“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.

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“The new, hot color is orange!” my son announced at lunch one day two weeks ago.  He then gave examples of how a touch of orange – as a wool cap, perhaps, or a puffy vest, could be the perfect accessory to an otherwise understated,  but elegant, “bella figura.”

I wanted to howl  with laughter!  As someone who spent many years in the fashion business and bored my buyers to tears with my latest proclamation on the “new, hot color”, I remember when my own conversation was all about orange and what that would mean to the fashion business (without which color, of course, the next season would be a disaster!).

There have been many years between these two conversations.  Josh was barely out of swaddling clothes when I made my mad and crazy platform for orange as THE color that everyone had to have.

It was in Paris in, I want to say, 1982.  After having spent a week in Florence in a hotel room on the floor in a virtual sea of rolled-up yarn swatches from which I was trying to create the following Fall’s color pallet —  even to crawling around and looking under the bed for just the right swatches of color that I was certain I had seen somewhere, but currently were hidden from view.  “I have it!” I cry, gleefully holding aloft a  little ball of orange yarn and proclaiming it the bread and wine of the following season.   Sing Hallelujah, my children!

It didn’t stop there.  We arrived in Paris and hopped in a cab to go to dinner.  I started  again on how orange had to be just so — not too red, not too yellow, but just as right as Goldilocks’ porridge.  I remember holding my hands in front of me, palms up, fingers curled as if I were Uma Thurman receiving the Hattori Hanzo sword in “Kill Bill 1”, grasping and receiving at the same time – “Can you see it?  Can you see this perfect orange in sweaters, in jackets, in handbags, as a belt wrapped around a gray cashmere dress?”

I stopped for a moment and looked up from  my hands.  My two buyers, Meryl and Joe, were looking at me in either rapt attention or appalled concern for my well-being.  Either way, in that moment, I burst out laughing.  “Hey, Guys!  It’s just a color!  What AM I going on about?  This is not the solution for world peace!”   They looked at me, stunned, and then they, too, burst into laughter at my intensity about of all things –  orange!

We had a great dinner – that’s hard not to do in Paris – and came back to the Meurice Hotel.  We came to my room to call New York about a problem that needed resolving, knowing that it was 6 hours earlier in New York and we would be able to find one of the assistants, Paul, still at work.

As we opened the door to my room, we were struck by drapes in orange, a bedspread in orange and bolster pillows in orange.  Everywhere we looked, we saw orange!

It was playtime:  Meryl ran to the drapes and pulled one around herself, Grecian style — while Joe pulled the cover off the bed and wrapped it around himself so that he looked  like an orange Lawrence of Arabia.  We laughed ‘til our sides hurt, even as we made the call to New York and got Paul on the phone.  The poor  kid! – a hard-working assistant buyer, trying hard to please as his Vice President and two of his buyers were howling with laughter and parading around the room making speeches about orange!

Now I sit here at lunch listening to my darling son tell me that I have to understand how important orange is.  As the memory of Meryl and Joe decked out in my orange room décor runs through my mind, I try to listen seriously and intently to his important pronouncement –  without chuckling.   It is hard.

I’ve just returned from Christmas shopping for Josh – and while I cannot say here what one of his presents is because I don’t want to give it away – I have just scoured the city for the perfect gift with just the exact amount of orange in it to satisfy my Ralph Lauren-loving, sartorially resplendent son.  I was even able to have it wrapped with orange ribbon!

I shake my head at my silliness…

Still, there is something about this that moves my heart – that he is so his own person – and so his mother’s son…

Deliciously yours in the Oneness of it All, Linda

NOTE:  The dress in the thumbnail above is Bottega Veneta, 2010.  Divine!

© 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.

I don’t buy dresses that zip up the back anymore.  I haven’t for a long time — exactly how long?  I do know that — 17 years, 6 months, 26 days.  It’s been that long since my then-husband moved out of the apartment we shared together and into his own place.

I was too wrapped up in a relationship with a man who was so unsuited to me that I often wonder if his sole purpose was to distract me from my crumbling marriage to a man I still loved so that, when my husband left, I  wouldn’t notice.  It worked for a while.

Fred, my former husband, was the steady hand holding my arm as I walked the tightrope of my life, the vigilant guide that turned down the heat on the pot-boiling-over that was my mind, the brave hero  there to rescue this damsel in distress, whether it was my upset over being a catholic mother trying to train her Jewish son for his Bar Mitzvah, or the quiet reassurance on those days that being in the fashion business was not the glamorous career everyone thought it would be.

