My lower back doesn’t hurt anymore. It’s been hurting for seven years. I’ve been to chiropractors, physical therapists, fabulous massage therapists, who alleviate the pain for a day or so – and it feels so good to go to them and have them dig into that pain that never seems to go away — and it does go away for a while – but it always comes back. I kept Aleve in business just trying to get some temporary relief. I walked stooped over, and my son would laugh as I ran for the subway, telling me that I had that “old lady shuffle.” My back hurting made me look old and feel old and I hated it.

My back doesn’t hurt anymore. I almost don’t believe it myself, except that – there it is. I walk straight up, I exercise, I feel good all the time. It’s a miracle.  I know.  A lot of people don’t believe in miracles, but I believe in miracles – and that’s what counts.

A month ago, Pope Francis came to New York City.  I so wanted to go to the mass at Madison Square Garden, but my church had only 20 tickets and they pulled them out of a box, lottery style, and I wasn’t one of the winners. I was so disappointed. I thought I wouldn’t get to see him.

Nevertheless, I was excited that Pope Francis was coming – I love him. What he says and how he says it is so “Christ-like” – loving, compassionate, certain, but not demanding, humanistic and spiritual at the same time, raising us all to a new level of consciousness. What an amazing thing it would be to be in his presence!

My friend, Karen, posted on her Facebook page that she had two tickets to see the Pope in Central Park – did anyone want them? I was quick to say, “Me! Me, I want them!” And, so, I was going to see the Pope after all!

I called my friend, Victoria, with whom I have experienced many revelatory moments, spent many days with her in spiritual practice, and who I just love, period. I offered her the second ticket and she said “Yes.”

We made plans to meet on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near where our entrance to the park was to be. I guess we must have had visions of sauntering into the park, finding a spot to relax on the grass, and wait for a few hours for His Holiness to roll on by.

How naïve we were! We entered the beginning of the line on Columbus Avenue, a block from Central Park, thinking that we would just follow the line and walk on in. When the line reached Central Park West, we were both amazed to see that there was tape up, creating a maze of a line that wound back and forth about four times before ever reaching the security checkpoint at the Southern tip of the park.

Victoria had brought these foam covered floor seats, which had a back that you could pull up to create a back rest – Oh, how comfortable we were going to be when we got into that park! In the meantime, however, we had to carry them straight and unfolded, so that it looked like we were each carrying a three-and-a-half or four-foot long foam navy pillow. It tucked under my arm and almost hit the ground and there was only a little piece of fabric-flap to hang onto in case we wanted to switch the way we were holding them. The longer we carried them, the heavier they got until I felt prompted to say, hours later, that we were carrying our own crosses to Golgotha.

Yes, hours later. We were on line for FOUR hours. It was the longest four hours of my life, childbirth notwithstanding. And, for every minute that passed, my back was hurting more and more. I thought it was just me until Victoria announced that it was starting to feel like “back labor.” I nodded my head in agreement and said, “Yes, but just like back labor, you know that it goes away the minute you see your baby! So, let’s just think of this as the labor to see the Pope and, the minute we see him, this will all go away and become a memory.” People around us laughed, but someone told me later that they were motivated to go on just because I said that.

As we were waiting near the checkpoint, we started to see people pointing sky-ward and an amazed murmuring went through the crowd. I looked up to see the tiniest of rainbows, right over Central Park. There was no rain, and very few clouds, and it wasn’t really a full rainbow – it was just a little curved arch between two cloud streams that almost looked like tracks or curbs by the side of the road. From one curb to the other was this little “rain-arch.” Everyone was taking pictures. It was another miracle, surely.

We finally got to the security checkpoint and went into the park. Then we had to find a place in that sea of humanity to actually get a view of the road that the Pope would be traveling on – that was not easy. There were 80,000 people in the park that day, in three different sections, so easily there were over 25,000 people in our area.

We did finally find a spot that was high up on a mound of a hill and not too far from the gates that would keep us separated from him when he made his turn through the Southern part of the park, just before he turned out of the park to go down Seventh Avenue to say mass at Madison Square Garden.

Victoria opened her seat and plopped down to claim her space and I opened mine too, but I was afraid to sit down for fear I’d miss him.

We heard the murmuring that he had entered the park in the North corner and shortly afterwards, there was this wild roar: yelling and applauding even before he rounded the curve into sight. The minute I heard the crowd, I couldn’t control how overwhelmed with emotion I was – I was crying and I felt as if I could not stand – but stand, I did. Victoria asked me if I was crying from pain or crying from Joy. “Joy! Joy! Joy!” I yelled out.

I saw him.  It was just as I predicted, the pain was gone and all I could see was this beautiful figure in white in his Pope-mobile, waving to everyone. The car curved around the southern end of the park where we were and pulled to the side of the road. Everyone started running to the wire fence, including me and Victoria, but I pulled her back at the last minute – I didn’t want us to be trapped against that fence if anyone pushed too hard.

There was a rock mound about ten feet from the fence and I pulled Victoria up there and we had a clear view of Pope Francis leaving his Pope-mobile to walk to his car for the drive down Seventh Avenue. He looked as if this white light was shining in Central Park that afternoon.  My heart felt so full that I thought it would burst. Yes, just like seeing my son for the first time.

Pope Francis passed out of Central Park and we heard the crowds along Seventh Avenue start to roar as he drove into sight there.   Victoria and I opened our seats and sat on another rock to wait until the crowd dispersed a bit. After all that standing, we didn’t want to have to fight our way through 25,000 people to get out of the park.

Everyone looked “in the glow.” I heard some people make fun of it — or of themselves: “Well, I guess I’m enlightened now, ha ha!” People were smiling and happy and Victoria and I were blissed out, for sure. At one point, she leaned over and whispered to me, “Do you think that they would have voted him in as Pope if they had known how ‘Christ-like’ he would be?” I don’t have an answer for that. What I do know is that there was a peace in the park that day that 80,000 people couldn’t put a dent into with whatever opinions, political views, or any other differences we all have as human beings.

Seeing Pope Francis changed me. No, it transformed me. I was a different person when I walked out of that park than I was when I walked in – my faith is deeper, my belief is stronger, my heart is bigger.

And, my back doesn’t hurt. It hasn’t hurt since that day. I sometimes feel stunned that it doesn’t after all those years of pain, and I find it hard to believe that the experience of  of all that pain, waiting to see the Pope —  and then seeing the Pope — should make such a difference.

All I know is that it did. I am pain free.

That whole day was a miracle, his whole visit was a miracle – the way he made people feel, whether it was a physical healing or the fact that people were nicer to each other, it doesn’t matter.

I saw the little rainbow over Central Park and my back doesn’t hurt anymore. Call it what you will, but I know that I stood in the presence of a Holy person – a great holy man — and that was a miracle.

