my own kind of A. A.

My life was terrible, and scary, and sad until I decided I could not live one more day of a terrible, scary, sad life.  I called one of my two best friends and said, “please come get me and don’t ask any questions.”  Awakening Anniversary is what I sometimes call it, my own version of A.A.  On June 1st every year I say “prayers” of sorts…I give thanks to that friend who came with no questions, but knew to bring her husband’s pick-up truck, and I give thanks to “god,” or the universe or whatever/whoever helped me to gather the strength I needed to finally ask for help, and I give thanks to my parents who opened their door to me, and I give thanks to me for finally accepting that my life was terrible, scary, and sad, and I did not want any sort of life like that for me or my 17 month-old big bald baby girl.

I have known people who say that their AA saved their lives, and my A.A. saved mine too.  31 years is a long time ago, but my phone call that day freed me from so much awfulness that I remember it like it was last week.  Three decades and a year is a long time to remember a bad time, but I think it is important to remember some bad things because those things make one much more grateful for all that is good.  I feel like if only one woman reads this blog and understands that she does not have to hide her secret anymore, and should ask somebody to help her, it will be a very positive blog.  This day used to choke me up, and I would find myself crying at some random point during the day but now I feel so blessed and happy and thankful, that the tears that may come out of nowhere later, will be tears of joy.

I finished a book last night with a character in it who behaved much like the man who made my life terrible and scary and sad; and when I finished the book I thought how funny it was that it was on the EVE of my A.A., and how I totally related with the wife of said character in that book…The wife in the book kept telling her daughter, “he loves us he is sorry” and the man in the book kept crying after each rage filled night of violence and said “I am so sorry, you know how I get, it won’t happen again I promise” and I realized that my greatest gift to MY daughter might be that I got away in time…before she ever saw her mother’s head bash into the wall behind her, or hold a cold washcloth to her forehead to keep the swelling down, or had to wear a long-sleeved t-shirt on a hot May day to cover the bruises on the top of her arm…the daughter in the book looked at her mother with pity and I am so glad, so grateful, that my daughter never saw any of that kind of life.

If I had not had that friend who came without question because she loved me and wanted me to be happy, if I had not had parents who loved me and forgave me for being so stupid and making such dreadful choices, if I had not loved that sweet 17 month-old big bald baby girl so much maybe I would not have had the courage to finally “tell.”  Each year I think about how embarrassing it was; when you hide a secret for a long time and the only one who suffers is you, you finally realize that it’s a stupid secret to hide.

If anybody had told me that morning, the hours before I made the call, that 31 years later I would be living in a house I designed and built, right next door to my grown-up daughter and her daughters, with a handsome drummer whose smile makes my knees weak, and that I would be happy every day, and find joy in every day, I would have thought they were insane…BUT all of it, all of the glorious bits of good that are my life really did happen, and I think that my life would have been very much different had I not had the strength to say, “please help me.”  The anniversary of my awakening is a very special day for me and I am crying now, as I finish typing, looking for a last line, and none is coming to me, as it is just sometimes impossible to imagine this is real…this real life filled with so much goodness and how much love I have in my life now, knowing how little love there was, then, but remembering the discovering… that I loved myself enough to ask for help was the first step, all the steps that came after, only came from taking the first…


Mother… the verb or the noun?

One does not have to have birthed a live child to be a mother or to mother.  I have some friends who never had children as a choice.  I have some friends who never had children because the ‘choice’ was made for them by biology or circumstance.  I have some friends who have children and love, very much, both their title of mother, and the verb of the actions, and efforts, said title requires.  I have some friends who act as “mother” and enjoy “mothering” the four-legged.  I also know of some women who put as little effort into the verb, or the noun, as possible that it sometimes has made me wonder in bewilderment (not judging, just observing) why they made the choice to have children at all…