We had husband and wife moments like everyone else  — and, none more annoying — and touching — as his checking on me as I would spend forever getting ready to go out.

“How much longer will you be?” he said, standing in the doorway of my bathroom as I applied my mascara, my head up close to the mirror, lips parted in concentration, right arm out to the side as I carefully colored one lash at a time.  “Not too long,” I said between lashes, “Five more minutes.”  I didn’t have my dress on yet, my shoes were strewn about the floor, my hair still had a couple of rollers on the top.  “Just five more minutes, Fred!”  He shook his head and walked away.

This would have happened once or twice or even three times more before I was ready to don my dress and shoes and we could walk out the door to our event.

Ah, my dress.  I’d step into it and slither it up over my hips.   I’d reach my hands behind me and start the zipper up as far as I could with my own hands.  Then…

“Fred!” It was a call out.  “Fred?”  It was a question.  He’d come into the room and I could always tell he liked what I had on – his fretful face would transform to a look of wide-eyed appreciation.  I’d turn so my back was to him, sweep my hair to the side.   “Honey, would you zip me up?”  I could feel him come up behind me, almost too close to do the task at hand.  He put his hands on the back of my dress, sliding down to find the zipper tab and slowly pull it up to the top.  I’d always turn around and reward him with a kiss, “Thanks, Honey!”

After he moved out – I guess it was some months later – I was getting ready to go to a party.  I put on my make-up with no sweet spectator at the door, no one to hurry me along, no one to shake his head in exasperation.  I thought I would like having this time to myself.  Instead, there was a twinge of lonliness – an anticipation of someone who loved me, albeit impatiently, nudging me on.  I looked towards the door – there was no one there.

I slipped on my dress, a sexy, red beaded short dress with a zipper up the back.  I reached behind and zipped up the dress as far as I could on my own – and then I turned in dismay – how was I going to get this dress zipped up by myself?

I tried wild contortions and yoga poses, but nothing worked –  I never could get my hands to meet behind me.

I gave up and sat down on my bed.  While it had already been weeks since he left,  that was the moment I realized he was gone for good.  I put my face in my hands and cried until my make-up was ruined and I was so late for my party that it would have been embarrassing to show up at all.

I slipped out of my dress and hung it on the hanger from which it had come, the curve of the top still sitting in the hook on my closet  door.  It was the last time I would ever  wear  that dress, a dress I had worn for Fred on several occasions, a dress that he had zipped up for me each time.

I washed my mascara-streaked face and didn’t call my friends to say I was not coming.  It didn’t escape me that no one called to see where I was.  Fred was the only one who ever waited on my presence – vigilantly, annoyingly, impatiently, lovingly.

I miss that about him.

17 years, 6 months, and 26 days later and I still miss that about him.

Yes, it’s the big, angry outbursts that signify a marriage  has ended, but it the missing of those endearing and intimate ordinary moments between a man and a woman in which you know that something amazing is gone for good.

Deliciously yours in the Memory of it All, Linda

“The way you wear your hat;
The way you sip your tea;
The memory of all that.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me.

The way your smile just beams;
The way you sing off key;
The way you haunt my dreams.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me.

We may never, never meet again
On on the bumpy road to love.
Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of

The way you hold your knife;
The way we danced ’til three;
The way you’ve changed my life.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me”  by  Ira Gershwin

© 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.

Since posting my review on Linda Leaming’s book, “Married to Bhutan”, both Linda and I were on Hay House Book Club Radio together, talking about the story themes and what there was to take-away from reading this wonderful memoir about loving life in Bhutan and Linda’s life of love in Bhutan with her amazing husband, Namgay.  If you read the book, you’ll see that, truly, he sounds like a paragon of patience and an altogether wonder of a man!

Afterwards, Linda and I communicated via Facebook and Twitter, and then, finally, email.  I found out she was coming to New York City for an event, and I thought perhaps we could meet for coffee?  We could.

It seemed that we met as two strangers with a common ground – her book, which she wrote and I loved.  I was soon to learn that it was no accident that Linda and I met each other.

Our afternoon conversation did what many conversations between women do – it drifted into talk of relationships and love.

I wanted to know more about her romance with her husband.  I was intrigued by their relationship – Western drama meets Buddhist acceptance and allowing – it seemed at once exciting and implausible.  What did he make of her worry and frenzy?  What did she make of his silence and peace?