Deliciously yours in the Love that is all, Linda

 

For the original post, “Confessions of a Darshan Junkie…” when I went to India and visited Sai Baba’s ashram, here is the link:  https://spiritualchocolate.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/confessions-of-a-darshan-junkie/

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drama_masks I am in London, one of my favorite cities on earth: the history, the buildings, the English people, everything about this place charms me. I love the big taxis that I have a challenge getting in and out of, but once I’m in, they’re big and roomy and the drivers are pleasant and chatty in that lovely English way of speaking (clearly, they don’t think it’s an accent — they speak “Proper” English, the Queen’s English!), and I listen and just swoon with delight!

I’m here for a Landmark Education course called “The World is Your Stage.” It is affectionately called, “the acting course”; and, yes, it is sort of about acting, but more about who you’re being in the world. I’ve been doing Landmark Education courses since 2005, and they are ALL about who you are being and the possibilities your way of being opens up for you in your life. This one happens to be through the lens of acting.

One of the leaders of the course is Werner Erhard, the man who created Erhard Seminar Trainings in the 1970’s, better known as EST. I didn’t do the training then. Transcendental Meditation, or TM, was also introduced to the United States at that time, mostly by The Beatles, who studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and I decided that was more for me than EST — no weekends in a room without bathroom breaks for me! Those are the stories I heard and I thought, “What kind of course makes those kinds of demands?” I didn’t even hear the stories of the breakthroughs people had about their lives — because I didn’t want to; I didn’t think my life needed a breakthrough — my attitude was “Who needs that?”

The answer to that is, I did. My ego was so firmly entrenched that anything that spoke of growth and change was a threat to me. TM was so calming — I didn’t even do it for the spiritual value; I did it for the peacefulness it gave me. I meditate to this day, but it now is part of my spiritual practice.

My life went on: I lost a baby, I had a baby, I left the fashion business, I left my husband, my son left me — with the cat — and I suffered from depression for many years, trying every medication under the sun to get me to a place of “normal” so that I could actually function in life.

I finally did the Landmark Forum in April, 2005, and then continued with LE courses after that because every single one provided some amazing breakthrough, some fabulous shift for me. By that time, Werner was long gone — “run out of town,” so to speak, by a horrible “60 Minutes” segment that accused him of some not very nice things, which caused quite a stir. Those accusations were later refuted and retracted — he never did any of it, people recanted, the IRS admitted they were wrong, all of which never made the front pages, but was buried in the back of the newsfeed. The harm was done and Werner sold his company to his employees, who changed the name to Landmark Education, he left the United States — and for a very long time, no one heard from him.

Still, I wondered at those who spoke of Werner with such love and devotion that it almost landed for me as “guru-esque” — something that has never appealed to me. I wondered, “how could a person have been so vilified by one segment of the population and loved so profoundly by so many others?” I was curious about him, but no more than that.

Last November, when I went to hear Werner speak on a new model of Leadership at NYU’s Skirball Center, he wasn’t on the stage 5 minutes before I got the charisma, the love, the sheer power and Being of the man — and I saw why everyone loves him so much — and I remember feeling what a disservice “60 Minutes” did to the rest of the world to reduce him to some I-don’t-know-what. What a cowardly thing to do in the name of news! They robbed the rest of us, for a short time anyway, of the love and devotion that Werner has for humanity — his commitment to what’s possible for human beings. At the end of that evening in Skirball Center, I was so touched and moved and inspired by him to live a great life, a life that in some measure could do what he has done for millions — which is to be the thought leader that he is… to make a contribution to people. His love for us just beamed out over the audience in the way I felt when I remember Martin Luther King, when I went to Sai Baba’s ashram, how I feel when I get my hugs from Amma.

And, now this weekend: To see how much he loves people, up close and personal. LOVES US. Every minute was a moment spent taking us to another level — to see what life could be for us: joyful, fulfilled, all of it. The way he’d kiss someone on the forehead or on top of the head, like a father comforting a child or rewarding a child was so touching. You know he means every word out of his mouth. His commitment to us was palpable — is palpable. And, he can spot bullshit a mile away — and dismantle it. One of the distinctions of this course is “I am loved,” which, for me, landed as spiritual. AND, I know — I mean KNOW in the deepest place in my being — that one of those who loves us simply because we are human, just the way we are and just the way we’re not — is Werner Erhard. It was an honor and a priviledge to be in the room with him.

Since the course was over on Sunday night, I’ve been through a range of emotions: loss, sadness, regret about some of the things I’ve done in my life; on to getting complete with those items, either by writing about them, or crying as I looked out my window at my view of Parliament and Big Ben; and got for myself that all these things I want to do — and don’t, all these dreams I have for myself — and don’t move toward them — these are all now integrity issues for me. I gave my Word to myself about so many things — writing my book, losing weight, having a relationship, getting rid of all my clutter — and I just haven’t done what I said I would do, and so I’m out of integrity with myself that I don’t live the life I want to live.

I thank Werner and the other leaders of that course, for having me see what there is to do now in the world; to see now what is possible for me in my life — simply by Being who I really am.

I think people are afraid of people who love so much, who contribute so much, who are not afraid to disrupt the status quo and shake things up — because then they might have to change, too. Not because Werner makes them change, or rather, transform; because, after being with people like this, you can no longer be satisfied with a small life — it’s simply not fulfilling. What is possible appears before me as my destiny as one who is already my Greatness — I, you — we just don’t know it yet. Werner reminds us — and that can be very threatening. Just as Martin Luther King was threatening, just as Gandhi was threatening — in fact, just as Christ was threatening.

After this weekend, I realized that not finishing this book I’m writing would not only be playing small, but it would be a cop-out in life. This “playing small” is now an integrity issue for me.

I’ve been with people who play big. I’ve been with Werner, who plays BIG. And, what he taught me is: that playing BIG is here for ALL PEOPLE.

Now, I am one of those people who loves him and is devoted to him. And, happy to be that.

Deliciously yours in the LOVE that is All, Linda

The header picture above is the view from my room here in London. I hear Big Ben chiming as I lay in my bed and think about what I’ve learned here, how I’ve transformed here, how my future rolls out in front of me as the beautiful future that it is!

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2014. 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 ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you

thegoldengatebridge.jpgI just returned from a whirlwind tour of California, starting with the Conference For Global Transformation in San Francisco; up to Marin to see my friend, Patty, and her boys; then flew down to Los Angeles to catch up with my former New York City movie-buddy and dear friend, David, who lives in Rio most of the time, but home-base in the US is now his hometown of Hermosa Beach.  Then, we hopped down to Carlsbad to visit our friend and teacher, Paul and his husband, Gino, in their gorgeous Italian villa on the ocean.   A wonderful ride to Solana Beach with dear Amalia, who cooks for Paul, but also has the most magical Italian restaurant along the coast called “Caffe Positano.”  She regaled me with stories of her childhood in the kitchen on the Amalfi coast, ending with, “I was born on the kitchen table!”

