February and March are not my favorite months of the year under the best of circumstances. But this February, I tragically lost my friend Heather to fucking cancer, and this March, not as tragically but still devastatingly, I lost my dear Uncle Izzy to old age. This was just after the October massacre at my hometown synagogue, “Tree of Life.” After all of these gut punches, I settled into a moment of intense … not just shock, not just anxiety, not just depression, but like, this dull, encompassing understanding of what it means to be this age and know that there are zero assurances.
This led me into a kind of investigation of loss at a macro level. Because this kind of regular loss talk is happening amongst my peers. At some level, I do live with the constant underlying fear that something terrible will happen. And why is it that I’m kind of ok? How do I feel motivated to make things? It’s like I took a drug trip and learned something. It’s like I arrived somewhere, but in a Dorothy “No Place Like Home” kind of way.
Clearly, I’m in the midst of a moment. It’s midlife ish. It’s not a crisis, but there’s some urgency to it. It’s a loss thing.
So it feels right to be launching this season of MILK Podcast, which I’m calling “The Loss Season.” Yet I am living, and feeling life – from my MILKs, from my female friends, from my family, from my beloved neighborhood. All of these things, except the MILKs maybe, drive me crazy in as many ways as they give me pleasure, and they give me life. I’m trying to look at loss as a positive in some ways, and have been exploring subjects and stories where loss can serve as a way to learn.
My first episode of Season 2 with writer Emily Rapp Black is up now. She lost her son at 2 years old to Tay Sachs disease, and she writes and speaks about it with such poise and passion, but is also frank and hilarious and cool as hell. I’m editing a wonderful and informative show with Chanel Reynolds, who put together a website turned book about getting your shit together so you aren’t caught completely off guard financially and legally if something untoward were to happen to you or your spouse. So smart and necessary! I talked to an incredible psychotherapist, Dr. Molly Millwood, about her work with mothers who struggle to maintain their marriages after kids – another form of loss to consider. I spoke to Caroline Schrank, owner of Down to Earth Funerals, about evolving from a career as an event planner and divorced mom of two to a funeral director exploring alternative ceremonies and serving those left behind.
I am so fulfilled creatively when I am meeting these women, and getting to share their stories and contributions.
I’m also writing a book about loss – a kid’s book, and it’s hard. It’s really just very hard to get the tone right. I’ve done ten drafts and its still not there. But I’m plugging away at it because I think the way we talk to kids about loss and sadness and pain in general is not awesome. We need to give them space and truth to deal with the possibilities that things may not always be rosy. At Heather’s memorial service, my kids, and all of our friends’ kids, were so present and so empathetic and I was very moved by their ability to speak clearly and lovingly about Heather to her husband, daughter and parents. It showed me that children can handle emotions and pain, and that they are capable of exquisite love and support.
My kids have been working very hard this year, my daughter academically as she prepares for the rigorous NYC high school process and her Bat Mitzvah in the fall. My son is doing great in school and outside of school, but there have been some questions (mine, really) about what he can handle socially and emotionally. I am constantly, exhaustively, learning how to meet my kids where they are. I’m trying to be there with them as they navigate their worlds. My work life currently permits that, and I’m so damn grateful for it right now. I’m proud of them, and who they are.
There has been a lot of heaviness, this winter, but there has been beauty and laughter, too. My female friends sustain me, with their text chains, conversations in real life, and women’s trips. I will never miss another one.
Spring is here in Brooklyn, and those tough, grey months are behind me. But they will rest inside my heart always and shape how I move through this world. I won’t forget them. In the same way, I won’t forget the months of April and May in 2013 just before my mom died. That was the first major loss of my life, and it made me the mother and friend I am today.
Today is the first day of my kids’ spring break. As I type this, he is at his after school coding class, and she is volunteering at the library. Tomorrow night we will have a Seder. Today, my husband is making a brisket.
Life is sweet today. More soon, from my MILKs.