self improvement, Women

THE CHANGING ROOM (again)

It is winter time in New England and I have found myself headed towards the old faithfuls in my closet again as I do year after year. Black very worn and tired Lululemon yoga pants, an Eastern Mountain Sports turtleneck and hiking shoes with wool socks. I, for many years now, choose warmth and comfort over fashion and sock-less shoes that seem to have become the go to fashion statement with leggings and oversized tops.

I am not comfortable in this, nor do I want to torture my body with leggings that this mostly confident and solid one hundred and sixty pound chick should probably not be wearing around town anyway. I look around at women my age and everyone seems to have the unique ability to look great, but my question inside is always, but are they comfortable?

I envy men’s clothing. They have much simpler choices in their comfort clothes. And all of their clothes have pockets in all of the right places. I want comfort and pockets, warmth and fashion. Is it too much to ask to find a few pieces of clothing that can not only make me look less frumpy, but actually feel more hip and au courant.

As I move quickly to the official title of mid fifties, I just want to feel good. I want to look good, but feeling good is of the utmost priority these days. For the obvious reasons, health, physical and mental fitness, yes. I don’t want to have to be in bed in a hospital ever again or be in bed with the pharmaceutical companies reaching out to me like the vipers they are at every waking turn either. So I find myself in a similar situation I found myself in after I had my son at thirty two, and my breast cancer reconstruction surgery at fifty two questioning who I had become inside and trying to find clothes that matched this new profound feeling outside.

Who am I now? And what types of clothing style defines this for me? I have used the brilliance of personal stylists like my friend, Jill Marinelli who will come to your house and, piece by piece, go through your clothes in your closet with you. Her expertise is style first, not so much comfort, but is excellent at her job if style is what you are looking for. I have had friends who love fashion give me their own ideas of my fashion, but I speak for me and me alone here, it always comes down to comfort. I must feel comfortable.

Jill helped me with some terrific pieces that I still wear to this day, but she also convinced me to buy that one pair of “skinny” jeans that I knew I would be miserable in, but bought anyway. And there they sit on my closet shelf causing dread every time I look at them and think of trying to wear them for even a two hour brief encounter. I don’t want to wear skinny jeans ever. I know this now. If I have to suck my breath in to button the waist for even just a split second, there is no way I am every paying hard earned money for this.

I am exactly one month from turning fifty five. FIFTY FUCKING FIVE. When did this happen? Fifty five is ten years away from SIXTY FUCKING FIVE. I have been divorced for ten years. Ten years flies by. My mother was fifty five when my son was only two. Eee gads. Now I am starting to feel the pressure of making sure my retirement savings are where they are supposed to be, that my wills and trusts are set up properly and all of the other adult things that seem to come with the significance of fifty five years old.

I love aging though. I wouldn’t ask for any years back prior to my current self. But where I get in a funk is in getting dressed and looking less like a bag lady and more like the way I feel inside. Strong, powerful, badass. If I could, (and I promise my friends cringing at the thought out there reading this today), I would seriously wear flannel pajamas every day- out and in. But I don’t. Mostly.

So last week, on the rainiest, dreariest of February Tuesdays, I found myself wandering into the new Athleta store in Newport, RI after doing a few errands. I had an absurd amount of store credits because I put all of my business purchases on my Banana Republic card and lo and behold Athleta is part of the Banana Republic/ Gap/ Old Navy Dynasty. So my credits work there and it was there I shuffled in praying for a come to Jesus moment.

I don’t know how many people reading this know that there is a word that describes the wearing of Athleta type clothing as fashion. It is called Athleisure. I heard of this word many years ago, but didn’t realize how much of a thing it would become as we chicks do our daily jaunts looking like we are not sure if we are headed to a yoga class or to a work event.

I wasn’t sure if I would have any luck on this particular day, but I knew I could find at least one article of clothing to spend my $160 of BR credits on. It seemed like Athleta somehow read somewhere in a study that $89 should be the magic number to price their clothing and I quickly noticed that whether I looked at basic yoga leggings or stretchy jeans, I would not be walking out of the store with just using my credits.

You know those rare magical moments in a clothing store when you meet the perfect sales woman and no one is in the store on that particular day so it is like you have a private personal shopper? This past Tuesday was just this day. Just when I needed it the most. Feeling dowdy and bland and, well, frumpy, I made my way in to this new bright and shiny space and met my new best friend, Kayla. She was one of those young sales women of yesteryear, where they actually enjoyed helping you find not only what you were looking for, but what you didn’t know what you were looking for.

Granted, she had the time. I am guessing I was only one of a small handful of women who made their way into the store on that day. There are not many people shopping on a cold and dreary rainy Tuesday in Newport RI. But one look at her and her own Athleisure style and I knew she could help me. She had the full hips and solid legs like I do, her height was similar, too and despite the fact that she was a good twenty five years younger than me I trusted her judgment immediately. Now it could have been that I was desperate to find someone who could help me on my clothing journey, but I learned after the first two pairs of pants that she understood my needs. SHE GOT ME. And four hours later and an exorbitant amount of money, I left the store a new and very improved woman.

Clothing is our outward cape. I am not the type of woman who needs to have sparkles and labels on my cape. I am comfortable in my skin. Almost too comfortable these days. This has created a fashion predicament for me. How to pair comfort and not looking like I just rolled out of bed. Despite the fact that comfort is my go to priority when I catch a reflection of myself in the mirror, I don’t like the clothing image staring back. My notion of comfort inside was not demonstrating its appearance outside. This is where Kayla used her fashion education and the plethora of comfortable pants and tops that Athleta makes for bodies like mine and gave me about fifty different looks with just a few pairs of pants, tops and sweaters.

How I walked in was not how I walked out. Yes. I am lucky to have the means to spend at a place like Athleta on a random Tuesday, but luck isn’t really the right word. I work hard. No one gave me this money I chose to spend that day. I am not reliant on a partner for income. I have chosen my life with a six hundred hour schooling and license in the beauty business.

My success in life is not luck, it is hard work and I want to feel outside like I do inside when I come upon the reflection staring back at me. My afternoon with a young woman’s expertise in not only knowing what to bring into the changing room, but to service me the way salespeople are supposed to take care of clients changed me. It changed my day, my outlook, my approach to my mid fifties and it gave me the inner beauty I espouse as my mantra of importance in the business I am lucky to have made a life from.

Beauty has so many layers. We must feel inside first. Outside can be a cape, or a body bag. If we rely too much on outward appearance, we often don’t allow the people around us to know that our insides may not match. In my case, I have a strong inside belief system of inner beauty, but I was finding that I couldn’t come up with a look that mirrored this anymore. And ironically this was causing disruption in my vibe.

Kayla and her sweet and kind smiling professional expertise changed this for me. As I walked out of the store that day with my fifty new looks, I was changed. Five years after my first breast cancer diagnosis on almost my fiftieth birthday, I wrote a piece called THE CHANGING ROOM. I didn’t realize back then how apropos that piece would be for the next five years of my life. But today as I reflect back on the past five fleeting years, I was lost and now I am found. New boobs, new clothes and a style that matches my insides is a trifecta of good change.

I am grateful for the random meeting of Kayla this past Tuesday and if any of you superchicks out there need a new style that is both casual and comfortable and don’t mind spending some money, give her a call and let her help you in your own changing room.
#Luckyindeed.

