Saturday, December 25, 2010
It's Christmas day. It's quiet and everyone is napping except my son. He and I are watching the Lakers game. I'd love to be in the stands at Staples Center and watch the game with Miami up close and in personal. My sons have season tickets but they live in Las Vegas at the moment. They've been going to Laker games since they were in grammar school in Beverly Hills when their physical education coach took them to their first games. Even though they can't see the Lakers play at Staples regularly (they sell the tickets when they don't use them), they have vowed to keep the season tickets into eternity. Every once in awhile I got to see a game with one of my sons. I love basketball and I love the Lakers.
It's a peaceful day. I still feel the joy of being in Park City with my oldest son and his family - my three grandsons from and my wonderful daughter in law. This morning I took them to the airport to catch a flight to Florida to be with their other grandparents. Last night we had a family dinner with #2 son and his family - and another grandson and baby granddaughter - and it rocked with energy. Son #2 made a fabulous meal - he's an unbelievable chef - and I sat back in my chair with a glass of red wine and thought how blessed I have been in my life. For months now I have been astounded at the joy I have felt. For so long, my journey has felt like a bumpy road; but lately, it's been quite smooth. Is it my age - an arrival of some kind of wisdom? Is it the decades of putting one foot in front of another to keep my life moving in a positive direction? Is it finally that I have slowly realized that I have been so blessed with a sense of gratitude that life truly is peaceful?
The practice of my tao, my journey of truth consists in daily losing. I accept this idea of loss because it is in my surrender to it the loss that I stay conscious, offer gratitude, release attachments, and find balance in yin and yang of all that makes up my life.
The end of a year gives all of us the opportunity to pause and reflect about the state of our being, our souls, and to connect with ourselves in a more profound sense. In meditation, we learn to empty our minds and resist the impulse to fill ourselves up with needless thoughts and judgments, which only cause anxiety and stress. In the final days up to the end of the year, I find that clearing the mind of the unnecessary thoughts leads me to clear intentions in the days ahead.
As I bring in each new year, it has been my habit to celebrate the wonderful experiences of the past year and to note the losses as a positive learning experience. Then, I look forward to bringing in this new year with a sense of excitement and anticipation and positive energy. And I renew with conviction to my family and dear friends and to my devotion to yoga and meditation.
A happy new year to all.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Alas, I have some free time. My year old grandson is asleep with his morning nap and everyone in my family is out. The two older grandsons are in ski school and their parents, my son and daughter in law are picking up my ex-husband a lady friend up from the airport. I'm in Park City on a family week's vacation and it is so beautiful that I can't take my eyes off the snow coming steadily down every minute of the day and night. We are packed in and it is completely serene.
The other day I received a note on my Facebook page from a boy who gave me my first kiss in the back row of the Rafael theater in San Rafael. I was astounded and, well, so downright astounded that I coudn't move for several minutes. He was my first love in fifth grade, and he, a much older boy in the sixth grade, was my sexual experience. The First Kiss. I will never forget. And I remember vividly this first crush because I really liked him for a very long time. I'm that kind of girl: hard to let go of really like or love because people get close to my heart, inside my heart and I'm way too sensitive to that condition. This note from my first crush - a good kisser as I recall because I remember good kissers - gave me pause in so many ways.
It has taken me awhile to get use to this social networking gig. For so long, I resisted. In time, I just discovered that if I surrendered and accepted what is instead of fighting what I want it to be that I would be okay, it would be all right in my brain and I could cope. As a result of my released anxiety and rigidity, I've reconnected with a good portion of my high school graduating class and renewed friendships and even engaged in making really good friends with those people I didn't even know very well in high school. When I had my reading and signing of my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer, at Barnes and Noble in November in Corte Madera, CA, I was astounded at the warmth and comfort of seeing some my old classmates who live in the area, and some even came from the east coast. I was elated and excited and I still carry that joy with me. And it was all a result of social networking. Who knew?
My first kiss reminded me that we are all separated by only six degrees. We know people who know people who know people and then we all know the same people in a few strokes. My fifth grade boyfriend was talking to some friends at his high school reunion in October of this year, and they were talking about "what ever happened to...." and my name came up. The two guys he was talking to knew me well in school - one from grammar school at St. Raphael's and the other from our high school, Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield. One was on the cheerleading squad with me and I adored him. He married his high school sweetheart whom I adored, too. Kind of reminded me of three guys in a locker room talking about the girls in school and how they discover who "puts out" and who doesn't. But thankfully they weren't talking about my first kiss but where I was and how I could be contacted on Facebook. So my first boyfriend contacted me. Turned out to be a smart guy and a blogger, too.
