As you can see, I’m digitally challenged!
Here is the correct link to the first podcast:
As you can see, I’m digitally challenged!
Here is the correct link to the first podcast:
I have heard from several readers that they have been unable to access the Podcasts.
My apologies. Here are links:
18th March 2017
As many of you know…and are perhaps fed up hearing about…I’ve had a bit of an issue with rejection for most of my life. I know I’m not alone in this and certainly for those of us given up for adoption it can be almost a raison d’être, especially if, like myself, you didn’t get the luck of the draw with your adoptive mother.
All of us, to some degree or another, have issues impressed upon us in childhood that we may, or may not, struggle to resolve during the course of our lives. But as my dear friend Vivian, a brilliant therapist, said the other day, “The holes from childhood can never be filled.” So, what to do? And how do we figure out the difference between persevering to overcome these issues, as opposed to the unconscious ways in which we invite these issues to keep recurring in our lives?
I’ve sat at my desk writing for many decades now. The first decade or so I was writing only for myself, and so while rejection may have been a recurring theme in those journals, the writing itself did not invite it. That said, I can be extremely creative when it comes to being self-destructive and if self-destruction isn’t the ultimate rejection, I don’t know what is. Hence the role, in my life, of alcohol, drug addiction, sex, serial marriages etc., etc.
When it comes to 27 years of rejection as a professional writer I’m not sure of the percentages: to what degree did I continue to write and submit work because I thought that commitment, discipline and perseverance would eventually pay off? Or to what degree did I continue because on some deeper level I needed to keep rejection in my life because it had become part of my identity?
I’ve spent the last few years trying figure this out and finally I decided last year that the percentages don’t matter. What really matters is I’d finally had enough of inviting rejection into my life. Period. So I self-published my novel and continued writing for this blog which gives me enormous pleasure because I know that many of you look forward to receiving the latest installment.
But life is tricky isn’t it? Last November, unbidden and unexpected, I was approached by a successful film producer who had been given a copy of my novel by a mutual friend. She told me that she had been waiting for a project that really moved her and that when she read my novel she knew that was it and she asked if she could have the movie rights.
What joy. All those years of struggle were finally paying off. Over a couple of dinners we discussed how to move forward. She was on her way back to her homeland and in a few weeks, once settled, she would ask me to send all required materials. Weeks went by. Finally, I emailed 2 weeks ago to ask if she was ready for the package. The reply was swift and succinct: No longer interested.
The rejection I felt was so enormous it was as though every rejection was rolled into one huge hairball stuck in my throat. In fact, the expression: “something stuck in my craw,” was more than apt as I immediately began to suffer from acid reflux. Our bodies tell us everything.
Now here comes the good part.
Yesterday, our dear friend Rupert, healer supreme, came to give us massages. I told him I had rejection stuck in my craw. And here, paraphrased, was his response. “You have the wrong receptor activated.” Basically, he continued, the receptors which are activated, take all the feelings and experiences and memories deep into our cells and because they are deep in us those feelings, experiences and memories can be activated every time a similar situation occurs. As soon as he said this I felt an extraordinary lightness of being. I suddenly realized that only my rejection receptor had been activated (since birth). As a result, the receptor for success had stayed closed and therefore whatever successes I had achieved in life I’d barely acknowledge, never mind felt.
As he continue with the massage it was as though my life came flooding back to me, much like we are told happens on our death bed. Except now I am very much alive. One after another, the string of my successes lit up and I felt them deep in me: leaving home at 16 and finding my way; overcoming a stillbirth and giving birth to an exuberant daughter; joining a dance company; opening and running a successful hair salon for many years until I broke my neck; ditto painting and selling hundreds of works during that same period. Creating and hosting a current affairs radio program; buying my own house as a single 43 year-old woman. Writing and performing a play Off Broadway; Earning a Master’s Degree at 49; Founding the Tuscany Workshops which Joel and I taught for many years; Overseeing the renovation of an 18 unit apartment building in Greenwich Village; Training for and opening a rewarding therapy practice; developing and maintaining deep friendships; growing a beautiful marriage with Joel; Creating 3 gardens; Helping my daughter through a near-death experience; Moving to a new country and speaking a new language. And yes, writing a shitload of novels, stories, poems and essays.
I’m aware that this list may read like a boast, but it’s not. Not that I haven’t boasted of these things in the past. But therein lies the difference: the boast is the thing we do when we don’t actually ‘feel’ our own success. America currently has a president who is a disturbing example of this; definitely has the wrong receptors activated there!
