The Heart

The heart is the muscle that runs the whole organism. It beats, we beat. It stops, we stop. Is that why we use the shape of the heart to equate love? Is it because love is the “heartbeat” of life? Is it that without love we have no life, no breath, no way to live?

There are many types of love. I love them all. My precious daughters whose smiles, innocent remarks and hugs slay me. The love I have for my brothers who are forever surprising me as our relationships unfold with age. My Mother, my sweet little Mother who’s devotion to my Father was and is the greatest love I have ever witnessed. My friends whose love I feel across oceans and continents and their uncanny knack of knowing despite distance and years just when to reach out that hand to hold.

 

I loved a man recently.We seemed to have it all. Same age, children, passionate about work, creative, intellectual, respectful, devoted, worldly and between us enough scars and warts to humble us both. When my Father died my world was shattered and I ran. First I begged then I ran. I begged for arms to circle the God awful hole that was in my heart. When that didn’t work I pushed him away. He saw it and tried to stop it but I was already onto the next dance. I needed to feel my way into being me without my Father. I needed to heal. I needed all the love I could gather from the corners of the earth to hold me up. I needed the huge tapestry woven from the old friends compassion to hold me together until I could hold myself. The love I felt from so many people was the nourishment I needed. It gave me strength to grow roots into the soil of my new world.

Sitting by the shore I see repeatedly with imperfect precision the oceans unwavering love of the sand. The waves return again and again. Each time just a little different from the last. A dance like no other. A dance of steadfast commitment.

 

 

As a ballerina I was always changing roles. Just when something got comfortable it was on to the next. Our repetoire was ever changing and it was often years before we were given another chance at the same role. It seems I love that way too. Just when things get comfortable, I fall apart. I push them away. In lasting relationships you can’t do that. My friends, my brothers and my parents all managed to be like the ocean. Returning again and again. When my heart is heavy and sad I run to the ocean for its steady beat. Maybe I need to dive in………

What is love? How do you define love? Where does it begin and where does it end? How does it start? And does it ever really end? Would you share your thoughts on love?

 

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Care to share the exhaustion?

We all have “those days” and today was one of them for me. I woke up exhausted. I dragged my children out of bed. Had  a silent ride to school. I slogged my way into a useless 8:45 meeting counting down the minutes until I was free. Lost my cool with a class of very brave souls who didn’t bother to tell me for a week that they hadn’t been able to complete an assignment. They forgot to “email” me about it. I somnambulated my way thru 2 ballet classes. Almost fell asleep behind the wheel picking the kids up from school. During the flute lesson I napped as always and still, all I wanted to do was cry.

Tiredness is in my bones. My soul needs a day off. I looked to everything in the universe for an answer. For acceptance. For someone to say

“Enough! This ones had enough! She deserves it.”

Well that is never going to happen. No one is going to come to my rescue. No one except me. It’s my choice to over do, over spend, over think and over green tea.

Tea

“In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.”  ~Deepak Chopra

 

Tonight I messaged a friend who’s a doctor. I asked if even the good doc needs a good cry. The answer was a simple yes. We all do. What struck me about his response was the common thread. We all have hard days, weeks, months and even years when we feel so alone. It was comforting for me to hear that even Dr. Perfect wants a shoulder to cry on and sometimes for the smallest of things. I’m tired because I can’t do it all and I want to so badly. I’m tired because I reached out to help someone I care about very deeply and they bit me. I can’t help them until they want to help themselves. I’m tired because I don’t listen to my heart and get stuck in my head and try to keep going.

I’m tired because I’m trying for the impossible: I want it all to be perfect.

I am so clearly not perfect and yet I keep banging my head against the same perfectly hard wall. I read last night about kindness. It is the most noble of traits. They say the only way we can truly experience kindness is by first being kind to ourselves. I am going to try this one. I am going to bed now because I want to be kind and in order to be kind I must be awake and in order to be awake, I must get some sleep. May we all find a little more kindness in our lives tomorrow. I’ll probably dance in my sleep, but until then,

Namaste and good night.


