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.

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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.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.

We say, “I’m going to go on a diet,” and maybe we join a gym or maybe we eat healthy –  for a few days or weeks –  and then —  we get too busy to  go to the gym, and we see a great dessert and say, “Oh, just this once…”

And that’s the end of the resolution.

We’re right back to where we were before.  Worse, really, because, now,  we feel bad about ourselves because we failed at THAT,  too.

We fail because we make it all about the “doing” and not about who we’re “being”…

For me, it’s been more effective to take a stand for something — a stand for myself, a stand for someone else — a stand for something that’s important to me.  That “stand” becomes something that the living without THAT would be — not who I am.

This is not easy.  It takes being present to who we really are all the time and THAT is a challenge.  It’s just not something we do — We tend to be a lot “foggier” about our lives.   Without that presence — Well, life will simply continue on automatic.

What it takes is courage.  Courage to face the truth in ourselves. Courage to do the work to be who we really are.

Complacency is so much easier.

The first step is to really get what’s going on now:  The “what’s so” in the matter.  Once you get that, you’ll know where you are standing now on the issue – and then you can see whether you like standing there or not.

I remember when I quit smoking for good.  I had quit many times before that last time.  I did all the things that smokers do when they try to quit:  I tapered off, for a while. Then —  a bad day at work would set me off and I would realize I’d finished a pack.   A few times, I quit cold – and all I could think of was a cigarette. Then I sneaked a cigarette at a party and was right back to smoking.

Every time I went back to smoking, I hated myself about it more than before.

I couldn’t trust my own Word to myself in the matter of smoking.

I never referred to myself as a smoker.  I tricked myself into thinking that I only smoked when I was socializing or I only smoked after dinner or I only smoked outside my apartment.

Rarely did I notice that I smoked when I was by myself and I smoked in the morning and I smoked sitting in front of the television late at night when I was too lazy to go out into the stairwell or to go outside.

On October 10th in 2000, my friend invited me to an Anthony Robbins event at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.  The Meadowlands is right across the Hudson River from Manhattan, so she also had to talk me into taking the train down to her house in South Jersey so that she didn’t have to drive to the Meadowlands alone – and so I did.

The night I arrived at her house, I sneaked outside to have a few cigarettes on the back deck.  I sneaked out there again the next morning and I smoked outside the Meadowlands, after our long drive from her house and before we entered the arena.

During the course of this event — a motivation-driven event for 3000 people that included speeches by Christopher Reeve, Barbara Walters, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Donald Trump, and Tony himself – I quit smoking for good.

I love Tony Robbins – in the pantheon of motivational speakers, he’s got the thing DOWN.  He’s got more energy than any ten people I know.  And he goes for the jugular of self-loathing in a way that leaves you no choice but to face yourself.  Really.

At one point in the event, he talked about smoking and smokers.  It was clear that he does not think that being a smoker is an empowering way to live one’s life…  What he thinks is even more disempowering is when we don’t know who we are around being a smoker…

He addressed the audience, “Raise your hand if you’re a smoker.”

I didn’t raise my hand.  After all, I wasn’t REALLY a smoker, I didn’t smoke ALL the time….

About one-third of the people raised their hands.

He then said, “Raise your hand if you’re not a smoker.”

Well, I couldn’t very well raise my hand.  I did smoke… SOMETIMES.

A different one-third of the people raised their hands.

Then, he said, “Raise your hand if you didn’t raise your hand for either of the other two choices.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.  Now, here was something I could get behind:   Ambivilance.

I proudly raised my hand high.

Well, pride goeth before a fall.

Tony said, “Good for you if you don’t smoke.  Acknowledge yourselves for that – you’re taking one step towards leading a healthy life.  There’s nothing more for me to say to you about this.”

Now for the smokers, “YOU know that you’re doing something that’s not good for you.  You know that and you continue smoking.  You think of yourself as a smoker and until you don’t, you’ll continue to be a smoker.  I’m not going to try to talk you into quitting smoking.”

No lecture, no advice, no nothing.

Tony continued, “The people I really want to address are those of you who didn’t raise your hand for either ‘Yes, I’m a smoker’ or ‘No, I’m not a smoker.’  Don’t you get that you either are or you aren’t a smoker?  There are only two choices here.  Who are you kidding?  Only yourselves.  Everyone around you knows what you are.”

Suddenly, I was embarrassed.  I guess I thought I was fooling everyone.

“You are living in a fantasy world.  A world where you cannot possibly make a powerful choice for yourself because you don’t even know where you stand RIGHT NOW.”

Tony didn’t say much more than that – he’s not into convincing people to do things.  What he did say was much more powerful:

“I’m going to ask you all again.  This time, I want you to choose one or the other because there can ONLY be one or the other.  Be honest with yourself.  Be true to yourself.  Be willing to be responsible for the consequences of your behavior, whatever that is.  Non-smoker?  Healthy choice.  Smoker?  Unhealthy choice.  Know thyself.  Choose powerfully.”

Then, he asked again, “How many of you are smokers?”

It was a moment of truth for me.  Am I a smoker?  Is that who I am?  Am I someone who daily makes an unhealthy choice for my life?  Someone who does something to put myself at risk for my LIFE every day?

NO, that’s NOT who I am.

I didn’t raise my hand.

Then, Tony asked, “How many of you are non-smokers?”

I hesitated only a moment.  I raised my hand. I was a non-smoker.

That was it.  I never smoked another cigarette.  I never reached for one, I never craved one, I never thought about smoking again since that day.

