Wednesday, August 05, 2015

First Steps

I remember the day my son took his first steps.  I was sitting on the floor in our family room across from my then mother-in-law as we passed a helium balloon back and forth.  Enamored by the balloon and determined to take hold of it, my son promptly pushed himself up on his feet and attempted to walk toward the latex sphere.  Fear of falling wasn't an option because he had his eye fixated on the prize of procuring the balloon.  Then, without realizing he was taking, literally, one of the first fundamental steps of his life, he began to master walking.  This was the genesis of many wonderful milestones my son and I would share. 
I recently had that transformational moment parents of young adults inevitably go through.  That moment when you realize they’ve crossed the threshold into adulthood and are now the captains of their destiny.  It’s an emotionally complicated and bittersweet stage in life.  

A few weeks ago, Stephen and I were sitting out on our patio.  This has become our new family time.  A time I’ve come to cherish at the end of each day.  We have dinner and download and regale the day.   As my son was conversing, I realized that sitting before me was no longer the little boy with skinned knees and a love for all things Legos and Thomas the Tank Engine, but rather the man I had so earnestly wanted to raise.  He had recently started driving and was working three summer internships in addition to freelancing as a sound engineer on independent films.  He was earning and managing his own money, taking meetings with producers, directing and producing his own movies, dealing with the hellish nightmare that is LA traffic and still found time to make his bed every day.  All very grown up responsibilities and I could not be more proud of him.
From the very second  I knew I was going to have a baby until this moment, I have had my arms around him; guiding, loving, teaching, protecting and preparing him for his future.  In what seemed like a cruel flash of time, the day has come when I have to unlock my hold around him and let him stand on his own.  Much like the day he took his first steps and I stood behind him as he wobbled across the room, ready to catch him should he fall, only to watch with joy as he mastered his stride.  I now stand here as I watch with elation my son not just take his first steps into adulthood, but propel at lightning speed into it.  
The tables have now turned and I’m taking my first steps.  My first steps in letting go.  My first steps as the parent of an adult.  My first steps in moving forward with my life.  It’s time for me to do more grown up things.  To travel more, learn a new language, settle down with an amazingly wonderful guy and be more adventurous, spontaneous and maybe even a little daring.  I’ll be the first to admit I’ve wobbled a bit, but I too am mastering my stride.  It’s painfully hard not to feel a loss of purpose as I navigate this emotional but necessary transition and grapple with feeling my role in his life slowly diminishing as he has grown and flown. 
As I now step back and watch my son thrust toward his future, I’m comforted in knowing I’ve more than equipped him for the journey.  And much like I did at his age, he’ll look back from time to time for reassurance and support, which I’ll gladly and gently provide, only to have him then turn and steady his gaze ahead toward his destiny.  In the meantime, my arms have been opened to release him but, like any good mama, they are always here ready and waiting to hug him.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Turning 50

This past weekend, with cherished friends and loved ones around, I celebrated a milestone birthday of turning fifty.  Even saying the phrase “I’m fifty” makes me shake my head in disbelief.  Where did this fifty come from?  I don’t feel fifty and I’d like to humbly (but proudly) believe I don’t look it.  Back when I was the tender age of ten, fifty seemed like an eternity away.  Well, it appears that eternity, in all of its matured glory, has finally arrived. 
Amidst all of the jokes of now being old enough to be an official member of AARP and my friends believing I need to start wearing Depends diapers, I’m actually quite proud to have reached this turning point in my life.  “Over the hill” is a comedic expression that is synonymous with reaching this milestone.  Let me assure you, I am anything but over the hill.  I stand firmly at the center of not just the hill, but the mountain top, stoic and resilient and have a full awareness and appreciation of all that is around me.  I certainly don’t anticipate treading down the slope anytime too soon.  Granted I am now officially closer to death than birth, but I still have an ambitious list of accomplishments yet to be consummated.
I had recently been reflecting back to when I turned forty.  It was the eve before my birthday and I was sitting on the edge of my bed watching the clock round to midnight.  The second the clock struck twelve, an overwhelming excitement washed over me.  I, me, LoriAnn was now FORTY.  It was a rite of passage, if you will.  I was now part of this special forty and over club.  I felt I had finally come into my own.  But, all too soon, my excitement turned to fear.  I had been divorced barely a year and was still healing from the pain and effects that such a life event brings.  I had fear of how I was going to raise my son, then only 7 years old; with as little collateral damage and need for therapy as possible.  Fear of how I was going to make ends meet.  Fear of how I was going to navigate the shark infested uncharted waters before me. And, sadly, but most certainly, fear of being alone. 
If I could go back today and sit with that girl I would take her by the shoulders, look her squarely in the eyes and tell her that she’s going to be just fine.  She’s going to be fine because unbeknownst to her she’s got a lot of fight in her.  A strength and courageousness she will exude repeatedly over the next ten years for the many unforeseen challenges she will face.  She will slay one dragon after the other and emerge stronger with each win.  She will lose some battles as well but the lessons learned and wounds incurred will be invaluable and key in continuing to build her fortitude and character.   

