My pal Gregory

I have a pal named Gregory. He’s a cherished work colleague who, over the last decades, has become chosen family. A while back we were given an opportunity to do a dead easy project together that involved promoting posh villas and estates around the globe that were for sale. We were meant to present ourselves as the imagined new owners of said property, delighting at the fun we’d have slipping out of our Swiss mountain chalet to ski, or overlooking the Mediterranean castle to our yacht below. You get the picture. For this sybaritic duty promoting lifestyles of the rich if not famous, we’d be compensated with a pretty penny. Discussions on this upcoming project were boiling along when Gregory called to say he had to bow out. I was stunned. Why on earth would anybody turn down so light hearted and well paying a globe trotting gig? He explained that he was at a legacy point in his life and that everything he did had to align with his core values.
What an imperative. I suppose he would allow himself the occasional piece of chocolate cake but work, friendships, expenditure of time, etc. needed to strike notes that were in concert with the true north of what mattered to him. He continued, saying that he no longer believed in big expensive houses, not their environmental footprint nor their statement that sprawling castles of indulgent glees held any key to happiness. Having sold his family pile and acreage, living now with one potted citrus tree he and his wife had discovered that they fretted over and had just as much joy from that lone tree as they had had from the acres of lemon trees. Simpler, not more, was better.
This meant ofcourse that I could no longer do the project. Oh sure…Gregory could have been replaced but how would I have felt doing the gig knowing I was facing east into the sunrise of greed? I had to pass too and hope that I would grow up to be a better person for Gregory having led the way.
That was awhile ago now and I’m thrilled to say I have no regrets for having turned the job down. What I didn’t know at the time however was how big a tool Gregory’s example would become. His ‘legacy litmus test’ now simplifies my decision making process in most dilemmas. It brilliantly allows you to correct, re-set and not get hung up on past patterns.
I do allow myself the piece or three of chocolate cake but I’d like to think I’m doing a better job of holding to my own true North, a direction more important for all of us now than ever before. Thank you Gregory. Lead on.

Blue Pearl

Thanksgiving

It’s my most favorite holiday. Maybe yours too? Uncomplicated by presents or differing religions and an excuse to hoover a huge meal guilt free. Also I love the idea that there is a day set aside just for thanks. Extraordinary.
I wonder what that first experience was of articulating that feeling? When the need for a word that wasn’t love exactly, or admiration or joy was born. As etymology might suggest, there was, I imagine, some clever soul who blurted out a sound that articulated a feeling of “pleasing thanks” that was drawn from a situation perhaps even in their recent past to inform the present moment and his/her fellow cave man understood exactly what was meant.
My Mom could be at times a complicated woman. Fiery I’d say. A friend once commented that she had “the mood swings of a mob boss.” You get the idea. I loved her. She had a great life but was very often not grateful for what she had. I’ll reframe that…she had a big appetite for life and so just wanted more. More had merit for her.
She died at 90 and at home in her own bed. Two days before she went we were curled up talking late one night and she said with unusual poise and calm knowing the end was drawing near, “I’ve had the best of everything and I know I have.” Her gratitude had softened the edges and disappointments of her journey. It was spectacular to witness and a life lesson too. Sometimes…it, whatever it is for the moment, isn’t enough but I’m pretty sure now having witnessed my Mother do so that if I too can climb up high enough in thought to secure the view, there is something of beauty in the vista to be grateful for even when the road is rough. So, I am grateful and strive to be more so. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Blue Pearl

The House is Gone

“The house is gone.” That was the message. We’ve all seen the footage on tv be it floods or fire…this one was the fires in Malibu. Figuring out the downbeat of the next day, hour, second, when everything is gone…this is what my friend and likely someone you know too is going through or has gone through.

In this case her house was where she and her husband had built a magical oasis, the home where their three children were raised, where my girlfriend made the meals that grew their good bones. The photographs on its walls were a testament to years of shared family adventures, its furniture was conversation inviting and sported unpretentious comfort. Her husband’s office reflected his renaissance spirit with a motorcycle, vintage guitars, an enviable book collection and a weighty desk…strong enough to absorb the thrashings of the superb writer he is. She had transformed her office into a sacred space, a portal to the higher spirit in her, in each member of her family and to all her thought rests on. The practical, esoteric and beautiful hummed along side each other in their home with uncommon grace and productivity. All of that gone now in a fearsome blaze, the rhythm of their lives, incinerated.

My ardent hope is that past the shock and massive disruption, past the loss and chaos will be a new home that serves their next chapters in life. That somehow ultimately this event becomes more of an opportunity than a loss. Just maybe the ash of rearranged molecules as they rain down, will speed the process of progress. I hope the potent haiku of “The house is gone” will be partnered with the equally potent haiku, “Welcome home.”

Blue Pearl

FANTASY MAN

My work entails team work. Each job has a new team on which friendships are formed…some of them become life long pals and sometimes things happen, chemistry ignites. At this stage of life the latter is not the case for me but….