FRIENDSHIP, life lessons

MY FRIEND, ROS

I can’t even remember what I was looking for the other day as I poured through my drawers looking aimlessly. I am not the type of person who loses things but rather “misplaces” them. Temporarily lost items always turn up at some point. Whether I pray to St. Anthony or not.

I opened up the top drawer of my great grandmother’s old dark wooden buffet that would likely appear these days on a Pinterest board as a definite “before.” These days it seems the up and coming home owning, apartment dwelling generation prefers furniture that is distinctly in the after category. High gloss white with some bright insides drawer color taken from the latest Benjamin Moore 2020 paint trends, replacing the wooden knobs with something different erasing the history that lives in an old piece of furniture likely from the early 1900’s. Though it may certainly brighten the piece sitting in the corner of my living room, I can’t imagine interrupting its history like that.

As I made my way through the drawers of silver Kiddish cups used for the Jewish Holidays and the other serving pieces passed down from three generations, I made my way to the top drawer where I keep all of those little memorial cards of people who have since passed on.

Some people may cringe at the notion that I have a drawer of these and may even consider this a some weird drawer of death, but I consider it a drawer of memory. It reminds me how fragile life is, how we are just a mere speck on this planet we get to very briefly reside in and on. It is also a trigger for me to remember people that were once a part of my daily life, but are now people I have to consciously bring back to life with thoughtful and mindful recollection.
As I affectionately made my way through one card after another I noticed the different sizes, the one line poems, prayers and quotes that tried to sum up a person’s life in a less than two inch by three inch piece of card stock. These cards are their tributes, the takeaways for the people attending their wakes and funerals and I always take them.

When I was a little girl attending Hebrew School and Sunday School, the Rabbi’s wife taught some classes. Her name was Mrs. Weinberg and she was very religious and also very kind. She taught us to crack eggs in glass cups and look at them to make sure that they didn’t have any blood in them as this would make them non-kosher and unusable. To this day, when I crack an egg, I think of her and actually have a bit of a pang of guilt if I use the egg anyway. The decision to use an egg from my six dollar dozen of organic, free range local grown usually overrides her voice promptly avoiding wasting a perfectly good egg while people are starving somewhere. (My apologies, Mrs. Weinberg.)

She also taught me that when you write the word G-d, you write it with a dash so that if the paper ever gets thrown out, you are not throwing G-d’s name away in vain. To this day, I still do this. This habit has become so automatic that I even do it in text messages. I am confident Mrs. Weinberg would have been proud of one of her students continuing this habit well into the world of tech since the possibility of a simple click of a button erasing G-d’s name with barely a glance was nowhere near our imagination in 1970.

My son went off to Catholic School for his high school years just to shake up his notion of religion showing him another side of the coin. His religious teacher kept correcting his way of writing the name of G-d in his assignments. When he brought this to my attention, I told him to speak to her about why he did this, but he was uncomfortable doing it as one of the only Jewish kids in a freshman class at a very traditional Catholic high school.

I called the religious teacher and explained to her the reason, knowing she would completely understand. She thankfully did and expressed how much she appreciated knowing this wishing that my son had told her. We hung up each learning something from each other’s tradition and I am sure she took this with her to her future students who may have not been Catholic. She probably thought my son was way more religious than we actually were too likely scoring points in the future of his religious classes.

This brings me back to the memorial cards, I just feel weird throwing them out, like writing G-d without the dash. So I will leave them to my son to have to deal with after I move on and onto my own card (though, for the record, I want my card to be way bigger, like my friend Ros, who appropriately had a newspaper for his takeaway). Ros’ father had owned our small town newpaper and he owned it after his father.

I came across his four page piece that was used at his service three years ago and took it out to remember my fondest memories of an old friend who was like a father, a brother, a great uncle and trusted advisor more than anything. What would Ros do? What would Ros say? I think this a lot. He is right up there with my grandparents sound advice over the years.

Our lives are made up of millions of sparks of other people. Ros had a lot of sparks to share and I have a lot of them inside me. Political discourse, small town politics, true gentlemanly behavior, thought provoking conversation, love of chocolate and red wine, Friday nights by the fire with appetizers and reviews of the latest local gossip, quiet charitable persona, love of preservation of Linden Place, July 4TH, how to compost, why to compost, best blueberry jam ever, love of travel and LOVE OF LIFE IN GENERAL.

Ros died suddenly at the ripe age of 90 while he was in one of his most treasured places vacationing with his beloved wife on this day, three years ago today, February 7, 2017. As sad as it was to lose such a ripe and bright man who to all of us seemed like he would go on forever, he went out with a bang in a place that gave him so much pleasure. In hindsight it seems fitting for his exit. To make his life not just a fleeting moment while his body awaited for a traditional funeral, but rather a month long job in getting his body back to the states and all that this entailed. His grand re-entrance to Bristol from his vacationing joy.

Every time I crack my eggs like Mrs. Weinberg taught me and put the shells in the compost bin, like Ros taught me and walk it out to his very compost barrel, those sparks of important people like Ros are with me. Every time I nibble on a few Ghirardelli chocolate chips to satisfy my craving, or pour a glass of red wine on a Friday night, I think of my friend Ros and of an era gone by.

Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Ros on any level at all, knows exactly what I am talking about and if you didn’t know him, I am sure you know someone like him in your life. Take out the memorial card and remember that person. It will calm a busy mind, or a distracted heart. Even though it is so sad to lose an elder in our lives, the lessons and joyous life experiences from these special souls are with us for our remaining time.
March Forth, dear Ros and to all of us who will always miss his bright light and curious mind.

AGING, Women

CLARITY IS POWER

New Year’s resolutions are powerful. They wake up my sleepy procrastinating self and propel me into a momentum of unstoppable energy that screams progress! and success!. They can also be anti-climatic. So many of us who set them on December 31st find ourselves breaking them just one or two days later. There is that line from a Jimmy Buffet song that comes to my mind. “There’s a fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.” New Year’s resolutions are so easy to fantasize about when you are drinking your third glass of bubbly over a slice of cheesecake on Christmas Eve with only a few days ahead to make the lists about what next year will be.

Sometimes I get nostalgic and start rummaging through my old journals to see where my mind was at twenty years ago. Besides the fact that most of the writing seems to come directly from my less informed ego, there are endless lists with the intense theme of self improvement.

Do more yoga, meditate more, work out three times a week, prepare my food Sunday for the week, travel to….., save more money, spend less money,  be in nature more, spend more time with family, clean my house once a week on such and such a day.

One big tiresome and overachieving yawn from the perch of this soon to be fifty- five year old brain. The beauty of hanging on to my old journals is the reference point of before. Before the work, before the life experience, before the therapy and before I completed even twenty-five percent of the endless lists I used to make on those hopeful first days of whatever year it was soon to be.

This is the magic of a list and a resolution though, the magic itself- the hope for something different in our lives, an improvement, a change. New Year’s resolutions have power because they say, YES, Anything is possible. They are like huge buckets containing desires, dreams, plans, ideas, hope and we throw them all in hoping even one doesn’t fall through the cracks. If it doesn’t, well, there is always next year if we’re lucky. Resolutions speak to our undying belief that there will be a new year again— that there will always be another chance. We have the privilege of an undying optimism in that moment.