Looking back on it now, in the light of what I’ve learned since then, I realize that what I did – what Tony helped me to do – is the simple formula for transformation of anything:

Get profoundly related to the “what’s so” in the matter.  And, given that, what is your stand – for yourself, for your life, for the world?

That’s what I believe in.  That’s what I do every day of my life – about whatever comes up.  A stand is a very powerful thing – because we are very powerful Beings.

I’m working on my stand for 2010.  So far, it sounds something like this:

My possibility for myself and my life is to live in the fullness of life everyday, to be in partnership with everyone who comes into my life, to be someone who gives everything I have to give, always.

Happy New Year!

Deliciously yours in the Creation of it All,   Linda

“And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”  Rainer Maria Rilka

 

© 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.

DianeBWhiteGarden5I’m a real estate broker, and I just sold my penthouse listing that I’ve had for over a year.

When we first put it on the market last year, we had an offer in three days – great price, cash sale.  My owner almost couldn’t believe it – two guys walked in, took one look, and the next day, we had a great offer.

That was in August.  AND, in New York City, in a coop, it’s a good two to three months from “accepted offer” to closing.

A lot happened in the months between August and October, 2008, as we all know, But, they were doctors with not much stock market exposure, and so, it seemed that we would be OK.

I did their “board package” and applied to the board of directors. They passed easily  The day I called to tell them that they were approved to move into the building, the stock market dropped over 700 points.   The next day I got the call:  they were backing out of the deal, leaving their deposit on the table.

They were scared. Everyone was.   Soon, New York City was a barren real estate market  in an even bigger real estate desert. I went from having one of the hottest apartments on the market to being in the same boat with everyone else:  no customers, no mortgages, no sales.

Oh, did I mention that this particular penthouse apartment has a huge set-back terrace….?   There is room for a table and chairs, lounges, and a hammock. In the middle of Manhattan!   Once the sun crossed over the water tower on the building, there was bright sun all day on this beautiful terrace that faced South, West, and North.

After a few more false starts with customer interest and then wariness, we made a decision to take the apartment off the market for the winter.  My owners had relocated to Boston in the Fall, moving out in the middle of October as they had planned  – when they originally thought they would be closing.

I threw out the dead plants and we closed up the apartment.     It looked as forlorn and desolate as the entire market seemed.

As the Spring approached, we started planning to put the apartment back on the market.  We discussed how we would set up the apartment to get the most mileage out of  marketing the property.

We could have “staged” the empty apartment, but a terrace in Manhattan is a really big deal.   New Yorkers are funny about outdoor space.  You would think that they were never going to see a tree again.    So, in the toss up between moving furniture in and buying plants and landscaping the terrace.

My vote was for the terrace.

Once I said that, I cringed inside.  My owners didn’t live there anymore, and I live two blocks away.   My stand as a real estate broker has always been to do the extra things that make the difference to my owners and buyers.  I research the schools, I find out about moving companies, I supply lists of grocery stores and restaurants, dry cleaners and hardware stores in the neighborhood.  I’m a one-woman show.

And,  I’ve never been able to grow a plant in my life.  I have grand ideas about trees in my living room or plants in ceramic pots in the windows.  And they all die.  No sooner do I buy an orchid plant in full bloom than, one by one, the blooms fall off and the stem. turns brown….

I did have a neighbor once who taught me how to water her plants when she was away.  With that successful memory in mind, I offered my owner,  “Please  don’t worry.  I’ll come over and water every day.“  I knew I could do that much.

Secretly, I worried that something would go wrong and those beautiful plants would wither and die under my care.

I even remember, years ago,  when I took up Astrology and found out that I have no earth in my chart.  I thought, “No wonder all my plants die!  No wonder I don’t cook!  No wonder I’m not  ‘earthy’….”

It didn’t make sense to me.   My mother was an avid gardener.    She had flower gardens and a vegetable garden and hedges of lilacs around our property, and roses growing up the entire side of our garage.  When the lilacs bloomed, my mother would cut bunches and bunches of them  and fill every room in our house with bowls and vases of lilacs.  To this day, when I pass a corner store selling lilacs here in the city, and I smell their fragrance on the air,  I always think of her, and I am reminded of how much I miss her, and all the beauty that she gave me.

She was known for making things grow. One time, I asked her how she could spend hours on her knees, planting and weeding, and picking and arranging.  She told me that the flowers and vegetables kept her in touch with who she was, they kept her “grounded.”

I often heard her talk to her plants. She was as affectionate with them as she was with us.  I asked her why she did that and she told me that plants don’t grow unless they feel loved.  She said that talking to them reassured them that she loved them.

Well, maybe.  It was clear to me that she spent time with them, she took care of them, and there was something magical in what she did. Everything she touched, grew.  And,  I had no idea what that was!  If she wanted to call it love, that was fine by me.

The landscaper came in and set up the plants.  They were pretty, but hardly lush.  She told me that it would take awhile for them to “warm” to their environment. As she spoke, I thought, “Oh, no. This is just like my mother.  It’s not just about the watering.  There’s something more here to do.” I just didn’t think I had that magical quality  that could do it,  whatever “it” was.

Nevertheless,  I gave my Word and now I was responsible for them.   I came over every day and I watered.  I noticed that when it rained, the wind whipped around the edge of the terrace and knocked some of the plants over, so I made a point of going over when it was windy to move the plants up close to the apartment walls. I moved them around as they grew so that they could get the most sun; or, in some cases, when they got too much sun, I moved them into the shade for a day or so.

