I was looking for my Christmas ornaments.  

It was the Fall of 2007.  I hadn’t had a Christmas tree in all the time I’d  lived in my apartment, four years at that point.  It occurred to me to celebrate my transition into a new life by creating one of my beautiful Christmas trees, loaded with lights and decorations and wrapped in pink tulle. 

I took on cleaning out my closets to find my boxes of ornaments.

It’s funny about closets – New Yorkers always seem to want lots of closet space, AND what happens is that we bury things in there for years.  Then we forget.  We forget what we have and what we value and what has long ago lost any worth or use to us.  We let it all lay in the background of our apartments and our lives, leaving no room for anything new to come in…

After moving every box and pile out of all the closets and into the middle of the living room floor, I made a disconcerting discovery:

My Christmas ornaments were nowhere to be found.

I sat on the couch, gathering my thoughts and dusting off my memory.  Where could they be?

I remembered.   It had been a horrible time. I had to leave my previous apartment to go and live with a friend for a while.  I wasn’t working – a condition made worse by the 9/11 tragedy the prior September.  The city was still in shock, a job I had been working on dried up, and New Yorkers – as resilient as we are – were waking up to a new world.   The process was not easy.

In the midst of this, after 8 years of separation, my husband, Fred, brought me divorce papers.   When I asked, “Why now?” he said, “It’s time,” and I had to agree.  It didn’t seem that it would change anything – we had been friends for years, and there was no reason to think that we wouldn’t be as we had been.  I signed the papers.

There were many things that I couldn’t bear to put in storage when I left that apartment.  Fred helped me to move boxes of these treasures to his house: photographs, our wedding album, the blue snake paperweight he had given me when I became a Vice President at Bloomingdale’s, the Tiffany Battersea box of the Statue of Liberty from her birthday year, my amethyst ring that I had designed in a little goldsmith shop in Florence, some of my favorite articles of clothing, and all my Christmas decorations.

When Fred and I were first married, we made a promise that we would give each other an ornament that was a special gift to the other.   Although Fred is Jewish, we always had a Christmas tree and decorations all over the apartment.   That first year, I bought a white felt church ornament and, with a black Sharpee, I wrote, “United Nations Interfaith Chapel, May 16, 1976” around the front doors to celebrate our wedding day.

In the years following that, I would go to work at Bloomingdale’s early on the morning after Christmas day and buy some of the special ornaments that I had been coveting that season – now at 50% off.  I bought angels and gilt boxes, and delicate crystal scene ornaments.  One year, Bloomingdale’s had a Venetian Christmas theme, and I bought masks and gondolas and Venetian chandeliers, and a hand-painted porcelain jester to sit atop the tree.

When I realized that the ornaments had to have been at Fred’s, I called to ask him to drop them off for me.  When I made my request, he said, “But… you gave them to me.”  I was so surprised by his response that all I could do was to repeat it, “I gave them to you? For keeps?”  He said that I did.  I still couldn’t get it, “You’ve been using them?  All these years?”     

I stopped myself before I said what was there for me, “All these years?  Without me?

I listened as he recounted the day and the conversation when I had done so.  I didn’t remember.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  Losing my home was so traumatic that Christmas ornaments and divorce papers for a marriage long over paled by comparison.   I could even imagine myself saying, “Sure, take them.”

I made a stab for sympathy , “Fred, you know what I was going through.  Wouldn’t you want me to have them back now?”

He didn’t.  He was annoyed as he said that he thought they were his and he’d see what he could do about pulling them together for me, but some of them weren’t there anymore. 

I knew instantly what he meant.  My special “love” mementos weren’t there.  His girlfriend would never hang an ornament on the tree that was “engraved” with the date and place of our marriage.  I didn’t want to hear that there were ornaments that had been thrown out, discarded in some trashcan someplace, sullied and forever lost.

I stopped talking.  We were in two different conversations, and I realized that I didn’t want to be in THAT conversation anymore – the conversation of “mine” and “yours” that had run our marriage.  Those ornaments weren’t my marriage, they weren’t my feelings, they weren’t my life.  They were memories, and that’s what they would remain.

