Friday, October 3, 2014

lightness of being


yesterday, I embarked on a bit of woo woo healing action, and worked with my friend Michelle, an energy healer, to dig deep into some stuff that's coming up for me.  in my latest bout of self exploration, I've come to the realization that I have developed an intimate relationship with my anger.  it's not something new, it's a hindrance that has walked along side me for most of my life.

as a little girl, there's a moment indelible in my mind, I'm with my father.  in this moment I'm complaining, gossiping and judging, and he turns to me, and says, "when did you become so negative?"

that is a very good question.  you see, I was not born negative.  my true nature is not to be negative or down.  in my heart, I am light, optimistic and filled with love. so how did I end up becoming so negative.  when did I birth this inner wounded one who throws tantrums deep inside me, trying to get noticed and heard by others?

in my session yesterday, we danced backwards in time where I recreated all the incidents where scars occurred.  whether I was at fault or someone else, that was irrelevant, it was the reliving of these moments in a chronological memory tapestry that illuminated some things for me.  it really doesn't matter who did what, it was the scarring that carved out a road map to the wounded one who lives within me.

I was given the option to correct my past experiences or be different or just get out a hose and blast them out.  guess which option I went for?  yes, the Hose!  I picked that thing up and aggressively doused out these moments.  there's no way to change our past, so why pretend I could possibly design a new trajectory to get me to this very place where I stand now?

here's what I have to takeaway ... I am afraid of letting go of my pain, fear and anger.  if I truly choose happiness in its purest sense, it would mean letting go of these cultivated hindrances in my life.  the problem is, I have this codependent relationship to my anger, my pain and the armor I've built up around myself to deflect the possibility of being hurt more.  the pain I carry continues to hurt me, but it keeps me from letting in more.

hanging onto all this negativity has another side effect.  it it keeping me from letting in the good stuff, the love that is all around me.  my boyfriend tells me he loves me, and I question it constantly.  how can that be? how can he love me when I am so incredibly unlovable?  there's more to me than the wounded one inside.  he sees my light. he loves my capacity for unconditional love.  he sees my magic.

as I dig deeper into this self reflection, the thing I love most about myself is my capacity to love others, to see the good things in them and lift those things up.  to acknowledge others and raise them up, to hold them in high regard and gift them love without anticipating this in return. I do this for people all over my life, strangers I meet for the first time, friends I make, the man I love and of course ... MY CHILD!

my boyfriend has often told me that one of the reasons he is so enamored of me is that I make a mark or leave an impression on everyone I meet.  I really see it, he is right.  my love, laughter and levity is such a gift.  it encompasses so much of who I am, and it is what I lead with in most of my daily life.

this giant weight of pain has been lifted, I let it go.

someone said the other day, it is far easier to let love into a broken heart because there are all those cracks to let light in.  if this is true, then my broken heart is capable of taking in a lot of love.  at Kol Nidre services tonight, the rabbi asked us to let go of the 'husks' that we think 'protect us' and make room to let love in.  how timely that tonight's sermon was so closely related to the transformative lessons I've had in the past few days.

this new lightness comes with boundaries.  I've let three very 'important' people go from my life this week. deleted. blocked. 'dead' to me by being removed from my citta (heart mind) and let go of (for my own good).  they have their own path, and mine wasn't designed to care take their toxic misery and illness and lead to authentic happiness at the same time.  there is not a way to have both or do both, so I surrender.  there's no chance in pleasing the people who have destroyed me, and trying to get their approval is killing my light and my beautiful soul.

I think, like the fear around questioning what life would be like without fear, holds the same kind of aversion to wondering if I can manage going on without having these 'constants' in my life.  it's ok, I'm making myself ready to be ok with just not knowing for the sake of my joy.

the intention here is to make room for love to come to me, to come in and fill me.  I have a beautiful child, a wonderful boyfriend, fabulous friends, a robust career life and I have ME.  there is much to be grateful for, and I realize it's ok that it doesn't look like how society says it should and it's ok if it's imperfect.  I have loads of love, and doesn't that defy perfection and expectations?  I mean, love is what we want to attain and look how much I have. It's abundant! It's amazing.  It is mine, and I am worthy and deserving of it.

so, I stop trying to plug up the cracks in my heart.  instead, I am celebrating all those cracked bits, the places that are letting the light and love in.  I am open, I am vulnerable, practicing compassion, slowing down and my commitment for  5775 is to make room for all the love and let it in.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

divorcing my mom (working title)

I think most daughters have challenges in their relationship with their mom.  It's probably also true that most people struggle to identify and connect with their parents.  We all have things about growing up we wish we could change.

... and for a long time, I thought my life at home was just those things. My parents taught me I was a difficult child.  My mother wished I had never been born, and scolded me and hit me for so many things I lost track of all the wrongs I committed from when I was very young to the very present.

I don't know how many times I've said sorry but not really understood why, or felt I had to appease my mother because I'm so 'bad'.

The reality is, I grew up with a mom who is mentally ill.  Her sadness, depression and narcissism corroded anything good we could have had.. and now as a septuagenarian who's recovering from a stroke, it all seems different.  Worse, because I am made to feel obligated to accept her vitriol and apologize to her for her pain.