Personally, I take great comfort in allowing myself the freedom to even consider it as possibility. As I get older, however, there is much less of this freedom and much more of a time crunch. I find myself throwing less in the New Year’s bucket, but what I do throw in has much more substance and far less ego. 

Of all the shards of aging, the softer side of it is definitely the de-ego-ing of oneself. I know “de-ego-ing”  is not a word, but there is no other way to describe the unveiling, the unlayering, the unraveling of the mysterious ego so central to the first four decades of my life. Even admitting it takes a de-structuring of sorts. 

Like a Back to the Future episode, I am time warped into  my psychology 101 class taught by an old salty teacher, Mr. Malcolm, where I was introduced to Freud’s model of the ego, the id and the superego. I think I was a freshman in high school, 1979ish when I first heard Freud’s theory. Ego can be an antagonizing struggle in our young lives well into our adulthood. When I asked the question to google, What is the purpose of ego?, The answer came like a genie out of a bottle and answered it perfectly. 

“Ego has a big and beautiful purpose in our life. It is said that the purpose of ego is to cause you great levels of unhappiness and suffering so that hopefully one day after trying to change the world and people around you, you can look inside and decide to change yourself.” -Diego Castro

This has been my revelation lately. I don’t know if it is age, if it is being diagnosed with breast cancer twice since I turned fifty, if it is repairing my relationship with my mother, my son graduating from college this year, or a new decade, but there is something magical happening to me, and I can only explain it as a deconstruction of ego in my life. 

I have become much kinder to myself. I don’t mean kinder in a material external sort of way, like getting more facials and buying more shoes, but rather kinder with patience, self care and self love. I have notoriously been my own worst critic. Ninety percent of the things I have said to myself, I would never say to anyone. No matter how many affirmations I have placed around my environment or how many self help books on my shelf, it was the day to day moment to moment mantras that have spewed from that monster of a critic to myself. These mindless thoughts have lacked consciousness and were so often on auto pilot, that it has taken great care and mindfulness to even realize the painful inner dings that they have produced.

The mean voice, the ego voice that says not good enough, not right, not now. But fifty- five is changing this paradigm. I find myself saying if not now when? I find myself creating less internal drama about situations that won’t matter even a week from now. I find myself making decisions about decisions and changing my mind because it doesn’t feel good in my heart to stay with what I thought was going to be a good decision. And not feeling bad about the change of heart. And I am fascinated by this new found clarity. 

What has been the catalyst for this new found power, I ask myself? The shift came at last year’s resolution when I made the commitment to start meditating regularly. While the coffee was perking- basically not much more than eleven minutes almost every day. I have read that meditation actually changes your brain. I don’t know what science I can share other than my own experience with forcing myself (and there are those days when I do force myself) to sit cross legged in silence and breathing deeply.  What I do know is that I feel better, calmer, more organized, kinder, more patient with myself. I know that I care less about what is happening outside of my body and I care more about what is happening inside it. 

This is freedom, this is clarity. And I like it a lot. 

Perhaps it is everything. A compilation of sorts of all of the work I have done over the years investing in myself and my patterns in my constant quest for self improvement. It’s not that I don’t give a shit, It is that the shit is shifting. I just am starting to give a shit a little more about me and my own needs. What do I need? What do I want to say yes to or no to? Is it possible to keep some of my personal power and strength for myself instead of feeling like a vessel with a leak? 

Perhaps these feelings and realizations happen to all women heading over the curve of fifty five speeding towards sixty right around the bend, but I’ll take it. I am willing to trade in the inner voice that says, why did you eat that? How come you didn’t go to the gym today? You shouldn’t buy that. Why did you say that? I am willing to have my body shape just be good enough and the wrinkles forming from my very smiley face along with the age spots on my hands and the weird skin tags showing up seemingly overnight also be fine. I am willing to have all of that if the trade off is this magnificent clarity.

Clarity is power means that I am clear as a bell about my intentions. That I choose to live in the matching truth of my insides and my outsides. That I keep some of my personal growth and its power for me and my own needs sharing when it feels right, but being quiet and contemplative too. Of course, it has only been two weeks into this New year, this new decade, but if this is the feeling that I get so quickly from meditating and aging, I’m all in. 

I pose the question to all of my superchicks out there headed to the mid fifties tag, if not now when? What can be different right now? What changes can you make on your inside so it matches your outside? What is your clarity this year? Clarity is powerful, I send some your way today. Happy New Year and Happy New Decade.

life lessons, self love

THE SUN ALWAYS RISES

I confess. I didn’t stay awake for the final moment from 2019 to 2020. I didn’t watch the ball drop or Ryan Seacrest in his delightful role as Dick Clark second coming. I didn’t eat prime rib or baked stuffed lobster or even open a bottle of good champagne. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even drink one spot of alcohol. I got into bed at 9:30 and fell asleep fast, woke up briefly at 11:07, hoping it was just a few minutes before midnight so I could say I was there, but it wasn’t and I didn’t want to get up and watch the ball drop. What difference would it have really made in my life to do this? I have done that. And I am good with having done that. And this is good. Good enough.

So instead, I woke up this morning on this bright new day of a brand new decade with that delicious thinking that only a first day of a new year brings of What’s Next? In addition to the new year, add the excitement of a new decade aptly named 2020 and I just felt an elation. While my partner stayed in bed, I made my way downstairs to put the coffee on for some quiet morning time alone that the earliest of the am provides. It is brief, that morning solitude, when it is the time before the sun rises, before the first sound of a car headed somewhere interrupts, before even the birds start singing their morning chirps.  

While the coffee perked, I moved into my almost regular routine of sitting quietly in meditation, giving myself the gift of pause before letting technology into my space. The jabber that happens moments before I sit cross legged while I wait for the coffee to alert me with its beeping is curious. The coffee percolating takes about eleven minutes, max, and yet my brain voice tries to pull rank over my heart voice shouting out the endless to do lists. 

But my heart won as it screamed right back at my mind, If not now, When?

If not now, When? So I sat. Giving myself the simple and very free gift of pause on this new day of a new decade hoping for that big breakthrough, but understanding that this is not the point. The point is to counter balance the ferocious energy that is my mind, always full speed ahead with the latest and greatest idea of what to do next—while the beauty of the present moment slides by unnoticed. 

This is the point- so I sat and breathed, knowing that this is what I need whether I like it or not. The present moment and the simple pleasures of allowing it in. When I opened my eyes, the sun was just making its way so I poured my coffee and put on my sparkly hat and bright red gloves along with my Bog boots and made my way to watch its arrival. 

My partner lives about a stones throw from a pond that overlooks the beach. I walked, steaming cup of black coffee in hand, down to the water with the only intention of feeling the light on my face and the sharp coolness of the morning in my lungs. I listened; I looked around at the homes where it seemed everyone was still sleeping and I took another deep breath in with the gratitude that the morning relentlessly delivers.

