Yom Kippur Yogi

Going the “wrong” way might just be what you need.

One grey Yom Kippur morning in September 2007, I awoke early to walk with Mark to our synagogue in Rockville Centre and then I would go on my way to visit a neighbors’ mother who had recently suffered a series of strokes and was in a nursing home right nearby.

Mark and I came from two distinct Jewish backgrounds, his was traditional he had gone to Hebrew School and became a Bar Mitzvah his parents kept kosher. He knew how things worked.

My family was the opposite no formal Jewish education. However,
Mark once said to me about Yom Kippur. “Even the most un-Jewish Jew knows about this day.”  True that.

In the simplest of terms Yom Kippur is a high holy and most solemn day of atonement. It is connected to the Days of Awe known as Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year. During this time of reflection Jews pray to God, looking inward to see what things might need to change On Yom Kippur, even the simplest of acts including eating and drinking , looking in the mirror are not done. We fast. We pray. We ask for forgiveness for our sins and to be given another chance to begin anew to be inscribed in the book of life. At the end of this most solemn day we eat, we share a blessed meal with family and loved ones. Everyone is so glad we made it and gratefully we eat with gusto.

On this particular Yom Kippur morning, I walked Mark the 1.7 miles to Temple B’nai Sholom in Rockville Centre and then left him at the front door. I would be back later to be with him. Right then I was a woman on a mission to visit a person who, not very long after my visit, passed on. The nursing care center was just a block or two away. “You are a wandering Jew, on Yom Kippur. You should be in the “shul” atoning for your sins.” Instead I chose first to go see a person who needed a visit and I hoped I would be forgiven for not going into the synagogue right then.

I turned in what I thought was the right direction to go on my short journey to see Margaret. Somehow I turned wrong and instead of the nursing home, I found myself in front of St. Mark’s Church on Hempstead Avenue in Rockville Centre. On the lawn facing me was a large rectangular purple and golden carved wooden sign that read, “Divine Yoga”, with a phone number.

I had been a yoga practitioner for at least 25 years by then and was looking for a new place to practice.

It was Mark who first suggested that I go find my yoga when we lived Park Slope, Brooklyn in the 1980’s. Back then there wasn’t a yoga studio on every street corner. I had to search around to find a class.
I found yoga to be a bit annoying at first, the strange breathing, weird sounds, the chanting Sanskrit, and worse, looking at someone’s bottom in gray sweatpants almost sent me running for the exits. This was pre-Lululemon yoga wear.

Instead I kept looking for my yoga and eventually found Yoga Zone on the east side of Manhattan across town from my office on 54th street. It was an a oasis of calm a respite from my hectic job.

Living on the south shore of Long Island has it benefits, close to beautiful beaches and 35 minutes into Manhattan on the Long Island Railroad. One big drawback was that in 1989 when we moved to Rockville Centre from Brooklyn, yoga studios on the south shore were non-existent. I either practiced in the city or had to travel to Glen Head on the north shore where there was another Yoga Zone studio.

When Yoga Zone closed in Glen Head closed I was bereft. I tried Bikram yoga a kind of yoga known as hot yoga, that has 26 sequential poses done in a 102 degree room. A Bikram yoga studio opened in town and, at first I was glad it was there even though it wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but, It wasn’t for me, I got bored with the same 26 poses over and over. The sweat and steam made my hair frizz and it caused a skin issue that was dreadful and that I won’t go into detail about here.

So there I stood on that gray Yom Kippur morning in 2007. How odd I thought, “I have never noticed this sign before and I know I have been past St. Mark’s church many times. “

Mark would say to me that things come into view that were always there but went unnoticed or “the teacher can teach when the student is ready to learn.” It was my moment to find Divine Yoga.

As I stood there facing St. Mark’s church a soft but soon steady rain started to fall. Although I love walking in the rain, I did not have an umbrella and my first thought was, “Ooooh- nooo my hair is going to frizz.“ The curly-haired girls lament.