Her stories in person were as ripe with promise and love as they were in the book.  As in the book, she was forthcoming and authentic over coffee about how they had to take time to get used to each other and it wasn’t always easy, but very much worth it.  The story of the romance in the book is one of my favorite parts — and I loved hearing more about it first-hand.

I contributed some of my own story.  I met my husband many years ago and it was not long before I fell madly in love.  I’ve written about Fred before, my son’s father, my partner-in-love-and-travel-and-craziness, followed by some tough years and, finally, not one separation, but two.  The second one lasted 9 years before he finally walked into my apartment shortly after 9/11 and handed me divorce papers.  “Why now?” I asked.  “Why not?” he answered – and I had to agree.  Our divorce was final in February, 2002.

Many years ago, after the initial anger and fights of the separation wore off, we became friends – probably because there never was much to fight about to begin with.  I’m convinced, even today, that if either one of us had had an ounce of transformation skills between us,  we would never have separated.  But, separate we did.  And, friends we’ve been – for all these years.

My friends and teachers and coaches always commented that they wondered why we weren’t together.  Not only have we been close friends, full of mutual admiration and respect, neither of us married again.  He was still my “person”, as they say on the television show,  “Grey’s Anatomy” – if something good happened to me, I called Fred first.  If something awful was going on – well, there you go…. Fred was the one I called for support and comfort.

He had been with the same woman since we separated.  We never spoke of his relationship with her.  We spoke of almost everything else, though.   In fact, our relationship was mostly conversation – phone calls about good movies, a course he or I was taking, what we thought about life and love, and, most of all, about our son, Josh, who was, and still is, the focus of our attention, our care, our love. 

We rarely saw each other.

At Christmas time, while I was in Minneapolis visiting Josh, everything seemed as usual between Fred and me – calls checking in with each other about what I was doing with Josh, where we were going, what restaurants Josh was liking those days, chirpy little conversations about ordinary “friend” stuff.

On the day before I was to leave Minneapolis, Fred ended one of our phone calls with, “Oh, I have to tell you something.  I’m getting married in January.”

I wish I could explain what happened next.  My throat closed up and I couldn’t speak, I had to hang up, I fell to the floor, sobbing, as if someone I loved deeply had just died.  Well, no person died, but something did die.  Whatever that illusion was, it was over, and mourning that death has taken the better part of the last five months.

We’ve had fights we haven’t had in years, with accusations back and forth.  I felt as if I was in a time warp and I’m sure he did, too.  We’re not speaking now and perhaps that is part of the process.

I felt,  and still feel,  silly – mourning a marriage that was over 17 years ago, but I didn’t mourn way back then and it needed to be done.   The grieving needed to be done, the tears needed to flow, a new life needed to be born out of the loss, perhaps a new love out of the acceptance of what is over.

Even now, months later, I’m still surprised at my reaction, stunned that it threw me into a grief so deep that I am only now pulling myself up the well-walls by my finger-tips, looking back down into that deep, dark hole of abandonment and loss as if I could so easily let go and fall back in and drown in the sadness of it once again.

But…   I don’t.

I’m sitting on the ledge of the well now, swinging my feet over to the outside – although, I haven’t tried to stand yet.   I often wonder if I can carry my own weight alone.

I shared all this with Linda Leaming at our coffee date.  She answered with a story about what Namgay said when he heard that friends of theirs were divorcing:  “Perhaps they’ve finished out their karma together.”

Even as she said it, I felt the tears well up and I sensed that it was true – and I was sad that it probably is true.  There’s a finality now that never was there before in any of our fights, our partings, our separation, or our divorce.

It reminded me of a story from Linda’s  book about when a baby died — Namgay told her, “Sometimes they come back and live for a year or two, then they die.  They’re just finishing out the samsara.”    Fred and I were soulmates — perhaps we came back together in this life to finish out our samsara.  

It is complete.  Part of me feels frightened to be alone for really the first time in my life.   Another part of me feels truly free for the first time in my life.

Thank you, Linda, for saying the exact thing I needed to hear at the exact time I needed to hear it – another gift from Bhutan, another example of people coming into our lives just when we need them to — to teach us something, to push us a little further along on our journey.

I hope that someday Fred and I can be friendly, but not yet.  I hope that someday we can both walk our son down the aisle when he marries, knowing that we did a good thing there with him.  I hope that someday we can be in the same room with our grandchildren and remember that once we were in love and it was great and we meant everything to each other and we have that to give to our son and to his children.  The relationship may be complete, the karma may be finished, but love never dies, and that is the gift we can remember and give.

