Today is my cousin Jody Rosenblum’s birthday. Dubbing herself my “older and wiser cousin” many years ago, she has been my go-to girl for all manner of adolescent and adult angsts. Her guidance is always grounded, solid, spiritual and often tinged with the Weinstein/Weiner humor gene. Her mother Jeanette and my father Moish were brother and sister whose bond lasts long into the Beyond where they both dwell. My aunt died when Jody was 20 and I was 18, after a long battle with cancer. That influenced her career choice as a social worker, who now serves in hospice, providing comfort for folks in the end stages of their lives, as well as their families and friends. She really is good at it. She and her husband Rich, who I actutally knew through social activism circles before he knew Jody, have raised two amazing young men, Aaron and Dan who are socially conscious and do right livelihood work in the world. She has every right to ‘kvell’ (Yiddish for ‘bursting with pride’) over these guys.
We often acknowlege that even if we weren’t related, we would have chosen each other as friends and that we are more similar to each other than we are with our own sisters. We live in the same area and people often ask me if she and I are family, since there is a resemblance. When we were growing up, we spent a fair amount of time together. She and her sister Renee were raised in Northeast Philly and when my sister Jan and I would visit, it felt to me, like a magical place. There were a few steps up to the rowhome and once I entered the front door into the vestibule and faced the other door that led into the living room, we would pretend an elevator was taking us up there. The wall length closets felt like an entrance to another dimension, their stall shower in the upstairs bathroom was the first I had ever seen. The alley behind the house was where we would play hopscotch for what would seem like hours. Remembering treats of cherry flavored ice pops and cookies made by her grandmother (her father’s mother) who was called ‘Cookie Bubbe’ for her culinary talents.
We lived together for a year in our twenties; sharing an apartment in West Collingswood, NJ, along with her cat Shayna who would awaken us at night sometimes to the sound of licking and chewing paper. Nightgown dances in the living room to the more pleasant sounds of, I am guessing 60’s Woodstock era music, being silly over who knows what? More recently, we go to music fests, take walks occasionally with her four leggeds, hang out in Doylestown, catch up in between visits and keep each other relatively sane and vertical in the midst of life stuff happening. I treasure my relationship with my cuz and am grateful that we got born into the same goofy family. Happy Birthday Hugs and Smooches!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIRtrR7LW7g Happy Birthday by Tom Chapin
Today I experienced an inevitable life event; the funeral of a dear cousin whose mother and my grandmother were sisters; two of the thirteen Bernstein siblings who grew up in Philadelphia in the last century. Ron and my mother were first cousins and although they lived in the Overbrook Park section of Philadelphia and we lived in suburban Willingboro, NJ, I have many fond memories of summer visits that brought them to our house. My generation cousins, Ricky, Steve and Teddy were fun playmates and as adults, we have remained in touch, but not nearly as much as our parents’ generation did and only on ‘occasions’ such as weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and on days such as this. The misty chill in the air felt appropriate to our collective emotional state; a palpable sadness that enveloped the gathering of those who loved Ron; this octogenarian who was viewed by all there as a man with a profound devotion to family, a delightful sense of humor and as I discovered when his grandson Eric shared, a connection with nature and a talent for creating finger/shadow puppets on the wall. We laughed and cried together in recollection. His wife Gladys passed in 1996 and I remember having this thought at her service that as much as I wanted to take away the emotional pain that the family was feeling, I couldn’t and truthfully, had no right to, since grief is personal and ours to experience in our own unique manner. This time, more than 16 years later, I had a different feeling. I watched as their sons, daughters in law, significant others, grandchildren, friends and extended family shed tears that symbolize the abiding connection he had with them and I (and this may sound totally off the wall), felt warmed by it in a way that took the chill away. Noses red from tears and 40 some degree temps, were part of the tribute to the love that wasn’t going anywhere.
I was honored to be asked to be a pall bearer, feeling as if I was standing in for my parents who passed in 2008 (my father) and 2010 (my mother). As we were carrying the casket to the gravesite, I felt as if they were standing beside me. After we said Kaddish, standing with her and her parents; two of the few remaining from my parents’ generation, Len and Joyce, my cousin Diane reached out her arm for comfort and I put my head on her shoulder as we watched the casket being lowered down, recalling all too well, the same scene twice in a cemetary in South Florida where my parents’ bodies found their final resting place. She turned my drippy tears into laughter by saying that she fully expected to see my father hanging around Mt. Sharon cemetary, since “It wouldn’t be a party without Moish.”
When my cousin Rick had called me a few days ago to tell me that his dad was now with his mom, I reminded him that there would definitely be a wild and wonderful Cousins’ Club reunion in Heaven. How grateful I feel to be part of a family in which roots go deep, branches reach high and wide and new buds are always blossoming.
This is the song I played at both my parents’ services at which I officiated (my mom actually asked for it) and I offer it Ron and all who love him.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMTKb-pgxGI Keep Me In Your Heart For Awhile- Warren Zevon
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”-Marianne Williamson
Lately I have been doing the dance that is really a metaphor for life; the Hokey Pokey. Life really IS more fun if you put your whole self in. The illusion I have been living is that I have been in that stance when in actuality, I have been putting one foot in and taking it out, one hand in and then removing it from the circle, having convinced myself that I was doing the former. Such a clever thing, denial can be. In my work as a therapist, coach, writer, speaker and minister, I am engaged in relationship; immersed in it, is a better description. Every day, I encounter people from different walks of life, of varying belief systems and behaviors. Just when I think I understand others and myself, experiences come along that tell me I have more work to do, to learn what makes myself and other people tick.
