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Writings

Below is a sample of essays that best explain my journey. From the introduction of my marriage, to losing my son David, to becoming suddenly single, it is an evolution of realization, recovery and rebuilding.

You Make Me Smile

“You make me smile.”  We laugh, we argue, but you make me smile. It is such an easy thing to do, and yet often so difficult to produce. You know you are in a different place in life when people are always commenting, “you are smiling now.” When did the smiling cease to exist, and is it that noticeable a return?

When you smile, your brain releases tiny molecules called neuropeptides. Neuropeptides help fight off stress. Other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins come into play also. The endorphins act as a mild pain reliever, and the serotonin is an antidepressant. One study even suggests that smiling can help a person recover faster from stress and reduce one’s heart rate. Yet very few of us concentrate on the smile. Perhaps the action is so involuntary that it takes commentary to even notice a change.

So how does he make me smile? It is often the kindness, the ease of expression, the familiarity, the sheer good time. Allowing someone in, someone that can encourage the positive outlook, the realization that the world is actually alright -is the first step. Whether your wall is built out of guilt or perceived self -preservation, it takes so much internal focus to isolate the root cause. Letting go of the emotions that are crippling to the smile are the first steps to finding happiness. That is no easy task.

Read the full article at The Three Tomatoes

The Independent Woman

It is probably cliche to say Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, however, it seems to hold true.  The differences in thought process, reasoning process and expression are often polar opposites. The exploration as to whether this is chemical or societal is an interesting voyage.

“Honey, we need to spend some time apart so that you can accomplish all you need to do—books, projects, paperwork.”  What does he hear?

“You don’t want to see me anymore, we are breaking up,” he thinks.

No, that is not the intent of the comment.  The statement is made to allow everyone to maximize their time and potential.  But in the male world of black and white vison, there can only be one reason. Women seem to have a greater capability of understanding the gray.  Understanding that there are compromises, adjustments and accommodations in relationships that will ultimately make for a stronger bond and happier individuals.  Perhaps the key word there is individuality.

Read the full article at The Three Tomatoes

You Get What You Give

“Three turns to the right. Alright everyone up for the count of eight. Tap it back, two -three- four.”  There is a typical dialogue from a Master Instructor at Soul Cycle.

Along with direction on how to perform on your bike, is the instructor conversation about living life, finding your best self and optimizing a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes, the advice strikes a nerve, resounding over and over in my head. Laurie repeatedly says, “…you get what you give.”  That makes sense.

Getting what you give is important on so many levels. There is a profound difference between believing in karma, and understanding, “you get what you give.”  On a most basic level, there is the treatment of other people.  We all grew up understanding the Golden Rule – doing unto others as you want them to do unto you. It is quite basic.  But this extends fundamentally into compassion, affection and kindness. However, I would like to explore another aspect-judgment.

Read the full article at The Three Tomatoes

“You don’t need anybody.”

“You don’t need anybody,” he said as we were driving to dinner in a heated conversation. It was a lashing of words that stung particularly hard. Thinking, thinking, I don’t need anyone…… I took a deep breath and retorted, “that could not be further from the truth.” It came out awkward and high pitched as I was fighting back tears.  Was I that person? Had I protected myself so much that I had turned into an island?  I’ve rolled this phrase over and over, contemplating if maybe I didn’t need someone and that I was fooling myself to protest. I have come to realize it isn’t that I don’t need anyone, perhaps I just may not need someone the same way they want to be needed. To hurt me, he made this profound declaration. However, how we need people and how we explore what people can give us and what we can give them in return, is a journey.  Need is wrapped up in circumstances, in other people’s emotional requirements and, ultimately, in our own responses.

Needing someone: needing friends, needing relatives, needing lovers. Need is such a multi-dimensional word and a multi -dimensional emotion. Often, friends fulfill their desire to be needed, as long as it fits into their prescription. Let us explore the needs of a person who has experienced loss. Dealing with loss has the classic stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  It is difficult for people to interpret where you are on the spectrum of stages and difficult for those close to interpret your need for need. However, it is also important to understand that those that are “there for you” are sometimes fulfilling something that is important for their well- being, too. Whether it is their grief or their pain as well, it can be a transactional relationship. Classically, there is a recipe for the social treatment of a widow(er). The beginning is so difficult and it is often easy to show care and thoughtfulness.  But as the individual becomes more independent and self- assured, they may be perceived as no longer needing support and care. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Yes, how they need friends may be different, but no matter how strong, how happy, how well adjusted they appear, the desire for care, warmth and cocooning still exists. Strip down the façade, and you will find a person that is still very much in want of your attention and thoughtfulness as a friend and confidant.

Read the full article at The Three Tomatoes

Prefer Not To Hear About Mother’s Day?

 

Me too. I received an email last week from a renowned perfume company with that headline. The body of the email went on to say, “We understand that this can be a difficult time for some people. If you would like to opt out of Mother’s Day emails, please let us know.” Alright, I am letting you know.  And also, opt me out of Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day and a variety of other holidays that are antiquated and emotionally inefficient in today’s culture.