I spotted a door facing me on the north side of the church, not the main sanctuary door in the front, but another entrance visible from my vantage point… I sprinted toward the door hoping it would be open, I was eager to get out of the rain. It was Yom Kippur and if my hair got ruined I was going to have to live with it until after sundown.

When I pushed the large, heavy wood door, it opened and I was standing in a small vestibule: stairs facing me going up and stairs to my right going down with a mahogany banister

To my left there was a bulletin board decorated in the same colors as the sign on the lawn of the church. Emblazoned with purple and gold letters, the bulletin board was artfully designed with a golden container fastened to the board with the Divine Yoga schedules. I took one down. There was a full schedule of classes including one I had heard of but never tried before: Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.

‘Kundalini yoga?’ Something I wanted to try though I knew not what it was and I was on the lookout looking for a shift in my yoga practice, I wanted something more, was it possible that Kundalini yoga was it?

At the time I did not know it but when I opened that door I found something deep that I sought but had not found.

My walk in the rain led me to a community of friends that would be more important to me than I could have possibly ever imagined at the time. Mark had always encouraged, no pushed me to have more of my own friends not just “our friends” but ones that are mine.

I did not know on that rainy Yom Kippur day in September 2007 when I found Divine Yoga that Mark’s life and mine was soon going to be turned upside down.

I found friends who would be there for me and for Mark in an as yet unknown future crisis.

All because I took a “wrong” turn.


Divine Yogis with Mark, me Arlene Lucas, Joan Kremen
Divine Yogis with Mark, me Arlene Lucas, Joan Kremen

Secrets not needed anymore. Thanks to Joe Biden.

In the fall of 1962 my mother, Betty, took a teaching position at Division Avenue High School in Levittown, NY. My parents had just divorced mom went back to work, not taking any alimony just to get out of the marriage. She probably never would have seen any of it any way.

As I remember it my mother and father spent an awful lot of time being nasty to each other.

She sniped; he would goad her and be very nasty. My father somehow managed not to pay child support and, based on the speed with which he had a place to live with a woman he soon married, that he was probably not faithful to my mother and she knew it.

It was better when they split up.

We did have less money without my father. On the other hand he was kind of tight-fisted with the cash and blew a gasket when he discovered the hidden vacuum cleaner in my closet when he was trying to fix the door that had come off the track.

My mother was a class of 1938 NYU school of commerce college graduate.  It was 1962, her options were far fewer than women have in 2015 and salaries were minuscule.

She became a teacher of business subjects that year teaching Regents typing and Gregg Shorthand and transcription. At Division Avenue she met some new friends among them: John Burch our boarder, Tim a tall angular man who taught biology, Dan strong slight build tall and blonde, Dan taught History. And then there was Julio.

Before there was AirBNB, there was the teacher bulletin board-my mother rented out a tiny bedroom for a tiny income to a fellow teacher by the name of John Burch who looked a lot like Paul Giamatti in the film Sideways. Mr.Burch was an English teacher and he stayed with us in our Levitt house, while he waited for his family to move into their new home in the area. He was a gentle being. Probably too soft for some of the “hoods” he faced at Division Avenue in 1962.

John Burch drove with my mother to Division Avenue High School each morning. Mom drove a 1956 Turquoise and white two-tone Ford Victoria with chrome trim in which the passenger-seat only reclined. My mother would take off down Trapper Lane and all you could see was Mr. Burch’s nose and a wisp of his already thinned out hair flying in the breeze from the open window. I remember laughing so hard and not being able to stop, tears streaming down my face watching John Burch’s nose fade off as she turned the corner.

One day Mr. Burch left us. We said our good byes and within a day or two a Mr. Julius Nicholai Schmidt came to stay. Mr. Schmidt a diminutive man with long black eyelashes that framed his dark brown O’s of his eyes. He was a Spanish teacher whose family had run from Castro’s Cuba. Mr. Schmidt (or Julio as I used to call him) had one leg shorter than the other with a special built up shoe to accommodate the difference. Julio was a bit of a snazzy dresser always in a jacket and tie (no one wore sweatpants or elastic waist jeans in 1962) and though bald, wore a black toupee that suited his style just fine. Having Julio with us was like having a party every night.  Julio and my mother would make paella and bean dishes, drink scotch and sometimes, even dance to Latin jazz. He was a good buffer for me; my mother was less unpredictable with him around.