I keep kissing her ass, spending money I don't have on gifts, dinners and events, telling her she is beautiful and that I love her.... even though my words are met with, "You're fat" "I can't stand you" "Get out of my sight" "I prefer to surround myself with beautiful people, that makes me feel better. I wish you'd get out of my sight because you're so hideous"  "I'm embarrassed for my neighbors to set eyes on you" "You're ugly" "No one can stand you" ... sigh, or far more damaging words like, "I love your son the way I could never love you" or yesterday's, "No Elissa, I've never liked you and I never will," when I went to visit her with my son despite my preference not to.

Somehow, I believed her to be right so many times, I can't see anything else in the mirror but the hideous worthless monster she always says I am.

She broke her wrist mysteriously over a week ago, and refused to get treatment.  On the phone she'd call me and say it was my fault for annoying her so much, that somehow from 130 miles away, I broke her wrist and caused her that pain.

When my mom had her stroke two years ago, I was the first on the scene.  With my child under one arm and my phone in the other hand, I was juggling calls, speaking with doctors, ensuring she'd live and be safe.  I was the one who contacted my sister and father and made the initial arrangements to get my mother to the ER and to safety.  I made the tough calls, and did my best.

My mother was immobile ... and I stayed by her side, cleaned her, fed her and took care of her.  Even in this fragile state, so close to the possibility of death, I had to sit there and take her vitriol as though I deserved it.  Despite everything, I held her hand, made sure she ate, told her I loved her and did my best to give her whatever comfort she needed.  My son missed months of school, my job went south, I was unable to keep up my life and gave it up (again) to care for her.

It was during that time that I found her will where it was explicitly stated that I was to get nothing, that I was a 'threat' and a 'danger' to her.  Despite the fact that I cleaned her like a baby because she kept soiling herself and demanded she be cared for by the nurses, that I was ALWAYS the one to be there to get her to emergency rooms, nurse her after surgery and do my best to help her through one illness or another... I was a threat.  She had blogs and stories I had written over the years stapled to the document proving that my expressing my challenged relationship with her made me a horrible person and she was afraid for her life because I was writing such things.

(I'm pretty sure this blog will be the last nail in that disowned coffin)

You see, up until my mom's stroke, I really thought that I was a really bad person.  She had me believing I really was a challenging child to raise, and a difficult person to love.  Her abuse seemed justified and I somehow thought that I was truly unlovable.  This sort of scarred view of myself, this repugnant picture created for me ... has made it difficult for me to accept love the way I deserve, or realize that I'm not really the things she says.

My mom is depressed and mentally ill.  But as a kid, I thought this was just how moms who have difficult children behave.  That all of her upset was on me, I made her unhappy.  I never really understood or could realize that this had nothing to do with me. I was forced to go to therapy as a kid, and I hated it.  Each therapist wanted to 'dig deep' and figure out why I was such a horrible kid.  They tried to medicate me, scold me and treat me as though I were this miscreant they should all find a way to tame.

All this time I was put into programs, boarding school, therapy... my mom was the one who really needed to do lay down on the couch.

To be clear, around the time of my mom's stroke, I had a major life changing lightbulb moment.  When I came to the realization that she was clinically depressed and that she was really very sick, I was able to see that she did the best she could and that she didn't have the capacity to be the mom because she was so damaged.  I made a conscious decision to break the fetters of my constant pain by practicing acceptance and forgiveness.  It was an unbelievable breakthrough, to see my mother for the broken bird she is and be able to love her despite her inability to love me.

This forgiveness hasn't changed.  I rationally know that she did the best she could, and that was incapable of giving me the mother's love I craved and needed my whole life.

To be clear, no matter what has happened, I've always and still do Love my mother unconditionally.  Even now, in this moment of excruciating pain, I still see her as this beautiful woman and love her with this desire that she'd one day approve of me and love me back.

I've been told many times that I deserved to have a mom who loves me unconditionally... but I got a bum hand.  That it is ok to feel like this bad deal hurts and to wish I had more parental love in my life.  It's why I over compensate with my own son, treating him with extra love, hugging him so much it can drive him bonkers, telling him all day long I love him and that he is awesome just the way he is.  I get to love my son the way my mother never loved me, or something twisted like that.

In a dharma talk I heard at the beginning of my buddhist journey, the teacher talked about boundaries and taught me that they are necessary for our own survival.  I've gone extended periods of time not talking to my mom, or reluctantly screened a call from time to time to preserve a moment that is happy.  Right now, I'm going to create a different kind of boundary.  I'm divorcing my mom.  It's not out of hate, because I love my mother so much.  That may seem inane but... I'm a kid who wants my mother's approval.  I'm that kid who goes out of her way so much to obtain my mom's attention that I'll do anything for it, even if those choices have been unhealthy.  I wasn't difficult, I was a child starving for affection and love from a women incapable of loving me.  This quest has been very damaging to me, and it's time to stop searching for the holy grail of love and approval from the person who is supposed to love me ... It's time to end the pain of the seeking, and to break out of the prison of this pain.

I'm divorcing my mom.  It's not out of hate or spite ... but more like self preservation.  As my 45th birthday approaches, I need to reevaluate what my life looks like and the life I want to have.  I can't go another day craving love from a person who has chosen to resent me for being born.  It's unhealthy for my well-being to be blamed for every horrible happenstance even when I'm over a 100 miles away.  I can't keep looking in the mirror and hating the person I see because the tape I keep playing over and over is my mother's voice telling me I'm hideous.