Amalia dropped me off at Solana Beach where I was picked up for my weekend in La Jolla by my friend of (do I dare admit the number?) MANY years, my sweet Cecelia.  I met her husband for the first time in the 28 years they’ve been together — it seemed so odd because, every time we get together, it’s as if no time has passed at all.  When she said, “28 years,” I felt as if I was knocked back off my heels — has it been that long that we haven’t been in each other’s lives?  Time seems to pass so much faster as we get older — and, well – life happens in the meantime.

As I look at the trip in retrospect, I feel as if I was lost in the Fellini  movie, “Satyricon,” an Encolpius of the Left coast, wandering from doorway to doorway, dipping into people’s lives, but only for a moment; a day or two to renew our love — and then moving on — for me, the journey was not made in darkness, but in the Light — the sunny light of California, the light of my friends and their familes, the light of my love for them.

While in Marin, I had made plans to have lunch in San Francisco with my friend and mentor, Barbara.  I used to work for her – and, from the first day we met, I admired her, and soon grew to love her.  She has her own life, but she is ever a presence in the background of my mind — a role-model, a supporter, a woman totally without guile — who has given her life to service.  We don’t see each other often, but when we do, I always feel renewed, I feel seen and known for who I am and not for whatever circumstances I’m going through.

I found that I could take the Larkspur Ferry from right near Patty’s house in Marin and it would come in at the famous Ferry Building along the Embarcadero in San Francisco.  Barbara gave me instructions to meet her for lunch two piers down from there.

I boarded the ferry and tried to find a place outside so I could take in everything about the ride.  I noticed I was the only one standing on the deck, so I asked why.  One of the ferrymen explained to me that it was very windy and I would soon be soaking wet from the water spray as we sped along the bay.  Reluctantly, I went below and looked around for the best vantage point to see my first view of the San Francisco skyline.  I saw an empty seat across the boat with two seats open — what I cared about was the seat by the window and so I took it and settled myself in.

Behind me sat a little boy, not more than three, and his father.  As the ferry pulled out, the little boy was very excited about the ferry ride and kept asking when we were going to go fast.  His father was patient and loving in his explanations:

“Do you see those polls?  We can’t go fast until we pass the last pole.”

“Why not, Daddy?”

“We have to stay in the channel until we’re out in the bay”

“What’s a channel?”

“It’s like a roadway.  It’s deeper here so the ferry can get through.”

“But, why do we have to go so slow.  I can’t wait until we can go FAST!”

“Well, we don’t want to hurt the birds and the fish and the animals who live in the shallow water here.  We have to be careful.”

On cue, I saw a little bird, or maybe it was a baby duck, not twenty feet from the ferry.  Without thinking, I just chimed up, “See?  Like that one!”

There was silence for a moment and I was sorry that I had said anything that would stop that little baby voice from speaking. Not to worry — I was soon forgotten in the excitement of the ride.

“Is it almost the last pole, Daddy?  Will we go fast soon?

“Yes, very soon.”

Just before we reached the last pole, we passed San Quentin on the other side of the boat.  “What’s THAT, Daddy?”

“It’s where they keep the bad people — the people who committed crimes and now have to live there so they don’t hurt any of us.”  I noticed this father wasn’t talking baby talk and wasn’t mincing words.  He wasn’t making everything pretty.  He also wasn’t making it ugly.  He was simply telling his son the way it is.  I liked that.

Soon the father spotted the last post, “Get ready now!!  That’s the last post!  We’re going to take off, fast, fast, fast.”  I felt myself bracing and, sure enough, the minute we passed the last pole, that ferry shot out into the bay as if it were launched from a catapult, skimming it out over the water towards San Francisco.

I kept listening.

“Daddy, is that the gold bridge?”  The Golden Gate Bridge was off to the right in the distance so we couldn’t see it’s red color.

“It’s the Golden Gate Bridge.  Remember, when we go over it, it’s red and not gold?  It’s called the Golden Gate because it stands like a gate to allow the boats to come in and out of the harbor.”

“Does it open?”

“No, it doesn’t have to.  You can’t see it from here, but it’s very high up in the air, so the boats have no problem sailing under it.”

Alcatraz Island came into view outside our window.  “What’s that, Daddy?”

“That’s another place where they used to keep the bad people.  It’s not a prison anymore.  We can go visit there.  Do you want to go?”

He wasn’t so sure about that.  It seemed he was thinking about whether he wanted to go where bad people used to hang out.  “I don’t know,” he said.

Pretty soon, the ferry rounded Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco skyline came into view.  I wanted to take pictures, but the windows weren’t clean and they had drops of water on them.  Well, good, I thought — more time for me to be present to this view of the city.

The skyline is breathtaking.  I had never seen it from this vantage point before. San Francisco laid out before me in the late morning sun:  downtown and the Transamerica Building stretching out and up to start the seven rolling hills towards the Presidio and Golden Gate Park and the entrance to the bridge.  I’ve climbed those hills many times and never realized before how long the distance is.  I was mesmerized by the architecture; by the vision of this beautiful city by the bay.

“Look, Daddy!  There it is!!! San Francisco!  That’s MY city!!!”

“Yes. that’s it.  That’s San Francisco.  Isn’t it beautiful?  And, in every one of those buildings, there are people living and working.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that the boy had squirmed himself up to a kneeling position with his nose pressed against the glass:

“That’s my BEE-YOO-TE-FUL city, Daddy!  And, it’s filled with BEE-YOU-TE-FUL people!”

Transformation happens in an instant, the great sages tell us – and it happened for me in that moment.  San Francisco, beautiful as it is, transformed into a city filled with people — I could not look at the buildings and see a skyline anymore.  What I saw was people rushing to work, mothers taking care of their children, art being mounted in the museums, people eating, happy people, sad people, families, struggling people, lonely people.  That was it:  humanity, in all its precious forms, everyone unique and yet the same in our striving to live a happy life.  How silly and sad and human and sweet and endearing we are to try to live the best life possible and really, you know?  It’s all meaningless — we make life mean what it means for us…. And, for every person in those buildings, I felt compassion — I felt this enormous love.

I was enchanted by the city, by the people I didn’t know, by this little boy and his dad, by the sun shining on the bay…

The spell was broken as we pulled into the Ferry Building and we all prepared to disembark.    I got up and turned around to address the father and the son who had made such a huge difference in my life and they didn’t even know it:

“I want to tell you both how magical it has been for me to sit in front of you for this ride.  It was glorious to see this city the way your son sees it.”

The father didn’t know what to say:  “I hope he didn’t talk so much to bother you.”

“Oh, no!  Goodness!  He made my trip.  I will never think of San Franscisco the same way again… with any luck, I’ll never think of any city the same way again!  Thank you.”

I moved across the ferry to wait for the doors to open as the father went to get his son’s stroller.  I turned away for a moment and then I heard it:  “Bye, bye, Lady.”  I turned back around to see my little guru waving at me with a big smile on his face.  I waved back, all smiles and luscious happiness.

I turned to walk out and down the gangplank into a different world than the one I imagined when I got on that ferry. Life looked cleaner, richer, more loving. I felt fulfilled for no reason at all.