More importantly, she will be fine because of the many wonderful people she will have in her life who will share in her journey.  They will celebrate her wins and successes and comfort in the losses and painful moments.  They will laugh hard together and cry hard together.  They will call her on her missteps because they value the friendship and that’s how she will learn to be a better person.  They will carry her at times and she will need to let them (still a tough one for her but she’s getting there).  They will love deeply, beautifully and unconditionally and she will evolve in an insurmountable magnitude for having them by her side.   
As I now embark on my fifties I do so with unfettered passion.  The fear I had in my forties has long since dissipated. The beauty of being older is that I’m also wiser.  Wise enough to know that everything to this point was the ramp up to what my true potential, gifts and accomplishments that are yet to be.  I have bigger mountains I want to climb.  I may smell like Ben Gay when I reach the top of them, but reach them I will. This momentous birthday is my threshold to new opportunities and a stronger fulfillment in life. 
I look to the well-trod path behind me and all the love, joy, pain and experiences I was blessed to have along the way and whisper a prayer of thanks for each encounter.  I now point my compass to the road ahead and take my first steps on this new direction of my journey.  An adventure of both continued friendships and new companions, untold possibilities and undiscovered horizons that await.  I’m of the belief that the best is yet to come and that fifty is, and will be, truly fabulous!

Monday, April 06, 2015

A Tale of Two Missions

A few weekends back I set out on a mission to my local furniture store to procure a new couch and side chair for my living room.  After several years of my former couch being nothing more than a glorified doggie bed, smells and dog slobber included, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and buy and new set.  Armed with my chai tea latte, I landed upon said furniture store determined to find not only the perfect couch and chair but also attempt to do so at a bargain price. 
It’s always comical to walk into a furniture store and watch the sales sharks circle you like your chum.  Cue the theme from “Jaws”.  Within ten minutes I was approached by no less than six associates all jockeying for my business and a commission.  I then noticed this demure and polite associate and determined he would be the salesman who would earn my business.  His name was Manny.  Manny spent over two hours roaming the floor with me, tolerating my indecisiveness, changing my order twice (I’m really not that girl, really I’m not) and got me three cups of tea.  Of course, that meant at least three trips to the ladies room which only delayed the process, but I digress.  Once I FINALLY decided on the set I wanted to purchase, cue the “Hallelujah Chorus”, Manny had to wait for his manager to write up the invoice.  During this time Manny and I sat on one of the couches and talked like two old friends who’d met up for coffee. 

I had shared with Manny details of the latest film my son is working on and that I work for a VMS company.  He shared with me how excited he was about going to a family reunion the following weekend.  He then proceeded to tell me that this was the first time several of his family members were getting together since the death of this wife.  She had died twelve years prior from bone cancer.  I was becoming endeared to Manny and felt a pang when he told me about losing his wife.  He then asked if I would permit him to show me a picture of her and his grandchildren.  I was only too happy to oblige.  She and they were beautiful.  What struck me was how tenderly he spoke of his wife.  His face lit up as he showed me one picture after another.  You could clearly tell she was the love of his life and that his heart was still broken by the loss.  I found myself becoming envious that she could have such a wonderfully beautiful effect on him after so many years of having passed.  I sat with Manny and let him regale stories of him and his wife and found my own heart fulfilled and joyous.  I was touched and happy for this couple whom I’d never met, yet clearly had such a tender, loving relationship.  It gave me hope that perhaps one day, I too would have the same.  To be loved so deeply and admirably.  It was truly a beautiful thing to witness. 

