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.

 

IMG_24741This morning I woke up at 5 a.m. from a bad dream. I was on my way to a job interview somewhere in midtown Manhattan and I ended up in Canada. Lost. No offense to Canada, but I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety and dread. I was too embarrassed in the dream to call the person I was meeting, so I just quickly woke up and tried to shake off the feeling that the dream left me with.

In some ways, I do feel lost. And sometimes I feel sad and sometimes I feel depressed and sometimes life feels too hard.

Someone I actually love, my ex-husband, is on his fifth week of chemo Read More →

“Wherever we are, we can train as a warrior.  The practices of meditation, loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equinimity are our tools.  With the help of these practices, we can uncover the soft spot of bodhichitta, the tenderness of the awakened heart.  We will find that tenderness in sorrow and in gratitude.  We will find it behind the hardness of rage and in the shakiness of fear.  It is available in loneliness as well as in kindness.  

Many of us prefer practices that will not cause discomfort, yet at the same time we want to be healed.  But bodhichitta training doesn’t work that way.  A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next.  We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe.  But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty.  This not knowing is part of the adventure, and it’s always what makes us afraid.  

Bodhichitta training offers no promise of happy endings.  Rather this “I” who wants to find security — who wants something to hold on to — can finally learn to grow up.  The central question of a warrior’s training is not how we avoid uncertainty and fear but how we relate to discomfort.  How do we practice with difficulty, with our emotions, with the unpredictable encounters of an ordinary day?”
Pema Chodron

I haven’t written any posts since November, when my dear friend Emily Squires was in the hospital.  Sadly, she died a few days later.

I just haven’t had the heart to write anything because the fall was so bleak and I’m still struggling to get through the days.  I miss Em and life feels so uncertain. This morning, I had to read some Pema Chodron to be reminded that this is just the part of life that is real – that we do live in uncertainty and we always will.

When I fight my sadness, it always seems to dig in deeper, so I will try to sit with it.  It’s a bleak January day.  We went through Hurricane Sandy (which isn’t over for thousands of people whose homes were destroyed.)  We saw a horrible school shooting and still there is a battle over gun control.

I’m sitting with sadness this morning and I’m trying not to fight it.  I know this too shall pass and that I have so much to be grateful for.  Emily is no longer with us and that is truly sad.  I just had a thought though, to call a mutual friend this morning, who is probably also missing Emily.

It’s hard to lose someone you love and I loved Emily.  I’m watching my dog, Lucy, falling apart.  She is 17 now.  I’m not sure of the future, but then who is?  I wish for happy endings, but if I’m to be a real warrior, I guess I have to accept that there is no promise of happy endings, just this moment, and growing up and relating to discomfort.

“How do we practice with difficulty, with our emotions, with the unpredictable encounters of an ordinary day.” 

I guess I’ve been quiet these days because I’ve been busy and living life and working on a book.  My meditation practice continues – imperfectly.  The holidays were remarkably stress-free and relaxing. I can’t wait for Christmas and New Year’s. The play is moving forward.  I watched the documentary about Woody Allen on American Masters and learned something I never knew about him – that doing stand-up was torturous for him at first, because he was so shy, but he persevered.  


I am not looking forward to winter – except that it’s the time of year I really get to read as many books as I can.  I also signed up for a swing dancing class last month and it was the highlight of my week.  It will continue in December.


I am thinking about my friend who is going through a difficult period with cancer.  After radiation, they put him on an oral treatment, which has been exhausting.  I’m praying for him to get through all of this and to start feeling better soon.  He’s had tremendous support from his sons and many of his close friends. 


Occupy Wall Street seems to have entered a different phase now that the city has cleared Zuccotti Park.  I’m not sure how the work will continue, but I do think that it has at least changed the conversation and hopefully, will affect our next election.