I follow the Hindu festivals, much as I observe the Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas. Any excuse to pray and meditate! Any pretext for bringing myself into the Presence of this moment! The cycle of holidays through the year elevates human life, takes us out of the pedestrian and provokes reflection.
This week I took the train to Boston to attend the International Conference in Shared Parenting. This conference gathered together specialists in post-divorce child development from all over the world. I sat down with a very lovely Dr. Holstein to discuss the Conference, and I wrote about my experience in the HuffPost.
…Despite advances in recognizing fathers’ fundamental rights to be equally involved in their children’s lives, the problem of not implementing that right continues within the legal system. At the same time, there’s a growing awareness that relegating one parent, whether father or mother, to second-class citizen parent status is not in the best interests of the child, when neither parent is actually abusive. There is a growing understanding that, post-separation, children need both parents to be fully present in their lives for optimal wholeness.
I sat down with Dr. Ned Holstein, the founder and chairman of the board of the National Parents Organization, at the International Conference on Shared Parenting in Boston. The National Parents Organization has a mission to preserve the bond between parents and children. To that end, at this conference, the world’s most renowned child development experts in the area of post-divorce parenting have gathered to share their research results. How do children fare with and without shared parenting post-divorce?…
“Court practices haven’t kept up with the growing research evidence on the benefits of shared parenting, so our intention was to gather all the world experts in one place at one time to compile the evidence that needs to be recognized as a basis for changing what our current practices are in the courts,” Dr. Holstein told me. “Based on the work of world experts at our conference today, ‘Best Interests of the Child’ means shared parenting for most children.”
Read the whole post here.
International Conference Shared Parenting
Gorgeous Susan, a fellow mom at the bus stop, was carrying a purse that I particularly admired. Susan is always elegant and tasteful, and this sumptuous leather bag fit her style exactly.
To my mind, its best quality was its perfect marriage of beauty with utility: It’s big enough to hold the 11″ Macbook Air I take with me, as well as everything else I lug around, and at the same time it’s a graceful, handsome purse.
Back home, while my daughter ate an after-school snack, I browsed online. But there was a demand for my attention elsewhere, so I went on with my day. The bag stayed in the back of my mind, I just couldn’t forget it. You know how that is sometimes, when you see something you really love?
A few weeks later at the bus stop, Susan had amazing news: her friend had decided to gift me with a bag! She expected nothing in return but hoped I would love it.
Susan smiled, “You can be a kind of brand ambassador. If you feel like it, wear it and love it and tell people who made it if they ask.”
“I’ll do better than that,” I said, delighted. “I’ll blog about it!”
So I must state that I received this bag for free in hopes that I would love it and pass on the information about kisein if anyone inquired.
The bag arrived last night. It is even lovelier than I remembered. It’s a pleasure to hold in the hand, soft yet strong, sturdy yet supple, and practical yet absolutely breathtakingly pretty in design.
This stunning gift is the Annis City Satchel and it made me want to go right outside wearing it on my shoulder. It’s so convenient, too–made to hold everything I need on-the-go, from my iPhone to my laptop to my wallet.
I am pleased and proud to recommend kisein to everyone. I’ll be purchasing more kisein products. Buy one, you’ll love it! See the pictures below.
There’s a friend to whom I used to send lengthy missives about my life. I fear I trespassed against my friend’s great kindness with these long notes. I have promised myself to stop.
But as George Orwell said, writing is thinking, and in the process of writing, I clarified things in my mind. My thoughts opened and organized themselves. It wasn’t so much self-expression as self-understanding. It was a useful process.
I caught myself contemplating how to explain to my friend about the enchantment of Santa Fe, as I drove out of Albuquerque toward this beautiful town.
As I left the airport city, the sky expanded. The blue deepened in intensity. My spirits rose of their own accord, responding to the unfettered freedom of that great expanse of the heavens.
It’s not just the sky—it’s the light of Santa Fe that’s so compelling. I love Cape Cod, too, for the light. In Truro, there’s a honeyed quality to the light, a lavender richness underlying the brilliance. In Santa Fe, the light is crystalline. The absolute clarity of luminosity is breath-taking.
Then there’s the landscape: the mountains, the rich red-brown of the earth, the piñon trees and the rocks and the desert and the forests.
Last time I was in Santa Fe, we saw a bear alongside the road. It was a medium-sized animal, maybe an adolescent, a grayish streak hurtling alongside the cars. I never knew bears could move so fast. I also saw a roadrunner streaking across the road: it looked like a tiny dinosaur.