When I left, Manny shook my hand and thanked me for letting him share his stories.  I was only too happy to have let him do so.  He exuded a sweet spirit and genuineness that resonated with me.  As I walked out of the store I realized that my initial mission was to buy a couch but in the end it was simply to be a friend and listening ear to a widower whose heart still beats for the love of his life. 

I’m a firm believer that no one crosses our paths by accident and Manny was no exception.  He danced on my soul for a brief moment.  My need for a couch and his need for a friendly customer were all meant to be.  I feel blessed and honored to have had the opportunity.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Farewell Lenny

Lenny and Stephen circa 2000
About two weeks ago, my son and I had the painful task of having to put our beloved beagle, Lenny, to sleep.  Lenny gave us fifteen amazingly great years of unconditional doggy love.  He was fiercely loyal coupled with a tender, sweet spirit.   Those of you who are dog owners know all too well that the loss of dog is alike to losing a family member.   The loss leaves a chasm in your heart that will ache in a way you could never have imagined.
I have so many special memories of Lenny but one stands out above the rest.  It was a few months after my divorce.  I had awakened in the middle of the night, with my heart deeply broken and was sobbing.  Lenny, sensing my hurt, jumped up on my bed, put his head on my chest, nuzzled his nose up near my face and gently licked my tears.  He then looked at me with those soulful, big brown eyes of his as if to say, “I’m sorry you’re in pain but know that I love you very, very much”.  From that moment on we had this unbreakable bond.
When you own a pet, a dog in particular, you look with different eyes and a different heart to see and feel the love they give you each and every day.  It’s in all the small moments.  Moments that can be easily missed if you’re not fully open and aware to their presence.  It’s the wagging of the tail when you speak with them.  It’s the bursting with joy and happy yelps each and every time you come home, even if you were gone for only ten minutes.  It’s the gentle nuzzle they give while curled up on the couch with you.  It’s looking down on the floor and seeing them right beside you, always.  It’s the absolute excitement they have when they hear you get their leash to take them for a walk.  It’s the fierce bark they emit when they sense danger and ready to protect you, even if it costs them their lives.  It’s the thousands of kisses and unending affection they exude letting you know how insanely they love you. 
Lenny, despite his sweet nature, also had a mischievous side.  He had a penchant for getting into the trash.  One funny situation was when he got his nose stuck in an empty peanut butter jar and was sitting in the middle of the living room, trash all around him and the jar stuck on his nose.  We called it “Exhibit A, Case Closed”.  He also seemed to have a fetish for stealing my panties out of the laundry and hiding them under the bed.  I don’t know if he was a perv disguised as a dog or owned a lingerie shop in a former life, but it always perplexed me that he seemed to enjoy my “delicates” so much.  Lenny was also a bit of a Houdini, in that he would dig a hole under our fence and escape from the yard, only to be returned like an fugitive by one of our neighbors.  Despite his silly antics, we loved him as unconditionally as he loved us.
When Lenny’s health declined these past few months, I knew all too well that my days with my beloved furry friend were waning down.  I had this constant lump in my throat knowing that soon I would have to say goodbye.  We were told we would have about a year, but sadly we had about one month.  Nothing prepares you for that moment when you have to let them go.  I held him in my arms until his final heartbeat.  He had been by my side through thick and thin and I was not going to leave his in his final moments.  I repeatedly told him how much I loved him and how sorry I was that he was so sick and had to leave us.  The second he was gone I wept uncontrollably.  This pain, from a place that hurts so deeply, rose up and overwhelmed me.  This furry ball of love that had provided me with so many years of joy and unconditional love was now gone.  The vet let me stay with him for a few minutes afterwards.  Through my tears, I gently kissed his head and whispered in his long soft ears one last I love you.
I walked in with a dog and left with an empty collar.  A symbolic reminder of all the amazingly wonderful moments we had.  A reminder of a dog whose only purpose was to bring happiness and love to his family.   A dog, who did all that and more.  A dog who left more than a paw print on my heart.   

