Nip it in the Bud

In my last post I spoke about my new project 1-15-15 which encompasses the rediscovery of my  physical, sexual, and emotional well-being.  Way back when I was a young woman, I imagined by the age of 60 that I would have all the answers, be totally together, and be congruent with the world in which I live.  Now that I am 61 and in the process of rediscovery, I can honestly admit that I don’t know what it looks like to be a whole woman who is sexy, smart, and resilient.  However,  from this space of not knowing, I encounter the UNKNOWN and all of its incredible possibilities and opportunities. What I do know, whether I like it or not, is that life will throw things my way when I least expect it.

The day after I last posted, I had such an opportunity when I attended a lovely cocktail party at a dear friend’s home. When I arrived at the party, I felt comfortable in my skin and was delighted to be there.  I had the good fortune to meet with a lovely couple in their 80s who told me how they met 25 years ago after losing each of their spouses.  I was happy to hear that they found love again after suffering through grief and loss.  As I was leaving the party and saying goodbye to the woman, she told me I was beautiful and looked much younger than my age.  As I was saying thank you, she added “but you are too fat and that is unacceptable for meeting men”.   Wow … from utopia to hell in 30 seconds or less.  I was stunned into silence by her comment.  I mumbled that I gained a great deal of weight after my husband died and was in the process of losing it and getting back into shape.   What I wanted to really do was slap her across the face and scream at her for being cruel and insensitive.


I left the party in a state of dismay.   I thought through how I wanted to handle the situation.  I spoke to my closest confidants – both men and women – and was supported in how to handle this lack of integrity on the woman’s part.  The following week  I saw her at another party.  I was pleasant upon arrival, but knew it was important to let her stew in her own juices for awhile before I spoke with her.  An hour and a half later I approached her and we spoke.  I took her hand and looked her directly in the eyes.  I told her that her comments to me were unacceptable and offensive.  I also stated that I do not tolerate women treating each other like this. She apologized profusely and felt ashamed.  She and I talked for quite awhile and we each had a healing experience.  I stood in my power and she humbled herself in the face of truth and integrity.

This experience provided me the opportunity to step into my authority and allowed her to take responsibility for her actions.  This was a powerful moment in my journey towards being true to who I am and NOT to the cultural standards that dictate who women are supposed to be in the world.  The moral of the story is be true to who you are and to constantly challenge social and cultural expectations that weigh both women and men down. No pun intended of course!


Project 01-15-15


Painting by the fabulous Erika Craig

This post reflects the beginning of a new chapter in my life. One of the primary side effects of grief has a somatic nature and can be experienced as weight gain or loss. In my case, I gained a significant amount of weight as a result of the medications I took for severe depression, anxiety, deep emotional churning and distress. I used eating as a way of coping with the abject sadness that weighed on me.

On January 1 of this year I commenced Project 7-11-14 which was focused on weight loss and health, and a commitment to my professional development and goals. I also put my toe into the dating pool. So on July 11, I was in San Francisco with a good woman friend and officially toasted the successful completion of this project. I have released 12 pounds, all my health tests came back superb, my website and blog were launched, and I taught a course at a local university. Moreover, I have had approximately 2 dozen dates. I have been on fire!

So now I am beginning a new phase which I have entitled Project 1-15-15. This project continues my weight loss efforts, as well as my ongoing inner work. I am connecting with new parts of myself – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When I became a widow, I was no longer a wife. I find myself re-imagining who I am now that my primary identity as Roy’s wife is gone. The late feminist psychoanalyst Karen Horney describes the importance of unlocking a woman’s inner life – one that is not defined by what the external patriarchal world provides her. Horney encouraged women to work from the inside out, not from the outside in. What I know about my inner world is that it has been shaped by the demands of patriarchal standards – questioning whether I am thin enough, pretty enough, and smart enough to live successfully in a man’s world. What I am driven to design for myself at this stage of my life is an inner framework that challenges the patriarchal domination of my psyche. I am moving towards becoming a woman with a life of her own and with questions of her own.