Yesterday a friend took me hiking on Mt. Ataleya. She lent me open-toed Teva sandals because I hadn’t packed sneakers, and I went to lengths to avoid the cactus while scrambling up the trails.
Earlier in the day, I went to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which I recommend. The gift shop is emblazoned with one of O’Keeffe’s wise sayings, which put me in mind of my own Sabin, who says the same thing: “Nothing is less real than realism.” It is magical here.
NEW REVIEW OF IMMORTAL, COMING IN JULY TO RENAISSANCE MAGAZINE
In a recent National Public Radio spot on Dugald Steer’s Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons and other books in the Myth(ologies) series, an enthusiastic fourth-grade fan of those books remarked, “There’s sorta like a fiction way to learn real stuff.” How true—and for adult readers wishing to plumb renaissance Italy while being thoroughly entertained, there is Immortal, Traci L. Slatton’s stunning debut novel set primarily in the majestic heart of Florence. Immortal sweeps across the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as it follows the tumultuous life of Luca Bastardo, a beautiful blond-haired orphan boy who is kidnapped from a wretched life on the streets and plunged into an even worse existence as a prostitute by a murderous brothel-owner who surely ranks as one of the most vile characters in literature.
Blessed with unnaturally keen senses, Luca’s salvation is his ability to free his mind and soar to calming places while he is forced to “work.” As time passes, others age, but not Luca Bastardo, who at twenty-seven still looks about thirteen. Inventive and lush in the manner of author Anne Rice, Immortal explores the dividing line between the real and unreal, following Luca’s journey across time as he struggles to unravel the mystery of his birth and his ageless beauty while facing a difficult choice: immortality or the chance to find his one true love.
Along the way, Luca survives the Black Death and the Inquisition and becomes intimates with such giants of the Renaissance as artists Giotto di Bondone and Leonardo da Vinci—150 years apart—not to mention Savonarola and Sandro Botticelli. A mix of art, religion, alchemy, and historical intrigue, Immortal is original and beautifully written, a true gift to the senses and an uncommonly good read.
Spiritual Teachings I love.
Of late I have been reading Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Power (HarperOne, 2007). This is a beautiful book. It’s about true power, the power that comes from within, from the wellspring of goodness and truth within our souls.
My husband Sabin met Robin Williams in the lobby of our building. Sabin came away with respect for the comic. “He’s down-to-earth, a nice guy,” Sabin approved. These are rare words of praise from my laconic husband, who seldom dispenses compliments and who is impressed only by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Robin William’s recent suicide has erupted into a public ferment of discussion about suicide and depression. I worry about copycat suicides, but the new open forum can benefit people who suffer from depression.
I’m a deeply creative person and creativity is linked with depression. I’ve stood at the edge with my toes curled over, staring into the abyss, wishing with every angstrom of my being that I was dissolved into that nothingness. I have been in that place of despair. It feels like there is nothing else. It feels bottomless. I understand, beneath what can be articulated, what Williams felt in the last hours of his life.
I don’t know how I survived some of those experiences. When I emerge from them, I have always felt so ashamed of my “weakness.” It didn’t help that my borderline personality disorder mother and entitled narcissist ex-husband were quick to use my despair as a means of “proving” that I was less than, that I was deficient, even worthless. For them, my depression validated their unkind treatment of me.
One beloved friend wrote recently about her own near misses with suicide. For her, the gun in her mouth failed to go off. I am so grateful that it failed. She is beautiful person, full of grace; the world is richer for her presence in it.
For me, survival might have something to do with my most primordial DNA. Family legend says we have Cherokee blood; DNA testing revealed a preponderance of hitherto-unexpected Ashkenazim genetic markers–such a large percentage of them, in fact, that the genetic testing technician looked at my results and stated, “Oh, you’re Jewish.”
So I have thought to myself that my ancestors were marched down the Trail of Tears, and they were burned up in pogroms. I am the dregs of not one but two genocides. I think it has left a residue of something inside me that keeps going and going and going.
In the bleakest moments of depression, I felt like an infinite can of gray paint had spilled out everywhere, onto everything. It coated everything so thickly and airlessly that there was no light or color anywhere. It is an unbearable, unyielding oppression of spirit.
When I am out of that state, I can imagine how my grappling with the gray paint must have been hard on the people around me. I can empathize with the difficulties they experienced through me.