Healing

It has been exactly 41 days since my sweet Father put on his wings and flew away. The world feels so empty and lonely. It’s strange I know, but everything he ever touched feels lifeless and cold right now. Even me. I feel as though I am here, but not here. Like everyone, I long for that last conversation. That last I love you. That long goodbye.

I have been reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead and it is helping put things in perspective for me. A little. In my own selfish need for him to stay alive, I forgot that he was dealing with a little bit of his own personal hell. How would you feel if you heard the words that there was an end in sight? We all glamorize and dramatize what we would do. The trips we’d take, the people we would forgive, the grand gestures we’d make. In truth though, I think it is much much simpler. Yes, we would love up all those we love. Give hugs and kisses and I love you’s and thank you’s. The bigger question to ponder becomes really about “me.”

How would you feel if you were told this is it. If it were me, how would I feel knowing the end was there? Looming like a distant wave that will come, sooner than later, to shore and crash leaving nothing in its wake because it is all dissolved and swallowed up by the vastness of the ever changing. The truth is, that this is it. Any moment could be my last and what am I doing with the few precious moments I have?

 

Me and Dad

Now and again I have these “ah ha” moments that whisper to me of the big as hell space that is within and without. The heaven above, around and inside of me and each one of us. I am so busy grasping to this life that I am eternally fearful of the next. What would you do if you were handed that sentence?

In hindsight, I think I did it all wrong. I kept hoping and trying to have conversations with my Father about he felt about dying. We never had a single one. I never told him of my fear of life without him. I wanted him to tell me how he was feeling and all he wanted was to feel all the love of his family. He gave up his independence to be dialyzed 3 days a week so he could feel our love. So he could bask in the love and togetherness his illness created. As he got weaker, we got stronger and we didn’t even know it but he did.

I had a year and almost 2 months to say everything and I didn’t. My fear of death paralyzed me. He had a year to absorb the love and support of his children and beloved Mary. He had a year to look death in the face and say not yet. It took him that long to be ready for the great journey home. I hope in some small measure our love gave him the strength to wear those wings with pride.

My lesson in this: My Father always listened to everyone. He always put others first. I know this big cold empty hole in my life will never be filled, but it can be the fertile ground from which compassion can grow. His life and legacy can be the soil that feeds the bodhisattva in me. The one whose arms are open for all to find kindness. My fears have kept me selfish. His death has unlocked my heart.

I love you. I miss you. Thank you.

 


I am wrong (alot)

I discovered something interesting. It’s nothing new, but it’s the steadfast practice of yoga and meditation that has created this new “awareness” for me.

Whenever I let my ego out of the gate first, well, I am wrong. Yep. Plain and simple. The epiphany came to me as I was brushing my teeth tonight. I have this horrible shameful secret. I am so insecure that when I am faced with new situations, new people, or just about anything that makes me feel uncomfortable, I pre-judge and I am always wrong. Somehow my ego thinks that everyone is out to get me. Me. Me. Me and only me. Right? Because that is how big my small self feels it is. Can any of you relate to this? When someone approaches me about something that my ego isn’t prepared for, the moat fills, the gates draw down fast and the archers are ready in the turrets. I cannot possibly deign to help you or anyone else until I know all the facts. Let’s not forget that before I can consider answering, I must have time to contemplate the outcome for me. Me.

I keep having this theme run over and over in my Life. I am always wrong in my prejudgement. The person rarely if ever has it in for me. What could have been simple gets turned into an epic the likes of the Twilight Saga. Wasted time, wasted energy and “bad seeds” that will take a lot of good seeds to stop from germinating. One would think that after all these years I would get it. I don’t. I keep sitting on my cushion. I keep practicing my yoga. I keep teaching yoga. I keep on because that is what I must do. I have to learn this strange dance I have choreographed and change the beginning. The end is always better than my small self could have imagined. It’s time for me to start with the first step. As they say in the ballet world, “it’s how you start and how you finish.” What happens in between the audience will forget if you don’t start strong and finish solid. I love to dance. It is in my blood and bones (and bunions). It’s my passion. What I need to learn is that passion is fueled by love. What would happen if in all those ego-driven moments I went back to love………. after all that is what dancing is actually that’s what Life is.


