The Second Decade

December 31, 2009 by  
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We are beginning the second decade of the 21st century. Those that want to, may argue with me, but we’ve had 10 years that started with 20 and 2010 is the 11th.

I was running through an issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine a couple of weeks ago with short, beautiful written obits about the well-known people we lost during 2009. One of them was Ted Kennedy.

Probably, because of my age, I have been fascinated by the Kennedy family for most of my life, as have many others. When Ted’s memoir was published in 2009, I was quick to buy and read it.

This isn’t a book review and it isn’t a rehash of the tabloid stories that punctuated too much of his life. And, although the primary cause of his legislative life, to secure adequate health care to all Americans, seems to have enough traction to become a reality, this isn’t about his extraordinary effectiveness as a legislator.

What this is about, is the content of the memoir that was devoted to his relationship with his family. I believe that even were he to have been completely revealing about every facet of his personal life, he could not have informed me more about the truth of his life and the lessons it teaches, than the information about his relationship with his family.

Ted had eight siblings and as is well-known, a bushel of nieces, nephews, and children. He also had a father who lived into his 90’s and a mother who lived past 100.

The family base in Hyannis port, Mass was the location of most of the personal family film the public is familiar with. It was there that the family gathered and in time of disaster, as well as joy. For decades, the family came home to Joe and Rose, Ted’s mother and father, whenever there was something to share. It was there they learned to lean upon each other and to share and enjoy each others successes as well as to mourn their common or individual losses.

Ted’s memoirs bring us back time and time again to the family gatherings where decisions were made, where character and morals and ethics were shaped, where no one was ever alone.

I don’t have eight siblings or parents that lived to triple figures. Most of us don’t. Some of us aren’t even lucky enough to have families that share our life histories. But all of us could very well have a chance to spend some time building relationships with people we can rely on for support, if we are willing to reply in kind. Families come in all sizes and shapes and don’t have to be connected by blood.

I’m going to spend the second decade of this century, if I am lucky enough to survive it, building up this extended family. I’m going to make myself open to people I admire and let them know I am here to serve if they need me. I am going to learn to trust some friends so I can unburden myself of some of the things I have kept locked up inside my head and my heart.

I think I’m going to start by making some phone calls.

I just had a mental picture of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song “Some Enchanted Evening” from their wonderful show South Pacific, now enjoying a very successful revival in New York. There is the phrase in the song which goes “you will see a stranger, across a crowded room.” How often, in the past few years I have seen an old friend across a crowded room and have waved. I think of how often one of us has stuck a pinkie near the mouth and the thumb near the ear in the now familiar “call me” sign, and how many times one of us has nodded yes and never called.

It’s in this spirit that I wish you all a Happy New Year, by letting you know that if the phone rings, it might just be me.

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Kiss At Midnight

December 30, 2009 by  
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There is overwhelming silence when you live alone. It’s hard to conceive that I am 53 and living alone for the first time. I lived with my parents until I got married at 19. I became a mom at 22. Extremely uncomfortable and unbalanced with silence, I became the social director for my family and consistently filled our home with friends and laughter.

It has now been 376 days since my husband passed away. I miss him more than words can describe. I continue to experience such a range of emotions not having his arms and legs wrapped around me when I go to sleep. Waking up alone each and every morning only reinforces the reality that he is truly gone.

Each night snuggled securely in each other’s arms, we could be intensely intimate through touch, even without making love. Touch can offer a climax of passion that begins deep within your heart. I still find myself aching with raw emotions, reaching to retain the memory of his body against mine. There are times when I open the bathroom cabinet and the smell of my husband’s cologne is so strong it overwhelms me. With the smell of his presence, I close my eyes and hold him close.

The adjustment of traveling this journey alone has been terrifying. I know I have the choice to either make this transition move forward or settle and remain captive in my grief. There are days when the sadness overpowers me. The end of last year was spent existing in shock. Numbness and indifference pushed me through the year. I had moments when I felt somewhat confident yet they were gone as quickly as they came.

