“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” ~ Rumi
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie
“Beauty without Grace, is the hook without the bait. ” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~ Marianne Williamson
Please note my new yoga teaching schedule changes:
* 6 a.m. 1 HR Hot Yoga, Beyond Bikram Hermosa Beach
* 4:15 p.m. Yin/Yang (part restorative, part balance/ Iyengar, non-heated, all levels, seniors encouraged. Malaga Cove, Rancho Palos Verdes (dm me if interested)
* 6:15 p.m. Pre-natal Torrance Memorial Medical Center, near ER. (dm me if interested, recurring 8 week series, however, drop-in upon request.)
Can we as women embrace the divine feminine within, while also demand to be taken seriously as an intellectual equal of strength and character? Most of my female friends will say, “Hell yes.” But I’m not so sure that my male friends will agree (amongst each other). A woman in a bikini who looks sexy, is also a person who may write articles for the New York Times, or creates legal briefs, or who rocks a baby to sleep. She is a person of infinite depth and has found a way to embrace her health, vitality and beauty, without negating her intellect, strength, and roles within family and society. It’s a delicate balancing act. Just because we want to be taken seriously, doesn’t mean we have to hide our beauty. It is not our fault that desire creates a beast within some men. That’s like saying a girl deserved to be raped if she wore a short skirt. Yet, somehow, I still feel that it is our duty, as women, not to feed that beast and to refrain from behavior that spurs affairs and/or abuse.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this. It is wonderful to feel sexy, healthy, vital, energetic—at any age. I also know that whenever I post a picture in a sexy yoga pose, the men who ‘like’ the picture aren’t necessarily reading the Rumi quote or noting my yoga class schedule below it. Right? Women feed into the objectification that is rampant. We do. But that doesn’t mean we deserve to be lied to, cheated on, manipulated, or God forbid, drugged and date-raped. There’s a huge leap in the male thinking brain from: she’s hot, to: I can, and am entitled, to use her as a physical toy and throw her away after. A good friend of mine told me yesterday that her first date after her divorce resulted in being rooffied. She woke up in her ‘date’s bed, not remembering a thing. She had only had one glass of wine at the restaurant. LORD. She’s in her fifties. This sort of thing happened a lot during my college years and my graduate school years in New York. I heard stories from friends often and I once ended up in the hospital after someone roofied me. Luckily, I wasn’t raped, but I passed out, hit my head in a restaurant bathroom and the cops were called.
I am taking a big sigh as I write this.
Have we not evolved?
I want my nieces to grow up into strong, self-confident, independent women who unabashedly embrace their sense of beauty and vitality. Just because many men want to hook up and treat beautiful women like objects, doesn’t mean we have to hide and cover up either. We just need to be smart, stay alert, and not drink during first dates or put ourselves knowingly into harms way. (See my interview with Pat Allen, relationship expert, best-selling author of Getting to I DO and expert on Millionaire Matchmaker)
Pat, who was actually my therapist during my ex-husband’s affair, has been saying for years, what DeVon Franklin re-iterates in his new book The Truth About Men. That is, that men are not wired for monogamy. They have a lust problem. Not all men cheat, clearly, but all wrestle with desire, even when in love with their wives. Their lust struggle doesn’t go away. DeVon refers to male lust as “the Dog.” And in his book, lust is about power, as much as it is about female conquest. If a man can commit to his profession full-heartedly, he can commit to a woman and family, he explains. Society and the lack of good male or father figure role models, makes is easy for successful men, especially, to not look in the mirror and to continue to indulge the dog, even within committed relationships. An interesting side-note, men who cheat, according to DeVon, are those who were abandoned by fathers or had poor relationships with fathers. Women who cheat, however, typically have put up with too much abuse or neglect and leave a relationship. Men who cheat, are often not in bad relationships at all. Hmmm…So how, as women, do we navigate that one or the fear that it instills when we begin a new relationship?
Well, I don’t have an answer. I do know that really good men cheat and feel horrible about it after. But it breaks my heart when women, who have been cheated on, or lied to, ghosted, or made to feel lesser than by a man in their life, take it personally, by thinking they somehow aren’t worthy, deserving, or sexy, etc. And some men, justifying their bad treatment of women, can say horrible things. I know. I heard them, to the point that I believed that I wasn’t sexy or beautiful during my divorce. Yoga and my yoga trainings saved me and helped me to embrace my physicality as well as my spirituality and get back into my writing. I shifted gears and stopped worrying about what was said or done. I’ve since let that shit go. I don’t need to prove anything, but I do want to feel good for myself and remain vital, healthy, so I can be a strong single mom for my boys.
I adore Reese Witherspoon, my fellow southerner, who is strong, and beautiful and calls into question just what a powerful businesswoman is supposed to look like. When I was in college I heard a lot folks saying I was the character from Legally Blond. I covered the legal beat at the Red and Black newspaper at the University of Georgia. I was in a sorority, had long blond hair, wore make up, yet still wrote essays and interviewed supreme court judges for public radio and slept on the streets with the homeless during campaigns to effect change. Why not? What rules in society exist that stipulates that in order to be strong, intelligent and successful as a woman, you can’t wear sundresses, or make up? Or be sexy, and spiritual for that matter. Honestly.
This is what I want to say to my adorable nieces, and to my boys who I pray grow into men of character: respect the light within each person you encounter. If you treat others with dignity—and that means yourself as well—you will hopefully, never be in a situation that makes you feel less then, entitled to take advantage, or used. Communicate honestly, girls, by asking the man in your life what his intentions are. Don’t assume he’s committed. Don’t drink too much and put yourself into sticky situations where others can gain control. And, boys, if you see or hear something, like a fraternity brother bragging about date raping, or drugging a girl, stand up, like a man with character, and turn him in or challenge him. Think of your beautiful cousins and the daughters you may have one day. And don’t drink too much, as that can entitle the dog to bark, as DeVon says.
