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.

Cry baby… It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to… Big girls don’t cry… Tears of a clown… Don’t cry for me Argentina…. Crying over you…

There are so many songs about crying and tears. Country western music has broken hearts by the pickup truck-full. From the laid-flat classic, “I’ve got tears in my ears from lying on my back in my bed while I cry over you,” to the GPS-specific, “Billy broke my heart at Walgreens and I cried all the way to Sears,” nothing beats country music for getting it all out there.

But I’m no country western gal. I’m a fairly tough New Yorker — tears were never high on my profile. Not since my father would send me to my room — “I can’t talk to you when you’re crying. Come back when you’ve stopped” — and I learned to put a plug in it. My friend Karen told me her mother admonished with the ever popular: “Stop crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about.” The message was loud and clear: no whimpering.

Even PMS couldn’t bring me to tears. I was suicidal, homicidal, many -cidals, but I never cried. On rare occasions, like watching a sad movie or listening to a sad song, they might leak down my cheeks, but not for long. I’d convinced myself I’d never be a weepy person.

If there was a crisis, it was Robin to the rescue, Robin in charge. No tears — no time, too much to do — just the facts, decisions, action.

We all know people who fall apart if they lose their favorite pen — those are the drama queens and kings, who seem to always be in tears about something. Then there are others who are barely affected by the death of a parent. Let’s put these groups aside and focus on the rest of us — the majority of us who, while not emotionally dead, prefer to keep emotions in check, particularly when it comes to sadness.

I lost a lot a few years ago: my marriage, my job, my mother, my daughter moved 3,000 miles away, I had to move, and then I lost my beloved dog, Lola. I’ve written about it. I was sitting alone in my apartment, minus everyone — and I started to cry.

Then I couldn’t stop. The floodgates opened. And I didn’t care.

For many years, on those rare occasions when I cried, I’d get a headache. But when the grief is so intense, the tears wash over and seem to take out all the toxins and pain; at least that’s my non-scientific analysis. I felt lighter. No one loves the sound of a baby crying, but once they’re done crying, they look so peaceful, so relieved — or maybe that’s the parents that are relieved, but it does seem to be a part of the natural order of things.

So often in caregiving/grief groups I’ve attended (where my crying looked more like bawling), I’ve heard many people share, “I don’t want to cry” or “I’m afraid to cry.” I’ve also heard, “I don’t feel like crying,” which is perfectly appropriate, but my experience with crying has led me to love it. When I was younger, if someone cried in my presence I felt awkward. Now I sit with them and just try to be there in the privilege of that moment.

I spent years in therapy NOT crying, talking about antidepressants and wanting whatever new one I’d heard of. “Don’t you think I should try Wellbutrin? What about Celexa? That sounds good.” My therapist would say, “Okay, if you want to. But I don’t think you really need to.” Eventually I tried an antidepressant for a year or so, and it helped, but I gained weight, and I couldn’t feel much of anything, and I had no sex drive, so I went off the medication and continued to search for a newer, better drug.

I don’t think I ever used more than a few tissues in many, many years in my therapist’s office.

And then, my life fell apart and I used all the tissues. I sobbed through entire deluges, while my lovely therapist, Mike, nodded and smiled. “This is great, Robin, this is really good.”

“This is probably going to turn out to be one of the best periods of your life.”

Are you crazy? I’m drowning! I can’t stop!

Eventually the river flowed to a stream. Slowly the tears trickled to a stop.

And in their place came:


And most of all: empathy… compassion… for everyone in the world who is suffering. Everyone. I want to go to the Congo and stop the fighting and the rape. I want to go to the Middle East and get people to talk about their anger and their sorrow. I want people to wail their pain and share it and not worry about how they look. I want people to listen to each other instead of screaming and fighting.
In other cultures people weep together — they believe in the power of a good cry. Why aren’t more of us angry about the state of this country and the world? I don’t know. I think maybe we’re all trying not to feel.

Tears on my pillow… tears in heaven.
Cry me a river. Let it wash me clean.

One year ago, I signed my divorce papers and it was the beginning of a new life and an entirely new chapter.

In November of 2011 I found dance.  I’d started dancing (as I wrote here) in a couple of flash mobs, but then I decided to sign up for dance classes and ever since then my life has changed in many profound ways.  First of all I found something really joyous that I love to do.  I’ve met many people who love it too and many really great men.  Men to dance with – not necessarily the love of my life, but men I really enjoy.

My morning practice of reading, writing and meditating has changed a bit.  I’ve been chanting in the morning, which is very peaceful.

In August, my daughter Zoe moved back to New York after three years of living in San Francisco.

She arrived the first week in August, which is when my first piece appeared on the Huffington Post.

