IMG_24741I have been so busy with life and challenges and writing for the Huffington Post, that I haven’t had a chance to write on the blog.

So I’m just going to say that more will follow and I will try to keep updating.

I’m grateful for Huffington Post, but I miss writing here too.

My beloved Lucy died on May 5th and my ex-husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer this summer.  He is doing pretty well and I hope that he will continue to improve.  If Valerie Harper can go on Dancing with the Stars, I am hopeful that he can have some good years left.  Here’s an old photo of Lucy, when she was just 4 and my ex, Steve.  Those were happy days.

 

I haven’t written on this blog in a long time.  It’s mostly because I’ve been extremely busy and so much is happening.

Our play “Scrambled Eggs” is opening this coming week.  It’s very exciting and also very stressful.  I have never had much confidence, so this is really a stretch for me.  I know that every creative endeavor, when you put it into the world, requires some nerves of steel, which I don’t have.  But I do have the awareness that life is about taking risks and sometimes you come out okay and sometimes you don’t.

The fun of this experience has been in the work.  I have enjoyed writing this for a long time and working with this cast is a joy.

Also, I’ve continued writing for the Huffington Post on various subjects – faith, loss, grief, dancing, divorce, women leaders.  It’s been a great outlet for me to write anything I am interested in.

Today, I have mostly been obsessing about the play and how the dress rehearsal had some major mistakes and that the leading man, like me, seems to have terrible allergies.  And on and on……my mind can go into the most imaginative and creative disasters.

So once again, Pema Chodron came to the rescue. I was cleaning out my wallet and I came across this passage, that I carry around with me (and forget to look at):

My teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche encouraged us to lead our lives as an experiment, a suggestion that has been very important to me.  When we approach life as an experiment we are willing to approach it this way and that way because, either way, we have nothing to lose.

This immense flexibility is something I learned from watching Trungpa Rinpoche.  His enthusiasm enabled him to accomplish an amazing amount in his life. When some things didn’t work out, Rinpoche’s attitude was ‘no big deal.’  If it’s time for something to flourish, it will; if it’s not time, it won’t.  

The trick is not getting caught in hope and fear.  We can put our whole heart into whatever we do; but if we freeze our attitude for or against, we’re setting ourselves up for stress.  Instead, we should just go forward with curiosity, wondering where this experiment will lead.”  

As I published this, I noticed that my last blog post included this same passage!  Interesting coincidence.  I guess it’s important that I take this in.

Huffington Post just put up my latest post and so far there has been very little reaction. I think I know why.  It was written by my head. The others just poured out of me.  This one was very much about explaining, trying to recapture the initial impulse of an earlier post.  And then this morning I read this quote, from 2009, that I had posted, and it was a good reminder:

“My teacher Trungpa Rinpoche encouraged us to lead our lives as an experiment, a suggestion that has been very important to me. When we approach life as an experiment we are willing to approach it this way and that way because, either way, we have nothing to lose.

This immense flexibility is something I learned from watching Trungpa Rinpoche. His enthusiasm enabled him to accomplish an amazing amount in his life. When some things didn’t work out, Rinpoche’s attitude was ‘no big deal.’ If it’s time for something to flourish, it will; if it’s not time, it won’t.

The trick is not getting caught in hope and fear. We can put our whole heart into whatever we do; but if we freeze our attitude for or against, we’re setting ourselves up for stress. Instead, we could just go forward with curiosity, wondering where this experiment will lead.”


Here is the post:

Fire Away:  A Husband, A House, A Mortgage, the Sequel

A month ago I wrote a post called “A Husband, A House, A Mortgage, A Baby and A Lightbulb Moment” in which I talked about having had what I thought was the “American Dream” and how in the end, it didn’t feel like the “prize” I had imagined it would be.

My marriage ended in divorce. We sold our home. My ex and I are not only not in love, we don’t even communicate. Everything I had dreamt of having essentially imploded, leaving me to question most of the values I had held dear in the first half of my life.

