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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We rarely saw each other.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But…   I don’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so it is.

Deliciously yours in the Samsara of it All, Linda

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

And that’s the end of the resolution.

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

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

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

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

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

Complacency is so much easier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About one-third of the people raised their hands.

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

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

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

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

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

I proudly raised my hand high.

Well, pride goeth before a fall.

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

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

No lecture, no advice, no nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO, that’s NOT who I am.

I didn’t raise my hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

Deliciously yours in the Creation of it All,   Linda

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

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My vote was for the terrace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, they grew and they grew.

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

I do?  I have a green thumb?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No way was that happening.

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

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

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

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

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

Wow!

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

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

And that’s not the truth about me.

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

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

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

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

There will be other gardens for me to grow.

Deliciously yours in the Beauty of it All,   Linda

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

That’s when I got scared for myself… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s blessings are with you” 

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

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

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

I told him I would come the following Wednesday. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My mind was going crazy… 

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

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

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

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

And… the fear was gone…       

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

This is what I came for…. 

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

Deliciously yours in the Majesty of it All…  Linda

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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.

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

Your Words have Power and Magic in them…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Like my life…”, I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I got chills up and down my spine…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deliciously yours in the Grandeur of it All, Linda

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

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

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

 

NYB_Poster_200px

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

I was afraid to touch him.

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

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

I was in awe of her.

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

Ever…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He chose to live with his Dad…

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

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

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

“Hi, Josh, it’s Mom… How’s work?”

“It’s fine. How are you?”

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

Silence.

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

“Love you, too, Mom…”

Click.

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

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

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

A little scared… off I went to Minneapolis…

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

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

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

And, listen I did… for hours….

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

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

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

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

The more I listened, the more he said…

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

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

And, he said:

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

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

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

Old patterns die hard….

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

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

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

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

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

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

And… for who WE are…

Anything is possible now for me and Josh ….

I have no idea what that looks like…

Now, THAT’S an adventure worth having…

Deliciously yours in the Glory of it All,  Linda

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

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

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

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

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

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