I also found an old favorite friend on Linkedin yesterday. I thought she still lived in Idaho and found out she is back in LA and I'm thrilled - we are joyous to have each other back in our lives. These connections have happened so often since this social networking paradigm has exploded that I am still in a state of wonderment.
In the beginning, I hated text messaging. I write in my book about my loathing of the construct of texting instead of actually hearing another voice on the phone (which I still prefer). It upset me to think that social interaction had taken such a wrong turn. But my private yoga clients kept texting me and it drove me crazy and in defense I had to text them back because I know they were too busy to talk to me on the phone to discuss changes in their schedules. I was finally convinced that I had to be involved in the texting connection. All my young and beautiful yoga clients were thrilled.
In our modern society it is difficult to have straight, honest social interaction. In my life, the only way left to me is by dancing Argentine tango. Through tango, one socializes and rediscovers a meeting point with people that can rarely be found in modern society: the embrace of two people, the shared wordless conversation with pauses and physical embellishments, the thrill of the music recognized by a man and a woman. Texting pales besides this kind of human connection. Tango has staying power because its conventions and traditions remain constant and comforting. I will never succumb to dancing apart to house music. It's the sterile cuckoo.
Today, there is an outright race to see who can reinvent the reinvention of the social networking media. I'm not going to be an old fogey about this state of affairs. Hey, I'm even one to download movies on my computer for entertainment because I'm too lazy or cheap or more than likely don't have a date to go the movies and experience the film in its glorious color and technology and immediacy of performance. I can take the easy way out, too, but it's not such an amazing experience without the full monty.
So we need to make accommodations to our social interaction. It's so much fun to hear from my first kiss, my first boyfriend, and so much joy to hear from my travel friend who is taking an amazing trip to Patagonia, and so happy to receive word from my oldest best friend since childhood that she is gathering her spirits after the death of her beloved husband and creating new traditions for the holidays. What could be better at this stage of my life to take up the slack of social interaction when everyone lives so far apart? I am blessed by the the instrument of the computer, the electronic age, and the genius brains of all those pioneers who take us to another level of communication.
The best thing about all this is that no one, absolutely no one, can take away from us the face to face, body to body embrace.
Monday, December 20, 2010
I read an article today that quoted statistics that over eighty percent of baby boomers are pessimistic about the current direction of the United States, according to the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends study released Monday. Who can blame them with retirement and pension funds shrinking and with the unemployment rate near 10%. The study says that boomers have reported less overall life satisfaction during their adulthood than have previous generations. One-fifth of baby boomers believe their standard of living is lower than their parents'. And about a third expect their children to experience an even lower standard of living.
We are a a rather depressed generation at this moment. We are mostly feeling blue because we lost about 20% to 30% of our investments and 401(K)s. Most boomers figure they have to defer retirement even though Wall Street seems to be staging a comeback. You might think there is another bubble in the works the way the market shot up last year?
But folks between the ages of 50 and 55 are fearful of losing their jobs. What ever happened to middle and upper management positions? Whatever happened to manufacturing in the good old US of A. And the boomers over 55 and advancing to 60, well, good luck because if anyone is going to be hired, it's going to be younger, more part-time people who work cheaper. Well, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know except that did you know you were somehow depressed about this situation and probably suffering from anxiety and stress? Oh, you knew that already, too?
So as Stan says to Ollie: "We're in a fine kettle of fish, Ollie? What are we going to do, now?" Ollie, who knows less than Stan, hits Stan over the head with his hat and that's his answer to the question of what they are going to do. It's always the answer to what they are going to do. There's no way out for them.
But even with our backs against the wall sometimes, we've got to keep on truckin'. Because "We are creatures of faith, victims of destiny, which we create."
So, finally, in the end, it's all about the human experience, don't you know. Thanks, Ziggy Marley.
Do you know what I'm talking about? If not, let's think about taking it to a higher vibration. That's the way we liberate our life, get out of the rut, move through the resistance, for we are creatures of love and we've got to keep on living because we've got lots to be thankful for. And that's the higher vibration.