In the meantime, people were still scared, mortgages were still scarce, and this beautiful terrace sat, in the center of Manhattan, with no one living there.  Sometimes, I would go over with a book and read in “my” garden for hours.

I started going over, and, after I watered, I would read or meditate or work for a while.  Soon, I found myself stroking their leaves and buds until, one day, I opened the door to the terrace, and called out, “Hi, Babies, I’m here!”  I caught myself:  Now, I’m talking to plants?

And, they grew and they grew.

I had to stand pots up on top of other pots because the vines and the leaves were flourishing so much they had to be lifted up off the hot terrace tiles.    Verdant and luxuriant, a garden to be proud of.   I sent pictures to the landscaper and she wrote to me, “Boy, you really have a green thumb!  They look great!”

I do?  I have a green thumb?

One day, I noticed that one of the evergreens had these little pine cone-looking things.  I thought that was odd.  None of the other evergreens had little pine cones.   After a week or so, I noticed that the leaves on that particular evergreen seemed to be thinning.  As I watered, I got up close to the tree, curious about those funny appendages hanging down. and then, one of them wiggled.  I pulled my face back quickly.  what was THAT?

I finished watering and put the hose away.  I came back to that tree and just stared at those “pine cones.”  Suddenly, out of the top of one of them, I saw this big, black worm raise his head and pull himself up from the opening.

I recoiled from what I saw.  What could this be?  And, as I looked at all these “pine cones” hanging down, I realized that these weren’t supposed to be there — could there be black worms in every one of those cones?

That did it!  Nothing was going to mess with my babies.  I ran inside the house and grabbed some paper towels and came out and pulled every one of those “pine cones” off that tree.  Harder than it looked, mind you.  There was something that looked like silk thread that tied those cones to the tree.  Finally, I thought I had gotten them all.  I took them inside and tied them into a plastic garbage bag and threw them out.

When I got home, I googled “worms in evergreens” and….  THERE THEY WERE!  They are called “bag worms” and I learned all about how they make their bags from the silk thread that they produce and they take some of the little evergreen needles and decorate their bags with them so that they look just like little pine cones.

I read for hours.  One woman commented that the gardener must stay vigilant because “those worms will drag those bags all over that tree.”

I learned that they use the wind and their silk to fly from tree to tree to infest other evergreens in the area.

No way was that happening.

The next day, I went over, armed for a fight.  And, sure enough, there were more bags in the very same area that I thought I had cleaned out.  I removed those and into the plastic bag they went.

I searched the entire terrace. I found one attached to the underside of the table. I found one on the evergreen nearest the infested one and removed that.  I even found one attached to the apartment’s brick wall.  It was trying to get itself over to the other side of the terrace!

I removed them all and have not found another one since.  There are other things to do to prevent them from coming back next year and I will work with the landscaper to be sure that happens.

After I removed them all, I walked around from plant to plant, reassuring them that I was there and I was taking care of them and no “bag worms” were going to get them, not if I had anything to do with it.

I called the landscaper and told her what I had found.  She applauded me for spotting them and taking care of the problem.  “Just think of it this way,” she said, “You just saved a tree.”

Wow!

That’s when I got myself in a whole new way.  I always held it before that nothing could grow around me.  Even when I saw myself as successful in other areas, it always bothered me that I couldn’t make flowers grow and I didn’t know anything about vegetables, and so I thought I wasn’t earthy or grounded.   I always thought I didn’t have what it takes, but that wasn’t it at all.

It struck me that I had been like those little “bag worms”, carting my “bag” of history and pre-conceived notions about myself around with me wherever I went, and now I see how deathly that can be.  The only reason I wasn’t earthy was because I believed I wasn’t.  I couldn’t make flowers grow before because I was convinced that  I couldn’t do that.

And that’s not the truth about me.

What there is to do is to create, to nurture:  to water and feed —  whether it be plants or flowers or people.  Or dreams. To be responsible for them, to speak to them so they always know how much I love them.

Anything could  grow in that space, don’t you think?

The apartment has been sold now and will close at the beginning of November.  I promised the new owner I would work with her on getting the landscaper in to take care of the trees for the winter and to be sure that the evergreens are sprayed for the “bag worms” so that there is no repeat of them next Spring.

You might think that I would be sad that I won’t be taking care of them anymore, but here’s what I’ve taken on: Those beautiful plants on the terrace taught me something important about myself, and I am incredibly grateful.   Now it’s time for someone else to enjoy them and take care of them, and, perhaps, to learn something, too.

There will be other gardens for me to grow.

Deliciously yours in the Beauty of it All,   Linda

“Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed…  that with the sun’s love
in the spring… becomes the rose…”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             …”The Rose”, Bette Midler

“The only way to change your story is to change what you believe about yourself….Every time you change the main character of your story, the whole story changes to adapt to the new main character.”
~Don Miguel Ruiz

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This is the terrace I’ve been caring for all summer….  These pictures were taken mid-Summer.  All these plants are twice as big now!

 

 

 

 

 

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And, these are the evergreens that I saved from the “Bag worms”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

peaceful-viewinCentralParkAfter 9/11, it got personal….

In the aftermath of those days of serving at the armory, and those nights of writing about it to all my friends, I was left alone with my own fears… 

Before September 11th, I had been interviewing for a job.  It had looked good for a few weeks.  On the Friday after the towers went down, I received a call that they were putting the job on hold.  

