The real and present Danger of Retail Therapy

Thursday is Moving Day. My life in New York is almost done. So is my affair with Retail Therapy. I need a desk-chair and a cocktail table. Perhaps a stand for my oriental vase. That’s it. Over and out.

I know.Time is up. It’s getting boring. But it’s more fun than writing. Or than worrying about how much money I’m spending, or obsessing over the fact that the forbissen*  woman at a certain silversmiths on East 45th street conned me out of more than a thousand on my sterling flatware while I acted as her unwitting accomplice. You’d think I might have suspected something as soon as she positioned the face of  the scale so it was visible only to her. Or when I questioned her motive and she told me she was no “Fishmonger.” Not walking out meant the die was cast.

I took the money she offered (I was tired and overwhelmed, but hey, no excuses), slid into the limo waiting outside to ferry me home from what I had hoped would be my big killing (why else would I take a limo?). Then told the story several times over to those willing to listen. In the past I have walked away from bigger and better. But this time I caved. Or I surrendered to the process. I prefer option #2.  It’s the way to save face.

Onward! It’s all part of the master plan. It must be: it happened. And the lesson is as usual:

* Practice the art of non-attachment. Both to your silver and the money you think you’ll get for it.

* Stop futzing around..Say Yes or No to whatever choices arise. Then, move on. Fast!

* And if your selling silver, learn the difference between Troy ounces and regular ounces, so you know what you’re dealing with.

 Even when retail therapy has gone out the window, and you’ve been bowed by the most  trying circumstances, you may use this imagery exercise to become more resilient.

 Falling Free

Close your eyes and exhale through your mouth one time. See sense and feel how you’ve become a cat falling out of a tree. Let go and be completely relaxed, as you land lightly on the ground below.
Breathe out. Know how you are falling out of a tree at every moment of your life. And that there’s no need to resist, or to think about it.
 Breathe out. Know and live how by clinging to the promises of material life you create a state of tension and anxiety.  Seeing clearly, know how there is nothing to cling to. And that you’re falling together with the whole world. Notice what happens and how you feel.

*Forbissen means forbidding, bitter, mean spirited in Yiddish. .I.E. She had a forbissen look on her face.

The Birthday Girls: Gloria And Me

Today is Gloria Steinem’s birthday. Yesterday was my own. But, Gloria will celebrate hers, riding an elephant in Botswana, while I celebrated mine at Cafe D’Alsace on East 88th street in Manhattan. My motto is both unimaginative and simple. Better safe than sorry.

For years I’ve stood in awe of Gloria’s talent, beauty, sustainability, productivity and fearlessness. And I am happy to cheer her on while she rides elephants in Africa, as I ride the Amtrak regional to Baltimore next week, to my new home in Silver Spring Maryland. Despite our differences she’s a fine role model. I could do much worse.

Above all it’s her grit that I envy. And yes, though I’m loathe to admit it, “Envy,” is the word that comes to mind.

I was shocked when I learned that she’d never had it easy. That my imaginings about her life as a well-born society girl whose family sent her off to Smith to join a sorority and claim her blond, rich girl spoils were as far from truth as one could get.. Instead of a silver spoon she had a mentally ill mother for whom she sacrificed much and got little in return, and a father who left her holding the reins of responsibility, both emotionally and financially, barely into her teens. But she struggled and overcame. She survived cancer and the death of her husband whom she married late and lost within a couple of years. Yet among her many trials and accomplishments, for me there is one event that defines her.

It happened on “Larry King Live” in the early 90′s, when a woman called in, and said how she had waited 15 years to speak with her, and at last the  moment had come. Fine so far. Everyone was all smiles. But with her next words she changed course and accused Gloria of having destroyed the world and American society, and that for this she should “Rot in Hell.” Yes, exactly. Rot in hell. Even the Obama haters haven’t gone this far. Wait. I take that back. I just haven’t heard it yet.

Neither King nor Steinem said a word. Gloria lowered her head for a moment, absorbed the venom, rose above it, and moved on.

I doubt I could have done that. I am grateful that she did it for me. That she did it for all of us who believe in ourselves as human beings, no matter what gender, and refuse to back down on being authentic. I cannot be as brave, or beautiful, or brilliant. I have not stood, and marched, nor have I started a magazine, while others made fun of my ambition and belittled the possibility of my success. I haven’t put myself front and center in any fight at all beyond my personal struggles to remain whole. But on this day I am happy just to know we share a sign and almost a birthday as we continue to move on through the ups and downs of this amazing life.

I don’t get excited about birthdays. I haven’t for a long time. This year I’ve had trouble recalling how old I am.. But I think that’s good. The time goes quickly enough without counting any of it. At the end of her HBO special “Gloria: In Her Own Words,” Ms. Steinem said how much she loves life. And that she wants to live to be 100. It seems a worthy intention.  I’ll drink to that, for the both of us!