I hung up the phone and I knew I was done. We had tried hard to maintain a friendship, an enchantment about the way we loved each other, first passionately, now fondly.  It was over, I knew – but, I always believed – and still do – that God can always start over again.  It may not look the same, but He can make things as beautiful and as glorious as ever  they were –  and even greater… IF we let Him…

In the moment, that seemed like a stretch….

In the following weeks, I went through all the boxes from my closets.  Most of them contained books that I had been lugging around from apartment to apartment, never opening them, hidden away and taking up space.

One box was full of Fred’s old books.  I took them out of the box, remembering how he would talk about what he was reading – Fred is a brilliant, passionate man and it was never more evident than when he was reading something he loved.

He read mostly non-fiction.  The books were “Kippur,” “Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number,” “The Abandonment of the Jews: America and The Holocaust,” ”Who Financed Hitler.”  And, because he couldn’t stand not to have a wholly informed point of view, there was also “The Disinherited:  Journal of a Palestinian Exile.”

At the bottom of the box were Solzhenitisyn’s books.  I closed my eyes and was taken back to when we were dating and we would go to the Hamptons for the weekends.  I remembered him lying on his side in the sand, under the hot sun, engrossed in “The Gulag Archipelago.”   I remembered the curve of his arm as he leaned his head on his hand, how the muscles in his shoulder looked strong and protective…. how I was overwhelmed with love for him….    It was the most erotic posture I could imagine….  My heart used to melt just watching him read…

I put all those books back in the box and closed it up.   For a brief moment, I considered calling Fred to ask if he wanted them, but I knew better.  He never saved books — or anything else.  When he was done with something, he threw it out or gave it away.  He would have been surprised to know that I still had these.   

I pulled the box through my front door and dragged it down the hall to the service elevator. 

I rang the buzzer on the elevator and ran back to my apartment.  As I opened the door, I looked back to see the porter pulling the box into the cage.   In one swift movement, it was gone.

I stepped inside my apartment and closed the door behind me.  I sighed as I leaned back against the door and closed my eyes.  

My closets were clean and clear…  It was time to work on my heart…

I thought,  “I will buy a new Christmas ornament tomorrow.  I don’t know what it will look like, but it will be special and it will be beautiful, and it will be the first of many magical things I will have in my life…”

Christmas is a time of birth, renewal, creation, and love….   a new year…  a new life… for all of us…

Begin again.

Deliciously yours in the Enchantment of it All, Linda

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.
That will be the beginning.”
Louis L’Amour

*EPILOGUE:  This story was orginally written in the Fall of 2007.  Fred and I are good friends now and always will be….  God has created a new friendship between us — a different way of being with each other that is as beautiful as the time when we were in love….  It is a friendship full of kindness, caring, and grace that I am blessed to have in my 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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autumn-leaves-nancy-muellerRevisedI’ve always loved writing…. more accurately, I’ve always loved words….  I read so much as a child that my mother was always calling through my bedroom door, late at night – as I hung over the side of my bed with a flashlight so I could read “just a few more pages” of my latest novel – “Linda, stop that reading!  It’s time to go to sleep….!”  Reluctantly, I would lay down my book and close my eyes —  to continue the stories in my dreams of far away places and exciting men and women doing adventurous things…  

I made up my mind that I, too, would be one of those adventurous souls; that I, too, would write exciting and revealing stories of insight and revelation and love —  and love lost…. 

When I went to college, it was just so natural for me to choose English Literature as my major….  the chance to go to school and have to read ten to fifteen books a week?  Wow!  This was not work, this was love, this was exciting…!  This was permission to do what I had always wanted to do….  Sweet!

The writing naturally flowed out of that…  An assigned paper was not just something to get done – it was something that could be a work of art…  I was never happy until it flowed the right way, the words were musical to the ear, the grammar was impeccable…. 

I’ve been writing all my life – but this is the first time I’ve ever let anyone read what I’ve written…  I never knew why.  I’ve often come up with great ideas to write about… and write them, I have….. I have journals and pages and notebooks everywhere — reminding me of stories yet to be written, novels yet to be formulated, pithy little “how to” books yet to be organized…. 

They sit there still, never developed, never having that last dollop of imagination and sheer will needed to get them into manuscript form…. 