So, no, I’m not boasting now. I’m sharing with you the joy of this particular enlightenment for the same reason I share other personal growths and triumphs: because I want to say, “Hey, there’s hope for us all!” and because I want to say thank you to Rupert and the many angels in this world who give us their insight and wisdom, sometimes almost at the last minute, when we have just about given up hope.
May we all be each other’s angels, ready to impart our wisdom, lighting up the dark sky with a millions stars of hope and possibility.
NB. I am thrilled to announce that my friend Julie Burstein (absolutely Google her) and I have started recording a series of short Podcasts (under 5 minutes). Here are the links to the first 2. We would be most appreciative of feedback.
18th February, 2017 WE ARE THE SENTINELS
Each time I was pregnant I would read the section in Dr. Spock’s book on how to cut the umbilical cord. I would read it over and over, trying to remember where to clamp and where to cut. The thought of having to cut the cord held more terror for me that the thought of giving birth, as if to clamp and cut incorrectly would be the fatal mistake. As it turned out, my first child would be still born, some fatal mistake already made.
My second daughter arrived alive and well and with a striking aura of independence which rendered the cutting of the cord somewhat redundant. That said, when a few days later the remainder, still attached to her naval, fell off, I put it in a little box as if to have eternal proof that we had once been so attached to each other. Of course, it too, eventually returned to dust, as will all of us one day. What I was not prepared for was how the bond between mother and child can never be severed, no matter how either may act toward the other over a lifetime. That bond, as ineffable as a gossamer thread, tugs at the hearts to which each end is connected. So when I said goodbye to my girl a week and day ago, a tremor of distress vibrated between us.
We form so many bonds to so many people and places and beliefs during our brief stay on earth. Sometimes these bonds are rent asunder: think of the refugees. But on a deeper level they resonate forever. We are living in an age where, for many of us, the attachments we have to truth and decency and honor, are being sawed through daily by those whose power is fueled by fear and greed. As much as I couldn’t wait to get out of New York and the US in general, I also felt the pang of attachment as the plane took off. Not only to my family, but the large part of my life spent there. Also, for three weeks I had experienced being part of the mighty, righteous, resistance movement of millions of citizens and would-be citizens as we found our courage to fight for our attachment to goodness. It isn’t a tug of war; the rope frayed long ago. But as the new administration severed one tie to decency after another, the people immediately forged a new one. And the bond between us that we now know to be as necessary as the umbilicus, will not be broken as long as we acknowledge it and fight for it.
Yet, how easy it is to sever oneself from responsibility. How easily I came through the garden gate here in my Tuscan paradise, and felt relieved to be “away from it all.” How easy to believe that here on this farm I am protected; the fire lit in the hearth for my arrival; the fresh eggs on the table; the joyous greetings from friends and shopkeepers, “Ben tornati!” It is deeply satisfying to be here. To see the light play on the vibrant green hills, the roses already leafing out, the birdsong of early spring, the first brave camellia flaunting its crimson petals.
Here, where the attachment to family and food is still the basic attachment to life. I feel the distance between me and my family, but our bonds are strong, too
All week I’ve busied myself with errands and cooking and gardening. The new couches arrived, made and delivered with an attention to detail that reflects centuries of pride in craftsmanship.
My dear Teddy Bear who is as old as I am, traveled in my suitcase and now sits happily in the library, the bond between us unashamedly recognized.
The weather is so glorious that yesterday I lunched outside with friends, the three of us sitting at the old table, the sun so hot we stripped down to T shirts. And in the middle of it all I wondered when was the last time that any member of the U.S. government or the new administration, or the Prime Minister of England, or the European leaders of the far right, or a terrorist, when was the last time any of them enjoyed the bond of friendship, the connection to nature, the attachment to simplicity?
Once again, I urge all of us who are fighting the good fight, to take regular time out. Turn away from your screens for a day; turn your face to the sun. Feel the gossamer threads that link us to each other, threads as powerful as the strands of our DNA. We are giving birth now to our courage and the labor is long and hard. But we can do it. Even from afar. We are the sentinels.
2nd February 2017
Was it only 2 weeks ago that we left Tuscany to visit family and friends in New York?
I’m sitting in front of a huge fireplace in the Lake Lounge at Mohonk Mountain House. www.mohonk.com As I finish writing that sentence it occurs to me that I’d do well to stay here and write that sentence a hundred times. Not only to be in a moment of privilege and beauty, but to acknowledge that this “I am,” is not followed by “…frightened, overwhelmed and sad:” a state of being which, these days, takes up too large a space. I am sure many of you feel the same way.