I will never be the same again.

Deliciously yours in the Wonder of it All, Linda

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2014. 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 ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you

quantum-physics-pic

I LOVE this book!  After years of spiritual seeking and experiencing what many have called impossible miracles in my life, someone told me about this book and I had to have it.  I had to do the experiments!  What I discovered in the doing of the exercises was profound — not simply because they work, but because what I discovered about myself in the process is that I don’t see the blessings around me in my daily life.

Pam Grout’s writing is easy and funny and she says what I often think:  “I hate to break it to ya, FP (Field of all Possibilities, what I commonly refer to as God), but folks are starting to talk.  They’re starting to wonder, ‘Is this guy for real?’  I mean, really, like it’d be so much skin off your chin to come down here and call off this crazy hide-and-seek thing you’ve been playing.  I’m giving you exactly 48 hours to make your presence known.  I want a thumbs-up, a clear sign, something that cannot be written off as coincidence.”

And, so began my adventure — the adventure to find that consciousness trumps matter, that we create the world with our minds.  Indeed!

I followed the instructions.  I asked for a sign, a gift, within 48 hours – something that could come no other way but from God.  Then, I waited.

As it happened, that weekend, I was at Menla Mountain House to be in a workshop given by Howard Cutler on “The Art of Happiness.”  He’s written a book by the same name with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  I was curious to meet someone who has spent so much time in the Dalai Lama’s presence.  I marveled at how a Doctor of Psychiatry could gain so much access to one of the holiest men on earth.  I wondered what he was like, how he would be.  I was expecting big and charismatic, like Robert Thurman, who runs Menla and Tibet House in NYC, and is also a friend of the Dalai Lama.

What I found is that Howard Cutler, with his gasping breath and soft voice, first occurred for me as surprisingly artless, almost childlike.  As the weekend progressed and I listened to him speak about working with the Dalai Lama, and then doing the exercises and meditations that he taught to us that would cultivate happiness in our lives, I started to see him as truly ingenuous: naïve, almost, with an innocence that reminded me of the Dalai Lama, himself – as well as other highly spiritual people, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Satya Sai Baba.

The weekend was glorious, the meditations delicious, and the small group of women, twelve in all, sweetly intimate and loving – I was so happy I had come.  I had forgotten about looking for my gift – I was enjoying the weekend so much.

At the end of the seminar, Howard announced that he had “graduation presents” for us.  We all laughed as he pulled out boxes of gourmet jelly beans for each of us.  Then, he told us that he had a special gift for us: he revealed a small silver box that he opened to offer us a Tibetan Blessing Bead.  He instructed us to be careful how we picked ours out of the box – they are very tiny and easily dropped, and the rug was multi-patterned – if we dropped our blessing bead, we would have a hard time finding it in the folds of that rug.

As he walked the tiny box around the room for us to select our bead, he explained that blessing beads are very rare and valuable in Tibet – a Tibetan farmer might trade, oh, say, twenty yak just for one tiny bead.  He approached me so I could select my little bead and he continued talking to the group: “What makes these even more valuable is that I had them blessed for you by the Dalai Lama.”  We all “ooh-ed” and “ah-hd” and were very impressed.  I held my tiny bead in my hand, debating whether to put it under my tongue now or wait until later.

We said our good-byes… I am always sorry when a program at Menla is over.  It is such a special world there – a holy valley where the world seems so very far away and love reigns supreme.  As I walked out of the conference center, I decided to pop my blessing bead in my mouth and savor these last moments at Menla with the added blessing of this precious gift.

Gift.

Precious gift.

Blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

It hit me like a bolt out of the blue.  This was it – my gift, delivered within the 48 hours and blessed by the Dalai Lama – what could be more of a message that this was a divine sign from God? – the very sign I had asked for.

Yes.

My very next thought?  Why didn’t I get that right away?  Why did it take me the ten minutes it took to gather my things and walk out of the center to really get it what a blessing this was?  What was I expecting?

Ah, yes.  I was expecting something material – a gift from a friend, maybe; an invitation to something I really wanted to go to.  Nothing so simple as a little blessing bead, for which Tibetan farmers would trade twenty yak – probably more if it was blessed by the Dalai Lama.

What an insight into myself.  I’m embarrassed to admit it except that, at least, I got this about myself – and could choose to be different in that moment.  I vowed never to take my blessings for granted ever again.

I went back to my room and quickly opened the book to the lab page that Pam Grout supplies at the end of each chapter – so that I could write down the results of my first experiment.  And, then I saw it.  What I had read as “gift” really said, “blessing.”  The Hypothesis read:  “If there’s a 24/7 energy force equally available to everyone, I can access it at any time simply by paying attention.  Furthermore, if I ask the force for a blessing, giving it a specific time frame and clear instructions, it’ll send me a gift and say, ‘My pleasure’” (italics and bold are mine).

Now, I am eagerly doing the other experiments.  They’re fun, they’re easy, and Pam Grout is so funny about things quantum, things spiritual, that it has renewed my faith in that God does have a sense of humor!

READ THIS BOOK!  It will change your world.  You will change your world!

Deliciously yours in the Gorgeous Gift Wrapping of it All, Linda

http://www.hayhousebooknook.com/PBook/Blogger/SpiritualChocolate

 

deep-purple-water-lilies-pictureThe priest was very stern with all of us that Sunday: “Don’t think that you can come to church and be pious; and, then, walk out of here and treat your brothers and sisters like dirt, that you can be mean and greedy and angry and selfish – and, then, waltz right back in here next Sunday – and feel that you are a good Christian. You are not.”

He was angry. I don’t know what set him off, but something did. This was the most vehement homily I had ever heard. He continued: “Your life is out there, outside these doors. That’s where you need to be a model of Christian behavior – that is where you will be seen, with your brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, the poor and needy, the grieving and confused. ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ That is the Christ message and you need to do that to be a good Christian.”

He left us with this instruction: “Go out there and live your life as if God was watching every minute – because He is. When you meet someone who needs your help, give it. When you see someone who is in distress, comfort them. When you know that someone needs to know you love them, tell them.”

Finally – “Do not rest until someone says, ‘I see the Face of Christ in you.’”

What do you say to that?

I thought to myself, “No one goes around telling people that they see the Face of Christ in them. How on earth do I do that?”

I left church that day and didn’t give it another thought. I was having a hard time that summer – it was all I could do to stay present to my own faith and hope and turning my life around as everything seemed to go wrong around me. I had rented my apartment and was staying at my brother’s farm in New Jersey until I could create something new for myself. But, it seemed that, everywhere I turned, something was falling apart. The last straw came when my laptop computer, from which I did all of my business, crashed and burned. That’s almost literal – there was a strange, smoky smell coming from it as it wound itself down into blackness.

I felt as if I had nothing more to lose.

That wasn’t true, of course. I had my son’s jeep for the summer and had called old friends to catch up – the ones who lived in New Jersey, anyway. Now that I had a car and could travel, I called everyone I knew and made plans to see them.