Before I leave you today, I want to add one thing.  I did know for about a year that what Fred and I had was somehow preventing me from being in relationship with someone else – something I finally realized that I wanted.  Last fall, I told my coach that I was going to turn that over to God to handle – and so I did.  Every night, from mid-November until I left for Minneapolis for Christmas, I prayed to God, “Please heal this – whatever this is – between me and Fred.  I want to be in relationship with someone else, and I know that this bond is stopping me from doing that.  I’m willing for it to be undone.  And, dear God, please be gentle with us – he doesn’t have to die for me to be free.  Amen.”

And so it is.

Deliciously yours in the Samsara of it All, Linda

“Samsara literally means “wandering-on.” Many people think of it as the Buddhist name for the place where we currently live — the place we leave when we go to nibbana. But in the early Buddhist texts, it’s the answer, not to the question, “Where are we?” but to the question, “What are we doing?” Instead of a place, it’s a process: the tendency to keep creating worlds and then moving into them. As one world falls apart, you create another one and go there. At the same time, you bump into other people who are creating their own worlds, too.”   Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Here is Linda Leaming and me with Diane Ray on Hay House Radio:

http://www.hayhouseradio.com/listenagain.php?latest=true&archive_link_type=link_mp3&archive_id=8204&show_id=235&episode_id=7208

Or, you can try this one for the mp3 recording:

http://hayhouse.edgeboss.net/download/hayhouse/freecontent/free_june_archive/hayhousebookclub_052711.mp3

You can listen for free for one more week.  Then it goes into the Hay House Radio archives.  Thanks!

 

Yesterday, my ex-husband told me he got married.  He told me in December that he was going to get married, so it shouldn’t have hurt.

It shouldn’t have hurt, but it did.  It shouldn’t have hurt because we split 17 years ago, but it did — and it does — hurt.

I thought we were best friends, and we were – and probably still are – when I get over mourning this marriage that was over 17 years ago.

I don’t know why it was such a surprise or why I am hurt or why it should make a difference.  but, it does.

I say I don’t know why it hurts, but I do.  And, it doesn’t have anything to do with him.  It has to do with something that happened with my father when I was 10.

That’s when I found the note from  my father’s girlfriend in my mother’s dresser drawer.  I don’t remember much except she said…

She said, “I know you can’t leave your family,” and it was signed, “I love you, Ray.”  Ray was my sister’s god-mother and my father’s secretary.  I knew her.

I was dumbstruck like a silly putty gob stuck to the carpet.  My mother walked in, saw me with the letter, took it…

My mother took the letter out of my hands and said, “You shouldn’t be reading that.”  She folded it up, put it in her pocket and walked out of the room.

I have been holding my whole life together ever since so that no one would leave.  And they all do.  Even if they stay, I make them leave.

I construct the leaving so they can’t stop the leaving in a certain way.  Even after they’ve left, it’s stuck like a tree stuck…

Like a tree stuck in the ground, growing away, away, away, but the roots are in the same place, giving even the growing a grounding…

That it can’t get away from.  I wonder if the leaves know they are part of the roots or do they think they’re free?

I am the earth.

I am the earth and I know better.

Deliciously yours in the Bittersweetness of it All,   Linda

“Release from the bondage of the earth is not freedom to the tree.”  Rabindranath Tagore

© 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.

My mother’s been gone for as many years as my son is old – he was born prematurely on August 24th, 1979, and spent the next 9 weeks in neonatal intensive care, a victim of my own RH-Negative blood protecting me against the perceived intruder that his RH-Positive blood seemed to be.  After an intrauterine transfusion three weeks prior, it was time to take him out.  My body was killing him.

The next week, my mother went into intensive care in a hospital in New Jersey with angina – and died of a heart attack on October 2, 1979 on the day she was to be released.

Josh came out of the hospital 10 days after she died.

She saw him once.

It was on the day after he was born.  She stood outside the ICU, looking through the glass – at his little, less than 4 pound body lying on a light-table, with infant straps holding him in place while the nourishing lights took away his jaundice, waiting for the second of his seven exchange transfusions before he would be OK.  I stood by his infant bed and waved at her, all smiles, oblivious to the scary scene of tubes from the ceiling, incubators with babies that were so small, they didn’t even look human, weeping  parents in one corner, saying good-bye to their early infant who would die an hour later.  I saw her crying – crying for my son who was born early and sick, and crying for me, that I would have to go through this scary time, wondering if my baby would survive, scared for me that I could have no more after this one.