The Light We Lost is a must read for all my girlfriends—single or married. Please, all of you, read this book. Jill Santopolo dives into the age-old question: “Why do I love him so much?” She explores why a woman could love one man passionately, insanely, recklessly—and continue to think of him for more than a decade—granting second chances, friendship and compassion—when he had the potential to crush her. Even after he had left her, broke her heart, called only when depressed, and behaved selfishly for years—she always allowed him back in. WHY?
I adore The Light We Lost for so many reasons. Jill is honest in how she portrays Lucy’s weakness for Gabe, who had, and would always, put his needs before hers—whether that be his career or his work out. Even when they lived together, he had major issues. He was secretive to the point of finding a job and arranging to move without telling her; flirty with other women; and not attentive to her feelings when at parties. He was confusing. Gabe proclaimed Lucy was his light, his muse and professed an undying love for her—yet Lucy never met his mother, whom he adored. You get the idea. But Lucy loved Gabe with an unapologetic intensity that she couldn’t control. She loved him more and more over the years—even while married to her stable, successful, happy and loving husband, whose only real crimes seemed to be planning trips to Paris and buying a dog and a beach house, all as surprises for her.
One could argue that Jill Santopolo’s debut novel romanticized the obsession many women have with the lovable, yet commitment phobic, unobtainable guy. Others may think she romanticized a woman’s longing for heat, lust, good sex with a bad boy, or an exciting and intriguing man. (Gabe took photos for the Associated Press in war regions.) But that’s not a comprehensive answer. I think Lucy’s inability to let Gabe go was rooted deeply in her need not to become her mother and to be seen, heard and respected. Gabe had his faults, but he also listened to, and encouraged Lucy, in all her dreams and career aspirations. Lucy’s husband Darren referred to her career as “cute” and asked for her to stay home with their baby instead of going back to work, using manipulative phrases like: “Don’t you want to stay home? Who else would take as good care of her?” Gabe would never do that, she had mused. Yet Gabe would also be gone for months on end while on the front lines in wars. He wasn’t the logical man to have a child with. And Lucy knew this. Yet she always picked up the phone when he called, even on her wedding day. She became intimate emotionally within the first breath, focussing on whatever His emergency was, whatever His pain was. She raced to see him whenever he was back in New York, even after she was married. It was a risky choice that put the intimacy with her husband at risk.
This book will snare you in, dear girlfriends, from the moment she and Gabe discuss their dreams during their first college date on 9-11. As you read how interested Gabe is in her need to make a difference, to help children all over the world, you’ll wish you had a man like him to talk with. The scenes of him reading her scripts, or helping her form ideas for her children’s TV show, will make you jealous. He cared, and was involved,committed to supporting her success. He was into her: her dreams, her ideas, her thoughts. The two inspired each other to be more, and to keep striving to make a difference. That’s heady stuff. As life chugs along with adulting choices that often require compromises, many women, especially moms, get lost. Lucy wanted to keep that determined, savvy, creative part of herself that Gabe always saw. She missed being able to talk with him about new show ideas. Her husband didn’t care about her job at all.
The fact that Gabe was also hot, romantic, overly sexual, unavailable for long-term commitments, yet still needed her, and her alone, during every crisis—was like crack to Lucy. Add the detail that Gabe was a wounded soul from an abusive father, and now you’ve combined crack with heroine for just about any woman.
This book will help you, my girlfriends, see your own obsessions, co-dependent tendencies and any man who became like a drug for you. I doubt there are real Gabes on this planet—yet there are men who have some of his alluring qualities: the artist; the romantic; the compassionate; the wounded; the leaver, the commitment phobic, yet emotionally intimate; the secretive; the dynamic; the listener; the supporter; the sexual dynamo; the wanderer; the brave; the Shakespeare quoter, you get the idea. He had so many hooks for Lucy, but think back and notice which similar hook was within the one you couldn’t say no to. The one you betrayed your self respect for by taking back again and again due to your irrational love that youjustcouldNOTLETGO.
Maybe you’re still fighting the temptation? Maybe he’s the one you could take back again, because you just don’t understand why you love him so. Even after he has hurt you time and time again and shown an inability to respect, love or be available for you, a part of you wants him back, right? It’s not explainable. The idea of never smelling him again or hearing the sound of his whisper in your ear, or his hand on your low back is excruciating, isn’t it? Maybe it’s romantic. Maybe he’s your soul mate or husband from another life time. I’m sure you think the connection is cosmic.
But maybe, just maybe, he’s an addiction.
Read her book, girlfriends. And tell me what you came up with! 🙂
Did you go into your marriage, pre-children, expecting to have equitable parenting duties with your husband? Did it ever occur to you that your career would be deemed less important, therefore you’d be expected to have more time to shop, clean, care-take? Did you ever imagine that you would have less time off to replenish, while working more than your spouse? If you knew all this going into your marriage, would you feel differently about your husband?
Equitable parenting duties. Equal time off. Mutual respect. In 2018, according to multiple studies, these are still drastically missing within heterosexual couples who have children.
In reality, for most American women, these ideas are mere pipe dreams. It’s just not how our society, and how most fathers, behave. Period. End of story. There is a lot of research to back this up. See the links below for in-depth articles in The Washington Post, Forbes and Time magazines.
Maybe in the top echelons of society among very young couples who live in democratic, liberal University settings, do you see fathers who are doing more and are behaving with more respect. But for the most part, throughout America, at every age and social and economic demographic, this isn’t the case. A woman’s career can be treated like a hobby and not as important as a man’s, by his behavior—forcing a woman to feel battered into doing the lion’s share of parenting, cleaning, care-taking of in-laws, parents and organizing of family activities.
For example, one mom interviewed said her husband “Just doesn’t get up.” She explained that her young husband will remain drinking his coffee at the kitchen table and checking his phone, while his wife, also a full-time working executive, is racing to put together backpacks, get the children dressed, prepare lunches. It puts her at a disadvantage with work as well as loading her down with stress, anxiety and bitterness—resulting in poor health and marital resentments, lack of sex drive and dissipating connection between mom and dad. And the children notice. They see what we do, much more than what we say—and model our behavior. Which is why many experts say the misogyny behind the #metoo movement, has its roots at home where mom is undervalued, taken for granted and disrespected.
