The Journey and the Sherpa-like People Who Guide You

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At around 8-years-old I gave my dad a small wooden toy sailboat. On the side were the words, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” The Father’s Day gift symbolized (at least to me) why we moved to a different house or state every year for those eight years, and maybe why my father has never stopped moving.

Since my divorce in 2010, I’ve moved four times — twice in San Diego, then to Los Angeles, and in January to New York.

I’m ready to stop moving, but I’m not sure when that will happen.

If life is indeed a journey, then I’ve come to believe that along the way there are sherpa-like people who help you navigate your travels.

There are people in your life meant to deftly give the guidance and help you need to pass through each chapter.

In my case, my first guide, after my parents, was my first best friend Michelle. She was there with me as an awkward 12-year-old as I was living with my mother for the first time. She and her family welcomed me into their world and made me feel like I was a member of the tribe.

In college, my friend Brook, like the rock of Gibraltar that he is, never wavered. He directed me in plays, and then packed up a U-haul and brought us to Brooklyn, guiding me into work, and showing me how I could be financially independent.

There was my husband. In twenty years together, the longest segment on my journey outside of childhood, he taught me, among many things, tenacity in work, what it means to love as a parent, and the depth of what trust means in a relationship.

My sister guided me through my mother’s death, after losing her own mother twenty years before. Only recently she gave me a bunch of stickers to put around my house, on them are the words, “The journey is the destination.” She never knew about the gift to our father I’d given him as a kid.

My next segment would turn out to be one of my most challenging. Luckily, my beloved friends guided me after my divorce. They offered wisdom and patience and the hope that I would get back on my feet after a devastating blow and a kind of pain I didn’t know existed.

One guide walked me through the long period of self-doubt and insecurity. Coaching me on how to take my power back after I willingly gave it away to someone so horribly unworthy. He also taught me to keep laughing at myself.

One very cool guide offered endless hours of career advice, by phone, on a year-long segment of driving 80 miles to work round trip. This guide even offered something more. After the commute was long over, he showed me something I really needed to see… myself as a more fully-formed woman. He is forever my amuse-bouche.

At work, my editors daily guide me, teaching me how to be a better writer on my career journey. Holding my hand when I need it and pushing me forward alone to show me I’m ready.

Although I can call on one of the many savvy sherpas in my life anytime, I’m choosing to go this segment alone. Sometimes, it’s important to hone your skills of solo navigation. Maybe it’s time for me to guide a few others. I only hope I will be as helpful to them, as they’ve been to me.

Happy Shmindependence Day

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How can your career be going so well and your love life be going so horribly?

That’s a question I ask myself virtually every day when I wake up.

I think about the people in my life who seem to have it all. Partners they cherish, careers that take a big second to that, and lives that are full and lush.

It’s been five years or so since my divorce and since then my love life has been a roller coaster, cluster fuck, tornado of skirmish-filled chaos. Trying to make the best of a totally dishonest whirlwind tour of everything to avoid. Apparently, I’m Ray Charles when it comes to red flags. 

Today my love life is not unlike a funeral home. Quiet and lifeless.

I live in a city where couples are everywhere. They’re holding hands, kissing, and dining together. Were it not for the company of the absolutely stunning and endlessly-giving women (and a couple of guys) in my life (and an 8 pound bundle of furry unconditional love called Mocha), I think I would have seriously jumped into the East River by now.

But my friends call and check on me. They take my teary calls and invite me to dinners and brunches and glasses of wine. They advise me as well as any award-winning self-help guru. They are my rocks to lean on and without them and work, I know I’d be a lot worse off. I hope I give them as much as they give to me. I’m sure I don’t. 

I’ve been out on a few dates. Met some men through online dating sites. Argh. I never thought I’d be going through this. The last time I dated I was in my 20s and let me tell you it was so much easier then. You just met people. Men were everywhere. Now they’re hiding behind screens, all you have is a few old pics and a few lines about their lives, and boom you’re at a bar hoping it doesn’t last too long because all you really want to do is go home and do the grown-up version of “Netflix and chill,” which is eating in bed and actually watching a movie on Netflix.