Mother’s Day is always a roller-coaster ride  for me:  I’m so happy and so blessed that Josh is my son – just talking to him puts me on such a high.  Then, I think of my mother, and the missing her is almost too much, even today, 30 years later.  I go back and forth, between those two places, all day, every Mother’s Day.

I feel two ways about that, too.  I’m sad she’s gone and that she never got to know my son and he never got to know her – a sadness that stands as the great sorrow of my life.  Then I remember how she loved me, how she brushed my hair in her lap, even when I was an adult, how happy she always was to see me, how — even when I was angry, she never bought into that – rather, she was concerned for my well-being as I raged, worried about my blood pressure, calming me with her always soft voice and manner.

I feel blessed that she was my mother and that I had her for as long as I did.  She saved me in many ways I cannot say here  right now — she formed me in every way that is good and true on this earth.

She wasn’t that way only with me.  Not only did she love all of us, her four children, she loved ALL children.  That was her thing — children.

I remember once when I was dating my soon-to-be husband.  He had been married before and had two young children, Brian and Cindy.  I was very jealous of them.  I wanted Fred all to myself and that wasn’t possible – thank goodness.  I should have seen that the ferocious way he protected his relationship with them would be the same way he would protect his relationship with our future children – with our son.

Fred wanted his children to be with us for Thanksgiving.  I wanted to go to my parents’ – with just Fred.  We fought about it, and finally he told me that I could go to my mother’s house – he was going to spend Thanksgiving at a restaurant with his kids.

A few days before Thanksgiving, my mother asked if Fred was coming.  I told her that no, he was going to be with Cindy and Brian.  She said, “Why doesn’t he bring them here?  They shouldn’t be spending Thanksgiving in a restaurant.”  I looked down, silent, feeling the hot shame crawl into my cheeks.  I knew that I was being selfish and unreasonable.

My mother turned to look at me.  Her silent appraisal got it all.  She came over to me, gently picked up my chin in her hand, looked at me and said, almost in a whisper, “Linda, they’re just children.  They’re innocent.  You can’t let yourself be like that.  It will take all the love away.  Please let them come here.”  I nodded my head without looking back at her or speaking.  Then, her voice became excited.  She said, “It will be so nice to have young children here again.  I would really like that.”

She always knew what to say.  I let out a deep breath I didn’t know I was holding.  That’s when I hugged her – hugged her so hard that she laughed and pulled back and said, “I know you love me! – Do you have to hug me to death?”

We had the best day that Thanksgiving – my mother hovered over those children, bringing them whatever they wanted, taking care of them – and, by taking care of them, she was taking care of me and Fred, too.  Fred was relieved.  He looked at me in gratitude.   I think it made him love me more.   I knew my Mom was right.

As she always was…

I miss her.  I always will.  Oh, I know she’s always with me, and I even pray to her.   But, what I wouldn’t give to hug her once more until she laughs and  pulls away and says, “Linda, I know you love me…”

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Deliciously yours in the Huge Mother Love that is today, Linda

This is my mother, standing on my grandparents’ porch, looking at us playing in front of her.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2010. 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.

  
 
 
Dear Readers,
 
Valentine’s Day is the first year anniversary of this blog. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, my loyal readers,  and so I celebrate you with a shift from my usual story.
 
 
 
 
 
 
A sonnet for you on Valentine’s Day: 
 
  
To have arrived here – takes me back to time alone
in youth;  Those lovely hours dark and late at night,
Huddle’d in bed, reading book or fantastical poem,
My mother’s vain urging to turn out the secretive light
fell on deaf ears as longing and fantasy reigned free.
Intrigue and romance drew  me far from  my childhood room,
“A moment!” I called, though sleep I would not soon seek,
Still gone, away from the dark of reality’s seeming gloom.
 
Those journeys of heart were solace and peace to my mind
without which my shy and aching spirit could not engage
those days perceiv’d as fearful; in words I sought to find
adventure and freedom, expression on beauteous page.
 
My friends, your loyal attention here doth prove
again, that mind creates world; with thanks, my love.
 
 
Happy Valentine’s Day! 
 
Deliciously yours in the Gratitude  of it All,  Linda
 
 
“But don’t change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little Valentine stay
Each day is Valentine’s Day”
  ….”My Funny Valentine,” by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart
 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2010. 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.