Unfortunately for me, until the last decade, many people closest to me were so filled with malice that they took satisfaction in my depression. I hope Robin Williams didn’t have those kind of people around him. My life is different now, I have been working on my boundaries. I don’t keep malicious people around me anymore.
Life is better when I have kind-hearted people around me.
Malice is itself a mental illness. Unlike depression, people who live in that state of malice see the impact they make on the people around them–and they enjoy hurting other people. From my own reading and research, they tend to be borderlines and narcissists.
I am dealing now in a legal forum with a borderline who is way off the reservation. She’s also a sociopathic liar. I’ve written in other posts how she went crazy when I made a business decision she didn’t like. She sent dozens of caustic, threatening, obscenity-filled emails; after impersonating me online, she impersonated an attorney to me, signing his name and legal credentials to a threatening email; she tried to extort thousands of dollars from me and my husband by threatening malicious litigation; she pretended she had contacted a dear friend of mine and he had given up some dirt on me; she fraudulently stopped payment on checks, one to me and one to a third party; she left vitriolic voicemails that I may upload into youtube so that other people unfortunate enough to deal with her know how truly deranged she is.
My dear friend wrote me, matter-of-factly, that contrary to what she’d written, he’d never spoken to her nor heard her name before I forwarded her email to him. “Good luck,” my friend wrote, “she sounds like a looney tune.”
But this psychotic woman is far more than a goofy looney tune. She’s mentally ill in a way that hurts other people and enjoys doing so. I watched her be vitriolic and abusive toward other women, before she unloaded onto me. She turns on women regularly. I also watched her craven seduction of every man in her purview. Her conversation was filled with statements about how other women were jealous of her and how every man wanted to sleep with her.
Why didn’t I wise up sooner to the extent of this psycho’s cruelty and insanity?
Partly because this psycho can appear normal and she knows how to flatter people.
Partly because I have a blind spot when it comes to borderlines, thanks to my mother.
Partly because it’s hard for me to impute malice to people. I just don’t get it. I want to live with integrity and to act with kindness and generosity toward people. Note: I don’t succeed every minute of every day, but this is my stated intention. I do not take pleasure in the suffering of other people.
So sometimes I don’t see what’s staring me in the face, whether it’s a borderline’s obvious psychotic imbalance as she bullies people, especially women, or the malicious, invasive obsession of an ex stalking my blog, visiting my blog site every day from wherever he is, sometimes several times a day.
I need to grow out of my naivete.
There’s the mental illness turned inward, that hurts the self. There’s the mental illness turned outward, hurting other people. Many books claim that the latter is a defense against the former, that people lash out with malice because of the pain of the rot at their own core.
Perhaps. Recently a healer with whom I am working defined “evil” for me: “It’s the conscious decision to harm another human being.”
It’s necessary to be wary, to be mindful, of this evil, whether it’s evil turned inward or turned outward.
For the evil turned inward, I’ve developed a series of strategies that help me. Regular exercise, for one. I have made a commitment to practicing yoga every day, and it’s not just because I’m vain and want a nice-looking body–though that’s part of it. Another reason is because yoga is the single best negative-pattern interrupt I’ve encountered in my 51 years. I go to the gym several times a week for cardiovascular exercise. I’ve worked on myself in psychotherapy and I receive spiritual healings. I’m filling my life with friends who have loving hearts, friends who laugh with me. I meditate. I chant mantras. I pray. Oh, yes, I pray every day.
I’ve trained myself to look in the mirror and say, “I love you and you are beautiful and worthy. You are a wonderful person.” This exercise in self-appreciation and self-love was the hardest thing I’ve ever accomplished in my life. It was much harder than going to Yale and Columbia from a modest, turmoil-filled family where no one had ever attended college.
Ultimately, I believe that this is the antidote to evil: Love. Love from within to the within. Love that starts with the self, and radiates into strong boundaries that keep out the malicious folks. Mature love that accepts that sometimes other people are malicious and must be kept out of the inner sanctum. Love that understands that sometimes evil will have its way.
I know that karma exists. Actions always return. Sometimes karma has a long, long arc, but in the end, evil is balanced.
Wherever Robin Williams is, I pray that he feels the outpouring of other people’s love for him. I pray that it leads him to greater and greater self love. I pray that the evil he did himself is balanced by some extraordinary kindness toward his soul. I pray that when people come to that moment of choosing to harm themselves, that some tiny particle of love comes in to pull them back from the abyss.