Dear Brother:     I did promise to write you immediately after initiating the GTKM (Get to Know Men) Project that in your letter you so kindly suggested I begin (“Perhaps you ought to make a project of meeting men, lots of different ones just for the fun of meeting them and seeing what they are about?”). So here is my first report. Before beginning, you should know that I was absolutely religious about the preparation for my first “outing” (or should I call it “hunting expedition”?) After all: if I was going to do this, I might as well do it right.

First stop: beauty parlor. The nails got a special treatment, something called a French manicure where the tip of the nail gets painted with a delicate strip of white-white polish and then the rest covered in transparent pale pink. It “shapes” the nail, you see. I must admit that given my lack of practice in the feminine art of looking perfect (like a Barbie Doll) these details tend to backfire on me. For instance, as the white strip is narrower than your real nail length so as to give a more perfect “shape” to the finger aspect as a whole, untitled-4there is a faint line where the real nail meets the flesh which, if contemplated carefully, is noticeable. No one, of course, at a party and at night with lamp light will see this slight imperfection… usually. But, as chance would have it, the black suede purse that had been in the closet in a plastic bag for the last ten years waiting to be used had gotten tired of being itself and decided to molt, shedding suede-dust like pollen that clung to the shiny finish of the nails and dug its way underneath with a persistence that would have shamed  a Chinese dye. Fortunately for my self esteem I didn’t notice till this morning that the “faint” line between the French white of the nail and the real nail-flesh meeting place was black as a garage mechanic’s after a day’s work and required a large amount of soap and a thorough brushing to get clean. What I did notice the night before, however, was the way in which the pale yellow tablecloth in front of me turned unpleasantly black in strips and it took me a while to figure out that it wasn’t the ashes from the cigarette the woman next to me was smoking that was doing the job, but my molting black suede purse. So much for the purse, it went into the garbage can this morning.

After the manicure, I had to sit for an hour in the beauty parlor to make sure I didn’t smear the finish –something I inevitably do whenever I have a manicure because I don’t have the patience to sit there listening to the chatter while they dry. By that time it was 11 a.m. On my way home, I went by the drugstore and bought a small bottle of Channel #5 (tried and true). At home, I ran the tub and stepped into a hot bath. By 11:30 I was in the tub. After 30 minutes of soaking, constantly adding more hot water as the soup cooled, I washed and rinsed my hair, soaped the body well, shaved all the places that were candidates to being shaven, scrubbed legs and arms with the special silk mitt a friend brought me from a Turkish Haman to make sure all the dead skin was peeled off and stepped from the water shiny, clean and pink all over. It took another 20-25 minutes to cream and rub the body; 30 minutes to semi-dry the hair and another 15 to put it up in curlers. By the time all that was done it was around 1:30 and regular obligations stepped in. Dress (any old thing until time for the gown), feed dog, eat, walk dog, try to take nap, not succeed and put movie in DVD in order to at least relax.

While watching the movie, I checked in with my body. I was not actually nervous, frightened or even excited. Nothing was moving, and yet I knew the moves necessary for “getting dressed up” and stuck to them religiously. Interesting. At exactly 5pm I stopped the movie and returned to the bath room, removed the curlers, brushed hair vigorously 75 times, shook head and began to tease the parts that needed volume. It took the better part of an hour to get the hair in the exact wave towards the sides and curls on the face that I wanted and spray the whole thing with hair spray. I used two kinds of spray: first the softer one so that I could still push and pull the curls and waves into place while it dried and then one I had bought during my stay in France and which brazenly announces itself as “béton” or “concrete” and works more or less in the same manner: nothing was going images7e72txsqto move from its place that night no matter how much I danced! Make up was an elaborate chore, beginning with liquid base (light so it doesn’t show in the creases), a bit of cheek color, darken the eyebrows slightly, blue-green shadow under eyes, white on lids, dark brown mascara, and lip liner with pink fill in to give the lips a full, sensuous effect.

Once that was done I put on my black satin bra, donned a new pair of pantyhose, slipped the long black, sequined over-blouse onto my shoulders, pulled up the black satin pants-skirt and wriggled everything into place. Diamond earrings, a sapphire and diamond ring (both inherited from my mother) and a rhinestone necklace with imitation black jade stones to enhance the neckline.

The end result was incredible: I stared at myself in the mirror and felt sorry for the Greek, the man with whom I had a sort-of-not-totally blind date (blind 100%; date, not totally). I turned, batted my eyelashes, seductively smiled at myself over my shoulder and almost fainted with joy. It had been so long since I had dressed up that I had forgotten the effect all that primping and painting could have on the general appearance. Beware men!!! Here I come! I heartily laughed with myself and, giving one more twirl, marched triumphantly to the door and out to the street where my “ride” was waiting.

My ride was not my date, although I half thought they might come together because they were friends and the couple who picked me up had orchestrated the date. My date, the Greek of unknown age, weight, looks and wealth (although known to be rich), was not present. All the better. I could ask questions if the subject came up. It didn’t so the mystery remained.