My heart is tender when someone gets physically hurt or injured, my heart is tender when someone gets emotionally hurt or injured, and comforting and consoling are small parts of the whole that is mothering.  I clean up messes that other people make.  I prepare food for other people to eat.  I wash and buy clothes for other people to wear.  I make a home out of a house and have told many people, many times, related to me or not, they are always welcome here, and I mean it.  These are mothering things.  I do many things and I am many things, and simply one of them is mother, it is just a slice of the pie that is my womanhood.  I am a mother to my daughter and I also do a lot of mothering, to people other than just my daughter, her daughters and my boyfriend for example…mothering is ultimately loving and caring  for others, and almost every woman I know does this every single day; caring for pets, students, loved ones, kids, plants and yards, jobs, homes… you see, “mothering” to me is caring more than any other definition.

Many people I love do not, at present, have a mother.  Many people I love had a very good mother and miss her terribly.  Some people I love had a not so great mother and yet still miss her terribly.  I am the daughter of a man who had his mother until he was 75 years old; his mother got to see him grow old enough to be a great-grandfather and retire.  I am the partner of a man who had his mother only until he was 15; his mother did not even get to see him get his driver’s license, or up on a big stage under the lights and behind his mic’d up drums, or become a father.  Some mothers get more time to mother than others and I suspect that their wishes at the end are the same, I hope I loved enough

I know of a few women who cried out for their mothers during unimaginable childhood traumas that should not happen to anyone, let alone a child, and their mothers looked the other way, but I know of far more women who got fired up in lioness mode when their cub was in need or in danger, and behaved in the ways a good mother should…with fierce protection, unyielding compassion, and above all else, overwhelming love.  No matter how flawed a mother might be or how inadequate her level of mothering might be, she is more often than not your greatest ally.  More often than not the one who can still make boo-boos and boo-hoos better, no matter how old you grow.  The one on whom you can always depend.  A hug from a mother and an “it will be okay” is in most circumstances, the best panacea, and truly, a little bit goes a long way.  I am thankful to be that person to my daughter, and to watch her be that person to her daughters, and that we still have my mother to be that person to both of us.

I have had some very low times during my life. I have made some very poor decisions that have left me bereft and broken, and every time when I have needed my mother to advise me, to comfort me, to save me, she has.  She has never turned away from me.  Despite her dissatisfaction with “the bed I made,” she never once walked away from me and said, “now lie in it.”  No, what she said, time after time was, how can I help you?  Not how can I solve the problem or the trouble you are in, but how can I help you to help yourself…THAT is to me, a mother and mothering and for which I am deeply grateful.  I have said so many times in my adult life that although my mother does sometimes drive me crazy, and surely I her, when she is gone I will miss her madly, and so today I will be kinder than necessary, and smile wider than usual and enjoy celebrating this made-up commercialized “holiday” because honestly when you have a good mother, every day really should be Mother’s Day.


Troubled Water and Bridges

I don’t think anybody expects things to go right 100% of the time, and frankly I don’t know anybody who is that hopelessly and perpetually optimistic.  I also don’t, or try not to, associate with people who are so negative and overwhelmingly pessimistic that they think things will never go their way.  I’m inclined to think that most people are a lot like me; simply hoping for the 75/25 kind of life, but are actually rather pleased when they get a 60/40 kind of day, or week, or even year.  I’ve lived long enough now to know that I’ve been, in almost every measurable way, luckier than most, and blessed, like with some kind of magic goodness, because most of my life, when I take the time to neutrally examine it and assess these fifty years on the planet, really has been in the 90/10 range, and I am thankful.  Every. Single. Day.

When I think back to the sob story that was my life as a young new mother and terrified and confused young wife, I now perceive the horribleness of it all as if it’s a book I once read, that is how detached I now feel from it all, and from that person who survived it all.  When I was 19 and living that miserable life, I would NEVER have believed anybody, had they told me, “child, it’s all gonna be okay” because nothing felt okay, months and months and months of very much not at all okay.