I received over 1,000 comments and attacks on this blog and after awhile, I had to stop reading them. The blog was not meant to say my ex husband was to blame any more than I was. It was not meant to say that marriage, a home and a family are not worthy desires. It was simply to say that for so many of us, life is not one size fits all. We all have different paths. What works so well for so many families does not work for everyone. And that is not the end of the world — it is simply the beginning of a new world.

Recently I was in a workshop with several men who talked about their families, their wives and their children. They were so proud and devoted to them, and I felt a pang of envy. To anyone who thought that I was saying that I don’t believe in love — or that I was critical of men — I apologize. If I didn’t believe in love, I wouldn’t want to live. Love is, for me, the single most important part of my life. I am surrounded by love and though I do not, at this time, have a partner or a spouse in my life, that doesn’t mean that there is no love.

I love my daughter, deeply. I love my dog, Lucy, who has been with me for over 12 years. We rescued her when she was 4 and even at 16, she’s hanging in there. I lost a beloved dog, Lola, a year and a half ago when she was only 9. It still kills me to think of her. I love my friends and my family. I love writing. I love babies. I love New York City. I love this entire country and I also love many other countries. I love ice cream. I love people who can put their beliefs front and center and make a real difference in this world. I love spiritual teachers like Pema Chodron — she saved my life when everything felt like it was going wrong. I love meditation. (I even feel not completely stupid when I chant now.)

I actually love my ex husband. I just don’t want to live with him. And it’s pretty clear that he is relieved not to be living with me.

When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I believe that walking down the aisle was the equivalent of my “Rocky” moment, climbing up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in my wedding gown and raising my hands in triumph. I believed that my life was now complete.

And then I saw how challenging it was to keep a marriage going when two people wanted different things out of it. I wanted simply to have a partner and an ally, to know someone had my back and wanted to spend some time with me. He wanted to come together when he wanted to, and that turned out to be, in the end, not at all.

I was not right and he was not wrong. It simply was what it was.

In losing that “Rocky” triumph, I found myself. I found that all the external things I thought I wanted were less important than the internal work I had to do. I found a core of strength I didn’t know I had, to help my parents die, to be a good friend to others. To try to know God, or whatever that “higher consciousness” is.

I do believe in love. I do believe in marriage and kids and a home and all of those desires of human connection. I just believe that our lives can be complete and joyous without all the external prizes we think we must have.

Despite a difficult divorce and some very painful losses, the past three years have been some of the best years of my life. Were they better than the early years of my daughter’s life, when we were a loving family and we were all together? They were different; not better, not worse.

It’s an amazing feeling to fall in love and plan a wedding and embark on a life with the person you believe is your soul mate. But sometimes the person we chose at 24 or 29 or 37 is not the person we can live with at 40 or 50 or 60. Should we be miserable for the rest of our lives because it didn’t last? Or should we move on and accept that life has other plans for us?

A year ago, I started studying swing dancing because I hoped that dancing would lift my spirits after a horrible divorce. It did. Recently, one of my favorite dance partners told me that I had to go into more challenging classes in order to improve. I think that’s true now about love, too. I think it’s time to come out of hiding and put my heart on the line again. I’m scared to step on my partner’s feet in an advanced intermediate dance class. And I’m also scared to get my heart broken again. But I know that if I don’t take chances in life, I might as well just die right now and forget about the remaining days, months or years. Where would be the joy in that?

After that blog post got so many critical comments, I talked to a few successful writers I know about how they handled criticism and personal attacks. One of them, Michael Eigen, a therapist and author of at least twenty books, said to me, “If you go out into the world, you will be attacked by others. If you stay in your cave, you will be attacked by yourself.”

I’m ready. I feel that Pat Benatar has taken over my soul and is singing, “‘C’mon and hit me with your best shot… fire away.”

Which is also a good song to dance to.