The pond, that serves as the local reservoir, winds quietly in a square shape with a neat path surrounding all types of flapping and swimming birds. The sounds and sights of the ducks and geese took me away from my chatting brain and I was hoping I would see the swans majestic landing overhead which would have made this moment more perfect.  I observed the tiniest corner of light coming from the east where I realized that I hadn’t missed the sun rising despite the light of the morning. I drank in the realization that I was going to witness the first sunrise of a brand new decade because I followed my heart speaking rather than the to do lists of my brain. Go to the pond, my morning meditation said. No, read, write, finish the project you started, write out the training outline you need to finish, my brain argued. The excuse of a new decade won. I would never get the chance again in my lifetime to witness a morning sunrise in the year 2020. 

2020 vision. A year of goodness lies ahead. I can feel it and I didn’t want to miss its rise to claim me. The ten years between forty-five to fifty-five were tumultuous and exciting, but also filled with a tornado of change that brought me to my knees. Some I chose, some chose me, but in the tail end, neither knocked me down. Fifty-five to sixty-five seems so much different. I don’t remember saying to myself at forty-five, Wow in ten years, I will be fifty five; they just didn’t feel as significant. This next ten does. They feel mind blowing because the last ten years flew by in what seemed like a flash. This next round of ten years I will be sixty-five if I am lucky enough. What do I want? 

I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to say yes to things I would rather say no to. 

I want to keep some of my power for myself instead of always giving it away to other people. I don’t want to keep giving my power away to technology getting sucked into the meme that it is a necessary part of life. I want to stay present more and be in nature more and create more. I want to have less email saved in all of the folders thinking that I will read the latest, How to have a more profitable blog, How to save more money on making less money and the endless stream of how to jargons that have found their way into my inbox and ultimately causing a distraction from myself that is hard to explain.

My inbox is full. And it needs emptying. I need to spend the next ten years riding my own wave, riding my bike, being in nature and having some alone time in silence. All of these promises are so easy on the first day of a new decade. The sun always rises no matter where I live, what is happening around me. The constant of this reminder is comforting as I stood there this morning and watched it rise with its direct beam of light headed straight for me as we stood there together patient, waiting, knowing it would soon be above me shining its light on a brand new day. 

What do I want? I want to remember this moment every day and allow it to direct me with its constant. I want to remember that this is what makes me feel whole and calm during the upheavals and the traumatic events that are naturally a part of all of our lives. There is that cliche- Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. My busy mind forgets about my calm and patient heart and it is my heart, when I listen to it deeply, that always gives me the best direction. This is my one New Years, New Decade resolution. 

Listen to my heart speak more and my brain speak less. 

My heart has never steered me wrong. I need to remember to connect with my own light. And to keep some of it for later. We never know what a new decade brings. It is exciting and frightening. I watch my life wind down towards sixty five and I watch my son’s twenty two year old life wind up. I am lucky to get to watch it. Lucky to be alive after the last five years of life coming at me. I am life experienced enough to know that on this brand new day of a brand new decade, I will forget what I am writing today. I will forget my self prescribed  directive to remember these new and fresh life commitments, but the sun always rises and every day is new decade and this is so exciting to this aging chick, I can hardly contain myself.

self improvement, WOMEN'S HEALTH

HOW CLEANING A CLOSET SETTLES MY BUSY BRAIN.

A busy mind, an active life, a creative spirit, make up what I fondly call Alayne’s brain. I am confident that if the term attention deficit disorder existed when I was a child, I would have been labeled as such. The drug companies, who work hard at getting us creative types feel like we need a drug for everything, refer to it as “A.D.D,” making it roll off our tongues so it sits comfortably in our brains creating feelings that something must be wrong with this type of brain function.

There is nothing wrong with this brain function except when it goes haywire and I fail to notice its long strange trip. I humbly laugh at myself often saying that if I executed even ten percent of my ideas… What? What would that mean? Would it mean more money? I don’t care about that; I have enough. What would it mean actually — executing ten percent of all of my ideas? I have never posed this question which is likely why I seldom execute ten percent of my ideas.

The indication that my creative spirit has gone rogue is my incessant calling to shop, drink, eat sugar which all ironically make me more rogue. This has been the year of allowing. Just allow the calling and drink the wine, eat the cookie, and maybe it has served me, maybe not, I don’t know except that it is not about the weight or the body shape anymore. It is about mental clarity and deep connection with a power greater than myself. This is what goes south when I over allow. My type of personality, and I know that each day is a new day and I have the ability to change my direction, doesn’t seem to be the one cookie, one glass of wine type.

My inner circle who know me well would wholeheartedly agree.

My typewriter collecting obsession is reflective of the sum of all parts of my brain. Can’t just buy one. So I start thinking about what is causing this fragmentation of my spirit, that weird dullness that creeps in that makes me run from my power rather than run to it. What came firs? The glass of wine and the cookie or the need to run to it to soften the intense feelings of power that are part of my daily existence.

This presents a conundrum because I welcome mental clarity. It is when I am at my absolute peak performance in my life. It is like I get there- to the top of the mountain- stand there, look around at the glorious 360 degree view only offered to those who make the climb and turn around too quick to move down it forgetting just as quickly why I climbed in the first place.

The lesson is in all of this is to trust the process, but not to get lost in the process. Getting lost is not necessarily a bad thing unless you get so lost that you need to call 911 but you find out your cell phone doesn’t work. Getting lost is only as good as finding your way out. This is the complexity of the fine line between process and running away from.

I do believe that the fragmentation is the amount of technology that I have given permission to surround my being with. The literal energy of all of this electricity and world wide webbing is freaking out my energy field. I am presently sitting on my couch with my cell phone to my left, my laptop on my lap where the heat of it on my thighs can’t be good. Pandora is playing through my internet music system. When I get quiet I have this strange ringing in my ears interrupting the silence and I just wonder how much all of this current is affecting my sense of mental order. No wonder it is hard to go to my creative space in time and separate from the distraction of technology.

When these things happen and I have written all I can write for the morning, I clean a closet, type a note, go for walk in nature or I cook. These four actions immediately bring me to center. They take me away from the chatter and allow me to be present in the moment. Technology doesn’t offer this. Technology offers the fragmentation. How many times this week did I go to sit at my computer and begin a project only to find myself scrolling, clicking, watching an unintended webinar that was not even in my plans when I opened my computer? This can’t be good.

Cleaning one small closet that had been on my to do list this week took me about twenty minutes and the result was complete tangible satisfaction. I don’t think I have had any tangible satisfaction from technology except when I write and post something I have written.

When I analyze life going forward, I need to clean more closets. It clears the cobwebs, makes me feel grounded, brings me back to my humble beginnings. Cleaning a closet reminds me how lucky I am that I get to write about consciousness of spirit and personal power to begin with.

I open the curtains this morning and look at the light. I do my son’s laundry and take a walk to the local bagel shop to get goods for a homemade breakfast. I remind myself again and again that like cookies, wine and shopping, technology can be a choice for me. It is not my livelihood like it is soon to be my son’s in his career. I have closets to clean and cookies to bake in a warm house with a roof over my head and people in my life I get to love and who love me back.

Personal power, as I move into this next decade of 20/20 vision, is about the choices I make because I get to make them. What gives me joy needs to be my directive. I have worked really hard at getting my life to the point where I have the luxury of this question. What gives me joy? And when I get that answer, this is what must direct me for the next decade.

