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.

“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 →

I have worked on this play alone, with a dramaturg, and with my writing partner, for many years.  Often I would say to myself, “Why are you still working on this?  It’s a waste of time.”  But something compelled me to go back to it and to keep re-working it and refining it.  And the joy of the writing always motivated me to keep at it.  And the desire to entertain and also be of service also inspired me.

I never really thought that someday it would open in a theater in New York, with an excellent cast and director and that people would come and see it.  I never really imagined that there would be an audience for this play and that people in New York, one of the toughest cities in the world to succeed in theater, would actually laugh and really enjoy it.

This entire experience has been (so far, at least) a labor of love, community, creativity and joy.  There have been difficult times, creative arguments, some scary moments, lots of stress, but overall, so far it’s been a dream come true and everyone from the assistant stage manager to the director is enthralled with this production.  I think the fact that our director has set a tone of generosity and respect for everyone, has given us all a freedom to be part of the creative process, enjoy every moment, to stay in the now, to take each day as it comes.

I decided to look at one of my Pema Chodron’s books this morning and opened to this passage:

“We never know

When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure, we don’t know what’s really going to happen.  When we think something is going to give us misery, we don’t know.  Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all.  We try to do what we think is going to help. But we don’t know.  We never know if we’re going to fall flat or sit up tall.  When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story.  It may be just the beginning of a great adventure.  

I read somewhere about a family who had only one son.  They were very poor.  This son was extremely precious to them, and the only thing that mattered to his family was that he bring them some financial support and prestige.  Then he was thrown from a horse and crippled.  It seemed like the end of their lives.  Two weeks after that, the army came into the village and took away all the healthy, strong men to fight in the war, and this young man was allowed to stay behind and take care of his family.  

Life is like that.  We don’t know anything.  We call something bad, we call it good.  But really we just don’t know.  

Learning to live with not knowing has been a challenge for me, but I’m definitely getting better at it.  Like so many things in life, it is a practice and you just continue working on it, not until you get it right or perfectly, but until it becomes second nature.  And I don’t know if that ever really happens, because even someone as enlightened as Pema Chodron says she struggles with day to day challenges.

Just being alive is a gift though.  It’s almost May, the trees are filled with gorgeous blossoms.  And I look forward to tomorrow night, to being back in the theater with my wonderful creative family.

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.

We’re now halfway through winter and after a rough start, I find that I am feeling quite content.  Maybe part of the reason is having work that I enjoy, making sure I exercise and dance, and finding I can bounce back from feeling blue.  Realizing that it’s easier to go with the feeling and let it move through me, rather than fight it.  Because it does pass and the less I fight it, the faster is seems to go.

I wanted to share three quotes that I’m sure I’ve written about before, but really resonate with me and I hope they do with you:

“It is not the critic that 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 errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…..

Theodore Roosevelt

“If you want to avoid criticism: do nothing; say nothing; be nothing.”


“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 and amazing amount in his life.  When some things didn’t work out, Rinpoche’s attitude was ‘it’s 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.”

Pema Chodron “No Time to Lose”

I’ve also been re-reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.  I can’t believe how much I’m learning, particularly about relationships.  Even just saying that there are only 6 more weeks till spring is the antithesis of Tolle’s book.  There is only now!  Enjoy it! 

I have never had an easy time in the winter.  I was just looking back at previous posts over the years and every winter I feel blue.  I just came from the gym, so that always lifts my mood.  Exercise, meditation, reading, gratitude… all of those help.

I’m listening to President Obama talk now about one of the young students, Grace, who was killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  I hope that he can succeed in getting effective gun control laws passed.

Here is a quote from Pema, who always seems to be the person I turn to when I am feeling down:

“Rejoice in ordinary life”

“We can learn to rejoice in even the smallest blessings our life holds. It is easy to miss our own good fortune; often happiness comes in ways we don’t even notice. It’s like a cartoon I saw of an astonished-looking man saying, ‘What was that?’ The caption below read, ‘Bob experiences a moment of well-being.’ The ordinariness of our good fortune can make it hard to catch.

The key is to be here, fully connected with the moment, paying attention to the details of ordinary life. By taking care of ordinary things – our pots and pans, our clothing, our teeth – we rejoice in them. When we scrub a vegetable or brush our hair, we are expressing appreciation: friendships toward ourselves and toward the living quality that is found in everything. This combination of mindfulness and appreciation connects us fully with reality and brings us joy.”

“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.” 

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.

