Interesting – when I typed the title for this post, I accidentally typed “Letting god…” instead of “Letting go…”  But honestly, I think it really should be letting god. This week has been a great exercise for me in trusting a higher something – some higher good – to show me what I need.

I started out the week feeling very overwhelmed at work, very frustrated about my life and very stuck.  But I made a decision to just go with all the feelings, the sadness and the anger and just see where it led me.  Monday, I emailed my neighbor, Louise, and asked her to read the Tarot cards for me (she’s in Connecticut for the summer.)  She did a quick reading and reassured me that I need to sit tight.  I have to say, I’m not a huge believer in psychics or cards, but somehow Louise always seems to nail it for me.  

Then Tuesday, I went to a Big Group meeting at Friends In Deed and I saw a woman there who looked so familiar, but I couldn’t place her.  She came over to me and said, “We know each other, don’t we?”  But neither of us knew where we met until she told me her name, which is unusual, and then I realized we met at my first Mama Gena mastery.  I remember her because she was very resistant, and at one point Regena had her dance with Alex, the teacher who comes to dance with many of the women and she looked like someone who hadn’t experienced any pleasure in years – until we saw her dancing.  It was a memorable moment.  

During the big group, someone shared that she was going through a really rough time – partner sick, having to spend the summer in Europe for medical treatment, knowing that she wouldn’t have the support of Friends In Deed except by phone, not having any friends there, and in her frustration she said, “I feel…I feel…like…like….scrambled eggs.”  I was sitting between two friends who had both seen the reading of my play (twice) and we all laughed. Cy, the group leader, said at one point, “Here at FID we believe that there are two really important things in life – one is living in the moment and the other is speaking your truth.” 

Then Wednesday night I went out and ran into two more Mama Gena friends (Sister Goddesses) and that was a lovely surprise.  One of them had been to the reading and the other one said, “I can’t wait to see the play and we want to support you in any way we can.”  

Yesterday, I received an email from Steve Chandler, author of “Fearless” and “Reinventing Yourself” – and many other books – but those are the two I read and re-read continuously.  I had commented on a blog post he wrote about Jane Austen – he and a friend wrote a book about reading all of Austen’s books.  I love Jane Austen too, so I commented – and I received an email from Steve saying he would love to send me the book!  I was thrilled.  His work has been enormously helpful and life-changing.

And then last night, I went to a goodbye/birthday party for my friend Barbara’s brother, David, who is moving to L.A.  He and I share a special “badge” of loss – he went through a divorce, lost his mother, lost his job, had to move — and though his divorce was easier in some ways, divorce is never really easy.  He just got hired to be the president of a company based in Los Angeles, so he’s excited about his future.  I met some lovely people at the party – and came home to walk Lucy and as I was leaving the building, I ran into a neighbor and we chatted about Lola.  More sadness came up and I felt bereft about this amazing creature who lived with me for nine years and who I miss so much it’s hard to even think about her without crying.  And then I walked by Savoy, a wonderful restaurant on my block which is closing (for renovation and reinvention) and saw Beth – the director of Mama Gena’s School and I went inside to say hello.  She introduced me to her neighbor, who had taken this Mastery and she thanked me for all my hard work.  

Everyone hugged each other – including the owner of Savoy – and I went home feeling so grateful for all the people in my life, and all the new people I keep meeting, and for that strange higher power that leads me from despair to pleasure to sadness to hope to enlightenment — and never abandons me. I feel especially grateful this week. 

Tomorrow morning, at about 4:30 a.m. I will (hopefully) be heading to Newark to board a plane to Miami.  I’m going to a Mama Gena weekend again and I couldn’t be more ready to have some FUN!!!  It’s been quite a year, I remember last May when I was in Miami, I  received several emails from my lawyer.  Not a great way to relax on the beach.

And I can’t seem to learn the lesson that the future generally seems to take care of itself, so it’s best to stay in the present.   

I am grateful for this year, for all the tough lessons I learned…like bring friends with you to divorce court – it makes it much less stressful, hire a good attorney, and always show up for yourself. It was scary, it wasn’t much fun, but I’m going to Miami with two hundred women from all over the world – of all ages – and we are going to have fun! 

I love when women feel safe enough to be really honest about what’s going on in their lives.  My Mama Gena “Pod” – the group of “sister goddesses” that was created when we all took Mastery last year is the only “pod” that has stayed together past Mastery.  I think that is due mostly to our leader, N, a Harvard Business School grad who has created a supportive and caring climate that has enabled us to continue meeting every few months and have group phone calls.  Many of us went to Miami last month and we just always have fun together. Opa, the Greek restaurant where we all danced on the tables, remains one of our favorite experiences. 

Every one of us has challenges – two of us are going through difficult divorces, one has a husband with a serious and undiagnosed illness, one is starting up a new business and it’s been a struggle in this economy, one was out of work for a few years, one is learning how to date after being divorced for several years.  We have the tools we learned in Mastery – to call each other for support, to “spring clean” (pick a topic, talk about it for fifteen minutes, get everything out and have one other person listen without judgment), to make gratitude lists, take dance breaks, be of service, seek pleasure in each day and allow ourselves to sit with sadness, if that’s what we’re feeling.