One of the people I called was my friend, Diane. I had met her on a trip we took to Cambodia in 2007 with a group of film makers who had created the documentary, “New Year Baby,” about a friend’s family that fled the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to settle in the United States.

It was a glorious trip, visiting all the temples out of Siam Reap, going on safari in the Cambodian countryside to see things most visitors don’t see – the old monks in the village who didn’t know how old they were, the young children running in the streets, trying to sell bags and jewelry to make enough money to go to school, the boat ride in the Mekong River where Cambodia and Vietnam meet, to see the people who live on the boats and almost never come on land.

One pre-dawn morning in Northern Cambodia, sitting on the stones at the bottom of a temple, up which all our fellow travelers had climbed to see the sun come up, I looked over at a tree – and I could swear I saw the side of the tree branches in the shape of Christ’s face. I called over to Diane and her cousin, Heather. They saw it, too. As the sun grew brighter, the face melted into the branches and was no more. The three of us looked at each other – we knew we had seen something special.  We didn’t speak of it to anyone.

In New Jersey, these years later, I called Diane to have dinner together. After much getting lost and traveling around in circles, we found each other and settled in at a restaurant bar midway between her house and my brother’s house.

We talked all night – we had both gone through a lot since we saw each other last. She had left New York City and was settled into a new job in Princeton and seemed happy. Throughout the evening, she had told me everything on her mind. I listened in a way that didn’t allow for that nutty voice in my head — you know the one —  figuring out what I would say next while she was talking. It was really quiet in my mind except for Diane’s voice. I felt so much love for her that it seemed to spill over onto the table and our barbequed ribs and salad and slid all the way over to her, glazing the way so that her face glowed in the candlelight at the booth table. She was beautiful in that light and I loved her.

When she was done, she grabbed my hands and squeezed them. “You are the Face of Christ to me, Linda.” The words seemed so surreal, I thought I imagined it. “What did you say?” She said that I was so full of love that she could feel it, that I was listening with so much compassion that she could sense it, that she felt safe with me, spiritually safe.

I didn’t connect it until I was driving home – that’s what the priest said on Sunday! So, I thought, “That’s what it takes? To be empty inside of my own self-centeredness, to listen with nothing else there, to love someone for Who they are – and Who they’re not?

Yes.  That’s what it takes.

Do not think this went to my head. I no sooner returned home than my brother got angry at me.  What went through my mind as he yelled at me was, “I guess he  doesn’t think I’m the Face of Christ.”  It got me in touch with my humanity.  I realized: sometimes we are – and sometimes we’re not.

It is not natural for me to be always loving, always listening from nothing, always compassionate, always forgiving. When I’m judgmental, when I’m impatient, when I’m justifying behavior – believe me, nobody does it better.

What I learned that night with Diane is that, if I’m vigilant for Who I want to be, Who I know I am as a divine child of God, how I can love more, listen more, serve more – that is the Face of Christ in all of us – whether you’re Christian or not.

We’re human – we rock ‘n roll back and forth between being that wonderful Face and being a jerk.

If I could just lessen the time that I’m a jerk – and increase my loving time… that would be something, wouldn’t it?

I could be the Face of Christ all the time.

Deliciously yours in the Wonder of it All, Linda

“To love another person is to see the face of God”  ~ Jan Valjean in “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo

The picture in the header is titled, “Cosmic Christ Arising” by artist Leigh J McCloskey at http://www.leighmccloskey.com/index.htm.  Here is the full version:

CosmicChristArisingArtistLeighJMcCloskey

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2013. 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 ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you.

“The Cat’s Meow…”

April 26, 2013

CroppedTeddyWhen I awakened this morning, my eyes opened to see Jackson’s paw on my arm as he sat like a protective Sphinx beside me.  His eyes looked into mine, slowly blinked, and he turned his head away.  His paw remained on my arm.

Teddy sits over on the sofa in my bedroom, looking my way, but he knows it’s Jackson’s job to protect me.  He hangs out nearby, but never tries to take Jackson’s job away from him.  Jackson would never allow it.

Jackson and Teddy have been with me for two years now.  They were Josh’s cats from when he lived in Minneapolis.  He brought them here to live with me when he came back to New York.

Can you keep a secret?  I don’t think he’s getting them back.

These are angel cats.  Yes, little angels sent from God – first to my son to help him get over a bad break-up with his girlfriend – and then, for me, two years ago when I felt my life crumbling beneath me like some futuristic science-fiction movie where the actors run through the scenery just as the earth opens beneath them with their every step.

I am ahead of myself.

After graduate school at NYU Stern, my son moved with his girlfriend to Minneapolis to work for Target.  We all thought they would get engaged and start a life together there.  He bought an apartment, started his new job, and he and his girlfriend went to the neighborhood “rescue” to adopt a pet.

Josh had a Tiger cat when he was younger – I named him “Fendi.” I had once seen a Fendi fashion show in Milan and was so fascinated and amazed by the fur coats they offered – I remember that I laughed about what they could possibly be made of since they looked like no fur I had ever seen – little pieces of fur sewn together that my colleagues and I joked had to be mouse or gopher or something.  When I saw the little ball of fur  that would soon be our new baby kitten, I thought of those fur coats of unknown origin.  I said, “Well, that’s about as close to a Fendi fur coat as I’m ever going to get!” and the name stuck.  Fendi.  For years afterwards, people would say, “You named your cat after a handbag?”  Almost no one knows that Fendi makes many other fashion items besides handbags.

Fendi was with us for eleven years.  He was sweet and ferocious at the same time.  One time, my then-husband  had to come home from work because Fendi had cornered the plumber and the guy had called Fred in terror to come free him.

Fendi was sweet and cuddly with us.  Even so, I didn’t realize that Josh was so attached to him until he called me from Minneapolis to tell me that he got TWO tiger cats – they reminded him of Fendi and he wanted both, although they are as different as night and day in personality:  Teddy is a little feral cat that we believe was never owned by anyone.  Scared of his own shadow, he used to hide the whole time I’d come to visit Josh in Minneapolis.  On the other hand, Jackson is the most personable cat I’ve ever met – he follows us around like a little puppy and must be near one of us all the time.  He had been neutered when he was turned into the rescue center, so he must have been owned by someone.  It is like a knife in our hearts to think that someone put this gorgeous creature out in the cruel Minneapolis winter.  Yet, now we have him – so we lucked out all the way ‘round.

Shortly after Josh got his cats, he and his girlfriend broke up.  It was a heart-wrenching break-up, sudden and unexpected.  Josh spent the next few years alone in Minneapolis.  He’s told me that Jackson and Teddy were the balm for his broken heart during that time.

My own heartbreak two years ago was just as unforeseen and devastating, all the more because I thought it had occurred eighteen years before!  That’s when my husband and I had separated.  It took a long time to get divorced – in 2002.

And, even longer to really split – that was two years ago.

