A True Nightmare According to Albert Camus

 

“There is no love of life without despair of life.” ~Albert Camus
I hate when philosophers hit the nail on the head.

The damn founder of absurdism highlighted my absurd avoidance that has cost me a huge part of my life. And I have to be honest – I don’t know what I am going to do now, today I am still devastated, in shock and super sad.

Two point five years ago, I sat in the back of a taxi. A cold winter day, I was bundled to high heaven but stripped in the back of the taxi as I was covered in hives – a reaction from stress. Heading to NYU medical center, I peer out the dirty taxi window (wishing for Windex – OCD in full swing) but also distracting myself from the terrifying tests I must get done while also feeling brave that I’m making it to the doctors. Step one was making it there and I was doing that. I was choosing not to avoid. So, I thought – I am conquering my fear, right?

I phone my mother. She picks up with Tina Turner blaring in the background at 9AM which translates to, sh*t she’s drinking.  And f*ck she has cirrhosis. I am now worried about her and distracted from me. I told her where I was going, launched off into my fear and was met with pure rage. This, my friends, was the perfect example of what I tell friends and clients not to do and I was doing it…

Don’t go to the hardware store for milk.  

 

Mom (hardware store) does not do vulnerability.

I know this but in this moment I really wanted her to. She never had the ability to compassionately comfort my fears and what I was sharing terrified her.  What does Mom do when terrified? Lash out, of course. And alcohol took control of her black portable phone with the Private Dancer album underscoring our fight.

I hang up, dejected, sobbing in the backseat watching Taxi TV with my dear friend on Talk Stoop wishing I had called Cat instead of Mom. I pay my taxi fair and head up for my testing.

And I never picked up those results. (That was almost 3 years ago.)

I was too scared to cope so I did a half ass job to protect myself.

When you live in avoidance + procrastination, you pay a greater price over time.   #Awareness

 

And here I am, these years later, crying different tears in the back seat of the car.

My mom has now died from her alcoholism and I miss her terribly. Today, I bring with me someone to hear the tests. I learned from my mistakes. No more avoidance.

I choose now to do none of this alone and ask for support from friends who had the time and were capable of just loving me. I look to my right at my friend Lisa in the back seat, expressing deep regret of not getting the results 2.5 years ago; she watches me cry tears for my mother, she, too, has lost her mom. She really gets it.

I know who to go to now – no more hardware store for milk for me. And we receive the results together from the doctor directly only to find out…

I waited too long to have a baby. I cannot have a child.

The doctor goes as far as refunding some of my money as my test results were so bad there was no point at doing an ultrasound. He tells me this as my tears flow all over his big, brown Raymour & Flanigan looking desk. The doctor begins to escort me out of his office. He had no capacity to care for my breakdown and gestures to Stephanie – his secretary – who will “take it from here.”

My dear friend (who after trying in vitro for 3 years ended up adopting two boys) tells the doctor just how inconsiderate he’s being. I loved her for saying what I couldn’t. She took her shark backpack and me as far away from NYU, called her assistant, cleared a portion of her work day, and was with me while I grieved this news.

Lisa knows me well enough to not strategize “next steps yet” cause I would drop kick her if she did. Always cherish the friends who know you!

Knowing who to go to for support is key to being supported.

And yes…

  • waiting to find a partner…
  • fear of taking real, concrete steps to learn about my fertility…
  • avoidance to cope…

Cost me the chance to have a baby with my eggs; my genes that would have parts of my mother in her/him.

So what next?

I don’t know yet. All I can say is when fear is in the driver’s seat and you procrastinate to cope, time goes by and your “safety” comes with a cost. And yes, I know anyone who wants to be a mother will have a child but the first way I always dreamed of was taken from me.

Avoid less. Deal with it in doses more.                                                                         #Action

So now I deal – in doses – with this news. If I choose, my path to motherhood will look very very different and I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t have deep despair around that right now. But I do know if I don’t move action forward in doses I will never hold the love of my life in my arms.

So yes, Albert Camus, “There is no love of life without despair of life.” If I have a child it will not have come without great despair and that is some real life right there.

I can only teach what I need to learn most. #DiStyle

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Take a minute to think about what you’ve been avoiding. What is it costing you? How is it really serving you? And how can you take a small step towards what you desire most? Email me or leave a comment below. It’s all about sharing so you can begin to take action.

A 10 year old inspires my secrets to the best possible life

Before we begin, quick skinny: I have been coaching kids and the parents who ((love)) them for over ten years now and it is honestly some of the most profound work I do. I wanted to give you a peek into my work because it is simply the coolest thing ever.

As a coach working with kids, I am really into conversations that instill curiosity and require families to get real with each other, and I often use pop culture as a way in.

I find it to be a sort of common ground in order to raise consciousness in the child’s language.

Recently, one of my 10 year old clients and I were discussing the Oscars and the year of Frozen. If you have a child you probably know it and if you don’t you probably still know it—it was that big, right? So, Daniela (my 10 year old) was telling me how psyched she was that she was able to stay up late and watch Idina Menzel sing “Let it Go.” She commented not on what the world commented on (Adele Dazeem, anyone?) but the fact that Idina looked scared on stage. I didn’t comment, but instead became wildly curious and let her do the talking.