According to university research, conclusions ranged from misogyny budding from modeled parent behavior to malignant gender dynamics being passed down generation to generation.
Sadly, recent studies showed the following, reported by Darcy Lockman:
“Among heterosexual parents, fathers — even the youngest and most theoretically progressive among them — do not partake generously of the workload at home. Employed women partnered with employed men carry 65 percent of the family’s child-care responsibilities, a figure that has held steady since the turn of the century. Women with babies enjoy half as much leisure time on weekends as their husbands. Working mothers with preschool-age children are 2 1/2 times as likely to perform middle-of-the-night care as their husbands. And in hours not so easily tallied, mothers remain almost solely in charge of the endless managerial care that comes with raising children: securing babysitters, filling out school forms, sorting through hand-me-downs.”
Ey ey ey people.
I feel strongly that this lack of respect and “unawareness” among fathers who overburden their wives by not stepping up, is the root of divorce. I’ve seen so many moms become severely bitter, insecure and disconnected without hope they can ever achieve their dreams within this family dynamic. This is likely the reason why so many mothers look forward to their alcohol binging nights out with other moms, highlighted in The Bad Moms movies. And it is also why I, as a full time single mother for the past nine years, feel extremely lucky. At least as a sole parent, I don’t have ANY expectations that a partner will be, or should be, doing ANYTHING for me and my boys within the household on a daily basis. No one will be prepping for schools, buying foods, cooking dinners, planning sports and summer camps, going to parents nights or performances, yard work, etc. It’s just me. Surprisingly, I find peace and liberation with this as I have lost all my bitterness from needing that from someone. I am also never, ever going to live with someone who may be critical of my appearance, or my house’s appearance, my cooking (or lack thereof), or parenting abilities—while also pouting about my lack of sexual desire at the end of the night. I’m tired. Yet, I’m following my dreams again and writing novels and teaching yoga and my boys know that mommy needs help at home and that her dreams are just as important as their own.
When I was married, my older son was learning something different. He was learning that mommy’s dreams don’t count, because they don’t pay as well as daddy’s, and that she needs to do the lion share of parenting and cleaning and deserves less time off than daddy. And I’m to blame for allowing this dynamic. I used to think my ex taking our son to the park on a Saturday afternoon, after he had been gone all week and I had spent late-nights catching up on work, meant that I had an hour to clean the house and race to the grocery store. It didn’t occur to me to get a massage and let him help me do the other stuff later. Yet I was working full time as a magazine editor and taking care of our son solo and staying up late managing deadlines. Where did I get this misconception that I had to work, work, work and never rest? From my parent dynamic of a working full – time mother who did all the parenting. It really does get passed down generation to generation and women (especially those raised in the South) are taught to believe that they are just more compassionate, better organized, better at cooking, more patient and therefore, better at parenting, so it’s easier for us. I can’t tell you how many times I heard friends prepare weeks of food for their husbands before leaving for a work trip because their husbands “just can’t open a can of soup.”
This has to stop. Having a penis doesn’t mean a man can’t cook, tuck a child into bed, read bedtime stories, grocery shop, plan birthday parties, volunteer at schools, design holiday cards, and help with in-law care-taking. None of these activities are exclusively made for humans with vaginas. But I understand why women just do the extra work when they fear that it just won’t get done otherwise.
It took divorce and becoming a full-time single mother for me to realize that I allowed this toxic, old-fashioned inequitable dynamic to exist by not demanding my ex do more. If I had boycotted the home situation, protested, left for an extended amount of time while leaving our child at home, perhaps my ex would have seen what was going on. Or likely, he would have hired a full-time nanny and not fretted about the cost.
I predict there will be a shift in the American family (heterosexual) dynamic within the next 50 years where women just opt out. We’re tired. And we’re worthy of time off and help. It’s time for us to raise our hands, lift our white flags and say ENOUGH. Doing it all and being everything to everyone, enables a toxic old-fashioned view of parenting, and is just not worth ruining our health and forgetting our dreams for.
If this has riled you up, sadly, here are more articles and studies regarding the lack of gender equality in American households and society:
Two and a half years ago I stepped away from what was potentially a six figure + deal with a national network reality TV show. I told only a few friends, as I knew most would think me crazy. I’m a single mom. I’m raising two boys in LA. But the TV show, from the producers of The Biggest Loser, focussed on divorce drama. It was why I had stopped monitoring and contributing to single mom chat boards for Dr. Drews Lifechanger’s show. And it’s why I switched the focus of my blog from single motherhood. That topic limited my life, defined me, attracted negative ranting, encouraged victimhood and drama that makes all participants get stuck in the past. I walked from being in a major reality TV series because it was focussed on divorce and single motherhood and I was convinced that all the pain I have lived through would be drug back up on national television and relived and rehashed in a negative light—instead of in a sustaining, inspiring way. Sure, I was cheated on and left just after having a baby. And yes, my husband was in multiple other countries with his ‘girlfriend’ while I raised two boys alone. The producers loved my story of embracing yoga and forgiveness—so they said—but were fascinated by me being alone with two young boys, while my mother was also dying, and of me giving up my editing jobs in order to better care for the boys. In the end, I knew scenes would be manipulated to create drama, foster retaliation, increase outrage and bitterness, etc … dashing all my efforts to forgive and to move forward mindfully and lovingly. Maybe I lost a lot of money, but hey, my ex and I are good friends now. He isn’t a ‘bad’ person. We are better apart. It takes effort to see that and to move forward and to strive to not always live in a black and white strict viewpoint and to always put children first. What I have learned over multiple yoga trainings, traveling solo across the world, and through my meditation and writing practice, is that we have to free ourselves—by lovingly setting those who hurt us free—in order to thrive. To thrive means being happy, hopeful, joyful, vibrant, healthy, present, abundant. Isn’t that what we all want? Why do we then sabotage our happiness by holding on to grudges and negative, distrusting thought patterns and habits? Saying no to the producers (who kept offering more money!) was my first major step into truly letting go of the past, stepping into alignment, integrity, forgiveness and Dharma, or purpose. If you’re a single mom in pain, or just a human who has been hurt repeatedly or is depressed by life that feels heavy, this article, which outlines my new book Becoming a Fierce Female, is for you. Much love.
