In a world of material beauty, it is often challenging to stay present to the real beauty in the world: love, compassion, kindness — without which the world would surely be a sad, dark, and lonely place…

I remember that my mother, in her vigilant attempt to keep me free from false pride about my own face or figure, would remind me that these were not the important things of life. If one of my parents’ friends would make a fuss about my looks, my mother would take me aside and whisper in my ear, “Just remember, Linda, beauty is as beauty does….”

Still, I spent most of my life enamored of beautiful people, beautiful clothes, and beautiful places and things… I spent most of my career in the fashion business where those things are one’s stock in trade – equally important to any merchandising or marketing talent one might actually have….

I left the fashion business years ago, not without some longing and regret, but always knowing that there was something else for me to do, something new for me to learn, something more for me to “get” about life…

How much I had changed became clear to me when I volunteered at the armory in New York City after 9/11 to work with the victims’ families — Here is a story that captures my altered view of the world….

I was sitting with a family whose husband and father was among the many who had not appeared anywhere after four days…. most people there were left without certainty about what had happened to their loved ones… and it was for the volunteers to sit with them, pray with them, get them some food – be there for them…

I heard someone say, “There’s Elizabeth Taylor!”

I turned, and, sure enough, there was Elizabeth Taylor with an entourage of about three or four people. She had on a long caftan and was walking with a cane. She was speaking with the men in her group and looking around the cavernous hall.

I had seen her in person many years before. When I was at Bloomingdale’s, I had been invited to a fund-raising dinner for an AIDS benefit. I don’t think it was called “AMFAR” yet – it was in the early days of the AIDS pandemic. It was a very elegant, star-studded, fashionable affair.

Elizabeth Taylor was the main draw.

I kept trying to get near her. She had always been my favorite actress, ever since I had seen the film, “National Velvet”. Her affair and subsequent marriage to Richard Burton was the tabloid fodder of my growing-up years. One time, I even drew this sexy black mole near where I had seen that she had one, and, at fifteen, I dyed my hair black and did everything I could to have her hairstyle, her make-up, her face. Alas, those are gifts one is born with, and so I eventually grew out of that phase. But, I never stopped admiring her in the years after I had given up trying to be her. If anything, she had gained more of my admiration for her continued work for AIDS victims.

I spent the whole time at the AIDS event trying to position myself to be near enough that I could see her up close – I wanted to see those violet eyes, that crowd-stopping face. I wanted to hear that whisper-y, sexy, Elizabeth Taylor voice just once in my life!

She had been heavy at some point prior to the event, but now was a very petite, slim woman with enormous breasts – a feature I had never noticed before. I attributed that to her beauty. Her face was so beautiful, and, of course, those eyes! No one in the magazines ever seemed to emphasize the rest of her figure except to report on its weight fluctuations.

I was about ready to give up hope of getting close to her when I was tapped on the shoulder by one of her bodyguards and asked to step to the side. I did and turned around – and there she was.

She was walking in my direction — She stopped to talk to someone about two feet away from me. I was stuck to the ground — I couldn’t take my eyes from her face.

People were pushing me to get near her. Usually, I would have let people get in front of me rather than stand my ground and possibly get trampled.   This time, I pushed back.   No one was getting between Elizabeth and me!

She turned back toward me — her bodyguard touched her arm to urge her onward. As she was turning, she looked right at me. It could only have been for a moment, but it was enough.

I saw them. I looked right at her face — and I saw them. The violet eyes. I felt as if I was close to some fabulous jewels that not everyone would ever get to see and I was one of those lucky ones. Her eyes were all I COULD see – and, they were violet. Beautiful, deep, purple-y violet.

She looked right at me.

As she walked by, she was mere inches away…. I couldn’t believe that I had actually been that close to her. ..

Everyone rushed past me to keep up with her, but I was rooted to the spot. Finally, I turned in time to see her being swept out the door.

Now, here she was again – older, heavier, clearly walking with difficulty, even with her cane. But, the face – there was no mistake. That was Elizabeth Taylor.

She kept looking around and her eyes finally settled on the family I was with. She walked towards us. I was sitting with my arm around the mother of the group. Elizabeth came over and sat down right next to us and then turned her attention to the rest of the family. She started talking to them. The mother had been crying and I had been comforting her — even we stopped to listen.

