Finally, I Can Tell You My Secret.

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No matter your age, no matter your relationship, and no matter when it happens – if life goes in order – your mother will die before you, and it will be different for everyone and yet, the same.

Allow me to explain…

The evening of April 9th, 2015:

Recently back from a second date in London and head over heels in love. (I mean who wouldn’t be after all that romance across the pond?) Returning a little tipsy from my best girlfriend’s home in Brooklyn – she wanted all the details. We decided to have a decadent girls’ night of eating every piece of junk food we wanted. I happily share all the events while her Great Dane drapes over my lap; a glass of wine in a small mason jar in one hand, a Dorito in the other as we snuggle on the couch under the coziest of blankets.

I decide to take a taxi back to TriBeca from Brooklyn. It was warm out and I walked a few blocks seeing all the old bars I once frequented back in my 20s before Brooklyn was a thing. Feeling so happy about my life – no guilt that my stomach was full of a chip extravaganza, french onion dip, and Entenmann’s cookies. I peered down at my phone for the numerous tender texts from the London boy. My heart was full, too.

As I glance, I realize my brother is calling me. My brother produces television, as well as every aspect of our family. He keeps it all together.

“I am going home to check on Mommy. Will call you when I get there.”

“She hasn’t been picking up my calls. I am worried.” I respond trying to disguise my voice of vino.

“Di, it will be fine. We all know Mom. She’s fine. I’ll call you later. Love.”

My brother never says, “I love you.” When getting off the phone, it’s always an abrupt “love” and hangs up the phone after saying it. I, on the other hand, profess love daily. People probably think I am nuts, but I could care less. I tell the doorman, my dog walker, all my friends, their kids that I love them. I have always been this way.

I hop into the cab and back to flirtatious messages with the London boy. We cannot wait to see one another the next day. He is so tender, loving, and ridiculously fun. I put down my oh so smart and consuming phone, stop the texting and take a breath of gratitude. I have waited for someone like this.

I am normally more anxious, worried and waiting for the shoe to drop. But tonight I feel peaceful and content.

I arrive back home greeted by my two sweet dogs at the door. I am so excited to remove my heels and slip into my comfy yoga pants when I hear my phone ring again. It is my brother.

“Di Come home,” he says before I can even say a word. Something throws me in my brother’s voice.

“Put mommy on the phone.” He bursts into a cry I have never heard in my life.

“She’s gone, Di. Mom’s gone.”

My mind races, and in that moment, that second began to feel like one million hours. (This is the exact moment I lost the concept of time and I still have no grasp of it today.) My brother said the word “gone”, and suddenly I stop to think, what does gone mean?

Gone can mean dead? I am in total shock I don’t know if I cried at that moment or not as I cannot remember my reaction, only the word gone.

“There is an car outside waiting for you. Mommy and I will be here when you get here,” my brother tells me.

My brother, even in his deepest grief, manages to think of every detail. I don’t remember leaving my apartment, nor how I go into the car but I did manage to direct the driver to the wrong house in another suburban cul de sac, which now I can laugh at as one thing is always consistent with me – I have no sense of direction. The car pulls up to Mom’s house. My brother waits in the driveway for me. I can’t cry for seeing him breaks my heart. I just freeze.

“Oh Ozzie,” I manage to say. He is crying and puts his arm around me. We hug. Now my tears start as he turns me towards the front door. As I walked into my mother’s incredibly loving home I freeze in the long hallway. Mom always called it her “wall of fame.” It consists of every family picture you could find of my brother and me. Letters are are also framed, as well as artwork and various artifacts from our childhood.

I see three police officers standing in front of me, I am thoroughly confused. I think I missed the fact that there were police cars outside and now I notice police tape. What is going on? An officer is standing in front of the room telling me I can not go in. I can’t even make words to argue as my mother’s home looks like a crime scene.  I peer down what feels like the Lincoln Tunnel and I can make out the silhouette of my mother’s body.

“That’s my Mommy,” I scream. “Please let me see her! Please!” I am now in full hysterics.

“Ma’am (the officer calls me ma’am but speaks to me like I am in kindergarten), it’s a police investigation. At this point, until the medical examiner gets here, no one can see her.” Words like coroner and investigation are being thrown around our home like it’s normal.

“She died alone. This is procedure. I am very sorry,” the other officer says. My ears hear “she died alone” and those words stay with me. It feels unimaginable.

“What is happening, Ozzie?” I look at my brother’s face. He tells me how it happened.

