vietnam-wallSteve was my first love.  I met him at a high school dance – he went to Keyport High and I was at the new Raritan High School, built for all the new families who had moved to the most Northern part of the Jersey Shore.  He was two years older than I; he was handsome, and sexy, and very, VERY, cool.

I was crazy about him.

We were “serious.”  We talked about getting married, even as he made plans to join the Air Force and I was thinking about what colleges to apply to.  We never gave any thought to how that would work, but we knew we were in love and we knew we wanted to have sex – and people who have sex get married.

There were steamy nights at the drive-in theatre, speaker in the window so we could get the “gist” of the movie in case either of my parents asked what the movie was about.  I’m not sure we heard much of anything.  I don’t recall one film I saw that summer.

He had a car shaped like a cartoon whale – big bulbous head and tiny rear fins — drab green, with a stick shift.  Steve taught me how to drive in that car, and I still remember the grating gears and how the car lurched forward and then back again because I couldn’t quite get the clutch and the gas in sync.  I was persistent — even as Steve sat beside me, hands covering his face with every jolt — and, finally, I got it right.  To this day, I prefer a standard shift to automatic – and I have Steve to thank for that.

Steve picked me up from school the day that John F. Kennedy was assasinated.  He hugged me and then walked me to my side of the car.  We rode home in silence.  When we arrived at my house, I burst into tears and he held me as I cried.  I saw a few tears in his eyes, but he wouldn’t allow them full expression.  He was the man in the relationship — and, in those days, men didn’t cry.

Six months after he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the Air Force.  He told me he wanted to serve his country.  He wanted to do something great.  He didn’t want to wind up “selling stuff,” he said.

He went to boot camp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.  He was gone for what felt like forever, but I think was more like six months.  When he came home, we couldn’t wait to be together.  I saw him in his gorgeous blue dress uniform and I all but swooned, I tell you.

But, something was different.  All he could talk about was his career in the Air Force and how he wanted to go to Vietnam – that was the only way to really get ahead, he told me.  I was shocked.  “How can you go to war and maybe get killed when we are going to get married?”  He tried to explain, “This is what I want to do with my life.  I want to serve my country.”

Many of our classmates and neighbors had been drafted and were in South Vietnam – the boy down the street had gotten killed there and everyone knew his parents were devastated.  No one came in or out of that house for weeks.  No one answered their phone.  That boy died, and his parents died their own kind of death right along with him.  They moved away a year later.

No one wanted to go to Vietnam.  It was a scary day in every family when the draft lottery was announced.  I remember that my mother cried tears of  relief when we found out my brother’s number was at the very end – he probably wouldn’t have to go.  The only person I knew who wanted to go to Vietnam was Steve.

At the end of his two-week leave, he was scheduled to be stationed in Hawaii.  I went to Newark airport to see him off with his mother and father and Steve in his beautiful dress blues and cap.  There was a moment when he was walking with his father, ahead of me and his mother, and he was just glorious – everyone turned to look at him, his gorgeous face, his dashing swagger.

I knew I would never see him again.

We wrote all the time.  I ordered college pamphlets from the University of Hawaii – and even applied.  But, as the weeks and months rolled by, the letters grew fewer and further apart.  I got accepted to the University of Hawaii, but closed the letter up right after I read it.  I put it in my drawer and never looked at it again.

We did finally have a letter exchange in which we admitted that this long distance relationship wasn’t working and it would probably be best if we broke it off.   We said that if we still loved each other when he came home, we’d get married.  Even as I wrote it, I knew he wasn’t coming back to Hazlet, New Jersey – and, I also knew that, even if he did, I wouldn’t be there.  My dream to live in New York had already taken hold of me.

A few years later, I heard he’d gotten married and had a baby.  I felt no twinge of regret.  “Good,” I thought.  “That makes it final.”

I went on to college and moved into Manhattan two weeks after I graduated – to work at Bloomingdale’s for the first of two times that I would be there.  My fashion career was launched – I rarely thought about Steve.

I heard he went to Vietnam.  I knew Steve wanted to go, that it was his choice, and he was proud to serve his country by going to war – a war that I thought was wrong, that I marched against in Washington, DC.  Even so, there was something in my heart that smiled, knowing he got what he wanted.

My mother called me one day and told me that Steve had been killed.  It was 1971.  He was 26 years old.

I came home to go to the funeral.  His wife and child were at the funeral home.  His mother and father looked dazed.  I had to remind them who I was – when I did, his mother stood  up and  hugged me.  He was laid out in those beautiful dress blues, looking as handsome as ever.   I remember thinking it was such a waste and what would happen now to his wife, and what about his child?  But, my thoughts and my sadness were still tempered with knowing how much he wanted to be there; he felt it was his destiny, and how many people in life get to die doing what they wanted to do, how they chose to live their life?  There was comfort in that for me.

Years later, my husband, Fred, and I brought Josh to Washington, DC and we visited the Vietnam War Memorial.  I looked up Steve’s name in the big book they have there and found the panel number on which his name is engraved.  The wall is not engraved alphabetically, but chronologically, by date of death.

I walked to the wall and found  the right section:  Panel 2W, Row 81, Stephen C Ruby.  As I ran my fingers over the letters, the tears came – for him and for us.  I realized that people die to protect this country and many of  them really live it as their duty.  And, what there is for us to do is to be grateful.

I do believe there’s got to be a better way than war AND I believe that as long as we’re human, we’ll find ways to continue to be at war, whether it’s in Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan or — with our neighbors, or kids in schools.  And, there will always be men and women who will take it on as their life’s work to protect and defend our country.  Steve Ruby was one of those people.

I am grateful that there are human beings that courageous.  I am blessed to live in a country where people would give their lives to keep this country safe.  I’m proud that I knew one of them.