Once, after Julio moved into the brand new Mitchel Lama apartments on the upper west side mom took me to a New Year’s party to welcome in 1963. I was 11 years old, tall for my age and wore my special “grown-up” red – pencil-skirted dress.

When we got to Julio’s place and the door opened there were some of the most beautiful costumed women I had ever seen. Dazzling in sequins, feather boas and sparkles, high hair and fabulous makeup.

I remember at first feeling out of place not dressed right (a story that has continued my whole life) and stayed out on the terrace. One of the sparkling ladies said “Come dance with us sweetheart don’t stand out here on your own, “ and then in a moment there I was dancing to some of the best dance music I had heard in my young life, men and women, women and men all mushed together shimmying and shaking, feathers flying.


As I remember it was a wonderful night. My mother was busy being a queen bee and I was mostly left to my own devices in this crowd of costumes and celebration, that meant that for that night she was not embarrassing me or picking on me in some way. I could just be.

And then there was Tim and Dan. They both taught at Division Avenue High School they lived on the upper west side. Tim was a biology teacher who drove with Dan in a 1962 Ford Falcon to Levittown from West End Avenue each school day, Dan taught history and then became a librarian. My mother, Tim and Dan became fast friends. They had many interests in common, good music and theater chief among them, good parties, good booze along with a curiosity for ideas old and new. Both Tim and Dan were tall men from Arkansas who had come to New York as many do to find their lives.

We did so many things together with Tim and Dan and Sam and Al and a famous illustrator named Joshua.   Once we went to the City Center on 56th Street to see Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. The opening piece of music was Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex complete with eye-gouging. For some reason we got the giggles at that part. What was so funny about gouging out eyes will still be a mystery to me, but we got the kind of giggles that are infectious hard to contain and one by one our entire row started to laugh. It was then that the usher came by and tossed us out into the street until we could compose ourselves. She muttered something about “setting a bad example for the child.”

We returned after intermission and were better behaved.

In  autumn Tim and Dan bought a cabin in the woods of Massachusetts near the towns of Heath and Dell.  My mom and I drove up with them to spend the weekend, in her now newish car: a 1961 butter yellow Mercury convertible. In the chilled autumn air we drove with the top down, me in the back with Dan,  the heater running up front as we sang made up “Gregorian style” chants, switching to jazzy made up “skats” and then sliding into an actual genuine song that we sang in some kind of strange multi-part harmony. At some point we just were quiet and looked at the scenery and breathed the night air as we climbed higher into the Berkshires.

That weekend I helped Dan at the edge of the property do some pruning to cut down overgrown brush and weedy trees. It was the first time I had ever seen a pair of “loppers” and thought, “how great to have a man around who knew how to do this.” Dan took off his shirt in the warm afternoon sun and I saw his tanned muscular body rippling as he worked. I was a little kid but by this time I had a bit of a pre-teen crush on him and seeing him like that just fueled the flames of being “in-like”.

That night we took flashlights and walked along the road following the stone minute-man fence lines to Joshua the illustrator’s house. The house was built in the 1700’s and sported low ceilings, a wood-burning stove. George Washington could have slept there.

Although the house has been electrified Joshua designed it to keep its revolutionary war period feeling. Our faces were illuminated more by the light of the fire and the candles that were scattered around than from the light fixtures. It was said in the most hushed of tones, “That the house had ghosts.”

There were others who joined us that night, friends of our friends who had gathered for their weekend in the country. They lived in little towns nearby.  We played games like charades, the adults drank scotch, bourbon and wine and then we gathered by the fireplace, toasted marshmallows and Joshua shared ghost stories.

