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 →

“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 →

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 →

But listen to me
For one moment quit being sad

Hear blessings dropping their blossoms all around you.


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 →

From 2001-2009 I was a caregiver for my mother, who was in and out of emergency rooms, hospitals, nursing homes and rehabs. I was also raising a teenage daughter, living with a husband whose business had gone under, working hard at my own job, and walking two dogs. I was feeling overwhelmed, but that was nothing compared to 2009. Read More →

I was sitting next to two men recently in a coffeehouse and one of them was complaining (whining) about his divorce.

“I hate my life. My ex is killing me in the divorce, I can’t find a job, I feel like sh*t all the time, my kids don’t call, I’m so depressed, my life sucks. I miss my old life. We traveled all over the world. My life was so much better and now it’s awful, I hate it.”

I was curious about what his friend would say and leaned in closer, without appearing too obvious. I thought he might say, “Yeah, your ex is a bitch and you really got screwed. Poor you.”

But he didn’t. Read More →

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 →

Recently I ran into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a few years. She is in middle of a nasty divorce. “This is a nightmare!” she told me. They have kids, so both custody and finances are at the heart of the dispute.

My own divorce was final two years ago and in some ways it feels like a lifetime ago. Our divorce was also extremely unpleasant and I hope never to go through anything like that again in my life. I did a great deal of reading about divorce and one of the many books I read seemed to resonate the most: Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life, by Abigail Trafford. She says that for many couples, certainly not all, but for so many of us, the first two years Read More →

A few weeks ago I went to two memorial services within two days of each other. One was for a remarkable man, my friend Lisa’s dad, Michael Dontzen, who lived to 89 and accomplished more in his lifetime than just about anyone I’ve ever met. He was a New York State Supreme Court judge, an aide to Mayor John Lindsay, a lawyer, a brilliant man with so much passion for justice, that on his deathbed, just a short time before he passed away, he married a gay couple. This was his last “professional” duty and he was determined to accomplish that despite the fact that he could barely speak.

The second memorial was heartbreaking. It was for a woman named Chris Twomey. She was an artist and a mother of three. Her art and motherhood were intertwined and she was passionate about both. She had breast cancer, which spread throughout her body and after a long, heroic struggle, she finally died, at age 58.

There weren’t many people who were as determined to live as Chris. She loved life, she loved making art and she maintained a sense of humor throughout the years of treatments and tremendous pain.

I met Chris at Friends In Deed, a pragmatic, spiritual counseling center in Soho, New York. I have written about it before. FID saved my life when my life was completely falling apart. One of the gifts of Friends was that it put me right smack into a community that understood suffering, so that I was able to feel less alone.

In her eulogy for Chris, the founder of Friends In Deed, Cy O’Neal, spoke about Chris’s courage. I just happened to be near the front desk the day that Chris first arrived at FID, announcing “I have breast cancer” as if she were saying “I just arrived from Paris.” I sat in big groups with Chris for well over a year, and as Cy said, “She always raised her hand, early in the meeting. She shared whatever was going on with her, which generally included the work she was doing and some difficult aspect of her treatment. She always had a strong spirit and a rich sense of humor and after she spoke, it seemed that she gave everyone else permission to tell whatever they were going through.”

Like a lot of people, weathering the storm of Hurricane Sandy meant keeping close to our battery-operated radios. (Actually, I had a crank radio too, the kind you wind up if you don’t have batteries, but it just made me cranky. If I had to only use that, my arm would have fallen off by day two, and my only news would be spastic, like “flood waters reaching… evacuated and you should seek….”) People were calling in all day with the stories of what was happening, good and bad, giving each other comfort and advice. The radio gave us permission to speak and a means to reach out to one another when we would have been going it alone otherwise.
During those five days of sitting in candlelight and mostly silence, I began to think about community. My neighbors in our building in Soho supported each other emotionally — one neighbor, Martin, was staying uptown with his girlfriend, but each day he came back to the building and dropped off bags of food for his neighbors, fresh fruit, bagels, peanut butter, The New York Times. On Halloween, our next door neighbor, Louise, came over and gave us Tarot card readings by candlelight.

My upstairs neighbor, Barbara, was sitting shiva (a week long mourning period) for her dad, who passed away a few days before the Hurricane. The first few days there were dozens of people who came to pay their respects, but once the hurricane hit, it was harder for family and friends to get there, so my loftmate, Abigail, and I tried to come up as much as we could.

And then, on one of my uptown bike trips, when I had Internet access, I saw a posting on Facebook written by someone who had been helping out in Rockaway Beach. They were delivering blankets and supplies, cleaning out basements, doing all the heavy lifting that needed to be done. But I read this: “People need emotional support. They are suffering.”

And I thought about the woman in Staten Island who lost both her young sons, because a neighbor wouldn’t let her into his home, he was too afraid to open his door. I hope that she will give herself permission to speak of her profound loss, when the time is right, and with a caring group of people with her.

We often give lip service to the idea of “it takes a village” but in reality, we so rarely do come together to support each other. One of the reasons 12 Step programs are so effective is because they have learned the power of community. For most of history, family was our community, but now families are spread all over the place. Often people worked in organizations for their entire careers and felt a part of something. That is the exception now, it’s rare that anyone stays longer than a few years with any job — in fact, the “Millennials” don’t even expect to stay past three years.
In the aftermath of so much devastation and what has been a divisive election — and what will surely be many more hurricanes and tornadoes and devastation — maybe we can try to solve both the physical challenges of dealing with floods and the emotional challenges of how to create a real sense of community so that we truly can “get by with a little help from our friends.”

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