Today is the day we remember the ones who died.  Those aren’t just words:  “The land of the free and the home of the brave….”

Thank you.  Thank you to all who serve.  You have my love and tribute.  Always.

Happy Memorial Day!

Deliciously yours in the Majesty of it All, Linda

STEPHEN CHARLES RUBY is honored on Panel  2W, Row 81 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

Ruby,%20Stephen_edited-1

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you.

Full Name: STEPHEN CHARLES RUBY
Wall Name: STEPHEN C RUBY
Date of Birth: 10/3/1945
Date of Casualty: 11/29/1971
Home of Record: UNION BEACH
County of Record: MONMOUTH COUNTY
State: NJ
Branch of Service: AIR FORCE
Rank: SSGT
Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: QUANG NAM
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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!

 

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

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

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

She saw him once.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As she always was…

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

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

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

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

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

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 long 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…  and 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….   And, 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… 

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, actually….   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….  

I started going over in the afternoons and, after I watered, I would sit and read or meditate 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, My 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  that 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”…. and, suddenly, out of the top of one of them, I saw this big, black worm start to 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 that 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 that 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 “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.

 

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.

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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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Last week, one of my seminar leaders, Kristi, wrote to me that her Corgi, Bella, had died… a lovely email tribute to what was so clearly a beautiful partnership between Kristi and her beloved dog…. her friend, really…  I loved how Kristi wrote, “Bella had me wrapped around her finger (paw)…”    Bella died on her own birthday after a long and happy life with Kristi  — and Kristi was communicating in celebration of Bella’s life and the contribution that she was to Kristi and everyone that met her – how everyone who knew Bella “fell in love.”

 

It reminded me of the night my friend, Suzy, had called me, frantic, to come quickly to the animal hospital on 61st Street, near the East River.   Her Corgi, Bart, was sick and the doctors thought he would die.  I’m a Reiki Master and she wanted me to come and offer Reiki to Bart. 

 

I ran over to the hospital and what a sight…!  My friend on the table, arms wrapped around her little Corgi, talking to him and singing softly in his ear, and he was lying with his neck up around her neck and he was so quiet and still, listening to her voice.  It was late at night and the hospital was quiet and still and all you could hear was Suzy singing to Bart…

 

For so many years, I had seen them together – everywhere Suzy went, Bart went, too…  She loved him with all her heart and I could see that that was only surpassed by how much he loved her… He trotted along behind her on his short little legs….  yet, sometimes, Bart could have quite the mind of his own and be off down the hill if he spotted a squirrel or an interesting human with a toy or a treat! 

 

Everyone loved Bart – children squealed when they saw him, and even adults could not resist his enthusiastic charm, not to mention how many men Suzy was able to immediately engage in intimate conversation because they, too, could not resist Bart – he was an instant icebreaker!  When I stayed with her, he would come up on the bed and sleep with us — and, even I, who was not Bart’s “Mom”, found myself totally enamored with this little lump of love.

 

It strikes me that dogs are a particular kind of pet….  while cats will choose the times they want to be with you – and often they don’t! – Dogs are most happy when they are around people.  I’ve heard many people say that dogs are “unconditional love” – and — if only we thought as highly of ourselves as our dogs do!  Never judgmental, never aloof, always by our sides, no matter what….

 

My family had three dogs when I was growing up, and our German Shepard, Toro, was “my” dog.  I could never sneak into the house late with Toro around – my father would come out of his room, awakened by Toro’s excited whimpering, lean over the upstairs banister and say, “I knew it was you.  Toro only sounds like that when it’s you – that’s his ‘love pant’!”  I could do no wrong in Toro’s eyes…  what’s even more important is that I didn’t want to…. Toro would lope into the room and my heart would melt… I loved him with all my heart, just the way he loved me.

 

So, here’s the question…  Why can’t we be like that with each other?  Love is the same – it just gets blocked sometimes.  We don’t block it with our animals, why do we let those walls go up with our fellow man?  We don’t have to be right with our dogs, we don’t have to prove anything to them, we are always “enough” for them…

 

Hmmm…  we are always enough for them…

 

When we are enough, we don’t have to be anything other than what we are – and that feels so good and we feel so lovable — we don’t feel a  need for protection and we can love right back – with all our hearts…

 

What if we could love everyone that way?  What would the world look like?    Just thinking about that possibility makes me smile…

 

So, there was Suzy, singing softly into Bart’s ear, “How much is that doggie in the window?  The one with the waggley tail…” – she said that was Bart’s favorite song… (what is so funny about that is that Bart didn’t even have a tail!).  I started doing Reiki on him, pouring all my love into his little body and, after about 10 minutes, he heaved a big sigh and passed over – I had never seen life pass from a living being before – it was a sight so beautiful… so peaceful…  I felt blessed to be there…

 

The nurse came in and took Bart out of Suzy’s arms.  As I waited for her to pack her things, I walked to the window and looked out to the East River beyond, the moon shining down on the water.  I knew Bart had died – I had my hands on his body when he breathed his final sigh – but I didn’t feel that he was dead… because he wasn’t… I felt him as strongly in that moment, looking out the window, as I did when I felt him breathe his last… 

 

When love is present, anything is possible — even in the face of death, love is always there – and love never dies…  

 

Suzy buried Bart’s ashes in her garden in the front of her house, under a big beautiful tree….  to this day, she calls it “Bart’s garden…”   She says that Bart was actually an angel, sent to help her learn about life… She thinks he did his job well….

 

This is for you, Kristi, and for you, Suzy – and for all my friends who love their animals….

 

Happy Birthday, Bella…  Sweet Dreams, Bart…

 

Deliciously yours in the grandeur of it all, Linda 

 

© 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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