During the busy days, I would forget that I had no job, no means of support, and the only thing I had been working on was now gone.  In the middle of the night, after the shower, after the writing — sometime around 4:00 every morning, alone in my room, I would remember…  

That’s when I got scared for myself… 

I was forced to look at my situation and, when I did, I became paralyzed with fear.  There were times when I sat in my seat, unable to think of what I would do or where I would go.  My options looked grim.  I was virtually estranged from my family.  Years of going down separate roads, with no time or effort invested, either on my part or theirs, to enclose us back in the loop of “family”  had created a distance and an indifference that caught me off guard.  I never realized before that not being committed in love and community with them would finally leave me without family to turn to. 

Sometime after the towers went down, Fred called me that he wanted to speak to me.  He came over that afternoon and handed me divorce papers.  I was too tired and too stunned about my life to be further shocked that he chose this time — after 8 years of separation —  to bring up a divorce.  I looked at them – three simple pages that dissolved a marriage that had long been over.  I looked up, “Why now?” I asked.  “Why not?” he answered —  and I had to agree.  I signed the papers. 

That night, the impact of his visit hit me.  I was alone.  

The despair and loneliness hit.  I had been praying at the armory with the victims’ families, but my own prayers seemed empty and meaningless.  That night, they moved into desperation.  There was no direction, no comfort, no hope. 

I didn’t know how to reach out.  I never did that before.  I always had it that I was supposed to do it by myself.  I didn’t know any other way.  And, in not reaching out, I had withdrawn into myself, closing myself off to everyone who had ever been in my life. 

I walked to my computer and sat down.  I composed an email to Marianne Williamson.  Marianne was the pastor of Church of Today in Detroit, Michigan.  I had read her book, “A Return to Love” many years before and had loved it.  It was a book based on her reflections on “A Course in Miracles”, a spiritual self-study program.  Since then, I had searched out her lectures and workshops.  She had just been in New York City after 9/11, speaking at St. Bartholemew’s Church on Park Avenue about the tragedy.  She had said something that was so hopeful:  “God didn’t make this happen, but, now that it has, God has a plan.” 

I wondered if He had a plan for me, too. 

I wrote to her about the victims’ families and what I was doing with them and that I felt called to do that work – to help people deal with the tragedy, to make a difference in people’s lives, and that the calling had to do with God, but I didn’t know what that was.  I knew I wanted to continue helping people, but what did that look like?  I questioned how one went about figuring that out AND making a living at that same time.  I told her that I was at a point of fear and “not knowing” and that didn’t feel good, but what WAS the way?  I didn’t know and I hoped that she did.  I clicked “Send”.  

The next day, I received an answer.  The email said: 

After reading your email, my sense is that you need to be more patient as you are being ‘pruned’ for this work.  I don’t believe we can hurry the process, we can only be willing to be used, to be changed, to evolve.  A year from now you will look back and see how much you have grown in faith and trust.  You will see how your fear has been kept in check, not removed, but kept in check by your faith and a power greater than yourself.  Do what is in front of you to do right now and the next thing will be shown to you in due time.  I know it is not easy, and yet I do believe this is the way the preparation for service works.

God’s blessings are with you” 

At the bottom of the email, there was a note:  “It might be helpful to put yourself in a spiritual support group.  Here is a list of “A Course In Miracles” study groups in Manhattan.  It is not for everyone.  See if it is for you.”       

I called every group on the list.  Some people were inviting, some were distant and aloof, some were in people’s homes, some met in coffee shops once a week.       

The last name on the list was Jeffrey Mironov.  He lived on the Upper West Side, and he held a group in his home every Wednesday night.  He had been doing it for 10 years.  He was open and welcoming and comforting on the phone.  I don’t remember what  he said to me, but I do remember that I knew that this was the group for me. 

I told him I would come the following Wednesday. 

Years before, after reading Marianne’s book, I had bought a copy of “A Course in Miracles”.  I tried to read it by myself and found it very dense and confusing.  I was baffled – she got what she got from this book?  How?  I could barely keep my attention on it for more than a paragraph without my mind wandering away…  

I thought, “Maybe if I find the chapter on ‘forgiveness’, that would be enough…”.   I laugh at myself now when I think of that since the entire work is based on forgiveness.  At the time, though, I was looking for the quick and easy way.  Perhaps I just wasn’t ready.  I found the one chapter heading with “forgiveness” in the title and tried to read that.  No luck.  I folded back the book to the page, stuck it in the closet and there it remained. 

As I prepared to go to Jeffrey’s house on December 5th, 2001, I searched all over for my copy of the Course.  I found it tucked away in the back of one of my closets, still with the page turned back to the chapter on “forgiveness”.  I didn’t know how studying this book that I didn’t understand would give me any peace.   But, I was willing to look at it differently….

Jeffrey lived – and still does — at 86th Street and Riverside Drive, a beautiful pre-war building called The Normandy.  The doorman directed me to take the elevator up to the 15th floor  — I opened the door – already slightly ajar — into Jeffrey’s apartment .  Nice.  Cozy.  I stepped into the foyer and noticed lots of shoes by the door.  I took mine off and lay them near the others.  I walked into the room where I saw people sitting.  

What was immediately there for me was the breath-taking view of the Hudson River and New Jersey from the living room window.  I was instantly  relieved that I wasn’t in some basement somewhere with no windows and a stark, single bulb hanging from the ceiling, which is how I always imagined “self-help” group meetings. 