In all that time, we had been good friends.  I don’t think either one of us realized that it was more than friends – it was a bond as strong as a gnarly knot, but not evident in our lives.   Except for the constant phone calls, we rarely saw each other; he had a partner, I had a different life.

When he told me he was getting married, it sunk in that he wasn’t supposed to be my best friend anymore – that should have ended eighteen years before.  No wonder I hadn’t wanted another partner!  Fred was too much in my space!

That was it.  I went through all of the feelings and grief that I should have gone through eighteen years before – and didn’t.  For the first time, I felt lonely.  It came as such a surprise!  And, yet – it didn’t.

Six weeks later, my son got a job in New York and came home with his two tiger cats.  The plan was that he would live with his dad until he sold his apartment in Minneapolis.  But, Fred has a big dog — the cats couldn’t stay there.  Josh asked me if I would take Jackson and Teddy?

Josh brought them over and stayed for a few days to be sure that they were okay.  I took to them like comfort by the fireside.  Jackson was an instant buddy.  Teddy took longer to win over – it took a few days for him to come out from behind the sofa, and even longer to get him to sleep on the bed with me, but he always let me pick him up and cry into his belly when the sadness would be too much for me to bear alone.

It’s two years later now, and we’ve got our routine down.  Jackson sits by me as I write and work every day, Teddy snuggles in with me on the sofa during television time at night.

They saved my life.

Now you know why I think they’re angels.  They were with Josh when he needed them.  Then, when I needed them more, they came to me.  This is not coincidence.  This is a gift.

Not long ago, I had to look up my original lease from ten years ago.  As I read through it, I saw that, under “Pets,” I had checked off “cat” and had crossed out “1” and written in “2” – and had the landlord sign it.

I didn’t have any cats at the time, let alone two of them.

That was ten years ago.  Now, I have Jackson and Teddy – after Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt, two of Josh’s favorite US Presidents.  They are my buddies.

I love them.

I was telling my friend, Alan, how much I love heading to my apartment door when I come home from somewhere — I know that on the other side of that door, my two buddies are going to be there waiting for me.  Alan said, “That’s good.  You’re creating new pathways in your brain — pathways that expect LOVE to be on the other side of that door.  That’s the beginning.  Next is the man!”   Wow!   I’m for THAT!

When I remember that old lease, written so long ago when there were no cats, I am struck by how synchronistic it seems.  I remember that Einstein said, “There is no time,” everything already exists – and I wonder.

I am blessed.

Deliciously yours in the Miracle of it All,  Linda

Note:  Jackson is the one in the header picture and that’s Teddy in the thumbnail, looking out at the traffic on First Avenue in Manhattan.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2013. 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 ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you.

“Who Are You?”

September 24, 2012

“Who are you?”

Those were the opening words in the homily at mass today, given by a guest priest who is leading the church’s Mission this week.  His name is Father Mac Donald.  He has this charming Boston accent and wears a simple white cotton robe.  The light robe makes sense since he spends most of his time in the sun-kissed, warm Caribbean, traveling here for parish missions all over the city.  I’ve met him before.   He makes me think.  He did not disappoint today.

He told a story about a woman who was asked a series of questions:

“Who are you?”  She answered, “I’m an assistant at a bank.”

“That’s what you do.  I didn’t ask you what you do.  I asked, ‘Who are you?’”

“I have four children.”  “I didn’t ask if you were a mother.  Who are you?”

“I’m a wife.”  “I didn’t ask if you were married.  Who are you?”

This went on a little longer.  I thought, at the end of the litany of questions, he would have an answer.  He finally said, “I’m going to leave you with that question for right now.  Come to the Mission this week and we’ll talk about it.”

Who are you?

He told another story:

When Boris Yeltsin, the first popularly elected President of Russia, was interviewed after he resigned, he was asked who had inspired him when he faced the difficult task of leading his country through a stormy post-USSR Russia.  His answer?  “Lech Walesa.”

Walesa was the former electrician in Poland who became a union-rights and human rights activist.  He challenged the Polish communist government and founded  the Solidarity movement that peacefully toppled the government.  He was elected President of Poland, where he presided over Poland’s transformation from a communist to a post-communist state.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

When Walesa was asked who inspired him, his answer was “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of the United States.”

Dr. King, a Baptist minister from Atlanta, Georgia, is one of our American heroes.  His “I have a Dream” speech is still quoted, and children growing up — who will never know him —  live in the glorious results of his peaceful fight for African-American civil rights in this country.  He changed the face of America.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through non-violence.  He was a charismatic, faith-filled leader who was assassinated in 1968.  His spirit is so powerful, he lives on in us to this day.

When Dr. King was asked who inspired him, he said, “Rosa Parks.”

Rosa Parks was a black woman who, in 1955, would not give up her seat in the “colored” section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white man after the white section was filled.  She sat silently in her seat and refused to move.   She was arrested for Civil Disobedience.  Her defiance was an important symbol in the Civil Rights Movement.   She became an icon for what one person can do to make a difference in the world.

The priest asked us:  “Is it too much to imagine that one woman’s stand for herself would influence millions of people in the world, not only in the US, but in Poland and Russia, as well?  She knew who she was.”

“Who are you?”

Deliciously yours in the Oneness of it All, Linda

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2012. 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 ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you.

On May 2nd, I logged onto my Facebook page and the first post I saw was by someone I know in Louisville, who was also a friend of my friend, Sug.   I didn’t understand it at first, “Godspeed to my friend, Sug…”.  As I read on, it was clear: Sug had just died.

The sensation was as if I had been punched in the stomach.  “How could this be?” I thought.  I had just received an email from her in January – she made no mention of an illness.  Could this have been an accident?

Quickly, I went to her page and sure enough, her step-son, Richard had posted that after only six weeks of knowing she was ill, she died at home of stomach cancer.  It was very quick – she only found out that the tumor was inoperable on April 23rd.

Images of her flooded my mind.  A beauty who once was first runner-up to Miss America, I met her years ago when I was a buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue.  I remember receiving a call – would I come in to see the Regina Porter blouse line?  I would and did — and walked into the showroom soon after to be greeted by a beautiful woman who seemed genuinely happy to see me.  “Genuine” is the operative word in that sentence – as a buyer for a famous store, many that I met were trying hard to get me to buy their line – there was no room for graciousness or true generosity of spirit.  And yet – here they were.  I warmed to her instantly.  She was “Lee” then – she had given up her Southern name to blend into the hard-core life of the fashion world in New York City.

We “took” immediately.  I looked forward to going to the showroom because I knew I would be at home in her presence.  Soon, she invited me to join their weekly after-work yoga class in the showroom.  I liked all the women there, but Lee was something special.  We started a friendship outside of work.  Looking back on it now, it’s hard for me to imagine there was a time before when we were not friends – much like having children and not being able to remember what life was like before they were born – that’s how it was for us.

We shared everything – and soon, that was a life history together as well as stories from our past.