Now the end of the year is almost here. On New Years Eve I will be alone for the countdown. Even though I won’t feel my husband’s kiss at midnight, my soul will know he is there. I cherish the years we had together in this life and the love we shared.

When we look back at this year, what memories will we think about? What will we treasure the most?

What will I take forward with me, from this year filled with moments without my husband?

I will treasure memories of my family and friends, always there for me when I didn’t have the strength nor desire to stand on my own. Memories of honoring my husband by trying to do the best I could without him. Memories of hope.

Always treasure your special memories. Happy New Year.

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In The Coming Year

December 27, 2009 by  
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Okay what’s going on?  Someone tries to blow up an American jetliner, somebody else dies at the age of 32, the arctic continues to melt and Christmas is behind us.

Some of us struggle to keep fighting for some idealistic view of a descent life; some of us couldn’t care a less.  The bottom line is: some type of reckoning will be coming soon.

This is not a rant of a dissatisfied citizen.  I have actually just gotten a new car, am painting the exterior of my house and am making plans for the near future.  Having said all of that I also have to say that I know some big things are coming our way.  I’m not being controversial by saying some difficult days are ahead.  Think about the environment, think about poverty and think about the fact that many of us walk around with a feeling of being disenfranchised.

The holidays are always very intense.  If you listen close enough you’ll come to understand your social reality; there are always the people that are too busy for you or the people that need you too much.

This is festive time and a time of endings and new beginnings.  And why not?  Checking in is always a good habit.

My Christmas’ eve was spent alone but I made sure I cooked an amazing meal for myself and that I opened a great bottle of wine.  Of course I realized I was spending the night alone but I also did not behave as a victim.  I realized my husband wasn’t with me, and I cried for his absence but I ate swordfish and drank a 2001 Nickel and Nickel Chardonnay.

Now Christmas day was spent with my in-laws.   They are adorably nuts, so always a good set up for a fun anything.

New Years is still ahead.  I plan to finish the book I’m writing before January 1st and I plan to make it a special night.  There are six chairs around my table and I want to fill them with friends.  I want to cook the best meal I can and I want to open wines and Champagne to accompany dinner and I want to dress up.  I want to make the passage of 2009 and the welcoming of 2010 an important night.  Why?  I’m not sure, but why not?  Why not make things matter?  Why not aim for the best and the highest?

But we all must realize that besides our individual lives there is a whole world, which we are part of, that is marred with terrible problems.  So planning to have a beautiful home, be good, successful, and have beautiful nights, is all well and good but what if our best plans get put on hold because animals are dying, oceans are rising, and farming is moving from one continent to another like a compass gone wild?

Even if we act from complete selfishness, we must acknowledge the emergency for our survival.

I don’t know much, but I do feel the urge to commit to a change.  No more useless social gatherings, this is an emergency.  No more pretend.  This is an emergency. No more chit chatting.  This is an emergency.  We all need in our individual capacities and as a group to commit to change.  We have the power to choose between surviving as we know or adapting to a free fall.

The holidays are here and they remind us that we are part of a world community.  We still have the opportunity to take action and change the way we are and relate to one another and the environment in a different way.  Let’s not become a second rate copy of some apocalyptical flick.  I believe in me and I believe in you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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Avatar And Other Things

December 21, 2009 by  
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I went to see a screening of Avatar on Saturday night.  It is an amazing piece of filmmaking and a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours.  The dialogue was fine; meaning nothing special but one of the lines caught my attention:  “Scars show us where we have been but do not dictate where we are going.”   I thought it was a phenomenal phrase and so when I got home I Google it to find out if it was a known quote or if it was Cameron’s authorship – I was born and raised in Brazil so sometimes phrases, TV shows or behaviors of this country are not known to me.