I was taking a long walk in the snow yesterday; in fact, there was a steady drizzle of snow and I was trudging up a hill listening to Ziggy Marley. I heard the line: "Perfection of divinity is everyone's duty. Don't waste your times living for the vanities." And then Ziggy says, "I know you know what I'm talking about. It's our human existence we're talking about." I was riveted to the lyrics of the song, "Higher Vibration." I loved the message because it was all about gratitude and love. Let the others of the world get those big Wall Street bonuses and buy another house in the Hamptons and and spend their money on bigger cars and art and all those other vanities. Our higher vibration is about perfecting our divinity, saving our own souls, living an honorable life with a generosity of spirit and a sense of forgiveness.
When the snowflakes came down, when the wetness hit my face, when the sound of the music and the message came into my consciousness, I knew we'd be all right and my children and my grandchildren would live a good life, maybe without so much money, maybe with more happiness and maybe on a higher vibration.
Friday, December 17, 2010
I've been a work horse all my life. It almost seems like I'm not living if I'm not working. It could be actually working like in an office or writing as in a screenplay or marketing my book as in Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer (I'm throwing that in for my friend who needles me about my endless plugs for my book) or taking care of children or grandchildren. But I'm always working at something.
The question has been: is it ever possible for me to actually relax and enjoy doing practically nothing or actually nothing. There are those who have no problem with that; I'm not one of them. At least, I haven't been up until recently.
Last week, on my vacation to Curacao, an island in the Caribbean that is close to Venezuela and part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao), I became a believer that relaxation was possibility in my life. Maybe it was the company I was keeping on the island or maybe it was the island itself - the small isolated beaches that were practically empty, the sound of the water lulling me into a mindless stupor, the birds endless singing in the palm trees, the warmth of the Caribbean waters - maybe all of that was the reason why I was actually chilling. Or maybe it was the cherubic smile that was always on the face of my companion. But I gave up my control of my universe. I surrendered all thought, all anxiety, all sense of thinking that I was missing something elsewhere in the world. I relaxed fully and joyfully. Of course, it's always nice to have some help.
I love to travel. I feel like I can have full range of motion on with my life. The journey away from the comfort of my home and the routine of my life is therapeutic. I may fight my way into my time away from Los Angeles; I may not want to really go a week before, but when when I settle in on that plane to somewhere, I know I am in the right place.
Perhaps it's the seduction of wanderlust. It engulfs me from time to time and when I am away from home, I am truly away without much thought to what is going on back at the ranch. And I think I have become partial to islands because I felt the same way in Bali in August. These island cultures sweep me away with their indigenous populations and particular habits and behaviors. Their cultures fascinate me and I dive head first into the history of its land and people. There is so much to see and so much to learn. Judgments are limited and perspective enlarge.
We stayed at a place called The Scuba Lodge. It doesn't look much different on the outside from the other buildings in the block except for those buildings that are being renovated, and they, too, will eventually become little boutique residences for tourists. The buildings are all in the neo-colonial architecture style, each with a different brightly painted color. And if you know anything about Curacao, the locals love color. It's the most colorful island of all of the Caribbean islands. However, behind the gate of our choice of residence, we found the most charming atmosphere. A married couple from Holland (they moved to Curacao thirteen years ago) own and operate the Scuba Lodge and they also run a diving school. There is no sandy beach behind the building, but there are steps to the warm ocean waters where the divers enter. The scene is so serene, especially when we sit at the bar and look out over the ocean at sunset. The Dutch youth who work at the lodge are personable, bright, funny and way good looking. They make espresso and serve breakfast in the morning and if you want a late snack at night, they can whip up a tuna sandwich that will knock your socks off. The lodge is clean and well kept.
My friend and I practically had the run of the place. We arrived a week before the season officially began and we parked ourselves at the bar or danced tango in the big room surrounded by scuba equipment and wet suits and blasted our tango music. During the late hours of the morning, many people dropped by to socialize and catch up on some local gossip. We met people from Finland and Holland and Germany. The place reminded me of what Key West might have been like when Hemingway visited. People of like minds, travelers, writers, ex-Pats, gather in a place to commune with one another in an honest exchange of ideas and opinions. We can all discover the history of a place, it's origins and culture and present mood, but it's the people one meets on the road to that discovery which makes the experience come alive. During the days, we snorkeled at the various small beaches and saw live coral and so many types of fish that I lost track of them all. I can still smell the salt water and taste it on my mouth. Glorious days of floating and swimming will live on in my memory. The stillness in the water was incredible.
I am now sitting in my son's kitchen in Vegas babysitting three of my grandsons and looking forward to spending more of my vacation time with my family. This will be yet another way of letting go and surrendering to the present and not returning my thoughts to my home. Bodies and minds in motion - it's a wonderful place to be.