A few years ago,  I was a coach in a course that was all about creating the life of your dreams….  “What comes out of your mouth creates your life….” and “Speak your dreams…..” are the mantras of the education.   What we learned is that, if you are stopped in any area of your life, there was an earlier, similar time that created a block – and this course was about “un-blocking” the blocks — and seeing ourselves as limitless and creative  — and that anything is possible…. 

One night, I worked with my participants on their dreams.  We went around the room and each person spoke of the secret dreams they had — what they would have and what they would do…  one day…   someday…  but not now….  

My job was to get each person present to what was standing in the way — what was that earlier, similar time that lived for them in the background as why they couldn’t have that NOW…?   I was  really in there with them to release that block and create a new possibility….  A new possibility that included that dream — that way of being that would make that dream come true…   a new possibility for a new life….. 

It was a long night…. at the end of the evening, I thought we were done when one of my participants, Peter, said to me, “Linda, what is YOUR dream…?” I hesitated…  then I said it  for the first time: 

“I want to be a writer…” 

Peter didn’t leave it at that…. He said, “So, why aren’t you?” 

I couldn’t answer him. 

He went on, “Linda, you know this education well enough to know that if you are not doing that – if you are stopped — there is an earlier, similar time that created the block to that….  Good God!  That’s what we’ve been working on all night long!” 

As I was shaking my head, “No” – I suddenly had a flash back to college and something that happened in one of my classes – and I knew that was it…. 

One of my courses was entitled, “The Novel to 1900”, and – as much as I love reading, this is one of those courses that really put that commitment to the test.  I had to read between 3 and 5 novels a week for that course alone.  

As part of the coursework, I had to write a paper on one or more of the novels – a topic of my own choosing.  I chose to compare and contrast two novels that were very different in style, yet, I felt similar in quest – the quest for happiness or enligtnement – and worth pointing out.  They were Voltaire’s “Candide” and Samuel Johnson’s “Rasselas”.  While “Candide” is a satire and, hence, uses a naïve storyline to tell what Voltaire felt was a profound fact of human existance – that we live always in the best of all possible worlds; “Rasselas” is a direct  story of a journey to seek enlightenment and raises the question “Can we, as humans, ever achieve happiness?” 

That was my version of it, anyway – and, I handed in my paper, satisfied that I had made my point and that it was a good paper. 

In class a few weeks later, the teacher handed out the graded papers to everyone in the room – except me.  I was puzzled as I looked around to see that I was the only one who had not received her paper back. 

I went to Douglass College, which is the womens’ college of Rutgers University, and this school had – and probably has to this day – an “Honor Board”.  If it was felt that a student had done something untoward, they could be asked by a peer or a teacher or anyone in the school, to report themselves to the Honor Board. 

When class was dismissed, I went to the Professor to get my paper, and – as all the other students were filing out of the classroom —  the teacher told me that she was requesting that I report myself to the Honor Board – that she believed the paper was “too sophisticated and too rich” to have been written by a 19-year old. 

She believed that I plagerized the paper. 

I tried to maintain my composure, but could feel my cheeks burning as I fought back tears.  I could sense, more than I could actually see, the other girls walking by me and staring – as I told the teacher that this was my idea, that I had not researched it anywhere – and, I stood my ground and stated that I was not reporting myself to the Honor Board because I didn’t do anything wrong. 

The Professor told me that if I would not, she would do it for me. 

Stunned, I walked out of the classroom and went directly to the ladies room, where I tried to wash the shame from my face and the red from my eyes —  and tried to regain my composure for my next class.  Other girls from my class were in there and none of them spoke to me.  I felt ostracized and I felt numb – and I didn’t understand what just happened… 

I waited for two weeks while the Honor Board researched my professor’s claim.  At the end of that time, I received a letter from the board that they had investigated and did not find anything to support that I had plagerized the paper, either in concept or in content.  I was instructed to go back to my professor to receive a grade. 

I went back to my professor and showed her the letter from the Honor Board.  She took it from me and read it for what seemed like an eternity.  Finally, she looked up and said to me, “I don’t care what they say.  I don’t believe you wrote that paper.  I will not give you an ‘A’.”   With that, she leaned over her desk and wrote a “B” on the paper and handed it back to me. 

I never thought of that incident again until the night with my participants during the Wisdom Course.  But, when I got it…. I got it…..  

