Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Liberation of Uncertainty

I had an accident yesterday. There, I said it. Oh, nothing serious, just a fender bender, but enough to put my car into the body shop for two weeks. Yet I am reluctant to say anything about it. That insidious embarrassment that wells over one when something bad or tragic happens, struck me in the moment that I had to call Joe and let him know. What is this sense of being that makes us not want to let others know that we going through a challenging time. What is this feeling that makes us seem culpable for the trouble we have to deal with. It's like we haven't lived our lives right, or something.

I know you must have experienced it too. My friend sadly, and quietly told me his apartment had been robbed recently. I could feel his not wanting to say anything about it, yet something like that needs to be talked about, as you try to regain your balance and make sense of it. He didn't orchestrate the theft himself, yet he seemed to feel responsible for it, in a way that guilt often unjustly and erroneously attaches itself to you. Maybe it was someone he knew, maybe not, but why take responsibility for others actions, especially when you are the victim.

When we or a family member are stricken with a severe illness, the first reaction is to be silent about it, as if no one else knowing would render it not real. As if, we or they had done something terribly wrong and others mustn't know about it. Of course, these things happen, without intent on our parts, but we resist sharing them, as if, we had a plan that went awry.

I remember when my mom passed in '84, I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone. People would call, as usual, and yet I couldn't utter a word about it. It was as if I was going to spread bad news. When friends did find out, THEY spread the word and many people responded with an outpouring of love and affection and appreciation of who she was.

Today, in some ways, there has been a liberation in uncertainty. With the challenges many of us have dealt with, because of economic changes, many more of us are speaking up, as never before, about things that the "oppression of affluence" would have silenced. Conversations about business and work levels are more easily expressed than before. Topics as wide ranging as credit card rate manipulations and property value fluctuations to retirement fund devaluation or employment limitation are easily spoken about, in a way that the "affluent face" would not have dared bring forth. Even the ability to say "no" to our spending propensities have been enhanced. Just let a cold call marketer try to solicit a sale or donation from me these days, I hardly need to search for an excuse to say "no."

An open awareness and expression of the reality in our lives provides a freedom of action that can sometimes be circumvented by false or extravagant presumptions. Adversity is the other half of the coin of life that provides perspective and invention, and could be used in full measure to arrive at a better location in life.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Feted in New York

Joe and I were feted in great style this weekend by John Rivers, the entrepreneur and Gavin Morrow, the scientist, and John's au courant business partner, Genita Ingram, of JDR Consulting, at the annual Human Rights Campaign benefit dinner at the Hilton in Manhattan, of which his company is a major local sponsor. At their table, I was able to catchup with Veronica Jones, the legendary retailer, who shares a long history with me, as well as many, many friends. Seated with us and inspiring as always were the ever elegant and devoted couple, Walter Allen, of IBM and Brian Leister, who never fails to give a positive lift to our lives. The great works of HRC was applauded by every major New York politician, that evening, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Charles Schumer, new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and the new president of NY Senate, Malcolm Smith. After a rousing rendition of the hit song, "We Break the Dawn", by Michele Williams, we were brought to our feet by a throbbing speech about everyone's inadvertent sour taste of discrimination by the MSNBC anchor, Keith Olberman. His point was that whether or not one fits into a discriminated group, they will some day be a victim of it by the tentacles of misguided hate that touches everyone. We all left feeling empowered by the commitment to go forward in our mission for self determination.

Yesterday, I watched the sunrise from possibly one the most beautiful vistas in Manhattan, the Rainbow Room at Rockefelller Center, with one of my dearest friends, Dwight Johnson, who had coordinated a breakfast benefit there for the New York Urban League. As the morning sun filtered into that gem of Art Deco design, I watched Dwight perform as a maestro, orchestrating every detail of the colorful enhancement of the space - right down to the hint of spring in the tiny daffodils at each seat. The "Champions of Diversity" breakfast honored General Electric, Goldman Sachs and The New York Times for their outstanding efforts in the need for diversity in the job market. I was fortunately seated next to Elinor Tatum, the publisher and editor -in-Chief of the Amsterdam News. The venerable publication has a great new energy with her at the helm and we look forward to the expanding directions she has in mind for it.

Lastly, we are saddened by the sudden transition of our friend, Hakim Maurice Wyche, whom we had shared many wonderful times together on Martha's Vineyard. He was the loving patriarch of one of the most beautiful families we know from Cambridge. His wonderful daughter, Shahara, whom I met on the Vineyard Town beach is the inspiration for my painting entitled, "Lady in Blue", which he was very pleased with. Our sincerest regrets and condolences go out to the entire family.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Does Love Last?

Does love last beyond that tingly feeling that gathers in your stomach when you're initially infatuated with someone and are trying to decide whether they like you, too? Does it last beyond that period of time when the idea of what life could be like with them, stimulates the imagination? Does it extend beyond the curious desire of knowing how that person tastes and feels in an intimate and sexual way? Or even beyond exploring someone else's ways besides your own and learning what you will take and what you won't?

Does love last beyond knowing someone, so well, that you can anticipate their needs and desires before they do? Is it still love when they can enter your personal space without you even knowing there is a space limit? Is it still love when they make unexceptional purchases for you, like your favorite shampoo or toothpaste, without you asking? Is it still love when you are awakened with yesterdays breath and this morning's version of your new hairstyle? Can it still be love when you accept the awkward belch or emission, that shrills your ears, singes your eyes or assaults your nose? Is it still love when they unwittingly tie dye your favorite item in the laundry or inadvertently throw away that old memory you haven't worn in years? Is it still love when that hot sexual tension, that drove you to madness, comes less frequently, if at all, with more imaginative labor than before? Is it still love when taking care of the physical and emotional needs of your partner becomes the highest order of your day?

For those who have loved and who have lost their loved ones, any of these things would be greatly embraced just one more time. For those whose love warms them, even when they have not been thought of, the candle of love's light burns forever. Our happiness is knowing we were capable of love. As Maya Angelou says, "Love is a gift you give yourself."

On this Valentine's Day celebration, reach over and smell the scent that comforts you, feel that heat that warms you and experience the space that does not separate you. The gift your love one wants is knowing that you want them for as many days, months, years, as you have already shared. For me, YES, it is still love!