One recent team member was gorgeous. The kind of gorgeous that’s just a gift to look at. Forty years ago gorgeous would have noticed me too. That is no longer the case. Oh…polite, professional ofcourse but nowhere close to anything igniting. I’m in that place Germaine Greer described as ‘having become invisible.’ Invisible has its benefits, believe me. It gives you permission to say what you want, to drop people with mind sets that drain your energy without a speck of guilt, to speak your mind unapologetically and when you encounter a young person who is open, pass along a few life short cuts.

I was given shortcuts and warning notices in my twenties. I heeded some……would that I had heeded more. Things like…”Don’t forget to have your babies.” I have many women friends who got so busy they forgot to do so and now heartbreakingly, regret it. “Keep working, it will never let you down.” was another dollop of wisdom afforded me years ago by a wise woman. Wow….you bet, even if that means doing the laundry. Taking action, however small, can shift your energy into something that will propel you forward. “Keep hurdling.” That came from Mom. Thanks Mom. “Be happy baby.” That came from my Mother in law at a moment when I was certain there was nothing to be happy about. She said it as an admonishment, meaning that happiness was a choice.

Anyway…here was gorgeous and I had an incredible time with him… in my mind. We danced, traveled, made love, he renewed me, I met his family (they were suitably appalled). Its so much less complicated not to have actually lived the fantasy. My musings then turned to how wonderful it will be for him to have a family when he finds the right woman, to enjoy a beautiful success and to not have had a bizarre, detour encounter with an older woman. Dreams can be so much less complicated than real life and just as much fun.

Well, almost.

Blue Pearl

Lonely World

Recently I had the chance to work with a great group of millennials. Smart, focused, disciplined, fun to be with, millennials. Over the course of our weeks together our conversations afforded me a glimpse into the world through their lens. My 20/30 something lens did not have the despair in its view theirs has. Terrorism was an abstract idea as was to large extent global warming, water was potable. Politicians exchanged ideas in heated rhetoric but it was done, certainly by comparison, in an air of civility. The news was…well, the news.
Considering the fractured nature of what we’re handing off to them I found their optimism impressive and their entrepreneurial moxie inspiring. All of them for instance had managed to successfully monetize their social media accounts. They exposed me to the invisible network of 24/7, accessible commerce right above our heads. Selfies in other words will likely translate into becoming their pensions. Who knew? Apparently I, unlike them, have been living under a rock.

All this self generated industry ofcourse meant that each of them spent a healthy percentage of their days in virtual space. As much as I admire (hell, envy!) their business savvy, I could not help but witness what to my mind were a series of small tears in the fabric of the collective weave. At the very moment in our work place for instance when my life rhythm would say to turn to your co-worker and chat about the news, a joke, a film…they would turn to their cell phones to snap a pic, send an instagram or snapchat. Not sure I can quantify what was lost in those moments but certainly eye contact, an exchange of body language, a visceral dealing with immediate human interaction. Virtual space has the illusion of connectivity but its actually an incredibly lonely place and because the only one you interact with in the moment is yourself, its accidental by product is narcissism. Human tactile-ness if that can be a word, is marooned. What, I wonder, is happening to the psyche when those tears happen? What is happening to their spirits when a next friend or date is chosen through a cute photo on a cell screen? Just as surely as there are incredible gains in efficiency, astonishing gains in social barriers being dropped…there are losses too.

I’m committed to learning more about the rapids of virtual space. I am however going to make a conscious effort before I forget how to, of reading nuance in body language as best I can, of noting the timbre in a human voice. I’m also going to make a special point of looking friends and strangers in the eye. See you there.

Blue Pearl

Irene

The other day my girlfriend Irene, whom I’ve known since I was 7, posted on FB that she had just left her daughter at college. Her daughter Caroline apparently figured out how to grow up in record time as it seems but a few years ago that she was born.
Irene’s life and mine have been curiously and wondrously intertwined. We first met because our Dads had careers in the same city overseas. We had our first sleepovers at eachother’s homes. Her dog Sally birthed our doggies Rex and King. (My Dad named them. Clearly he did not want to play favorites.)
Years later as a young working woman she and her husband Jamie lived in the same city as my parents, in yet another part of the world…so again their lives overlapped which was a great gift to my then empty nest parents. Later still, she and Jamie moved to the metropolis I was living in and just happened to fall in love with the church I frequented. Once again we were in not quite daily routine together but certainly in the rhythm of one another’s lives, deeply so as we were each negotiating the primal longings for the journey of Motherhood, struggling with fertility issues. We’d swap medical info, doctor’s solutions and inspirations. I’d miscarry. She’d miscarry. We’d bolster one another and each of us, try again.
Somewhere on this journey I was seated next to her husband over dinner. Sure I was banging on about being fearful my husband and I would never be able to have a baby and he said with absolute, calm reassurance that I would and that his wife would too. His confidence was startling, as if he’d hit reset on the “hope” button. He had not a shred of doubt and had plenty of patience to go with it. He just knew.
Sure enough in the fullness of time, in my case after 6 miscarriages, we each had our babies and if you can believe it only a month apart. Irene and Jamie went on to have a second child and it was that stunning daughter Caroline who they just dropped off at college.
Reading Irene’s post, was a moment of time travel. In a kind of time warp sandwich (between the post of Irene’s leggy beauty of an 18 year old Freshman and memory of Jamie’s reassurance over dinner) out of chronological order my mind’s eye was flooded with images… My pal swimming at 7 in the pool, her playing w her dogs, saw her at my parent’s overseas dinner table, felt her heartbreak when she again had lost a pregnancy, saw the long awaited for baby girl through various stages of growing up. Knowing that this happy ending story is now a part of her’s and Jamie’s life tapestry its hard to express the depth of joy I have for Irene. What a meaningful privilege it is to be witness to the fabric of another person’s life in all its chapters. I hope you have that experience too and many times over.
Life has patina at this stage. Layers of knowing, depth of perspective…a view. Sometimes that view is very beautiful. Happy college, Caroline!