What gives me joy? Connection and connecting- this is what I live for. My laptop and my phone can’t do this even though social media wants to let us believe they are connecting us. What social media is doing is disconnecting us from our own selves. This is why I started the odd collecting of typewriters. This is why I clean a closet when I need to get out of my own way. Reconnecting with my own electrical current. I am presuming we could all use a little more of that these days.

holidays, life lessons

A FREE SUNDAY

Flat out and over scheduled this past week, but also an inner joie de vie with the holiday excitement that only this time of year invites. I don’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense, partly because I am Jewish, partly because the mass consumerism of it all is overwhelming. I have great memories of Christmas, though because even though my mother converted to Judaism, my brother and I got to go to our still Catholic grandmother’s house in Boston and celebrate a proper Boston Christmas. We never grew up with Christmas tree in our childhood home, but we did get to have a Christmas experience. 

i still love to follow traditionand bake holiday cookies with my aunt

I love Christmas. 

Our holidays were spent in Boston with our grandparents and our two aunts. My brother and I would usually go up a few days early and stay over helping our grandmother decorate the tree. My aunts would take us in our Aunt Peggy’s baby blue, barely any heat, Volkswagen bug driving Commonwealth Avenue to look at the way the homes were decorated. 

It was Magic. 

If I close my eyes, I can smell my grandmother’s house, filled with the buttery scents of homemade rolls, Christmas cookies, and everything Julia Child, my Grandmother’s go to director in the kitchen. I can smell the morning coffee and morning brunch my brother and I were forced to endure before we could open any presents. I can even smell the cigarettes that everyone smoked while this was going on and for some reason this doesn’t even bother my memories.

Going to Boston for Christmas in the 1970’s also meant Christmas shopping. Filenes, Shreve Crump and Low, Newberry Street, Lord and Taylor’s. It also meant shopping in some of the lovely little stores in downtown Wellesley, Mass and finding time to get to The Wayside Inn for a traditional family lunch in Sudbury, Mass. 

If it sounds like this little Jewish chick has the irony of the warmest and tenderest Christmas memories, I do. What I mean by not celebrating Christmas now is the gift factor. I love the energy the holiday delivers, the lights, the mayhem, the frenzy, but the vast consumerism that kicks in and makes people spend inordinate amounts of money is what I shy away from. The only person I buy anything for is my son and I buy Hanukkah presents for him. 

I have a friend who is from a large Portuguese family and the shopping, wrapping and chaos starts from what seems like the day after Thanksgiving. I have listened to her hilarious shopping stories since I met her almost twenty years ago. She is my go to comedian for all Christmas stories of what can go wrong during the holiday season, but so much of what can go right. 

Her family is the wacky type of family I never had. Picture My Big Fat Greek Wedding and substitute the word Portuguese.  I, in turn, am the Wasp substitute Jewish, family represented. I love her family and the stories she shares in who forgot who, who didn’t show up at a party, who didn’t call, and of course all of the goodness too that comes from this zesty family. 

The gift giving is fun to watch, though. So I enjoy going to the mall and watching, like a voyeur, and listening, like a spy, to the endless conversations between complete strangers about what they should be buying for what family members. They usually sound a bit breathless and tired, but never seem to question the auto pilot that Christmas steers everyone towards. I am a curious bystander with the glorious position of not having to buy for anyone so the sense of urgency is non existent. It is freedom. 

I found myself on Saturday night headed to bed thinking about my past week and realized that the following Sunday, yesterday, would be my last Sunday before Christmas since I always work the Sunday before the holiday. I was supposed to go to the movies, but asked my partner if he minded if I took the day alone and headed to Garden City to be with the masses. He had a brief look in his eyes that said, “Who are you and what happened to Alayne?” But he knows me well by now and there are likely daily surprises that come his way from my brain.

We parted ways and off I went. Cash in hand, with no real plan, excited to take an entire day to wander aimlessly with the only conversation the one in my head. Somehow I managed to find a parking spot immediately, no easy task at noon on the second to the last Sunday before Christmas. I got out of my car and began going to the parade of stores before me. I tried to avoid the stores that would make me shop for me, Lululemon, Athleta, Anthropologie and aim for the ones I might find some things for my son or my partner’s son. 

There wasn’t a place that didn’t look ramshackled. I felt a little saddened by this because in the old days of shopping before everything became an Instagram photo, store managers would never allow shelves to look the way they looked yesterday. Clothes strewn all over the place like we were at Filene’s Basement during a sixty percent off sale. I also realize, however, that the unemployment rate is the lowest and to staff these places with the hours they keep must be a feat to lose sleep over these days. 

The sales people were lovely, though, in every store I went to, helpful, smiling, kind and this warmed my heart. Old school sales people, mostly my age. This was interesting to me because usually I find young inexperienced people wandering the floor. 

At Banana Republic, they were virtually giving the store away. I use the word, virtually, literally because as I headed to a podlike dressing room, I noticed right away it was equipped with an iPad on the wall. The dressing room that was the size of a closet, but seemed like some type of small spaceship with atrocious lighting with an iPad. Maybe it was so I could order whatever I was trying on if the size wasn’t right. I really don’t know since there were no directions with it. And now that I am writing this, it occurs to me that iPads have cameras on them so now I am completely freaked out thinking that my changing room experience could have been captured like some Orwellian novel.  I am glad I didn’t think of this yesterday. 

I sighed. Is there no escaping technology and mass consumerism in the privacy of a dressing room? Has the entire world turned into one big Instagram photo op? The fact that I didn’t understand the point of the iPad in the changing room was in itself revealing. Banana Republic, like mostly every other store in Garden City, was not interested in the fifty five year old consumer that stood naked in between a mirror and an iPad I didn’t understand. They didn’t need to explain to me why it was there because I am not their market. I am really not anyone’s market, other than pharmaceutical commercials, it seems anymore as I made my way through the Gap, some store called Fatface, J Crew and even Chipotle to buy a gift card. 

The whole day yesterday reminded me that I am refreshingly irrelevant to these stores. It was a wonderful reminder of a chapter that is closing for me. Mass consumerism is not part of my world anymore. I am in the phase of getting rid of stuff, not obtaining stuff. 

I loved my day yesterday because if I got to a counter and there were more than three people waiting to check out, I left my choices and left the store. These stores don’t seem to care if you shop online or shop in store. I was looking for a holiday experience and it just really wasn’t there. I can see why so many consumers shop from the comfort of their own home; it really is so much easier, but there is a cost to this. You don’t get to have these life nuggets showing you where you are in your world. You don’t get to hear the conversations, see the men waiting on benches as their wives shop, traditionally. You don’t get to hear the bands playing outside and see the sparkly holiday lights decorating the stores. All of these sensory experiences are creating the stories and the stories are what we remember in our future selves. 

The children of today are not going to have memories of anything but their parents sitting with their face down in their cell phones hitting the order now button from wherever they are sitting and the UPS truck bearing gifts like Santa with his sleigh of reindeer. I don’t know why this bums me out, but it does.

With the world that we find ourselves in as one big virtual experience, I worry that we won’t know the difference between what is real anymore. My real will be different than my future grandchildren’s real. Maybe there will be a rennaisance and shopping at actual stores if they still exist will be a cool retro experience for our future consumers. I can only hope and dream.

I don’t know, but as I get ready to leave a roller coaster of a decade behind and head into a decade aptly named 2020, I have hope that the future will bring real authentic life experiences like I had as a child. Experiences that are real, not manufactured, I will continue to have for the remaining years I have left on this strange planet I rent my lifespace on. 