Ten Steps to Become FIERCELY HAPPY:
FORGIVENESS. Forgiveness is like five steps in one. If you only achieve one step on this list, this is the most important one to foster more happiness in your life. Just know this:
Forgiveness is NOT being a doormat.
Forgiveness is NOT saying what someone did is OK.
Forgiveness is NOT taking a person or job or circumstance back.
Forgiveness IS breaking the chains that bind you, that tie you up mentally and spiritually in the past of hurt and suffering.
Forgiveness IS FREEDOM. It is saying to the person who has hurt you: “You must have been out of alignment with God and your higher self when you did that. So I forgive you. But it was so NOT OK to treat me or any other human being that way, with so little compassion, that I am dropping the event and you from my consciousness. With love, I set you free. I set myself free.”
Stop Talking About Past Wrongs. Every time you do this, you are telling the Universe: “More Please.” And then the big U is happy to dish up more assholes, more car accidents, more liars, just to help you prove that you are right. Stop it. Focus on the positive in your life. Sure, you may want to try to understand how you attracted a certain person or circumstance into your life, but talking smack about the person only puts you in the same lower vibration. Nothing good comes from making yourself a victim. The seeds of success are in every setback. Find your power and MOVE ON.
Be Present. This is easier said than done. Take baby steps: Focus on the person talking to you and put down your phone. Notice your surroundings. Stop multi-tasking. Strive to listen. Life opens up and miracles only happen in the present moment. Don’t miss out.
Be Positive. This is easier said than done as well. Maybe you are depressed by sad news in the media or by a sick friend or by a recent tragedy. Life is always in session. I know. (I expand more on this in my book as I have witnessed murder, been attacked and have friends and family members who have been as well.) But what positive can you focus on today with gratitude? Make a daily gratitude list. Even if it just says water, food, bed. It’s a start. Every day, seek gratitude and seek how you can become a better person who uplifts others and is empowered to make a difference.
Meditate daily in stillness. If you want to radiate light, you must become still .We are 85% water, but water can only reflect the sunlight when still. When our nerves and thoughts are negative, reactive, choppy, boiling, restless, NO light can be reflected from above. Still your mind, still your heart, and listen to your inner guidance and watch as you bloom and lighten up your heart chakra. (More in my book, with guided meditations.)
Ask how you can serve, not how others can serve you. Every day when you wake up, just mentally ask the Universe how you can be of service in order to get into alignment. Marianne Williamson said it best when she said to envision yourself as the faucet, not the water, for the Universe to flow through. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do as your profession for the rest of your life, start slowly and simply. Ask: ‘How can I best serve today?’ Maybe the answer will just be to smile at strangers. To give someone a parking space. To offer assistance to a senior. To listen. Start small, always with gratitude.
Find Your Dharma. Explore (unapologetically) all that you love to do in life. Music, art, sports, etc. Find ways to incorporate it into your life. Single full time moms, you can listen to your favorite tunes while you cook, watch videos on art, travel, take a class or join a Meetup group. Take the time to embrace your passion. It’s why we are here.
Get enough rest. It’s hard to stay positive, grateful, present, calm compassionate, forgiving if you are running on fumes. Get 8 hours of sleep a night.
Take daily inventory. Before you go to bed, ask the Universe (just mentally) where you could have done better that day, or where you fell out of alignment with your highest self. Without judgement, ask to have whatever was out of alignment removed. Maybe you weren’t patient. Maybe you snapped at someone. Maybe you were being a perfectionist and controlling and not listening to your child or friend. Whatever it was, when you see it in your minds eye, forgive yourself for being human and say, “thank you. please help me remove this.”
Exercise daily. I’m a passionate yogi, everyone knows that. But I don’t care what you do, just find something you enjoy and get moving. Take the stairs at work. Walk on your lunch break. Jog. Swim. Just get the blood flowing and the endorphins going every day, so you can feel serotonin flow and sweep negative cobwebs from the corners of your mind as you lower your stress and slip into your bliss!
This Thomas Merton quote was brought to my attention this week and it makes a lot of sense. I am rarely happy, serene or at peace when my life is moving at mock-speed with demands that are out of my control. I read somewhere that one of the highest stressors in life are during times when other people’s emergencies suddenly become our problems demanding immediate attention. Maybe you have been in that sort of environment at work where a boss suddenly throws a situation at you to fix, frustrating you as you need to finish your own work? Maybe you’ve had family members or loved ones with addictions or health care issues or lots of drama that suddenly require immediate help? This sort of intensity that is injected into our lives, requiring us to stop, drop everything and run, is a false sense of excitement, leaving us breathless, winded, exhausted, and off center. Raising children in America can certainly feel that way at times, when coaches change game or practice times and venues at the last minute, requiring parents to leave work or change plans. Kids get sick, hurt, forget their lunches, homework, etc. too, and we often have to drop what we are doing and run to their assistance. This, I don’t mind so much. But you get the idea. When I feel out of control, I feel off-center, ungrateful, out of balance, and out of sync. Some of my relationships have been this way too. I’ve had a knack in my life to choose men who don’t choose me, or don’t choose to honor our agreements. The last minute cancel; the last minute change in plans; or the worst: being an hour late for a date or dinner, has been a theme with everyone I have ever been with. It’s an out-of control feeling as it’s outside of me, reflects them, but it requires me to be inconvenienced and stressed. My past job as a full-time editor and journalist, felt a little out of control too: stories change, publishing dates get pushed back, re-edits are requested based on outside interests. I think I have become used to rolling with the punches. I think I have become a master of juggling and staying calm. But it isn’t peaceful.