One of my yoga teachers says this, “you have survived 100% of your worst days.”  How empowering, right??!!  AND so decades later, from all of that awfulness, I now sit on a crisp sunny day in my beautiful home with my stunningly beautiful daughter and her perfectly wonderful daughters next door, and our aunt’s house right behind us, and my happy & healthy parents a few minutes down the road, which is right next door to my sister’s…all of this okay-ness, all around me, years and years and years now of very much okay.  I have been in some really bad situations, some super scary, some super sad, and through all of those troubled waters, love was the bridge that carried me out and over the mess I found myself in.  This morning another yoga teacher said, “love is the answer, even when it’s hidden under the bad stuff” and I know she is right because I have lived it.

Time after time I have disappointed my loved ones but they kept on loving me, without condition, and loved me enough to protect me from, or help me out of, whatever harm, mess, difficulty, or chaos I was in…sometimes of my own hand by my own dreadful decisions, and sometimes through no fault of my own, but they never failed to lift me and help me keep my head above the water. They have never let me down.

While it’s true that this family of mine and I have diametrically opposed views about most everything, the fact is that when they have ever needed me or I them, we simply act from love, step up, and do what needs to be done.  So much comfort one gets simply from the KNOWING, the absolute certainty, that there are people who care about you and have your back.  I’ve read too many memoirs, and seen too many movies, and heard too many stories that showed me, fiction or non, that there are a great number of people who don’t share my good fortune to have good people who love them.  It’s a big deal.  It’s something I do not take for granted.  On the surface one might think we’ve nothing in common, and indeed they all  seem to think differently than I about, well, pretty much everything, but what we do have in common, the values we do share, the moral compass to which we hold one another accountable, the love we have for the same circle of people is like glue which binds us, and it turns out that is enough.

After an ugly  break-up some years ago, a person wrote many horrible things about me and said many terrible things about me, and for a short while I felt like I was drowning in misery, but my heart grew to unimaginable hugeness when acquaintances and friends immediately came out boldly and in force to tell me that no, they did not tolerate such slander, and no, they would not believe such hurtful things and yes, I had their support.   My family just shook their heads and then shook it off, never giving up on me, never doubting my goodness, acting again as a bridge for me to get over, and out of, troubled waters. There is a whole lot of strength to be found in that kind of love and that kind of friendship.

It takes only one bad decision, one terrible choice, one miscalculation in judgment for waters to become troubled, and bridges take a long time to build.  Some people just don’t “get it” and live with a “I’d never let that happen” mentality,  and that self-righteous “not me” way of thinking, when they see bad things happening to good people, but they don’t realize how fast the waters can swell to roughness that simply can’t be navigated.  Some might think they need arsenals of weapons “for protection” but I don’t think they “get it” either. I have come to believe that what we all need to stockpile is compassion and love, friendship, and meaningful relationships based on real feelings of deep caring, because THAT is what protects us and shelters us, and builds bridges that carry us out of the troubles when we’ve lost our way.


Breathe In, Breathe Out

Who thinks about breathing, ever really?  Unless I guess you are choking, in active labor, or spent your whole adult life smoking, I think most people don’t think much about breathing, BUT I’m learning that people who are learning yoga think about breathing, a lot.  I can’t begin to count the number of times a day that I find myself thinking about getting air into my body.  This would be strange to the “old” me, like thinking about swallowing, for example, but the “new” me thinks about breathing many times throughout the day and not just the many hours each week that I am learning how to move my body and use my brain in these new ways.  I’m finding, discovering I suppose is a better word, that since Thanksgiving, when I first signed up for classes, my propensity to lose my cool is fast becoming a thing of the past.  My way of flying off the handle and then assessing the situation has given way to thinking first about the situation, and then thinking about breathing, and then contemplating whether or not flying off the handle would be the right course of action.  Generally it isn’t.  I’m not, by any stretch, implying that I’m no longer ever mad, nor alluding to a better version of me who is always mellow, but the man I love will tell you this if you ask him, “she is on her yoga high” if you were to ask him about my general mood or manner and overall disposition almost every day…