Joel and I flew to New York on Inauguration Day and the next day joined nearly half a million people marching in New York. To come above ground from the subway at 42nd and Lexington and be greeted by the enormous river of slow-moving marchers felt like a homecoming to truth and beauty. It took us three and half hours to get to Trump tower and there seemed to be no beginning and no end. We all, I felt sure, would have marched like that until either the tide turned or we were washed out to sea. By now you’ve all seen the photos and signs and hats. Many of you will have been (and will continue to be) part of that global movement that day and if so, perhaps you experienced, as did we, the periodic roar of the crowd which would start miles behind us and, like a tsunami, gather speed and intensity as it rushed toward us. And each time it reached us it stiffened our spines, entered our hearts, rising up through our chests and throats before opening our mouths to release the power of our courage out into the universe. I am thrilled and grateful to have lived long enough to experience the innate goodness and mass awaking of so many people.
My daughter, an ardent feminist since her teens and a Women’s Studies major, is fighting for the cause at the same time she is fighting chronic Lyme Disease. I applaud her. However, it seemed to me that a few days retreat for both of us was in order and so we came here to Mohonk to rest and replenish both body and spirit; this is necessary for all warriors in order to stay in the fray long enough to win.
Mohonk Mountain House is nestled high up in The Shawangunk Ridge, some 90 miles north of Manhattan, but to be here is to feel a million miles from anywhere and in a different century. Mohonk means Lake in the Sky. The lake lies implacable now, frozen over under a fresh layer of snow from yesterday’s downfall. The sky has just changed from grey to blue, the sun determined to make its present felt no matter what…just like us. A young man has just put more wood on the fire. He turns to me, and smiles. “Enjoy,” he says.
Enjoy. Think about that word. It, too, is a summons to action; to engage in joy. And this we must do. If you were to take a moment now and look around you, what could you find to connect with that would give you a moment of joy for its existence and your own? We are allowed, in this dark moment in history, to enjoy, to smile, to laugh…it is our duty to do so. You cannot be a good warrior if you are not balanced. And if all is energy, then every smile, every laugh, every positive thought contributes to the benevolent energy of the universe; an energy which has and continues to be, powerful enough to have kept us moving forward, (in spite of many regressions) for thousands of years.
Everything in life is 50/50: good/bad, sad/happy, rich/poor, up/down,sick/healthy, dead/alive. And I know that if, like me, you scan the history of your own life, you can remember many negative times which gave you the opportunity to change, to grow, in spite of the pain. So what is this moment offering you that you can be grateful for and act on?
I was talking with a guest here yesterday morning and we shared our horror and fear about what’s happening in America, and around the globe. After a while, I felt that it was going beyond common commiseration and tilting us toward gloom and doom. So I suggested we both take a breath and reflect on the past 24 hours of our lives, much like one is encouraged to do in sobriety. What, I asked, has changed? Are we still here in this beautiful place? Are the lake and the sky still here? Are we loved? Fed? Do we have beds to sleep in and a roof over our heads? We embraced and went our separate ways.
Of course we must stay vigilant and those who are able to must fight the good fight. But there is a world of difference between vigilance and projection. None of us know anything beyond this moment and none of us know the reason why things happen. Shortly after we left Italy an earthquake shifted a mountain causing an avalanche to bury a hotel and all its guests; except for the man who had gone to the parking lot to get something from his car.
There is no such thing as safety; neither is there reason to believe in the worst. We know so much less than we like to assume. For instance, a small group has entered the lounge on an historic tour of the building and I hear the guide say that the lake actually extends underneath this room. And here I was thinking I had the ground beneath my feet. Whereas, in fact, I am sitting over water, under the sky, in front of fire, surrounded by earth. Elemental.
As we reached the end of the march, night fell and someone began to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” As everyone joined in singing I felt myself to be cradled by the sweetness of humanity. May each of you let your little light shine and may each of you feel cradled.
CRADLE OF SNOW
A note to my European readers: I urge you please, please to learn from Brexit and the U.S. Election and start activating NOW, in earnest. Do not wait until your upcoming elections. By then it will be too late to turn it around.
8th January, 2017
When Joel and I made the commitment to living here year round, nearly 3 years ago, it happened very quickly and we had to make a lot of fast decisions and choices in order to turn the place from a well renovated but spare barn into a home. Some of these choices we made in the 2 weeks left between being summer residents here and the 3 winter months we were about to spend in Provence. During those 2 weeks we designed a fireplace, chose a bathtub and ordered 2 couches and a sofa bed. Once in Provence we hunted for antiques to truck back to Tuscany in the spring, along with a cheap, portable digital piano. I considered the piano and the couches to be placeholders.