Alvin: What a man, what a name! Is 90 today

Alvin. With a name like that you have to be pretty special. He is and so are all the other Alvin’s in my Life.

Some days Life just catches you off guard. You are expecting an easy  ride through the day and then something takes a hold of your heart and sends you somewhere you never dreamed. Today is one of those for me.

I have a big family and I love them all dearly. Three brothers, rockstar sisters-in-law, six pack plus of trouble (that’s the nieces and nephews). All unique and incredible in so many ways. My youngest brother is quite generous and allows me to use his elliptical at a moments notice. So kind. As I dropped in unexpectedly this morning, he casually tossed some photos my way as he left for work. They were precious shots of his daughter, who is expecting the 1st great grandchild in our family!! At the bottom of the stack was this:

 

Dad and rach

 

 

My Father with Rachael some 20+ years ago. It stopped me dead. It slayed me. In one instant I recalled all of my days just like this one with my Dad.  When he carried me to the ocean after my foot surgery. When he helped assuage my fears of big waves and floated me out past the breakers. All the feelings of love and support he has given over the years. The unwavering strength and gentleness. What really knocked me off my feet was the time. Time has gone by so quickly. He is 90 today. I am still his little girl but now with grown up challenges. And yet, he is still seems quite captivated by my Life. He still listens closely and tries to advise when needed. We have both grown and changed. Life has presented each of us with new challenges. Our time is limited. It never seemed that way before. This photo reminds me of that so clearly. It stabbed me in the heart. It woke me up. Words can’t express the feelings that wash over me when I look at this picture. But somehow I need to find them and tell him. Maybe it won’t be with words. maybe something like this:

photo-62 photo-61

 

Those hands that have held mine through love and fear, pain and hope. Those hands that packed the car so expertly. Those hands that landed the bomber with one engine. Those hands that spanked me that one time! Those big warm hands that hold all of me with unconditional love at any moment. Those hands that have never denied me the encouragement I needed to carry on when all seemed lost. Those unbelievably strong  90 year old hands that will always keep a hold of my heart. Happy Birthday Dad. I am so blessed to have you as my hero.


Ode to Our Gorgeous Planet

Nelson_Mandelas_Favorite_African_Folktales_300_451_85Today is Earth Day.

Yep, I am a tree hugger because they hug me back without asking. It’s an unconditional love that keeps me sane. It reminds me of how small I am and how grateful I am to be so small.

When I was a ballerina, during performance weeks we rehearsed from 12-4 had a dinner break and went back underground from 6-11. I spent the afternoons and evenings cloistered in the safety of my dressing room and the stage. I did not experience the evenings like most people. I ran out, grabbed a bite, put my feet in ice while I ate, “beat” my face (ode to dear Danny= put on the makeup), warmed up again, meditated, visualized, and became someone other than myself. I lived in the ultimate world of make believe and I did it for a living!

When I retired I longed for the late afternoon to be my own. I wanted to watch the day turn to night. I wanted to experience the feeling of living the seasons. Not the performance seasons. I used to watch the trees and flowers on my walk to work every day and every night. I heard someone say recently that they couldn’t wait to leave NYC so they could see trees again. Don’t they know about Fredrick Law Olmstead?  Didn’t they know that Central Park is an amazing testament to the human souls need for nature. How about Boston’s Emerald Necklace? How could they miss it!

Driving towards downtown at night, my parents would often comment on the sky. As a child I didn’t want to hear it, I wanted to talk. In my 20’s and 30’s, I would have preferred discussing the latest news on NPR. Now I finally get it. No matter how trying the day when I  stop to look at Mother Nature she soothes my soul. Going through some of my most challenging moments over the last few years, the walks around the block and the grand view of the smallest blossom have eased my burden. The dance of wind in the trees, the light in the branches, the smell of natures birth and decay all keep reminding me of the beauty of our planet Earth.  No matter how aware or unaware I am, she is always standing in her glory to remind me of Life in its fullness.