He explains that he called and she didn’t pick up. Now I knew Mom was drinking and often ignored the calls from the people who would get mad at her. That person usually was me. Mom almost always took my brother’s calls – he was the nurturing one. But sometimes she played “keep away” and whenever we went to her home she would be fine – we just overreacted.

My brother continues, “I had been calling her throughout the ride over here, but she didn’t answer. When I walked in I expected to see her sitting in her brown chair waiting for me to get out there like usual. Di, she was kneeling, I ran to her and she was so cold. Her body was ice cold; I just held her. I didn’t know what to do.”

I look past him and see the open bottle of Woodbridge (the double bang for your buck kind) and one glass in the sink with her red lipstick. One bowl with a little milk and her favorite cereal – Rice Chex – a few chex still floating. Her last meal, last glass. I begged my brother not to clean any of it. She touched that bowl when she was alive. I needed her to still be alive.

“What is happening?” I kept saying aloud again and again, and my brother looked at me for the first time in his life not having an answer and not being able to fix it. And we simply waited – for 6 hours. Yes, you read that correctly – 6 hours for the examiner to show up. One police officer shared that he had been here a few nights ago.

“I saw her three nights ago. I had been here a few times throughout the years answering the calls from your mother.” I look up at him, desperate to hear any stories about her. The truth, my mother struggled with drinking and the past two years, she had a habit of calling the police, asking them to come over after telling them she had fallen. Sometimes she faked it, sometimes it was true and we would find her with bruises all over. I knew she was lonely. Mom wanted the company of a man, but would never admit it.  After her divorce, it was always me, mom, and my brother against the world.

She’d say, “I need nothing but my kids. Who wants a man anyway?” But she did – she did want companionship, but her defenses had grown stronger with age and now angry for the house was empty without her children.

The police officer continues, “She always spoke about you – so proud of your accomplishments.” He starts listing so many things about us. He seemed to know everything – that we had dogs, that Mom called them her “grandpups,” our jobs, we lived in Manhattan, where we traveled, our college alma maters – you name it. My mom lived vicariously through us and felt no purpose in living for herself. I began to sob thinking how much my mother truly loved me; it was too much sometimes. I kept thinking why couldn’t she love herself as much? My anger at her alcoholism kicks in to protect me from the pain of the loss for a few seconds. How many times I told her to stop drinking – alcohol was killing her, and I wanted to save her, but I knew I couldn’t. 

And then I am back to grieving; the pain is so great. I realize she will never call me again, never cook me my favorite meal, never see us get married, never know a grandchild. My mother would never be a grandmother – a true tragedy. All of these concepts seem epic to me, kicking up a tornado of emotions. Never has a whole new meaning now.

Finally, the front door opens, it’s the medical examiner who looks like the key master from The Matrix. I take comfort in this. You take comfort in the weirdest things in the face of death. He examines her, determining it was a heart attack. Thanks, key master – I could have told you that 6 hours ago, now let me see my mother.

The key master begs me not to go in. He thinks I should wait till she is at the funeral parlor and now I get angry – very angry. My grieving sobs turn into a fierce lioness of complete Maria at the end of West Side Story with the gun.

“No,” I say, “You will not keep me from my mother. Ozzie found her and now I will see her, and I will stay with her as long as I need and you will all wait.” I address all the police, the key master and my poodle who is now cowering in fear. My brother intervenes on my behalf knowing I will lose my sh*t even more in two seconds with the key master and company as it is now 2 am.

The police part like the freakin’ Red Sea and Ozzie puts his hand on the small of my back as I walk in to see her. They had wrapped her in the brown cozy blanket I got her for Christmas – swaddled her like a baby. I stood over her – key master was right, she looked awful. I now hated the key master even more.

I legit asked my brother if we could keep her like Eva Peron. And I still wish we did. Although it would be very odd in my one bedroom apartment, I don’t care. The thought of the three of us not being together is still unimaginable. But at some point it became time to take her, that moment was the one of many gut-wrenching moments for me.

“Please carry my mommy out gently. She needs you to be gentle with her.” The police officer nodded at me.

“I am sorry for your loss.” he gently responds. This is the first time I hear this statement.

That was a year ago.  And my life is forever changed. I still miss her every god damn day. Lourdes Pisarri – Lulu – my mommy (she loved when I called her that) was the most powerful, loudest and most loving presence in the universe. For someone so alive to become so quiet is deafening. She let alcohol console her because she could never learn to love herself enough.

