A few years ago I thought that I had gone through some tough times and that life would spare me at least for awhile.  But now I know there is no sparing — there are, in the course of every year, beautiful, joyous times AND really bad, difficult times.

This year was no exception.

The beautiful joyous times were simple days of spending time with my daughter, Zoe, with friends, traveling around the country and a trip to Dublin, all for work.  Riding my bike along the Hudson in the summer and taking long walks in Central Park in every season. 

There was a visit to Emily’s house in the country — bittersweet because of her absence, but still pleasurable.

My play performed at the Beckett Theater this year, with friends from all areas of my life, old friends, new friends, everyone showing up to see it and lend support.  And a cast and crew of the most wonderful people and the challenges that go along with every creative project.

There was the grief of losing my best friend, Lucy, my beloved beagle, who was with me for 13 years and who died at 17 years of age.  I miss her daily and am deeply grateful for having had her for all those years.  She was truly a faithful companion.

I’m grateful that my ex husband and I were able to forgive each other and start up a new… friendship.  I would not have imagined this a few years ago, but forgiveness is a powerful tool — and cancer seems to completely change the landscape.  He really showed up for a harrowing summer and survived and we are all so grateful. 

2013 ends quietly… I feel that life has forced so many of us to seek comfort in being quiet, by going within. 

One of my favorite pieces of advice I heard recently came from the playwright Tracy Letts: spend at least 30 minutes a day staring at the wall, or looking out the window.  I don’t have much of a view, but I think I will start at my wall and give thanks for this past year and gratitude for the coming one.  Just being alive is reason enough to be celebrate. 

Emily Squires’ pond in Lake Ariel, Pa.  August 2013.

Zoe jumping from the plane

“Our own suffering, if we turn toward it, can open us up to a loving relationship with the world.” — Pema Chodron

Whenever I hit a valley in my life and I feel hopeless or worried, somehow if I can lean into it, sit with it, turn toward it, it always seems to pass.

This is an example of what I mean. Say you’re on an airplane about to jump out and you’re attached to a very tall, handsome (or beautiful) instructor. You’ve learned everything you need to learn before getting in the plane and it takes off and you’re okay and then suddenly it’s your turn to jump and you refuse to move. Read More →

One year ago, I signed my divorce papers and it was the beginning of a new life and an entirely new chapter.

In November of 2011 I found dance.  I’d started dancing (as I wrote here) in a couple of flash mobs, but then I decided to sign up for dance classes and ever since then my life has changed in many profound ways.  First of all I found something really joyous that I love to do.  I’ve met many people who love it too and many really great men.  Men to dance with – not necessarily the love of my life, but men I really enjoy.

My morning practice of reading, writing and meditating has changed a bit.  I’ve been chanting in the morning, which is very peaceful.

In August, my daughter Zoe moved back to New York after three years of living in San Francisco.

She arrived the first week in August, which is when my first piece appeared on the Huffington Post.

I’ve now had five pieces published and yesterday Zoe and I did a Huff Post Live on adult children moving home with their parents.  She did find a great apartment with a roommate and they are happily living in their own place now.

http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/archive

If you’re new to this blog and you or anyone you know anyone who’s going through a difficult time, go back three years to April 2009 and start reading.  There is a great deal of information about how to get through loss and grief a day at a time. 

And the present feels very exciting!  So stay tuned.  I never expected any of this, so it will be interesting to see what unfolds next.  If you’ve had any interesting surprises lately, I’d love to hear about them. 

Three years ago this week, my play “Scrambled Eggs” had just had a fabulous reading in Great Barrington at the Berkshire Playwrights Lab.  My solo show had just been performed at the Midtown International Theater Festival.  My daughter and her father were just driving cross country to move to San Francisco.  I was alone, in Brooklyn, with my two dogs, Lucy and Lola.  My mother had just died.  To say that I was in a dark night of the soul, would be an understatement.  I was completely, utterly bereft and also grateful to have seen the play, perform, and I couldn’t stop crying.  Well, I stopped long enough to see the show and perform the three shows, thank God.

Life is better.  So much better.  Zoe is moving back to New York City next Tuesday and I am thrilled.  She will be staying with us here on Crosby Street until she can find a job, a place to live and hopefully a roommate.  I hope that all of that will come together easily for her.  It has been difficult to have her so far away for these past three years, but also in some ways a relief.  For so long, I felt responsible for everyone in my life and after losing Lola, the only responsibilities I have had, honestly, were to take care of myself and Lucy.  And of course, go to work and write and be a good friend and do everything that is important to do.

I am working on a book about Post Traumatic Growth – “transformation through loss.”  In doing my research, I have gone back to read this blog and also my journal, as well as finding all the quotes in countless books, and writing about everything I learned at Friends In Deed about loss, caregiving, life-threatening illness.  As someone said, “It’s a great comeback story.”  I don’t feel totally back, but I do believe now completely in the statement “the only way out is truly through.” For the first year and a half, I thought there would be no end to the tears.  There was.  There is.