As an artist, it’s super important for me to squeeze in a schedule, a routine, a rhythm that I try to adhere to every day, so I can balance my time spent writing, with time spent assisting to the needs of others: editors, yogis, children. Lately, I’m finding more balance through a regular meditation practice and sitting with my feelings as they arise and not reacting to them. Yoga, deep breathing is powerful. Walks on the beach, in nature, help to connect to beauty and God.
Art is an amazing source of peace for me. Writing, instantly drops me into that place of calm, allowing me to authentically co-create with the Universe. From a sense of calm and peace, I can feel centered, balanced and less stressed about the future, about ‘being on track.’ From this quiet place, I can allow ‘happiness’ to bubble up to the surface.
In my youth, I chased excitement. Happiness was this unauthentic, elusive feeling that erupted from attention given to and received from others. It sprung from crazy demands and switching up venues or travel. I loved writing three of four stories on deadline and racing to get them done on time, then going for a run with tunes blasting, later meeting friends for drinks while dressed up in heels and a short skirt, maybe flirting. You get the idea. My source of happiness came from outside sources, sometimes caffeine or wine and always adrenaline. Today, it springs from time in quiet, listening to my inner guides, my intuition while I write, meditate, do yoga or listen fully to a friend, share from an authentic space with another soul. It may not seem as intense, or as exciting, but it’s a way for me to create a balance and a rhythm and an order to my life that feels closer to nature, closer to God.
Admittedly, my life has been out of control for most of my life. I can’t control a spouse leaving. I can’t control someone choosing to be violent, or those who chose to kill friends, or drunk drivers killing friends, or disease taking friends and family. I can’t control others who spiral into addiction and hurt themselves and others. But I can control my breath. I can control my schedule and get up early and meditate, giving thanks for another day. I can control whether I stay in a stressful job that hurts my health. I can control whether I continue with unloving, unbalanced relationships. I can choose to pause and not react. I can choose to eat and drink what will support my mental clarity and wellbeing.
I can ultimately choose to live a different life than what I witnessed, experienced in childhood and in my youth. Today, I am embracing this shift, letting go of the chaotic past, creating order, balance, harmony, so I can continue to create my art, my novels, while making space to forgive myself and everyone in my life.
“You were a risk, a mystery. And the most certain thing I’d ever known.” ~ Beau Taplin.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” ~ Albert Einstein.
“Love is the way Messengers from the Mystery tell us things.” ~ Rumi
Underneath the surface of our daily lives—concealed beneath a hundred smiles and practical choices—its faint heart beat lingers, quietly pulsing and pulling us back into its orbit of truth. The mystery of love: for all its impractical, unwise, and disruptive qualities, contains an element of the mysterious, surviving in an eternal space beyond the physical realm. It is a timeless, yet terrifying space, that intellect strongly neglects, and the heart fully embraces and recognizes. It is the ‘Ah, it’s you,’ feeling upon the first hug, the first touch, the first scent that lingers at the nape of his/her neck. It tells you you’re home. It belies logic. It lives within the waters of intuition. And it exists within you long after the physical experience or relationship ends.
Australian poet Beau Taplin captured its essence for me with this line: “It’s a frightening thought that in one fraction of a moment, you can fall into a kind of love that takes a lifetime to get over.”
Maybe not everyone experiences this kind of love in their lifetime? But I’m convinced they know if they have. That’s been my experience. When it ends, it’s shattering. The idea of never touching, seeing, or being with the other person is brutal. It’s hard to go on. And what happens within that space of misery, is also a mystery. Trying to avoid pain, many of us can try to make intellectual ‘safe’ choices, like being with people we don’t love in the same insanely passionate way. Or maybe some choose to be with someone because of what they can do for them, or because they would be more accepted by family, or it just feels like a safe bet. But it could be farther from the truth as it short-changes your heart. Not taking the risk for love, over time, haunts us. Memories of our true love, or the longing for this love, will linger within us and bubble up to the surface eventually. Even if our safe relationship lasts a lifetime—think of the married couples who are miserable, treat each other with disdain, yet stay together for the sake of the children, or due to financial fears. What lingers underneath the surface? Who do they think of at night when their partner barely touches them anymore? Love will find a way to survive. It resides deep within us, like a longing whisper.
This mystery is what I write about in my novel Between Thoughts of You. An old man on his death bed, finally admits to his hospice caretaker, who happens to look like his true love, that for 60 years he has never stopped thinking about a Japanese woman he fell in love with during World War II. Riddled with guilt for leaving her, the old man, now in the final stages of lung disease, keeps having lucid dreams of his true love, forcing him to face the truth. Here’s an excerpt from my novel, that I’ll be sharing with agents and publishers this weekend in San Francisco (wish me luck!). In this scene, the old man recovers from a vivid dream and reveals his secret to his caretaker.
Excerpt from Between Thoughts of You: Chapter 3
Wasure raremasen: Unforgetable
“She’s here. I mean, I smell her. It’s so God damn real. You know what I mean?”
Lulu thought of her sweet Lani’s smell. The scent had been so real in her dreams that it often lingered a few seconds after she had awakened.
“I might,” she replied softly. She started to take his pulse and placed the oxygen reader on his finger, ensuring that his oxygen levels were OK. The old man began to cough, too.
“Take it easy,” Lulu advised, sensing that the conversation might rile him up. When she reached for the nebulizer, Pops put a firm hand up saying no. With a sense of urgency on his face, Lulu decided it could wait a few minutes.
“My dreams of her are so real, I can even feel her touch as I’m waking up. I feel her soft hand on mine. She had the softest God damn little hands. They were like doll hands. Light as a feather. And I smell her. Jesus I smell her!”
Pops closed his eyes and breathed in. Lulu couldn’t help but smile in response to his dramatic energy.
“She smells like goose down. I know, odd. But that’s her smell. Soft and innocent. I wake up needing her so bad.”
The old man’s eyes looked searchingly into Lulu’s.
“I even heard her voice this morning, calling me Yuki. She called me Yuki,” he explained with a sheepish smile.