The Drive

Whilst working on the east coast, my sweet twelve year old chocolate lab got slammed by a car. Astonishingly, the only harm she suffered was a broken leg. This meant a cast for six weeks, which in turn meant I had to drive rather than fly with her to my home in the Rockies where it was my intention to spend the next few months. Not particularly up for doing the long haul solo, I reached out to my cousin to see if he’d consider doing the drive with me. He had not long before buried his Mother, my aunt, for whom he had been tireless, primary caregiver for 15 years. His generosity and sacrifice of those years cannot be underestimated. He’d been saying he wanted to do a road trip for some time now and very kindly, as is his nature, took me up on the proposition. As soon as we hung up, relieved as I was to have company for the trek, I wondered how on earth we would manage 30 hours in the car with civility seeing as we are at opposite ends of the political spectrum? A few days later off we set…cousin Elmer, his dog, my dog, hoping for the best. Soon as he started the engine the born again Christian music station came on. Hurdle number one. We happily compromised on a 70’s rock station as we negotiated our way, ironically, out of our nation’s capital heading west. Our route took us deep into the ancient hills of West Virginia…stomping grounds of our ancestors, playground of our Mother’s childhoods. Our conversation flowed as if in concert with our route. Cousin Elmer, keeper of our family lore, talked easily of eccentric, beer brewing, spinster aunts and their occasional basement explosions. Tales of survival, of fortunes won and lost, of what had happened to our Grandfather’s gold coin collection, of just why Uncle Jack had shot himself in the head. Mysteries solved, half heard stories fleshed out. With every unraveling he effortlessly built the common ground between us.

Blue grass country gave way to flat plains and wheat fields. Driving through these communities we were both taken by the prevalence of obesity as well as by a tangible sense of malaise, anger and fear, masked in a thin veneer of outward civility. Even if we had diametrically opposed solutions to world problems, we shared a mutual sorrow for and fierce love of country.

Before long the Rocky Mountains loomed and our destination reached. I ruined his first morning at the house by turning on my preferred tv news channel. He must’ve involuntarily blurted out “Bullshit!!” 20 times. The hi lite of his talking back to the tv (as indeed I do when I hear a view contrary to mine) was when a newscaster labeled a leading politician “divisive” and Elmer trumpeted back “He is not divisive. He knows what the American people want!” (Me…”Count to ten.”) Elmer was even more disappointed when I told him we do NOT turn on the channel of his preference, in my house. Bless him…he abided by the rule.

On a subsequent night of his stay, we were due to attend a cocktail party. Elmer had nothing but T-shirt’s and baggy jeans in his duffle bag. Mercifully between a shirt Uncle Butch had left behind, a pair of my son’s pants and a jacket of my Dad’s…I got Elmer presentable. Glued to the tv all day he had one last show he wanted to watch at the very hour of our departure. Nothing would do but what we would watch it…Robot Warrior or some such. We watched. It was perfect. Kids, brilliant kids had designed 3-500 pound fighting robots which, prompted by remote control, entered the caged arena for combat and fought to the “death.” Culturally it was akin to a bar room brawl yet in a 21st century framework. Elmer’s running commentary and enthusiastic sound effects to every robot crash were worth the wait.

Finally unglued him from the tube and off we went to the gathering where he, beer bottle in hand, charmed with his country twang the guests largely made up of surgeons and 2-3 Star Air Force Generals discussing the finer points of peanut butter and jelly on white bread sandwiches. He was the hit of the party.

A few days later he loaded up his car for the return journey east. We had a tearful farewell. In those tears shed was all the worry I‘d had about our potential conflicts. We’d managed. We’d better than managed. We’d found our synchronicities and where we couldn’t, grace notes had prevailed. In spite of our great differences of opinion there was plenty of common turf established in which seeds of shared values could and now will continue to grow. May somehow that spirit prevail.