 

As a family that has faced profound loss, it is obvious why Mother’s Day is difficult. Of course, the death of a child, in my case my magnificent 32-year-old son to suicide, is the epitome of holiday rejection. The pain of his absence in my life is magnified on that day and triggers the questioning of my feelings of inadequate love to him and my failure to keep him safe and healthy. I always refer to David in the present, and yes, wonder what I could have done differently as his mother. Intellectually, I have come to terms with the idea that I couldn’t change him. I tried, and I failed.  My daughter Elizabeth helps me, as we intellectualize his pain and his demons.  We have concluded and accepted that life was just too difficult for him. But then Mother’s Day arrives every year. I feel like a fraud and a failure that I couldn’t fix or save my son. When Father’s Day arrives, my heart aches for my daughter. Her loss is enhanced by the presence of social media and the profound commercialization of these holidays. On Elizabeth’s first Father’s Day without her dad, I rushed and planned a trip to Paris with her, to remove her from the media in the United States.  It worked, and what a pleasure it was to bike ride in the Jardin des Tuileris that Sunday, with no thought or mention of the antiquated holiday.

 

But, under no condition should I corner the market on disliking Mother’s Day and feeling unhappy or inadequate that day. There are so many complications to the holiday that foster uncomfortable feelings and pain. Let’s explore the various subsets that exist that make these “Hallmark Holidays” horrible. While businesses in the United States are marketing the need to buy cards, flowers, gifts and make dinner reservations, so many people are conflicted and dis-associated with the celebration.

 

Read the full article at The Three Tomatoes

The Used Car

He said in bed one night, as I caught him studying me, “……..you know, it is kinda’ like buying a used car. You love the model, but it has those dents and scratches.” He was staring at my face, and actually referring to me. I bolted up and said, “What?” The indignation that I felt was off the charts, and all I could do was stare in disbelief. But as time passed, and I had run that comment over and over again in my head, I had actually come to understand it and ultimately, appreciate it.

We are all just a compilation of experiences. For some of us, those experiences are vast and defining, and for others they are limited. When dealing with loss, grief, loneliness or even depression, it is not uncommon to search our past for the answers.  Recently, I was recounting my past to two friends who were not aware of my history. They inquired as to why and how I have the resilience I do, as they defined it. I quickly answered that I believe it is part DNA and part experience.  Coming from a very strong matriarchy, and raising a strong and impressive daughter, it dawned on me that DNA and the past experiences become one. While telling the story of my grandmother, who lost both of her daughters in their forties, I realized where I had come from.  She was a grand woman, with deep blue eyes and premature snow-white hair; she epitomized the regality of German Jews. Born and raised in Upstate New York, from parents born and raised in Upstate New York, she looked at life pragmatically and made the most of her situation. When asked how she was at any given time, “I’m good Babe, how are you?” There was nothing soft or melancholy with Gram, she accepted her lot and moved forward with grace and determination. I am her granddaughter.

When a person deals with grief at an early age, I believe their coping skills are keenly developed.  Much like learning a foreign language when young, the ability to cope becomes innate. The perspective that you garner, gives you a different lens from the rest of the world. When you are young and endure, you are often expected to pick yourself up and move forward.  That is grit. Grit to endure, to intellectualize the loss and to plow through.  Plow through with the understanding that life is worth living and that there is joy and there is love if you make the choice to find it. At least that is the attitude that represented my world.

Read the full article at The Three Tomatoes

Joy Has Urgency

Joy has an urgency in our lives.  I read this in a wonderful editorial about a young girl who was diagnosed with cancer after being given her Bat Mitzvah date.  When the time arrived to celebrate, the family realized that their joy had urgency.  My joy has urgency.

It is natural to want to celebrate. Fortunately, after experiencing loss, joy does not have to stand still. Births still occur, engagements happen, weddings continue and celebrations are planned. In recovery of loss, it is often difficult to participate at first. The thought of attending joyful occasions can border nauseating.  And then one day the veil is lifted, the time is right, and joy bounces back into your universe. Your perception of joy is very different from the rest of the world’s. You see a deeper meaning, a greater depth and stronger reaction. There, is another silver lining.

My reaction to the birth of my first great nephew awakened this new awareness.  Here we were, with the first new addition to our family. Instead of the usual superficiality, I felt the depth of emotion tied to this new little person.  He was the beginning of our “hope”, the next generation-our legacy. I marvel at my brother’s love and commitment to this little boy. Not marveling in its oddity, but in its completeness. Despite the fact that he is an exceptional and exemplary father, this transcends that. His good fortune has made him whole and has made him thoroughly happy. Does his joy have an urgency? Possibly. But moreover, it has a richness that is profound to observe.