Yesterday, I was having lunch with friends who cosmically coincidentally have the same last name, but are not related, except in spirit. Ruth Anne Wood and Annabella Wood have been in my life for many years and I trust their wisdom implicitely. Each a Renaissance Woman in their own right, Ruth is a writer, speaker, coach and massage therapist and Annabella is a singer- songwriter, minister, teacher of The Work of Byron Katie, as well as a handywoman and for 30 years, had been a long distance truck driver. As I was digging into my salad at The Duck Deli in Doylestown, PA after attending services at Circle of Miracles, I was asking Annabella how she handles the juxtaposition of being a stage performer for which she might desire recognition or praise that sometimes becomes embarassing in its effusiveness. She smiled and sagely responded, “Either way, it isn’t about me. It’s about them,” indicating that she prefers not to take it personally. That’s what I wrestle with. The Shirley Temple tap dancing part of me slurps up the attention and kudos and the humble, wanting to hide in the safety of my blankie (if I can’t see you, you can’t see me) kidlet, feels uncomfortable with it. Not sure if it’s the Marianne Williamson iconic quote or the blessedly rare feedback that I receive that sometimes feels critical if I dare to step too far out of my comfort zone that has me retreating or even the inclination to have a pseudo-safer, calmer life.
Ruth and I were going over last minute details of a workshop we were offering in the afternoon in which we worked with a group of musicians and artists, helping them hone their crafts and gifts and get them out there into the world. I commented that my growing edge in that realm, since we teach what we need to learn, begs the question: “When is enough going to be enough for you, woman?” In the past few months, I have been invited to teach at various venues, held successful workshops and classes, have been serving therapy and coaching clients, been interviewed on radio shows, been asked to participate in webinars, co-author books, am writing my second book, will be launching a radio show called It’s All About Relationships, was included in a feature in Origin Magazine, been writing for new and ongoing magazines and blog sites….and the list is growing. She laughed and said, something like “Oh, you’re not successful? You just showed me this magazine with your picture and words in it.”
Then today, as I was working on the the text for the intro and extro clips for my radio show which I will be recording at Boffo Studio with the talented Rick Denzien later this afternoon, my wonderful producer Shayne Traviss, had me tweaking and polishing the language. An exercise in frustration at first, since I wanted it to be ‘just right’. He kept sending it back, asking me to essentially come from the heart not from the head, as I tend to overthink. Finally I sighed, gave in and just let if fly with the idea that it wasn’t gonna be perfect, just like relationships, but REAL. Once I sent that version, he gave it the thumbs up. I told him that my tendency was to rush through tasks to move on to the next. While that works with some things, relationship (and shows about them) isn’t one of them. It and all of my relationships deserve my time and attention, nurturing and love. In them, I want to put my whole self in..THAT’s what it’s all about.
http://youtu.be/UDmCSvqhhoI The Hokey Pokey
One of my favorite stories came to mind tonight as I was meeting with a client. She was facing major life changes and had a game plan to put it into action. I shared this wisdom as she nodded, having heard it before herself.
“There was once an American traveler who planned a safari to Africa. He was that typical Type-A American tourist, who many of us may be and who I admittedly am when I travel. We do our research about this travel destination and we have a timetable, maps, and a clear agenda of the things we need to see and do. Some local people had even been hired to carry some of the traveler’s supplies as they trekked throughout the land—it was that level of planning.
On the first morning, they all woke up early and traveled fast and covered a great distance. The second morning was the same—woke up early, traveled fast, and traveled far. Third morning, same thing. But on the fourth morning, the local hired help refused to move. Instead, they sat by a tree in the shade well into the morning. The American traveler became incensed and irate and said to his translator, “This is a waste of valuable time. Can someone tell me what’s going on here?” The translator looked at him and calmly answered, “They’re waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.”Terry Hershey, Sacred Necessities: Gifts for Living with Passion, Purpose, and Grace, 68-69.
After hearing these wise words, my client smiled beatifically, patted her heart and repeated the words several times “Letting my soul catch up with my body.” I sighed along with her, since I too was in need of that good advice that I was guided to offer her. I convince myself that I am going at a managable pace, until, like tonight on the way home, I experienced heart skippity palpitations in consideration of all of the things on my to-do list for the next few weeks. Instead of heading right out to the gym which I know would be good for me, I elected to get some rest, which would be nourishing as well, with the committment to do my Planet Fitness playout tomorrow. Writing feeds my soul and calms me as well, thus our cyber conversation at the moment. Since I teach this stuff, it doesn’t serve me or anyone else to be hypocritical. It is indeed my own sacred necessity in the words of Terry Hershey above to honor the calling within me to slow down and simply BE in this moment, even as the world might be swirling around me and my son is watching a Quentin Tarantino movie upstairs with 10 screams per minute. I am doing my best to be in my bliss bubble as I tune it out. I am in my happy place on a mountain top, with the air breezily blowing, the sweet serenade of calling birds, the cloud dappled blue sky hovering above and a magnficent view below so I can get the bigger picture. And if you happen to find me there, don’t mind me. I’m just letting my soul catch up.