Modern Loss in Jersey City

Last night I talked about death in front of strangers and met some fresh MILKs.

wod jersey city modern loss reading

I traveled to Jersey City’s Word Bookstore on a lovely summer evening. Musicians played on the car free street. Kids rode bikes, adults drank cold white wine at outdoor cafes, and a lovely crowd gathered in the bookstore to hear from Rebecca Soffer, co-author of Modern Loss, and four other storytellers, including myself.  Rebecca has been traveling the country since the book came out in January (listen to her MILK Podcast interview here), inviting people to share their own surprising stories about grief and loss.

At the event, I met Caroline Waxler, Sehreen Noor Ali, and Nicole Savini. They each told terrific 6 word memoirs stories about loss, faith, dementia and cancer, but also about how Denzel Washington impressed a Catholic priest more than he should have, how Joan Rivers killed giving her estranged sister’s eulogy, and how a mother struggles to talk to her daughter about the death of a grandparent. These women all spoke with emotion about their late parents, and their combined vulnerability, bravery and empathy are exactly what make The Modern Loss movement so damn special.

word jersey city mallory kasdan modern loss.jpg

I told a story about something that happened after I lost my mom, involving social media, miscommunication, and how grief can bring out the worst in people. The incident, which still lives with me, taught me a lot about trust and how to treat people. It hardened me in some ways, and kept me an empathetic listener, in others.

Reflecting on the five-year anniversary of Judi’s death, coming up next week, I know that I have grown in ways she would be proud. It has not been easy, but I am working on my family relationships. I am trying to raise good humans with my partner, and in my work, I am promoting voices and creating stories that I believe have meaning. I am trying to find the balance, and emulate my mother’s life by living mine with joy, awareness, and compassion.   

Mallory Kasdan, Rebecca Soffer, Nicole Savini, Sehreen Noor Ali, and Caroline Waxler

Mallory Kasdan, Rebecca Soffer, Nicole Savini, Sehreen Noor Ali, and Caroline Waxler

But back to Jersey City. It’s these events, books, and support systems that can help us get to a safe enough place with grief.  And to know that we can live again, we can morph after a loss and still be ok. We share our experiences, and we encourage others to do so, and it makes us better. A middle aged man last night had just lost his brother and niece, and wandered in from the street because he saw the Modern Loss sign outside the bookstore. He shared his own 6 word memoir with us, and we thanked him for doing so. With all of the terrible noise, cynicism and hatred in our culture right now, what a gift to have a few hours to sit with others, listen, cry, clap, laugh and support. Thanks so much Rebecca for letting me be a part of it. 

LOVE/MARRIAGE

He always makes the coffee.

He once took the kids to Chuck E Cheese for a 10 am birthday party, hungover.

He fixes my computer, mixes my podcast, and backs up my data.

He goes food shopping, makes stew on a Sunday afternoon, and then cleans the kitchen. 

He still tells me stories from cab driving days.

He never makes a big deal about IKEA on a weekend or driving someone to the airport.

2004 photos by Philippe Cheng

2004 photos by Philippe Cheng

He laughs at my jokes and calls me out on my annoying.

He fights with strangers on Twitter about politics.

He learned to snowboard at age 40.

He loves the movie “Roadhouse.”

He has excellent hair. 

He is always up for family cuddle.

He deals with AAA when the kids leave the dome light on and the car battery dies.

He leads the Seder.

He’ll probably help you move.

He has more than one clear plastic bin of cables and cords.

He could use a few more pairs of dress pants

He’s generally chill, but don’t mess with his family.

He’s my guy.

Totems

I see my tween daughter from down the street, long hair flying, giant backpack hoisted, sheathed in my mom’s dark brown hooded winter puffer -- size XS. It always makes me catch my breath for a moment – seeing Z in that jacket.