 

ChocolateOrchidEdit

I am among the many who are  mourning for and reflecting on the death — and life — of Senator Ted Kennedy.   This is not a political context at all — it is a reflection on  transformation – in this case, the transformation of the  man himself, revealed in what he has done,  yet given by something deeper.

What occurs for me is that one way that people develop compassion  is to “crash and burn” themselves — to experience their own “dark night of the soul”, to stand on the edge of the abyss,  and then to make a deep inner shift – a choice to be different — in order to take up the charge and lead others into the light…

It would be euphemistic to say that Senator Kennedy had,  on occasion,  exhibited poor judgment in his personal life…  a sadness for him — and for all of us – because of what had gone before.   Why shouldn’t we have hoped for yet another round of greatness from a family for whom greatness was known and from which greatness was expected?

He was a disappointment to all of us….

It seems to me that Ted Kennedy must have made a profound personal choice somewhere in that abyss…  to shift from a man who was simply raised to “do the right thing” – more of an “automatic” behavior” — without necessarily taking on the personal responsibility that goes along with that – to become a man who took a stand for himself and for the world. ..  then took the actions given by that stand — to make a difference for all people…

A shift from having it all be about “me” to having it not be about “me” at all…  or, in this case, “Ted”…

That takes a sense of responsibility, a deep love, a great compassion…

My mother used to tell me that we would all eventually  get knocked to the canvass in life – What will we choose to do when that happens?   Would we stay “knocked down” and forever-after live a life of what “might have been?”  Or would we pull ourselves up, bloodied and broken, from the mat – and take that next shot,  step that next step, and do what is before us to do?   

We all get to choose…

It was, of course, no surprise that he died – it was expected, really…  He had been ill for over a year now…  In a way, he was given a gift…  a gift that his brothers did not get.. the gift of time – to be with family, to die where he wanted to die, with the people he loved around him…   Brain cancer or no… I cannot think of a better way to go…

I saw him once not long ago…  and that fleeting peek into the character of a man revealed to me the thing I most admired about him…  his love for his family —  and his faith…

I ran across the street one Sunday morning to my little chapel of a church for 10:30 Mass.  As I walked to my usual front row seat in the tiny church of only six rows, I glanced to my right and there, in the other front row pew, was Senator Kennedy, his wife, and,  in a wheelchair in the center aisle, his sister.   It would have been rude to stare — and certainly there are other things to pay attention to at Mass, but I managed to steal a few furtive glances…   What I saw was a man whose very being was that of humility and service…  humility before God and service to his sister… solicitous of her every need while deeply given to his own devotion…

I got it on a whole new level that here was a man who had suffered… and perhaps was suffering still  in many ways…  who had raised himself up from that proverbial mat to go forth and live another day in the best way he knew how…  in love, in compassion, in faith… 

As President Obama said at the funeral, Ted Kennedy lived through  “a string of events that would have broken a lesser man…”   Yet, it is  that note that I believe to be the real lesson of Ted Kennedy’s life….   a life that, early on,  was over-shadowed by brothers whose heroic proportions  seemed impossible to surpass — exacerbated by his own failings  that appeared  to seal his fate as the “lesser” brother…     Indeed, a lesser man…                              

And that lesson is — there are no “lesser” men…  there are only men — or women —  who do not get up from the mat … 

We can — if we choose — dig deep for that “divinity” within us  — that well of creation from which we can draw–  and cause ourselves to be reborn out of the ashes of defeat and despair  —  to rise up and step  into what God has given to each and every one of us…

Our own Greatness…..

Maybe we won’t be famous or rich or make a difference for millions of people through life-altering legislation…

AND… as the Talmud says, “If you save one person, you save the world…”

How do we save the world?   Show up, share what we  have, and love them…..  one person at a time….

This is what Ted Kennedy did…

The piece that moved me most during the funeral was when President Obama read the letter that Jackie Kennedy Onassis wrote to Ted Kennedy….  “We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love.”

…that  is the measure of the man…. the measure of us all….

Deliciously yours in the Grandeur of it All, Linda 

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”     …Ernest Hemingway

“And so our job here on earth, the way we regain our divinity, our sacredness, and our general good-standing is by reconstructing love and creating love out of the broken pieces that we’ve been given.”   …Bruce Springsteen

“If you have made mistakes…there is always another chance for you…you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.” … Mary Pickford (1893-1979) Canadian Actress

Note:  For those who have asked, the title of this blog is from Billy Joel’s song, “2000 Years”.