I have found some entries and so I’m assuming the phrase has been around.  No matter.  The point is: it is perfect.  Scars are a map of ours lives.   They show us where we have been and why we are who we are but they don’t determine where we are going.  At any moment in our lives we can shift gears.  At any point in our lives we can decide to be different.  And we can do all of that because of our scars.  They show us we have survived.

I have been thinking a lot about clean slates and turning pages.  As many of you know my husband passed away in August of 08.  There is nothing I can do to now bring him back.  It is done.  And now, how do I continue to live?

As the end of the year approaches, I’m feeling that I need to change things so I’m painting the house, got a new dog, and am pre-determined to change some of the aspects of myself.  I still want to be happy and I want to be light.  I don’t want to be bothered by things that I should not care about.  I have found out that those things bother me just because they hurt my fragile ego.  So I’ll remember that, next time the urge to lash out back comes up.  I also want to be excited by the possibilities life can bring to me.

In my last post, I talked about, not ever knowing.  To some, that will be terrifying but to others that can be exhilarating because we can meet anyone and do anything.  We just never know.

The cliché “time goes by really fast” is also perfect; time does go by really fast.  So I want to choose to have my life written in bold letters.  I do not have the right to waste my life when so many people are fighting for theirs.

My new year’s resolution is: be brave, self-assured, helpful, curious, sensitive and ready.

Happy New Year.

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Celebration Of Life

December 21, 2009 by  
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Walking the beach and listening to the ocean. A vacation? It definitely doesn’t feel like one. A vacation would include my husband. This trip is immensely beyond the horizon of my comfort zone. I am here alone, in a city I’ve never been, not knowing a single person.

This trip was planned around one day, December 19. The day last year when my husband left, no longer walk beside me in this life. A time in our marriage that my husband had unending peace and strength  yet I was overcome with fear and weakness.

I’ve watched the sun come up and go down every morning. Walked up and down the beach for literally hours at a time. Hypnotized by the serenity of the ocean I’ve sat and cried. I thanked him for all of our memories. I honored his life.

“You’re stronger than you think you are” my husband kept telling me those last 24 days we spent together. I’d tell him through the tears “But I don’t want to be strong” as I felt my world crumbling in front of my eyes.

My man from the land of enchantment… he brought meaning to my world and guided me to be a better person.

My husband. One year as my Guardian Angel. I love you.

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The Little Girl Inside

December 18, 2009 by  
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Yesterday I walked around for hours not having a clue as to where I was going. It was like I was the only single person. I was surrounded by couples. I kept noticing that so many were walking side-by-side yet not talking, and no physical contact. I felt so deeply sad for them. Whenever my husband and I would walk down the street we were always talking, laughing, holding hands or with our arms around each other. He always walked next to the street. He always slept next to the door. His theory was they’d have to go through him to get to me. He was always protecting me. And many times he even protected me from me.

Beginning back from when I was a little girl, I developed the habit of ignoring things that I didn’t want to accept. Make believe that it wasn’t real. Make believe that it hadn’t really happened. Or make believe it happened a different way that was easier to accept. When I was in college I studied Narrative Therapy which explained a lot to me about how I think. It is about rewriting the story. We can’t go back in time to change what has happened in our life yet we can recreate the experience and change the memory.

I have wanted to believe that my husband isn’t really gone. That he will come back home. Last week in my dreams there was a knock at the door. Looking out the window I saw him. Clearly it was him. Wearing his red jacket, jeans and Cole Haans loafers, there he stood, waiting for me to open the door. He wasn’t facing the door so I couldn’t see his face, yet I knew beyond a doubt it was him.

That little girl inside me was still holding tightly to her dreams, to not accept reality. For so many years my make-believe world worked. Until now.