Happy holidays to everyone. A joyous and peaceful new year to all.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I was walking through the UCLA campus late this afternoon, taking the path up Bruin Way. One of the many tables lining the pathway caught my eye. The sign said: "Religion is for the Weak."
I was surprised by the sign. Now, I 'm not a religious person anymore. I left the auspices of organized religion many years ago. At one time, I was very religious and attended daily Mass and received Holy Communion frequently. But the years of following man-made doctrine blindly lost its appeal the older I got because the more I discovered the divineness within myself (namaste), the idea of organized religion became less appealing. Going to Mass was habit and rote behavior. When I learned to meditate, I was a journey of mind and spirit connection that became a stronger force in my life.
But that doesn't mean to say that codes of ethics and behaviors in organized religion aren't important. I believe they add direction in life if they are based on a generosity of spirit and forgiveness. Most religions portend to extrapolate on those themes. But the idea that I should go to church for an hour every Sunday and listen to a preacher tell me how to live a peaceful and joyful life doesn't sit well with me because I can leave Church and steal a lipstick from CVS while I buy Kleenex at the check out counter.
Does religion truly make us weak? I find that to be a pretty radical concept. Perhaps it doesn't truly make a person weak, but religion can alter the perspective of the individual and urge him or her to accept only what the institution has to say. What then happens to personal responsibility? Who is creating one's spiritual journey? The institution or the self? It's easier to let the priest tell me what I should think or how I should act. Hence, our divineness doesn't emanate from within our own soul to act with charity and responsibility to each other or to nurture our individual spirit. It comes from someone telling us to act in a specific way.
As I walked away from the table on Bruin Way, I felt a sense of relief that in the positive energy that I generated within myself, I had the ability to give back love and respect to those I care about, my family and dear friends. I truly believed that a life of fulfillment and peace begins by taking steps to find the divine within ourselves.
I remember wanting to go to church at one point in my life because I wanted to be with like people, people who believe with faith and love that the church we were attending was the institution that helped us live a better life. That's not a weakness to believe this; it is an idea based on faith. And faith does not make us weak. But there is more to faith than believing that the institution representing a divine being is always on the right path. The right path is a path of our own choosing attained through mindfulness and staying conscious and present in life. Through the study of yoga and by practicing meditation, I discovered that it would be through my efforts at self-discovery and growth that I would achieve some kind of transformation and finally acceptance of my Tao, my life's journey.
So namaste, boomers. The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Question: Is going along with the zeitgeist always the right thing to do?
I'm conflicted. Today I got a twitter account and I feel sick inside. Ready to vomit up every bit of social networking I have done in the last year. First, I swore I would never text message (see my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer and my new website which will be up in a few days). I've been text messaging like an addict for a month. And then I vowed you would never catch me twittering. And I'm twittering. I can't believe my wonderful, delightful friend and website designer opened an account for me today faster than I could say, "No, never, not me, don't do it! I don't want to go along with the crowd! Leave me alone!"
I wrote my first twitter to Chesley and I learned some of those signs. Hash. What's that word all about? Now I have to go to T-Mobile and open something called a twitter account so I can twitter on my phone. "Twitter once a day," Chesley said to me as he was putting the finishing touches on my website. "Remember, this is the way you are going to market your book." Twitter one a day. Right. Meanwhilem I'm trying to find time to blog twice a week. Who has all this time? I have a day job.
"If you want to sell a book, you've got to twitter. That's the social networking zeitgeist," I said to my friend John at our Saturday sushi dinner before our milonga.
He looked at me blankly. "Zeitgeist?" he sheepishly asked. "You know darling, I didn't go to Berkeley in the 60s so I never learned that word."
"Didn't you ever watch Woody Allen's old movies, back in the 70s and part of the 80s when he was really a relevant film maker? "
"No, darling, do tell," he prodded me with a smirk. "You must know all this stuff because you went to...."
I cut him off. "Don't be smarmy, darling. It's really simple. When Woody made "Manhattan" or "Hannah and her Sisters" or "Annie Hall," he was humorously reflecting back to his audience a moment in our culture when our emotional and psychological relationship were paralyzed by anxiety. We were a country full of angst ridden people who were never truly honest about relationships. His characters tried to hide from each while they were trying to have relationships and everything got irrational, and, of course, it was funny. But we were really laughing at ourselves. And we all ran to therapy to solve our problems. Woody's characters and their situations held up a mirror to that particuar time in which we lived."
"Isn't that what we do all the time?" he smartly asked.
