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 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:
New York City
My ex husband Steve is feeling better and managing another round of chemo more easily this time
The nicest people to work with
What are you grateful for?
Five years ago this month, my marriage ended. We didn’t separate for several more months and the divorce took over two years to be final, but the marriage ended in April of 2009.
I have never experienced anything quite that painful. It didn’t help that I had also lost my job because of the economy and that on June 9, 2009 my mother died. And my daughter decided to move to California and then I had to move. So with two dogs and no job, the end of a 23 year relationship and the death of my mother, I somehow managed to get through the most intense period of fear and grief I had ever known.
I got so much support from friends. I was so lucky to have resources like therapy and different communities (especially Friends In Deed). The grief was so intense I don’t think I could take a deep breath for months and I know that I lost probably 20 pounds within the first two months. That was a perk, to be honest. For years I’d struggled to lose those pounds and they simply fell off.
Five years later, I feel stronger in many ways and happier most of the time. I feel grateful that I’ve learned to live an independent life and that the loneliness I feel sometimes is better than the loneliness I felt when I was married.
This too shall pass. One day at a time. Surrender.
All those trite expressions really are true. Everything I learned from reading Pema Chodron helped me.
I think I will go back to the Big Group at Friends In Deed tonight just to give thanks for all the support I got there and to listen.
Five years later I am not the same person was and I am deeply grateful for the lessons I learned. They were painful lessons, but I think maybe that’s the only way we really ever learn them. And I am grateful most of all for my sense of humor — which I sometimes forget about — but somehow I’m always reminded to laugh.
I was looking back at the year 2010 for the book that I am writing about traumatic growth (i.e. my lousy divorce) and I found this little questionnaire/survey. So I thought it would be interesting to answer it again, four years later and see how different the answers are:
Your hair: Brown Still brown
Your mother: Dead
Your father: Dead
Your favorite food: Chocolate chip cookies Eggplant Parmigiana
Your favorite drink: Champagne Water
Your dream goal: Writing and making a living at it again Writing and speaking and coaching public speaking
What room are you in: Bedroom Bedroom
Your hobby: bicycling Dancing!
Your fear: dying too young Watching someone I love being sick
Where do you see yourself in 6 years: Writing and in love Writing, traveling and in love
Where were you last night: Friends In Deed Home (it was cold out)
Something you aren’t: Daredevil Depressed – sometimes I’m sad, sometimes I’m happy. But there’s so much in the world to worry about.
Muffins: Chocolate zucchini from City Bakery Chocolate chip
Wish list item: Book contract or play produced Play was produced! Now I hope for a book/speaking tour
Where did you grow up: Long Island
Last thing you did: Watched Jon Stewart Ate lunch
What are you wearing: a T-shirt Polar tech jacket
Your TV: I’m addicted Mostly watch TV on ipad these days
Your pets: Two beagle girls Waaa
Friends: All around me A few close friends
Your life: Up and down, mostly up Interesting! Challenging! Travel, coaching, meeting lots of people.
Your mood: Edgy Depends on the hour – right now, good. Happy (considering it’s winter)
Missing someone: My daughter Lucy
Vehicle: Feet Citibike
Something you aren’t wearing: shoes A bra
Your favorite store: Lord and Taylor (because no one else is there) Still Lord & Taylor
Your favorite color: Blue Still blue
When was the last time you laughed: Last night watching John Oliver on Jon Stewart Biggest laughs 700 Sundays
Last time you cried: Last night watching John Oliver on Jon Stewart (kidding) Last night A few days ago
Your best friend: Lucy Karen/Abigail/Bella/Barbara all great friends in NYC – I miss Emily
One place you go over and over: Movie theaters Central Park
Facebooking: Too often Annoying and helpful
Favorite place to eat: NoHo Star, Shake Shack, Gotham Ummami Burger, NoHo Star, Lovely Day
Some things have changed…some remain the same. Most of all I miss Lucy and Lola and I’m so grateful Zoe lives in NYC again.
A few years ago I thought that I had gone through some tough times and that life would spare me at least for awhile. But now I know there is no sparing — there are, in the course of every year, beautiful, joyous times AND really bad, difficult times.
This year was no exception.
The beautiful joyous times were simple days of spending time with my daughter, Zoe, with friends, traveling around the country and a trip to Dublin, all for work. Riding my bike along the Hudson in the summer and taking long walks in Central Park in every season.
There was a visit to Emily’s house in the country — bittersweet because of her absence, but still pleasurable.
My play performed at the Beckett Theater this year, with friends from all areas of my life, old friends, new friends, everyone showing up to see it and lend support. And a cast and crew of the most wonderful people and the challenges that go along with every creative project.
There was the grief of losing my best friend, Lucy, my beloved beagle, who was with me for 13 years and who died at 17 years of age. I miss her daily and am deeply grateful for having had her for all those years. She was truly a faithful companion.
I’m grateful that my ex husband and I were able to forgive each other and start up a new… friendship. I would not have imagined this a few years ago, but forgiveness is a powerful tool — and cancer seems to completely change the landscape. He really showed up for a harrowing summer and survived and we are all so grateful.
2013 ends quietly… I feel that life has forced so many of us to seek comfort in being quiet, by going within.
One of my favorite pieces of advice I heard recently came from the playwright Tracy Letts: spend at least 30 minutes a day staring at the wall, or looking out the window. I don’t have much of a view, but I think I will start at my wall and give thanks for this past year and gratitude for the coming one. Just being alive is reason enough to be celebrate.
Emily Squires’ pond in Lake Ariel, Pa. August 2013.
“When I’m worried and I can’t sleep…I count my blessings instead of sheep…
and I fall asleep, counting my blessings…”
Tonight I went across the street to The Crosby Street Hotel to see “White Christmas” – one of my favorite holiday movies. It was co-written by Mel Frank, an old friend, someone I was very close to when I lived in California. Mel’s mother lived above me at the Harper House in West Hollywood and we became friends. Eventually, I got to know Mel and most of the Frank family. Seeing “White Christmas” or any of the movies Mel wrote or directed is always very special for me. I can always hear his voice in the dialogue.
And speaking of counting my blessings…here are a few of mine… my daughter, Zoe, my loftmate, Abigail, good friends…family, Samson, the dog who is staying with us for a few weeks, my health, our lovely home…good neighbors, NYC…my work…my writing…
So much to be grateful for. And it was also a difficult year. We lost Emily Squires, our dear friend the night before Thanksgiving 2012, and then we lost our beloved Lucy on May 5th, 2013. Then Zoe’s dad was diagnosed with lung cancer — he’s doing well now, but it was a rough summer. The play, Scrambled Eggs, was up this spring and we had a fantastic 3 week run. I’ve gone to Dublin, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta and Charlotte for work. I’ve done more traveling this past year than I have in many years. It’s been challenging and rewarding.
And I’m proud of the women in Congress who broke the stalemate over the debt crisis. And Obama for getting his health care program up and running (imperfectly, yes, but still today is the deadline and millions of people have signed up.)
Laws are being passed all over the country to all gay couples to marry! And next – gun control reform. That must happen in 2014. That will happen.
So many blessings. Happy 2014 to anyone who reads this! Onward.