Normally, people say “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.”  I thought I’d make a twist on that and it became my second Huff Post:

Do Not Compare My Outsides to Your Insides
Last week, I had the good fortune to see Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection, who was a guest on Katie Couric’s new talk show. 
The title of Brown’s latest book, Daring Greatly, comes from one of my favorite quotes by Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
I was thrilled to see Brené in person, having watched her TED talks numerous times.  I think of her as “The Queen of Vulnerability.”  Often when I am engaging in actions that feel risky (no, I’ll never skydive, I’m talking about crazy stuff, like going on a date), I wonder, “what would Brené say?”  She would say, “Go for it.” 
But the real revelation for me at the show was Katie.  I’ve always liked her, but had imagined that everything must be easy for her, that she didn’t have the kind of pesky voices in her head like I do that seem constantly to be saying what the hell do you think you’re doing?  Yesterday she showed us her vulnerability, laughing with the audience and wondering if she was doing things right, and it made me admire her all the more. What Brené Brown teaches us is what Katie, the ultimate professional with a thoroughly human side, showed us yesterday: Katie has often dared greatly.
We hear “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” but I see so many people in life talking about taking chances, changing their lives, leaving jobs they hate, or unhappy relationships, or moving, or going back to school, or dating, or wanting to dance, or meditate, or stop drinking, or ask someone out, or changing careers, or standing up to an abusive person…and talking about it is as far as they get.
I am not judging them.  I was in marriage that wasn’t working for many years and all I did was talk (or write) about it. I watched so many of my friends get divorced and I always thought, “But my husband is a good guy, he’s not a jerk like so and so’s husband.” The truth was, we weren’t a good fit.  We wanted different things in life. 
Brené Brown and Katie Couric are both big risk takers.  Katie’s show will be in front of an audience.  This is a new skill for her.  It looks easy, but the Talk Show Highway is littered with failed shows, even with hosts we love. Katie has the unenviable position of being compared to Oprah and Ellen and every snarky armchair observation that pops in peoples’ heads. Imagine what it felt like for Jimmy Fallon to read that his show was a “trainwreck”: “It didn’t seem to have attitude, direction or an identifiable style — a newborn already suffering an identity crisis…” (Tom Shales, 4.3.09) or the Maureen Ryan (Chicago Tribune) description of the first show: “Sweaty, tense, uptight, nervous, wound-up, keyed up — pick an adjective. Any one of them would describe Fallon’s demeanor on opening night.”
Fast forward to this year, where Fallon has increased his lead over the competition from last year’s 5% to this year’s 19% (TV by the Numbers 7.26.12) – who’s sweaty now?
I’m not shilling for Katie’s new show (though an address for a check can be provided)—I’m just suggesting we should cheer Katie on for doing exactly what Brené Brown says her research reveals for lives of meaning and substance: take the chance, be vulnerable and thereby risk having more joy and fulfillment. 
By the way, Brené freely admits that she became an academic to live in a world of facts and statistics, only to find herself (not by choice!) firmly planted in a world of risk taking and vulnerability.  The audience yesterday was rooting for both of these women to succeed and I think that is ultimately what we all have to do: be there for each other, to cheer each other on.  We need to become a community of risk takers, of people whose insides are allowing them to move forward and change that job or start exercising or end that toxic relationship. 
When we don’t move forward, we begin to break down, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Or as Alvy Singer says in “Annie Hall”: “A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”
Let’s avoid the dead shark! Let’s look now at what’s endangered in our lives – a relationship? A passion? A creative impulse?  How many years can we wait to move it forward, energized and free?  What are we waiting for?
I love quoting Woody Allen!  

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robin-amos-kahn/grief-spirituality_b_1744416.html

The other day, I was riding my bike and suddenly the first line of a piece that I thought would be great for the Huff Post came into my mind.  “When Life Gives You Lemons…Make a Lemon Meringue Pie, or a Lemon Cake” – or ….”a Souffle!”  I suddenly heard the whole piece and so I got off the bike, used my iPhone to record it, came home, basically transcribed the whole thing and the next thing I knew it was on the Huff Post.  It was thrilling!  I feel so grateful to my friend Karen Fitzgerald, for sharing her contact at the Huff Post.  And they posted it within an hour.

Life is good!  Zoe just arrived from San Francisco.  I am working on my book and just showing up a day at a time.