I’ve tried to rewrite the story yet the ending doesn’t change. I have lived this past year in a fog, only going through the motions of each day. I can’t ignore that I’m alone. I can’t ignore the silence and the lonelines. I can only change the way my heart listens to the thoughts of the little girl inside, the attitude I bring to my tomorrows…

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A Gentle Reminder

December 17, 2009 by  
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While waiting in a crazy long line outside the airport to check my bag, I had a sinking feeling that I wasn’t going to make my flight. Anxiety intensified. Yet when it was finally my turn, the attendant told me to hurry, that I still might make it. Rushing inside it was like hitting a brick wall. I couldn’t even see the end of the line for security.

Despairingly, on the verge of tears I just couldn’t ask if anyone would let me in front of them. Lots of people were missing their flights and tempers were on a short leash, which I understood. Would I appreciate someone ahead of me letting people get in front? Why should they make their flight if it meant that I could then miss mine?

When I finally made it to the end of the line standing there was a student I befriended in one of my classes. She had shared with me her journey of being raised by a single mom. When she was still a young girl, her father passed away. Mature beyond her years, I remembered being humbled by this girl’s strong optimistic attitude. It was obvious that her memories with her dad reflected quality time together.

I needed this gentle reminder. Quality time is more important than quantity of time. Be thankful for the time we are given with people in this life. Focus to not spend time on what we don’t have anymore. Cherish our memories which are for a lifetime…

We do not remember days, we remember moments.
Cesare Pavese

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Sit Back And Enjoy The Ride

December 16, 2009 by  
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The world is a huge place; believe me, you will never know what’s coming your way.  That is life’s beauty and life’s fear.  But regardless, you are at the driver’s seat and sometimes you get to steer and sometimes you don’t.  That reminds me what flight attendants say before a flight: sit back and relax.

That’s what life is about.  Truthfully you just never know.  I’m at a cross road and I’m excited but I’m also a non-believer.   I mean, I don’t believe in fate or destiny.  And how can I believe that no matter what happens, I’m ready for it?  But deep down I know the truth: I am.  I’m going with the flow.

Today I got a call from someone who needs a liver transplant.   Many years ago he was an enlisted man and a needle went from man to man standing in line as soldiers and now he has Hep C.  The man behind him is dead and my man needs a liver, and who knows what goes on with the man in front of him.  He is still struggling with the whys.  The truth is there is no why, there is only what it is.  Get ready.

I told him to get busy.  I told him to move to another city where liver transplants happen faster.  I told him if he didn’t, eventually he would get really sick.  He said he didn’t want to be a burden to anyone while he got ill from liver failure.  I told him point blank not to worry about it; if he went into liver failure he would die fast with no time for anyone to waste their lives taking care of him.

I once knew a woman who was dying after getting new breasts.  She got one of the first ones and hers leaked.  Her cells stopped having the ability to expand and shrink.   Think about it.  Everything in our bodies contract and expand.  Her lips were frozen, her face was frozen and eventually her organs were frozen.  She died.  I wept.

We never know.

I once knew a woman doctor who was taking care of a dying old man who was the father of a Greek man.  After the old man died, the son wanted to thank the woman doctor for her care.  He sent her a note but she didn’t received.   Months later she finally got it and called him.  They went out – that was fifteen years ago – they are still together.

Twenty years ago a woman laying on a couch in Mexico City, and met a man from France.  He fell in love with her.  She took her time.  Twenty years later, they hate each other.

In Rio de Janeiro, I got a dog for my parents: it didn’t work out and I brought the dog to Los Angeles.  The Brazilian mutt became an American citizen and he doesn’t even know it.

I once met a man who changed my world and after he did he died. That is life; unpredictable, wonderful, and mysterious.   It is precious and as I have said before; ask anybody fighting for their lives, if life is worth living.  No bullshit.

Sit back, relax and hold on to the steering wheel.  You are buckling up for the ride of your life.

I wish you, and I wish myself much strength and wisdom to live life fully.  That’s what it’s all about, trust me.  Happy 2010.

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Blah, Blah, Blah

December 14, 2009 by  
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I haven’t had much to talk about lately.  I was in Brazil working on a film for a few weeks and have just come back.