On a holiday morning where everyone is having a dreamy breakfast, filled with laughter and fun, I'm realizing that I need to break free of the relationship that causes me the most harm... to preserve myself, I have to divorce my mother.

At this moment, I am mourning the potential to have a good relationship with my mother because any sort of spark or belief that my mom would be a 'mother' to me is a fantasy as fantastic as a furry creature leaving me gobs of chocolate in colored eggs today.





Sunday, August 4, 2013

limits to love

Sangham saranam gacchāmi
I go for refuge in the Sangha

there are three jewels of practice. the buddha, dharma and sangha.

sangha, community, support network... I find that the more that I morph, the more challenging it is to keep a strong support system around me.  and the more I grow, the more distant I become to a life that once defined me.



last night, I had a glimpse into the heart of someone who chooses self-destruction.  it was a repugnant place, and I'm not interested in going there ever again myself or vicariously through someone else.  he expressed that my inability to accept him in his tortured and painful state was unfair.  the truth is, I'm not totally sure he was wrong.  it seemed like a recurring theme last night, all these people I call friends focused on the conversation of a lifestyle that seems like decades behind me.

in the past six months, I've shed many skins.  this has been one of my greatest spiritual growth spurts in many years.  I can't say it was all positive, not at all.  in this latest effort to peel layers, I shed many people out of my life.  one of the many lessons I discovered was, people that I've supported aren't really equipped or prepared to return the favor.  if I was to go forth in this raw new layer of skin, I would have to define a new support system to rally around me.

there are people who arrive in my life and I believe them to be those kinds of friends that are going to be there forever.  because I love my pals unconditionally, I make the deluded assumption that this unconditional love will always be reciprocated.  but it isn't, that isn't our nature as people... my ability to accept people and all of their flaws isn't a shared trait among human kind.

the buddha teaches us to love everyone unconditionally as one would love their own child.  in no way am I remotely capable of this, but yet there are certain people who scrape the surface of my heart who seem to make this kind of metta practice very easy.  just because I'm able to offer them metta, doesn't mean they can give it back in the same way.

as I continue to dedicate myself to consistent daily practice, I'm going to have to continue opening up space for sangha.  this may seem to look easy for me on the outside in, but I confess, transitioning from the comforts of isolation to opening myself to new friends has been frightening and challenging.  instead of quickly closing off, I've been reaching out, making connections, sparking plans, and getting myself back into life with people that share my curiosity for practice and growth.  I'm putting effort into reigniting the friendships that have supported me, and cultivating new ones.

but what do I do with the friends with whom I can't be around anymore.  how do I detach for survival without causing them the pain I've felt plenty of times?  I'm working on this.

I've been torn on how to communicate effectively.  people have their issues with emotional intimacy, trust, and creating time in the real world.  without question these things are tremendous challenges for me too.  I don't want to just pull away from someone who needs to be supported.  sadly, I don't think I'm strong enough to carry anyone who's headed in a downward direction, when I've got myself to press onward and forward on the path to ______________________ (fill in the blank). it feels hypocritical to need to detach from friends who are struggling, but our priorities are so clearly different what use is support when the end goals are somewhere far away from one and other.

right now, I'm focused on practicing metta on myself more than anyone else.  I sit, observe and say the phrases during meditation over and over just to me.  this could quite possibly be one of the hardest things I've ever had to take on while on the cushion.  I mean, I can sit with just me... but sit with me and send metta to myself with no one else?  wow, man this is freakin hard!

I'm also fervently cultivating new sangha, a group of people who are dynamic, working towards bettering themselves and the world around them.  people who have the capacity to care and love me the way I deserve to be loved, and make it so very easy to love them more.  Making room for human interaction in the real world isn't easy.  It's something that takes tremendous effort on my part, one that I'm willingly putting a lot of energy into.

To be able to love people unconditionally, sometimes we have to create boundaries, distance and space.  It sucks having to push and pull in this way.  It almost feels manipulative.  It's self preservation that motivates me, I think.. like when your'e supposed to put that oxygen mask on yourself in that emergency flying video... before you put it on your kid.  If I'm not properly supported by the right sangha, how can I be of service and support to friends and people I love?

Anyway...

Cutting the ties with the people who can't give me the oxygen I need only opens up space for people who can give me so much more... and from afar I'm going to have to pray to the god that doesn't exist that the people I need to distance myself from find their way to joy, happiness and freedom from the fetters that drag them into the hells of darkness.

Dayum, it's way too early to be writing... I need a cup of coffee ASAP.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

the little gorilla loves himself

"Everybody in the forest loves the Little Gorilla,
But like all little gorillas, he begins to grow,
and grow, and grow. Until one day, Little Gorilla is BIG!"


each year, at my son's birthday party I go around the table of his friends and ask the same question, "what do you like best about Zoren?"

this year, his little group of pals answered; he's the wild card, he's like a labyrinth, he's crazy, you never know what to expect....

maybe I had already doled out too much sugar and junk food before posing this annual poll to his pals, but I found their responses fascinating.

to me, he's just this kid, my kid. he's the side kick who makes me laugh incessantly, who stands up for himself with valiant "No"s when I tell him to do things and snuggles up next to me at night and shares his greatest secrets and hugs me without conditions.

as he embarked into school age, around his kindergarten years, he began to take on a self-awareness of being odd and different. I've often written about the bullies and meanies who've tortured him, and his amazing vigilance in overcoming those challenges and remaining true to himself.