Anyway, the GTKM Project actually began with the husband of my new friend, María. He was a pleasant gentleman of approximately 73 years, not bad looking for his age, with grey-white hair and a grey-white beard and mustache to match. I wondered why people with fading hair like to make such an abundant show of it, but that is just my opinion. Raul turned out to be pleasant, and an intelligent and opinionated talker. We talked of some of the current events in the country and I noticed that every time he would give an opinion as a definite statement of fact, I would —quoting a friend— “draw on my fine knowledge of language and say nothing”. It was not an aggressive silence; rather I felt as if I was just open to listening to whatever followed as what had been stated had been done so in such a way as to allow for nothing other than a frank denial, a solid argument to the contrary or silence. Neither of the first two seemed possible so the third was what I chose spontaneously.

A brief explanation: Choosing to say nothing is, in my case, really surprising. I have been a natural arguer since my teen years when my father and I would sit up till wee hours of the morning “discussing” important world matters, philosophical queries and the meaning of life in general. It was what we did together, discuss ideas, share ideas, confront ideas (actually, he confronted and I had better agree, I soon found out, but I was allowed to develop my own way of seeing it, as long as it did not conflict with his too much and he could be right). I learned then and there, if I was ever to be the “man” I wished to be (my father, of course) I had to learn to be right, either by superior knowledge or by superior capacity to argue the other person into the ground. “Arguing” or if you wish, “discussing” important matters, fundamental, essential truths, was a masculine way of being. This was my training, and usually enjoyable as long as I did not actually contradict my father. The training was effective and for the rest of my life I have virtually been able to talk anyone under the table no matter what the subject.

imagesjis8lh73So reacting with a silence that extended even to my mind certainly was not my habit. However, I noticed that this was what happened as I listened to Raul spout off what he seemed to consider “the final word” on the political situation in Spain. Given my quiet position it was also possible for me to notice that my open, listening silence seemed to confuse Raul who then would weaken his own statement by saying that it was not necessarily true but just one possibility. This had never been my experience when I tried to argue the point and get the other person to see it my way and this was fascinating; it actually made me feel extremely powerful.

I remembered having recently read a woman author (a Jungian psychoanalyst) who spoke of her female clients as persons who have not developed a strong female ego with which to face life, but rather a pseudo male ego that never really allows them to integrate and individualize. Somehow, this female-ego/male-ego stuff tied into my own experience and seemed to have a lot to do with my previous argumentativeness (identified with Father-ego). It seemed to be my pseudo male ego that would come out having to be right, even untitled-5more opinionated than the male ego it confronted, that had previously led me to argue way into the night. That evening, confronted with the male ego’s need to be right, my now very feminine ego found no reason to argue, saw the logic in the male discourse, while at the same time perceiving three or four other arguments that could have been just as true, and understanding that none were actually The Truth. The feeling of inner freedom was tremendous. There was nothing unnatural or contrived or even purposeful about my silence: it was one hundred percent me and done with love and tolerance for the other.

Something in me as a woman seemed to be perfectly able to let the male ego “feel” it was right, without having to believe it or not. Something in me was so absolutely at peace with the way of things that being right was simply not a necessity any more. If my image in the mirror had convinced me that I looked top notch, this subtle, deep and very strong self love and respect grounded me in the essence of my being. My first contact with a “man” that evening had centered me in my womanhood and reminded me of how painful and frustrating the first 49 years of my life had been because I was trying to live up to a pseudo male egoness.

untitled-7We arrived at the place where the American Club of Madrid was offering the gala dinner-dance in honor of Columbus Day (called “Day of Hispanicness”, in Spanish) fifteen minutes before the doors opened and proceeded to the cafeteria to have something while we waited. My friend went outside to smoke a cigarette and I invited her husband to a cup of coffee (they had paid for my ticket to the gala dinner, so a 2 euro cup of coffee was nothing but a symbolic gesture). From Raul there was no new invitation to “serious” discussion” and our conversation flitted comfortably over more superficial areas and eventually died.

Second observation for the evening: men, or at least this one in front of me, are not good at idle chatter. Again, I thought of my father. He was considered a plus at a dinner party due to the fact that he could do the “social” thing and have a conversation at any moment on any subject AS LONG AS he had a couple of drinks in him. When his doctor forbade liquor after his first heart attack, my father became a very silent person and actually began to avoid all social occasions saying they bored him “stiff”.

At that moment, I remembered a lesson my Mother had given me: “If you want to get a man interested, ask him questions about himself; all men love to talk about themselves”. I realized that the evening was a good occasion to put that advice to use and began questioning Raul about his business. I think I listened but the fact is I remember nothing of what he told me. He did, however, seem pleased that I had shown an interest. He, of course, asked me nothing about myself. Observation number three: men are not interested in what you do and do not really want to hear about it, especially if you are important in your realm of endeavor or have made some kind of name for yourself other than as a beauty queen. Once again I remembered my mother. She once complained bitterly to me: “I have spent my whole life asking men what they do and all kinds of questions about themselves, and they have NEVER asked me one thing”. She was right. Later that night I would have more proof of her rightness.

When the doors to the cocktail area opened, my “date” appeared. I put it in quotation marks because he had not actually ever contacted me. The chain of events was as follows: my flat mate had told me about The Greek and asked if I would be interested in meeting him; I had said “yes”. Then she had told her future Mother-In-Law that I would be interested in meeting The Greek. The “future” had arranged it and my flat mate had relayed back to me that Ronnie (his name) was delighted and he had invited me to the Gala dinner. He never called to confirm the invitation. The “future Mother-in-law” and her husband had arranged to pick me up. So I had never spoken to or heard from my “date”. This, in itself, should have prepared me.

