Destabilized? Love Your Way Through It

me-popa

My grandfather died a few days after he had surgery on some veins in his leg.  During the surgery, a blood clot formed when they tied off his femoral artery for more than 3 hours, and, while the surgery was technically successful, it took a few days for the blood clot to make its way through his system and hit his heart or lungs, or maybe his brain. We’ll never know exactly what the clot hit, only that it hit some vital organ causing powerful and grotesque convulsions followed by almost immediate death.

Popa died while Mom and I were visiting him in his hospital room, and we were all watching The Honeymooners on his hospital room TV.  Mom was sitting in a chair near his bed and I was laying to his right in the bed bedside him, I had my left arm around his neck and he was holding my right hand.  When Popa began convulsing, Mom wasn’t able to hold herself together so, as nurses rushed into the room to help Popa, some of them tended to Mom by getting her out of there.

Because of me being in the bed with him and because of the configuration of the bed in the room, I was trapped beside him as hospital nurses tried to revive him.   For about 20 minutes.

After I called off the efforts to resuscitate him, the nurses helped me escape his “death grip” on my right hand and wrist, and I dealt with some paperwork out at the nurse’s station.  I went to check on Mom who was in a room down the hall and, after being sedated, was asleep.

After that, there was nothing more to be done at the hospital.

Within about 30 minutes of Popa dying, I left the hospital and began to let down.  I sat in my car for a few minutes wondering what to do next..  It’s one of the most bizarre feelings ever and one I experienced again after the deaths of both Mom and Daddy – just a few minutes after someone you adore dies, you’re supposed to get on with the task of living without them.

Where am I supposed to go and who am I supposed to be with?

Mom’s indisposed, Daddy’s not an option because he just doesn’t do this type of emotion plus he’s at my parents’ home cooking which is what Italians do when someone dies, my sister was not at the hospital visiting Popa when he died – Mom and I were – and she’s riding this out with her family which I’m not part of.

I didn’t want to go back to my flat and be alone so I went to my friend Roseanne’s house, she and I worked together and we were close.

She was older than me by about 10 years, she was big, happy, beautiful, smart and she had a boyfriend who had a rubber fetish.  It was pretty common for her to come home from work and find him sitting on top of the dining room table which he would cover in a rubbery plastic table cloth, he’d be wearing rubber pants – the kind you’d wear for incontinence – and a plastic shower cap.   Arriving unannounced, I knew I ran the risk of interrupting something I’d spend the rest of my life trying to unsee, but I was undeterred.

I got to her place, knocked on the door, she answered and I just lost it.

I sputtered out the words to tell her that Popa had just died, I started sobbing and I just sort of fell into the front of her big beautiful body, throwing my arms around her and hanging off her, like I might not be able to stand up on my own anymore.

She stepped forward onto the stoop, backing me up a step or two.  She put her hands on my shoulders and moved me even farther back, and then she said . . .

We have company, you can’t stay.

Oh.  Okay.

So I left.

I sat in my car and here’s how I felt.

I’m alone in this and there isn’t anybody to help me.   I’m broken all the way down and I need and want help but help is not available so I’m going to have to manage this by myself. I’m going to have to pull myself together.

When I tried to think of what I for sure had that might help me feel like I could get through it, the only things I could come up with were my faith in myself, and my faith in God, and at the very bottom of my faith was love.

Essentially, my strategy for dealing with the immense grief of how I experienced my grandfather’s death was for me to love my way through it.  Love is what helped me start my car and safely drive it to my flat.  Love is what helped me get through losing Popa, what helped me deal with the graphic nature of seeing how he died and love is what helped me find a way to neutralize the way he last held me.

Were there other options?  Of course.

What’s the opposite of love?

Being angry wasn’t an option – I could never have produced enough rage to come close to expressing my devastation.

Could I have found someone else, anyone else, who would have ministered to me in that moment, who would have prioritized my needs over theirs?  Maybe.  But after the initial shock of Roseanne not being able to help, I realized it was tremendously unfair to blind side someone with such enormous emotion.  In that moment, I accepted that I couldn’t rely on others to help me offload that or any other trauma that might come my way so, really, when you think about it that way, what else is there but love?

In the 45+ years since Popa’s death supercharged my ability to love, when shit gets real I’ve never relied on anybody to help me and I’ve never expected access to assistance.

I’ve gone through surgeries alone, I’ve been really really sick alone, I’ve spent birthdays and holidays alone, and I’ve continued to lose loved ones and go through the aftermath alone.  I work alone.  I live alone.  I am alone.  But I’m full of love, and I love being alone.  See how that works?

And I’ve become quite practiced in applying the “love technique” across domains.

That’s the really cool thing about love – everybody wants it, everybody needs it, and every single situation you can imagine goes so much better with love, love, love.

Since Trump won, I’ve doubled down on love.

Here’s why.

Since Trump won, for the first time average Americans know first hand what it’s like to have a country powerfully emotionally divided.  Since Trump won, we all know and love a bunch of people who completely disagree about big, important, life-changing and world-changing issues.

