Friday, June 26, 2009

Morning Routine, Mourning Routine

Every morning I brush my teeth, brew coffee, turn on the computer, check my email and click on the Breast Cancer site to make a free donation to make mammograms available for those who cannot afford them. It is a tiny gesture in solidarity with the women I know (and all the ones I don’t) who have battled this disease. Usually, I do this more-or-less thoughtlessly.

But this past week, my morning ritual became an act of mourning. Last Sunday night, I paid a condolence call to the family of a 57-year-old woman who succumbed to breast cancer.

As my husband and I drove to the house, I knew it was going to be a very sad shiva service (shiva, which means seven, refers to the week of mourning observed by Jews – a time of reflection, sadness, remembrance, and communal support.)

Joyce was a long-time member of my synagogue, and while I didn’t know her very well, we had many mutual friends who were deeply saddened by her loss. Even closer to home, my daughter, Emilia, was friends with Joyce’s two girls growing up, and she had called me to talk about her memories of Joyce and of being in her home.

It was an untimely death, which inevitably holds up a fairly frightening mirror to a 58-year old like me. But I was touched and even gladdened as I looked around the very full room and saw so many young faces – friends and relatives there to comfort Joyce’s daughters, who are both in their 20s. Had Emilia been in town, she would have been there, too.

I’ve been to many shiva gatherings over the years, nearly all for older if not elderly parents – including my father. Those who gathered for condolence, in solidarity and community, were all of my generation or older.

And now our kids are adults: beautiful, compassionate, and wise enough to know how important it is to show up for one another. And that is what makes human life possible.

The season is changing. Sad as I am for Joyce’s death and her family's grief, I honor the gifts she gave and left behind. Including this lesson to me.

Here is the website:

You know what to do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Art & Commerce of the Blog, Part 2

I'm not sure why I didn't stop writing when my reading circle stopped growing beyond 12 people. Maybe it is because blogging is inherently valuable to me. The responsibility of it makes me notice the details of my experiences and feelings. I live life more fully because I blog.

This was one of the comments on my last blog entry. Thank you so much to "PrincessMax" for this.

Her sentiment rings true. Someone famously said, "I don't know what I think until I write it down." As a newspaper/magazine columnist, the pressure to produce something fit to be printed on a weekly basis made me pay attention to the world around me in ways I would have never done otherwise. Crassly put, I was searching for column fodder. But it turned into a mindfulness practice, too, keeping me alert to the pleasures and pains of my life, my community, my world.

Sounds like naval-gazing, but it's not. At least not if you take the time and do the work to shape your experience and reach for insight.

Blog on.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The art and commerce of the blog

There was a great story in today's New York Times about blogs and our fantasies for them. The dream of bloggers everywhere is that we will become well-known, if not famous, thanks to the effortless publication that is the blog. That we will be discovered, be invited to produce books for mass markets, make a living if not a fortune from these postings.

Turns out that most of us blog in obscurity, read mostly by family and friends, our efforts blooming unseen in the vasty darkness of the 'net. And once we discover this fact, we give up. According to the Time, "In a 2008 study, Technorati estimated that since 2002, 133 million blogs were started. Of those, only 7.4 million have been updated in the last 120 days. The rest are essentially abandoned."

I think people stop blogging because no one writes back. No one cares. It's too sad.

But having written for newspaper and magazines, I'm sort of used to that deafening silence. Sure, I hoped that more people would post comments if only because it's so easy to do. No paper. No postage.

But the experience of print is instructive. If I received a single letter to a column published in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine (in the days when it was read by millions rather than tens of dozens of New Englanders)I was thrilled. If one person was moved to pick up a pen, that meant there were others who thought about doing the same. After all, I am just as guilty as the next browser of not taking the 60 seconds to thank a favorite author, applaud a great singer, or say hey to fellow bloggers, whose words I follow. (Yes,that's you, Dr. Paley.)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sitemeter Report

Several weeks ago, I wrote about my addiction to checking the location of readers who stop by this blog. That confession prompted more comments than any other posting so far.

So I thought perhaps you'd like to know from whence come some of your far-flung brethren and (more likely) sister-en.

States heard from in the past month or so: Georgia, Washington, New Jersey, Colorado, Oregon, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, Louisiana, Alaska, New York, North Carolina.

And from abroad: Ireland, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Panama, Holland, Scotland.

Small world.