The great thing about placeholders is you don’t expect much of them; you know they will be in your life for a limited time, until you can make a better choice. This is how I now choose to think of the Donald: as a placeholder. Something you look at from time to time and wish you had something more pleasing, more comfortable, more serviceable. Something you can’t wait to replace with the ‘real’ thing. We consider ourselves very fortunate that, unlike the 4-year presidential term, we are able, after only 3 years, to replace the 2 couches and the piano.
A couple of years ago, while wandering the back streets of Florence, we discovered an amazing shop filled with fabrics and custom-made couches so comfortable we wanted to stay overnight. We promised ourselves that one day we would return there with our own design, which we did the week before Christmas.
I would have to say that Italy is a country of extremes, which perhaps is why I feel so at home here, being a bit of an extremist myself. When it comes to doing business here you either get a shoddy, unprofessional experience, or absolute top of the line. Our couch guy, Luca, is in the latter category. After sitting on various couches in his shop, which has been in the family for 500 years, we made some preliminary decisions and showed him Joel’s drawing of what we wanted. “Oh,” he said, “but I’ll come down the day after Christmas and look at your home to make sure we have it right.”
And so he did…and hour and half drive each way. He made some important refinements to our design and, taking in our aesthetic, said he would return this week with fabric samples, at which time he would also take the smaller of the 2 couches back to Florence where he will make it more comfortable as well as reupholstering it to match the new one.
There are some things however, for which there are no placeholders and our Gianni is one of them.
We missed him sorely last year while he hunkered down in order to finish his house by Christmas, which he did. It took him 8 years to build. There was the odd dinner here and there, during 2016, but no adventures with him. And La Rimessa, the studio that the three of us has found a year and half ago, remained empty as we waited first for the installation of electricity (9 months) then for Gianni to finish his house, and finally for me to recover from my injuries. During those 18 months the building itself represented a placeholder, the place where the 3 of us wanted to play and create and collaborate.
On New Year’s Eve we began to inhabit it: Joel setting up his still life area, Gianni filling part of the space with his found objects and me beginning to paint a large canvas. I could have stopped where I ended that day: I can make a pretty painting or sentence quite easily.
But pretty is not what I consider art, in any genre. So when I stood back and looked at the canvas I knew that it, too, was just a place-holder and that in order to deeply enter it and go beyond the limit of my vision meant being prepared to fuck it up. Which I did the next day.
Two days later my new Yamaha digital piano arrived, a serious piece of business that made the previous keyboard feel like a toy piano.
The Yamaha has a rich, round, resonant tone and the keyboard action is similar to some grand pianos I’ve played. It is a challenging, magical instrument which from the moment I first sat at it, made me realize that I had places to go and that I’m finally willing to go there. I have held myself in place creatively, in many ways, for too long. Now, fully aware of being at the short end of the stick of my life, I feel unfettered to the point where I refuse to feel regret at how long it took to get to this place.
The beginning of a New Year is a universal time when many of us feel the need to make new resolutions usually based on “should’s.” Maybe it would be more profitable to take some meditative time to look at the landscapes of our lives; to be willing to acknowledge the place-holders we have kept and for how long. Because in the end it’s all an illusion. We cannot hold place, it holds us…until it doesn’t.
30th December 2016
Well, hello to you all! I have missed you and thought of you many times since November 8th, but what to say? I did write several weeks ago, but every time I thought of posting it, it seemed insufficient. I had nothing to say that wasn’t already being said, and, as a realist, I have no appetite for conjecture.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I have been saddened, shocked and burdened by the outpouring of hatred and spite encouraged and condoned by the orange soufflé. One can only hope that like all soufflés this one will eventually fall. But let’s remember that a political crisis is much like a personal crisis in that each one, in the moment of its occurrence, feels like it is the worst ever. Not to make light of the current situation, but I do gain comfort from reading history (as long as I don’t have to remember dates). To that point, I recently read Volume 1 of Bob Dylan’s autobiography, Chronicles. Apart from it being a wild ride, rich in rhythm, tone and imagery, it also reminds us of some of the crises of the 50’s and 60’s; the H bomb, Vietnam, segregation, JFK, RFK, MLK assassinations, McCarthyism, Kent State, to name but a few. And if you want further proof of the eternal history of political machinations watch “The United States of Amnesia.” For a more balanced take on humanity I would encourage you to read a recent article in the New York Review of books, by Zadie Smith: “On Optimism and Despair.”