But last night there wasn’t too much sadness as we all got dressed up and met at the Harvard Club for a delicious dinner and shared our stories – and were reminded how powerful sisterhood is.   

And I had Hasty Pudding for the first time in my life.  It’s made with cornmeal and molasses and I don’t know what else, but it was pretty tasty. 

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. 

It wasn’t exactly fun. It was rather difficult and as a friend of mine said yesterday, who has been through similiar rough times: “There’s no way to get through it except to go through it.”

Saturday night was the worst. I finally emailed my brilliant therapist, Michael Eigen and he wrote me this:

“You are feeling what you need to feel.

Nothing lasts forever.

Meanwhile, you are being asked to continue growing, perhaps in ways you can’t fathom or imagine.

You are not done meeting yourself or meeting others.

Now, one small step after another, or for a time, no step at all.”

That helped. Also, he encouraged me to feel my anger. That it was entirely appropriate. I think that when I feel very sad, it’s often repressed anger.

And then on Sunday, after running into a friend at Unity, I decided to go to the Mama Gena graduation for the latest mastery class. It was just what I needed. It lifted me up, reminded me to look for my pleasure every day, to know that I am not alone, that I am part of an amazing sisterhood of women everywhere, and to dance.

And my thoughts are with the citizens of Iran, who are going through such a difficult period in their history. And Iraq, and everywhere, there is so much suffering.

96 years old. A broken leg. Internal bleeding. An endoscopy. A mass in her stomach. Four transfusions. 3 1/2 hours of surgery to repair the leg by putting in a plate, under general anesthesia. Possible stomach cancer. Morphine causing itching which made her scratch her face for more than ten days. (No one figured this out until the last days.) Horrible pain whenever anyone moved her. Some cursing. This to a lovely, Orthodox Jewish nurse who came to clean her up:

Mother: “Go to hell and get out of here.”

Nurse: “Helen, I don’t want to go to hell. It’s very hot.”

Mother: “Well, then go somewhere else and leave me alone.”

And now she’s back in room 509 at her nursing home, exactly two weeks from when she went into the E.R. at Maimonides Hospital. I can tell you that it was an extremely difficult two weeks, I was pretty sure this was going to be it, and we’re still waiting for the stomach biopsy results. But I have a friend whose father is, I believe, 103 – and he just found out he’s got pancreatic cancer and it hasn’t killed him yet. I think that there’s no way we’re going to live this long. We’ve ingested and breathed in too many toxins.

Anyway – it was a roller coaster ride, each day not knowing what we were going to hear next and yet somehow my mother is not ready to go.

So this weekend, once my mother got settled in, I have to say that I had a fantastic time, making up for the stress of the past two weeks. I went to two parties on Friday night and danced till one in the morning and then today, my group of women from Mama Gena got together to perform our tribute to Mama Gena (re-written lyrics to the song “Mamma Mia.”) We had a ball. We all love seeing each other and rehearsing, then performing our song to an audience that enjoys it and then going out to catch up on each other’s lives over sangria’s and margaritas. (And quesadillas. What can be wrong when you have Mexican food?)

It was an excellent weekend. My mother’s back home, the weather is extraordinary, I got to dance and sing and we had so much fun! Saturday night was a low point, but I called my friend O, who is dealing with lymphoma and we had a long, lovely talk.

I am grateful for all the good that is in my life. Next Sunday Steve is leaving for a month in California and then Zoe is going out on June 14th to explore living in San Francisco. Big changes. Sometimes I feel very sad and I also have had some wonderful times as well. Even with all the stress and all the emotions, I feel more alive than I have in years. And – I can fit into my skinny jeans.

Next comes bringing in money. That’s the next big challenge.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Winston Churchill

Early this morning I saw that quote and it lifted my spirits. I am having a tough time right now. I wake up in the middle of the night, as I’ve written about before, and it feels like my world is falling apart. But when I wake up in the morning, somehow I feel more optimistic and less afraid. This morning, the positive feeling came when I read that quote. I’ve read it before, but it had special meaning for me today.

I have always found a way to get through difficult times. Friends of mine are fighting for their lives. A billion people in this world go to bed hungry, with no access to clean water, no money and in desperate fear for their lives. That is incomprehensible really, but true.

What I am going through is painful and challenging, but it’s a process of grief and mourning and then opportunity. I would love to know that my life has more meaning than to just mope about getting a divorce.

My four day birthday weekend in Miami with my community of women was amazing. I can’t say much about it other than to say it was the highest of highs and also moments of really deep sadness. When we weren’t in sessions with Regena, we were at the beach or at the pool. For me, there is nothing more healing than the ocean. I also wore a bikini for the first time in over twenty-five years. A hot pink bikini. With polka dots. (There will be no photos posted, I promise.)