On a recent drive to the beach, my daughter and I listened to Nelson Mandela’s favorite childhood stories. It’s a collection of African folk tales. My favorite by far is “The Mother Who Turned to Dust.” It’s about a star who gives up her shiny and bright Life to go and live on the green and blue planet because its beauty calls to her. She longs for many children to raise and to take care of her. Over the years the children fight and destroy each other. Helen Mirren narrates. We listened, I cried. It’s worth the time to hear this story today. My soul weeps for all that we take for granted.  She waltzes around the sun year after year. She gives birth in the Spring, dances wild in the heat of the summer, slows the rhythm in the Fall and dies quietly in the cold protection of winter. Our Earth is the most glorious planet in our galaxy. I can’t run around and hug trees all the time, but I can find a quiet moment each day to be grateful for her unconditional love. I am devoted to her, but her devotion to all of us out shines the light of the star that she once was.

 

 


Why I am here

I had a life changing event occur last weekend. I had been meditating on finding my voice. I was looking for an outlet for my vast and often useless musings on Life including all the zany analogies and euphemisms that I have encountered along the way. So after last weekend, I reconnected with someone I had lost about 14 years ago. Or maybe 40. Myself. And my voice burst forth……No, I just found something that was comfortable enough to share.

For those of you that don’t know me, I was a professional ballerina since forever. All I ever wanted to do was dance. Not because I wanted to be in the spotlight, but rather because I didn’t want to be myself. Anyone else ever feel that way? If not, you can just stop reading here and move on.

I loved being in the ballet studio all day and practicing at being something or someone that was not me. A sylph, a dryad, a snowflake, a BIG swan and then later, the Swan Queen, Sugar Plum Fairy, Fairy Godmother, Wicked Stepsister, Cleopatra, Fate and my favorite, Death! After a long day of class and rehearsal, I would go home completely spent and have a drink or two and continue not having to feel the real me. It was awesome!! And they paid me for it! Not much mind you, but it was enough to fuel the habit!

You wonder why last weekend? Here’s why, it was the 50th Anniversary/Alumni Weekend of Boston Ballet. Never before, obviously, and never again! All of my old friends, colleagues, cohorts, fellow swans and competition gathered to celebrate our common love. Since most of us don’t dance any more(for obvious reasons: age, injury, intelligence) that thing that kept us bound together yet apart had disappeared. We could all be together and celebrate the great love affair we had with the Art of Dance, yet without the edginess of fear.

You see we all loved dancing and often we all hoped for the same parts. It was incredibly difficult and heart wrenching to work so hard and not get what you thought you deserved and still support the person you share a dressing room with. Not to mention trying not to watch when she is putting on the costume that you just knew was meant for you. As a dancer I learned very early some of Life’s hardest lessons. My only way to process the pain was to dance more. To find a feeling place to transcended the anguish. To exhaust myself trying to be better at not being me. Crazy huh? Well it’s about love. Love and devotion. I loved the way dancing made me feel. What I didn’t know was that I could find that feeling and that love in all areas of my Life. If only I could just be me.

Yoga has saved me. It has given me a platform to reflect on my past in a way that is safe, nonjudgmental and honest. After 14+ years of yoga I can finally admit that I am a bhakti ballerina. I am a devotee of the Dance of Life. I always have been. As a ballerina I was simply hiding from myself. Yoga brought me back to myself. It brought me back to the woman that loves dance and movement of all forms. That loves to watch music though movement. Yes, who still wants the great part so I can play someone other than myself. Yet who will turn even the smallest of roles into something notable.

And so my blog is about how Dance and Life meet everyday. How we must always practice in order to keep our tools sharp. It’s about how yoga is not always on the mat. Actually, we’re lucky when it is. Most times Yoga/Life/Dance happens while we’re busy making other plans…….