I’m trying to stay hopeful. Look to a future when I meet someone who will love me for all my flaws and insecurities and still think I’m cute as I get old and sick. And I’ll love him and think he’s wonderful and be excited to share my latest accomplishment or disappointment with him. I’ll have an emergency contact person. Isn’t that what everyone wants? 

I soldier on. I’ll be biking along the Hudson River today trying really hard to enjoy just being healthy and appreciating the people who I love and love me.

After all, I do have the most wonderful kid in the world — my greatest accomplishment to date, and all the love I have for him would overflow a million half-empty glasses. 

And then there’s work tomorrow.

Happy Independence Day — I’m learning to love mine. 

Aging Shmaging — Go the Whip

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I recently returned from a wonderful five-day trip visiting family and friends in San Diego. It was a mini-vacation to a city I really do love. I spent time trying to push my dad to get out of bed and hang out with me and my son. But he’s not well, and his body isn’t what it once was.

I stayed with him in the house he’s recently sold. In three weeks he’ll move to a retirement community. We had lunch there so he could show me his new two bedroom apartment.

The community is lovely. There’s a pool and lots of beautiful courtyards. His apartment is spacious and the food in the dining room was tasty. The only issue he has with it, is accepting that everyone who lives there is old.

My dad still works at 80-something (he’d kill me if I wrote his actual age). He’s a smart dresser and drives himself around in a spotless luxury Lexus.

He can’t stop looking at women, and thinks all of them are hot as long as they’re not overweight or “old.”

He’s struggling with aging. His body is not cooperating. He’s tired and sleeps a lot. I suggested maybe he’s depressed.

How do we come to terms with aging? How hard should we fight it? When do we accept and put aside our pride to admit we need help?

I know that I have had the mid-life invisibility moments. When I walk into a store or sit at a bar, and compared to how I’d be greeted in my twenties, now I’m looked over, around and through. I try to look as pretty as I can. “Pulled together,” as my sister says, but I’m terrified to go under-the-knife for a facelift and I certainly won’t stop coloring my hair.

But, my dad is facing something deeper than vanity, he’s facing the final chapter of his life. He knows that the move to this retirement community may be his last, and from a man who moved literally every year, from the time I was eight until… a couple of years ago, that’s a huge pill to swallow.

I know he feels alone and wishes I were there with him. To look out for him and take care of him, and I know that he could use the help, but work being what it is these days, right now it’s difficult.

I love my dad. I wish he could get out more and socialize. Do more, see more, drink it all in, but his body isn’t obliging, and his psyche isn’t very upbeat.

My sister and her daughter and my son and I will all be with my dad for Thanksgiving this year — a first. We’re really looking forward to it. I hope my dad will be feeling better by then. Adjusted to his new living arrangements. Maybe even involved with one of the many ladies in the building — a new and more hopeful future. I hope he’ll be aging gracefully, but not going down without a fight.

She’s Got Clitzpah

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I’ve been very lucky and gotten incredible support on my career journey in the last four years — and for that I’m thankful.

All the love and (a little bit of grind on my part) has taken me three thousand miles from the place that was my home for almost 20 years to the big city and a big-girl job.

So, I’ve been thinking about all that has passed, and where the guts came from to do it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that although I’m scared a lot of the time, deep down I’ve got what I’ve begun to call clitzpah. I know, I know, clits aren’t something we necessarily think of as a source of strength equivalent to balls, but what else is there? They’ve got balls and we’ve got clitzpah.

We give birth to babies. We take care of ourselves, our men and our babies. We make a living, redevelop ourselves, grow up, grow old, and make lives for ourselves after our lovers are gone.

Women are powerful and I’ve seen it in my friends and my sister. They’re survivors. Taking up causes, and standing up for themselves in times when it must be tempting to give up. Feeling beaten up, but soldiering on in the face of pain.

My friends whose husbands treated them horribly in marriage and worse during divorce. Friends who survived breast cancer. Friends who witnessed the father of their children mistreating their babies. And those in my world who struggle with addiction, and make it out thanks to their sheer will. And then there are the women I know who lost the loves of their lives to death or other women. Women who’ve suffered unthinkable loss and tragedy, but like Maya says, still they rise.

I’m not that badass. But NYC is a big adjustment for me. Great job. Good career move. Tough on the psyche.

Just got to stay strong and tap into the power of the all-mighty clitzpah!