Lee was older than I and didn’t have children.  I was just recently married and having children was just about all I could think of.   We both got pregnant around the same time – we were so excited that we would both be going through this episode in our lives at the same time.  What previously lived as a budding friendship quickly turned into a bond so strong, you’d have thought we were sisters.

Lee lost her baby first – after only a few months.  In that time, I had come to find out that she had wanted children all along but, after years of trying, had finally given up.  This pregnancy had been what she thought would be her only shot at motherhood.  She was 38 and not too many women were having babies that late in life in those days.

I went through my entire pregnancy and, on my due date on May 20th in 1978, gave birth to a stillborn baby girl.  To say that it was a terrible time for me…  Well, it was a terrible time for me.  Lee came to see me in the hospital.  She was the only friend I allowed to come.   My husband, my mother and father — and Lee.

I became obsessed with trying to get pregnant again.  Lee seemed to have given up hope for another chance for herself, but she was in my corner from the start, comforting me every month when the evidence would show up, yet again — I was not pregnant.

Many months later that year, she asked me to lunch at the museum.  We loved spending time together away from the bustle of the garment district, where people thought nothing of coming to the table while we were eating to ask if I would come see their lines.  It was more fun to be somewhere elegant and pretty, far from the crowds.

Midway through lunch, Lee told me she was pregnant again.  As happy as I was for her, there was also a pang of such jealousy that I couldn’t believe myself!  She looked at me apprehensively – and I could see that she was worried about my reaction to her news.  In that moment, the jealousy was gone.  I reached across the table,  “It’s OK, Lee.  Yes, I wish I was pregnant, too.  I’m not.  I will be soon.  And today?  Today we celebrate YOU!”

Three months later, I was pregnant again.  Lee was far enough along that we both stopped worrying for her and now, we could be pregnant together!  What could be better?  Our children would grow up together, laugh and play together…  What dreams we had!

That Spring, the four of us, Lee and I, and her husband, Ronnie, and my husband, Fred, spent weekends on their boat, the “Sug-a-Lee” in City Island, a little area over the bridge in the Bronx that was like being in the Hamptons while in New York City.  I asked her about the name of the boat – “Oh, that’s the name I grew up with.”

Our bellies were bursting – Lee was so thin that she never gained much weight.  Me?  Say the word “pregnant” around me and I gain 20 pounds.  We were about the same size even though she was three months further along than I was.  Here we were, these two pregnant, happy women on the boat, laying around, sharing what we’d do together when our babies were born.

One night, I got a call really late – so late, I was in bed already.  It was Lee.   In what I thought was an eerily calm voice, she told me that she had miscarried at home, suddenly and unexpectedly, and wanted me to know – and wanted me to come.

The next day, I visited her at their townhouse.  She sat in bed and told me the story.  She cried, I cried.  I felt my belly protruding into the space, like the elephant in the room that it was.  Still, I had lost a baby the year before and I knew what a ripping, emotional pain that was.  Lee was far enough along that the  baby’s kicking and the extra pillows were already real for her.

In a short time, she was back at work.  She told me that she was not thinking about getting pregnant again.

At the end of my 6th month, I found out my baby was in trouble.  I was RH negative and, while there shouldn’t have been a problem because I had the injections the year before to prevent the antibodies from forming from the first baby, my tests were coming back with a result that indicated that the baby was already affected.  I wound up having an intra-uterine transfusion, already a risky procedure – and, one month later, my baby was born.  He – Josh — had 7 exchange transfusions in the first few days to keep him alive and he remained in neo-natal intensive care for 8-1/2 weeks.

The day after Josh was born, Lee wanted to come see me.  I assured her that she didn’t have to – it had only been a few months since she’d lost hers.  I remembered how painful it had been for me the year before to even look at a baby, let alone walk past the nursery in a hospital to see rows of clear plastic cribs holding blue and pink swaddled newborns.   She insisted.  That afternoon, in she came – with tears rolling down her cheeks, bearing a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates for me.  She knew how much I loved chocolate.

I didn’t see much of her in the next few months.  I understood.  I had a different life now – one that included a baby and nursing and sleepless nights and trying to be “executive, wife, mother.”  Lee had reconciled herself to not having children – we didn’t talk about it again.

We were still good friends – we just saw each other less frequently.  It seems like a short time afterwards – but, it was four years – she called to tell me that she was leaving New York and didn’t know when she’d be back.  She seemed removed somehow, as if she was holding something back.  No, she said, her mother was having an operation and she was going to stay with her until she recovered.

A month later, I received a six page letter saying that she and her husband were divorcing, she was in Florida and raising the water level with her tears, and she didn’t know what would happen but she thought that she probably wasn’t coming back to New York.  She was going to go live in Kentucky when she could pull herself together enough to face people.  That turned out to be awhile.  She thanked me for being a good friend and being the one who was there for her when she lost the baby.  She would never forget that.  She signed it, “Take care of your fellows and much love to you, Lee”.

I cried for a week.

We visited her in Florida where she told me the whole story of the demise of her marriage.   Shortly afterwards, she did move to Kentucky and that’s where she stayed.  We kept in touch and I saw her when she came to New York to work for Karl Lagerfeld or one of the other fashion designers.    She was always a classy, beautiful lady, so the designers loved having her for market weeks to sell and show the clothes.  My own marriage was dissolving, so no trips to Kentucky for me.

She signed her letters “Lee” for a long time – and then she started to sign off as “Sug”.  On the phone once, I asked her about it.  “That’s what they call me here,” she said, “Call me whatever you want as long as you call me ‘friend’.”

After awhile, Lee fell in love again.  His name was Dan Schusterman.  She called me, all excited, to tell me she was getting married and would I come?  I would and did – but without Fred.  Marriage was over for me as it was beginning for her.

I flew to Kentucky and it was a whirlwind three-day wedding on the hottest weekend of the year.  Heat or no heat, no one ever looked more beautiful than Lee.. Uh, I mean “Sug”.  That went on all weekend.  No one in Louisville called her “Lee”.   Sug Schusterman was born.

She went on to become one of the most beloved people in all of Louisville.  She fell in love with the Louisville Deaf Oral School when she visited the school and was present when a child was able to hear for the first time.  In that moment, she became the school’s champion, raising millions of dollars on its behalf.

That’s when she became a mother.  Those children were her children.

I could go on about all the fabulous things she did for the people of Louisville and all the lives she touched.  She came alive there in a different way than the way she was in New York City.  I used to visit her and, for a time, there were still 2 and 3 hour phone calls between us.  Our lives were different and the times between phone calls and visits became longer and longer.

She sent me a card last Fall and the picture reminded me of one of the Christmases I spent with her in Louisville.  I emailed her to tell her that and how much I missed her.  She wrote back in January, “I remember that Christmas – it was fun times, wasn’t it?”

She didn’t know she was sick then.

That was the last time I heard from her.