Many of our friends feel destabilized by the disruption candidate winning and many of our friends feel destabilized by the disruption candidate disrupting – Hello Taiwan!   Many of our friends feel boastful about their candidate winning – “lock her up” “drain the swamp” and defensive about the relentless attacks on Trump that come from pretty much all directions.

Politics in America has become an angry emotional mess and with the holidays coming up, our normally high stress levels are red lining.

What’s the answer?  What’s the fix?  What’s the solution?  How do we cope?  How can we manage?

Love. Love. Love. Love.

Please join me in unabashed, unapologetic, undeniable love of everyone.

IT’S A BUMPERSTICKER!

bumper-sticker

If you’d like one, PayPal me $15 domestic/$20 international, provide your postal address and I’ll mail one to you.  My PayPal email address is rebecca@rebeccaleone.com.

Loving everybody is the answer, I promise.

I love you.

Destabilized? Love Your Way Through It

Jimmy, the Gay | Together Young, Together Old

becky-kissing-jimmy-by-david
Photo by David Gould

 

Since Thanksgiving Day, I’ve been in Seattle where I lived for 24 years and where I’m visiting my dearest friend, Jimmy.  If you’re familiar with the tv show Will & Grace, Jimmy’s Jack and I’m Karen, and you’ll understand why we refer to Jimmy as my Gay Husband, or “the Gay” for short.

In the late 1970’s Jimmy and I met in Florida, I left Florida to live in Bend, Oregon for 10 years before moving to Seattle and, although it took him a while to get around to it, almost 20 years ago, Jimmy followed me to Seattle and has lived here ever since.

It’s pretty crazy when somebody moves across the country to live near you.   It’s kind of a big responsibility, even though the City of Seattle definitely had my back, because Jimmy not only moved to Seattle to be near me, he moved into the same building I lived in so we essentially recreated the living arrangement we had in Saint Petersburg – neighbors/roommates/neighbors.

Even though I moved back to Saint Petersburg over 5 years ago, Jimmy’s not going to follow me again because he has MS, thank God it’s controlled and it’s not worsening, but if you know anything about MS, heat is the enemy and Florida is nothing but heat so while Jimmy occasionally visits in our “winter” – when highs are in the 80s – he stays put in cool, wet Seattle where his heat-related MS symptoms are a non-issue.

Back to how we met.

In the late 70s, Jimmy was my downstairs neighbor at Coquina Key Arms where I rented 222H and he rented 222A Pompano Drive SE.  Although we’d seen each other in our everyday comings and goings, we formally met one fateful night when I’d been out on the town and, through no fault of my own, I became separated from my pants,  and, in the driver’s seat of my pimped-out white Honda Civic, I’d made it all the way across town, cleared the scrutiny of the security guard at the entrance to my complex, had parked and was sneaking into the common entry hall of our building when Jimmy came out of his flat, saw me in my panties and with a single look, it was on.

He invited me in, I put on pants, we started drinking and we’ve pretty much never stopped.

Jimmy’s short term memory is for shit but he remembers everything from the way-back when we were young and, together, were ruling our world.

He remembers my mom and dad and since both my parents died a long time ago, that means more to me than I can say.

Jimmy and I travel the world together and when we do, we like to set up house and stay for a while.  We’ve rented flats in Venice, Florence and Paris.  Even though I prefer Italy, Jimmy prefers France, specifically Paris, and so much so that after he retires from Macy’s in less than 2 years, he’s going to live there full time.  For his next trip to Paris in April ’17, he’s rented the wheelhouse of a barge.  He can’t swim and I’m certain he won’t float.  Stay tuned for updates on that, m’kay?  I’ll catch up with Jimmy in Paris in April, his wheelhouse sleeps 2.

My life is full of loving friends and I’m grateful for every single one of them but there’s something unique about Jimmy that separates him from everybody else.  And it’s huge.

My whole deal about being alone, about being single, about never wanting a relationship, is because I’m never more interested in anybody else than I am my own interests and the pursuit of my own work.  I’m happier alone than I am with anyone, no matter who they are, no matter what we’re doing.

It’s me, it’s not you.  I orbit, I don’t dock.  And it doesn’t have anything to do with me not loving you or caring about you.  And although it sounds totally selfish, if you know anything about me, you’ll know I’m the opposite of selfish; I’m super generous.

It’s just that I’m a true loner.  I’m a true introvert.  No matter how much fun we’re having, being with other people slowly drains the plasma out of me and I have to recover in solitude.

I have to be alone to recover from not being alone.

Except.

When I’m with Jimmy, I feel like I’m alone.  And I love to be alone.  With Jimmy.

Photo by David Gould
Photo by David Gould
Jimmy Impersonating Leonard Cohen on the roof outside of Pink Door
Photo by David Gould

 

Our dear friend David Gould took these pictures of Jimmy and I yesterday after our extended, boozy lunch at Pink Door.  I’ve been in love with David for over 30 years, he’s an enormously talented artist and if you find him on Facebook, you’ll absolutely love the photography he shares there.  I promise.