I realized that I had made a decision I didn’t know I made – after that time so many years ago —  that I would never again put my writing out there for anyone to see or read or judge.  And, every day since then it has been my secret love, my dream unspoken….  and something has been missing in my life…. 

With my Wisdom group, I created a possibility for myself that I would write and I would get it out there some way, and I would do it for myself and if people liked it, great… and if they didn’t, that was OK too….

Our dreams are for us….  and the living into them is for the world…..  When we live our dreams, we give permission for everyone else to have their dreams, too…  When we speak our dreams, it opens up a conversation in which all can participate – and then each person’s  dreams look real and attainable…. 

Writing this blog has been a joy and a blessing  for me…. and whenever any of you write to me and tell me that it has made a difference for you, that is a gift… and I thank you…. 

I also thank you, Candide, and I thank you, Rasselas, for making your journeys…. for in your journeys to find happiness, I have found mine….. 

I know this now…. I am a writer….  

…..and a dreamer….  

and so are you….  

Deliciously yours in the Magic of it All, Linda 

“If you hear a voice within you saying ‘I am not a painter,’ then by all means, paint… and that voice will be silenced” … Vincent Van Gogh

“Everyone has a purpose in life… a unique gift or special talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals”    – Deepak Chopra

This post was originally titled, “And this gives life to thee….”  from William Shakespeare’s sonnet, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”  I changed it because I think this title is more appropriate to the content.  Thanks for understanding that this is a work in progress.

The Wisdom Course is a division of Landmark Education.    Follow your dreams…..  www.landmarkeducation.com 

© 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.

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

MarianneWilliamsonHeadshot

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.

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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Everyone has so much they’re dealing with these days – if it isn’t money, it’s job and career or relationship or health or… Well, there’s a lot out there, isn’t there?

These are the times when good friends are so important. I find that if I keep it all in my head, it seems as if the world is coming to an end. But, if I reach out – when things seem so overwhelming — to one of my “committed listeners,” there is a comfort there that is simple and sweet in the “gathering together” of our shared humanity —  within which we are healed…

A perfect illustration of this is my story this week…   A story about two friends who merged in my life to create a lesson of love…

About five years ago, I went through a scary period, starting with suddenly losing my work in December and continuing through a time that certainly qualified as a “crucible of faith” over the following nine months – a roller-coaster ride of highs – when I’d have a great job interview – to the lowest of lows – when I would wonder, “What am I going to do now?”

This period was the most severe test of my faith and trust in everything I ever believed God was or is or ever would be in my life.

How that manifested for me is that — in the midst of all the worry about my own life —  13 people I knew died during a seven-week period from mid-May through mid-July – each from different periods of my life – each death a further test of my faith…

One, in particular, was the turning point in how I experienced God as always there for me…

I had a friend, Mari, with whom I had been very close many years before.   I met her because our husbands were business friends and we wound up going to dinner – the four of us – one night.  It was one of those kinds of meetings when you say, “Hi!” and you are instant friends.  I felt I had known her all my life!  

We became close – way beyond any friendship that our husbands had – we were like sisters, totally entwined in each other’s lives — and it worked out that Mari had a brother, Carmine, who was a hairdresser – Mari and I traveled to Nutley, New Jersey, every two weeks to have our hair colored and cut at his salon. Those drives were full of intimate, loving talks about relationships, our children, our careers, and our dreams…

It went on like this for years – our families spent time together, she and I met separately — when we couldn’t see each other, we were on the telephone, sharing what happened that day.  I loved everything about her – her loving nature, her honesty, her unbelievable energy!   Fred, my husband, always said, “That Mari is a ‘ball of fire!’”

And then – it wasn’t like that anymore. When my husband and I separated, I continued to talk to Mari and to see her for lunch on occasion, but – as so often happens when one couple parts – it changes things. It wasn’t so easy anymore to find time to get together. She had her life and I had mine – and so we drifted apart.

One day, I read in the paper that she had become a Vice President at Lacoste, and I decided to write to her. I soon received an email asking me to give her a call at home.  She said that she was working from there for a while…

I did – and it was just as it had always been…. we talked on the phone for an hour, sharing what had happened over those intervening years….

What had happened for Mari was that she had breast cancer….