I met Jeffrey, the leader, a tall, easy guy who reminded me of what I always thought  Ichabod Crane from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” looked like.  Only  there was nothing scared and meek about Jeffrey.  He seemed peaceful and friendly and invited me in as if his home was my home.  There was a power and grace to him.     

There were other people there, but the one who most stands out for me was Steve Conenna.  Steve is a big guy, tall with a shaved head and a wide, ever-present smile.  I was nervous about meeting everyone, but Jeffrey and Steve made me feel comfortable and, somehow, as if I belonged there…  as if I’d always belonged there… 

We read from “A Course in Miracles” and Jeffrey spoke.  I don’t remember everything he said, but he was so sure, so certain that God is “right here, right now.”  He used that expression a lot.  I wanted to ask, “How do you know that?”, but even as my questioning mind was going crazy, something inside me was settling down.  Every once in a while, the skeptical part would rise up and say something, and Jeffrey would simply answer, confident and certain, and I would sink back down into comfort.  Even so, the tears threatened to pour out at any moment.       

After a while, everyone started to leave.  Soon, I was alone in the living room with Jeffrey and Steve.  I told them about me – that I was broke, I didn’t know what to do, I felt alone and helpless AND I had just done this service at the armory that made me realize that I wanted to do something for other people.  I didn’t know what it was…  and I was afraid of what was next…

Even as I spoke, I was thinking,  “Am I kidding myself?  How can I do anything for anyone else if I can’t even take care of myself?  Am I just making excuses for a life now in crisis?  How will I know what I am supposed to do?” 

My mind was going crazy… 

Anger growled into my voice as I spoke about why I was there, “I know what I DON’T want – I don’t want to sit around and talk about God!  I don’t think that helps anything or anyone.  I want an experience of God in my life.  I want whatever this is that is angry and scared to go away and I want some peace.  I want to just BE.  I don’t want to keep trying to survive.  I’m tired and I’m scared.  If we’re just going to talk about God, this is not for me and I’m not coming back.” 

That night, and in all the years since I’ve  known  Jeffrey – I have never seen him flinch at anything I’ve said.  I’ve never seen him angry or defensive or lose it or be anything other than loving and great.  He responded to my rant by looking right in my eyes.  He said:

Linda, God loves you now, He has always loved you, and He will  always  love you. That’s all there ever is,  always.” 

That was it.  I stared at him as he and Steve looked at me.  And.. I felt… love.  It washed over me.  Right then.  Not before.   Just… right…. then.   Suddenly, Jeffrey looked beautiful to me.  Steve looked beautiful to me.  The tears rolled  down my cheeks.  I couldn’t believe it could be that simple – all of a sudden, I felt a joy and a comfort and a love for everything and everybody… 

And… the fear was gone…       

Steve said, “You look pretty good to me.”  I nodded my head.  I looked into his eyes and then I looked into Jeffrey’s eyes and I knew…. 

This is what I came for…. 

I’ve been here ever since….  in the love, in the peace, in the knowing… 

Deliciously yours in the Majesty of it All…  Linda

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”  Psalm 138:8

“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.”    Mohandas Mahatma Ghandi

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This is Marianne Williamson, whose book, “A Return to Love” is the book I read that got me to “A Course in Miracles.”  She’s written many books since then and I’ve read them all.  If you want to know more about her or to order this book or any of her other books, all of which I recommend,  please go to her website, www.marianne.com.  I particularly like “Illuminata” which is a book of prayers that I keep by my bed.

 

 

 

© 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.

candle1A  personal remembrance of 9/11…

I woke up that morning and did what I always do – rolled out of bed, went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, meditated, and turned on my computer.  The first thing I saw on my screen was a tiny picture of both towers with smoke coming out the side of one — and a headline that said, “Plane hits World Trade Tower.”  My first thought was, “Wow!  The pilot couldn’t see that?”  It was early enough that there was no mention of terrorists in the paragraph that followed. 

I ate breakfast – and I headed for the living room and my television.  I clicked it on – just in time to see the first tower go down. 

I couldn’t believe my eyes…  I couldn’t move, I couldn’t pull myself away from the TV screen… 

It was lucky I turned on my computer so early…  It was my link to the world outside.  That computer line stayed open all day because it had already been established.  After the towers went down, neither of my phones worked.  I worried all day about my family, about my friends…    After the day was over, I would find no less than 8 messages from my son, each one more troubled than the one before, and lots of voice mails from all over the country.    

The voice on the television called for blood donations in anticipation of all the casualties.  I lived on the next street from the blood bank and soon the line curved around the corner, under my window, to curve around the next corner again. I have a mildly rare blood type and so I thought to do what seemed to be the only thing I could do  – I went to the front of the line and spoke to the guard there, told him my blood type, and made an appointment to come back the next day.  They were so over-loaded with donations right then, but rare blood was being taken on an appointment basis.  

When I went back the next day, they told me that there was no need to donate – they had more blood than they could use.  

The television screen showed well made-up gurneys outside hospitals, in preparation for all the bleeding and hurt who would surely fill them soon.  That image would soon haunt us in the days afterwards as they stood there,  pristine and empty.  

By Thursday, I could no longer sit in front of my television, watching replay after replay of the towers collapsing.  I called the Red Cross to volunteer.  They took my name and told me they would call me back.  I waited all day.  They didn’t call. 