 

 

 

Jimmy, the Gay | Together Young, Together Old

I’ll Take Kipnes

Sports psychology is fascinating.

From this New York Times article on the World Series match up between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, we hear the Cub’s manager Joe Maddon talk about what’s on his mind, and the Indian’s 2nd baseman Jason Kipnes talk about how he feels being a Chicago native, playing for an opposing team in the sport’s ultimate competition.

“Cubs Manager Joe Maddon likened his drive to work, spent weaving around cars and pedestrians, to a video game.

“Thank God there’s not another round after this, I’ll say that,” Maddon said. “I’m ready for the family vacation. But it’s spectacular in all the best. Hyperbole definitely suits right now — whatever you want to throw out there, it really matches up to what’s going on right now.”

And now they threaten to provide another chapter of disappointment for the Cubs, breaking many hearts along the way.

“I love it.” Kipnis said. “Good. I hope I break all of them. I hope I break every single one of them. I hope I come home at Thanksgiving and the off-season, and I want to have a smile on my face when I look at all these Cubs fans.”

See the difference?

I’m not surprised that Cleveland is up 3 games to 1.

Are you?

 

I’ll Take Kipnes

I’m Next

Let’s talk about what I call the “presumed order of death.”

If everything goes really well and things follow the presumed order of death, our grandparents die first, then hopefully many, many, many years later, our parents die, and then hopefully many, many, many, many years later, we die.

Daddy died in 1993.

Mom died in 2008 – 8 years ago today.

I’m next.

mom-and-dad-hipsters

Here’s how I imagine Mom and Daddy in the great hereafter, their bodies young and perfect, restored to being the hipsters they were.

I know I’m next, but I also know that I’m still very much alive.

And on fire.

And in love with every moment of every day.

 

I miss Mom and Daddy but . . . I’ll be right along.

 

PS  The order of death is randomly jumbled, leaving us without a shred of certainty about anything other than how we manage ourselves in response to the complete randomness of everything including the death order.  Cheers!

 

 

I’m Next

Make It Your Own

If you teach Pilates, you live in Joe’s shadow, whether you teach like he did or not.

If you teach Pilates, you are advancing his legacy through your own work, whether you know anything about him or not.

Making someone else’s work you own is often difficult.  It’s so difficult that we don’t need to look beyond it to explain the rift in the Pilates industry between the hard line classical devotees who stay true to what they believe is Joe’s work, often without having a clue what they’re doing, and the modernists who have fused and made Joe’s work contemporary, often without having a clue what they’re doing.

 

Unless and until you, what I call, “bring the story of your life to your work”, you’ll be selling the commodity that is “the P word” and when that happens, your efforts to position and promote yourself will be competing against the efforts of studios with advertising budgets and/or square footage and/or equipment investments that are bigger than yours, and/or more established than yours, who have staffs of teachers with more experience than you/yours.

When that happens it’s really a shame because the thing that makes it so amazing for clients isn’t that you’re teaching whatever it is you’re teaching, it’s that they’re working with YOU.  

How do we know that it’s you, you, you at the very center of the client experience?  Your clients are completely free to go anywhere, to work with anyone, at any time.  You don’t own them, they’re not indebted to you, their not bound in any way to you.

They’re with you because of YOU!

 

There are other industries where creators step, in one way or another, aside giving their work over to others to interpret, to evolve, to be the starter for their own interpretation of the same thing.

There are other industries where “bringing the story of your life to your work” is on display, for all to see.

Paying attention to similar situations helps us get smarter about our own realities.

 

Read this.

kesha-article

Watch this.

 

kesha-performance

 

And then watch this.

 

bob-it-aint-me

Bob is absolutely a genius beyond measure and his interpretation of his own work is, without question, amazing.

But there’s no dispute about the power of Kesha’s interpretation of it.  And if you read the article on what Kesha’s been going through, you’ll absolutely hear in her rendition of “It Ain’t Me Babe” every bit of her pain, her hope, and the deepening of her gift.  Remember in the article how the author talked about her pauses?  Patience is hard to learn; Kesha’s performance of this piece let’s us know she’s learned it.

Kesha has a right to interpret Bob’s work, even with Bob still alive and performing it himself.

 

Joe’s dead.

You, and how you teach, and how you work are the only way for Joe to be relevant today.

Without you, and your next client, Joe’s work will be as dead as he is.

You have every right to Joe’s work – we all do.

You have every right to make it your own – we all do.

Then and only then will your unique talents, gifts and genius shine through.

Then and only then will you have brought the story of your life to your work.

 

Be like Kesha and boldly perform master work, even right in front of the master or his most judgmental legacy holders.

Be like Kesha and bravely make genius works your own.

If you don’t, the world won’t know you, and what you can do – and neither will your clients.

If you don’t, you’ll be the cover band of Pilates teachers.

The world doesn’t need more impersonators of Joe, the world needs YOU!

 

Joe got his chance.  Make sure you get yours.

 

Need help?  I’m right here.

Make It Your Own