I have been struggling quite a bit for quite a while now. It would be easy to say what a crap year it’s been: my daughter nearly died, by husband was near-incapacitated for 2 months, I broke a knee and a hand, my book tour was derailed and I developed an unhealthy addiction to online news. Did I mention I also turned 70? There were, of course, moments, days even, of laughter and joy, but as the months went by I found myself sinking into feelings of futility, of uselessness, of fuck-it-what’s the point. I began to taste bitterness and it frightened me. Sure, I’ve felt all of those things many times in my life, but never for such a relentlessly prolonged time. Perhaps the month in a wheelchair followed by ongoing physical therapy contributed to this inner atmosphere of despair, for while I still have a pretty impressive capacity for healing there is something about injury in later years that rubs your nose in the fact that even if you have another 20 years left, they ain’t gonna be like the last 20!
It’s the little things: the drape of crepe which will continue to spread over your entire body no matter how much you work out. And what’s with the increase in choking? You turn your head while chomping on pureed carrots and suddenly you need the Heimlich Manoeuver, or remover, as I like to call it. And why, really why, after 65 does your nose run when you eat? And consider this, you may, if you’re lucky, continue to shit once every morning, but your arse will leak all day. Depends in the future.
I don’t know what changed, but about 10 days ago, something turned around. Maybe it was something as simple as seeing two roses, pink lovebirds on a grey December day.
Or maybe it was making a Christmas tree from branches and berries that dear Gianni collected for us from the woods.
By the way, for those of you who are tired of Christmas here is the perfect tree for you
Maybe it was the way, after a damp start, the fire suddenly roared to life in the hearth.
Or the memory of the trumpeter in Arles playing the blues.
The radiance of my Joel…
a loving sojourn with our dear Sharon and Paul in Provence,
Thanksgiving in the Luberon, and the cherry trees ablaze.
A single tree outside the wall of our village seemed to sing its own carol…
The immense pleasure and gratitude of being home in Tuscany.
The last red rose from the garden, at rest with my long-gone Amy.
And finally, firing up the furnace in our new studio. After waiting 9 months for the installation of electricity, we had been on our way there to meet the electrician the day I broke my knee. Now after a year of yearning to be at play in this building with Gianni, the three of us lit incense and candles and began to create.
More than a hundred years old, it was where the ploughs and carts and farm tools were put at the end of each day. It was called La Rimessa….rimessa meaning to put back.
And isn’t this what we must all do now? Put something back instead of craving something more for our selves? What changed for me was looking outward instead of inward. Taking action. How easy it is to forget our own wisdom in dark moments. But the darkness has its own wisdom; if we cannot allow ourselves to enter it how can we overcome fear? Awareness of the dark side of life is a part of consciousness. Acceptance of it brings compassion, for ourselves and others. But to re-enter the light takes action. This, now, is our calling: awareness, acceptance, action. And for those of us who have the capacity and the willingness, let’s help each other re-enter the light in 2017.
With love to you all, Maggie.
NB. I have held off publishing this post for a week because I felt torn as to whether this was an appropriate time to share some of the content. Today I decided to go with it. Why? Because I trust that my readers are capable of accepting that the nature of reality is complex; that we have no control over any of it; and that while it is important to acknowledge the negative, it is imperative that we return to the positive.
30th October 2016
Good news! I got out of the wheelchair 10 days ago after another round of X-rays showed excellent healing of the fractures. And I was determined to get out the damn brace, in spite of the doctor telling me I needed to wear it for another month. Another month? Are you kidding me? I was out of that wheelchair so fast and moving across the room, waving the “broken” hand at her. “Look,” I said, “Don’t treat me like a 70 year old biddy.” “Look,” I said, showing the 6 inch scar from my once broken neck. “Look,” I said, doing a stiff-legged pirouette . “I was a dancer, I know my body.” I won.
What joy, to return the wheelchair and crutches, to throw out the plastic bedpan, to walk through the garden gate and down the steps, to be able to navigate the whole house again. Sure, there’s work to be done, probably another couple of months of physiotherapy before the shockingly wasted muscles return to normal. Sure there’s pain. I’ll take it, with gratitude on top.
Two days later we took ourselves off to a local spa for 5 days of thermal waters and massage. Situated on its own hilltop in the Val d’Ocia, Castello di Velona is not only gob-smackingly beautiful but has a staff that is as kind and spirited as they are professional. My wonderful physiotherapist visited 3 times to give me treatments and work me out in the water and it was amazing how quickly the knee and hand achieved the next level of recovery.