“So he does have a secret,” Lulu thought. Most of her hospice patients told her at least one secret. Some might be small, such as secretly not liking a cat that a daughter had given her. But some were huge, like being gay and never telling their spouse. She had gotten used to hearing and keeping secrets. It was part of the job as a hospice nurse; to listen and not to judge.
The old man’s head fell back slightly onto his pillow, as his right hand instinctively lifted. His index and middle fingers straightened and touched, rubbing back and forth like he was rolling a cigarette between them. Lulu imagined that he often had long conversations with friends, while smoking cigarettes and drinking cocktails.
“Who are you talking about?” Lulu finally asked, demanding more clarity.
For more than 60 years, he had not said her name. Not once. When he did, it came out as a whisper: “Kiyomi.”
A sense of relief seemed to wash over the old man’s face after he spoke her name aloud.
“She was the one. I mean, no one has ever come close. You know what I mean?”
Lulu blinked, wondering if Akoni was her one and only, then decided not to go there.
“Of course, when you’re young and with the ONE, you’re just, you’re-I mean, you’re so God damned young and stupid you tell yourself that there will be other women like her. Like they’re just waiting for you everywhere, on every street corner and bar. But they aren’t.”
Pops looked contemplatively over Lulu’s shoulder, out the window facing the driveway lined with cypress trees. He placed a cloth up to his mouth as if he would cough, but just cleared his throat politely.
“I was so stupid to let her go. I mean. I knew. Deep down I really knew she was the one the moment I laid eyes on her. It didn’t matter that I was only 20. She was like this Japanese princess. I laid eyes on her and just couldn’t breathe. Like now,” the old man laughed a little. “Like God damned now.”
The conversation was riling him up. Pops started coughing so violently, his shoulders crashed up and down on the bed frame. Lulu had no other choice but to give him his nebulizer and to leave the room to finish making his breakfast. If she stayed any longer, he would just keep trying to talk.
It had turned out to be a gorgeous morning, so after his treatment, Lulu decided to wheel Pops out to the patio for his favorite brunch: eggs benedict and orange juice and toast. Apparently, on Sundays Pops liked to re-create the regular brunch he had in New York. The old man adored traditions. Yet, Lulu noticed that he hadn’t seemed to miss his homes in Rome or Manhattan—or his boys, or his wife—much at all. That perplexed her at first. Now that she had heard his heart was with another— and for nearly sixty years—her curiosity was peaking.
Once the old man settled into the patio area and ate at least half of his meal without any signs of distress or coughing, Lulu leaned in. “I have to hear more about this Japanese princess. Where were you? Who was she? I thought you had been married forever?”
So, the old man started to tell his long love story. But in his fashion, he began telling it a bit lop-sided. He started the tale of his greatest love affair, after it had died.
“I married the boys mom, but I didn’t love her.” Pops looked around like he was at his favorite restaurant in New York or Rome, fearing someone might overhear his confession.
Lulu instinctively placed a hand on top of his and said, “You can trust me. I won’t tell a soul.”
Pops smiled and blushed. He really loved Lulu. He couldn’t explain how or why, but it felt as if he had known her before, or in another life. Or maybe he was just old and dying and needed to finally tell someone? Either way, he knew he was safe with her, so he continued:
“I mean I liked their mother, but Fran didn’t hold a candle to Kiyomi.”
Lulu wasn’t able to hide her quizzical expression. She just never understood why or how any man could ever marry a woman he didn’t love.
“See these were different times. I returned from the war and suddenly was making money. I mean, Real money. That’s a long story for another time. But, see, my mother was very patriotic. You’d think she’d been born in America, the way she acted.” Pops began to giggle, then continued in a high-pitched voice, imitating her: “‘No son of mine’s marrying a Jap! Just get over her.’ She had said that to me so many times it should have painted it on the kitchen ceiling!” The old man sighed.
“See, I made the mistake of telling my mother, after I returned to New York, that I was in love with this Japanese girl. My mother went Bofo. She went crazy. It took her less than a week to start rounding up pretty Italian girls in the neighborhood for me to date.”
The old man rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders, like what could I do?
“I was only 22 then and making a lot of money and really stupid. I mean, the boys’ mother was a looker. I’ll give her that. But nothing made me want to hold her. I mean, she was bossy and flashy. And LOUD. So loud. Key could barely whisper and I’d always hear her, or lean in so I didn’t miss a word. Fran was always yelling. I don’t know.” He shrugged his shoulders again and then took a sip of his orange juice that Lulu had poured into a champagne flute to be festive.
The old man then shifted into a more serious mood and looked off in the distance, as if sizing up how to best explain what he’d say next.
“If I could do it all over again I’d change everything. That’s why the boys can never know. Never. See, I’d marry Kiyomi. I still love her so much it hurts inside. Isn’t that crazy? It’s been what, 50, no 60 years. Nuts.”
The sun had risen, getting too bright, causing the old man to squint. Tuscany in September could still be hot. Lulu helped lift Pops out of his chair and handed him his walker. “Lets get a little exercise around the property, before going back to bed,” Lulu suggested. Walking on the gravel would be tricky for him, she had decided, but it would also be a good way to provide a focus for the old man. He’d have to concentrate fully on exactly what was before him, and not behind him. Lulu loved the moments that were fully present, like dancing or painting—neither the old man could ever do again. This little treacherous walk would require all the focus he could muster.
They stopped in the shade by the pool, so he could catch his breath. The old man had been panting and trying to hide how hard the walk had been for him. Lulu wondered if she had pushed him too far.
The old man leaned into an old knotted olive tree and looked up at Lulu with such love in his eyes it caused Lulu to blush and look away. Although he hadn’t told her, Pops had been thinking that if he had married Kiyomi, they might have had a daughter, or granddaughter that would have looked like her. The old man touched Lulu’s face gently, turning her gaze back to his, before asking an impossible request:
“I want to die smelling my Kiyomi. Feeling her hand on my hand. I know you understand. I can feel it. I don’t want the boys here. Just you, me and Key, OK?”
Lulu touched the old man’s hand with her own, tears welling in her eyes.
“I promise,” she said, making a promise that she had no earthly idea how to carry out.