That lack of self-love was her greatest flaw, but at the same time, she was the perfect mother for me. Her strength and her weaknesses helped me grow into the woman I was meant to be.

Taken too soon Mom, I had so much left to share with you.  And I now understand you.

 

Gandhi, Me, and Harmony

“Happiness is         when what you think,                   what you say,                           and what you do are in harmony.”  ― Mahatma Gandhi

Yes, Gandhi and that is the most difficult thing in the world!!

Meet me, an expert who is human and struggles with this whole harmony thing.

And if you know me, you know I’m always working towards my inner Gandhi. Everything this man said makes total sense, right? But when sh*t goes down, my harmony can sound quite dissonant. Awful in fact.

Recently I used this quote when speaking to a client about a recent, devastating turn her life had taken. It was a difficult session and man, did I understand her plight (more than she knew). But I said to her…

Happiness does not come from everything always going your way.  Happiness comes from knowing how to handle life when it doesn’t.                                       #Awareness                                         

I let there be silence as she cried. I wanted to apologize for this statement at first but then I realized that happiness also doesn’t come from avoiding when our fantasy crashes.

Truly happy people know how to cope when the fantasy crashes – they can find a new perspective, take new actions with compassion to keep going. But for most of us this is something we must learn to do – it’s by no means instinctual and that’s ok.

So yes, Gandhi, happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony, because you know how to do that.

So how can you get started on the doing part? Here’s one suggestion…

Blame less. Understand more.  #Action

As I learned to understand myself and others more, I now recover more quickly from disappointments and happiness finds me again, in time. And after the shocking news you read last week, there were actions that made me happier:

  • Compassion for my situation instead of blaming myself.
  • Surround myself with friends who understand me.
  • Sharing my story with someone.
  • Telling people how to handle me. People are not mind readers and will often do what they would need and not know what you need.
  • Exercise. I mean it’s like sex. Never ever do I say, “Wow I feel worse. Why did I do that?”
  • Drink more water than wine. Alcohol is a depressant, just sayin …
  • I bought a facial mask. Sounds nuts, but sometimes new skin changes your life for a minute.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”  ― Dalai Lama

Roger that, Dalai Lama! I may have received shocking news from a doctor but I can still take actions that are loving while I feel like a piece of crap and maybe, just maybe, I will find another path to happiness, eventually.

We will see, and you will know as I go…

What’s one action (from my above list or your own) that you can take this week to keep creating your own path to happy? Email me or leave a comment below. I want to know!

The #1 Way We Break Our Own Hearts

Criticism is the path to heartbreak.  # Awareness

Ahhh yessss, criticism to cope – I know it all too well.

I am well aware that criticism once motivated me to get my head in the game, but the results were always temporary. And in this “past life” I would do this lovely game of criticizing others to see all the wrong they were doing, and suddenly I didn’t feel as bad about myself.

But deep down inside, I did feel bad. I just had layered so many defenses over it that I had no freakin’ clue why I criticized. It had become an unconscious instinct. And if someone poked at me – OMG – I was defensive as hell.

You see, I broke my heart (and the hearts of others) so often because criticism completely had the driver’s seat.

Two simple words changed my life because I worked my ass of to do them ( not just think about how much I needed to do them).

This action may sound so simple, but pause for a second.

Accept more.     #Action

Do you really practice acceptance?

And side note: acceptance is not being a doormat. Acceptance simply means having compassion and understanding for yourself around the things you hate about yourself; the mistakes you have made (because no one is perfect) and accepting where you are at. And cutting other people slack, accepting them as they are, we all are doing are best with the skill sets we have. 

You are exactly where you need to be – accept that.

In addition, you gotta just cut other people some slack. We are all doing our best with the skill sets we have. Compassion + understanding for others is where it’s at because criticism and judgment is just plain exhausting, right?  It hurts others and sucks when it’s done to you.

Acceptance in the new little black dress.   

Knowing – Action = Nothing

I knew A LOT, but changed very little.

Awareness + Action + Sharing = Changed My Life

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Where will you accept yourself more this week? Email me or leave a comment below. Remember sharing is key to the change-your-life equation…

 

What The Hulk, Inspector Gadget, and Dorothy Taught Me

Doubt your limitations, not your potential.  #Awareness

I grew up in the 80s with a TV the size of my one bedroom apartment in NYC that looked like an armoire. When you opened the armoire-like doors, don’t touch the screen for fear of the wrath of my father – a scratch was a sin and the screen a deity. My precious little brother would look up at me with his Doritos in a tupperware bowl straight from a party my mom just finished hosting. His big brown eyes looking to me for the decision as I held our fate in my hands with the remote (the size of my 6-pound Pomeranian) as I chose what show to watch on TV. I always chose.