I’m always slightly embarrassed to share these kinds of privileges. Perhaps its because, just as I don’t want to be viewed as “old,” neither do I want to be seen as privileged, when in fact I am both. It has to do with judgment, of course, and judgment always separates us from each other. I’m proud of my working class roots and am grateful to have experienced poverty as an adult. The range of experiences I’ve had in my life have, I hope, made me a more compassionate woman. Still, I’m always quick to let people know that my life wasn’t always so blessed. Truth is I’m not that comfortable around lifelong “haves.” I like when the dirt shows.
Talking about dirt, I’d like to comment on the response women receive when they finally talk about sexual harassment years after the fact, the response usually being one of disbelief, as in, “If that really happened, how come she waited so long to report it?” The same response is also leveled at men who were raped as boys by priests or teachers. I’ll tell you why we keep it to ourselves: because we know nobody wants to believe such horrors. Sure, there are, and always will be, false accusations and there will be men who unjustly suffer as a result. However, it’s time we listened to each other. All these women coming forward with regard to Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, they need to be heard. How easy it is for people to say, “Oh, these women are just trying to cash in on some fame and fortune now.” Maybe some are…but ALL of them? Come on. The reason we don’t come forward at the time is exactly because these are powerful men and who wants to be “raped” all over again in the press or in court.
There are a lot of ways to suppress the voice of women…as Hillary Clinton well knows. But I say, watch out. People are rising up against injustice now because as Michelle Obama says, “Enough is enough.” Whether you are a black citizen fearful of being shot by the police or a woman afraid of being raped and then accused of making it up, the time has come to get it all out in the open. So, here’s my rape story.
I was 21. Living in Vancouver. I’d just lost my job and desperate for money, took a gig as a cocktail waitress. My shift was from 5pm to midnight. My ‘uniform,’ supplied by management, was a green satin mini-dress that barely covered my breasts or my bum. At the end of my shift I would go to the staffroom to get my bag so I could smoke a cigarette while adding up the tabs and tips, then I’d return to the staffroom to change into my street clothes and catch a cab home.
On the 5th night, I finished up and went to change only to find the staffroom locked. Deiter, the maître d’, said the manager must have thought I’d already left and had locked up and left, taking the key with him. Deiter, who was very tall and slim but athletically built, had struck me as very professional; courteous, but distant. He retrieved a man’s raincoat that had been left in the cloak room, gave it to me and offered to drive me home I gratefully accepted. I lived about 20 minutes away.
About 10 minutes into the ride he asked if he could make a quick stop at his apartment to get something. I said ok. He parked the car in front of his building and said why didn’t I come up for a minute. I said no thanks. He came around to the passenger side, pulled me out of the car, put his hand over my mouth and dragged me up two flights to his apartment. Terrified, but trying to play it cool, I asked if I could call home to let my mother know I’d be late (my mother lived in England). His response was to rip the phone out of the wall.
It was now about 1:30 a.m. For the next four and half hours he raped me. While he raped me he told me his parents had been Nazis. While he raped me he told me how he’d take care of me for the rest of my life. While he raped me he told me I could never speak to my family and friends again. While he raped me he told me he’d buy me new clothes. While he raped me I pretended to be happy.
At around 6 a.m., he finally fell asleep with his arm across my chest. It took me nearly an hour to inch out from under him, freezing every time he stirred. When my feet finally hit the floor I ran, grabbing my bag and the raincoat, I ran naked down the stairs and out into the middle of the street where I waved down a VW. The driver said, “Get in the back.” I started to explain. “I don’t want to know,” he said, and drove me to a taxi stand.
When I got home I called the police station. After I finished telling the cop what happened he asked, “Did he come in you?” “No,” I said. “Nothing we can do then,” he said and hung up. I ran a hot bath and sat in it for a long time.
When we got home from the Spa, Silvia and Vincenzo were harvesting our olives. What goodness, to see these farmers, who are also our landlords and neighbors, up in the branches of our trees, doing what has been done here for centuries.
Goodness is what we must turn to every day now. It’s time to turn from the drip-line of the “news.” It’s not new. Like goodness, the dark side has been with us forever. The details may change but the story is the same. Those who are fearful of owning their fear will continue to be the bullies, terrorists and dictators.
Yesterday was a turn around day for me. The night before I had shared with Joel that I was afraid of becoming more negative with age. That there was something about the accrual of events during the last couple of years that had wormed its way into me: the robbery, my months long illness, then my daughter nearly dying, then Joel being incapacitated for months and then these recent injuries. That steady drip had me unconsciously beginning to brace for the worst . It’s a thin line between bracing for the worst and starting to seek it out. I realized yesterday, that I had been indulging in tapping into the continuous cycle of negativity we call the news. I decided to stop. I’ve cast my vote, I’ve donated money, and beyond that it’s out of my control. No matter who wins this election, that which we fear will continue to exist. Better to rejoice in the perseverance of beauty and kindness.