ok, my kid is a nut but he's also great in school and 'normal' and 'above normal' according to the State of NY Education system.

the study that has fascinated me about being his mom is his struggle with his self-esteem and how he's learning to be at peace in the skin he's in. unlike my parents, I've taught Zoren to just be himself, to be weird, creative and live life out loud. my lessons have been all about embracing all the great things he is and my mission is to ensure that he walks out of this house every day knowing that he is loved madly by not only me but all the people in the world who matter.

when he was little, I used to read him a story called the 'Little Gorilla' who was born and everyone loved him, all creatures, even as he got older and bigger and changed... everything and everyone still loved him. I believe Zoren is very much like this little gorilla, an adventurer who ventures forth to meet all kinds of creatures and desires to belong and be loved wherever he goes. heck, isn't that what we all want? who doesn't want to be taken care of by a giraffe or an elephant from time to time? am I right?

despite my best efforts to prove to my kid that he is amazing, he still struggles with self-judgement. he was traumatized by the fact that all of his select group of friends didn't come to his birthday and often sobs when he gets home about how he just doesn't belong. he can't see what I see, he feels what all of us creatures feel.... a need to fit in. I've done everything different than my parents, instilled him with a place to play freely, to be himself, to express himself however he feels he needs to and to know that he will always be heard in this house. I love him even when I'm mad, and when I scream with my icky mommy voice I manage to get in there, "and even though I'm pissed as hell, I still love you little gorilla."

my experience of growing up was very different from his. I didn't have an affectionate mom who knew how to love me, and was placed in a competitive world where I didn't fit. I was a novelty to my upper east side friends and the punk rock weirdo at my boarding school. designed for alternative art school life, I spent most my of my life believing there was no place for me until I turned 18 and moved away to Vermont to be with 'my people' at Bennington.

that's what life is really... finding our people. even in my forties, I'm still seeking and looking for my tribe. as we've gotten older, gotten married, moved away, gotten divorced, moved the other place, had kids... we drift, we explore and I the nomad... wandered off into the woods... looking for my new people all over again.

like Zoren, my friends would probably see me in this enigmatic sort of way, wild, fun, creative, free and funny. we are very similar he and I. if I sat my friends of 'right now' down at a dinner table, what would they say? how would they describe me. over the past couple of years, I've been a bit of a labyrinth too... challenged, changing, morphing, difficult to reach... a little out there for even the closest of buds in my circle of pals.

seeing self-judgment through my child's eyes is really a reflection into my own self-judgement practice. no matter what our surroundings, nothing and no one is responsible for how we see ourselves. we are the makers of our own confidence. no matter how many times I assure my kid he is amazing and loved, he still needs to find his own way through to seeing himself as the brilliant and fabulous human he is. I can't do it for him.

after spending the past two years digging deeply into this very question, am I lovable? am I deserving? it is my 11 year old son who has taught me the truth isn't coming from out there, but inside my own citta.

I don't need anyone to answer these questions for me now... there's been this tremendous shift in my practice. my right view has once again shifted, and I see the self-judgment for the hindrance it truly is. that view has been most altered by the view through my kid's eyes. it is with that innocence and that pure emotion that I've finally learned to understand how we self inflict the negative effects of these stories on ourselves.

"Who will love the little gorilla now?"

there is nothing external I need. no validation, no award. it's not a quantity of friends, or praises, or something that is going to arrive from outside of me to resolve that 'feeling' of emptiness we all try to fill in our hearts. it isn't god. it isn't booze. it sure isn't a man or people. there's no real hole. it's not taking in that solves this complex question about fulfillment but quite the opposite.

the joy comes from letting go of the attachments. the expectations. the things outside that we don't have. the joy lives in this moment. the feeling of self worth comes in the place of being fully present and mindful and being with what is. sitting with the uncomfortable and accepting it as part of my life experience can be peaceful because it opens me to the present experience. by embracing everything that is in the now, I can accept everything in my life as it is.

as for the Zman's journey through self acceptance, I'll just keep loving him unconditionally and letting him have his adventure ... because he too has his own path.. and hopefully he can let go of self-judgment better than I ever did, or at least a lot sooner.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

this guy was meant for me.....



I’m going to tell you a story so personal, only a handful of people know it. A story about me that reveals more than most people know a story I was trying to spit out over dinner yesterday with a friend... but couldn’t... because I’m better at divulging myself more eloquently on "paper" than with my mouth...

If you could see a younger version of me... the one that was twenty nine, you would meet a woman who commanded a certain power and leadership. Independent, smart and rising in the ranks of the NYC agency scene, I was racing to the zenith of something with a wake of broken hearts behind me. My vigilance spread across every aspect of my life, gym 7x a week, yoga 5x a week, work 24/7, sleep optional and a pair of leather pants for every occasion. My trajectory consisted of one thing... get to Executive Vice President by 30 (this did happen along with partnership). Consequences of how I got there were irrelevant, my effect on others inconsequential. I cared about one thing... winning.


I was never one of those girls who played "house" as a kid or imagined a wedding or a baby. In fact if I saw a pregnant woman on the street it would send me running, because I was afraid that somehow she might be contagious. While my other girlfriends and sister may have been on that mission, I had my eye on one prize, increasing my success and trampling anything that got between me and my ambitious goals.