It’s certainly possible that this better, mellower version of R* is simply growing older and wiser, and with that gaining a calm and serenity that she did not have when she was young and perhaps less evolved, but I suspect it’s more than that. I seem to find that so many of the things that always annoyed me seem somehow less annoying…for example, I drive a very big, ridiculously long, heavy truck with a cap, and so for all the years I’ve driven this truck, when fools who don’t understand the most basic rules of physics and speed and weight and braking, pull out in front of me, I used to get so angry.  Lately I find myself braking sooner, meaning as soon as I see their foolishness in action, rather than seconds before it appears I might plow into the rear of their car, and think to myself, “it’s the universe telling me that I need to be here and not there at this second” and then tell myself stories while I take a few deep breaths about how that jerk who turned right on red without stopping, into traffic moving 50 miles per hour, right in front of me driving a 9000 pound truck, is maybe saving my life by making me be 12 or 20 feet farther behind than I would have been had he not cut me off…it’s a silly mind game, so many mind games are, but I play it with myself as I take those necessary calming breaths and it seems to make me a much less angry driver.  It might seem like a poor example, but if you have ever been a passenger with me in any vehicle you would likely say, “oh, how nice that her lead foot is lighter, and she does not scream up behind the tail of those who annoy her anymore!  Oh joy!” 

I’m certain, had I learned about yoga at 18, or even 28, 38, or 48, my life would have been much different.  I have always called myself a silver lining seeker, that hasn’t changed, but I’m a much less upset person it seems about everything, and I like that.  I certainly would have been a better mother while raising my daughter.  I was not a “No More Wire Hangers!!!” kind of mother, but I certainly was not as good as I could have been, or should have been, to a small growing learning little girl.  Had I been better at taking the necessary breaths to assess situations, instead of flying off the handle, I would have had a far less stressful home in which that little girl lived.  It seems she didn’t suffer too badly, she sure turned out fabulous, and she lets me help her raise her girls, so I was not THAT bad, but we live and learn, and like that expression ‘when you know better, you do better’ and so I’m doing better in just about every area of humanness.

I also think about breathing when I walk into a store or building where a person does not know how to measure 25 feet from the door as the allowed space for smoking near an entrance.  And when I walk through the stink I think about my lungs, I think about breathing, and I think “how on earth did I do THAT for so long and what on earth must I have been thinking??!!”  And I say a little prayer to the universe that I quit in enough time to heal that damage and I don’t end up like that disgusting “we can help you quit” commercial, where the man is sitting at his dining room table gasping for breath with lungs that make a sound like pebbles being raked and wearing an oxygen tank…when you know better, you do better

I still get mad about a lot of things, sure, but I seem to be less mad about all of them.  Last night for example we went out for Mexican food and I asked for some more pico and the server instead brought guacamole, and I said, “that’s okay, I’ll have that” and then she charged us $4 for it.  $4 for two tablespoons of guacamole would have made the old me super angry, but the new me just calmly said, “well, we won’t make that mistake again.” I can’t know for sure that learning how to breathe differently and move differently and think differently because I am learning yoga is WHY this is happening, I can only know and observe that it is happening.  Next time somebody pulls out in front of you, blows stinking smoke in your face, or overcharges you for something you didn’t even order, just try to see if some really deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your nose, helps you think about how to react, or even to react at all… I think you’ll be glad you did.  I mean really, we have to breathe to live, it makes each day possible, we might as well try to do it in a way that also makes each day better.