© 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.

chocolatedippedstrawberry

We are all born into a conversation – more than one, actually – not of our own making… and those conversations form how life seems to us…   We are usually not aware of what those conversatons are — they lay beneath the surface….

We live out of those conversations….   they drive and shape our actions… 

I used to be a worrier. For years I worried about my mother – whether she was OK or not, where she was, what she was doing…. I worried in such a way that it made me feel that my worry would be enough to preclude any harm to her.   It seemed that —  only if I worried — I could be properly vigilant about her well-being.

Then my son was born. Josh was an RH baby and the doctors delivered him early in order to save his life.   He was 8 weeks premature and had to stay in the hospital for those same 8 weeks.   During that time, my mother developed angina and went to a different hospital in New Jersey, near where I grew up.  

I couldn’t be in two places at once…  

Six weeks later, on the day she was to leave the hospital, she died of a heart attack two hours before she was scheduled to be released.   My son was still in the neonatal intensive care unit at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.  My brother-in-law called me there to tell me about my mother — I leaned over my son’s incubator, put my head in my arms, and cried my heart out…

My already boundless grief was sliced with a deeper cut…   Could I have taken my eye off the ball when my son was born?    Did my mother die because I wasn’t paying attention?

What I didn’t realize at the time was…   I took all my worry about my mother and transferred it over to my son…

Some of that “hovering” paid off – I caught a 5 inch air bubble in his IV when he was 8 weeks old – seconds before it was set to go into his tiny body. The nurse said it was nothing as her shaking hands disconnected the tube and tapped out the offending air;  my doctor friend was appalled and told me it was lucky I had been there.

That just served as evidence that worry pays off…

Certainly, vigilance around a young child is appropriate – babies have a tendency to eat anything on the floor that looks interesting — and they poke their fingers into whatever little fingers can poke into – like electrical sockets, holes in the ground, bottles that are left open…   Mothers and fathers are supposed to be on the look-out for these potentially dangerous curiosities…

There does come a time, however, when you cannot watch your child every moment anymore…. and you do have to trust that they can, actually, handle SOME things on their own….

I never got THAT memo….

The litany of worry: Where are you? What are you doing? Do you have enough money? Who are you going with? Where are his parents? Why are you going there? When will you be back? Did you eat enough? Are you warm enough? Are your clothes clean?

It was exhausting….

When he went away to college, instead of the worry easing up, it got worse…. He wasn’t around, so then, I  had to worry ALL THE TIME!

Whew…!

Just about the time that I felt that I just couldn’t do it anymore, I signed up to take one of my first workshops on self-awareness, personal growth, and, in general, “how to be happy.” The leader was a friend of my group leader for “A Course in Miracles” – his name was Landon Carter and he used to be one of the early EST trainers.

I never heard of transformation education and I didn’t know what I was in for. I did, however, know that I was exhausted all the time, I was resigned about what I thought I couldn’t change about my life, I had been on anti-depressants for years, and I felt like my life was very limited and small.

Perfect.   Time for a change…

In the course of the training, Landon asked us if there was an issue that any one of us had been dealing with for a long time that we wanted to “disappear.” Before I could think about it, my arm shot up in the air, “YES, ME!! I’ve got one!”

I told Landon and the group about my constant worry. I told them that I felt like I had to worry because there seemed to be a connection between my worry and keeping my son safe.   More than safe…   I behaved as if my worry is what kept my son alive….

Landon did a technology on me called “The Truth Process”.

To explain it simply, he had me close my eyes – and he took me on a journey back through time, through every emotion and bodily sensation having to do with worry… I discovered that every time I thought about Josh or my mother or – early on, myself – in danger, I would grab my throat. I felt as if my throat was closing up so that I couldn’t breathe. Each time I thought that I had completed some event, Landon would ask me to go back even further…. each time, my throat would tighten and I would be locked in fear…

I remembered so many things… how my mother worried all the time about her family that was so far away and none of whom she had seen in years, my father who worried about his mother, my own worry about being left alone in school and not knowing anyone…

It was always about people being far away and life being dangerous and how to make sure that everyone was safe…. and, of course, you can never completely be sure that everyone is safe all the time…. so there’s more worry….

It was all about survival….

That’s what I was born into – a background conversation in every area of life that to worry was to keep safe…. maybe…

Finally, Landon said to me, “Is it your worry that is keeping your son alive?” I had to admit that speaking it out loud that way revealed it as the silly premise that it was. “No,” I answered. Then he said, “Can you accept, right this minute, that your son is either alive or he is not?” I never thought about that before – I had never before been challenged to look at what was so in that moment.