"Yeah. But today we lie more than we used to. At least Allen's characters were trying to be honest."
"But you know Woody Allen is really not a very good film maker today. He's not what he used to be. That "Vickie, Christina, Barcelona" story was really, really insipid and self-indulgment."
"Well, I guess if you keep pounding the zeitgeist to death, you get smello-drama," I said. "Like social networking is getting to today. Too much of anything flattens out the living experience."
And then I saw "60 minutes" tonight. Zuckerman, the founder of Facebook was talking about combining email and messaging and some other relating concept into a giant pimple that was to be inserted into people's brains and we would all become social networking godzillas. Believe me, this 26 year old dude will find a way to consume Google and Yahoo and every other information portal until finally our world will truly be flat.
This whole social networking concept turns human brain matter to mush. Everyone begins to mutter the same banalities. Thinking is reduced to one liners and log lines and trivial pursuits. Chesley told me that when I twittered, I was to be brief. No more than three lines. Even Arianna Huffington from the Huffington Post twitters. I saw her one line today. OMG! She is someone I thought had some form of higher intelligence. Even Arianna has succumbed to a social marketing pressure.
And sadly, so have I. I hope I won't go to hell for this.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I was in the post office this morning mailing my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer to a wonderful woman who used to be my partner in the theater we owned in Las Vegas, Nevada, from 1977 to 1892. Maryan was the co-founder and daily managed the finances for our professional theater - The Meadows Playhouse. She was my right arm and guide through this very challenging project. Those were some of the best years of my life. On my left was a brilliant, creative genius of a man who went on to direct on Broadway. Philip was a show boy at the old Dunes Hotel and a former junior high music teacher. He was a musical maven who sang Sondheim like he was born inside the lyricist's head. Creatively, we were a team and each other's support. We fostered excitement, generated creative projects and lived our three lives on the edge for six years.
We were not just along for the ride. We were in it to the finish, to the end, to the moment when the curtain came down. And when the curtain finally dropped to our mix of sadness and joy, we three went off to hitch ourselves to yet another chapter in our lives that took us to new and interesting places and to other edges. And we were not just along for the ride on the next leg of our journeys either.
What makes people just go along for the ride in life? These are people who just exist and contribute very little to the enrichment of themselves and to their environment. These are people who tread water.
In the post office this morning, I was quickly signing my book to Maryan as I was putting it in the package and the woman behind the counter - and I know all those women because we are up close and personal on a weekly basis - took the book out of my hands.
"Let me see that," she said. She studied the cover.
"Is that you? she asked with a smile.
"Yep," I responded.
"Living at 60 and dancing tango..." she mused. "That's the way to go."
"I couldn't agree more," I said as I gave her my 4x6 marketing card I am so proud of.
"I guess you're not just along for the ride," she said smiling as she gave one of my marketing cards to the woman next to her. She smiled in communion with our sisterhood as she looked up at me.
"Nope. I'm never along just for the ride. Life is just too damn good."
So why do people stagnant and stand back and observe and issue judgments of others and never try for the brass ring? Is it natural in the DNA?
Sometimes I think that the blend of nature and nurture goes awry. We're born with a certain level of intelligence and we can always exceed that level. And you don't always have to be a college graduate, thank you Steve Jobs. Mr. Jobs dropped out of school to follow his passions and look what he created. So it's not always about book learning. But at the present moment in our culture there is, in my humble opinion, too much sponging going on. We sponge off TV personalities; we sponge off movies and sub-par reality shows and sitcoms and other people's dramas in the newer version of movie magazines, all of which disconnect us from being conscious. These environmental stimuli do nothing but numb the brain and petrify the body. We've gone beyond couch potatoes. We've become those inanimate couches covered in old fashioned plastic wraps that our grandmothers protected their sofas with so that no one would ever have to actually feel what they were sitting on. We weren't allowed to feel the fabric and enjoy the rest. Besides, the plastic stuck to my legs all the time and made a mark on the back. I looked like I had cellulite at twelve. Couch potatoes are just along for the ride because they have become inured to real emotion, unable to feel the real joy in their hearts and minds because they are into plastic wrap.
Get conscious plastic people! You are really annoying to those who participate in life and love. My girls at the post office get it. They are always happy and vibrant and courteous and alive with questions and they are attending the party. I know you don't believe me because I'm talking about the post office, folks, but it's damn true. You can be in any walk of life and feel the joy and live life to the fullest. Or you can be a hanger-on and sponge off the TV and live someone else's life.
It's up to you.