Ronnie was standing at the reception table talking to “important” men, if one is to judge from the way they all patted each other on the back and expressed their pleasure in meeting again. All were older men (I mean around my age) except Ronnie who looked like the oldest of all. One glance and I calculated at least 80; his voice seemed to confirm this as it had the beginnings of the typical 4th age hoarse unsteadiness, somewhat as if something or other had come unscrewed and rusty in the throat. We were introduced, we shook hands and he continued talking to the people around him. I people watched, observing the garments, hairstyles and shoes of the other women. The beauty and style of some of the younger ones was a delight to the eye and I feasted heartily without the slightest twinge of envy.

I don’t remember much about the cocktail hour except that we were fed multiple and quite tasty hors d’oeuvres, and stood around a high table (one of several) indulging freely. I drank a Coca Cola and then nothing. The Greek asked me once if I would like a glass of wine; I refused: “I don’t drink” I said quite simply.

“Not even wine?” he inquired.

“No, not even wine.” With that he either knew I was an alcoholic or thought I was weird. Either way was the same to me. I remember asking him a few questions about when he had arrived in Spain (with the American military bases), and why, with which he gave me a rather long summary of the bars and nightclubs and restaurants he had opened after arriving here and to date, mentioning that he had been young (“When I owned the nightclub I was barely 25; nightclubs are not really my business. I am a restauranteur”). I nodded my head: “Of course, of course”. My flat mate, her boyfriend, and her future Mother-in-law had all challenged me to find out Ronnie’s real age which he had admitted to no one. If, as he assured, he had arrived in 59 or 60 (with the American bases) when he was around 25, that would make him barely 75, possibly younger. So he was either very “worn” for his age or he was lying. This surprised me. I am not familiar with men lying about their age or being so interested in hiding it. I was piqued, but there was no further information and I could think of nothing legitimate to ask in the few moments we talked that might yield more details. I did take it upon me to later look up the establishment of American Military Bases in Spain and discovered that there had been movements in that direction as early as 1945, and definite establishment around 1950-51. This sounded more like what I had observed physically: the man was around 83-84.

Finally, after an extremely long cocktail hour and a half, we were ushered into the dining room. The set up looked like what one expects for a wedding with a principal table for the “officers” of the American Club, and then a series of numbered round tables for eight people.  Our table was number 21. When we arrived there were already two young women sitting there. One was a plain looking, rather homely Danish girl without makeup and somewhat drably dressed; the other a more attractive girl from some country in the Eastern European block the name of which slips my mind now. Before the dinner was served, the two empty chairs at the table were occupied by another youngish woman, this time from Madrid, and a very thin not unattractive Spanish woman most probably in her mid forties, perhaps pushing fifty. My date, Ronnie, was left sitting between the fortyish woman and me.

I remember making one or two feeble attempts at talking to The Greek with little success (so little that I can’t even remember what I asked him) and then I turned to my other side and made some comments to the future Mother-in-law. Ronnie promptly struck up a conversation with the fortyish-old which, given the level of noise in the room, I was not able to hear or participate in. They either had something in common or she was better at looking interested in his spiel than I was because the rest of the time he was present at the table, he spent talking to her. When my conversation with Mother-in-law ran out, I looked to the fortyish-old and smiled.

She introduced herself. “Victoria Something-or-Other; restorer of antiques. What do you do?”

I began to explain The Work of Byron Katie and how it went about questioning stressful thoughts and finding peace. Half-way through, Ronnie interrupted.

“Why do you have stressful thoughts?”

Interesting question, I thought to myself while I searched for the answer.

“Well, I don’t really any more, but I used to…”

“I do Yoga, I not only do Yoga, I live like a Yogui. No stressful thoughts. You should try Yoga.”

“Very good” I countered, feeling my crest going up, “but if you have a stressful thought in the middle of a restaurant, for example, you can’t very well do yoga there, can you? But you might be able to ask yourself four questions mentally and…

“You have to live like a Yogui. Victoria restores antiques.”

“Yes, I know, she just told me and…” but Ronnie had turned back to Victoria and was again telling her something that she at least appeared to be interested in. A while later, when Ronnie left the table, Victoria turned to me.

“Your husband….”

“He is not my husband,” I interrupted, “he is supposed to be a date, and he doesn’t seem to be that either.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry; I thought he was your husband.” The interesting thing was that the moment she said that, I could see perfectly why she had made that mistake. Who else would ignore a beautiful woman, interrupt her conversation, and not be interested at all in anything she said in spite of sitting next to her but her husband! Logical my dear Watson. Anyway, to make a long evening short, Ronnie, shortly after dinner asked me if I wanted to dance:

“Do you want to dance?” I looked at him, waiting for the straight-forward question to sound like an invitation, “Because if you do, I don’t mind.”

“Hmmm, not exactly my type of music…” I muttered, stalling…

“I dance to all kinds of music.” Every moment I liked this man less.