When we divided Mom’s closet between the three sisters, there was plenty to go around. Our mom loved clothes. My middle sister took the full length fur coat, which was weird but made sort of sense. My youngest sister took the loud blazers and some of the evening wear. I’m the oldest. I took the nightgowns and some purses. We divided the charms on the necklace she wore everyday.

Some of Judi’s more flamboyant pieces I gave right away to Zoe, who was seven at the time, for dress up: like the light pink cardigan with a pink fur collar and rhinestone buttons, white jazz shoes (?) and plenty of high-heeled boots to totter around in when friends came over. 

parenting through grief Mallory Kasdan.jpg

I hung other things in Zoe’s closet gradually as she grew, mostly sweaters and long sleeve t-shirts.  Such happy/sad, private moments I have with myself every time Zoe walks out of her room in something of Judi’s. A lavender cashmere cardigan, a pair of dangling silver earrings, or a purse I had forgotten about that Zoe now sports so proudly.

In June it will be five years.

The nightgowns are what are most important to me, still. I slip on my mom's nightgowns and I feel …  like a mom. Zoe and her brother snuggle with me in our king sized bed, under the covers, propped up on pillows. We watch “This Is Us,” “Gilmore Girls,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” shows with a nostalgia component. I wish I could talk to my mom about these shows, or watch with her. But me and the kids, we’re cozy. I like holding them next to me, in her nightgowns.

Anyone who has lost a person has had to contend with the stillness of things left behind. Recently, though, I feel strongly that given time, these items can have a rich and almost kinetic power. They have waited, patiently, and respectfully, and now they are ready to live again.

My sisters and I can refer to the clothes and know exactly what the other is trying to convey. I wore the red shiny trenchcoat to vote for Hillary in the primary. Youngest will wear a loud blazer, with gold buttons, uncharacteristic of her regular style, to lead a conference. Middle will wear pantyhose under her doctor dresses, which is weird but we get it.

We are all moving forward in our adult lives now without my mom, and we manifest her, every day. My younger sister is an advocate and policy maker for under served communities, just like my mom. My middle sister is an oncologist and forward thinker about alternative cancer care, inspired by our mom’s disease and her shortened life.

mothering after loss mallory kasdan.jpg

I take notice of the memories and the stories, and document how the clothes connect us. Since Zoe is the sole female grandchild, or the one most interested in fashion, she is the one to embody most of these totems, at least for now. She understands this inherently, and it squeezes at my heart that she does. She gets it. 

Zoe shines bright. She can argue like no one I’ve ever seen, except for Judi. Like her grandma, Zoe has charisma. She also has many pairs of size 5, brightly colored, slightly worn flats, which she will be wearing all spring long.

Mom's Got Her Thing Tonight

I’m lucky to know a variety of excellent women. It’s why I started MILK Podcast, for a chance to converse with and champion some of the passionate and fabulous ladies I come across.

Some of my most treasured women friends are ones I don’t see all that often: my gal pals from college, and they are a special little coven. We get together every few years for an unofficial reunion, and it is always the most replenishing and hilarious time. We drink wine, laugh constantly, tell stories about our kids and jobs, and of course, reminisce about who we were and what we wore while students at The University of Vermont. I always leave these weekends so inspired, so vibrant, with my heart so full. I remember things I had forgotten about younger versions of myself, and I’m moved by them, as if reconnecting with an old friend, and that friend is me.

friendship Mallory Kasdan MILK podcast.jpg

These women: Heather, Whitney, Aimee, Danielle, Lisa and Cressida, are unconditional supports. We live in different locations (urban/suburban/country/east coast/west coast), and aren’t all in touch on the daily, but our choices and values overlap. We share honestly and vividly about our fears and accomplishments. In one breath we feel 19, and like we live on the same dorm hall getting ready to go see Phish play in our student center cafeteria (which we did). In the next we are aware of the responsibilities that challenge the free spirits we all once were (how many types of insurance can one person/family have, just for example).