On the walk back to Tim and Dan’s house we heard a crunching sound like footsteps coming from an open field. Then we heard it again. Was it a ghost like Joshua talked about?  Was there someone there? I was really scared, but I didn’t want to show it in front of Dan, though he did take my hand like a dad or an uncle would to reassure me.

We drew closer to the sound. It happened again, there a footstep a crunch of the leaves. “Who is there?” Tim and Dan say aloud. “Who is there!?,” they say again. My mother and me, two scaredy-cats creeping toward the sound hiding behind the two tall men. We get as close as we dare as Tim and Dan shine a flashlight into the darkness.

Six sets of big brown eyes stare back at us. “Cows! Cows!” Tim and Dan say aloud and we each break out into peals of laughter. We laughed the whole rest of the weekend just by saying, “Cows! Cows!”

Years later,  after I graduate from high school my mother tells me a “secret” about her friends Tim, Dan, Julio, Joshua, Al, Ken and Sam. A best-selling children’s book author of 50 titles, a famous illustrator and artist, a well -known film-maker, a biologist and several educators amongst them.

They were gay. Homosexual. Not into women. Julio’s New Year’s party in 1963 had more men guests than women, though I did not realize it at the time. Julio was a cross-dresser as were many of his friends.  He was also gay.

And then there was the biggest heartbreak: Dan would never have asked me out. I still thought one day I would be old enough that our age difference would not matter. I was crushed.

“Nancy we have to keep it a deep dark secret or they would lose their jobs, their homes, their livelihoods, it is illegal to be gay.”

So I thought, that makes you a “fag hag” a not very flattering term I had recently heard used about divorced women who hung out with gay men. Mom was not gay she just loved the company of her friends who happened to be male homosexuals, simple as that. (And I am guessing was more enjoyable than the dating scene.)

The following summer my mother marched in the Gay Pride parade in Provincetown in solidarity with her friends. In time they drifted away, Tim bought a beach house and got married to a famous woman photographer and then they were all gone from our lives. Mom moved on to other friends, other schools and even a few boyfriends. She tended to dump the good ones whom she could marry and have a good life with, that tended to infuriate me.

The events of the past few days made me think of those days and I  hope that at least one of those smart, fun and interesting gentlemen is still alive to witness the gay marriage decision last week handed down by the Supreme Court.  And I know that even with that it’s time to get ready for the backlash, battle lines are being drawn and next  year is 2016.

May a rainbow come to you after the rain and your heart be your guide.

Release the past. Day 4 of Meditation Challenge

Customers (we really don’t ) Care

This is really for anyone who has wrestled with a “customer care” situation that made you want to tear your hair out.


After Mark died, there were so many activities and actions that needed my attention. It’s so odd, how difficult it is to unravel even the most organized life when that life ends, I was glad I was able to go on autopilot for while, he set me up pretty well for which I am thankful everyday. When Mark died just under two years ago I was in zombie-land

One task I took care of right away was convert our New York Times home delivery subscription to all digital. I did not want the actual papers because that involved a series of tasks above and beyond the reading of the paper.

Mark always read the paper: he picked it up from the curb and when he was done it, he tied it up and took the neatly stacked New York Times to the curb for recycling.

Even the seemingly simple things turned out to be fraught with complications due in part to the fog of loss in which I was shrouded.

For one, I could not figure out the garbage schedule. The way it is designed is confusing. Little circle to indicate one kind of pickup, highlighted squares for another and then asterisks regarding holidays and Mondays or something. I was quietly feeling quite deranged back then.

Reading anything at all was beyond me, I was just wrung out and stunned from Mark’s death, even though I knew it was coming it was like a house fell on me.

Mark liked to cut articles out from the Times and send to friends and family or leave them on the kitchen counter for me with a little drawing and note. My favorite thing was when he would read me an article and we would talk about it.

That was over now and it was time to make a change.

Thanks to the internets, it was easy to make the change to digital.

Checked off that box on the To DO list.

Or so I thought.

Some things are just out of our control though we, as humans, like to think we can control everything.