The Rx of Letting Go

I  was once a Journalista. I wrote about the “important” things in my life. Mostly, the things that made me feel angry, sad, sorry for myself, alone. The stuff of disappointments, yearnings, and loss. Yes there was good stuff too. But not so much. The scales of my journals tipped downward. And I never thought to rebalance them.

My journals had beautiful covers. Technicolor dreams of the good life. Days of sunlight, golden meadows, and bright blue skies. Nights of stars, moonlight, and mystery. But on the inside they held a lot more darkness than light. A lot more regret than celebration.

I noticed this last week, as I looked through them to prepare for my move. I skimmed the pages, asking myself which to keep. Which to toss. They surprised me with so much of the same. In an instant I knew. It was time to let  go. I kept none. So no one will learn from my errors. No one will weep at my mistakes. No one will read what I wrote in moments of despair, nor were they meant to. I  never knew it would be that easy.

Best that these stories of my life become as Native American sand paintings. Created, then erased, no matter how beautiful. Gone forever. As if they never happened. Einstein told us, “We can’t solve our problems with the same kind of thinking with which we created them.” What a smarty pants he was.

Out with the regret, the what ifs, the doubt, the complaining. In with gratitude, instead. To be grateful for a freely drawn breath  For the light of day.  For a kind word, or deed, or look, whether given or received. If that’s all that I learn from the events of my past, I am well ahead of the game, If the game even exists.

So dear friend (you know who you are) — sorry. But when I’m gone, there will be just memories and vibrations. No journals to remind you. No stories of old victories and defeats. Of love lost and found.That’s more than enough, don’t you think?.

You can use this imagery exercise to let it all go. Whether that “it” is a journal, a memory, a relationship, or a resentment. Whether it’s.inside or out.

Silence Is Golden

Close your eye and exhale one time. See and feel how words and stories are covering you up and weighing you down. See and sense how by separating from this mental chatter your troubles disappear. Feel how it is to live your life in the silence that goes beyond all words. Be in the middle of this silence and know that it is golden.

Breathe this golden silence into every cell of your body. Give thanks for this moment. Then breathe out and open your eyes.



Adventures in Celebrity Shopping

On Thursday I went to “Room and Board” where I dove into downtown waters and shopped way out of my comfort zone. But great service and quality goods in a fine setting is hard to come by. The “setting” expression I borrowed from my Aunt Roy, who taught me to shop wisely and well, from the time I could walk and talk and.carry a shopping bag.

Aunt Roy would get Room and Board. She decorated the homes of her clients with “Mid-Century stuff (the inspiration for R&B’s very being) when others were stuck in French Provincial. Yes. She would definitely approve.

As I waited for the customer ahead of me to finish up I noticed he looked familiar. Tall, dark haired, wearing a down jacket and a wool cap, soft spoken, yet an imposing presence, It took me a minute to recognize him, and only seconds more to realize he didn’t want recognition, just privacy.

What a challenge. Here was Oliver Platt, whose work I’ve admired since he played White House counsel, Oliver Babish, in “West Wing,” standing right next to me. I wanted to say something brilliant, but all I could think of was l love your work. Certainly not brilliant. Not even clever, or cute. As he turned and walked away, I thought he might make an exception. We were practically furniture mates, so I opened my mouth to speak. But he looked right through me; and I became invisible..It worked. He’s an actor. A good one. Why wouldn’t it?

I chose to honor his wishes and preserve my dignity. But I kept a hand in the game, a chip on the board, a card in the deck, as I said to the saleswoman what I’d wanted to say to him, that I “loved his work.” (When you’re cleverness gene deserts you, you use what you have, unless you know enough to shut up). She was a much cooler saleswoman than I was a shopper. She barely nodded and the moment passed. When I turned to see if he’d gone, he was standing a few feet behind me. If he heard me, good. If not, better still.

But, It wasn’t Mr.Platt’s celebrity that set me off. It was that peculiar “I know you” connection I get with certain people I’ve seen on TV or in films. People who become a familiar part of my life, while I remain completely unknown in theirs. Like when I  came face to face with Woody Allen at Cafe Carlyle some years back. Woody moved over so I could get by (Room to navigate barely exists there). We did a brief table dance. He squinted at me as I passed and I took that to mean we connected. He never said it didn’t.

The Platt moment was gone in a flash. But it served as my stamp of approval, the thing that said “Yes.” You’re in the right place. Go to it. Look. Choose. Buy that gray console with the double  glass doors. Order that velvet swivel chair. Spend. Enjoy!

If there’s a next time I see Mr. Platt, perhaps he’ll be more amenable, and I more brilliant and bold. We’ll compare notes on our purchases. Grab a cup of coffee to help things along. As Rebbe Nachman says, there’s always hope. Meanwhile the gray console has been ordered and paid for. It’s scheduled to arrive soon after I move. For now that will serve as enough.