I came upon this piece on “The New Mid Life Crisis, Why and How It’s Hitting Gen X Women,” while researching an interview that I’m recording tomorrow with it's author Ada Calhoun. She also wrote a crisp and entertaining book of essays called  “Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give,” which I loved and highly recommend. This essay, however, is a bit bleak, -- full of research both scientific and anecdotal about why women in their forties, like me and my UVM girls, would or could be struggling physically and psychically in this mid life place. It is very much worth reading and discussing. 

Coming off of this weekend, however, where Whitney hosted us one night in her cozy home, and planned our meals and thought of everything, I felt so loved and tended to. The second night we stayed in a hotel and met up some other college friends, and it was pure silliness and reconnecting with that fun time freedom we all took for granted in our college days. Meanwhile back at the ranch, our awesome partners tended to our kids. 

friends MILK podcast Mallory Kasdan

Thinking back on our reunion and considering this piece today, I do not feel in crisis. Perhaps this is because I am privileged to have a partner who will watch my kids, and friends with the means to host a lovely dinner and split hotel rooms for a night. That is my pure luck in this life to be able to afford these luxuries.

But I wonder also if I am feeling less mid life crisis-y and more optimistic lately despite the constant drum of bad news and our dire seeming, violent world, because I’m feeling free to be myself, finally, at this mid life crisis prone age. Being with these old friends allows access to the previous selves inside of me that I’ve been able to embody or else retire. Conjuring them up is intense, but feels like a release when I can let them go.

“Self-care” is a phrase that annoys me for no good reason, but letting laughter and love wash over me, and spending face to face time with people dear to me, really felt that way. As moms, women, humans --  our many selves need care, and we deserve it.

day after

This past Sunday was the NYC marathon. Feeling a bit on edge because of the election, I took the kids to cheer on some runner friends with homemade signs, and to high five strangers. I knew the kids would love watching people of all shapes, sizes and colors running through our imperfect but diverse city. The music, the energy of the crowds, the volunteers and inspiring people blazing past. And they loved it, and it buoyed me and it made me hopeful, and gave me the feeling I crave, that one I’m addicted to living here – the one where I absorb the stories, the connections, the pathos and the beauty of so many backgrounds rubbing up against each other. Sunday was really a great day.

Monday, my ten year old and I went to the Hillary’s Brooklyn Field Office to make some calls. We had a script and we called Hillary supporters in Florida to encourage them to vote, ask them if they knew where to go. Zoe was a star, everyone looked over and smiled at her sweet voice and her determination. She was so proud of herself for volunteering and I felt righteous and right on and like a good mom. Monday was also a really great day.

Online, late Monday night, obsessing over the people of Pantsuit Nation, the secret Facebook group where people felt safe to discuss Hillary. The mostly women and men sharing and lifting each other up, telling their stories of overcoming adversity gave me a similar feeling to the marathon, and the fact that I was again seeking out that metaphor was not lost on me. Emotionally building up to a victory for Hillary after the cumulative horror of this terrible election season, trying not to let my doubt seep in. Like all of us, I was looking around to reinforce my own values.

Tuesday we went to vote at the community center in a housing project adjacent to our neighborhood. After the kids helped me fill out the ballot and scan it in, got their stickers and fist bumped the other Hillary supporters, they wanted to play in the complex’s playground, where we had never played before. They met a bunch of kids and played tag happily for a few hours while I posted pictures of us in our “I’m With Her” buttons and pantsuits. I spoke to a friendly mom named Nikki about her neighborhood school and ours. We talked about article that came out in The New York Times this year about school re-zoning in our neighboring, yet very different socio-economic communities and about her experiences living in the housing project. Her daughter’s name is Chloe, and my daughter’s name is Zoe.

I left the playground feeling pretty good. I’m not gonna say smug, because I don’t think I am, but I felt something along the lines of: We’re ok. I can reach outside of myself and talk to people who aren’t exactly like me. I have empathy and compassion and want to understand people, and my kids hopefully do too. I felt hopeful that Tuesday would be a really good day as well.