December 13th was my birthday and soon it will be Christmas and New Years.  I don’t have any major plans and would normally be looking forward to hanging with the dogs and watching all the films that come to my door – courtesy of being a member of the Producers Guild of America –  except that I’m feeling Blah.

Let me define Blah.  Blah is when I can’t really complain about anything but don’t have much energy.  Blah is when I’m lacking passion and everything is beige.   Nothing wrong with the color but between you and me, beige is just not exciting.

Am I feeling blah because I have been trying to fulfill all these tasks that I have set myself up to finish before the end of the year?  Make money, write a book, produce a film, write a blog, be good, be descent.   Or am I feeling blah because I’m unconsciously putting on a lid on my feelings as not to have them overflow?  Probably a bit of both.

I brought back a puppy with me from Brazil.  Shai (the new puppy) was a good source of companionship and a receptacle of love for me while I was in Rio de Janeiro but even Shai can’t now keep the blah away.

I’m thinking maybe I need to exercise more.  Sweating and getting a shot of endorphins might help with the blah.  I might even get a Thai massage – nothing like having a person walking and elbowing you to get you going and hopefully help you get hid of the blah.

Maybe what I really need is a bit of dating and dreaming and a bit of hugging and touching.  But how do I do that?  Internet dating?  Can’t hack it.  Too much work and too much exposure.  Looking for Mr. Goodbar?  I’ve never been very good about meeting strangers plus it can be too risky. Friends?  It would be great except that we would have to look at each other in the morning and acknowledge a different level of intimacy that could jeopardize the friendship.  So nope, couldn’t do it.

I wish there was a pill for blah; one that I could walk into a drugstore and tell the pharmacist that I had blah and then wait while he put little white pills into an orange or blue jar.

I think I have a lot of blah ahead of me but I promise if I find a cure I will share as I don’t believe I’m the only blah sufferer around.

It is the season for giving so I have to try my best not to spread my blah around and to not get myself into a situation so as to push my blah away.  Chaos can always distract me from my blah but as I have experienced before it is only temporary and the price is almost always too high.

This whole blah dissertation makes me think of Buddhism which if taken at face value promotes the idea of not reacting one way or another to anything, so the highs are not so high and the lows not so low.  It sounds a bit like blah but I know that is not what Buddhism supports.  I think they actually are more into making one’s existence the center of one’s life so the world doesn’t have such a hold on us.

Of course the demand to be jolly for birthday, Christmas and New Years is of no help to a blah cure.   So I have just decided to take a warm shower and then ride my bike before my blah blah blah sends me into a blah coma.

And please do me a favor.  If you know what to do about blah send me an email or post it on my facebook page or send me a tweet.

P.S.  While having the hot water run over my body I thought that blah is probably the result of not enough stimulus.  We live in a world that everything runs fast and we are bombarded by information and requests.  Our systems are on the go and sometimes when we slow down we go into withdrawal.  So I’m going to breathe deeply and slow down even more and I’m going to connect with the root that keeps me grounded in this planet, my body, and I’m going to observe and appreciate what surrounds me and I know by New Years blah will be just a thing of 2009.

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Teen Spirit

December 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Inspiring People

imagesTalia Leman, 14, provides structural support, interest-free microloans and education to kids wishing to raise money for a cause.  She says when she was ten, after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, she started a project called TLC, which stood for Trick or treat for the Levee Catastrophe.  Kids could trick-or-trick for coins as well as candy.  Talia raised ten million dollars.  From there he founded RandomKid.   Now she’s also working with the University of Iowa, in her home state, on a project called Great Strides.  “We’re sending kids free pedometers, and they get pledges for the miles they walk to help with club feet, so it’s kind of walking to help others walk.  Instead of surgery, which is really expensive, we’re using something called the Ponseti method, which uses a series of braces” Talia says.

Talia doesn’t know if philanthropy is what she wants to do when she grows up.  At this moment she says she’s interested in medicine and working with health care in underdeveloped countries.

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