I’ve now had five pieces published and yesterday Zoe and I did a Huff Post Live on adult children moving home with their parents.  She did find a great apartment with a roommate and they are happily living in their own place now.

If you’re new to this blog and you or anyone you know anyone who’s going through a difficult time, go back three years to April 2009 and start reading.  There is a great deal of information about how to get through loss and grief a day at a time. 

And the present feels very exciting!  So stay tuned.  I never expected any of this, so it will be interesting to see what unfolds next.  If you’ve had any interesting surprises lately, I’d love to hear about them. 

A friend of mine wrote me a note about changing the template for the blog and said she calls the blog “a book review a day.”  I guess I have been staying away from writing about my personal life recently because it’s been a bit difficult to write about it. I’m working on my book project, or whatever it will be, and keeping a journal – but going through a divorce and writing about it publicly, in a blog, is not easy to do.  

There are times I seem to disappear.  Usually I’m going through some difficult period of dealing with my lawyers and reading affidavits and wondering how we got to this horrible mess.  Having watched so many of my friends go through this in the past, I feel like I’m experiencing a rite of passage and I feel good about how I’m getting through it.  I don’t drink or eat too much, or spend too much.  If I do anything too much it’s reading books about divorce and getting through difficult times and writing about it on this blog.  It helps me to focus on the stuff I’m dealing with inside, with my soul.  

Some day I will write about it, but right now it feels difficult to reveal too much.  I am a far more empathetic person than I used to be and when I hear about people who’ve lost a spouse or a parent, or are dealing with a sick parent or child, or going through a divorce, or who have lost a job — I have a sense of the pain they are feeling.  Last night I listened to a man, in a big group at Friends in Deed, talk about losing a girlfriend of twenty-nine years as he sobbed and said he’d never in his life experienced so much pain.  He said he never knew that people suffered like this before and he felt sad that for so many years he walked ignorant about grief.  I’d know about grief now, the feeling of disconnection, of crying, of not getting pleasure in anything, of the worries that it’s never going to get better.  But everything does change and in this past year, I can see how much it’s changed.  My reading about divorce says it generally takes two years to feel “normal” again – whatever normal is.  I’ll let you know.

I don’t know why, but it seems like good things are happening all around me.  Today I got a call for a free massage at Friends in Deed and a trainer at my gym offered me a free training session.  And tonight there’s a lecture by August Gold, who’s supposed to be a fantastic speaker.  She’s steeped in Unity and Buddhist teachings. 

I ran into someone on the street who I was happy to see and I receive beautiful emails from friends – men and women.  I got taken out two nights this week – once to the wine bar on Monday night (where we were given ridiculously enormous amounts of delicious free food) and last night to a screening and a fabulous dinner at North Square.

I started working on a book idea that Abigail, my loft mate and I have, and it feels great to be writing.  Spring is only TWO weeks away!  My beloved daughter is coming for a visit in only THREE weeks.  

I am waiting for Governor Patterson to resign.  He and his associates did something really wrong to a woman who was physically abused.  They abused her just as much as her boyfriend did.  He should not be our governor and I predict he will resign very soon.  He better!

I guess it’s really a good time to be grateful for having this blog, which has chronicled this journey I’ve been on (not the real dirt – that will come out in the book.)  It’s been a good source of sanity for me and perhaps helpful to a few people who read it.  I’m grateful to people have said that they’ve enjoyed reading it.  I’m grateful for having a home, so many good friends, my health (I ran 3 miles in 36 minutes today – and if I don’t have a heart attack, I should be in really good shape soon.)  It feels amazingly great to run and have that endorphin rush.

Even though today is a gray day, it’s not bothering me.  I’m living in the present moment and not in the future or the past.  I keep learning lessons and my best discovery is that often the worst times really can lead to the greatest life lessons and joy.  

Hopefully, this difficult period in our country’s history will lead to some positive changes as well. 

From “Healing After Loss” by Martha Whitmore Hickman:

“Bit by bit we need to loosen our hold on a past we cannot keep and get on with the life we have.”

I’m off to Miami today for a long weekend, to be with my Mama Gena women (250+ women from all over the world.)  I will miss my dogs and I’m sure they will be even more confused, wondering where everyone in their family has gone and why they are living in Soho again, away from their park.  But they seem to be adjusting, as we all are.  

I’m hoping to have some fun this weekend.  Enough grief – time to dance. 

I’ve heard it said that people who have gone through particularly grueling life challenges are probably those who are in the “advanced class of life.”  They are people who can deal with some heavy duty problems.  My mother was one of those people. This morning, I read this paragraph in a book called “Healing After Loss.”

We have but to look around us and see the many others who have suffered losses.  They are legion.  They walk the streets with us, get on and off the bus, shop with us in the stores.  They have survived.  And some of them have been made stronger and are now pillars of support for others.”