Obviously today we know that is not the case. Today, Wednesday, I feel sick and sad and numbed to the concept that Hillary lost last night, and that the majority of our country chose fear and hate over love and hope. I’m embarrassed that I live in such a bubble that I am so shocked today. Thinking back over the past few days, the cautious optimism I felt and the personalized self congratulation I allowed for helping to elect a woman, talking her up to my kids, “liking” and loving every inclusive and inspiring post I read on the Pantsuit Nation, thinking we were ok because my kids can play with other kids in a playgound. I feel so bad today, and so stupid and so angry, and so foolish. I’m just here, soaking in it.

I was mostly honest with the kids this morning. I told them that bad things happen. That we will be ok and they are safe. That we will need to fight for those more vulnerable than themselves. I will teach them to speak out, as I have, and to be a good person and a good New Yorker and a good American. I won’t tell them to be afraid, even though I am.

Today we grieve and tomorrow we figure out how to move forward.

pantsuits

My mom, Judi, died in 2013 from lymphoma. She was 67. In her eulogy, I talked about her well meaning, but occasionally forceful practicality and how it could bump up against my more emotional responses to life.

“Buy a suit” was one of those bits of advice she threw out when I directly asked for her thoughts on what kind of life I should pursue. That phrase came up a few times, at various career and identity crossroads in my 20’s and 30’s.

When I graduated from college with an English Literature degree and a vague concept of careers in publishing and media, Mom took me to Benetton in Pittsburgh, and she bought me a navy blue wool pantsuit. I left shortly afterwards for New York City.

I remember being aware, brand new to it, how the city was a giant theater with actors moving through life in their daily performances. I was struggling to figure out what part I would play. What would I wear in that role? Would I be a television production assistant with a walkie-talkie? Would I work in publishing? Advertising? Radio? Which costume would fit me best?

At 22, I was trying to figure out how to live a creative adjacent life and how that would manifest. Mom wanted to help, but had her own way of working though a puzzle. She could offer her credit card and advice on how to look like the person who was interviewing for a job, but not much more then that. And selfishly, I wanted more.

It used to annoy me that she’d say something so simplistic like “Buy a suit.” I felt frustrated with her inability to understand what I was asking: “I’m afraid of the future. I don’t know how to make things happen. I don’t necessarily know what my strengths are. Can you remind me?”

Now, that she’s gone, of course I get it. Nobody actually knows what they are doing and we all have a limited amount of control. Parents especially, are fudging that confidence. So Mom was trying to teach me to fake it, because that’s what gets you the opportunities: the showing up, feeling good in your suit, and looking people in the eye. The rest is how your treat people, and how you use your perspective and your character to connect with others and learn from them.

My mom was fantastic. She worked as a teacher and reading specialist after marrying my dad at 21 and supporting him while he was in medical school. She stopped working to take care of my sisters and I, and then later, became an advocate for women and children through a local women’s organization. In her mid 50’s, she fulfilled a lifelong dream and went to law school. She worked as a public defender before she got sick.

I see my mom, her friends, and the women of her generation, in Hillary’s suits. Those caftan style jackets, the mandarin collars, those confident jewel tones. I see my mom in Hillary’s incredible steely gaze and in her warmth. In her paradoxes. In her ability to compromise. I see my mom when I watch Hill withstand certain men and their egos and their sexism, and still manage to stay cool.

There have been so many times I’ve wanted Mom’s take on this election. When I voted in the primary, I wore Mom’s raincoat and felt her with me. When I saw Hill accept the nomination in Brooklyn in May, Mom was in the room, giving a fist pump to her pro-feminist/humanist remarks and fabulous white pantsuit. I felt a pang when Hillary hugged her poised and accomplished daughter onstage, proud and beaming in her own navy blue suit.