“…but I wouldn’t mind.” There was no way I wanted to even insinuate a drop of enthusiasm. The music was playing what I call the “modern jig” where the two partners “jig” on the dance floor, never looking at each other much less touching one another. We “jigged” for a while and then sat down again. It was pathetic and not getting any better so when Ronnie got up and left (I presumed he had gone to the men’s room) I actually felt relieved and began talking again to Victoria, this time without interruptions.

The truth is that Ronnie never came back to the table and I spent the remainder of the night in a very pleasant conversation with Victoria and the future Mother-in-law, and admiring the singer’s capacity to pour her extremely well-rounded body into a black sequined top and pants that looked more like a snake-skin than a snake’s skin itself. Project GTKM was obviously over for the night and I could relax. At one point, I went into the other room to ask for a mineral water at the bar and saw Ronnie conversing with two black-suited men. I made believe that I hadn’t seen him and he might have done the same or really not have seen me. As we were leaving he caught up with us half way down to the parking lot, clumsily shook hands with me, mumbled something I didn’t catch and headed for his car. So much for Greeks!

So that is my first report and I have to confess that the GTKM Project has more or less landed in the bottom drawer of my Interest Cabinet, along with Gala Dinners, social events, Barbie Doll women and Freudian psychoanalysts. And I know that men are half the population of the world, but let’s be honest: half that population is married, the other half is gay, the other half is only interested in themselves and the final half is definitely for the time being, or as far as I can see, uneligible (too fat, too thin, too old, too young, too unshaven, too tight-assed, and so on.)

But, never fear dear Brother, I have not given up. Although I did not sign up for the gym (one of the curricular possibilities you suggested), I did hire a male, very attractive, young, knowledgeable, kind and loving Personal Trainer. He is all of 30 years old and has a girlfriend, but his innocence and good will are absolutely enchanting and he is doing marvels for my body. I know that this has nothing to do with what you had in mind for me, but listen: sometimes things just don’t come all in one package and today, if I pull together everything I have, I actually can build the equivalent of a good lover-husband. If you don’t believe me, just contemplate the following recipe which I have concocted (no pun intended) for my women friends who are in the same situation:


1 Internet Romance, slightly warmed over

1 Male friend on internet (also) who likes to discuss important matters such as politics, religion, spirituality, existence, philosophy, good movies, interesting books, etc.

1 Gay male friend for going to the movies, theater, concerts, dinner and whatever.

1 Personal Trainer for all the touchy-feely you need.

1 Kind, patient physician to listen to your aches and pains and tell you what to take for them

1 Very good Dildo for you know what.

AND THE SECRET: Take each ingredient separately, one at a time. Never, never MIX them. If you mix them, you get something called MARRIAGE, and frankly, if you haven’t tried it by now, don’t: it can be fatal.

images0whgb7ji Still, every once in a while I really miss having someone walking beside me, holding my hand.



Earlier this year, downtown Madrid was flooded with angry people, more than a million according to the news. They were angry about one thing: the new abortion law that the socialist (PSOE) party under the leadership of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero –the president of Spain- is trying to pass in Congress. The bone of contention (abortion is legal in Spain) is the clause allowing 16 year old girls to ask for and receive an abortion without their parents’ permission, without, in fact, their parents ever being informed of the fact.

A few days later I was listening to a friend saying that she does not agree with this new addition to the law:  “A sixteen year old needs her family’s support in those moments; she is not conscious that the decision she is making could mark her forever.”

I did not entirely agree.  “My sister-in-law got pregnant at 15 and asked her parents for help. They were strict Catholics and wouldn’t hear of abortion. They talked her into marrying her 17 year old boyfriend. When I was married at 20, she already had 4 small children and was expecting the fifth. Her marriage broke up shortly afterwards; her life has been extremely difficult. Could it be that this clause in the law is contemplating the situation of those girls who cannot count on the support and understanding of their parents to continue their development without the onus of an unwanted child and a forced marriage?” I was left wondering at my own considerations.

When I was 16 my mother sat down with me one night and tried to give me the “sex” talk. I say “tried” because by 16 I knew most everything she probably would have told me. I remember her stuttering a bit and turning bright red. She said something like “You should know boys will want to touch you…” and then I

“Don’t worry, Mom, I know all about it. It’s ok.” She looked so relieved I knew I had said the right thing. And of course, I knew all about the “touching” part because boys had not only tried, but had been successful, and I had done my share of touching too. So that was the end of my sexual education and I knew all of two things: Boys wanted to touch me and a lot more; they also wanted me to touch them.

In my book of sexual knowledge, touching was ok, it was the “a lot more” that was a no-no. Virginity was paramount. As long as you didn’t give that away, everything else was ok. And everything else was what I did, up until the time I decided to do “a lot more”.  By then I was all of 18 and I knew enough to say “No. I might get pregnant” before he went “all the way” (as it was then called). I obviously hoped my fear of pregnancy would save me, so I had the unpleasant surprise of seeing him pull a condom out of his wallet, open the envelope, and slip it over his erect penis; so much for virginity defended!

I suggested to my friend that girls of 16 aborting without parental permission was perhaps not the question, but rather whether they had the sexual education necessary to be responsible for the initiation of an adult sex life.