We talked about our spiritual journey – mine having been birthed by the separation from my husband and my son growing away from me, my career shifting and changing in ways unpredictable and frightening; hers having intensified with her illness, offering her a comfort that she hadn’t realized before was even possible. We spoke our fears out loud and talked about what it meant to have God in our lives through such challenging times.

We planned a visit. I would come out to Long Island to see her and we could be together the way we used to be…

It never happened. She got weaker and weaker – until she could no longer come to the phone.  We communicated by emails and, occasionally, I would check in with her brother.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I would never speak with her again….

My own life took more unexpected twists and turns…. I took a consulting project in the fashion industry and it meant that I was busy and traveling…     Just before I left for India the following November, I called Carmine.  Mari had just gone into the hospital once again. I gave him my cell phone number – “Just in case…”

While in India, I went to Sai Baba’s ashram and brought back some Vibhuti for Mari –Vibhuti is the holy ash that Baba creates out of the air – it is used for prayer and healing. When I returned, I learned that, without warning, my consulting gig would end, and so I was plunged into my own fear for my life and future…. 

The Vibhuti stayed in its box and Mari was never called…

During this time, the friend who was MY strength and comfort was Victoria Moran, the author and spiritual teacher. She and I had come together in our own accidental way – she called me because she found me online and wanted to join the Peace Circle I was holding after 9/11.   By the time she called, I wasn’t doing them anymore, but I said to her, “I live on 55th and First. If that’s convenient for you, I’ll take your name and when I start doing them again, I’ll call you.”

As God would have it, Victoria lived across the street.  Literally.  Right across First Avenue – we could see each other’s windows if we looked out our own.

Victoria and I began a spiritual tag-team kind of friendship – we were each other’s spiritual listener. One time, we met for 15 minutes a day for a month to speak our dreams to each other – hers for that her book, “Younger By The Day” would become a best-seller (it did!) — and mine that I would have a brilliant new job  (I did!).

Victoria was there for me when I learned that my consulting gig was over – I didn’t even go home first…. I went straight to Victoria’s apartment and she listened as I tried to move out of my “deer-in-the-headlights” fear state… her presence and her listening were the love I needed to get through that awful day…. and in the days and months afterwards…

I emailed Mari over  the next few months, and although I didn’t receive any answers, I saw from the status report that they had been read.   Soon there would be cause to wonder who was reading them… 

On one of my better days in May, I woke up thinking of Mari. I hadn’t checked in on her with Carmine since I lost my job, and I suddenly realized how long it had been.  I picked up the phone and called her house.

When her husband answered the phone, I knew immediately that something was wrong – he sounded awful. I reminded him who I was and he remembered. It took a few moments — but finally, he seemed to realize something.  He said, “You don’t know…?  Mari died in January – January 27th – you didn’t know?”

My grief was immediate and profound – made even more so by realizing that these months that I had not been working and trying to get a new job – and, therefore, so very self-focused – had made me lose sight of Mari and her illness.

I hung up and called Mari’s brother. Carmine was gentle and caring on the phone. He told me that Mari’s last months were very difficult. From the time I spoke to him before I went to India, she continued to decline…

My unspoken question hung in the air, “Why didn’t you call me?”

He shared with me that she had died with great dignity at home — and that, in the days and weeks before  her death, she had called in her family and close friends, one by one, including her ex-husband, and had shared some private time with each one of them.    He told me that three weeks before she died, she had asked him to call me so that she could speak to me. He couldn’t find my number.  He was sorry, he said — he knew that she loved me and wanted to say “Good-bye.”

I thanked Carmine and got off the phone. I felt incomplete. I’ve never really understood funerals until that day. I needed to be with people, to talk to her family and tell them what she meant to me. I needed to hug someone and I needed to be hugged – to comfort and to be comforted. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I prayed to God, “Please help me with this!”  I waited for His answer.

I did the only thing I could think to do – I started cleaning and organizing. Two hours into this process, I came upon a notebook – the first page was dated “1991.” The book fell open to a page that said, “Mari Goldberg” at the top, with a notation that we had had lunch that day. There was a quote by her name:

“If you always want more than what you have, then nothing will ever be enough. But, if you are grateful for where you are now, then everything you have will be a gift.”

It struck me that this was a time when I was learning that lesson in my life in so many ways – not the least of which was this very situation! It struck me that she had come to me in that moment to tell me this once more – now that I was ready — and needed to hear it.