What you wear is, as RuPaul says, your drag. It’s your stay at home mom drag, your businesswoman drag, or your President of the United States drag.

I’ve given away most of my suits, but I will pull one out next Tuesday in honor of my mom, and I will rock that shit.

no brags

We are all complicit in shouting our truths on social media at full volume and thinking that it’s fine. I’ve played along for years – turning my mommy freelance boredom and procrastination problems toward my need to connect with others and to zone out by going deep down the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram rabbit holes. I put effort towards my online self for sure, sharing my writing projects and weirdo observations and, of course, pictures of my family and I doing picturesque things.

But lately, I’m at an oversaturation point. I’ve been having this confusing existential feeling that if I don’t post a picture or say something cute about what I’m doing, then it’s almost like it didn’t happen.

New channels create new customs, but really, WTF? Ten years ago, did you show your vacation pictures to this many people? When did 673 people have to know that you went apple picking in the fall, sledding in the winter, to Disney in the spring and to the beach in the summer? Can you imagine being in your lobby at work and shouting to everyone waiting for the elevator what you were listening to on your headphones? How is this now considered okay?

I know for sure that my departed Jewish Bubbies would be mortified with all of this straight-up bragging.

Yes, people have always figured out a way to boast, even before Instagram and Facebook. But Jews, given our history of persecution and knowing that usually we were the most hated people in the room at any given time, knew to try and keep it humble and not talk brazenly about any good fortune we might be experiencing in front of our neighbors and in front of God.

There is, however, this sneaky loophole called “Kaynahora.” It’s Yiddish (duh), and translates very loosely to “knock on wood.” The thinking went that by saying the phrase following any brag (usually about children or grandchildren and followed inexplicitly by spitting) that you would be are safe from the wrath of the Evil Eye because God will protect you. Nice, right?

So are we just kaynahoring all over social media by occasionally remembering to say that we are #blessed, or alluding to it by only showing the photogenic moments, assuming that we are somehow safe from the world’s many evil eyes? Can we just not help ourselves because we feel so much pressure to keep up with our FB friends, who may or may not be our actual friends?

Given the number of terrible things that happen to people everywhere, everyday, every minute – natural and manmade disasters, illnesses and accidents, things that ironically the internet makes us more aware of and more anxious about than ever before – I don’t think we have any business bragging about SQUAT. We should be knocking on all kinds of woods and looking around for any possible protection.

And yet we all do it because we are numb, bored and scared of empty space. We create these curated lifestyle magazines online, taking cues from the celebs we follow. We want to capture moments from our lives, for ourselves and maybe our friends from high school, but we want them to be the best ones with the filter that makes them even better, the flattering ones of our asses, the Christmas card-worthy ones.

Why hasn’t all of the information we absorb and disseminate made us more humble rather than less? My guess is that the constant noiseless noise online is making everyone shout louder to drown each other out and therefore not letting us see and hear what we are really doing to each other.

I know it makes me sound old to fret about it, but I do think fondly about time BSM (Before Social Media). It was a quaint era when we weren’t constantly making out with our phones. We looked up when our partners called our names. We walked in a straight line from our house to the subway without doing the texting loll to one side thingy people do now. We slept better, and we were more present. Maybe we got less done, but we did more with less.

I know we’ll get through this giant transition together, just like my great-grandmas and grandmas and mom got through living life and raising kids with their own technology challenges. (Radio? Television? Faxing?) Maybe it will soon regulate or at least feel normal again to talk so much and promote so much and share so much, but, for me, I’m thinking that I need less discussion and chatter and talk of myself and more of something concrete and real that doesn’t leave me feeling so empty.

Maybe someone (my son or daughter, Kaynohora) will create an app to protect us all from our own online hubris.

(originally written as “Kaynahora, Dudes: Why I Knock On Wood Before Bragging Online” and published by Tue/Night on October 27, 2015)

commute

My son is 5 years old with humongous eyes and a way of processing information that is unique to him. His developing brain is a fascinating thing to watch.