When I met my now very ex husband, I did what I always used to do in those days... walk into the room, point at the guy with whom I'd be with and 'win' him too. I will forgo the "love" story and get on with what hopefully will be the point of this missive.

When Randouche Mastelbate proposed to me... I laughed. Yes, I looked the love struck man in the face and laughed. Me? Married? Engaged? That convention for those other people sure, but me? F@#$CK no! It may sound cruel, but I really did laugh, I thought he was playing some kind of prank. But he wasn't, he was being totally serious.

Something came over me, I let go and I looked into his pained eyes. I did love him... and something happened... I surrendered... (one of many times I have surrendered in my life) and ... I got married. My wedding was one of the greatest events of all time, we exchanged vows under the BKLYN bridge, had a reception in a DUMBO loft with Superfine food and Organic Grooves.

... and I had a new mission, to make us 'the' coolest power couple ... I opened him an art gallery in DUMBO, my agency based in the back office was raking in real dollars and my staff did my bidding while I went right back to world domination, we became increasingly popular in the arts circles and scenes of choice, we moved into this gorgeous duplex loft, meals were sourced all over town, entertained fabulous parties, at art openings we would laugh at the whispers, "omg, are those the Mastels? yes, yes, it's really them" we ... we... had it all and...

then.. 9/11... I lost all of my business in 4 days and then... how this happened is a miracle... I GOT PREGNANT.

We didn't want kids. But remember I didn't want to be married either. I made being married "cool" somehow, that it would be different but now... aching, confused, plagued... I got pregnant. I never wanted children. For a million reasons and rants, I was not going to have kids. I didn't believe it, peed on multiple sticks that instantly reverted to plus signs, blue lines, pink dots (I peed on a lot of sticks).


I told my parents I was pregnant at dinner, they were floored. Their response felt like what I would have gotten if I were a teenager. Cowering in my seat, I knew... this wasn't really happy news. My sister seethed with jealousy, this was her plan to get married and have kids, not mine. I'm not "mom" material, this is going to be a wretched disaster.

Days later, I'm sitting in my father's car. He's not an affectionate guy, but he was holding my hand. "I don't know what to do dad, I'm so scared."


"If you want to get rid of it, I'll go with you," my father said, "we'll save your marriage, it's the right thing to do."


With that, I made an appointment.... I was going to terminate the baby. In my Elissa Jane style... I made the appointment for 2 days before my 12 weeks were up. This would not be an impulsive move. I'd read whatever I could read and research before making a "choice" I had fought for years to have the right to have. I believed that doing due diligence here would be important and that before I went ahead and made this drastic decision, I'd plan and give it proper thought.
The eve of my appointment, I choked.

I had a check up around 9 weeks and heard the baby's heart beat. I thought I didn't care...that my mind was made up. Something tweaked in me... I took 'responsibility' for the life inside me and chose to take this on. I cancelled the appointment... and well.... my son turns 11 this week.

My pregnancy was a total drag, nothing like the movies. My birth was also one of those crazy stories riddled with extra trips to the emergency room, some RN freaking out that I had placenta previa (I didn't), 11 hours with my legs up, all sorts of drugs to make the baby come out (he wouldn't).

I had a birth plan. Did I? Do you know me at all? Yes I did. My birth plan was close to 8 pages long with instructions on just about every detail. I brought 10 copies which I distributed to nurses, RNs, etc... and also put one in my chart and on the door. I had every detail mapped out. At the hospital, I had two bags full of "gear" to get me through from special pillows to a stack of CDs so I could DJ through my experience with the perfect tune for every stage of the opening of my cervix. None of this happened. My naturally planned childbirth was moved to an emergency special monitoring area where I was unhappily drugged up with labor inducing cocktails, monitors and an overall feeling of failure.


Nothing about this was going as I planned. It was time for a C-section, there were no other options. As they rolled me into the table, my compassionate DR ordered Randouche to go get my boombox and put on my requested soundtrack. This would be Future Sounds Of London "LifeForms" and in less than 10 minutes ... they cut, oh wait, the baby's head is bigger than we thought, they cut again... ok... we can get him out now... Zoren was pulled from me and displayed to me in a grey and red messy ball of tiny human with thick black hair.

There was no turning back now, the baby was here.

In the years that have followed I've learned patience, letting go of expectations, acceptance and what unconditional love really is. I've done my best to make Motherhood 'cool' although there are times this has to be the most mundane uncool typical life on earth. Don't ask me how many times I've cooked "circle pasta with butter." We don't eat at a dining table or keep a schedule. I had to go to a counselor to learn how to 'discipline' my kid. I don't do well with PTA or school authority. At one point I took on the role of Den Mother, that lasted six months. I could care less if my son tests well, although he's in some 90-something percentile for awesomeness and tests well without much effort. He is smart, loves to read, gets great grades without trying, kills it at every sport he tries and has the insight of a very old soul.


I haven't told this to too many people for a myriad of reasons. Guess if I'm blogging it, it's no longer a private story is it?

Somehow, over the years, I've forgotten all about that era... because it feels like there is the life before I was a mom that is fading deeper and deeper into the annals of my memory banks... and the person you see now is a result of acceptance and the gifts I've gotten from the lessons being Zman's mom. Let me tell you … being his mom is the easy part, it is LIFE that is freakin hard!!!

You see, what I think I'm trying to say is... getting married, having a kid... that wasn't "me". But now I cannot imagine loving myself more than I do now... as the person who has learned and grown over the past 11 years.