We can’t control a thing. Not the weather not the post office. We can control our attitudes and how we view what happens to us. That’s really it.

In a recent very moving gut -wrenching piece in the New York Times called “Afterlife”, the father finds himself holding onto the junk mail that comes addressed to his son who died at the young age of 21.

I could relate to the feeling, the wanting to keep the connection going even if it meant receiving unwanted junk mail.

Here is a challenge for you. If you are on a list try to get off, even If you are dead you can never end your relationship with insurance companies, AARP, catalog subscriptions, credit card offers, non-profits and political parties looking for donations, anyone you ever gave money to or whom you thought you might.

No. Not. Ever.

My favorite is the Viking River cruise offers to my mother and father in law. Most recently my mother-in-law, Dora who died two years ago at age 93, was offered a great deal on a brand new Mercedes Benz, trouble is she didn’t drive.

Then there are the: “Get this before it’s too late! It’s the deal of lifetime offers,” Um-er it’s too late guys. But this problem is part of a larger problem of digitizing and depersonalization of communications to the point that no one is listening to anyone.

It seems all our posting on Facebook and Twitter are then translated into marketing opportunities because of what we view, what we click and who we follow. Does anybody really know what time it is?

My email and phone call exchanges with The New York Times Customer Care department is a perfect example of how no one is really listening to anyone, anymore.

While customer service representatives are quite polite and eager and some actually help us immensely and I want to acknowledge them. Some are not charged with any real power they look at a computer screen and tell us how wrong we are in making our requests. Having been in marketing and gone to B-School I know one of the basic tenets of “delighting” customers is to put a good tag line and title on something and people will believe you care even if you may not or cannot.

For example at the New York Times, customer care is just a nice phrase for “not going to help you, because I am completely powerless to do so, but doing it ever so nicely and hopefully not misspelled.”

Here’s what happened to me with the New York Times and my digital subscription. I sent this information to The Haggler Column in The New York Times a few weeks ago hoping for help, but none has arrived just yet. Maybe he is on vacation right now, it is August in New York. Read: Empty city.

On May 1, 2014 I started receiving daily home delivery of the NY Times again even though I had cancelled home delivery about 18 month before, switching to digital only.

At first I thought it was a promotion because of the launch of Times Premiere and when I didn’t sign up for it the promo would end.

Then I thought the delivery person must have an extra paper and is giving one to me.

When the papers continued I then started my campaign to stop delivery of the actual physical newspaper and below the following email “dialogue” with the New York Times Customer Care department. (NYTCCD)

After much to-ing and fro-ing the NYTCC D response to me was that I cannot stop delivery of the paper because I am not Elaine Kottler, the account holder.

My guess is: there was an input error when Elaine Kottler became a subscriber and may live on the same named Road in another town, for sure she does not live on my street even thought the Customer care rep told me to go down the block and look for her. (Really?)

It has been suggested to me that I might not want to look a gift horse in the mouth i.e. a free daily paper which is the upside,  however the serious downside is I cannot stop or pause it when I go on vacation and don’t want the paper piling up on my lawn.

As a widow you tend to want less work and added activities. Especially if your guy was anything like my husband. Mark was one of those guys who did everything and it’s like losing both arms when you lose a guy like that you love and adore.

I don’t want to have to tie it up and bring it to the curb.

Of course the good news is that the New York Times is great for using to wash the windows of my car, and if I spill a quantity of water, the New York Times soaks it right up. I am sure there are a million and one uses, perhaps you have some ideas dear reader.

Since I get the paper  tend to pay more attention to what is going on in the world with it front and center every morning. Extra  bonus are the great plastic bags I use when I take Clinton on his morning walks they are a perfect size and tie up very easily.

Still I would like to have control over the account. Not being able to pause the paper when I go away for a few days really bugs me. I tried giving the paper to my neighbor every morning but he didn’t want it either and when I go away I want to avoid the paper pile up that says. “Burglars stop here, no one is home!”

This email exchange went to the Haggler again today


I made numerous calls and actually received more emails to a different address. I am sure you get the point.