Standing Tall with Anticipation

Dear Roy,

Today is the third anniversary of your death. In some ways it feels like the other day that you left me so suddenly, and yet it feels like eons ago that were together.Roy3rdJuly10 I love you, and will always love you. I will forever treasure your memory and respect who you are in my life. I have worked so hard to be where I am today and I am proud of who I am. I am standing tall in my shoes and looking out at the world with anticipation. I have learned that real grief, as spiritual writer Henri Nouwen says, is not healed by time. Instead real grief is deepened by time. We become aware with the passing of time the importance of our lost loved one in our life and what their love meant to us. In memory we fully recognize the power and depth of love. I know now that I can build a new life and carry you with me as I venture forward. Our love continues and for that I am grateful. 

Shalom and love,


Cats, Coffee and Pink Bougainvillea

tableThe greatest joy in my life is when I am sitting at my small, round, wood-top table looking out at the ocean – my feet propped up on the chair and my body calm. These moments, minutes and oftentimes hours of being right here is a slice of heaven on earth. Often my cats join me for the quiet solitude that is brought to us through the sounds of the crushing waves, the passing by of a school of dolphins, and the swarms of pelicans that swoop by the plate glass window.

I see bright colors of red, purple and pink bougainvillea falling from the trellises, sharp pointed green cacti, and the deep blue ocean framed by the largess of a unending sky.

I begin each day in this way, make my coffee, sprinkle cat treats on the floor for my three feline friends, and open the small kitchen windows, from which I also sneak a view of the ocean.

gaiaWhen I sit in my chair with my freshly brewed coffee, prop my feet up and gaze at the magnificent Pacific Ocean, I am in the presence of the Divine. Since Roy’s death, I have come to depend on this ritual of welcoming the vast ocean into my day. Thank you, Gaia, for being here to support me and to remind me that Roy’s spirit is right here with me.

In these moments I am united with Roy. His spirit is now part of the Big Spirit, the Spirit that fills the ocean, embodies my feline companions, and encourages me to keep living in the physical realm. I am grateful to have this special bird’s-eye view of Mother Earth from my little corner of the world. The breeze floats in with the fresh ocean air. I smell life and I am alive.

In a week, the third anniversary of Roy’s death arrives.  I am grateful for the small daily blessings that inspire me to live my life fully – honoring Roy’s memory and embracing my life.  Those of us who grieve recognize these markers on our journeys knowing that life continues to unfold in wondrous ways.

Sea of Tears

tearAfter my father’s death when I was 4 years old, the home my family and I lived in was filled with emptiness, sadness and silence. I was attached to a 48 year old mother who was inconsolable. My three older siblings and I were often adrift on an unknown sea of tears. One Saturday evening in the middle of a cold Chicago winter, my mother, siblings and I were walking home from a church function. I remember it was cold, dark, and the sidewalk was icy. My siblings walked together behind me and I was walking alone behind my mother. I was 8 years old. My mother slipped on the ice in front of our home and fell hard on her knees. I ran to her. My siblings were busy laughing about something and did not notice. I was overwhelmed with despair and not sure what to do. My mother crawled into the back seat of our white 1960 Falcon which was parked in our driveway. She laid on her stomach in the back seat and her booted feet dangled out the open car door. I crawled on top of her and sobbed with her – crying over and over Mommy, mommy everything is okay.

I was terrified by her sadness and unable to express my own. We needed our father to hold her, pick her up and whisper softly “it’s okay Jeannie, I am here.” What made me cry was seeing my mother’s distraught-ness and no one was there for her except me. And no one was there for me either.

She was alone in her widow’s sorrow for many years following our Father’s sudden death. I was similarly alone, struggled in school, And wondered when someone would be there for me.

When I lost Roy so suddenly I was flooded with the same sense of loss that I experienced as a child. Unlike my mother, I created a community of guardian angels who helped me carry the pain as I resolved the deep sense of sorrow. They are the ones who comforted me.

When one loses someone, we need to reach out and ask for help. I am where I am today because of friends and others who supported me in the early months. Now it is I who support others.

Happy Birthday Roy Jack Mankovitz

Today is Roy’s 73rd birthday – Happy Birthday Roy Jack Mankovitz – you are missed and loved today.