By the time I was 19, I was going steady with a young man who was just finishing his medical studies. One day, I came home from school (I was studying social work at a private institution) and found that my mother had gone to the hospital. She came home about an hour later and went right to bed. When I asked what had happened, my mother -who always spoke to me in English- gave me a Spanish word which I had never heard before: “legrado” which literally means “scraping”. My boyfriend explained that my mother had had an abortion. When confronted, she admitted it, told me that she was too old to be having more children (45 at the time), had grown careless about protection because she thought she was menopausal and had decided to terminate the pregnancy right away. She also informed me that my grandmother (her mother) had had at least three abortions as in her days contraception was less certain and available than at present (present being 1960). So I was thus introduced to the idea of abortion. In that instant,  I swore I would never do THAT!  I had recently become a Catholic (and that is another story), so using “protection” was also “not acceptable”. Of course, neither was having sex before marriage, but that was already happening and I fixed it with the Church by going to confession each time. Therefore, even though I was having sex with my boyfriend, I was doing my best to protect myself with the “rhythm” method (to respect at least that part of my newly found religion) in spite of the fact that my own period had no rhythm at all.

images4gpbmvsyLo and behold, a few months later I skipped my period. My doctor boyfriend secretly spirited my urine to a far away laboratory and came back 72 hours later with the news that the rabbit had died: I was pregnant. We had planned to be married in February when, after setting up his medical practice, he returned from the north of Mexico where we were going to live. With the dead rabbit on our hands we upped the wedding to November –much to my mother’s horror- and settled into the idea of being young parents with a baby suspiciously born only 6 ½ months after the wedding.

A week later, my mother made pork and sauerkraut –one of my favorite dishes- and I absolutely stuffed myself. Towards midnight, a strong cramp awoke me and I raced to the bathroom with an acute case of diarrhea. Unfortunately or probably fortunately for me, the pork was not the only thing that came out. By the time my body had finished emptying my intestines, it proceeded to empty my uterus. Given the amount of blood, there was no doubt the pregnancy was terminated. I told my mother about the diarrhea and stayed in bed until my boyfriend showed up with some pills to stop the hemorrhaging and finish cleaning out the now empty uterus. I gazed at him teary eyed and secretly thanked my body for 1) getting pregnant and thus assuring that he would marry me, and 2) for eliminating the need for such an early parenthood.

That was a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion, but it was not my only abortion and, as it was not planned, it was not the important one either. I proceeded to have two children: a boy and then a girl. When the girl turned five and went into kindergarden, I announced to my husband that I didn’t want any more children and that I wanted to have my tubes tied. He agreed (I did not offer it to him as a question anyway) and I went to my gynecologist who, at that time was a well known German doctor. Dr. W. told me of this marvelous new method which did not require an operation, but rather went in through the “natural” opening, made a small hole into the abdominal cavity and proceeded to put two clamps on the fallopian tubes. End of problem.

“Are you sure?” I asked him. “Are you absolutely certain? I don’t want to ever have to face the necessity of an abortion, and I definitely do not want another baby.

He reassured me over and over that this method had just been perfected in the United States, that it was as foolproof as any other including abdominal surgery to cut and tie the tubes. I had the simple procedure and went home that very day. The following day I was up, around and carrying out my usual routine which, by that time, included finishing my professional studies at the local university.

Five weeks later I stormed into Dr. W.’s office and held out a piece of paper: “The imageseom292x7rabbit died” I stated looking him directly in the eyes, “so now what are you going to do about it?”

“I don’t do those things,” he answered from the safe stance of Christian morality, looking back at me without blinking, “and I can’t understand how you got pregnant.”

I was not into Virgin Mary stories so I knew damn well it hadn’t been the Holy Ghost. I was so upset, angry and frustrated that if murder had not been a punishable crime it would have been my first choice. Instead I hurled some unseemly insults at him in a loud voice (hoping every patient in his waiting room could hear them), knocked over a chair and stomped out slamming the door behind me.

To make a long story short, I arranged to have an abortion and get my tubes properly tied with the gynecologist at the clinic where my husband worked. He was a personal friend apart from being a professional colleague and was kind enough to lie to me about the viability of the product in my womb.

“The pregnancy was all wrong,” he said afterwards, “it never would have made it to termination.” I knew it was a lie, but I accepted it without arguing and went home with my Fallopian tubes safely cut and cauterized.

I have to say that in spite of the fact that I have done a good amount of psychotherapy since then for any number of emotional problems, the abortion has never been one of them. I even read a book about the psychological wounds of abortion and ways to help them heal to see if there might be something hidden under there. Nothing came up. Perhaps it was because I really, truly knew that I had done everything in my power to avoid getting pregnant, and because I really truly knew that I didn’t want to have another child or have to face the decision of an abortion. If life had put me in those straits, it had been neither my intention nor an act of irresponsibility: I could find nothing to feel guilty about.

untitled-3As my daughter grew, I realized that times had definitely changed. The onus on losing one’s virginity had all but disappeared, and unwanted pregnancies of teenagers were on the rise. My own experience had shown me that waiting till 16 to inform her of the dangers lurking in one’s own or the other’s sexual drives was absolutely absurd, so when she turned 13 I sat her down for a Mother to Daughter talk.