There were 3 characters I watched, religiously. And I ended up copying them in my life – in acting, loving, eating, and many other verbs for sure. The 3 characters? The Hulk, Inspector Gadget, and Dorothy.  All the characters doubted their potential.  Every single time. And I found myself doing it every day of my life. And even though I presented oh, so confident, I was just duping myself.

Doubt your limitations, not your potential

Often anger kicked in the minute someone said something I didn’t like or whenever I was disappointed. The Hulk came out and it was not pretty. Or I could be totally clueless – like Inspector Gadget – using a million inventions; focusing on the wrong things while the world around me – my mother, brother and friends –  would cope for me and I got all the credit.

I never really learned how clueless I was because no one let me fail. So more doubt came into my life. And then Dorothy. My poor brother watched that movie so many times and then as teens, we looked for the dead munchkin a million times in that scene. I’m here to tell you there is no dead munchkin. But, like Dorothy, I had the answers the whole time. I just needed to let go so I could…

See Possibility.

The real thing is, I needed to not only see possibility but also take action to move towards solutions and try a bunch (not just one or two) without giving up when one doesn’t work out. Giving up to cope leaves you in Stuckville.

Choosing to cope without destructive habits changed my life.

And I’m dishing productive habits weekly. To get in on the life changing magic (for free!) every Friday at 8 AM, click here.

And when my mom died there was no longer anyone to keep my head above water the way she could so effortlessly. But you know what? I knew how to swim the whole time, just like Dorothy and the damn shoes walking around singing for help and killing witches. My girl Dorothy and I could have solved our problems in record time if we weren’t so anxious, fearful and constantly doubting ourselves to cope. Remember it’s all about raising your awareness so you can take action.

Love Lessons During My Manicure From The Beatles

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Sitting in Tribeca, doing my self-care thing (my cuticles had sent a major SOS) I couldn’t stop thinking about a recent client convo about how messy love really gets. As I played back the convo in my head, The Beatles started playing via surround sound.

I love when music orchestrates my thoughts while the lyrics miraculously provide newfound insight.

I mean honestly, we want love to be this neat, romantic fairytale, right?  But if you are really in it to win it (as they say) then love gets messy. Plain and simple. Love will be: messy, uncomfortable, wild, unpredictable, triggering, passionate, tender, beautiful, intimate, and terrifying.

In order to have real love, we need to learn how to let it be (release control and your fantasy).

If your love life is neat …chances are you are not doing INTIMACY.

 

Sad to break it to you but neat love is missin’ something. The people I know who keep love “neat” (*cough* looking at myself here!), they tend to look like this (whether single or married):

  • getting themselves “ready for love.”
  • spending time looking for the perfect mate.
  • dating but never really committing.
  • coasting in a safe relationship.
  • never having the tough conversations.
  • criticizing more than communicating.
  • keeping the routine as opposed to cultivating REALationships.

I used to always say, “Well, I am just working on myself right now…” or “I am focused on career right now.” I coasted. I almost married the dude I coasted with (not a real love at all but I didn’t know that then). And I hated tough conversations.  I avoided them like the plague.

REALationships are messy. Fake relationships are neat.

When the smoke and mirrors subside and I want to run for the hills (or fear they will), I had to learn how to work through my stuff with someone. Stay in the room, communicate. Sounds easy, but for me it wasn’t. What about you? And the same goes when you are married, folks. Because that’s where the real relationship begins.

If you have a fairytale vision of love staying neat, you are going to be disappointed. And as I was listening to The Beatles, I decided “Let It Be” is a song we should all fully know for times of hardships.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And perhaps that’s the road to “Real Love” (yep, another Beatles classic).

And I’ll add to The Beatles (thank you very much) and say, “Do everything in your power to grow yourself with your partner while you learn how to let it be.

Be courageous and committed enough to learn how to:

  • Communicate your needs while hearing someone else’s needs.
  • Take the space you need in a relationship while learning how to reconnect with your partner after you took the space.
  • Grow yourself while growing the relationship.

 

Love is not something you give and get, but something you nurture and grow.  

Where can you “let it be” more this week? Real love is ours for the taking.

Email me your thoughts or leave a comment below. I want to know. I’m learning right along with you – always.

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