On Friday night a group of us went to a Greek restaurant called Opa, where we danced on the tables with some very attractive young men and a couple of belly dancers. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun. Why are there no restaurants like this in New York City? I need to dance on more tables.

We floated in the ocean and had long conversations and shared our desires. We sat around the pool at one in the morning and looked at the full moon. The women who come to Miami for these weekends are all ages: twenty-two to seventy something. Mothers and daughters come together. There are all kinds of professions: lawyers, professors, actors, writers, veterinarians, physical therapists, social workers, teachers, dancers, financial advisors – there was even a fantastic opera singer who performed. I have never cried as much as I did this weekend, or felt more comforted. There are cancer survivors, women who have gone through difficult divorces, women who are estranged from their children, who have lost jobs.

There are also many women whose lives are going really well, better for having connected with this community. My friend Polly shared a hotel room with me for two nights and wouldn’t let me pay my share. She generously told me about her divorce and then about her wonderful recent marriage to a man she dated in college, who she deeply loves. She gave me advice about my job search and a list of books to read.

I am looking for the opportunity in this difficulty and what I am finding is love and friendship.

I love the fact that the last post was titled “Fear” and this post is “Off to Miami.”

I am off to be with my women friends – all 160 or so of them and Mama Gena. We are going to have fun, to swim, to dance, to party and to generally do what I haven’t done in many many years. Flirt. Well, I have flirted, but not with any serious intent.

I’ll write when I return and hopefully I’ll have some good stories to share.

Monday morning, for the past three years I’ve been dreading Mondays. I’ve also been fearing depression, especially as we come close to winter.

I guess you would call that not being in the moment. This morning I re-read another chapter in “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron and read this paragraph: “The essence of life is that it’s challenging. Sometimes it’s sweet, and sometimes it’s bitter. Sometimes your body tenses, and sometimes it relaxes or opens. Sometimes you have a headache, and sometimes you feel 100 percent healthy. From an awakened perspective, trying to tie up all the loose ends and finally get it together is death, because it involves rejecting a lot of your basic experience. There is something aggressive about this approach to life, trying to flatten out all the rough spots and imperfections into a nice smooth ride…. To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. …. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”

I was walking the dogs in the park this morning and now all the leaves are off the trees. It felt like a kind of death, when I looked around. I generally hate this time of year, but for some reason I am enjoying it, even though last night it was windy and cold and I didn’t have enough layers on. Listening to my ipod while I race home from the subway at night helps me to move quickly and not mind the cold so much. What did we do before such inventions?

Anyway, I wish for you a day with a few bumps.

Oh – one more thing. I’m rehearsing for a song we are singing at our final Mama Gena weekend, which is this coming weekend. My group (eight of us) are singing “Mamma Mia” but with new lyrics “Mama Gena.” It should be really fun. We’re all wearing blond wigs and I’ll try to post a photo of our group in our costumes. (Although we’re not exactly sure what they will be – lots of sequins I think.) Learning the lyrics has been challenging. I’m generally either walking with the ipod, singing to myself (or out loud if I’m in a park) or on the subway singing softly. Zoe’s tired of hearing me, so I try to limit how often I sing at home. Singing and dancing are two activities that bring me great pleasure. I recommend them. Take a dance break today!

“In Nepal, the dogs bark all night long. Every twenty minutes or so, they all stop at once, and there is an experience of immense relief and stillness. Then they all start barking again. The small mind of sem can feel just like that. When we first start meditating, it’s as if the dogs never stop barking at all. After a while, there are those gaps. Discursive thoughts are rather like wild dogs that need taming. Rather than beating them or throwing stones, we tame them with compassion. Over and over we regard them with the precision and kindness that allow them to gradually calm down. Sometimes it feels like there’s much more space, with just a few yips and yaps here and there.”

From “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron.

My dogs are still yapping. I spent this past weekend at my women’s retreat again and it was a fascinating weekend. To be in the company of over a hundred women of all ages, from all over the world, with different life experiences, is interesting enough. This weekend Dr. Christiane Northrup came to our session and I have always admired her. She talked a lot about Regena’s work and how pleasure really does affect our health and how important it is to seek it out in our lives. She talked about nitric oxide, (not nitrous oxide, which is what you get in the dentist’s office, laughing gas, which she also likes) – but how nitric oxide is released in our bodies when we experience pleasure and how great that is for us.

Anyway, these weekends are filled with so many emotions and when it’s over, it feels like withdrawal. This morning I did my reading and my meditation and the difficult feelings that come over me in the autumn returned and I’m trying to embrace them rather than fight them, but it’s hard. Most of the time we use other substances or activities to avoid the feelings: alcohol, drugs, shopping, sugar, TV, caffeine, whatever works. I must have woken up six times last night, each time filled with dread. And I know that right now, a lot of people are also waking up six or more times during the night, filled with dread or fear or anxiety. I’m going to take a walk this morning and increase my nitric oxide levels, and do some work, and hopefully feel some of the pleasure I felt this past weekend, in the company of so many powerful women.

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