I think of myself as an imaginative day-dreamer; not the kind of person who wastes or whiles away her day with her head in the clouds, but the kind of person who manages to get all of her daily work and chores done but with her head somewhere else much of the time, and yes, often in the clouds.  I would go as far as to write that for all of my life I have been a dreamer; always thinking about things that are not, that likely never would be, or couldn’t be, and forever creating scenarios, and even dialogue of situations, that are nothing but thoughts, and not at all part of what is.  On NPR the other morning, I heard the term, I.R.L., In Real Life, during an interview with one of the world’s greatest computer hackers.  He said it’s a term common to gamers or programmers and they use it, IRL, to briefly identify the difference between what is imaginary and what isn’t.   As a woman who is currently using a photo-shopped profile picture on social media from an app that’s to see what “you will look like as a Hollywood star,” it should not be a surprise to learn that the fake world of my brain, as opposed to reality, is not an unpleasant place for me, rather, it’s really quite comfortable for me to be there for extended lengths of time…

In the imaginary world of my head, the man I love, regardless of brand, size of tube, or fullness of said tube, squeezes toothpaste from the bottom only, every single time.  I.R.L. he squeezes right in the middle, no matter the time of day or type of tube, and it really frustrates me, but that is the real life.

In the imaginary world of my head, when I’m driving my new Camaro, blasting music from the Hair Nation channel and singing my heart out,  I’m as hot as that blonde in those cut off Levi’s shorts in the She’s My Cherry Pie video, and could, if I so desired,  drape myself all over the hood of that car like Tawny Kitaen from  Here I Go AgainI.R.L. anybody who looks in the yet to be tinted windows, can see very clearly it’s not some young, big-haired, blue eye-linered 80’s hottie, and it frustrates me that I now occupy this middle-aged vessel,  but that is the real life.

In the imaginary world of my head, when I am in squat at yoga, I elegantly wrap my left arm behind my back, and then my right arm around the outside of my right knee to join my hands, and I slowly and carefully get my right knee into the crook of my right elbow while my left hand is still wrapped around myself, and with the strength of my left leg, begin to stand, and then straighten up into the bird of paradise pose,  or Svarga Dvijasana.  I.R.L. I squat, over the floor and with my knees as wide as they will go with my hands at my heart, possessing neither the skills nor the strength to move like my teacher demonstrates, and it frustrates me, but that is the real life. 

In the imaginary world of my head, the man I love, regardless of the time of night, gets into bed beside me and reads, and turns off his night table lamp when I do, and the room is silent and dark as we fall asleep, and stay asleep until morning.  I.R.L. he likes the tv on and tosses and turns and kicks, as he loathes my tightly made perfect hospital cornered linens, and his inability to be still wakes me up, and then I become devastatingly aware that my skin is hot like lava, and I too begin to toss and turn, he often simply  gives up to sleeplessness and goes to the sofa, and then I lie there overheated and frustrated that the sheets are now messy,  but that is the real life.

In the imaginary world of my head, I put the required time and attention into my friendships and let people know how much they mean to me by picking up the phone when I think of them, and making time for them, and having regular dinner parties and gatherings.  I.R.L. I put so little effort into my interactions and feel bad about myself every time I think fondly of somebody, or have a joyful or funny memory about fun time spent together, and it makes me feel frustrated that I am so lazy in the arena of maintaining friendships, but that is the real life.

In the imaginary world of my head, these two gorgeous granddaughters of mine will get through their teenage years and grow into women without suffering excruciating boyfriend sadness, or heart breaks, or having their feelings stomped on.  I.R.L. they will likely experience the same teary upsets that their mother did, and I did,  because the sob stories of our youth are what make us so much more grateful for the relationships we later build and cultivate in our adulthood, and I know I will feel frustrated when I can’t soothe their distress, but that is the real life.

Life is sometimes messy, often super messy, inexplicably cruel and total crap, and things don’t go as we wish, and for some life goes wonky far more often than it goes well, and that too seems grossly unfair.  THAT is real life.  Work, relationships, friendships, the “stuff” that makes up our lives simply sometimes stinks, and difficulties frequently  amplify before they diminish.  I am learning, the older I get, that frustration with real life is pretty much pointless, and that nothing lasts for too long to not be able to handle it.