“The only way out is through” is often mentioned at Friends In Deed.  I remember the first time I heard it, I hated it.  But I think it’s really true.  Latest Huff Post:


The Only Way Out is Through
The first time I heard that I thought, “Damn!  I don’t want to go through this.  I want to go around it, over it, under it.  I want to sleep through it, wake me up when it’s over, fast forward me to happy days are here again.”
“It” is a dark night of the soul, which by the way is a misnomer.  It generally is dark “nights”—although I have heard of people who have a spiritual awakening in one night, most notably Eckhart Tolle, who was suddenly enlightened and began immediately writing bestselling books.  But for most of us, “a dark night” is a longer period, often a year, maybe even a few years.  And if you are simultaneously an agnostic, an atheist and a believer, as I considered myself for most of my life, it is a challenging path out of what feels like hell.  (“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Winston Churchill.) 
You can, if you want, try to avoid the pain – drinking, drugs, sleeping, lying, stealing, cheating, shopping, sleeping around, eating gallons of ice cream, bags of potato chips, staring at the television, gambling . . . you can do any or all of those things but sooner or later the grief you are avoiding will show up in a meltdown, a pile of debt, another divorce, an illness, an accident, or any number of other possibilities.
My dark night was years of caregiving and then a tsunami of loss. My life became a blank canvas that had to be re-painted at a stage in my life when I was not expecting it. I feel like I should have made a t-shirt for that first year so that if anyone asked me how I was they could just read the t-shirt:
~ separatedmotherdieddaughtermoved3000milesawaynojobnohome2dogs ~
When my dark nights began, people recommended books. First was Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart:
“I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us…It was all about letting go of everything.” 
Then came The Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore:
“Many people think that the point of life is to solve their problems and be happy.  But happiness is usually a fleeting sensation, and you never get rid of problems.  Your purpose in life may be to become more who you are and more engaged with the people and the life around you, to really live your life.  That may sound obvious, yet many people spend their time avoiding life.  They are afraid to let it flow through them, and so their vitality gets channeled into ambitions, addictions, and preoccupations that don’t give them anything worth having.  A dark night, may appear, paradoxically, as a way to return to living.  It pares life down to its essentials and helps you get a new start.”
I definitely needed a new start, so then I read…
Getting Naked Again: Dating, Romance, Sex, and Love When You’ve Been Divorced, Widowed, Dumped, or Distracted by Judith Sills.  I managed that pretty quickly, thanks to the “divorce diet,” it was much easier than I imagined it would be. But it didn’t change anything; I was still deep into my dark nights.
Crazy Time by Abigail Trafford was helpful: “Breaking up a marriage may be as common as Main Street nowadays, but when you finally do it, the psychological experience seems as uncharted as the dark side of the moon.”  That made sense to me.  And – if you were the complacent partner in the marriage and you suddenly stand up for yourself, all hell breaks loose.  I could see that happened in my divorce.
In fact, my divorce was such a nightmare, that I had to turn to the Psalms:
“Even in the midst of great pain, Lord,
I praise you for that which is.
I will not refuse this grief
or close myself to this anguish.
Let shallow men pray for ease:
‘Comfort us; shield us from sorrow.’
I pray for whatever you send me,
and I ask to receive it as your gift.
You have put a joy in my heart
greater than all the world’s riches.
I lie down trusting the darkness,
for I know that even now you are here.”
            [Psalm 4, Stephen Mitchell translation]
Somehow that brought me comfort.
Recently, I read this very powerful quote by August Gold: 
 “To enter the conversation with Life we only have to change one key word: We have to stop asking, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and start asking, ‘Why is this happening for me?’  When we can do this, we’re free.”
And this:  “Life, as the biblical tradition makes clear, is both loss and renewal, death and resurrection, chaos and healing at the same time; life seems to be a collision of opposites.”  Richard Rohr, Falling Upwards.
Over the last twenty or so years, I have watched many friends walk through hell.  I didn’t understand how truly difficult their lives were at the time because I had no reference point.  I understood it intellectually, but not deeply, not emotionally.  I have watched friends deal with cancer and illnesses I’ve never even heard of, deaths of beloved spouses and children, long term caregiving, loss of homes, businesses, jobs, and deeply painful divorces. 
Now I understand. Now I understand that no one is immune, nor should they be. I wouldn’t trade any of my dark nights.  “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
The only way out isthrough – which it is kind of like a birth, or re-birth.  It is a path to a more meaningful life, though it might not feel that way at the time. It is the path to a second half of life that is deeper and about tuning out some of the noise of the outside world and listening to that inner voice in the quiet of a dark night.

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