Happy Holidays to all of you real shoppers out there. Thank you for keeping the hope alive. 

self love, WOMEN'S HEALTH

“FORGETTING MY PHONE”

Hands full. Trying to open the car door with my hip propped against the outside of the car, trying to finagle the purse, the pie, the shoes I was bringing with me to replace the snow boots I was wearing, the bag of Pyrex bowls to give to my aunt- all because I didn’t want to make “two trips.”

Two trips means back up to the second floor, up thirteen stairs to where I live in my old 1965 historic home. I was already running late to pick up my friend and I still had to get to the bank which I had already determined in my overcharged brain that I would do after I picked her up. That breathless running is something I don’t like getting myself into, but for some reason today I was in the midst of it trying to squeeze more into my morning than was reasonable. Sometimes this is typical of my personality.

My dear friend, Karen and I were headed to my favorite holiday place, The Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts to have a pre Christmas lunch with my most favorite aunt. After lunch we were headed to another favorite, Russells Garden Center, a magical garden and gift center since 1876 in Wayland, Mass where real Christmas shopping lives in that old fashioned way I grew up with.

Though we weren’t wearing Christmas sweaters, the day had the feeling like everyone you may encounter would; the weather had that crisp December bite. Little did we know that a light lovely New England snow dusting would just begin as we were eating lunch. We would soon be encountering a day of absolute perfection, but we didn’t know any of this yet because I was running late to pick Karen up.

As I finally settled down in the driver’s seat of my car getting ready for take off, taking a necessary deep calming breath, I realized that I hadn’t seen my phone in the last ten minutes. I checked my coat pockets- nope. I felt the outside of my small black zippered purse- a second nope. I felt in the inner left side of my car door where I often absently place it, not there either. I looked at the clock on the car dashboard, 9:16. I had already let Karen know I would be there at 9:20 instead of 9:00.

Fuck it. Did I really need my phone today? There was that brief moment where I felt the absurdity in questioning it knowing that many of my friends, employees, family couldn’t imagine even questioning its absence. They would have gone on auto pilot and blasted back upstairs for it. But I am always struggling with the power I have let this silly little device have in my life. Sometimes I find myself longing for the rotary.

I seem to be in a perpetual state of concern over how much time I spend looking things up, checking my email, responding to texting, scrolling, checking facebook messages from clients and friends, seeing responses to my recent posts, not to mention returning calls because this is actually the idea of a phone. At least it used to be. I am wondering when the phone part of the phone will become an old relic of yesteryear as I write about all of its other functions these days.

Back to the question. Did I really need my phone today? Besides the questions that started to dart. But you own a business! What if your son needs you! What if something happens to your grandfather! What if! What if! What if! So I did what my rebel rousing self usually does. I said, Fuck it. And drove away sans phone and felt free instead of the heart racing panic one would assume. Freedom. Calm. Released truly from work and responsibilities for the next twelve hours. It wasn’t even that hard to do this.

I had a few moments at lunch where I thought, My phone must be blowing up right now. I imagined the amount of work I would have to face when I got home in responding to the various forms of communications, but the thoughts left as quickly as they entered. The reality that I created in this choice was that there was nothing I could do about it anyway.

I couldn’t take my phone out of my purse at lunch and take it with me to the bathroom to do a quick check and reply. I couldn’t pull it out to take photos that would likely end up sitting in my phone anyway like a Barbie never taken out of a box. I couldn’t show a photo from another time to my friends at lunch. I wasn’t able to pull it out to look up the definition of a word or a place that came up in our conversation. My aunt and friend had theirs to do all of that on and yet neither brought theirs out for the entire lunch or at our visit to Russells.

The holidays go by so fast. There is a lot of rushing and shopping. There is a different buzz in the air this time of year and I don’t even celebrate the holidays in the traditional way. Yet I enjoy them immensely. I enjoy walking in the evening and looking at the lights in our town and the decorations in the windows. I love Christmas music and putting lights in my windows. I’m the weird Jewish girl who loves the energy of Christmas, I love being a voyeur standing on the sidelines and taking it all in and watching it fly by as fast as a speed train.

“Forgetting” my phone was probably one of the best gifts I could give myself as it allowed me to be present to the presence of the day yesterday. I was present to my friend and my aunt’s conversations because there were no technical distractions that would otherwise have removed me from the experience. My life feels like it is accelerating at time warp speed and it is almost like I need to force myself to come up with alternative ways to be deliberate about putting a break to it. I see myself one day not even having a phone. Apple gives me my summary of how much screentime I have used and it is appalling to me how much time it adds up to.

No wonder people feel like they don’t have any spare time these days. But I am not here to preach, just share my day with anyone who cares to read and maybe this piece will give you an idea to try. The funny thing about the experience was that I did use my friend’s phone when we realized our sixty mile return trip would be taking us three hours last night.

If she hadn’t had it, though, I wouldn’t have had it to use and I know that would have been just fine too. There was no sense of urgency, but more courtesy to let my partner know my whereabouts and to check on my son. That could have easily waited. And surprisingly when I did finally walk through the doors of my home, I didn’t rush to my phone to check it, actually I was bummed that my phone vacay was over. When I finally did, there were approximately seven text messages. I returned them in five minutes, called my aunt to let her know we arrived safe and sound, put the phone away and turned on some Christmas movies, a perfect end to a more perfect day.
Who needs Santa for gifts after this glorious and intentional gift I gave to myself? I can’t wait to forget my phone again.

life lessons, travel

WHERE ARE YOU HEADED?

I could not sit still with the book I had brought. It was not the book — the book was excellent, it was the noise bubbling all around me.
“I’ll be right back,” I said to my partner realizing that all of this noise was not going to permit me to really dive into my book like I had planned.

The noise, the sounds of children screaming, keyboards tapping, cell phones binging, the girl sitting next to me sniffling and sneezing, intercoms announcing gate changes and flight departures, was everywhere.

Then there was the sounds of everyone’s incessant cell phone streaming. I know there has never been a official code of law on silencing our non stop technology, but it does seem that the basic consideration between each other to respect the boundaries of our neighbors has gone out the window.

I am not sure when this became a thing, to act like you are the only person in the room with your noise producing machines and not allow the person next to you to have a say in the matter. This is what ear phones are for, but in the decline of basic manners, it appears that laziness has done a preemptive strike on even this little luxury of silence.

These days, the stink eye doesn’t even work because people are so engrossed in whatever had gotten their attention they don’t even seem to notice that someone is looking at them vying for just a glimpse of eye contact to hopefully send the message to turn their device OFF.

As I made my way through the alternate universe called the airport, T. F. Green Airport in Rhode Island, I felt like a voyeur into people’s approach to sitting alone and waiting for their plane. Barely a book opened, there must have been over a quarter million dollars in Apple products just at my gate alone. Does anyone just stare off into space anymore? I didn’t see anyone reading even a magazine or a newspaper, let alone a book. Moms and Dads were sitting next to each other on their own phones while the kids were like separate little addendums waiting for their attention.

I felt like what I imagined it felt like for Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. This was me. I was in a time warp speed ahead gazing mysteriously at what the fuck has happened to humanity and why isn’t anyone else as freaked out as I am?