I appreciate any help you may be able to give me in this.

My best regards,

Nancy Mindes (not Elaine Kottler)

My account number for MY account –





Elaine Kottler  account number YOU SENT ME  for this account is xxxxxx9





From: Customercare <Customercare@nytimes.com>

Subject: Your New York Times Inquiry

Date: June 15, 2014 7:20:42 AM EDT


Reply-To: Customercare <Customercare@nytimes.com>

You have your information wrong.

There is no Elaine Kottler here

There is a XXXX Road in Roslyn NY too

Your records are wrong , please fix error.

Sent from my iPhone

On Jun 11, 2014, at 3:36 PM, Customercare <Customercare@nytimes.com> wrote:

Dear Nancy Mindes,

Thank you for contacting NYTimes.com.

In response to your inquiry, our records show that you have the same address as a Home Delivery subscriber. The Home Delivery account has Monday-Sunday service. This account is under Elaine Kottler. The account number for this account is XXXXXX95.

You can also visit our website at www.nytimes.com/myaccount to receive information on your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please follow the instructions to register if you have not done so already.

If there is anything else we can do to help you, please e-mail us at help@nytimes.com or call us at 1-800-591-9233 from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday (ET).

Your satisfaction is very important to us.


Christina Gorman
Online Customer Care
The New York Times

Dear Nancy Mindes,

Thank you for contacting us. In response to your inquiry, T

Thank you for contacting us. In response to your inquiry, we are unable to make any changes to the account for Elaine Kottler because you are not the account holder. If you have any other questions or concerns please contact us at the phone number below. We apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced. .

You can also visit our website at www.homedelivery.nytimes.com to receive information on your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please follow the instructions to register if you have not done so already.

If there is anything else we can do to help you, please e-mail us at customercare@nytimes.com or call us at 1-800-NYTIMES (1-800-698-4637) from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday (ET).

Your satisfaction is very important to us and we thank you for your feedback.


William Hurt

Online Customer Care

The New York Times


> Subject: Re: Your New York Times Inquiry

Dear Kirsten Kirkland,

It’s official I asked my letter carrier if there is an Elaine Kottler (letter carrier being an employee of the US government) and she said no there is no one and never has been anyone named Elaine Kottler on Blankety Road in Rockville Centre, NY. You at the NYTimes Customer Care need to find the record for this person and get it worked out. I am assuming she is paying for the paper I have been receiving.

there it a Anytown Named Road in every town in USA. I looked in the Nassau County phone book, the actual book everyone else throws out and there was No Elaine Kottler.


Nancy Mindes

Dear Nancy Mindes,

Thank you for contacting us. In response to your inquiry, our records indicate there is a home delivery account going to the address 5 Anytown Road. The account is under a Kottler. If you have neighbors that have the same address or know someone, they have an active account. 

You can also visit our website at www.homedelivery.nytimes.com to receive information on your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please follow the instructions to register if you have not done so already.

If there is anything else we can do to help you, please e-mail us at customercare@nytimes.com or call us at 1-800-NYTIMES (1-800-698-4637) from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday (ET).

Your satisfaction is very important to us and we thank you for your feedback.


Kirsten Kirkland
Online Customer Care
The New York Times

> Date Sent: 06/11/2014 14:51

> To: customercare@nytimes.com

> Cc:

> Subject: RE: Please tell the driver to stop!


Dear Customer Care,

I have called about this 4 times and sent an email to no avail.

This is now my eleventh try.

I am receiving the NYTimes daily and on weekends seemingly in an effort to get me to request home delivery again and I have asked your customer care representatives repeatedly that the driver STOP delivering to my address PLEASE.

Am a paid digital subscriber and very happy with that and do not want the paper on a daily basis-even for free.

Am not sure how to get the point across except to perhaps stand on the lawn at 5 a.m. and wait for the driver to come and then tell her to stop! Or perhaps put up a giant SIGN?


Please make sure I am not being charged for this unwanted service for the past month and please stop delivering the NY Times to my home.