Roy GraveI went to the cemetery this morning and brought flowers – I sat for awhile and spoke with Roy – telling him about the vicarious nature of life – how my moods and relationship to his death change from one day to the next.  Last week when I was driving to Los Angeles and listening to an Al Jarreau CD, I felt an aliveness that I have felt on several occasions during the past 6 months.  I realized for the hundredth time, that I was feeling happy and missing Roy at the same time.  As I sat with friends in LA, I was cognizant of being alert and present – excited to be with friends, eating great food, and drinking delicious wine. I have done the heavy lifting of grief, but nonetheless I continue to struggle as I re-engage with life.

Each day since Roy’s death, I have read a meditation from Martha Whitmore Hickman’s book Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief.  Her book has provided considerable solace as I move through the various cycles of grief and loss. Today’s reading hit home once again:

HickmanThe reading begins with this Walt Whitman quote:  “How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself, in the mystical moist night air, and from time to time, look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.”

She then goes on to discuss:

How readily we can identify with Whitman’s restlessness.  Sometimes it seems as though nothing can hold our attention, nothing is worth doing for long.  Life seems flat, without sparkle, almost without meaning.

Then how reassuring it can be to go out in the quiet night and look up at the stars. Surely in a world of such vast beauty and order, such unfathomable reaches of time and space, there must be meanings beyond our understanding.

There is a sense of intimacy to the night, too. That nearest star, bright in the heavens, is it a sign?stars

The mystery remains.  But somehow we are comforted.

What I have gotten from today’s reading is my gratitude for reconnecting with a sense of wonder about life in its earthly dimension and the possibility of the eternal.  Somewhere out there Roy is watching over each of us.

Managing the Early Days of Grief

I have been asked since starting my blog of how I managed to get through the early days of grief.


During the first 12 months, I depended greatly on a poem by the late Irish poet, John O’Donohue, entitled “On Grief” from To Bless the Space Between Us, which I have included below.  A colleague sent me this poem perhaps three days following Roy’s death.  I read it at Roy’s memorial service.  I knew the minute I received it that it would be a critical part of my learning to understand what had happened to me and what was to come.  I referenced it frequently during the first year – attempting to understand exactly where I was intrapsychically – within myself, not necessarily in the world.  What I know from my journey is critical for those of us left behind to get reoriented to a very different world.  It begins by going inward and then outward, in a slow and uncomfortable oscillating dance.  Poetry took me inward and participating in a widows’ group took me outward.  I also logged my dreams on a regular basis.  I no longer see the gap in the air that O’Donohue references at the end of his poem.  Roy is a fully embodied presence within my intrapsychic world.  Yes I visit his grave and leave flowers.  But most of all I dialogue with him regularly by having dedicated a permanent seat for him at the table of my inner life.  We feast together and celebrate our love – he from afar and me right here on Mother Earth.  Meanwhile I also stay busy with becoming my own person – a woman with a life of her own.