I went to the funeral in Louisville three weeks ago.  The Sug they talked about was a Matriarch of Louisville – and someone I knew and loved, for sure.  The Lee I’m mourning is the one who taught me how to make pies in her townhouse kitchen in New York City, the one who cried in my arms in her bed that Spring day in 1979, the one who ignored her own pain and walked past that nursery full of newborn babies to visit me after losing her own, and the one who told me to buy my Burberry trench coat 2 sizes bigger than I needed so it would look slouchy and chic.  That is the size I am today so I guess I’ll have to get another one.

Then again, maybe I won’t.   There are some things that can never be replaced.

Good-bye, Sug.  I will love you forever…

Deliciously yours in the Grace and Beauty of it all,  Linda

The magnificent Sug Schusterman.

http://www.voice-tribune.com/news/celebrating-sug-schusterman/  This is an article written shortly after Sug’s death, celebrating her life.  This article is a beautiful tribute to the woman she blossomed into in Louisville. written by her friend and society page columnist, Carla Sue Broecker.

The title of this post is from James Taylor’s song, “Fire and Rain”:

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain   I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end    I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend    But I always thought that I’d see you again”

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2012. 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 ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

It’s Valentine’s Day!  And that makes it the three-year anniversary of this blog.  So, first, I want to say, I love YOU and thank you for coming and reading my “stuff” these last three years.  In that time, “Spiritual Chocolate” has had 11,498 visitors, as of just now!  You all are the best!

Last year I wrote that I was creating an amazing year of growth and productivity for myself.  And, yes, it happened – but, not in the way I thought it would.  In fact, it’s been a rough year – personally and professionally.  I crawled all the way out on the skinny branches where I could hear the crack, crack, cracking of the twigs as my life fell apart.

The skinny branches…  That’s where the fruit is, right?

So, yes, my ex-husband got married, creating a roller-coaster ride of emotions for me for the entire year – AND, my son came back to New York after three years of working for Target in Minneapolis.  It’s so yummy to have him home in NYC!

I had a falling away with some of the dearest people in my life…. AND, I reconnected with my old friend, Tommy, with whom I hadn’t been in contact for fifteen years – and now we are partners in an entertainment business, working on projects in film and television.  Mmmm, Mmmm, good!

For every ending, there’s been a beginning – for every sadness, a joy.   For every time I’ve been down on my knees in pain and sadness,  there’s been an even greater moment of excitement for something new.

Each sad event had me reaching out of my comfort zone and deep into my heart to find the strength, courage, and persistence to find another way.  That’s where the growth is.

Each glorious moment reminded me that when things seem to go away, leaving an empty space inside, God finds a way to fill us up once again.  That’s where the Love is.

I am grateful for everything that’s happened to me this year.  Without the sadness, I wouldn’t have learned.  Without the Joy, I wouldn’t have renewed my heart.  And, without all of you reading these posts and writing me emails – telling me about your heartbreaks, your brother who’s like my son, your child who’s like my father, I wouldn’t get it so profoundly that we are the same after all – we really are all One.

I am profoundly grateful to you.  Yes, YOU….  My funny Valentines….

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Deliciously yours in the Love it all is,  Linda

“My Funny Valentine, Sweet comic Valentine, You make me smile with my heart…   Your looks are laughable, unphotographable, yet you’re my favorite work of art…”     from “My Funny Valentine”  by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2012. 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 ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

I received an extraordinary Christmas gift yesterday.  One I never thought I’d see in my lifetime – one I asked for when I was five years old.

First, let me tell you that there is a little 14 year-old ballerina staying with me for this Christmas season.  Her name is Juliet Doherty.  She’s staying here with her Mom because she plays the part of Clara in the Nutcracker segment of the Radio City Music Hall Spectacular with the Rockettes.

Juliet is an angel – a beautiful, yet sweet face; a charming, happy countenance – and her dancing…   Ah, her dancing….  She has the perfect ballerina’s body and she has an extension up the side of her head!  When she’s on stage, she lights up the 6000 seat theatre at the Music Hall!

She’s here with her mother, Krista.   I’ve watched her over these last few months, stretching, standing in her toe shoes that her mom just stitched the ribbons onto, working two to five shows a day – with her always smiling face and her always charming manner.

One night, I was watching her Mom work on the new pointe shoes she got for the show – a little brighter pink than what she had been wearing for practice.  All of a sudden, a story from my childhood rose up within me like tears.   I told them:

I took ballet when I was very little.  I loved it.  I must have been  good at it because I remember the teacher telling my mother that I should go on to pointe classes.  I would need toe shoes, of course, instead of the ballet flats with the elastic across the front that I had been wearing.  I wanted pointe shoes badly, but my mother said that we probably couldn’t afford them so not to get my hopes up.

My grandmother came over a few nights later and I started dancing for her in my pink leotard and my ballet flats.  I didn’t say anything about what the teacher said, so I don’t know how my grandmother knew.  Perhaps she didn’t — perhaps it was just a coincidence.  She said, “Oh, Linda, that is so beautiful!  You should have real ballerina shoes.  I’m going to get you some toe shoes!  Pretty pink ballerina toe shoes, just for you!”

I was so excited, I could barely contain myself.  I didn’t ask when, but if she said so, then she would, right?   She would get them, I was sure of it.

The next time she came to visit, I looked at both of her hands for a bag or a box.  Nothing.  She didn’t say anything either.   I was not a bold child – I would never have said, “Grandma, where are the pointe shoes you promised me?”

Every time my Grandmother came – for a long time – I looked to see if she was carrying a bag or a box that might have my pointe shoes.  No.  Not ever.  There never were any pointe shoes.

I finally gave up looking.  I finally gave up ballet.

I’d almost forgotten this story if it wasn’t for watching Krista stitch the bright pink ribbon onto the bright pink pointe shoes that would grace the stage at Radio City Music Hall.  It made me remember that I gave up on a dream a long time ago.

How easily dreams are crushed when we are small!

Yesterday, Krista and Juliet came home from seeing the rest of their family — all in town for Christmas.  Juliet gave me a  Christmas bag with bright red paper peeking out the top.  “Merry Christmas!” she said.

I looked inside and saw a pair of bright pink toe shoes, autographed by Juliet.  It says, “Linda, a pair of pretty pink pointe shoes just for you.”  I couldn’t believe it!  I finally got my toe shoes!

It’s almost 60 years later and still I feel the excitement of having my own pair of pointe shoes!  I can’t wear them, of course.  They’re Juliet’s size 4 – and I’m not a size 4 anything anymore.

I have them on a shelf by my computer.  As I looked at them today, I made a pact with myself that I would never give up on a dream again.  I still have many dreams and sometimes I tell myself that perhaps it is too late.

No, it’s never too late.  If I can finally get my pointe shoes, I can write a book, I can have my Tuscan farmhouse, I can have the love of my dreams.  I’m not giving up.

Juliet gave me the greatest of gifts – the gift of a dream come true…

Deliciously yours in the Hopes and Dreams of it All, Linda

Here is Juliet Doherty, en pointe.  She is even more beautiful in person than she is here.  Thank you, Juliet, for a very special gift!

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. 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 ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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