Good morning. I’m feeling raw and authentic these days, so why not post a naked face pic? ha ha … So here I am, no make up, early morning cup of joe, my last lingering vice. Five months ago, as some know, my 15-year-old dared me to go off all social media. I did. He did. We are both more productive—although his gaming time has gone up, LOL! I finished my 3rd novel, Between Thoughts of You (link to except on title), and sent it to an agent on Monday. Woohoo!! Fingers crossed! The day after Thanksgiving I gave up alcohol. I did this at the request of a dear friend. It was a good request. Alcohol didn’t serve me. There were too many times when I found myself around drunk friends and the chatter became negative or gossipy. Then there were the mornings after when I would still have to teach hot 105 degree yoga. Ow! Plus, I want to be someone my boys can look up to. Someone who still has fun, still enjoys her life, is healthy, vibrant and joyful—all without alcohol. So far SO GOOD. I don’t miss it at all. I enjoyed my 2nd New Year Eve at a yoga (last year) or meditation event where we all ended up dancing for hours and hours! A dear friend I met in Peru, when I attended Mike Dooley‘s retreat, (yeah, the source of Notes from the Universe and SO much more!) flew in. Beth and I attended Marianne Williamson‘s weekend retreat on forgiveness, miracles, finding your voice, vision, taking calm, yet powerful steps toward peace, etc. It was inspiring! We met people from all over the world and via her livestream folks tuned in from Israel, Syria, Egypt, Palestine—talk about powerful! Here’s a pic, post-midnight, of us dancing with Marianne Williamson, her party-goers and the Agape Choir.
I adore Marianne, a 65-year-old who looks 40 and whose powerfully strong light is feminine, strong and passionate. (I hope she runs for office again!!) I did The Course in Miracles a few years back and in my first yoga training four years ago, was given one of her quotes:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”
It felt natural that I should attend her event, held here in LA instead of her usual New York venue. What I took away that was new, however, I will share with you. Pray for Donald Trump. Pray for all your ‘enemies’ and know that they have a light, a direct link to God, just as much as you do. AND, the only thing that is REAL, is LOVE. So what they are doing to hurt you, doesn’t represent them, their true essence, their higher self they were born intrinsically with (like you) and nothing they did or said that harmed you is REAL. As Einstein said: “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
It’s easier to forgive those who hurt me (or who I allowed to hurt me, it is the same) when I think this way. Maybe it will be for you, too? BUT, Marianne warns that talking smack about what they did, or even thinking negatively about what they did and/or ‘who’ they are, will hurt you too—as you enter into the negative illusion that isn’t REAL. LOVE is REAL. LIGHT (GOD LIGHT) is real. And it takes strength to embody both. Letting go of the baggage, forgiving and loving ‘enemies’, ourselves, and then doing something to change our world, takes courage. I’ll leave you with some of the best quotes by Marianne over the NYE weekend:
“Everyone we meet will either be our crucifier or our savior, depending on what we choose them to be.”
“Get off the cross, we need the wood.”
“The warden, just like the prisoner, can’t leave the jail.”
“You can have a grievance, or you can have joy, you can’t have both.”
“Those who act in a loveless manner (who hurt us) are not being Real. They are love, but have forgotten, or fell asleep. Us attacking them, or criticizing or not forgiving them makes us asleep with them. We must stay awake and forgive.”
“You are reborn in the instant you do NOT bring the past with you.”
“The EGO mind is like a scavenger’s dog, seeking your brother’s guilt. The Loving mind wants to see your brother’s innocence.”
“Forgiveness is a Radical concept. Drop victimhood that the EGO uses against you, against your sense of peace.”
“Jesus said, ‘I don’t have anything you don’t have. I just don’t have anything else.’ Remember to look at your problems, but deny their power over you. Fall in love with positive possibility.”
“Our potential is infinite.”
“The EGO wants suffering. The SPIRIT wants joy.”
“You must have already decided to not be joyous if that is how you feel. Recognize you actively decided wrongly. So choose again. Ask God to help you. HE will listen to your slightest request, your slightest willingness.”
So, I am signing off with one last thought. For me to forgive those who have hurt me in the ‘illusion’, I’ve decided to think of their beautiful light that shined inside of them when they were young children. I see their giggles, their little pudgy hands reaching for their mom’s necks. I imagine the way they must have looked wide-eyed at all who came near and smiled gooey smiles and stared deeply at the strangers with so much love, some had to look away. They still have this innocent light. I love this light. And I forgive them for behaving unlovingly or harmfully toward me because that wasn’t the essence of who they are. I love their essence. God loves their essence. And I love and forgive me for allowing them to hurt me, as I wasn’t protecting myself. Yes, only LOVE is REAl, so anything not loving, must be released with LOVE.
I promise you this isn’t going to be an essay from yet another preachy yoga teacher espousing spiritual truths or pretending to have it all figured out—while confusingly showing off a sexy body. I’ve literally had it with all of that. I don’t have it all figured out. Not by a long shot. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve been so depressed that I didn’t know how I’d continue on. So I share my truth: I know, with all my heart, everyone has a struggle that you may not understand, or realize, so BE KIND. Compassion is the greatest gift any of us can give. And it doesn’t cost a thing.
AND for those struggling in silence this holiday season, find the courage to ask for help. You are a gift upon this Earth. Even if no one has ever told you that. You are. Even if you have been in environments where others treat you lesser than, they are wrong. You are a gift. Even if you are stuck in victimhood, you can get out. Find the strength to be compassionate toward yourself. Set boundaries with those who have hurt you in your life-or who you allowed to hurt you, it is the same. It can be as easy as just not texting back, not reaching out, not being available, without any drama. The Goddess wisdom I received in Greece this summer during my first yoga & writers retreat, came from simple thoughts, simple messages, while I meditated: Be love. Be compassion. Be open. Drop judgement. Be honest. Be yourself. Be playful. Be strong. Be consciousness. Be patient. Be creative. Dream. Dance. Jump. Swim. Stargaze. Sit in silence. Be grateful. Be more grateful for the lessons. Laugh. Hug. Kiss. Cry. Let go. Accept. Love harder.