I started to panic with the anticipation that this noise would be following me on the plane for the next three hours and I realized that my only salvation were the earphones I had mistakenly packed in my suitcase. Said suitcase was now traveling through the underbelly of the airport and the earphones would be meeting me on the other side- after the plane ride. This is when I decided I needed to buy a set of earphones for the plane ride and made my way to the store where it appears someone in the purchasing department understood this as a need for people like me.

I stood in front of the shelves looking at the headphones (almost the same ones that I had in my suitcase that Apple gave me for “free” with my last thousand dollar phone purchase) contemplating my choices. Nothing started at less than 29.99 and they were all crap, not to mention that Apple completely fucked all of us when they switched their adapter so a basic set doesn’t work with our phones anymore unless you buy the adapter for another thirty dollars. I sound cynical and ornery. This is what is happening to me as I watch the demise of humankind’s ability to say hello and look each other in the eye.

As I decided on some Sony noise canceling headphones for 29.99, I couldn’t open the package fast enough and was waiting in line to pay when I heard this small and very confident voice say, “Where are you headed?”

I looked down to attach the sound to the human and lo and behold a seven year old or so little boy had actually asked me a question out of nowhere. Be still my beating heart. I looked up to assess the parental situation thinking I would be seeing some academia type parent buying their son some organic celery sticks from the vegetable fridge. The surprise was the exact opposite.

Block your eyes or skip this next line or two because I am about to make a broad brushstroke stereotype that is not pretty or kind, but it must be said to make the point that I am going to get to at some point here.
This little boy looked like the type of child who may wake up every day and ask the question, “How did I land here? And how are you my parents?”

They looked mismatched. Mom and Dad had an inordinate amount of tattoos, piercings and were dressed in one step up from pajamas. Mom barely said two words when her son approached a complete stranger and I was surprised she wasn’t on her cell phone along with the rest of the look. This little boy, though had a big blast of human curiosity that he bestowed on me and I was all too eager to take his scraps.

“Where are YOU headed?” I asked him with a robust curiosity in return.
“We are headed to Tampa.” He said this with such joy it made me want to sit next to him on the plane and get to know him.
“Me too!” I exclaimed.
“Does this mean I will see you on the plane?” He asked, enthusiastically, with the widest brownest eyes.
“Yes, I think it does,” I confirmed with such jubilee in my voice, it made us both smile in kind.

Mom whisked him away all too fast and I went on to my noise canceling headphones quickly realizing in my haste that I had purchased ones that needed an adapter. Drats no wonder they were only 29.99.

I returned them as quickly as I bought them deciding that the sounds and simmers of our fellow people traveling tonight would be just fine. I am headed on vacation and today is the first day to reintroduce the pleasures of observing human connection.

This is where I am headed young man. Thank you for asking.

grief, life lessons

DEAR MICHAEL ANDREW HOROWITZ

I woke up wide awake at three am blaming it on the very large piece of chocolate chip pie I ate after dinner. Then, after lying there for twenty minutes planning my day ahead, my workout schedule for the rest of the week, and reviewing my remaining appointments before my trip to Florida to see Herbie (who just turned 102 three days ago), I realized that today is November 20th.

November 20th, twenty four years later. The same amount of time from the time we heard Adenocarcinoma of the Lung. Rare. Highly Unusual. Usually Happens To Men in Their Fifties.

You were not fifty. You were twenty four.

And in 1994, we all began our new normal, preparing for the inevitable. There was no hope according to the doctors at the time. It had already metastasized all over your bones causing them to easily shatter just from a random toss of an apple core into a trash barrel.

Hope was in our dreams, my endless reading and nauseating quoting of Louise Hay’s positive thinking affirmations like by chanting them and thinking them I could cure you. Hope was in the endless stream of ideas from well meaning friends and co workers with their remedies and alternative solutions.

There was no chance. You were going to die before you had a chance to grow up. To find your way. To lose your hair. To get married and maybe have children some day. To turn thirty, forty, fifty next year.

We would never have the chance to grow old together, to lose Dad together, to celebrate my son together. We would not be able to mourn the twin towers or share the tragedies of the endless school shootings as concerned humans. We would not celebrate the purchase of my own home that you would have been loved and been so proud of. And if you had children of your own, shipped them off to me to hang out with me in my gardens and the space I so love.

In all of these life points, I am solo and siblingless which is not even a word. But it should be because there is no other word to describe my place as a sibling- minus you. I am not an only child because that omits your brief and poignant presence from my life.

I am without you.

And though my life goes on and there is much to celebrate and feel grateful for, I am stunned by the grief and sadness I can also feel simultaneously. This is the magic power of grief’s force — it simmers and lies in wait and allows periods of joy and happiness the further away it steps away from its beginning.

Then on these days, the birthdays, and the memorial days, the days of Michael applying for jobs and getting ready to graduate college and getting closer by the minute to twenty four, the days I hear about high school friends of yours getting married, buying homes, having children, growing up, working at companies and becoming entrepeneurs, I am reminded, with a force to be reckoned with, that you, my dear brother, as your enlightened and glorious being, are not here and will in fact never be.

I am reminded when I ask someone their age or the year they were born and they say, 49 or 1970 and I look at them and don’t see your aging face, but your youthful one because you never made it to now. I see your dread locked head and those dark brown eyes inhaling pot out of a gigantic water bong that looked like it came from a Hooka bar. And I wait for you to ask me what a hooka bar even is because hooka bars didn’t exist because smoking was still allowed inside many places in 1994. When you were alive.

Pot was the only thing that helped you, but that wasn’t legal in any states yet. Today you would have proudly carried a medical marijuana card. When I got mine during the cancer I had, it was to help me, yes, but it was to honor you too. It was my own twisted way to celebrate with you something that linked us even though it was cancer, weird I know. But I could feel you closer and whatever it takes to feel you closer, I will take. Not the cancer part, the marijuana part, I have my limits here, bro.

I am often surprised that Michael doesn’t actually know you personally, because he has so many mannerisms that are exactly like you, I sometimes I have to remind myself that he is my son, not my brother. His voice, his handwriting, his sharp mind, his laugh, his deep eyes, his expressions all remind me deeply of your existence. I like to think that you had something to do with this. Like it was your mysterious way of letting me know that you were watching. This is comforting even if to some it seems bizarre or wishful. I don’t care. I like the comfort. It feels good instead of sad and I like to feel good instead of sad.

When Michael and the Francis boys were in middle school and decided to record themselves lighting farts with a bic lighter, it didn’t horrify me as much as it should have because this was definitely something you did. Every time I hear Neil Young or Bob Marley or Peter Tosh — every time I see a VW Vanagon or a white guy with dreadlocks, or watch Michael eat chocolate chip cookies, or look at Craig Gurganus surfboard fish art you gave when Dave and I bought our first home, you are standing in front of me smiling.

When I found a tile coaster of a sun in my travels to Italy, I had to buy it because it reminded me of the sun you drew while you were dying. Your dying held on to every scrap of life you could muster. I couldn’t believe how brave and courageous you were at such a young age, but you were an old soul even at your young age. Maybe your dying young outwardly was really because you were old inwardly. Who knows. It doesn’t matter, You are not here. And this is permanent. And incredibly sad.