I just found this funny old question-answer thing I wrote in February 2010 and I thought it might be fun to re-answer it now.  Some answers are the same, so I will change the color of the new answers:

Your cell phone: iPhone
Your hair: Brown
Your mother: Dead
Your father: Dead
Your favorite food: ice cream (it’s summer)
Your dream last night: no memory
Your favorite drink: iced lattes
Your dream goal: Writing and making a living at it again
What room are you in: living room
Your hobby: dancing
Your fear: a painful death
Where do you see yourself in 6 years: Writing and in love
Where were you last night: at Qoya, dancing and doing yoga
Something you aren’t: Daredevil
Muffins: banana

Wish list item:  Book contract or play produced
Where did you grow up: Long Island
Last thing you did: took a nap
What are you wearing: a dress
Your TV:  is mostly on my iPad 
Your pets: One beagle
Friends: fewer, but more devoted
Your life: Up and down, mostly up
Your mood: happy
Missing someone: My daughter
Vehicle: Feet
Something you aren’t wearing: shoes
Your favorite store: Lord and Taylor (because no one else is there)
Your favorite color: purple
When was the last time you laughed: yesterday in a meeting
Last time you cried: last night, watching a replay of the Olympic opening ceremony
Your best friend: Lucy
One place you go over and over: Central Park
Facebooking: Too often
Favorite place to eat: home


I woke up early this morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep.  Zoe, my daughter, is visiting until tomorrow night and it has been a pleasure to have her here.  I finally really understand how my own mother felt whenever I came to visit from Los Angeles for a few weeks and then left.  It’s difficult to be so far away.

My dear friend Joe went through ten hours of surgery last Thursday at Sloan Kettering to save his leg and the surgery, though extremely difficult, went well.  I think he’s going to be fine and hopefully he will be out of the pain he’s been in since he underwent radiation for his cancer. 

I looked back on this blog to early June 2009, when I was in the thick of the horrible year of divorce and death and it reminded me to be grateful for where I am today.  Life is truly challenging.  Last night on “Mad Men” one of the characters committed suicide and the show is so well written, it was very sad and very moving.  I am grateful that there are some fantastic shows on television that have wonderful writing.  I am grateful that I went dancing on Saturday night at the JCC and had some fun.  I am grateful that I had a magical week in Paris, with Bella and her sister, Meret.  I am grateful that the producers of my play are going to look at a theater today and that they’ve started building a website.  I am extremely grateful for my loftmate, Abigail, and for the time I’ve had with my wonderful daughter, Zoe, and our beloved dog, Lucy. 

This weekend, my daughter, Zoe, is coming to NYC to stay at the loft and take care of Lucy, while I go to Paris for a week.  I feel a bit anxious, since part of me wants to be here with Zoe and Lucy and the other part of me wants to go to Paris.  I’m going with my dear friend, Bella, and I know it will be lovely to get away.  I went from one job to another, from a court case, to a training, and then a new office, so one week in Europe in the spring sounds delightful.

I need to breathe.  Zoe and Lucy will be fine and even though Lucy is so old now, she is doing pretty well.  Abigail is going away too, so Zoe gets to have the loft to herself, which I’m sure she will enjoy. And when I come back from Paris, I will have plenty of time to see Zoe.  She’ll be here another nine days.

After so many years of being a caregiver, it’s hard to imagine taking a week to just wander around my favorite city, walking through beautiful parks, along the Seine, going to museums, eating good food, doing everything I love.  I don’t have to worry about my mother anymore.  It’s still hard to get used to the freedom.

There have been no trips to Europe since that difficult one to Spain three years ago when my ex and I came back and separated.  That was, actually, a great trip.  I’ll update from Paris and see if I can relax and enjoy myself.  Maybe I’ll find some swing dancing!

I just came back from spending six days with my daughter, Zoe, in San Francisco.  One of my favorite tools from Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts is to talk about “favorite frames/moments” of an experience, so that’s what I will do:

– Arriving in San Francisco airport and trying to find Zoe, while we both talked on our phones and then turned around and saw her and we both cracked up
– The greatest first hug
– Walking around the city with Zoe and talking, talking, about everything and everyone
-Going to the movies (one of our favorite pastimes.  We saw “50/50” – which we both loved)
-Surviving Fleet Week and the Blue Angels as their fighter jets swooped down over the city practically giving us heart attacks – especially when we were in a cab and the driver screamed
-Wandering through the Western Addition and finding Hayes Valley, which felt like an oasis with a big park filled with parents and their kids
-Watching Zoe’s delight upon entering Isotope, a terrific comic book store
-Walking into a beautiful charcuterie a few doors down from Isotope and discovering one of Zoe’s former co-workers, Nathan, behind the counter
-Going to Alanon meetings in San Francisco and meeting so many lovely people
-Meeting Wayne, a high school friend, who showed me around the Castro (we saw Harvey Milk’s old photography store and Delores Park, as well as the Castro Theater)
-Having a fantastic lunch with Eric, the person who hired me to work at the Corcoran Group and a total sweetheart.  He moved out to San Francisco for his partner’s new job and is adjusting to moving back home, after enjoying life in NYC
-Visiting It’s A Grind with and without Zoe
-Great meals with Zoe at her favorite restaurants and more walking
-The Nook, a great place for reading and drinking coffee
-Hanging out with Zoe’s roommates and Ian and Natalia
-Sleeping in the same bed the morning I left because the couch was finally just too uncomfortable
-A long goodbye hug
-Driving to the airport and seeing some beautiful scenery on the way – remembering what I do love about California, nature, the hills, the sky, the ocean