Later that evening, Victoria called me. She had just received my distraught message from earlier in the day when I had just spoken to Carmine.   She listened to me cry and berate myself for ever allowing the friendship to lapse those many years – and even to beating myself up that I had not sent the Vibhuti immediately upon returning from India.

When I said that Mari had wanted to speak with me but no one could find my phone number, Victoria jumped in with just the reminder that I needed:

“Linda, you are lost right now in the physical part of this – but your spiritual Self knows better. Mari’s in her eternal creative expression right now as a “ball of fire” with God – and maybe you are the one who is supposed to remember her that way for her family and for the the world. If you were meant to speak with her before she died, if you were meant to go to the funeral, your phone number would have been right there for them to find.”

She went on, “January was an awful month for you – how would you have handled losing your job and Mari’s death, too? God doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t give you more than you can handle. You found a notebook — on the very day that you learned that she passed — that had her quote in it – a quote that has more meaning for you today than it did when she first uttered it. Your phone number would have been just as close at hand — if that was the way it was supposed to be.”

Lastly, Victoria reminded me, “Don’t forget that you got the opportunity – for those few months when you reconnected – to speak and to tell each other how much you loved each other. There’s the gift!”

Victoria went on to suggest that I get a recent picture of Mari from her family and make an altar with a candle and light it in memory of her every evening. She also offered that I could write letters to her family to tell them what Mari meant to me – with remembrances of her energy and spirit – a reminder of when she was a “ball of fire.”

God had come through once again — through Victoria – reminding me that there was absolute perfect-ness in my experience of Mari and how this had all transpired – that it was all in Divine Order just as it was – and that nothing was lost.

Mari’s altar sat in my window for a long time after that day… the same window from which I could see Victoria’s apartment — with Mari’s picture that her sister sent me, a candle, and Mari’s words beneath it, reminding me that I couldn’t have everything I wanted in this situation, but what I did get – Mari’s friendship for all those years, the months of reconnection with her – and now, Victoria’s comfort and wisdom…

…these are my gifts…

Deliciously yours in Gratitude always, Linda

“You do not walk alone. God’s angels hover near and all about. His Love surrounds you, and of this be sure; that I will never leave you comfortless.”
                         “A Course in Miracles,” Workbook for Students, Epilogue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         victoria_photo1A special thank you to my dear friend, Victoria Moran — one of God’s angels, for sure. Victoria’s two new books are coming out now: “Living a Charmed Life: Your Guide to Finding Magic in Every Moment of Every Day,” and “The Love Powered Diet: Eating for Freedom, Health, and Joy.” Please visit her at www.VictoriaMoran.com.  

If you are in NYC on Monday, May 4th, at 7:30PM, Victoria is having a book signing at the Barnes and Noble Lincoln Triangle at  1972 Broadway in Manhattan. 

Victoria is truly a bridge over troubled waters in my life…  I am forever blessed that she is my friend…

 

 

© 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.

chocolatecakejpeg1A reminder of love in a world where love is often hidden…

Do we know the people we love?    We say we  do, we say we love them,   we feel love when we think about them – and often, those real moments of love in which we can feel the love itself – are hidden in the folds of daily life,  the worry that permeates our world in these times,  the routine of automatic communication that leaves no room for the beauty of what love truly is.

When I first started in transformation education at Landmark Education, there was a course I took in which we had to create a “map” of our closest circle – those people who are in our lives on a regular basis, with whom we interact daily, or at least weekly, who create the fabric of our lives.

My map was virtually empty – my son and my ex-husband and a sprinkling of friends around the country.  I realized that I didn’t have a circle – I didn’t have a community, I didn’t have many people with whom to weave a rich, textured fabric in my own life.

I went up to the leader, embarrassed to admit that my map was meager. She listened to me, looked at my almost empty page, and said, “Make them up!”   I went back to my seat.

I stared at my map, stunned by her instruction, feeling silly and alone. After a few moments, I thought, “I have family. I rarely talk to them, but they are my family nevertheless. Why would I make people up when I have a whole family that I could be close to?”

In that moment, I took a stand that my family would be what I would transform for myself – I would get in communication, I would learn about their lives, I would be there for them, I would love them.