He loves the subway, as do many kids like Miles, but what’s fantastic about riding the train with him is how his struggles to interpret social cues often seem to bring out the very best in people. He has given me a chance to reclaim what can be the dreary experience of 20 + years of riding the train, because he is so excited to simply be there, look at the map, to discuss which trains are local and which are express, where the F train begins and ends and where you can pick up the G.

The unspoken NYC Subway etiquette famously does not encourage smiling, eye contact or direct engagement, but to Miles it is just a giant grouping of people going places. He asks the questions many of us wonder as we make up stories in our heads about people while touching limbs and sharing air. His little voice as he asks aloud about his fellow passengers, or regurgitates something that happened to him earlier in the day is pure. I have seen countless charming and surprising interactions between Miles and even the most intimidating characters on the train.

Last week, after the first day of Kindergarden in a new school, where he had fallen in the park and opened up an old boo-boo, we were riding home. It was a hot day and he hadn’t eaten his lunch in the overwhelming swirl of new sensations of the first day. On the train he had calmed down but was working it out in full voice how I cleaned the blood from his knee on the playground and applied a band-aid. While he went over it for the second or third time, a middle-aged, kind of tough looking dude with an earring and a cycling cap across the train was smiling and nodding encouragingly at Miles.

Miles: What’s your name

Man : Victor

Miles: Which stop is yours?

Victor: Jay Street

Miles: Is that your home? Or are you going to work?

Victor: I’m going home.

Miles: Today was my first day of Kindergarden. I fell and hurt my leg.

Victor: I fall all the time Miles. You’re gonna be all right my man.

M: OK. (and with my prompting) Have a nice day Victor.

That’s nothing to most people in most normal places, but in New York we don’t do these little captive chats most of the time unless there’s a reason for it. I actually live for these moments, because to me it is evidence of some larger spirit, or kindness, or curiosity or energy that binds us all together. You can try to squelch it, put it in your giant purse, make a tough face and pretend you’re not watching or listening. But it is always there. And sometimes it can take a child who isn’t familiar with social graces, or is too inquisitive to care to wake us to the fact that we are all perfect beings who seem to be on our way somewhere, but actually, we have already arrived.

Children, with their needs and wants can tax and worry us so much that we forget to see the wonder in their eyes, the amazing in their brains, the beauty in their difference.

personal in public

I’ve always found stadiums and sports arenas fascinating. Like their sadder, more workweek cousins Convention Centers, stadiums are concrete, generic vessels that come alive when people united by a team or a band stream through their entrances. If sports and music are religion to some, then yes, stadiums are churches, and each person shuffling through the restroom line an individual worshipper.

On a Friday night in early July, I stood on the floor of a stadium in Chicago with tens of thousands of other twirling, wrinkled, middle aged people watching The Grateful Dead reunite after 20 years. The following Friday found me at another massive venue in New Jersey with my 8 year-old daughter to see Taylor Swift perform for squads of tween, teen and other variously aged females, plus a few baffled dads and boyfriends.

These two epic summer musical events in the space of one week smacked me in the face with nostalgia, and filled me with a new parental feeling I’ve been struggling to define. I was buoyed by the primal indulgence of entertainment, and felt unironically #blessed for the dual chances to supersize my and my daughter’s joy.

At the Dead show I was with girlfriends from college, and ran into others from all facets of my life. I was giddy and thrilled to be a part of a temporary hippie throwback moment – no matter how constructed. It was a massive party and I was going for it. My pleasure when the music started was both deeply personal and perfectly public. I was free to dance badly with feeling.

I had last seen The Dead in 1995. What struck me as I watched the band and the fans revel 20 years later is how rarely it is that I lose myself in anything these days – and how much I used to take that kind of letting go for granted. Now my energy seems solely focused on solving problems and creating opportunities for my kids and my work. As the band played, I forgot the checklists and lost myself in singing out lyrics and woo-hooing.