It was a more challenging trip this time, since last year I went with my friend Karen and Christian was also there.  But this time I really made the effort to get to know the city better, to meet people and to spend more time on my own, as well as with Zoe.  It was fantastic.  It was a delight.  I miss Zoe but I am so proud of the life she’s made there.  When I moved out to Los Angeles in my early 20’s I felt so lonely.  Zoe seems to have adjusted well and created a wonderful community.

It was hard being away from New York while Occupy Wall Street continues to grow and San Francisco’s efforts to find a place to camp have been prevented by the mayor, but it was a wonderful visit and I look forward to seeing Zoe again soon. And now I can go back to marching and it feels great to be home.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” – a Buddhist principle.  It hit me because this morning, my daughter Zoe is arriving from San Francisco and I am both completely thrilled and also a bit anxious.  

The last time we were together, she was packing up all her belongings and leaving to drive cross country with her father.  The sadness of that day is still with me, even though I was happy for them to have that fantastic experience together, which really helped to create a strong bond.  

And now, nearly seven months later, both of us have had huge changes in our lives to deal with, quite a bit of pain and definitely some suffering. But Zoe seems to be thriving in San Francisco, and I am thriving here in NYC, living my completely new life.  I know that for both of us there is still sadness at the loss of our little family, but there’s also going to be lots of happiness when she arrives – especially when Lucy and Lola see their beloved Zoe. 

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional, joy comes in small moments that happen when we expect it – and even more frequently, I think, when it is unexpected.  

I was looking back over some old posts I had written and I came up with this quote from Pema Chodron’s “When Things Fall Apart” —  

  “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 may die a little with the pleasure of seeing my daughter this morning!  I can’t wait!  (And her plane is two hours late.)  

…and I am so proud of her.  She’s a person I admire and love. I respect her talents and her kindness.  I love her enthusiasm for life and for art, her loyalty to her friends, her intelligence and curiosity.  I enjoy being with her whenever we are together.  A walk in the park is a huge adventure to us.  We always have something to talk about and we have many things in common and many differences.  

She is coming to stay with me next week and I am so excited to see her.  This is the longest amount of time we’ve been apart and she has created a fantastic life for herself in San Francisco.  I look forward to visiting her there and meeting her roommates and seeing her apartment.  Lucy and Lola, our beagles, will be out of their minds when she walks in the door.

I remember that day she was born – at 11:11 am – and the first time I saw her.  She only weighed 6 lbs. 4 ounces and she looked a bit scrawny and had a very pointed cone head.  I’m so happy that I will see her next week and be able to give her a big hug. 

 


Update:  I am feeling much much better, even though it’s February 3 – and I hate this month and I’m getting a little tired of winter (even though it’s been quite easy here.)  And I had to spend $2,000 today on that same tooth that had root canal a few weeks ago, now I have a post and a new crown to pay for.  

But – on the other hand, I’m watching Jon Stewart now and I love John Oliver.  And I went to yoga on Monday and after the class I told the teacher how old I am and he said “Wow, you look amazing!  You’re going to kick ass in a couple of weeks..”  or something like that.  Which is so un-yoga of him and a terrible thing to tell me, since I am so competitive.  But I have to say that I really did kind of enjoy the class, even though it was so hard.  And I’m running now on the treadmill too, which I love. Thirty minutes at a pretty good pace, it’s amazing how much more I can feel the endorphins, even writing about it gets me excited.  

So personally, I am feeling good.  But I have to find work and get a good income. It’s been a hell of a year, but I’m starting to see that all the hard work I’ve done is paying off.  I’d like to volunteer somewhere that will utilize all that I’ve learned at Friends In Deed. I feel like I’ve been studying grief and coping for the last year, as I’ve sat in meetings.  And I’ve met so many wonderful people. 

I know that the Haitian people are still struggling and it’s going to take a very long time until life gets better there.  And we still have no health care bill, the economy is still not great and many people are still out of work. There was a warning tonight on the evening news about heightened concerns about a terrorist attack in this country.  

I’m looking at the glass and it’s half full and half empty.  But maybe slightly more full…because my daughter is coming to visit me next month and I couldn’t be happier! 

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