So even if you’re doing all the right things and someone unloving enters your life and is hurtful, yet again, just know this is a loving nudge from the Universe, sending a growth challenge: do you accept this treatment? Or can you bless them and BLOCK them? We teach people how to treat us. Even family members (later in life.) We can choose compassion and choose to go where the love is. Love isn’t saying I love you. It’s compassion. It’s encouragement. It’s showing up. It’s presence, not presents. It doesn’t put you down. It doesn’t feel bad to be around. It doesn’t say you can’t, or you aren’t worth it, or you aren’t enough. It’s not constantly trying to change you, or lie to you, or use you, or impatiently push you to do things you don’t want to do. Love never physically hurts—EVER. It’s not frightening. It isn’t unconsciously abusing substances either.
Make an intention this holiday season or New Years, like I have, to receive (or create) the gift of only allowing in those who are loving.
If the idea of Goddess wisdom seems too far-fetched for you, or too narcissistic, fake it until you make it. You are worth others making an effort for you. Don’t you make an effort for those you love? Why should the scales be so unbalanced? We have to give AND receive to balance our Chi. You are worth others being kind and honest and considerate and loving toward you. And if they aren’t able to, the Universe will send along others, if you block the unloving ones and LET THEM GO.
September 24, 2017 marked a full month without ANY social media. Not even one peak. Not one news feed scroll. Not one ‘like’ for a picture marking an event or moment in my life. Not one announcement made to a wide group of ‘friends’. Yesterday, however, I had a moment that felt very odd. A beautiful model who was taking hot yoga with me, after class, posed half-naked for a selfie in front of our mirrors.
The woman, who had her camera aimed high so she could have her entire wet body beside our mirrors in the picture, giggled and said ‘bear with me, I have to do a social media photo bomb.’ I literally stepped away and out of the camera’s view laughing nervously. I suddenly didn’t like the fact that there’d be thousands (she is a model) of her ‘friends’ in our yoga class and possibly seeing me sweaty and tired. Yoga isn’t about sex. It was a knee jerk reaction of mine to get as far away from her as possible. See, I had forgotten about ever wanting to invite in hundreds of strangers into my day to approve of me or ‘like’ a post-workout sweaty body. Was I ever like that? Probably. And that worries me. Of course, her pic will probably garner attention for our studio. Maybe. Will any of her ‘friends’— likely men, lets face it, she’s gorgeous and posed half naked and wet—come into the studio or take one of my classes? Not likely. No harm was done though. It’s just funny how I reacted. A month earlier I would have likely friended her and ‘liked’ her picture saying “great workout!” or something to that effect. Yesterday, after a month off, I just wanted OUT of the picture and didn’t feel comfortable having strangers injected into that moment which for many was about pushing themselves into a positive mindset and healing. Yes we wear little clothing in a hot class, but that’s because of the heat. What a shift in my thinking! I’ve become much more private. That’s clear. I’ve become more selective about who I share information with and who I share myself with. That’s the biggest shift. I care more about the vibration of a person I encounter face to face and whether that person makes me feel at ease or makes me smile, or is kind and having a bad day. When I feel that natural attraction to someone like-minded, I make a point of speaking more or reaching out more, or doing something to lift their day. I’ve become better friends with certain yogis at my studio, for instance who are going through challenges and are facing them with courage and laughter. We have long chats. We’ve known each other for nearly a year, but now I’m even more mindful and pay attention to their lives and we share a lot with each other. These relationships mean more to me and I don’t really want to invite strangers into our moments, as silly as that sounds.
As for my 15-year-old son, who is also off social media now, he’s had moments where he said he felt isolated from friends—you know, no more snap chat or Instagram. But we’ve also had heart-to-heart conversations about what he doesn’t like or miss on social media. Like the fake accounts where kids post pics of drunk hookups or drunken or pot-filled moments. And before he quit social media, he witnessed some bullying by a popular kid calling a girl names, making fun of her appearance and it bothered him. I love my son. He’s an old soul and he knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like. So this offline month he stared an ebay business, opened up a checking account and also created a website that is really gorgeous. He’s also learning about investing, so all the money he makes, he can invest. At school, he’s made a point to sometimes sit with, or walk with, an autistic kid who gets shunned. He knows he’s popular and his kindness might inspire others to be nice to the kid too. I’m really proud of him.
So what have I been doing this month? A little of the same: writing, yoga classes, juggling the demands of my boys. But I’m not on social media listening to hundreds of voices and feeling like I need to get involved in the chatter or be seen. I’ve had heart-felt conversations with yoga students, started a cleanse with one, and have heard from a few old friends. I’ve had a Saturday night date with my youngest, walking on the pier, going out to eat and not once did I scroll my feed or snap a picture for my ‘friends’ to like. It was just the two of us and I even forced myself to pay attention to his Star Wars and MineCraft rants. 🙂
Now that I’ve detoxed and no longer miss my social media addiction, this next month ‘should’ be even more productive. I’m hoping! I have big plans. I’m editing Between Thoughts of You, my next novel, and am teaching even more yoga classes and will be going to Vegas with my boys for a huge soccer tournament, visiting my sister who now lives in CALIFORNIA! and will be throwing a party for my youngest who is turning NINE on the 24th. It’s hard to believe. Life is still as busy and as challenging as ever, but it’s more mindful. It’s more peaceful too. When I tune out all of the noise, I can tune into my own voice, my own heart, and listen more carefully to the voices that mean the most to me: my family, my closest friends. I play more music too, that’s been fun. I’m still not cooking however! I hate all the cleanup late at night, but we do sit down at the table and chat over my awesome salads and Trader Joes meals. lol
AloneTogether: Single Moms Support Group (This is a closed group, please say you found their site from me, Laura Roe Stevens, when requesting to join.)
The UCLA Family Commons: http://www.uclacommons.com/
Single Parent Housing: www.SPAOA.org
Pell Grants For Mothers: PellGrants.ClassesAndCareers.com