In the imaginary world of my head, I am surrounded by love, even when I don’t feel lovable or very loving.  I.R.L. I am surrounded by love, even when I don’t feel lovable or very loving.  When I take the moments to reflect and reboot when I need to, it’s almost laughable how much wonderfulness the universe has dropped into my lap, year after year there are far more good times and good experiences than there are bad.  Life is as beautiful as we make it, and we can daydream all we want about what it ought to be, or could be, or we can accept all that is in real life and make the best of each and every moment.  Despite my frequent frustrations, it is a wonderful life, and I bet yours is too, you just have to sometimes take your head out of the clouds to see clearly…


Personal Jesus

I always felt, at least I guess I feel like I’ve always thought this way; that, if there is a god, or God, then he or she will know I am a good and loving person, and that I try always to be guided by a strong moral compass, and that if there is ANYthing even remotely like heaven, then I will surely go there because I am “good.”  My brain never could understand how an “all loving god” would be loving to only some.  The word “all” seemed to be misconstrued or misunderstood, in my ever so humble opinion.

Nothing that was ever read from the bible to my ears spoke to me.  Nothing about catechism class ever spoke to me.  I went to the classes because my parents made me, and I questioned early on how there were any more people on the planet if god supposedly only made Adam and Eve and they only had two sons.  Then later in 5th grade questioned a catechism class mom as to why it was any of her business whether a woman wanted to have a baby or not when she tried to recruit me for a right to life march and wanted me to glue gruesome pictures onto poster board.  Both of those childhood experiences got me a ‘talking to‘ from the priest, who never made me feel anything like I thought church should make a person feel, so to say that by 6th grade I was finished, is true.  Nothing about the religion, or the mass services, the man speaking from the book, or the CCD classes ever made me feel at all included or connected to any god, if there was or is one.

I feel like I always believed that there was something much bigger than just us, or just this solar system, that earth can hardly be the only one like this in such a vast unending universe…if there are billions of galaxies, how can anybody believe we are the only  which sustains life??  I don’t know how old I was when I began to use my free will to think the way I wanted, and not think much, at all, for what was being taught to me.

I believe in a myriad of ideas, concepts, and beautiful loving notions about what it means to be a human, and interact with others on this planet that we call home, but my daily “mantra” if you will, my one true commandment, comes from my father, and has been a part of me for all of my life.  Despite being brought up in the catholic church and being an altar boy as a child, and making me start life as a catholic person, my dad used an expression and still uses it,  “make plenty of deposits in your karmic bank” that forced him to have to explain to a wee girl, what is karma,  w and I truly believe THAT, more than anything I was ever taught by anybody, is what has influenced me, been my one true goal, and has been the basis of my “faith” in this life.  It seems that I was, unintentionally guided by my dad perhaps, to be a Buddhist if anything!!!

I have done some wrong in this life.  I have done things for which I am sorry, ashamed, and that have hurt other people.  My one darkness that I kept a secret for more than 25 years finally broke open when I gathered the courage and accepted the consequences of the “telling,” and in shame and apology I asked the universe to free me from the cloud that hung over me.   I feel pretty confident that if, when I die, there is really a god, or God, or anything remotely like what my Nana believed to be true, that my goodness and rightness will be enough…

Some believe that you have to accept that a good and kind man in history called Jesus is the son of God, and that he is your savior, in order to get to heaven.  Some believe that you have to be one of a select chosen few to get to heaven.  Some believe that you have to get “right” with God, whatever that must mean…I suppose all of them are perfectly valid for those who choose to believe what they believe…What I think is that IF there is God and IF there is heaven, then surely he, or she, is not going to turn anybody away…even the bad guys, because, from what I have been told there is a whole lot of forgiveness going on up there in the unknown, and even the most despicable humans can be forgiven…it seems too confusing and contradicting to me and therefore, it never sat right with me as anything to believe in.