My experience was deepened at the Taylor Swift show, as I witnessed my daughter absorb her first concert. Z’s shiny, widened eyes, her fist raised in the air as she mirrored others around her, the adorable poster she and her best bud schlepped to the show – it was all so beautiful and pure. I breathed it in and put a mental photograph in her girlhood scrapbook for both of us. It made me tear up, because I recognized that Z having a formative experience. I was there for this one, and got to share it with her, but I realized as I watched her mouth move and her eyes follow the spectacle of girl power and pop music, that she was already having the kind of interior life I had reconnected with a week before in Chicago.

As I hugged her and we shouted out the words to “Bad Blood,” “Trouble,” and “Style,” all around me I saw girls and women of all ages doing the same. I saw people, thousands of them, standing in their stadium seats with their blinking bracelets and their smiles, looking as happy to be there as we felt. I squeezed her tighter.

A few days later Z left for overnight camp. It is really weird not having her around, which is a non-writerly way to describe her spotless, empty room and the negative space in our home without her loud voice and big personality, but weird is really what it is. Last week she was here but now she’s somewhere in New Hampshire, climbing ropes and making friends and learning archery, and I’m not there for any of it. She is being propelled into the world, but her inner life will always be with her. I hope she nurtures it with lots of music and art and friendship and anything else that reminds her that she is her own person, with her own story, but is always amongst thousands of others right there with her in the stadium.

dead right

A week ago I was headed to Chicago to see the Grateful Dead. I returned from that experience a different person.

I KNOW. How totally absurd and super annoying of me to say that. Like the person who talks about juicing or their dog’s poops or their baby’s personality a little too much, I realize how self-absorbed and trite this sounds. But allow a sister a little hyperbole.

People have been writing all week about the shows in Chicago and in California, and how the 70,000 + crowds each night were lovely and unified and super kind veggie burrito-ish to each other. No pushing, no aggression, just peace, love and sativa. How the music was rich and potent and how time seemed to hover somewhere between 1995 when the Dead played their last show at Soldier Field, and present day, present moment when they took the stage again with a few tweaks to the band lineup and the appearance of the fans. Walking through the streets of Chicago to and from the show was as cozy, crazy, happy and summertime party-down festive as anything I’ve done in years. It brought me back to college and fun and freedom and nothing left to do but smile smile smile. (Sorry).

It was special to go with two dear friends who live far away but will always be my true sisters. I was without my husband and kids and felt worry free and light. I was utterly in the moment — running into friends, high-fiving strangers, and dancing the hippy dance – the one where you don’t move your feet and might whack someone with your roving arms. I liked having to explain to several people that sorry, I did not have mushrooms to sell, but was grinning and giggling like a maniac simply because I was happy.

Now it’s a week later in the life of a mom of two youngin’s going to two different camps with lunchboxes and lost water bottles and pajama day and doctor’s appointments and playdates and living in the most non-peaceful construction zone of a neighborhood in the world. A lot of things have gone down this week, but I’m still smiling and thinking in these bumper sticker-y Grateful Dead song lyrics. I’m waiting for it to wear off and to return to the pissed off weirdo mom person who yells at people looking at their phones while crossing the street.

I can’t fully explain the transformative effect that one concert had on my attitude, but I am internally vibrating. Something shifted while I was reveling in those songs that were so much a part of my teens and twenties. I was having this intimate relationship with the band as they sang, while around me everyone else was having their own personal experiences – equally as intense of course. I felt like a vessel for the music and for memory and for love.

I try so hard to get there — I meditate, I self-medicate, I try to be mindful towards the happy times and to equally feel the sadness, the anxiety, the anger and the disappointments. But this was a time where everything was working. And the blissful memory of that weekend will sustain me.

It is bizarre, but I’m running with it. If you see me you’ll know. It must have been the roses.