“On Grief “– John O’Donohue  from To Bless the Space Between Us

When you lose someone you love, your life becomes strange.  The ground beneath you becomes fragile.  Your thoughts make your eyes unsure; and some dead echo drags your voice down where words have no confidence.  Your heart has grown heavy with loss; and though this loss has wounded others too, no one knows what has been taken from you when the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret for all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy; again inside the fullness of life.  Until the moment breaks and you are thrown back onto the black tide of loss.  Days when you have your heart back, you are able to function well, until in the middle of work or encounter, suddenly with no warning, you are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.  All you can depend on now is that sorrow will remain faithful to itself.  More than you, it knows its way and will find the right time to pull and pull the rope of grief until that coiled hill of tears has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance with the invisible form of your departed; and when the work of grief is done, the wound of loss will heal and you will have learned to wean your eyes from that gap in the air and be able to enter the hearth in your soul where your loved one has awaited your return.   All the time.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Harold-Kushner-Good-PeopleRabbi Harold Kushner wrote in his best selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People  that bad things happen to good and bad people alike – and good things often happen to bad people.  I knew before Roy died that life was not fair, but my personal relationship to this statement took on a whole different meaning in the wake of his death.   I have learned from Roy’s sudden death and disappearance from my life that death frequently arrives with little time to prepare.  I know at a very deep level that it is better to be as complete as possible with the people in my life  because I don’t know when I will die or for that matter when they will die.   My relationship to my personal death is  very different now.  I am not so afraid anymore – I lived through the dark journey to the underworld and came back up to the world of the living with a refreshed and renewed sense of what it means to be alive.  To be alive means that I am breathing, feeling, thinking, loving, caring, hating, disliking, enjoying, feeling bored, and delighting in the ever present curiosity of what’s next in my life.  I don’t spend near as much time feeling frightened of the uncertainty that is coupled with my unfolding future – I merely remember the load of bricks that was thrown on my shoulders in July 2011.  As best as I can,  I shake off the current shards of fear that attempt to prick me at any given time of the day.    Yes I live with anxiety every day.  I fear getting close to another man because I think of what it would be like if he were to die suddenly like Roy or like my father who died when I was four years old.  I woke up the day after my father’s death to the reality that I would never see him again.  That was a lot for a little four year old to take on – to live with the reality that “Daddy is never coming home again”.  The trauma of my father’s death has accompanied me throughout my life – and was reactivated with Roy’s death.  How could I lose the two most important men in my life to sudden death?  Well, life is not fair.  Bad things happen to good people.  Roy was a fantastic man – he took care of himself, ate healthfully, took supplements, knew more than most medical professionals about how the body works.  And boom – sudden cardiac arrest.  Gone.  Forever.   He was a good person and he was taken out of the game before he was ready.   Meanwhile bad people continue to take up space, create havoc, and give little back to our society.  Go figure.

raven I believe that it is imperative that the reality  of death needs to sit on our left shoulder 24-7 like a squawking black raven.  This raven serves as an unrelenting reminder that we need to seize the moments of our lives with gusto and perseverance.  If someone you love died recently or years ago and you have not adequately grieved the loss, the pain of the death will rob you of life, joy, and hope for the future.   You must do the foot work of grief.  It is painful, hard, and lonely  … and people have been doing it since the beginning of time.  Irish poet John O’Donohue states in his poem For Grief that when you lose someone you love, your life becomes strange.  Yes indeed it does. However, at the end of the crippling journey of grief there is a moment when you realize you have finished the hardest part of the journey back to life.  You notice that spring is back, that the air smells delicious, and that people are commenting that they notice a sparkle in your eye again.  It is a heavy price to pay for recognizing that life is incredible.   But this recognition is awaiting each of us when grief has been completed. I encourage you to grab it when it arrives and don’t let go.  You deserve to feel that incredible sense of being alive … again.

Those Few Extra Minutes…

One changes a great deal throughout the journey of grief.  I can no longer call Roy when I have a few extra minutes.  I cannot call him from the office and tell him I am on my way home and that he can put on the ribs for dinner.  This reality was instantaneous and took many months to adjust to – to really integrate into my daily awareness that he was not here … anywhere …. nowhere for me to call and to hear his voice.  Now I talk to him soul to soul and I know he hears me.

I have learned to trust my insights and knowings about the world and my life inside the bigger world.  I call upon me to figure out what needs to be done.  I still feel sad when I recognize the aloneness that accompanies me on this journey. However, I am released from the dark veil of grief that shrouded me for so very long.  I am fully present to more moments of welcoming the bright times of belonging to the world of possibility.  At this stage of my new life I can “multi-task” – I can miss Roy, feel happy, passionate and joyful and live life fully all at the same time. I am thriving in my life – not merely surviving.

Julian of Norwich states: It was not said that you will not be troubled, you will not be be belabored, you will not be disquieted. More so: you will not be overcome.

I was troubled, felt belabored, and experienced deep disquiet for many months.  And I was not overcome by Roy’s death.  I chose life.  For this transformation I am grateful.



All Shall Be Well

Since Roy’s death almost 3 years ago, I have cultivated an inner strength through writing, dialoguing, meditating and re-discovering what I love to do. My marriage to Roy was the source of my strength. Now I stand on the shoulders of our marriage and draw from the insights and breakthroughs that I am discovering as I move on with my life as a single woman. I derive enormous strength from the words of the Middle Ages mystic Julian of Norwich “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”.  I hope all is well with you!

Julian of Norwich