Her sexy, whisper-y Elizabeth Taylor voice somehow landed for me now as sweet and mellifluous, gentle and loving…

I don’t remember everything she said. She told them that she was so sorry and that she wished that she could do something. She took her hand and put it on the daughter’s cheek. She asked them questions about their father. She listened as they spoke. They asked her to sign their placard with his picture and she graciously did so.

She turned back towards the mother and said something to console her. Then she lifted her head and looked directly into my eyes. I looked back into hers. We were just being there together: Two people, wanting to help, wanting the pain to go away, wanting to make a difference…

I saw her eyes well with tears….

Her bodyguards helped her up and led her away. She looked around as she headed for the front door. She stopped a few more times and spoke to more people, but not for long.

And then she was gone.

It occurred to me…. I hadn’t noticed what color her eyes were…

I’m sure they were as violet and as beautiful as ever….

Something had shifted for me, though…. the beauty I saw that night was her transcendant beauty — a beauty of the heart in service to the world…

As my mother would say, “Beauty is as beauty does…..”

Deliciously yours in the Gorgeousness of it All…. Linda

“The ideals which have lighted me on my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully — have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty”. . . . Albert Einstein

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched … but are felt in the heart.” … Helen Keller

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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ChocolateMartini2Hi, it’s Linda again — and today I want to share with you the luscious “secret” to having your dreams fulfilled… Here’s a hint…. It’s all about what comes out of your mouth….

Your Words have Power and Magic in them…

I’ve often spoken and written about how we create with our Words… I wish I could take credit for that observation – the truth is that all the great traditions have known this for centuries. The Buddha himself said:

“The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care. And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.”

The Buddha lived from around 563 to 483 BC – so this is not new news!

Here’s a yummy story to illustrate my point….

A few years ago, I took the year-long Wisdom Course at Landmark Education. One of the areas that we work on in that course is “What are your dreams?” And the practice was to “Speak your dreams…”

At first, I thought, “Oh, that sounds nice…. but, REALLY….?”

Part of our homework was to make collages of how life “seems” to us… I didn’t realize it at the time, but those conversations that exist in the background of our lives are what keep us from having what we want… If we don’t believe we deserve it — or we say “Oh, that will never happen…,” it’s easy to see that we might just be the ones who are keeping those dreams at bay…. Out there, just beyond our reach…

My collages were very dramatic and dire…. I didn’t realize that I was holding it that I had “lost” so many things in my life…. even though, many of those very things I had chosen to leave behind: my glamorous career in the fashion business, going to fashion shows all over the world, staying in the most beautiful hotels, dinners with famous designers, living in a beautiful apartment off Park Avenue, my beautiful house on the beach in the Hamptons, and so on… and so on….

As I started to work on my collages, I started to come up with themes like, “It seems like I have destroyed everything that I love,” “It seems like I had my chance and I blew it,” and “It seems like I will never live in beauty again….”

As I worked on that last one, I noticed a picture on the worktable – it was a picture of an ancient temple, over-grown with vines and with big white trees growing up through the walls…. It spoke to me of a former grandeur that was no more…

“Like my life…”, I thought.

I grabbed the picture up from the table, turned to my group and said, “Who cut this out? Where is this? Does anyone need this one?”

Everyone said, “No, take it…. we don’t know what that is….”

I placed it carefully on my collage — it seemed to fit perfectly…..

We did other work with those collages – and I was able to shift my conversation about myself from how I had lost everything into “I am always triumphant!” It was a glorious moment for me when I got that for myself….

A few months later, I was invited to a special screening of a film created by two of the other participants in the Wisdom Course. The film is called “New Year Baby” and it is the director’s own story of her family’s survival and escape from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

This award-winning film moved me to tears… By the time it was over, I wanted to know more about Cambodia, more about what happened during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, more about the director, Socheata Poeuv, whose story it was, and her co-writer and producer, Charles Vogl….

As I was speaking with Charles about Cambodia and how fascinating it was to me, he said, “We’re going with a group to Cambodia in February… Too bad I didn’t know earlier that you would be so interested… The trip is full…. Don’t worry, we’ll probably go again next year…”

I remember saying, longingly, “Oh, I really want to go…!”

The week after, my coach in the Wisdom course asked me to show my collages to the rest of the group and to tell them what I got from them. As I showed the collage titled, “It seems like I will never live in beauty again…”, a friend in the group, Deborah, pointed at the picture of the ancient temple and said, “I’ve been there!”

I just stared at her, “Where is that?” I said….