Maybe if we would just look up from our computer screens, our smartphones and tablets for a moment and pay attention to what is being said, caring about what matters to the person in front of us, we would keep connections going and help each other when it matters. Meanwhile I am all set for the weekend. Thank you Elaine Kottler where ever you are.

After Loss Don’t Skip Steps


Judi, a psychic I have known for about 30 years, recently told me my Life Purpose was to share my experiences as a wife who became a widow.

At first this felt heavy. I thought, “In some cultures I would be relegated to wearing black clothes in perpetuity,” however being a native New Yorker the majority of my wardrobe is black so no big deal there. It’s the other part, the being the Widow, with a capital “W” that means being in mourning forever.

This being a widow thing is very tricky. It’s been less than two years and I still miss Mark, and I have had to work on myself, my broken heart everyday to get through this. I make a daily choice to be open, grateful and loving especially when I want to feel sorry for myself.

I lived half of my life with Mark. He will always be in my heart. Most times I want him to walk through the door. Often I feel like he is guiding me, some days more than others, I know his energy is there, it’s like a whisper like in the Kundalini yoga chant, SA TA NA MA.

In life Mark was subtle about things.  He did not make big noises he disliked showing off. Mark did things well and quietly on this side so he would not be loud and noisy on the other side.

Oddly, when I gave up the constant longing to have him come back, I could sense him much more. He would come to me in my dreams which until he died, I never remembered. Giving up the longing the wishing, the begging and bargaining to get him back took a lot of work on my part. The truth is I am unable to let go of Mark. He’s my guy, always and forever even though he told me to find another one. Perhaps one day I will but I have realized I cannot skip steps. I must find me all over again first. Who am I now without Mark? He was very specific. He said, “Be happy” The question for me now is what does that mean?

To say I am an expert at this would be untrue but if what I write here helps you that is a good thing. Mark died less than two years ago and it took me a while to scrape myself up off the floor. I have to keep going but the big question is how?

When Mark first died, I wanted to do the same because I wanted to be with him. But that passed. When I went to a bereavement group I discovered that the way I felt, others felt the same way. Being understood does help. It is important to take the time to grieve and go through the mourning. There are no shortcuts and it is okay to be sad for as long as you need to. It’s when it turns to complete depression and you become unable to function, that is a danger sign. Pay attention to how you are

A daily cry is cleansing. Yes, I do have a daily cry. Right after Mark died I couldn’t cry. I felt as if I was a block of frozen peas. I felt nothing except stunned.

People commented on how “calm” and “collected” I was. While I am not one for public displays of tears,  I couldn’t have cried if I wanted to, I was frozen solid.

In my bereavement group we looked at what are commonly known as “grief triggers” and to find ways to avoid them. For some people this may work but I think it is just kicking the can down the road.

My point of view is different. I come down on the side of running right at the grief. That by facing the intense sorrow I can go on for another moment, and then another and another. This is not an easy thing to do. What I discovered was the deeper I stepped into the places that hurt, my heart heals just a teeny  bit. I sought the tears. I sought the hurt and pain of missing Mark. I remember how lucky having been married to Mark. How blessed to be  in  a family that cares about me. How fortunate to have many loving friends. And to have my beautiful dog Clinton by my side, he makes me go out and take long walks.

Some people never get any of that. Still I wanted him back.

Another thing I learned in bereavement group was about his “stuff” Some of the women in the group said, “Get rid of his clothes right away they will remind you of him.”

I am pretty sure they were sorry later. My way of looking at his belongings was “please remind me of him,” and  I spent many hours sitting on the floor of his closet in tears.

While this may sound a bit dramatic, I felt a connection to him and to the memories that went along with each article of clothing. The grey chalk stripe suit from Barney’s reminded me of the day we went to Barney’s big warehouse sale. I could see his handsome face, his shiny black hair and how good he looked in that suit. On the shelf above my head, his perfectly polished black Frye dress boots, his well worn jeans with the ripped knee, the nearly threadbare Maverick denim jacket he used as a pillow on the cross-country trip he took in his tan Volkswagen square-back, his freshly washed hoodies that he wore to warm up after roller skating.