They say all dogs go to heaven.  If this is so, then I truly hope Lenny is enjoying his favorite treats, tummy rubs and running around the celestial city with all of his canine buddies.  And, should heaven have peanut butter then I can only hope they have the trash barrels locked up. 

Farewell my wonderfully sweet, wet nosed, milk bone loving, furry little friend!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Having an Attitude of Gratitude

As my Jewish girlfriends often say, "Oy Vey".  This past week has been exceptionally difficult on several fronts.  Life sucker punched me a few times, and hard.  On the professional side, I’m overwhelmed by a recent series of events and, to exacerbate the situation, I received news that I’m losing one of my strongest team members.  On the personal side, I’ve had one disappointment after another in addition to receiving difficult news on a medical front that has rendered me with some tough decisions to make.  I’m a fighter and will certainly soldier through, but when life hits you with a myriad of challenging issues; it leaves you spiraling a bit. 

It would be so easy to sit back and feel sorry for myself.  To hole myself up in my bed all weekend and play the “woe is me” card.  Anyone who knows me, knows all too well, self-pity is not in my DNA.   Truth be told, the martyr and victim mentality is a pet peeve of mine. 
What I’m choosing to do is have an attitude of gratitude for all the pleasant moments life brought this week. 
  • Gratitude for a lovely home cooked dinner and the warm fellowship shared with my friends as we watched the Golden Globes. 
  • Gratitude for hitting a 17 pound weight loss since November 1st.
  • Gratitude for the special bonding time with my son as we brainstormed over a new script for his next movie.
  • Gratitude for the success one of my brothers is experiencing in his new job
  • Gratitude for wonderful people in my life who have reached out this week to offer support
  • Gratitude for the gorgeous drive I have to work every morning that helps reset my soul and remind me of all the amazingly wonderful blessings in my life
  • Gratitude for the unexpected, kind words of a friend that put a smile on my face, even if just for an hour
  • Gratitude for the lessons I’m learning through the difficult situations I’m facing
  • Gratitude for good wine at the end of the day to help erase all the yucky parts of the day J
Through exuding gratitude I’m choosing the direction of my focus.  Each morning I sit on the edge of my bed and whisper the following mantra: “I’m making a choice to live an extraordinary and happy life today”.   By doing so, it sets the course of my day.  We all possess an amazing power, the power of choice.  By choosing to push through and have an attitude of gratitude, I’m choosing a healthier and happier outcome.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not running from my problems. I’m simply making a choice to not let them have dominion over me.     

As this next week approaches, I eagerly look forward to gaining victory over the shortcomings and difficulties experienced these past several days.  I’ve left enough tread marks on this earth to know that the solutions will present themselves and I will press on.  I’m also looking forward to the many new blessings yet to be bestowed and potential hidden gems that will lift my spirit even higher.  I bid adieu to last week and all the turmoil it brought and welcome with open arms the week ahead and all of its renewed possibilities!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Tearing Down the Walls

As I sit at the precipice of a new year, I can’t help but reflect on years past as well as look with great excitement to what lies ahead.  With each passing year, I find myself coming more and more into my own as I evolve toward the woman I’m destined to be.  As I embark upon 2015, I do so with an abundance of gratitude for what I consider to be a very happy life.  I have a son who makes my heart smile every day and never ceases to amaze me with his loving, gentle spirit, great sense of humor and immense talent.  I have a job that I deeply enjoy and get tremendous satisfaction from.  I have a beautiful home, wonderful possessions and money in the bank.  I have some of the most wonderful friends and family a girl could ask for and, with the exception of needing to lose a few pounds, (who of us doesn't), I am in great health. 