Two days after the olives were harvested they were taken to the local frantoia to be pressed. We would have gone but we’d invited new friends we’d met at the spa to come here for tea. I made a pot of verbena ginger, the verbena picked fresh from the garden. We nibbled on pecorino cheese and pan co’ santi, the annual harvest bread studded with raisins and walnuts. We talked of creativity and openness and the beauty and light of Tuscany.
This is the good news we must spread: that light is everywhere and when we turn to it and absorb it we become it and reflect it back into the world like the sunflowers and the grapes and the fresh-pressed olive oil, glowing with goodness in the new day.
16th October, 2016 IN NEED OF TIME
I had wanted to write last week, and again this, but each time I thought about uncapping my pen, I thought, for what? Who the hell wants to read a blow-by-blow account of recovering from broken bones? You know me, I’m all for discovering the silver lining, but frankly the last couple of weeks have been mainly overcast. Then, yesterday, I received a wonderful email from a friend in London who wrote:
“From your blog it sounds like you are in a great headspace…though I would be truly impressed if you managed never to give in to fits of swearing/being a bitch/violent thoughts and whinging.”
Thank you Pheobe, for getting it! And no need for you or anyone else to be impressed as I have given in to all of the above and some others I’d rather not mention.
Like all journeys, this one has it highs and lows. I’ve been on more scenic adventures, that’s for sure, although surely the view inside my head is interesting to say the least. Why is it so hard to admit to feeling depressed? What is this investment in seeing oneself as indomitable? Isn’t that kind of insistence a major contribution to feeling isolated? For if you can’t share your lows with others, then not only can they not share theirs with you but it gives a false impression of superiority
So, here’s the lowdown:
I know the above list is not a complete picture of who I am, but I still wish none of it were in the frame. It doesn’t fit with the idea I have of myself as being courageous and positive. As though only by being both those things at all times do I have the right to live. How ridiculous.
The stories we make up about ourselves! The other day I was thinking about this accident and thinking, wow, that’s so unlike me; I’m so not accident-prone. Ha. Really? What about all the broken fingers and sprained ankles in sports? The most recent being 2 summers ago playing badminton. What about the time I was leaning against the passenger door of a pick-up truck, talking to the driver and my 5 year-old daughter sitting between us when the truck rounded a bend, the door flying open and me bouncing on my back on the road? What about the broken neck? Or the dropped carving knife on my foot severing the tendon to my big toe followed by surgery and weeks of non-weight-bearing foot in a splint up to the knee?
With regard to the latter, I must say that the medical scooter I used for getting around, kneeling on the bum leg and scooting with the other, was far superior to a bloody wheelchair. I had a basket on the front of it in which I could carry food from kitchen to couch, although mainly the basket carried Windex, Fantastic and a roll of paper towel; clean and tidy house fanatic that I am. With the wheelchair I can just about manage a fly swatter in one hand and a cappuccino in the other, navigating with elbows and the good leg. Forget the cleaning supplies. I have a new method; I just kick crap under the couch and move on.
And yes, there are highs. Like taking the cast off my hand a week early (against doctor’s orders) and massaging it with arnica several times a day. I am now able to type with all 10 fingers although the ring and pinky digits are still only good for nose-picking, unable yet to fully bend on their own. And I am now able to hop to the kitchen and stand on one leg long enough to make 2 drawings.
But even then my expectations got carried away. Ah, I thought, if I can express myself creatively I’m over the hump. But the tears still come. And what are these tears for, apart from finally, after 26 years, getting me a loving pedicure from Joel this morning?
I’ll tell you what the tears are for; for washing away the sadness that accumulates over a lifetime. Sadness too vast to be cleansed in one good cry. And the tears are for the inevitable sadness one feels at this age; that life is on the short end. That there is no quota for pain. That pain, whether emotional or physical, takes us away from our vitality, our life force. Isaak Dineson was so right about there being a salt cure for whatever ails us.
So, if you can’t work up a sweat and you can’t get to the sea, tears will suffice. That life force we all have, it doesn’t go away until we die. But it does take courage and determination to summon it. And it takes the love of others to help us get there. In that regard I am a wealthy woman, for although our friends are scattered far and wide they still show up for me in emails and Skype and Facetime. And how about the woman behind the counter of Bar Moderno here in town who, when Joel went in yesterday to buy me ice-cream, on hearing of my accident, removed the entire metal container of coffee gelato from the freezer counter, topped it up with stracciatelli and said, “Eccola! Un regalo per Maggie!”