Landon went on, “Your worry is stealing your life with him right now. You cannot enjoy him in the present.   If you could get profoundly related to what is true right this moment and enjoy or mourn that – in the moment – you would have a completely different life.  Can you do that?  Can you face that?”

I could — and I did.  I gave up worrying about him.  I gave up worrying in general.  I see now that it is a totally useless emotion.  It doesn’t prevent anything and it doesn’t create anything.

In that free space, I took a stand that I would enjoy every moment with my son from that day forward….

A few months later, Landon wrote to me to ask me if I had noticed any shift in my life as a result of doing his workshop.   I realized that EVERYTHING had shifted – and I suddenly saw that my life with my son had dramatically altered.   I wrote back to Landon:

“I was on a high for days… I felt free for the first time in my life! I am happy and I am sleeping soundly. I feel truly in the NOW every moment!   That alone is worth everything to me.”

“Then, an unusual – and totally unexpected – thing started to happen: my son started calling me often, our conversations were more intimate, non-threatening, and really loving. I mean, we had always been loving to each other before, but there was something else there.  I’m still not sure I can put my finger on what it is…”

“It culminated in my son making a very favorable comparison of the two of us – something he had never done before.  For years, he had been critical of the ‘outrageous’ way I dressed.  About two weeks after the workshop, he compared our fashion styles and said, ‘I always thought the way you threw something odd into the mix was a little ‘off-the-wall’ – like those leopard heels with the elegant black suit.  Now, I realize that I’m doing the same thing with these velvet slippers and no socks with MY suit. It’s a matter of style, and I got that from you.’   I almost fell over – my son had never aligned himself with me in any way previous to this – at least, not since he was a little boy.”

“It may sound like a small example, but what I started to see was that – now that I wasn’t worrying about him all the time – there was a different dynamic in our conversations…. a freedom for love to be expressed —  for intelligent, equal conversation to occur, for respect and consideration to be expressed and felt – by both of us.”

“I realized that what my worry (about his dying) had served to do was to hold him at arm’s distance while smothering him with my attempted control of his activities so that he wouldn’t get hurt…”

“What I finally got was that I was trying to control his life so that I wouldn’t ‘get hurt.’   I was interpreting his imagined death as a threat to my own survival because – how could I live without him?   I now feel that I could live with the fact that, in any given moment, my son is either alive or he is not, and there’s nothing I can do about that – except to love him no matter what.   Frankly, death would not affect my love for him at all – Love, I know, is eternal.”

“Our relationship gets more rich every day…. And, because I am free of my worry, I also have a lot more time to spend thinking about things at which I can be productive and successful.   I am opened up and expressed as I have never been before!   I feel as if I have gotten my life back – a part of me that I never knew I had! – with the added bonus of a more special relationship with my son.”

“Every now and then, I still get a tightness in my throat – while watching a movie where a child dies, or something awful happens at work… and my hand goes to my throat. But, now I recognize  that’s the trigger — I take a deep breath and say, ‘I’m OK, I am safe, my son is safe, and I am happy,’ and the feelings pass.”

That workshop with Landon was seven years ago.   It was the beginning of my new life – a life I work at every day — in a moment by moment choice for Love, for freedom, for peace – for aliveness!

Here’s to Aliveness!  Here’s to Life! 

Deliciously yours in the Joy of it all, Linda

 “‘God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore,  for the former things have passed away.’   And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'”    Revelations 21:4-5

 

LandonCarterThis is Landon Carter, who led my first workshop on transformation, described above.

Landon has written a book called, “Living Awake:  The Practice of Transforming Everyday Life.”   In that book, he describes the “Truth Process” as a process  in general;   and, specifically,  the process he did with me, which he describes on pages 88-94.   He calls me “Lucy” in that book.  The letter that I wrote to him after the workshop, edited in the story above, also appears in the book, on pages 152-154.  Landon’s book is a great handbook for living a transformed life — you can read more about it at www.landoncarter.com.

The quintessential transformation education “campus” —  and one where I participate a lot — is Landmark Education, the successor to EST, where Landon was a trainer many years before.  You can visit them at www.landmarkeducation.com.    They have centers all over the world.

Transformation is a never-ending  journey — and well worth the ride….  I promise you —  the ride of your Life!

© 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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