With all of this said the one area of my life that I would like to see blossom is my love life.  This is not to say I've not had opportunity.  I've had countless opportunities to fall in love and even start a new life with someone.  What I've learned of late is that I've subconsciously resisted letting someone in, truly in, bringing them into the inner sanctum of my heart; standing in front of them emotionally naked and surrendering, wholly.  Instead, I've consistently erected the preverbal walls of defense in an effort to protect my heart and barricade me from the painful travails of it being shattered to pieces.  It wasn't until late that I came into this awareness, and perhaps I've become aware, because the emotionally complex and broken pieces of my heart have long since healed and it’s well beyond time to move forward.

This became ever so evident about six months ago.  I was shopping at my local Trader Joe’s where I noticed a lovely elderly couple.  They had to be in their eighties.  He was dressed impeccably well.  The personification of Dapper!  Tailored pants with a sharp cuff, a crisp white shirt, vest, sport coat and felt tipped hat.  She was in perfectly pressed slacks, a floral blouse and cardigan draped in pearls and well-coiffed white hair.  She was also in a wheelchair.  What struck me were the tender exchanges between both.  He would pick up an item and show it to his beloved asking her if it was the product she wanted.  She would gently put her frail hand on his and reply yes or no and, or point to what she needed.  With each interaction, he acted as if it was his utmost pleasure to be there with and for her and she looked at him as if he’d hung the moon.  I was so deeply moved watching them.

I had paid for my groceries and was readying to drive out of the parking lot when I noticed the elderly couple again.  He was now gently taking her out of her wheelchair and placing her into the car.  I watched with utmost respect and envy at his love for her.  Once she was safely in the car, he put her seat belt on and then lovingly placed one gentle kiss on her forehead.  It was at this point that I welled up with tears and went careening off of the emotional cliff.  This beautiful, delicate dance between husband and wife moved me in such a powerful way.  I knew in that moment that I wanted to have that kind of love.  I also knew that I would not have that kind of love if I didn't take measures to tear down the walls I've had up far too long and let that love in.  I must have looked like a fool crying alone and uncontrollably in my car, yet, it was a moment that was meant to be and one I needed to walk through.  My emotional response was powerful and deeply cathartic.  I truly believe I was destined to be at Trader Joe’s to witness this amazingly beautiful exchange as life’s way of saying “it’s time”. 

The heart is one of the strongest muscles in the body, yet so fragile when it comes to love.  Once it’s broken, it shatters into a million pieces and needs to take the necessary time to heal properly.  Trust, self-worth, confidence and a desire to love and be loved again all need to be re-instilled.   We all deserve to love and be loved and should not let the hurts of the past rob us future joy.

Since that day at Trader Joe’s, I've pushed myself out of my comfort zone.  It is only through removing the bricks from the fortress I've been hiding behind will I see and experience the love that awaits me.  I've taken down the velvet ropes that encompassed my heart, put myself out there and, at times, have even taken the reigns.  It’s scary and exhilarating all the same.  Some moments have been met with acceptance, some not.  I've been empowered when they've been accepted and have learned not to become crestfallen when they are not.  Both experiences are part of the journey toward finding love again and will make it that much sweeter when I do. 

Will I find love in 2015?  God, I hope so!  The “who” is unknown and, in some ways, makes the odyssey that much more exciting.  I know I run the risk of potentially getting hurt again; however, I've made peace with the thought.  In essence, it will mean I had the opportunity to love and be loved again.  None of us have a crystal ball we can peer into to know if a relationship will work or not.  I certainly did not know that on June 2, 1991 as I pledged my undying love to the then, love of my life, that years later I would awaken at 3:22 a.m. a divorced, heartbroken, single mother with the financial worries of the world on my shoulders, scared out of mind about how I was going to pull through and with the other side of the bed empty.  I don’t regret falling in love and getting married and I don’t regret dissolving my marriage either.  Again, it’s all part of the journey, both the good and bad.  

As I lift my virtual glass to the year ahead and herald all that lies before me, I embrace it with unfettered passion and excitement.  I feel the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, softly whispering in my ear that this is my year.  Here’s to love and all the joy, euphoria, excitement and albeit pain it brings. Let's hope that this truly is my year to be enraptured by it's sweet intoxication again.  Maya Angelou put it best when she said “First best is falling in love. Second best is being in love. Least best is falling out of love. But any of it is better than never having been in love.”