On Friday morning, I heard the announcer on television say that the National Guard had taken over the armory at Lexington Avenue and 26th Street, and the victims’ families were urged to go there rather than to go anywhere near Ground Zero.  I decided to go to the armory to offer whatever help I could.  After all, I thought, I was a spiritual minister – I could pray with them, I could comfort them, I could do something 

The taxi couldn’t take me right to the armory – the street in front of the building was blocked off, and there were people everywhere.  I walked the last block to the front door.  There were guards lined up across the entrance, blocking the way in through the massive doors in front.   I walked up to one of guards, told him that I was volunteering with the Red Cross, and he let me right in.  No one asked for identification, so one looked in my bag.  I didn’t know it then, but those days would soon be over… 

I walked into the huge, cavernous room that is the main hall of the armory.  There were people everywhere.  High on the right wall, there was a huge television screen, playing the same news channel that I had been watching at home.  I wondered if everyone who had missing family members really wanted to watch the frequently replayed scenes of the towers smoking and then collapsing. 

Over the next few days, I would come to appreciate that huge screen on the wall as the only information available, and – as it was grounding for people at home to watch the television updates – so was it grounding for the families who had come to find out something – anything — about their missing family members — only to find that information was in the form of where their loved ones weren’t

The Red Cross table was in the far right corner of the room.  I announced myself and my intention to help.  The man behind the table asked me what I could do.  I explained that I was a spiritual minister and a form was shoved into my hands.  I filled it out, noting that there was a list of societies, orders, and credentials for me to check off.  I belonged to none of them.  When I handed my form back in, the man looked at it and told me that I could not be a minister under the Red Cross rules.  Not satisfied with that answer, I wanted to speak to someone else. 

What happened next would always after strike me as the intercession of God in an otherwise “not-going-to-happen” situation. 

It seems that the manning of the table was in the midst of a shift change.  The man who didn’t want me was leaving  and someone was taking his place.  As he got up from his seat to go, he handed my form to the woman coming in and said, “She wants to be a chaplain.”  

The woman took the form, didn’t look at it, and put it down in a pile to her right.  She called over to another woman, got her attention, pointed at me and said, “Chaplain!”  A yellow placard vest with “Chaplain”  printed on the front and back was handed to me, and I was instructed to put it on.  Then, she told me to go and stand near the front door and be on the lookout for anyone who was upset or seemed to be in distress. 

That was it.  I was a chaplain.  

As I walked to the front of the huge room, what I noticed immediately was that hardly anyone was crying.  While there were families sitting together, leaning on each other, many people were watching the screen on the wall or walking around in a daze.  The shock of what was happening was so palpable, but it had not yet given way to grief. 

A man came running up to me and a few of the other volunteers and told us that they were short-handed in the “hospital room” downstairs, and we were to go there right away.   Hospital room?  I was puzzled, but ran to follow him… 

I moved down the stairs to the right of a long line of people that started at the top of the stairs, snaked down the steps, across the hall, and into a room.  We walked up to the man in charge at the front door.  He explained that he wanted a chaplain at each of the stations where the members of the families would go to seek information.  

I looked into the room to see a series of tables arranged around the room in a big rectangle, with the chaplains and other volunteers sitting in the inside seats.  As an outside seat was available, a person from the front of the line would go to sit in the vacated seat.  I soon found out why this was called “the hospital room”. 

In front of each of the volunteers was a fat white binder about two inches thick.  The man in charge explained to me, “That is a list of everyone who has been admitted to the hospital.  They will give you the name of the person they are looking for. You look up the name.  If it is there, it means that they were admitted to the hospital.  If the name is not there…..”.  His voice trailed off.  

I asked if people were still being admitted to the hospital.  He turned and looked at me. He sighed and said, “Today is Friday.  It happened on Tuesday.  Anyone who was injured was admitted to the hospital right away.  Most of them have already been released – most of those people were injured running away from the collapse.”  He looked towards the line,  “Many of these family members have been in here already.”  As I turned to walk into the room, he said,  “We can’t say anything more than that.  The name is in the book  — or it’s not…” 

I stayed in that room all day and all night.  I suppose I must have eaten or gone to the bathroom…  I don’t remember….  There was only to stay present with each person who came to me, each at their own stage of grief – some dazed, some angry, some crying…   Some were sure my book would be updated soon and their loved one would be found, their worry would be over, their lives could continue…. 

All I could offer was a word of comfort, a touch, a prayer… listening to them as they tried to sort this out for themselves….. 

Some were ready to move onto the next stage of grief.  One woman was.  She was older, Spanish, fragile looking.  I asked her name.  “Maria,” she said (not her real name).  Her voice was so low, I could hardly hear her.  “Who are you looking for, Maria?”  She gave me the name of a man.  I looked in the big, white book.  The name was not there.  I looked up at her, “He has not been admitted to the hospital.”   

She put her head on the table and sobbed quietly.  I leaned across the table and put my hand on her arm.  “Who is this you’re looking for?”  “He is my husband,” she said. “He is my husband for 32 years.”  I got up and came around the table and held her in my arms.  She cried softly for a few minutes and then lifted her head and dried her eyes.  “That’s it, then,” she said.  

I thought to say, “You don’t know that.  Come back later.” But, I couldn’t say it.  I knew that, at some point – a different point for every person – each would have to come to that inevitable conclusion and, if Maria was ready to do that now, I could not take that away from her. 

I said nothing. 

At some point, someone noticed that I was there a long time and told me to go home.  It was 2 in the morning. 