Read the full article at The Three Tomatoes

The Beginning: Choosing Life After Loss

The United States has a federal budget surplus and Bill Clinton denies sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. The year is 1998 and the first episode of Sex and the City debuts. I have been married seventeen years to the most incredible man, and I have a thirteen-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter. Both are sent to their rooms as Michael and I hunker down, lying in his enveloping arms, for another episode of Carrie and her remarkable friends in New York City. My days as a wild child and carefree cavorting are long over, however, I relate with a glint in my eye and a two- fold secret. Part one of the secret- I am so happy to be married and to be a mother locked into this charmed life. Part two, I have a bit of envy for Carrie, and I think she is my girl crush.

Fast forward to 2021. Like Carrie, I am widowed at a relatively young age and can’t imagine life without Michael. And here we go on an adventure that has supplied more growth, self-actualization and excitement than I ever could have imagined. Carrie may have beat me to the punch in exposure, but I have her beat in life’s extraordinary journey.

My chapter unfolds. I looked in the mirror, not too hard though. Everyone talks about hot flashes, wrinkles, love handles and loose skin, but there is never a mention of eyesight fading a bit. But I have discovered that can be a good thing—the reflection in the mirror is more forgiving. As I apply my mascara and finish the bronzer, I take note that I look pretty damn good.  Pretty damn good for a fifty-nine-year-old widow, zipping her black dress, slipping into those incredible Manolo’s he loved and off to the second funeral in six months of a piece of my heart. My son David’s death by suicide was exactly six months ago to the day and now, after an eight-week illness, I am burying the love of my life, my husband Michael. I am numb, I am aware, I am breathing.

Read the full article at The Three Tomatoes

The Other Side of Widowhood: Choices

I had that marriage. The relationship that lit up a room. It was the one that everyone envied, and not because we wanted to be envied. We were just beautifully suited. Lovers, best friends, soulmates. I snicker at soulmates, for in my intellectual mind’s eye, that isn’t supposed to exist.

But it did, and it did.

At 22, I didn’t want to meet him or date him. He was the golden boy, superstar at our corporate workplace, and I found that uninteresting. He was handsome, kind and very smart.

Although the combination was ever so appealing, I wasn’t going to be, “that girl.” The thought of competing for attention was very unattractive. As fate would have it, he became my supervisor and the rest is history.

And then you grow together or you grow apart. We grew together. But in that evolution, I, in some regard became the person he wanted me to be. Growing implies growth and development from a simpler being to a more complex being. Complexity is not always positive, in fact, it can be a negative. …… 

The Brightest Stars Burn Half As Long

We had such a wonderful evening. It was four weeks before his wedding, and he had come to the apartment to have dinner with me, try on his tuxedo and check on his groomsmen gifts.

He had designed hi-top converse sneakers for them to wear, with their monograms and wedding date emblazoned. He tried on his tuxedo, and like a little boy -excited at the outcome. We laughed through dinner and just enjoyed each other’s company. When it was time to leave, and I thought the evening went far too quickly, I held his face in my hands and said, “ You know I have a problem with you.  I just love you too much.” He smiled that electric smile and replied, “Beahr, I love you more.”  Two days later my son leapt off his apartment building and took his life.  In all of our shock and horror, if I am to be truly honest, I can’t tell you there wasn’t a drop of suspect.  David struggled with addiction and had some demons, and had referenced taking his life in very subtle ways a few times over the past five years……

Can I Love Again?

Maybe you don’t have to love every man the same way.  Maybe love comes in stratifications, in layers and you can say “I love you,” in layer one.  Maybe you can’t replicate the depth and breadth of the love that you felt towards one man, but you can love another-another way.

For three solid years, I have questioned whether I can love again?   My confusion was that I was trying to love the same way, not the new way.  In my journey, I had decided that it was too dangerous to love again.  Three strikes and you are out.  I weathered the storms that blew into my path, and came out the other side.  Can I do it again, or will I fold like a deck of cards?

Using, “Can I love again?” was a convenient excuse not to love.  Not to feel, not to emote, not to commit.  I could put up a wall that men were sympathetic to, as I had quite the enduring story.  It was easy to say that I was scared and not capable, or at least I didn’t believe I was capable. However, it was during a heady discussion with Him that it dawned on me I was feeling something.  I was anticipatory on the Thursday nights awaiting his arrival, excited and aroused.  I liked having him asleep next to me, not feeling invaded or suffocated.  When he sheepishly told me he had to fly to LA for the weekend for an interview, although I thoroughly understood and encouraged him, I was a bit sad.  What was happening??

What was happening was a layer of love.  Peel the onion and there is layer after layer. Time and discovery. The measure that develops is whether it is worth it.  Is it worth all the feelings that come bubbling to the top.  There are feelings of betrayal to the love you lost, explanations to those friends and family around you, and the cursed self.  Admitting to yourself that you are once again vulnerable: emotionally and intellectually.  You are going to allow someone “in”,  to feel the feelings and chance the pain.  Oh the pain-is it worth it to feel that once again?…..