great people who make us laugh: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Louis CK, Tina Fey, Chris Rock, and Amy Poehler, just to name a few.

I can feel bad and I can take a dance break or go for a walk and feel complete joy.
Nothing is just one thing. It is all — an “AND.”

Embrace it. Remember it. You may not be surrounded by a what looks like a Hallmark card this holiday season. You may not have a fantastic date for New Year’s Eve. You may feel sick and lonely and worried about the future and how you are going to manage AND know there is still so much to be grateful for. Make a list of those things that you are grateful for. Daily, if necessary. It helps.

Thank you, Robert Levithan. You are one of the kindest, most thoughtful and generous men I have ever known and so handsome and I love you — and you’re gay and unavailable.

Oh well. You remind me of the goodness of men — and that ultimately all I need isOne. Good. Man.

Or a dog. Or two.

 

Over a period of several years, my life seemed like an impossible obstacle course. I was a card carrying member of the sandwich generation. For 10 years, I was my mother’s primary caregiver and she was in and out of hospitals, emergency rooms, and even hospices, until her death in 2009. My husband’s photography business failed, thanks to the economy. My daughter went through a challenging adolescence. We had to sell our family home and in the course of seven years, moved four times. I worked at a job I didn’t love, but needed the money, and then lost that, thanks to the economy. Then my husband and I got divorced. Within just the past three years, I lost two of my closest friends, and both my beloved dogs.

I know I’m not alone in having faced difficulties — I see it happening all around me all the time. And truthfully, as challenging as these years have been, they have also been pretty miraculous. Read More →

what-if-someone-told-you-to-jump-off-a-cliff

I was one of those kids in school whose hand always shot up with answers. Well, to clarify, that was in history and English — and probably not ever in math or science.

All through college, in almost all of my classes, I always had plenty to say.

When I went into the work world, I was confident and ambitious and quickly found that my talents lay more in writing. It became easier for me not to speak, but to convey thoughts and ideas on the page. I began to shift into the introverted side of my personality, raising my hand less and less often, enjoying the safety and comfort of the world of my own thoughts. And in the male-dominated work world, it felt like a brilliant refuge — easier, less of a stretch.

Years ago, when I was between writing jobs, I went to a career coach and he asked me about my life. As I was telling him my story, he began laughing. Read More →

There’s something about Paris and the Luxembourg Gardens that simply make me happy.  As soon as I arrive in Paris, I run over to the Gardens and just walk around until I find my favorite spots to sit and take in all the beauty.
I just spent several days in Paris and though it had some difficult moments for me — many reminders of being there when we were a family — and this time I was alone, I found ways to enjoy most of my time there.
It was definitely one of those AND experiences.  I love Paris, it makes me so happy to be there — AND I wish I was in love or that my daughter, Zoe, had been able to come with me.  It’s not a great place to be alone.  I still managed to enjoy myself and take some long, beautiful walks all over the city and see friends and eat lots of good food.
I also went up to Sweden for a job.  That was amazing!  Right up near the Arctic Circle to a city called Lulea.  It was a fantastic trip that came as a complete surprise.
As the character of the mother in my play says, “Life surprises.”  I am grateful for most of the surprises that show up in my life.  And learning how to really be in the moment, helps so much.  (I’m still working on that).

Lulea, Sweden.  July 2014

I am sitting in an apartment in Paris, looking out at the Seine, on the I’le de la Cite (minus the accent marks).  I am still trying to take in my good luck.  A few years ago, I felt that though I was grateful for many things, trips to Paris and soon Sweden, and recently London and Dublin, San Francisco and LA, and finding work that I love, and working with people I genuinely like and respect, and having my daughter close by, and living in SoHo again surrounded by wonderful neighbors, and slowly starting to date again — I couldn’t have imagined any of that was possible.  And yet….

I want to take these few moments before I leave this beautiful apartment in search of the perfect baguette and a long walk in the Luxembourg Gardens to give thanks…to take a deep breath and take all of this in.

I woke up this morning and looked out at the Place Dauphine, the beautiful little park that I can see from the bedroom.  The first thing I saw was two dogs playing together in the park — one of them was a beagle.  You don’t see too many beagles in Paris.  I am always thrilled when I see a beagle because I think of my beloved Lucy and Lola and I give thanks for them for saving me in the most difficult times.  When my mother was dying, when my family was falling apart, when I was in the middle of the horrible terrible divorce — Lucy and Lola were there, giving me unconditional love every single day.  I miss them more than words can ever express. And I thank them for over 13 years of so much love and laughter.

I know that the world is always in crisis — bad news happened yesterday in Israel with the killing of three young men.  And in the U.S. with the ridiculous Supreme Court ruling about birth control. But I do still believe that so much good happens every single day and we forget that in the overwhelming evidence of evil and stupidity.

So let’s take a minute and think of all that we can be grateful for and then get back to the work of changing the world.

The other day I was riding my bike north along the Hudson River, on the bike path.  It was a beautiful day and I could see up in front of me a large group of kids, standing along a fence to the right, holding out their hands for riders to high five.  


The bicyclist in front of me was a young guy, he was able to high five a lot of the kids and they cheered.  As I was approaching the line I wondered, “Can I do this?  Can I ride close enough and hold out my hand without losing balance?  And not fall down and look like an idiot?”  

I decided to try, I got close to the fence and held out my hand for as many of the kids as I could. There had to have been at least 75 of them, they were probably around 8 years-old, all with their palms out, all cheering and screaming as I slapped as many hands as I could.

I could feel my oxytocin and endorphin or whatever levels rising as I slapped their palms and then rode off happily, continuing my journey north, along the Hudson River.  

There are studies about how people find happiness in a casual smile with a stranger, or a quick conversation in an elevator, or a doctor’s waiting room.  

Try high fiving a group of 75 kids.  It made me feel like a rock star.  

The past couple of weeks have been rather challenging for Zoe and me.  She started a new job and I have a busy month with difficult jobs.

So, I am reminded during these times when I feel overwhelmed, to always remember to be grateful too.

Here is what I am grateful for:

Zoe
Spring
New York City
My job
Zoe’s job
Health
My home
Great friends
My ex husband Steve is feeling better and managing another round of chemo more easily this time
Great weather
Traveling
The nicest people to work with

What are you grateful for?

Passover commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, 3,300 years ago, led by Moses, a.k.a. Charlton Heston in the movie The Ten Commandments. It is the story of a heroic and daring Exodus from slavery to freedom and it is also the story of 40 years of misery and complaining and suffering. This Passover marks the fifth anniversary of my separation and eventual divorce… and somehow misery, complaining and suffering come to mind.

But neither story ends there. I know it’s a little nuts to equate the end of a marriage to the end of slavery and it’s certainly an exaggeration, but like many marriages, it started to feel like we were wandering in the desert with no hope of a promised land. We were staying together more out of stubbornness and obligation, rather than deep connection and love. We both felt trapped and needed to escape the bondage of our marriage vows. Read More →

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