If 29 year old me looked at 44 year old me... she'd spit, barf, chastise, berate and decimate me for what I've become. I'm everything I said I'd never be. Trust me, there's much I'm grateful for... my 20s were a selfish wonderful time, I saw the world, traveled with bands, had an apartment in Amsterdam, lived out of suitcases, made gobs of money and spent it unwisely, I lead my universe.... and had I not been through all of that, I may have resented my son.


Look... life doles out all kinds of stuff we can't control. Like... I was on the pill and I got pregnant. Life is full of surprises. What if I didn't say yes to Randouche? And we didn't have Z? And I didn't take that job? And I didn't get on that plane, or sign that deal or ....

There's no way to carve out or control the expectations of what we think life is supposed to look like. I am learning every day that all I have is what is in front of me.

When I look at the Zman, I see the world through his eyes, learn lessons about attachments, being reactive, the challenges of being different and carving out a self esteem, being socially awkward and that catching crayfish in the stream in front of our house can be really cool!

I get that loving me on my own is no longer an option, that if someone wants to be in my life they need to love 'us'... because we are this unit that can't be compartmentalized for very long. It's a blessing and a curse I suppose, to realize that I can't separate myself as an individual chick anymore, that I have this person tethered to me regardless of what I do.

It's really amazing that Zoren turns 11 tomorrow. That 11 years ago today I was strapped into a bed with all kinds of drugs and monitors I didn't want, in pain, in fear, in panic.... but he arrived, a perfect bundle of awesome ready to reinvent me in ways I could have never imagined.

Happy Birthday lil buddy...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Green Grass of Home

Originally Published in HOUSE Magazine in 2007...


Green Grass of Home
A former New Yorker discovers the joy of mowing a jungle.

I’m the quintessential city girl. I grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. So when my son was born almost five years ago, I thought the ideal place to raise him was New York City. The city had all the amenities, activities, and culture I could want. But as he grew, I realized I’d not only had enough of listening to my then-husband complain about urban life, but that it was time for us to own our own home and have our own yard for our son to play in.

Moving upstate wasn’t my first choice. I wasn’t interested in what came with it: car culture, big supermarkets, malls. I didn’t want to leave my hometown. Plus, I was used to being a tenant. Whenever something broke, when junkies trashed the front of the building, and when my crazy neighbor threatened me with a knife, I called the landlord.

However, reluctantly—after discovering that homeownership in Brooklyn would cost over $1 million—I turned my attention upstate. Friends of friends who’d moved to Beacon and raved about its burgeoning art scene piqued my interest. I drove up and met with a realtor, but I couldn’t picture living up there until she showed me a gorgeous 2,400-square-foot Victorian house on over an acre. That house captured my imagination and my heart with its stately entrance, grand wooden staircase, original moldings, and marble fireplaces. “This is like the dollhouse I had as a child!” I told the realtor. All I wanted from then on was to live in my dollhouse for real.

Little did I know what I’d have to endure to fulfill my fantasy. That fall, right after we moved, Dutchess County experienced its highest rainfall in over 100 years. Our basement flooded. What did I know about flooding? When it rains in the city, you break out a $2 umbrella from Chinatown and hail a cab. I had no clue what a sump pump was; I’d never even had to contend with a basement. Now, for three weeks, we took turns at pump duty. When my husband left at 5am to teach in the city, I headed to the basement wearing my Descamps robe and Ugg boots and stood on cinderblocks, sweeping water into a hole and manually operating the sump pump every 30 minutes. That was just the beginning. I couldn’t call the landlord. I had become the landlord. So that winter I found a plumber to fix the torrential rain shower in my kitchen, retiled the bathroom, shoveled snow, and fixed my own appliances. I amazed myself, but every time I learned something new, I’d wonder what I, the city girl, was doing.

When spring arrived it was beyond fantastic. I had spent the winter fixing things and making the dollhouse my dream house. As the weather warmed, I opened windows and read outdoors. My neighbor’s garden was famous throughout Beacon. Our property was equally incredible. Dogwoods bloomed. We had yellow forsythia, pink blossoms, blue birds, and green, green, green grass—lots of it, growing thicker and taller by the minute.

Never in my life had I experienced spring in this way, like a magical onslaught of flowers, leaves, and grass—over an acre of grass. I hadn’t thought about grass when I’d fallen in love with the dollhouse. Having never had a lawn, we hadn’t thought about lawnmowers. I left it to my tool-obsessed husband—who knew enough to swear by the Bosch Drill and Dewalt Router—to find us one. We went to Lowe’s, ready for the purchase. But after 45 minutes, my husband was still staring at the display models and our son was going bananas. An hour later, having run out of ways to amuse our son, I returned to the lawnmower aisle to find that my husband still hadn’t decided. He said he needed to think about it. We drove home confused, exhausted, and empty-handed.

For a week, we read every lawnmower review online and debated ride-on or push mowers. Meanwhile, dandelions sprouted. Finally Saturday arrived, and my husband—whose school year had ended—returned to Lowe’s. Hours passed; finally he called, asking me questions I couldn’t answer. “Come on, pick one,” I said.

