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 →

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 →

“I’ve learned that people won’t remember what you said
And people won’t remember what you did
People will only remember how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou

In 2005, my mother was in a hospital, dying. I remembered that a friend of mine, Pippa, had written about being a volunteer in a hospice and it occurred to me that my mother needed to be there, not in a hospital being tortured with countless meds, beeping machines and pointless procedures. Studies indicate that many people receive aggressive and unnecessary treatment in hospitals and if given the choice, would prefer hospice care.

My mother was suffering. She deserved something better. Read More →

Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true, because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. That would be sad. If two people were married and…they just had a great thing, and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened zero times.

— Louis C.K.

A few years ago, when I was in the midst of my very very difficult and horrible divorce, I did a lot of reading about divorce, loss and grief. I learned that divorce is like a death and — in some ways worse — because the pain of betrayal and hurt is so intense. When once you were partners and lovers — now you feel like enemies. And it hurts. A lot. Read More →

In October, 2004, my mother nearly died. All her organs were failing and it seemed unlikely that she would last more than a few days in the hospital where she had been for several weeks. I remembered a friend of mine was a volunteer at a wonderful hospice, Jacob Perlow Hospice at Beth Israel Hospital, and I called my friend to ask how to get my mother admitted for hospice care. It seemed crazy to think about moving her at that point, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that normal hospital procedures were torturing her. If my mother was to die, I wanted her to die in peace.

The doctor who came to the hospital to examine her called me afterward and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone more in need of hospice care. She is going to be transferred immediately.” Read More →

Zoe jumping from the plane

“Our own suffering, if we turn toward it, can open us up to a loving relationship with the world.” — Pema Chodron

Whenever I hit a valley in my life and I feel hopeless or worried, somehow if I can lean into it, sit with it, turn toward it, it always seems to pass.

This is an example of what I mean. Say you’re on an airplane about to jump out and you’re attached to a very tall, handsome (or beautiful) instructor. You’ve learned everything you need to learn before getting in the plane and it takes off and you’re okay and then suddenly it’s your turn to jump and you refuse to move. Read More →

One night, a few years ago, I went to a party for a professional organization I am a member of. Most people there were getting pretty drunk, feeling the effects of the lousy economy. I saw an old friend of mine, someone I hadn’t seen in many years. He flirted with me and told me, “I’m married and I’m miserable. I hate my wife and I hate my life.” I was a bit shocked at his honesty, but I had to admit I wasn’t particularly happy either. He also told me that he’d had a crush on me when we were young — would I have dated him back then? I lied and said, “Oh, yes. I would have dated you.” Truthfully, I wasn’t particularly interested in him way back then. But now, he had evolved into a mature, attractive man, with a lovely sense of humor, and I was interested. In fact, I went home and had my first erotic dream in a long time — and it was about him. Read More →

But listen to me
For one moment quit being sad

Hear blessings dropping their blossoms all around you.

Rumi

Every morning when I wake up these days, I find I am in various states of sadness, hopelessness, despair, discontent. And every morning I have a practice of reading, writing and meditating.

This is where I find God. Okay, before you stop reading or think I’m nuts, I honestly don’t know what I mean by God. I certainly don’t mean the kind of God who’s sitting in a big throne somewhere, looking down, but I do mean something, some kind of force that is greater than myself, kind of like “let the force be with you” thing. Because, when I do let go and let God, I find answers. Daily.

Read More →

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