Deborah answered, “It’s in Cambodia….”

I got chills up and down my spine…

I looked at the board again, and I said, without thinking, “I’m going there…”

Three days later, Charles Vogl called me. He told me that three people had dropped out of the trip to Cambodia and did I want to come?

It was too perfect. I said “Yes” before I even asked how much it was!

I spent the next two months generating the money to go… it seemed almost effortless… “Effortless” is the way things seem to me when I am certain that I am on the right path. Obstacles dropped by the wayside, apartments closed with ease, the commission checks I needed to come through for the trip – Well, they just did…

I went to Cambodia for 10 days in February of 2007 – with 22 of the most wonderful people I have ever known. It was an adventure from beginning to end… both exciting and – at one point, scary – when one of the jeeps we were riding in on the way to a temple in the North, swung out of control and wound up flipping over several times to land upside down in a ditch on the side of the road. Charles’ parents were hurt and air-lifted to Bangkok, while Charles and my other friend, Ron, suffered less severe injuries – the jeep driver had to be taken to the hospital and remained there for months….

Several days into the trip, we visited a temple called “Ta Proehm.” Immediately, I recognized that this temple, with the white trees growing out of the walls, was the one from my collage. As I walked through the temple grounds, I felt myself becoming more and more captured by my surroundings… with each step, my anticipation grew…

Finally, I turned a corner…. and there it was… the very scene in my collage….

I couldn’t move… I was overwhelmed that I was standing there, in the very spot in which the photographer must have been standing when he took the picture… I felt led to that moment from the beginning of my journey so many months before….. The scene was awesome, a Presence palpable — how old the temple was and how many centuries it must have taken for the trees to grow up through the walls, how beautiful it all was…

“How beautiful it all was…!” As the thought struck me, I realized that my collage was titled, “It seems that I will never live in beauty again….” and here I was, standing in the midst of that raw, natural beauty – and I was a part of it….

A few of my friends who knew the story, came over to me… “This is it, isn’t it?”

I could hardly speak….”Yes… yes… this is it…..”

That moment will live forever in my memory… not only that I had manifested a dream by getting everything out of the way that prevented it from coming true… but that it had come true in an even greater way than I could ever have imagined…. to show me that what I once thought of as “over” and “lost” was really a new beginning….

Deliciously yours in the Grandeur of it All, Linda

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” …Goethe

Ta Proehm2This is Ta Proehm in Cambodia, February, 2007 — A temple that had been lost in the jungle for centuries — when it was rediscovered, the government decided to leave it in it’s natural beauty rather than to clean it up as it did Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples of the ancient Khmer civilization. They are both magnificent….. Ta Proehm is also the temple in which Angelina Jolie shot many of the scenes for her first “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” movie…

If you want to know more about “New Year Baby,” the film that got me to Cambodia, please visit www.newyearbaby.net.

 

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© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

Hi, it’s Linda here again… back from a visit with my son, Josh, and Oh, what a delicious visit it was….!

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love Josh!   He is the Great Blessing of my life…   AND, it hasn’t always been easy between us….

Let me first tell you that the dream of my life was always to have a child…   I can pinpoint the moment I knew…

One night when I was 12, I was babysitting at our neighbors’  across the street. They had a tiny baby.  I had never babysat a “real” baby before.  I thought he would sleep the whole time, but he didn’t. He cried and cried and cried – that little “new-baby-cry” that sounded like he couldn’t catch his breath.

I was afraid to touch him.

I called my mother and begged her to come over.  She did.  She went into the baby’s room, picked him up and put him on the changing table. I stood next to her as she opened his diaper. She never said a word, but she stopped for a minute and so I looked. What I saw was disgusting to my 12 year old sensibilities – the baby was raw from his waist to his knees, the diaper reeked of urine, and brown poop lay slathered over the red skin like warrior markings.

My mother started to do what I knew she knew best – taking care of children who couldn’t take care of themselves. She was ever so gentle as she cleaned that baby up. As she took care of him, he started to calm down. She put Vaseline all over him – thick layers of the stuff to block out the hurt and the pain. He stopped crying. She diapered him and picked him up. She rocked him on her shoulder, patting his back and crooning to him, until he fell asleep. She put him back in his crib.

I was in awe of her.

I decided, right then, that I was going to have a baby and I was going to be a mother just like my mother – and no child of mine was ever going to feel hurt or pain…

Ever…

And, well….  It doesn’t always go like that, does it?