I was exhausted, but couldn’t go to sleep right away.  I needed to decompress.  Over the next few days, a ritual evolved.  I would go home,  shower, change into a clean t-shirt and PJ bottoms, and sit at my computer… 

In the middle of those nights, I purged myself onto long emails to my friends, reporting on what was going on here, what I saw at the armory, what people were saying, what they were doing, how we were holding up.  

I sounded stronger than I felt. 

When I wrote about what I was doing, what all the volunteers were doing, I found that it really mattered to me that people were comforted, that they had enough arms around them, enough shoulders to cry on, enough people to talk to — and that those people, like me, would simply listen as the speakers worked out whatever they had to work out for themselves.  It wasn’t easy to simply listen…  AND  that is what there is to do when people are hurting….   

What I did see for myself was that being a care-giver filled me up and used me in a way that I never felt before –  it gave me a peace that money couldn’t, that my “success” never did.  It seemed strange to me to think this:  in the midst of the tragedy, I found purpose, a sense that I was contributing to people, that I was making a difference in their experience of this awful time, that I could be a source of love and comfort, and perhaps that love and comfort would register somewhere in their hearts so as to contribute to their healing… 

In one of my email “newsletters,” I offered a Sufi teaching: 

Past the Seeker as he prayed came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them…he cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”  And God said, “I did do something.  I made you.” 

Months later, I would receive an email back from one of my high school friends, to whom I had sent that Sufi passage.  She had forwarded it to her friends — and her friends had forwarded it to theirs around the world.  Someone in Nepal read it and sent a message back to me — through all the different address lists – to tell me that message had touched her most of all… 

…that people were helping people, that many were comforting others, that there was hope for humanity if that could happen…. 

Amen to that… 

Deliciously yours in the Goodness of it All….  Linda 

“Lord, take me where you want me to go
“Let me meet who you want me to meet
“Tell me what you want me to say
“And keep me out of your way.”        

….The prayer of Father Mychal Judge, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York City, who died while administering last rites on September 11, 2001.  Father Judge was victim #001, the first official victim of 9/11.

© 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.

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.

“By the Sea…”

August 12, 2009

WomanOnTheSandHi, it’s Linda here again… and this week’s story is a bit nostalgic… a sweet taste, savored long ago, that still lingers…. stirring up memories of love that once was….and, somewhere, still is…..

There is a time for everything in life…. a time when we fall in love, we get married, we have a child…

Sometimes that beautiful story continues. Often, there are bumps along the way and life takes a turn that we don’t expect. It can be challenging to leave behind what once was… and, yet, there is no future in life until we let go of the past, the beautiful times as well as the tough times….

Only when our space is “clean” can there be room for something new…

Here’s a story about letting go of one of those beautiful times… and how we can do that with love….

Years ago, just before I married my husband, Fred, we had the opportunity to rent – and then buy – a house on the beach in Westhampton, New York. One of Fred’s colleagues had just taken a job in Ohio and was not going to be able to use the house that he had rented — with an option to buy, no less. He called Fred and said, “Go out there and take a look at it… If you like it, I’ll turn over the lease to you…”

The next Saturday – a cold, clear day in February, 1976 – we traveled out to the Hamptons to take a look. The long drive ended with a desolate stretch along Dune Road, passing boarded up cottages and empty driveways — to arrive at a burgundy cottage, high up on pilings, boarded up like all the others, with a rickety staircase climbing up to the front door and a high dune on the ocean-side that prevented us from seeing what lay beyond…

Like kids, we jumped out of the car and ran up the stairs, trying to peek inside – to no avail. It was a worn house, small – but the air was crisp and the sky was blue – and we whispered about how good it would be to spend the summer at the beach…

And, if we liked it? Well, it was a very inexpensive house – as all of them were then… and we could afford it if we didn’t buy an apartment in the city…. we had such freedom to choose!

When we couldn’t see inside from the front door – or even crack the board on a window a bit… we decided that we’d go under the house and climb the dune and see what the ocean looked like from there…

We scrambled up the back of the high dune – it must have been 15 feet! – and pulled each other up to the top to see a back porch that was also old and weathered…. and then we turned around….

It was beautiful… breath-taking, really… the ocean stretched out before us in an endless expanse of sea and sky… the waves rolled in a rhythmic pattern from left to right, curling foam to crash upon the white sand.…

We looked at each other and we knew this was it…. this was our house…. we hugged and we kissed and we loved and we gave everything in our hearts to each other and to this house…..

When we got home, Fred called his friend – “Yes, we’ll take it….”

We got married in May and moved into our beach house for Memorial Day weekend…. It was old and worn inside, but we didn’t care… it was warm and it was cozy and it was ours….

It would be impossible in this little story for me to tell you everything that happened in that house… the wonderful times with friends, the beautiful sun-filled weekends, the runs along the beach with the sea breeze moving us along and lobster roasts in the sand…. How we spent every weekend there from May to October every year, loving every moment of it…. so that, even in the cold of winter, when we never went out there, it lived for us in the background of our minds — as the love nest that it truly was….

When we lost our first baby in May, 1978, that summer at the beach house was a time and a place of mourning that turned into a haven of healing and love for both of us…

When Josh was born the following year, we brought him home — after 8 weeks in the hospital and a scary time when it was all about transfusions and intensive care for him — and intensive care followed by my mother’s death for her – we headed out to the beach house, in the middle of October, even though the season was over and the road was quiet and the town was empty — and we slept in our room, with Joshua in his Moses-basket by our bed….