When Mom sees Michael, she frequently says how much he looks like his dad, almost seeming to want to wish away the parts so obvious in him that are you. I imagine it is so difficult for her to see the vestiges of your being in her grandson. The pain must be far worse than the possibility of joy in the duplication of your essence causing darts of reminders that must shake a mother’s loss. I wish I could talk about this with her and that you and I could talk about the fact that I can’t, but then if we could, none of this would be happening in the first place.

I write about you because I miss you every day. Every day for twenty four years.

It is not the type of missing that has debilitated me; I have moved through grief rather than around it, but there are times I step to its side and take my deep dive into the wallow, the mire, the quicksand of its vigor. More times I forget that that pull is grief all these years later. When a good walk and a good cry would probably be a better solution than a bottle of red and a slice of chocolate chip pie. But I have become much more forgiving of my slides into moments of pie. I have practiced grief and become better at allowing its call when necessary in whatever form it takes to just deal with the sadness at the time.

I am ok. The steps around or through are all ok. Twenty four years later, I have used this time to be more patient with these slides down the rabbit hole knowing that in some ways it is also part of my creative process and healing.
Healing. Heal-ing is a strange word because is implies that there is an end at some point after you have healed. I will never heal. There will never be an ‘e.d.’ after the ‘h.e.a.l’. This would mean that I have missed you Enough. That I am over missing you.

And this would be impossible. And I am more than OK with this. Because on November 20th every year, just like your birthday on October 20th every year, you come to life again because I get to be in the day of you with you how I want to be with you.

While I am alive, I will always do this and I will always remind Michael that today is another excuse to get to remember you. Remembering you is the closest thing I have to having you and if this is all I can have, then it will have to do.

Health, WOMEN'S HEALTH

WASHING MACHINE HEAD

Does your brain ever feel like it is on the spin cycle of a washing machine?
Some people refer to it as “crazy brain,” but I don’t care for that label. My partner refers to it as crawling out of his skin.

There are lots of reasons for this mind twirl. Full moon, mercury retrograde, too much sugar, not enough exercise, too much on my plate, too many lists, too much time on my hands, too much on the computer or on the phone, not enough fresh air, not enough creative output, not enough go within time.

I know myself well. I know that if I miss exercise for a few days, I am not myself and this creates havoc in my thinking. Exercise is the course correction without fail. Every time. An hour at the gym or an hour outside on a brisk walk in the brisk New England November air grounds me like nothing else and it is a habit I seldom break. But when I do, like this past two weeks of over scheduling, I notice fast.

What I notice is that it is hard for me to stay focused, I wake up after going to bed with a concise list and then find myself wandering aimlessly barely able to complete one item. Perhaps this is the result of an entrepreneurial brain; most self starters I know struggle with spinney head. Just too many ideas, too many sticky notes on a wall and this can be a recipe for feelings of overwhelm therefore not getting anything done.

I am the queen of lists and sticky notes. My brain is a busy one and I enjoy its momentum for the most part especially when I use it for the creative force it directs me to. But sometimes, like this past week when I went to a three day conference and I missed exercising for almost a full week with barely a walk, the ramifications are not pretty.

As I drove to the gym for my first 7:00am workout in a few weeks, I already began to feel peaceful. The gym is my therapy space. Not because I am one of those bad ass gym rats pumping iron and walking around with her abs showing, (these days they just show all the time when I sit down and look down and wonder what the hell has happened to my stomach, but more of that in some other self deprecating piece later). Going to the gym is like a community gathering. Most times it is many of the same people, mostly women, but also some men sprinkled throughout, and there is a familiarity, a comfort as we grab our spots on the floor or the cardio equipment.

I have two go to spots I usually take and they are in the front of the room.
I used to be the person who looked for the furthest back corner, the spot completely away from the mirror as I not only didn’t want to see myself in it as I struggled to catch my breath with every screaming beat to the rap music, but I also didn’t want to see everyone else. Back then when I first started dragging myself to the gym, I was always comparing my inadequacy and lack of fitness to all of the other chicks (usually skinny and blonde driving a Range Rover or something) who seemed much more fit than I surely would ever be.

But then something magical happened. I started feeling incredible. Forget about the shape of my body shifting, the discovery of muscles I didn’t know were there, the definition of muscles from the never ending burpees and planks that began rearing their beauty. I had mental clarity like I had never really had before. It was the biggest surprise from the workout and I started to depend on it as my mental equilibrium. And I began making my way to the front of the room, not so much to look in the mirror, but to stand up front and proud of my climb on the fitness confidence ladder.

There is all kinds of proven research on what exercise does for us physically- it lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and a multitude of other lifestyle ailments. I wish that the prescription of exercise would be one of the first courses of action for doctors to give to their patients complaining of anxiety and depression because for me, this has been a game changer for the past ten years. It is seldom that exercise becomes the go to remedy for the many people who struggle with this type of bubbling mind.

Washing machine head, my brain on the spin cycle, goes away from one hour of exercise. It never fails me. I always feel better after I exercise. My mind is clearer, my heart is happier. And this doesn’t have to be from an hour at the gym, it can be a walk on the beach with the wind blowing into my lungs; it is just movement, off the couch, away from my computer, my phone, my desk work and up and out.

No matter how much wine I have had or sweet dives into oblivion and all of its effects on my brain with the fogginess it creates, an hour of movement clears the cobwebs. Exercise saved me when I had breast cancer too. I am convinced that because I went to the gym, my recovery was as strong and solid as it was because of my fitness level before hand.
I used to think, “I am the fittest and healthiest I have ever been, why did I get breast cancer twice?” But when I saw my resilience and my fast recovery, I knew I had to shift my thinking to gratitude for the fitness FOR and TOWARDS the recovery.

As a matter of reflection, the gym was part of my recovery because it became a goal for me to get back there as soon as possible. I had missed its silent camaraderie among my fellow gym chicks. We are friendly with each other, saying our morning hellos and our quick goodbyes as we run out to start our days in our sweaty workout clothes, but we don’t spend time chatting. We are all there to feel better. To roll our eyes when Kathy, our fearless trainer, barks another order out at us and says at the same time, “This next move is going to suck.” Yes, she says this and she means it and it does suck. But we all do it because we can.
Because we can. To me this is the significance of exercising regularly.

Because I can.

And as long as I can I will. Missing days makes me miss them now, not the other way around. In the past I would miss them because I didn’t feel like it, these days I only miss them because work or a too jam packed schedule didn’t allow the workout time. I am really going to make a conscious effort to improve that. I may not always be able to get to the actual gym, but there is always a walk on a blustery day to shake the garbled brain to a more serene one, movement is so important as I approach my real life mid fifties.

My partner, who is 72 goes to the gym every day. Every day. I am not kidding. He is my role model and my mentor for gym attendance and its value on the soul. When we went to Quebec a few weeks back, we both didn’t realize the stair factor. If you can’t do stairs, you can’t enjoy Quebec- that should be their tagline because to take the stairs is to really appreciate the landscape. As we blasted up and down the stairs for a solid week, as fit as I am, I still had a quickening of my breath. Not my partner, he flew up the stairs and I didn’t hear one speck of short winded huffing.

If that wasn’t a reminder to me that the gym is fitness security, nothing is. What I love about movement is that there is no time like the present.
All we have is the present.