For many young adults, going off to college and being around professors with different ideas and beliefs and theories, and peers from other kinds of families and communities, is what sets us onto our own paths and ways of thinking as grown-ups…we finally get to be around adults who are not our parents with ideas that are new and they share.  While this was true for me in so many ways, particularly as I began the study for my second of two majors, in feminist theory and women’s history, it was a children’s book that I think moved me the most towards the way I think still to this day.  I bought it when I was 22 for my little girl for her fourth birthday, called “The Mountains of Tibet”  In this story a little boy dreams to see the world but he grows up, works as a woodcutter, has a family, grows old, and thinks about how he never left his valley and as he nears death realizes that he never went anywhere he dreamed to go…and upon his death, in a place that is ‘both very dark and very bright,’ he hears a voice asking him questions about the life he has just finished living and what might he want to do next…you really must read it if you have not, and the illustrations are exquisite and the story is superb…and the fact of the matter is, a preschooler and a college student, on the same cold January night, reading together at bedtime, discovered a way to think about living, and death, that has stuck with us both ever since.  (The Mountains of Tibet, by Mordicai Gerstein, published in 1987, if you are interested)

This horrific school shooting in Florida on Wednesday is what got me thinking about life and death and beliefs and ideas about what might be next, if anything.  I found myself thinking with sadness from the perspective of a teenager, shot and bleeding and perhaps knowing, that moment, that she is not going to live to do any of the things she dreamed of doing.  Or a boy as he is falling to the ground, maybe trying to remember when he left the house and hoping that he told his mom he loved her.  Or a teacher, terrified for his own life but knowing those kids were counting on him to be brave and somehow in the most unknowing of circumstances, know what to do.  Or the cops, how scary it must be to have no idea how bad it’s going to be and what they will encounter upon arrival.  Or the parents, seeing and hearing the news and waiting, the inexplicably painful number of minutes it must have been for the text message or phone call to come through that their child is okay.  Or the parents who did not get that call or text…I can’t imagine that anguish, my child has not yet been accounted for, my child is dead, how will I take one more breath in this life when I have to now think about burying my child…and I find myself thinking too about the shooter… Where was his moral compass?  What did he believe?  How could he DO something like that?  and so on, and so on, and so on…

I just have found myself having these thoughts, with every news story, press conference, or gun control discussion I read…thinking about each of these perspectives and what it means to be alive, and then soon not to be alive, and what do we believe about “what’s next.”  What I know for sure is that my wish for each of those victims is that, at that final moment, they were not afraid.  I hope whatever comes to us, at the moment we move from the alive to the not alive, is beautiful no matter what we believe.

I have friends who are deeply faithful Christians, I have friends who are Jewish, I know someone who is Hindu, I know a few who are Buddhist,  and I have friends who are agnostic and atheist, and I don’t believe that any one of them is more right than the others, and I have loving feelings for all of them.  I also believe in my heart that if there is anything perfect and eternal after death, other than just being fired to ashes, or decomposing in a pine box, they all, we all, get to enjoy it.  They let me be free to be me, and I let them free to be them.  I feel pretty strongly that trying to be a good person, an honest person, a loving person, a kind person, an empathetic person are all tenets that I can get behind, and I suppose any religion would think these principles for living are what’s important.  I hope I’m right.



the Effort with the Ease

Relationships are often difficult.  It warmed my heart and settled my mind recently when I heard these words, read aloud during my morning yoga class, to balance the effort with the ease and I thought it might possibly be the best description of how to be in a relationship that I’ve ever heard. Surely there have been countless ways people have described how to be a partner, how to BE human with another human, but these words, so profound, yet simultaneously simple, touched me.  Being part of a pair, this conscious coupling in which two people choose to participate, every day, not just on a day that is “supposed” to be romantic or loving, but EVERY day that we make a choice to BE WITH another person, is what Valentine’s Day means to me.  This February day is a reminder to myself that I am choosing this person to be my person and recognizing that truly, the only thing that really MAKES two people a couple and KEEPS them together is the choice they make to remain so.  Argue all you want if you like about shared assets, expenses of splitting up, housing affordability issues, who will take the pets, distribution of retirement funds…whatever, the fact to me is that we decide daily we are going to share our life with this person, we choose, and that is the only thing that makes a couple, a couple.