Instead, he came home and went back online. On Sunday he headed off to Lowes again. I spent the day with our son, playing in the yard, pretending we lived in the jungle. My neighbors stared, aghast at our lack of care. It’s okay, I thought, we’ll fix it. But my husband reappeared at dinnertime empty-handed. “Oy vey,” I said. He needed me, he explained, to help him decide. So we packed our son into the car and returned to Lowes.

My husband had narrowed it down to two lawnmowers—both of which were out of stock. The salespeople suggested another. But I had my heart set on the self-propelling one with bigger wheels that was good on hills. I pointed to the lawnmowers on the top shelves and, in my city-girl tone, insisted, “Can’t we buy one of those?” The salespeople rolled their eyes.

A big production was made on my behalf. The aisle was secured with orange caution chains, and salespeople were stationed as guards at both ends. Someone arrived with a cherry-picker. Finally, they handed us the big box holding our very own lawnmower.

When we got home it was too dark to mow, but I went to sleep happy. The next morning, I got up and left for work wearing my favorite attire—black skirt and blazer, and John Fleuvog open-toed heels. When I got home that night, my husband was outside, mowing the lawn. I was so excited I jumped out of the car and ran that Carrie Bradshaw high-heeled run over to him. Watching my husband in action, my heart swelled. He looked like a guy who owned a house, who was painstakingly taking care of his big, gorgeous property. I didn’t bother going inside to change. I took the lawnmower’s handles and finished mowing the lawn in my black suit and fancy shoes. As the sun set on that beautiful day, I was the happiest, most stylish city girl who ever mowed a lawn in the whole Hudson Valley.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fear We Go Again


There we were, my dharma punx buddies and I sitting around the campfire a few years ago at a campground in the Berkshires.  We were laughing, joking and talking when our friend Pete asked, do women find men who are spiritual attractive or do they see us as pussies? or something like that.  A passionate conversation erupted between the group about relationships, love and spirituality.  Evenly distributed between men and women, the details of romantic relationship experiences were exposed over crackling flames of the campfire.  I dont remember much more of what was being said I had a different experience than my contemporaries under the star filled summer sky. 

Sinking deeper and deeper into my camping chair, literally clinging to myself for dear life a darker emotion was taking hold.  I couldnt speak or move because this debilitating emotion was paralyzing.  There were words and tones I could hear, snippets of discussion but my experience went somewhere else.  It was gripping. 

A moment of silence fell among the group and in that moment I took my opportunity to force out this sentence through a few small sobs, I am afraid. 

My friend Paul responded, of course you are, youre allowed to be, youve been through a lot.

There it was.  Validated by a close friend who truly understood this layer of suffering that was enveloping me.  I was allowing myself to admit to this deep rooted fear, and the beginning of an exploratory journey in clarity where I allowed myself to dig deep into it and practice letting it go. 

Some people are afraid of spiders, or heights, or fire, or the dark.  Me? I have a fear of love.  Its not the loving part that is the issue, its the pain that befalls me when it ends in heartbreak.  One would think that age and time would have taught me to be able to get though these romantic failings more easily, but the blows Ive endured to my precious heart have left irreparable scars.  In my years of practice, Ive cleaned up much of the blackness, the scar tissue that Ive let become a protective layer.  In my other kinds of relationships, Ive learned to be vulnerable and open.  Yet with romantic love, I continue to suffer this feeling of tremendous trepidation.  My fear tells me, of this I am certain another heartbreak will kill you.

It was a mommy time weekend this week, I took the Zman and his buddy snowboarding at a little local mountain.  Bathing and makeup seemed optional, so I passed making the effort for comfy baggy snowpants and a tee shirt.  As usual, being done well before my gaggle of little boys were done with their riding, I went into the bar for one post-ride beer.  There I met a guy.  It wasnt much of an unusual entry to a conversation, amusement about my beer snobbery, chatting about the area, how neat this secret HV treasure is and such.  I could have been sitting there for hours or minutes time in that moment seemed to not really take hold.  What did surprise me from this chance meeting were three things one, that he actually asked for my phone number and two.. how unusually bummed I was that they left so soon and three how incredibly aware I was of the magnetic sparks manifesting in our first meeting. 

There was no waiting time he texted, I texted back and a hang plan was set.  Me, the jaded ice queen hermit was going to embark on a real life date in the real world with a real guy. 

And the date was the best date Ive been on since my divorce.  I wont kiss and tell, but I can tell you, I still feel those unmentionable kisses in my toes.

and now the game of dating begins and all that fear that arises with it.

The spiritual warrior me wants to be true to myself, to say what I want to say or do what I want to do.  No games, no illusions or delusions.

Unfortunately, the mature 40 something chick I am knows better knows that I have to now play the game filled with rules, the sport where Im supposed to be a surprise, mysterious, aloof.  What sucks is, Im really none of those things.  Im far from mysterious, jeesh I must be the least mysterious lady on the planet.  Pretend?  Follow protocol?  This rebellious feminist finds all this so very contradictory to my beliefs. 

One of the reasons I hate dating the most is the sport of it the rules that are going to shape how the relationship will be moving forward.  Im supposed to suppress all the characteristics that make Elissa Jane me? 

More perpetuators of this debilitating fear, having to be something else, someone else or I am going to blow it somehow. One of the greatest parts of my personality is my fearlessness.  Im afraid of nothing well almost nothing.  When people recoil at the site of a daddy long legs or the view from the edge of a tall mountain I unintentionally judge them, like really whats the big deal?  In the presence of this gripping fear of heartbreak and inauthentic game playing that is all encompassing, I realize that I can relate.  If I hadnt learned what I did in my Year to Live practice, I would do what feels safe and walk away.  Thats what people in fear do run from the very thing that ignites the trigger. 