She was just beginning to get interested in boys. I spoke of a lot of things, being as gentle as possible and trying to help her understand that it wasn’t a question of morality or right and wrong, but of responsibility and self respect.

“It is your responsibility” I explained, “to decide when you want to initiate your sex life with a young man. I can’t make that decision for you. I can only hope that you choose a nice, kind young man who will help to make your initiation a pleasant and loving experience.” I purposely avoided the “losing your virginity” term; it has always seemed to me sexist that women “lose” something and men get “initiated”.

I then went on to explain the very important responsibility she acquired once having decided to initiate her sex life. “It is your responsibility to not bring an unwanted child into this world. You are young and have many, many years ahead to have children, so it is important that you learn about contraception. When you decide to initiate your sex life, you might want to go on the pill for which you will have to see a gynecologist and get a prescription.” I explained other methods and how most were more fallible than the pill. I also assured her that I was there at any time she needed me; that she could ask me anything, talk to me about anything and come to me with any problem, including pregnancy and I would be there for her. I made sure that she heard this over and above everything else. My timing seemed to be perfect. By 14 she was quite the adolescent and wanted nothing of Mom’s advice, by 15 she had a steady boyfriend (I think I reminded her twice about contraceptives and got a dirty look both times along with a “Mother, I plan to remain virgin till I’m married!”) and at 20 she announced they were going to get married. As the last I had heard of the matter was that she planned to keep her virginity till her wedding night, I suggested that it would be a good idea to go to the gynecologist a few months early to start her on the pill. She looked at me sheepishly.

“Mom, I have been on the pill for two years,” she said fiddling with her engagement ring, “but I don’t want my father to know so please don’t tell him.”20160517_210338

Never had I felt so proud or so absolutely in love with my daughter as in that moment. A moment before I had seen a young girl; I blinked and saw a young woman, a responsible young woman. I laughed with joy, ran over to the bed and simply hugged her.

“You are everything a mother could wish for in a daughter, and of course I won’t tell your father, these are women’s things and he might not understand.”  From my daughter I heard the story of how at 18 she had decided she wanted to initiate her sex life with her boyfriend and had looked up a woman gynecologist in the Yellow Pages. She had asked her closest friend to accompany her. She had been taking the pill ever since. I was overcome with gratitude to my daughter for being so responsible and to Life for having given me, through my own experience, the opportunity to be of service to her.

Now the question is: Can I absolutely know that if my daughter had gotten pregnant at 16 she would have come to me for help? The answer is no. The chances that she might have are greater than if I had never had that talk with her or if the attitude in the house had been that sex was not acceptable and abortion was a crime against God, but adolescents tend to try and face their own problems, locking their parents out no matter how understanding they have been. At 16, if abortion is not legal for an adolescent without her parent’s consent, she might or maybe I should say probably will, go for an illegal abortion, many times with the support only of the boyfriend or another adolescent friend. This does not mean that I think that legalizing abortion for 16 year olds solves the problem, far from it. Only educating a daughter in responsibility and respect for her own body will begin to solve the problem. I do not honestly believe that any woman, of any age, would chose abortion as a way of birth control. Abortion is the choice of despair, ignorance or fear as is every other form of killing on this planet. Now that apparently the taboo against sex has images0l4cmk01been lifted, only education in responsibility and self respect within the freedom of choice can make voluntary abortion the responsible decision of a few who, like me, did everything within their means to avoid pregnancy.


20151024_140024Goodness, how it hits one when something new comes into life and begins to open up unforeseen possibilities! I just registered for a TeleSummit (arrogant title, don’t you think?) on Conscious Business which is not the same as the business of consciousness, but connects into it sideways. A series of speakers on internet are going to introduce the people who register to the art of doing business in the NEW way; everything from Aligning Meaning, Message and Market; Recognizing The Copycat Entrepeneur and Charging what you are Worth, to the Quest for an Heroic Business and Cosmic Comedy, the new bunch of spiel artists are going to buzz our ears for 10 sessions over a period of three weeks with inspirational ideas and personal working models that are supposed to get us jettisoned on our way to success in the new virtual internet establishment way of the now called “Multiversity” (Ok, folks, so now you know: we are no longer a part of the Universe, but of the Multiverse and whatever we do will have a Multiversal effect hopefully).