Daniela said, “ She didn’t seem to be having much fun.” She paused, “But it is a serious song, I guess.” We continued to talk about her amazing observations into the psyche of the woman performing the biggest song of the year.

So, I decided we should write a list for that woman—for Idina Menzel so that maybe next time she can have Daniela’s wisdom in her pocket. Her advice, which began as tips she used when performing in front of her class morphed into something called The Secrets to the Best Life Possible.  I must say, what this little one thought of was not only her version of The Four Agreements, but was something every artist, executive, mother, friend, lover; any human being can do to simply improve their quality of life.

 

The Secrets to the Best Life Possible

1) Always do your best
2) Have fun
3) Be grateful for the opportunity
4) Look forward to next time. (There always will be one)

Pretty profound, right?  What struck me most was our discussion regarding #3 & #4.  She wondered if people are still grateful if they don’t do the performance the way they wanted to. I shared with her that there are times I am not grateful for that reason. Daniela came to the conclusion that you have to be grateful either way or #3 doesn’t work!

Daniela said, “I mean it was the Oscars! I bet everyone in the world would have loved to do it!” This was when she decided to put in parenthesis next to #4 that there would always be a next time—for Idina, and for everyone. I made sure to let her know that many times kids possess greater wisdom than adults because adults often assume that when things don’t go their way there will (((never))) be a next time! She looks at me and says, “Well, that’s silly, right?” I laughed out loud. She is so wise.

I left that day thinking about how silly it really is that adults get doom and gloom so fast. Daniela’s resilience seemed a thing so long removed from me. But I realized that I could access that resilience, that joy, if I just choose to. It is never silly to keep moving forward—there will always be a next time.

The work I do with The Kidz Coach is profound for them and honestly for me. After this session I did the recap with Daniela’s amazing mom and we spoke about “how” to implement this coaching skill. My sessions are all about the parent recap and if you work with me you know it is the ((BEST)) part.  All this stuff is great in theory but the real magic happens when my parents apply what they learn and two generations grow and change at the same time.

I must say, I had to remind myself just the other day “Look forward to next time. (There always will be one.)”  Sometimes we grownups manage our disappointment by getting jaded and prepare ourselves by thinking the worst. The Kidz Coach would never teach “catastrophic thinking” as a means to cope so you bet this coach got her mind straight, you gotta walk your talk I say!!!

“Who we are is what our children become,” I find myself saying that a lot to clients.  I will also say I am grateful that so many families are changing history through awareness and action and that I get to be witness to it!!

I honestly have the ((best )) job ever!!

 

Why Fantasy Has No Place in Love

It might be loving but it may not be fun.

I had such resistance about going here in regards to love but it seemed like after this week, I saw clients and friends crumbling and truthfully, myself, as well.

Boundaries are loving responses to yourself. But keeping a boundary may not be fun.

I remember asking my very savvy therapist 6 years ago, “You must see so many fabulous people in NYC grow old alone. Why is this?”

“Fantasy,” she quickly replied. Bam!

I hear clients and even myself say these things (I put an ** next to mine for transparency):

  • I am attracted to drama. Why?  
  • I date unavailable men who think they are available. **
  • I never date the good guys.
  • I get bored easily.
  • All I want is a partner in life who gets me. **

All of the above involve fantasy in a way. Let me break it down…

I date unavailable men who think they are available.

If they were “available” it would require: closeness, vulnerability – possibly seeing their imperfections and letting them see mine. “Unavailable” means you don’t get to really know them,  nor do they see the real you.  And the chase + mystery can go on forever along with time – precious time. Unavailable keeps the fantasy alive. Get it?

Dating unavailable people is easier but also dangerous.

And chances are if you have been single for longer than you wish, you may be too comfortable in the fantasy.  Fantasies are fun, right? But …

The fantasy costs you time in love.

Truth is, when I look at my mother and father, I see how both of them pined after people who they were in past relationships with. They loved to “fix” people rather than fix themselves. They could romanticize anything or anyone into amazingness but in time, no one would ever be good enough or match the fictitious person they created in their head.

So all I say is this…

Get to know someone, really know them. And let them know you.

But how do we begin to do that?

The great Helen Fisher recently spoke about the 4 things you need to have for a lasting, happy relationship:

  1. Be with someone who has the same relationship goals.
  2. Do novels things together, regularly.
  3. See the good in them more than you see their flaws.
  4. Snuggle, hold hands – physically touch. (Anyone can have sex, tenderness is different ya’ll- I added that part.)

Notice there ain’t no fantasy on that list.  The path of relationships is rooted in reality, not the dream of what could be,  but rather what is and letting that unfold.

If you want some doable, action packed tips each week, click here and I’ll pop into your inbox every Friday.  

Where do you stay rooted in fantasy? Which of Helen’s 4 must haves can you do? What’s the most difficult one for you? Email me or leave a comment below.

Finally, I Can Tell You My Secret.

2016_04_15blog

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…

 

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