Tag Archives: hope

2017/2018

31ST DECEMBER 2017

 

I woke up this morning to a sweet grey day, interrupted here and there with a burst of sunshine. We lit the fire and made our usual Sunday English breakfast, accompanied by Vivaldi’s cello concertos. Then I moved to the couch with the Sunday crossword and a cappuccino. Really, it doesn’t get better than that and I know it. So why did I feel the mist of sadness creeping in?

Some of it, I’m sure, is because Joel came down with a cold and bronchitis on Christmas Eve effectively cancelling our plans and the plans of friends who were to have come down from London to see the New Year in with us. Although I did a good job of looking after my man and literally keeping the home-fire burning, I didn’t always do it with good grace. The childlike part of me that still gets excited about Christmas, turned into childish disappointment when it got cancelled. And isn’t that one of the problems with all these rituals we insist upon? The need for bliss so easily turns to disappointment.

All that rushing around for days and weeks; buying too many presents and too much food as if to prove ourselves capable of generosity. We live in the Val D’Arbia, more than half of which has been stricken with influenza and bronchitis for the holidays, while the neighboring Val’D’Elsa struck a note of independence opting for a severe stomach virus. If it weren’t so wretched it would be hilarious, listening to stories of tables laden with food while whole families raced to their bathrooms.

And so, with Christmas over and done with we turn our thoughts to the New Year and once again idealism begins to take over, perhaps this year more than most, because don’t we all so desperately want to leave much of 2017 behind us? Don’t we all long for some unimaginable event to come along and set to rights all the evil doings of this past year, all the terrible suffering. This, I think, is really what was making me sad this morning; the sheer exhaustion of the political, added to the personal; in my case, having been ill for most of the year.

As I sat on the couch I could feel pessimism take the place of sadness; a feeling of why bother, the world’s a mess with no change in sight. Stinking thinking it’s called in AA, and the only way to change it is to take action…not to change the world, but one’s attitude: take away a ‘t’ and start with a ‘gr’ and you have gratitude. And how grateful I was to go out into the garden, to sit with my face to the sun. To pay homage to two roses which have had the courage to survive 3 weeks of hard frosts. One of them finally opened yesterday during a moment of warmth. I looked at it in wonder. A Cubana rose that in summer is a lush blossom changing hue from coral to pink to palest orange, this one was half the normal size, sparsely petaled and pale yellow. I felt humble by its willingness to survive, to live a brief life in diminished glory.

The other surviving rose is nestled among the remaining leaves of a Mme. Alfred Carrière climber. This little bud has held on for 4 weeks through drenching rains and violet winds. Never to open, it will one day fall to the ground; an infant rose that will be infinitely etched into my memory as a symbol of sweet tenacity. And this I would like to summon in myself for 2018: sweet tenacity and the humility of living life to the fullest even when diminished.

I received, like many of us, gifts I didn’t need and some I didn’t like, but three of them are treasures because of what they symbolize. One, a gift from Gianni and Luana, is of two antique votive hearts joined together by a tattered red ribbon. When I look at them I think of Joel and me: two separate beings joined by a river of love. The second treasure is a little broom given to me by Paul and Sharon, to be used to sweep away negativity. And the third, from my dear Joel, is a tiny leather purse, measuring perhaps an inch square. Inside lies a miniscule Jesus, arms eternally outstretched. I’m not religious, but when I opened it I wept. It was everything that Christmas, indeed life, should be, empty of money and filled with love.

 

1ST JANUARY 2018

We danced the New Year in. Six friends from four countries; all of us eternally youthful and hopeful. Paul roasted lamb on the fire, the meat tender and sweet and fresh from our farm. I made a lentil soup, lentils being a traditional New Year’s Eve dish here in Italy, symbolizing money. Humble money. Enough to feed the family and the animals and perhaps a new pair of shoes for the children. Sharon roasted whole garlics and shallots which we sucked out of their skins between mouthfuls of lamb and Luana’s roast potatoes. A salad of field greens from our farm, felt like a green remedy. Brunello wine was savored by the men while we women drank Kombucha. Between courses we got up and moved around in an effort to make room for the chocolate almond cake served with amarena cherries and coffee gelato. Perhaps it was this repast which fortified Joel, who, after a week of being shut in the house was able to rally for the evening.

Then we caravanned through the moonlit land to La Rimessa. A hare zig-zagged in our headlights before disappearing into the woods, on the edge of which a deer made a brief appearance. La Rimessa is Gianni and Joel’s and my studio.

A huge, ancient stone building originally used to house farm equipment at the end of a day’s work, it now houses our creative energy. We lit dozens of candles, cleared my art table of brushes and paints and, dividing into teams of women-v-men, began the panforte fling. A traditional game that we discovered two years ago in nearby Pienza, the game requires only a long table and panforte, a large disc of dense traditional fruitcake.

 

Standing back 6 feet from one end of the table, one flings it much like a Frisbee and whomever gets it closest to the far edge of the table is the winner. Last night’s victor was Sharon…

…who landed it not once but twice at the very edge, with Luana a close second. A win for the women and I couldn’t but help feel a good omen for the evolving power of women the world over. And so 2018 arrived in fine form, for surely laughter is full of open, spontaneous, joyous energy.

 

Over the last few weeks Gianni and I had been collecting old bells and ended up with a collection of 10 with which we began ringing in the New Year, first circling the studio before going outside into the tiny hamlet of Bibbiano. Good tidings we brought. The bells, which once would have rung daily from the necks of sheep and cows, in schoolyards, churches and doorways, each with its own tone from tinkle to clang, now filled the air. Released from their long silence they told/tolled of their past and rang joyously of rebirth. In the distance, through the mist, a spray of fireworks answered back and lest reality might near perfection, a local man appeared and fired his pistol in the air as if to signal the start of a race. And off we go.

Back inside La Rimessa, the prosecco was popped and Al Green and Aretha Franklin urged us to dance, moving into each others arms and then spinning out into space, candlelight illuminating our souls. And what would the start of a new year be without meditation? The six of us sitting in silence for 10 minutes before mindfully blowing out each candle, and with each exhalation, a prayer for the world.

To all of you I wish fulfillment. May we all grow kinder, share sadness and laugh longer. My gratitude to all of you for your loyalty and loving energy.

As always,

With love,

Maggie

 

 

ACTIVATE

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.

With love.

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.