So, let me tell you about my brother, Ralph. He is strong and dependable and has always been there for his family. He’s not quite a year younger than I am – something we joke about, that we are the same age for four days out of the year. He’s married to his high school sweetheart and has four girls, Nicole, Tiffany, and the twins, Jacki and Julie. He is an engineer by education and worked at Rohm and Haas for all of his working years, retiring in January of 2007.

And he never talks. Not that he can’t talk – he doesn’t talk. Or he didn’t talk to me, anyway. To illustrate, I was in a car with him for a long ride about 10 years ago, babbling away in the seat beside him until I realized he hadn’t said anything for a quite some time. I said, “My jaws hurt from talking so much! It’s your turn. Tell me what has been going on with you.” After we laughed at the strange injury to my jaw, I shut up and we continued driving.

We rode in silence for 15 minutes. Finally, the silence was unbearable!  I turned to him and said, “I can’t stand it any longer…! Aren’t you going to say anything?” We both laughed and that was the end of that.  We continued on and I talked the entire time.  I never did find out what was going on for him.

I had rarely seen or spoken to him since.

I took my stand for love and family.  I started calling my brothers and sister… and little by little, I was invited to family events and dinners. The summer after, I was invited to my brother, Ralph’s, house in Avalon with his family for their yearly summer vacation.

Before I left, I actually thought about who I would BE in the presence of his family — I didn’t want it to go the way it’s always gone – a lot of automatic interactions, a lot of opinions and defenses, a lot of awkward moments – and my brother, once again silent in my presence.   And so, I created myself as being Love, no matter what came up, no matter what anyone said — I would not babble, I would not lecture, I would not talk all the time – I would not defend my opinions or positions about anything. I would just let it all be the way it was and simply love them.

The week was beautiful — the grandchildren were there – Sophia, Luke, and Olivia — and so it had that magical quality that young children always bring to a space… laughing and running around and giggling – running into the waves at the beach and getting sand all over us — I let myself get carried away with it all.

Finally, on the last day I was there, everyone else had gone to the beach and my brother and I were talking at the house about the plant he had just finished building in Shanghai. He had spent almost 2 weeks out of every month traveling to China for the three years prior to his retirement. He mentioned that he had pictures of the plant.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have asked to see them. My Goodness! It was a plant for  — I didn’t even know what kind of products! This time, I heard something in my brother’s voice…. I asked to see the pictures. He seemed surprised but pulled out his laptop and started showing me hundreds of pictures of this project in Shanghai that had consumed his life for all this time.

The more pictures he showed me, the more he spoke — he pointed out the glass walls, the interior details, and the “water element” that the Chinese people believe is good luck… how challenging it was to create this side of the building or that pond….  I heard his admiration for the Chinese people and his love of their country…

I was looking at the pictures and I was glancing at my brother’s face… how animated he became as he spoke of something that he had devoted his life to over the past three years…!  I realized that this was the first time I had ever truly listened to him.  He had a whole life I never knew about – a passion that excited him and was a driving force in his life – all hidden from my view!

I was overwhelmed with love for him….

I was suddenly sorry that this had only come up on the last day.   I wanted to sit there and listen to him for hours more…   I didn’t want this time to end.

Soon, it was time for me to leave to take the bus back to Manhattan.

I gathered my belongings and positioned my suitcase by the door. I walked back to where my brother was sitting, now watching one of his favorite car races on television. I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, “I love you so much,” I said and turned to go. I heard his voice as I walked away….

“Same here,” he said.

The tears came into my eyes, moved in a way that took me by surprise.  I grabbed my suitcase and wheeled it out the door and down the street towards the bus stop.

I sat on the bench, waiting for the bus, thinking about my brother and all the things I never knew about him – not because he wasn’t willing to tell me but because I wasn’t open to hearing them.  Before that, it was always about me and there was no room for him.  For the first time, what was created was a space of love, devoid of me and my ego – that allowed the magnificence that he is – and always was — to rise up and shine!

I now know that love can only be seen in an empty space…. a space of allowing and giving and silence and presence…. a space where all is open to the love that is always there….

Like right here, right now…

Deliciously yours in the Glory of it all!   Linda

“A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another;  as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34

dontwelookalikeexceptfortheredhairmeandralphHere’s a picture of me and my brother, Ralph Ruocco.

 

 

 

 

 

© 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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