I am the daughter of a man and woman who have loved each other for almost 52 years and the older I get, the more I understand, it is a choice they made, over and over, to continue to be together.  I have some girlfriends from high school who now love men they first loved as boys, and have grown up and grown in love with the same person for thirty years.  I love that I know these women, and I sometimes envy what they found when they found it.  When you fall in love late in life, as I have, you miss most, if not all, of the magical moments of firsts…picking out our first sofa, announcing our engagement, planning a honeymoon, deciding where to buy a house, watching with fear and joy, as a recently peed upon plastic stick turns from clear to blue…all of those firsts, this man I love right now, my person, he shared all of those magical moments with somebody else.  It’s sometimes very hard to handle, if I find myself thinking about it, so I try not to think about it too much, but it’s a loss of sorts; meeting somebody who seems so perfect for you, but you met them too late to share any of those magical moments and experience any of those firsts.  The loss does not diminish the present joy, it’s just an observation that sometimes makes me long for what was not and never could be now…

I’ve learned over time and lessons in living, that being content in your present is another choice, and for me, trying not to dwell too much, if at all, on what could have been or wasn’t, is very important to my level of happiness.  I try to accept all of my life as a culmination of the choices I’ve made and accept my present tense without much regret, and that too is a choice.  It’s EASY to focus on the negative, it is EASY to fall into the shoulda-woulda-coulda, and the wishing for other things, but I think, in the big picture, ALL aspects of relationships are essentially boiled down to this; what we choose to think about and how we choose to think about it…as she said, the effort with the ease…

I find that my life is more beautiful when I focus on the positives and the pluses and try to let the negatives go in one ear and out the other.  I like what my teacher read, to balance the effort with the ease…We can find ourselves consumed with how we’ve been hurt, what went wrong, why so-and-so made such a terrible decision, why so-and-so failed us, and that ends up taking a lot of effort on our part to accept, forgive, move on, but when we zoom in on the good, the fun, the joyful times, it is so easy…so easy to choose love and be positive.  I think the more happy thoughts you have, the more you find you can be happy about, and at least for me, in this later phase of my life, it seems to be the way things are going.

I’ve found over these chapters in this love story that I’m in, when I focus on the times we laughed together, ate great meals together, remembering his face, and oh that smile, the first time I ever saw it, my brain immediately brings me back to the overjoy.  When I think about the simplest things, like the first time he made coffee for me, or the not so simple things, like when he nursed me in unimaginable ways after unexpected complications after surgery, my brain immediately brings me back to the overjoy.  There are, if we try, far more beautiful things to think about and dwell on that are happy and loving, but we, each of us who choose to be part of a couple,  have to choose to think that way.  We have to balance the effort with the ease, because you see, I know this much is true; if you focus over and over on the negative, the annoying, the frustrating, the angry, the times that were not good the times that were sad or hurtful or painful in any way, those negative thoughts are so powerful, for some reason often so much more powerful than the lighter and happier thoughts, that they take over your gray matter so fast and the relationship disintegrates, a bit more day by day, until the sound of them chewing or the way they squeeze the toothpaste becomes the final straw.

The stores were filled these last weeks with mushy romantic cards with bad illustrations and corny wording, and none of the cards said what my teacher made me think about; I choose you, I will continue to try every day to do what I can to show love and be love, and balance the effort with the ease.