We were at peace there…

As I look back on it now, it strikes me as odd – and strangely synchronistic: how our lives together — and what happened to the beach house — seemed to mirror each other…

Fred and I drifted into a troubled and confusing time… and the beach house suffered from winter Northeasters that left it standing precariously on three less pilings… and listing dangerously to one side – not unlike how our marriage was standing…. scary to look at, dangerous to enter, and doomed to fall into the ocean if we couldn’t fix it….

Try as we did, both the house and the marriage collapsed…. a series of winter storms in 1993 finally took the house out to sea…. the same winter that Fred and I no longer had anything left to stand on either…

After the last storm, we went out to look at where the house once stood. The road – what there was of it — was blocked, the rest of the area was flooded so that the only way out to where the house used to be was by barge — a big one with wheels that rolled into — and then floated on — the ocean… I couldn’t look… it was too painful to see it all gone…

We left the beach that day and didn’t go back… There were community groups and lawsuits to work on rebuilding the beach – and the meetings and the legal trials, once again, were much like the discord that now existed between Fred and me…

It was hard to remember how we were together before… as it was hard to remember how beautiful it had been in our house at the beach….

Over several years… and little by little, the beach was restored – lawsuits won by the community, a new town created, Westhampton Dunes, and an agreement by the government to manage the beach over the next 30 years to keep it from drifting away again…

In those same years, Fred and I mended our own hearts and – even though we chose different lives – what emerged was the foundation of real love and affection that always lay under the surface of our problems – those problems that were really defenses — against what? We don’t remember now…

Years later, when the beach was beautiful again, I went out to look at our land…. it had sat barren and empty for a long time. The lawsuits won, the area was going through a building boom and there was our beach in the midst of framed-out houses and newly planted dunes…

Waiting for a new life….

Neither Fred nor I could let it go….

Shortly after that, a developer called and made a nice offer for the land. Fred and I had been separated for years – we knew that we would never build on that land again. AND… knowing that it was in the background… that it was there… spoke of something unfinished….

Something incomplete….

It was time to let go…

We took the offer…

The week before we closed, I went out to the beach by myself… I brought a notebook and a pen and a folding chair. I opened the chair and sat there all afternoon, writing in my book – anything that I could remember about everything that ever happened in that house.

One memory was emblazoned on my heart…

The spring after Joshua was born, we opened the house early and started bringing him out there every weekend. One night, I was holding him in my arms, rocking him to sleep in an antique rocker that we had in our bedroom….

Our house was a strange shape… the master bedroom jutted out onto the back deck, facing the ocean – and the main house was at a right angle to the bedroom doors that opened onto the deck…. Sitting in the rocking chair, holding my baby – I could see both the ocean – and — if I looked a little to the right – I could see across the deck, into the living room where Fred was sitting, reading his book.

It was a perfect moment.

I felt a love wash over me that I had never felt before…. there was nothing there BUT love… I looked down at Joshua, his little eyelashes fluttering on his soft, sweet cheeks and my heart filled up and overflowed… I lifted my head and saw Fred and was overwhelmed with love for him – I turned towards the ocean and watched those beautiful waves rolling in curls onto the sand and the moonlight glistening on the ocean…. and all I could think was, “This is it… This is bliss… Thank you, God… You have blessed me…. I have everything I could ever want in my life…. I am so grateful…..” and the tears rolled down my face – I was that happy…..

And… that was a long time ago…

As I sat in the folding chair and looked at my little plot of beach – that same beach that was the place of my fondest memory and my deepest love…. I knew that what I wanted for whomever would live there was exactly that….

Love.

I took a stick and made the Reiki symbol for “love” in the sand. I climbed up the dune, one last time. Standing there, facing the sea — with the sharp, salty breeze brushing against my face and blowing my hair back — I blessed the sky, I blessed the beach, I blessed the ocean…

I said good-bye…

I packed up my folding chair, my notebook, and my bag… I turned and left…

I have a new life now, a different life…. A life I love… and, I am blessed that I had that life… once, a long time ago….

As for Fred and me? Well, real love never dies…. it changes, it looks different… but it is always love… We are friends now and that is a gift….

Deliciously yours in the Beauty of it all, Linda

“A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven”

…”Turn, Turn, Turn”, The Bryds

LindaOnFrontDeckTrimmedThis is me, on the front deck of our beach house on Dune Road in Westhampton, in the summer of 1983. It was a beautiful time — for Fred and Josh and for me, for our two other children from Fred’s first marriage, Brian and Cindy, for our house, for our friends who came to visit….. With love, always…. xoxo

 

 

© 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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Taylor was the main draw.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She looked right at me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I saw her eyes well with tears….

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

And then she was gone.

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

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

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

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

Deliciously yours in the Gorgeousness of it All…. Linda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was afraid to touch him.

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

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

I was in awe of her.

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

Ever…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He chose to live with his Dad…

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

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

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

“Hi, Josh, it’s Mom… How’s work?”

“It’s fine. How are you?”

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

Silence.

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

“Love you, too, Mom…”

Click.

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

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

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

A little scared… off I went to Minneapolis…

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

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

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

And, listen I did… for hours….

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

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

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

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

The more I listened, the more he said…

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

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

And, he said:

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

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

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

Old patterns die hard….

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

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

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

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

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

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

And… for who WE are…

Anything is possible now for me and Josh ….

I have no idea what that looks like…

Now, THAT’S an adventure worth having…

Deliciously yours in the Glory of it All,  Linda

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

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

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

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

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

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