Anyway, as I said I registered for this course. Why? Good question. I have no desire to start, continue or fortify a business (non-existent other than my very small, intimate workshops which will change nothing, including the numbers on my bank account), so that can’t be it. I certainly have no desire to begin to “join” others on Facebook (which I avoided like the plague up to just a couple of months ago), Twitter, Hi-Five or any other “social” gatherings where the meeting of people is cultivated and then harvested for business purposes. I don’t even want to do business, so why register for a Conscious Business TeleSummit? Because I adore Swami Beyonananda, the cosmic comic with whom I have exchanged a few e-mails. Also because I immediately sent the F.r.e.e. Course off to my son and my friend, The Muse, hoping that it would help jumpstart them on a new path to the wealth they want and seem to need in this moment. And it was incoherent in my way of thinking to invite them to something I was not prepared to take myself. So this morning, 12 hours after the fact, I tuned into the RePlay of the first conference by Adela Rubio (could she possibly be a compatriota?? a Mexican curios??) I have to admit that I basically liked what I heard, nothing new mind you, I had heard most of it and seen it put into practice by my friend Carlos from Tucson, but he was –as far as I could see, always a loner- and this according to Adela has 2000 attendees from all over the world. Wow! But, I liked what she said, it rang true. Words like “passion”, “choice”, “evolution” and “playground” sparkled in her vocabulary; suggestions of change –“intentional awareness” instead of “intellect”; “being” instead of “doing”; “potential” in the place of “problem” (like instead of “what is the problem in this picture”, “what is the potential in this picture”) twinkled true.  Openness, multiple options, willingness instead of willpower, collaboration not 2011-2012-045competition, create a movement instead of create a market. Don’t “sell” something, “offer” it. And emphasis on YOU as the center, as the creator, as the original who will find what to offer in an “energy exchange” that can become a “steward of positive results”. Perhaps something basic that really hit home was: “Do something meaningful that is aligned with your passion”, “help others”, find out what you have to offer, and what “really Works for You”. What is a joy? When I heard Adela say: “I love to write”, I thought:  Me Too! And then the question: “What do I want to give?” and “What inner shift is necessary for that?” Good questions, good to know that she is not directing people to change outer reality, but rather to look inside to find the barriers to creating their own heaven on earth.

I immediately jotted off notes to the two persons I wanted to join in this conference, and then realized that it was for ME. I have no control over them, if they want to listen or not. I was getting excited. The last instruction was perhaps the most important: FOLLOW THE ENERGY.

So that I know how to do. I breathe down deeply in my chest, close my eyes, feel everything beginning to open and whisper my very secret prayer: “I’m willing…” It is a dangerous prayer because it is open, completely open: there is no wish, no desire, no control. There is absolute Trust. “I’m willing…” And then, I simply go about my day, take care of the chores at hand, do my exercises to see if I can get rid of the pain under my shoulder blade, strengthen the muscles in my arthritic ankle, relieve the discomfort in the right knee anything to insure that the body keeps doing its job for as long as it is possible. The mind takes care of the things to do I have jotted down on a piece of paper: call Insurance Company, write property administrator, cancel appointment in Barcelona, make date with physiotherapist, contact Tamara about our upcoming workshop. I think no more about what I have listened to in the morning, and yet there is a feeling in the chest, similar to butterflies but not in the stomach, there is a latent excitement even though nothing has happened.

During lunch I finish off a P.D. James murder mystery. She’s a master of what I think is called the Gothic Novel, a true follower of Agatha Christie and better. Towards the last pages, two paragraphs catch my eye and I underline them:

Why was it, she wondered, so difficult to believe that the old had been young, with the strength and animal beauty of youth, had loved, been loved, laughed and been full of youth’s unmeditated optimism?

And the second one, some pages later:

Without ceasing his work, Father Martin said. ‘Are you happy, Adam?’ ‘I have health, a job I enjoy, enough food, comfort, occasional luxuries if I feel the need of them, my poetry. Given the state of three-quarters of the world’s poor, wouldn’t you say that unhappiness would be a perverse indulgence?’

How strange, I thought that I should be underlining these speeches. I am old, of course, or rather getting there at an amazing speed, and finding it extremely difficult at times to remember what it was like when I was young, and I do enjoy everything that Adam (the detective in the novel) seems to think is enough, so both are in some way pertinent to my life at this moment, and yet, to be underlining things in a murder mystery that I will chuck away the moment I am through (although, given my short term memory these days, I 20150510_153644might be tempted to buy it again in the near future thinking I haven’t read it yet), seems somehow strange and somehow to do with things I heard this morning. Was all that hope, energy and excitement distilled through the voice of Adela Rubio meant only for people who are young or who don’t have their basic needs, and yet more, fulfilled?

It was walking home from lunch, having finished the novel at hand, that I noticed certain thoughts appearing spontaneously in my mind: How would it be possible to go about “publishing” on internet what I am at the present writing, not to sell it mind you, but just put it out there so that anyone interested could read it. In other words, to HANG IT OUT free, no ties, nothing to buy, do or commit to. Maybe one, or none, or one hundred people would read what I have written; maybe for one it would be a model to begin writing their own experience.  This new born thought was hung on the line to dry.

Oh yes, dreams, why not. Something is stirring inside, something that had not stirred for a while. Now I will open again, continue to listen to the participants in the Conference, allow the mind, My Mind, to go where it must, produce what it must, entertain these 67 years with new dreams… and who knows? Who knows?


All I know is that what I experienced that night so long ago, that which seemed strange enough to be termed crazy, that which could only be the result of a feverish and inexperienced or ignorant mind, that which I refused to believe although experience had made me see it has turned out to be true.