And then there is my Joel, my greatest treasure of all, who has fed me, bed-panned me, pedicured and praised me and put up with a sea of despondency.
Today he wheeled me out in the garden, handed me my walking stick with which to point at weeds, that he then hoed. Not to be outdone I hopped out of my wheelchair, lowered myself to the ground and gave a much-needed haircut to some thyme.
P.S. My heartfelt thanks to all of you for your kind comments and emails.
2ND October, 2016
I’m pretty much off the pity pot now and headed toward the braggin’ wagon. Tuesday 4th will be 2 weeks since the old bones took a hit and last Wednesday’s follow-up X-rays showed some fine healing. Can’t keep a good/old woman down. But it’s a trip, I’ll tell you…no pun intended!
And what a trip to the hospital it was. Lorenzo, ‘our’ taxi driver is one of those angels who drop into your life when you most need them. He just happened to be the driver the hospital called to take me home, the day of the accident. He is now our driver for return trips and kinder man you’ll never meet. And he comes with a great zest for life and a good grasp of English. Without him guiding us through the mis-directions and bureaucracy of various hospital wings, we’d be lost.
It also helped that the admitting nurse of the X-ray department was mightily impressed to meet a writer and helped speed up the waiting process; a process much like going to the deli counter in the super market…yep, you actually take a number and wait for it to be called. Unfortunately it does not come with a pastrami on rye.
When one’s life becomes limited, one sees clearly how expansive life is. One also sees how much of it we squander. When you can’t do the smallest thing, like walk 3 feet to the couch and plump up the cushions, you are painfully reminded of how much you complain about chores, chores you would now give anything to perform. You also become extremely grateful for the little things still available to you; like being able to tell left from right, which evidently the radiologist couldn’t. Having taken the brace of the right leg, he then proceeded to line up the left one for an X-ray! Never leave home without a magic marker.
I have now had more wheelchairs in 10 days that I have cars in 3 decades. The brand for all of them is Surace, which rhymes with hurachi, so natch I call mine Liberace…we are in Italy after all. The first one had malfunctioning levers and flaps. The second looked good, sleek black, nice big wheels. But evidently looks aren’t everything; it was missing the absolutely necessary platform on which to rest my permanently extended leg. Liberace the third leaves much to be desired appearance-wise. In fact, it reminds of the first car I bought as a single parent on welfare with a one-year-old daughter. The car did not come with a key. What do you want for 50 bucks? However, I discovered that inserting a paring knife into the ignition and turning gingerly did the trick. Much like that car, Liberace the third did come with a major flaw: worn out brakes. So Joel to the rescue:
And how exhilarating is it to haul myself off the couch and sit in Liberace’s lap? It’s been a long time since either of us had this much fun! From there I can wheel myself into the kitchen/living room area, replace candles, wipe counters, stand one-legged at the sink and do the dishes one-handed. I’m becoming quite the wheelchair whiz. But if steps are involved, I’m screwed.
So many things that where out of reach the first week are now doable and I take great pride in being able to do my toilette at the bathroom sink, trim my hair with one hand, and lasso my knickers onto my right foot, which has never seemed so far away. Sure, it’s tiring. Sure, I get frustrated, but then I think about all the paraplegics who compete in wheelchair marathons and I’m humbled. And I think about how, when I broke my neck I was nearly permanently paralyzed from the neck down…and gratitude is an understatement.
There is a time in life when aiming for the unreachable is appropriate, necessary even. As kids, and into our 30’s and 40’s we need to strive for what we want. And if we fall short, well, we’re still further along than if we hadn’t tried at all. And by pushing the boundaries we learn what our limitations are and thus learn acceptance. But at a certain point in life we need to find the balance between having the courage to take worthwhile risks (like moving to a foreign country in our 60’s and 70’s) and when to know that enough is enough; when to let go of what you wish you could do and be grateful for what you still can do.
I have experienced quite a bit of sadness this past week that I am unable to work in my garden. One quick tour around it in Liberace and I can see how much needs to be done. Autumn, like spring, is not only an important season in the garden but an exciting one and I am saddened that I missed both of them this year: Spring was spent helping Z through illness, and now autumn is being spent helping myself heal. But just as I begin to head back to the pity pot, I look again and see all that I have achieved in two and half years.
And I see there is a rosebush within reach, and I wheel over to it and so some deadheading.
In the span of a lifetime, much will remain outside the realm of possibility, but it’s important to look up and out to the horizon, to dream of all that lies beyond it. Then the gaze must return to that which is within reach and the rediscovery of how vast is the ‘now.’