How could I let them go?

One day after a year had passed I donated some of his best suits, blazers, dress pants and shirts to a charity that helps men get interview ready. Mark’s suits were like new because he was very particular, bordering on fussy, about his clothes. Mark’s impeccably good-looking suits would help someone to possibly get the job they wanted and in some way Mark’s generosity and kindness would live on.

One item Mark’s soft, green terry cloth bathrobe that I bought him for his birthday so many years ago is a cherished possession. I wear it as my own, softened to just the right degree of cozy comfort, his spicy vanilla scent still lingers ever so slightly so that I can catch a gentle whiff of him.

When I was in the frozen food state, I thought, “Something has to be done about this, it just cannot be healthy to live this way” I was concerned I would get sick if I didn’t start to release the pain in some way. This widow thing was not easy.

I began watching movies. I couldn’t sleep anyway, I didn’t want to. Sleeping was too sad, without Mark.  I settled into my cozy couch with my soft, fleecy, blanket armed with a box of tissues and a glass of chardonnay. My best buddy Clinton my big sweet gentle, handsome,  brown rescue dog was at my feet. I flicked on the television. I started my search for just the right film to begin the big defrost. My gut told me that if I could start to cry, I would eventually be okay. Here are just a few that were good for a cry.

It started with “The Notebook” with Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling, James Garner and Gena Rowlands. One night I turned to STARZ romance and I hit pay dirt: the ultimate tear-jerker, chick flick, heart-breaking love story. I could not believe my good fortune. Corny,yes. Trite, for sure but it helped. From there, I began my daily, nightly search for movies to help me mourn, to be as miserable and tearful as possible. The movies made me face what my life as it is now, sad, tearful feeling a little lost. They were also transporting.

Next up was “Hope Springs” with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Mark and I had our struggles in our marriage and like the couple in the movie we overcame them.    When Tommy Lee Jones plays Al Green’s version of “Let’s Stay Together”, I fall to pieces, crying loudly.

Loved it! I downloaded the song from  iTunes so I could access that sadness again and let it rip when I need to. Music is on the grief trigger hit list so I made it my business to create a playlist that would get me started. I just had to make sure I wasn’t driving or I would have to pull over. Now, when I hear a song that helps me to get access to my grief I add it to my playlist. Movies and music: a perfect combination for getting through the sorrow and finding a way to little moments of happiness again.

“Love Actually” starring Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy Liam Neeson that has many moments in it for a good cry, especially the closing scene over-dubbed with the Beach Boys, “God Only Knows What I’d be Without You” The song went on my playlist.

Here’s what I have learned. Don’t skip steps. Get help with the grief and the mourning. If you think you can do it alone, you cannot. Find help, that really helps you.  I practice yoga, I meditate and often cry my way through to feeling okay again. When I meditate I can connect with Mark and let him know I am okay. And I am in a community of people I care about who knew Mark and know me.

I went to two rounds of a bereavement group, worked with a bereavement counselor on the phone and met with the same therapist that Mark and I went to when we hit some rough patches along the way. Seeing our shrink from years ago has been a real gift for me mostly because she knew him and I could talk about him once a week for 50 minutes non-stop if I needed to, how else was I going to move through this?

Mark was relatively young, handsome, vibrant, never sick and then diagnosed with a nasty cancer and now dead.

No amount of anything is preparation for that. But the sun will come out tomorrow. I might as well be ready for it.

Love and light to you. Nancy



Hot town summer

Is this a poem?

So  far from what I can tell.

This is the sizzling
summer of the hot and the buggy.
(Who you calling buggy?)
It’s been…

I mean yucky.

Okay so.

Let it go.
Imagine snow?
Live in possibility.

I am the possibility of Jo’ie de Vivre

(Francaise for joy in life thanks France for that)
July 14, 2012
Nancy in New York

FancyNancy and Magic Mark on the boardwalk.

Bastille Day.