Trust me all these little fabulous sparks are blowing up the powder keg and I am reminded that this thing will lead to that pain.  I can see the dots connecting.. the tape play out.. or can I?

The scariest part of all is while the fear is still there the delusion isnt.  I cant see the heartbreak or the end, I cant even see past dinner time later tonight.  It is my enlightened and rational self that hears my friend Gary say, right now, its like this.

I really have no idea what is coming next or what will happen, if well go out again (I hope we do) or if we dont.  I dont know what anyone else is thinking, and frankly its none of my business what other people are thinking about me.  The only thing I have control over is this aversion Im feeling triggered by memories of a pain that Ive endured from other dating scenarios in my past.  Am I going to give those relationships that didnt work out my happiness?  No. 

For today, in this moment, Im grateful for feeling this way again, romantic, hopeful, curious and even vulnerable.  Im ok with all that is arising because, well, Im ok with me.

Human nature is filled with fear, and I guess just like people who are filled with phobias of other kinds, I need to be compassionate to myself and give myself the same understanding Ive learned to give others. 


Monday, January 21, 2013

how well do you know a person?

a month ago, a friend of mine from college died.  like so many deaths and other important news, I found out about this unfortunate passing of this contemporary on Facebook.  comeon.. who needs another news source?

in the minutes that followed the initial post announcing the passing of Spencer Cox, the outpouring of sentimental comments began.  certainly, as I always do, I was at the head of the pack to say... how sad and sorry I was.   in a matter of an hour, a memorial service date and location was announced, news unfolded, gossip ensued and articles were crafted in honor of Spencer's life.

today, the memorial service took place.  it felt like there were 1000 people in the room, and the eulogies were funny, heart felt, sentimental and honest.  there were a few lines today at the memorial service, that resonated.  one of Spencer's best friends from high school said in her eulogy, "I had not idea that Spencer was such a big deal." in all honesty, neither had I.

throughout the room were people with whom I shared equal amount of time with at school, designing dramatic sets for plays, building sculptures, analyzing literature and getting high at parties.  we are all friends on Facebook these days, liking each others' pictures, and keeping up with the happenings of our lives.  I was surprised how my life seemed to actually be interesting enough to my fellow former school mates that they remarked on our adventures that I share online.  what could I say back?  I wasn't sure.

here I was, in a room full of people who felt this immense connection to Spencer, but as one of his friends remarked in his eulogy, everyone has a time where they have been disconnected from him.  I hadn't really seen Spencer since college and our friendship of late was really rekindled electronically on Facebook.  this is where so many of my "relationships" flourish.  I related all too easily to the idea of being disconnected from people I love.  I have my long laundry list of friends with whom ties were severed.  sometimes just by life circumstances, and sometimes by some fight or altercation or... I just couldn't deal with them anymore.

I had no idea he was such a big deal.

I had no idea she had kids.  I didn't realize he was living here, she was doing this, he had written that, she had worked here, he was working there, she had lost 100 lbs, he had remarried... I didn't realize they were such a big deal.

all too easily, I let the ties that connect me to others fray and inevitably separate.  how can this possibly be the mark I have on others.  is this my legacy?

there were a number of eulogies at today's service; a former partner of 8 years who sobbed, his Act Up compadres, his younger brother and mother, friends and more friends.  I listened intently, and thanks to these people who were close to him, I discovered what a big deal Spencer Cox truly was.  I had no idea.

as I reflect back on my own life since those youthful years, if my life were to end today... what would my legacy be?  would people get up and speak about me?  have I had a profound mark to leave upon the earth?

I've lived a very full life with adventures and experiences.  lately, I've been depressed and down in the dumps.  well not just lately, like for the past couple of years... feeling useless, unworthy, saddened by my own deterioration. I've lived with an attitude that I've lived my life, there's nothing else except to raise my son and live to nurture him so that he can be the special person he is destined to be.  I've mistaken complacency for a sort of serenity, but that's not what living life is all about.  is it?  no.

watching this man's life unfold into a service in this way presented the usual cliche responses one gets from these kinds of things.  I need to live every day like it's my last kind of yadda.  but I think there was something more in it for me.  I've become so settled in my isolation that I've removed myself from the human connections that give me so much joy.  how well did I know Spencer?  not well at all really.  how well do I know my friends right now?

how well do you know a person?

if today taught me anything, it taught me the value of really knowing someone.  of being a part of their lives beyond the electronic facade that eludes to human contact but doesn't authentically define a friendship the way a phone call, a coffee date or an act of kindness can.  this has been a recurring lesson of the more recent months (and years) of my life.  I've made more of an effort to call people I care about, to lean in and listen but am I doing enough?  no.  I can't hide in my lil cabin forever.  I need to get out there, make those sparks fly between me and others and make my mark.  because one day, as we all do, I am going to die.  when my turn comes, I don't want to regret the idea that I didn't get to really know the people who skim the surface of my life.  I want to dive deep, form those lasting connections and know love in all its forms.

how well do I know the people in my life?  the wake up call for me is to cultivate more quality time for the relationships that make up the life I lead.  if Love is the ultimate answer, it cannot be nurtured without authentic real-time relationships.