For years, when Josh was little, it seemed that life was easy and happy – I joke that the three of us were like “The Three Musketeers”, always together, full of adventure and fun…

Life didn’t go on like that forever… Fred and I started to lose who we were in our marriage… we did what we did and we knew Josh had a hard time with that…

Separation and divorce are never easy for a child, no matter how old they are…

For Josh, well… he had to go through it twice…

Fred and I first separated when he was six years old. We stayed apart for two years and then we wanted to try again to make our marriage work…

The next six years were progressively painful for all of us. By the time Fred and I separated the second time, Josh was fourteen…

He chose to live with his Dad…

Since then, Josh and I have been riding a roller-coaster of emotion, trying to repair what neither of us dared to even speak of…

A pattern emerged out of the way we were together… if I said “black,” he said “white”… and then I would spend a lot of time defending “black” as if being a good mother were at stake…

Oh, we loved each other, for sure… that was never in doubt… we just weren’t always present to the love…  As a result, we didn’t have an easy, comfortable way with each other… we were both anxious, tentative, and finally…  automatic…

“Hi, Josh, it’s Mom… How’s work?”

“It’s fine. How are you?”

There would be a bit of news on either side… then…

Silence.

“Ok, Honey… I’ll let you go… I love you…!”

“Love you, too, Mom…”

Click.

When we agreed that I’d come to Minneapolis for a visit, I was determined that this time it would be different. I was committed to shift something in this relationship. I wasn’t willing to let it go on like this for one more minute…

I was willing to do anything to create the space for that to happen…

I cleared myself with a few of my committed listeners.   My friends were ruthlessly compassionate with me:   “Linda, you are either going to spend your life defending and explaining or you are going to listen to him and love him no matter what he says.   You can’t have both…”

A little scared… off I went to Minneapolis…

I started on Saturday by saying, “Josh, I know that there is something between us…”

He interrupted me, “Mom, not here at breakfast… Let’s go home and talk about this….”

When we got to his apartment, I tried again, “Josh, you can say anything you want to say to me…   I am here to listen…”

And, listen I did… for hours….

What he said is not for here… and it’s not what is at the heart of the matter, anyway… What IS the essence – the life — is that the way he saw it is the way it happened for him — and I needed to get that…

It was not easy. He spoke of things from when he was 9, when he was 13 – and times before, after, and in-between…

There were moments I wanted to jump in and say, “No, that’s not what happened…” and I remembered my friends’ caution… “Whatever way it is for him is the way it is for him… Just BE with it… That is the only way to honor him…”

Every time I wanted to correct his perception, I watched myself WANT to do that — and what went through my mind was, “this is not about being right about anything… this is about loving him…”

The more I listened, the more he said…

By four in the afternoon, we were both quiet….

What I did finally say was, “Josh, I am committed to having an extraordinary relationship with you….”

And, he said:

“Mom, I am committed to having an extraordinary relationship with you, too….”

We stopped the “heavy stuff” and proceeded to have a great weekend… He cooked for me, we watched a movie on TV and I scratched his head like I always did when he was a little boy….

The next day, he was still impatient with me and I was still trying too hard to be a “good mother”…

Old patterns die hard….

But, something had shifted… something transformed…. the impatience was more playful, the “good mother” was not so righteous… or needy…

He drove me to the airport early Monday morning. As I kissed him “Good-bye” and turned to go… I knew that we had done something huge that weekend…  I was at peace.

If anyone had told me when I was 12 that I could ever hurt my child or cause him pain, I would have said that it was not possible….

What I learned is that there are other ways to hurt a child besides leaving him in a urine-soaked diaper…

We do what we do in any moment because that is our level of consciousness at that time…

It is a gift to be able to grow in awareness… to take responsibility for what we have done and to acknowledge the impact it has on the people around us… and commit to something new, something greater, something full of love and compassion for who they are….

And… for who WE are…

Anything is possible now for me and Josh ….

I have no idea what that looks like…

Now, THAT’S an adventure worth having…

Deliciously yours in the Glory of it All,  Linda

“Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older,
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise, sunset…
Sunrise, sunset…
Swiftly flow the years.
One season following another,
Laiden with happiness and tears.”
…from “Fiddler on the Roof”

This is my son, Josh Feuer…  An amazing man, if I do say so — and not just because I’m his mother…..  xoxo

How did I learn to listen like this?  See www.landmarkeducation.com.

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