I was 16 or so and given to day dreaming more often than my parents thought healthy or normal; I was 16 and was still willing to believe most of what my Father spoke as truth. I was 16 and spent a tremendous amount of time in my room with the door closed doing –now I cannot remember- god knows what and little more. It might have been night time, at least I believe it was, and I was day dreaming as usual, of nothing, of everything, dreams that teenagers have. It was night, now it begins to come back, and the darkness of it captured my attention. Yet there was light, light from the streetlamp that I could not see but perceived through the glow that reached the far wall outside of my window, light imagesyqe4jwcoperhaps from a moon or the twinkling stars which were still visible in the sky for the now infamous smog of Mexico City had not yet taken over. Light, no doubt, from under my closed door for my parents were probably downstairs, or had gone out and not yet come home. The memory speaks of silence, there was silence; the night was quiet of that I am sure. On the cobblestoned street where we lived there was no traffic and much less after night fall. An occasional car would pass slowly and then the silence would wrap once more around the houses like a dark shawl. I was sitting, if I’m not mistaken, on the stool in front of my dressing table, my elbows resting on the glass top which protected the white wood from being stained, my cheeks resting on my fists, my eyes peering out into the night and my ears listening to the silence until it began to fill my head. Everything, including my mind was still. And then I did a strange thing.

I removed my fists from my cheeks where they had been holding up my head, spread them out and covered my eyes as tightly as I could. Once I was sure that not a slithering of light could get through, I opened my eyes, now under the cover of my warm palms, and looked. I looked as only a young person can look: with no preconceived notion of what it was I was going to see and I saw. I saw that there was nothing, absolutely nothing between the darkness inside and the darkness outside, nothing separating the cosmos that resided inside and the cosmos that resided outside: there was no “me”, there was only darkness, there was only cosmos; even the stars were gone from the Infinite inside. The experience was one of awe and peace: “I” was no more, there was nothing but “that” and “that” had images1wmrgih3not yet separated into “this, and this, and this…” It just was: silence and vastness, unending silence, unending vastness. I would never forget that experience, would as a matter of fact use it in a novel some 30 odd years later, but as surely as I would not forget it, neither would I believe it, neither would I know that in that moment I had seen, experienced what I would spend the next 45+ years searching for.

How was I to know? The moment I removed my hands from my eyes, reality as I undestood it then flooded back in, as light, as thought, as denial: “figment of the imagination”. How was I to believe that which no one and nothing in my living experience was validating: that the body, that the whole material world does not actually exist unless I perceive/project it. All I seemed to know at that moment was that for a split second I had experienced an inner realm as vast, unending and abysmal as the outer cosmos. That which I could not imagine, the infinite, the unendingness of the cosmos without even a celestial body –a star, a moon, a sun- to dot it, was my inner reality, much more so than lungs and heart and stomach and uterus. I was Nothing, creating myself and being created by that Nothingness at every instant, over and over and over, never real, always becoming and folding back into nothingness: beautiful, overwhelming, incomprehensible, awesome, fearful and miraculous Nothingness.

Now I understand that at that very moment, I also experienced that the selfsame nothingness, is not nothing: it is vibrant, alive and that which we all long for deep down inside: it is our birthing place –now, now, now. What Freud mistook as a desire to return to the womb, is a desire to return to the Womb, the Void, the Nothingness that is Everything in potential.

Fifty-one years later I can now live from that Place, visiting it whenever I wish and never losing contact with it. It manifests in the current of peace that underlies my everyday life; in the gentleness with which I view most circumstances no matter how apparently uncomfortable. It flows forth through my chest which opens out connecting both realities in wave after wave of love. I am that Nothingness, being. I am blessed



1939-6 Trip home SS Manhattan15042014 (4)My Mother was beautiful. She was a New York model way back in the 30’s. My grandmother used to take her to work so no man would tempt her away. My grandmother always talked about how beautiful my Mother was. “When she walked into a room” she would say, “everyone would turn around to look at her.” She was really beautiful. There was a photograph of her in a long dress, the clinging kind, sleeveless and with a v-neck, not a crease or wave, it clung to her body like a swim suit, her head is slightly turned, one knee just barely bent, she is looking at something off in the distance, perhaps just above the horizon, I can see the photograph in my mind as if I had it in front of me today. My Mother was beautiful. My Father said it too. He would look at her as she came towards him across the room; he didn’t have to say it. His eyes, his face said it over and over: your Mother is beautiful. My friends would say it: your Mother is really beautiful, the boys, they would say it. Fifty years later, someone I knew then said to me: your Mother was really beautiful: he remembered, fifty years later. She was that beautiful. I remember her back in the 50’ies when wide circular skirts were in, putting on a dress with a circular skirt. “Twirl for me, Mommy”, and she would spin around, the skirt flying out in a perfect circle around her, showing me her long, slim legs and the silk white panties that were worn then, up to the waist and with little legs that went down a couple of inches. She was beautiful.

In the living room, she would dance with my Father. Round and round, floating in his arms, perfectly in tune with each step, her head slightly thrown back, tilting from side to 1958-2-jan-helens-house-4side as she followed his perfect rhythm. Beautiful. I used to brush her hair. I used to watch her put on her makeup. I never tired of looking at her. There seemed to be no one else in the world; the whole space was taken up by my Mother’s beauty. There was none left for me.

I was not beautiful. I was intelligent. My Grandmother said I was intelligent. She had said that about my aunt too, my Mother’s sister: my Mother was beautiful, my Aunt was intelligent. My Grandmother did things like that: she labeled people, situations, happenings. Opinionated. My Grandmother was opinionated and her opinion was that my Mother was beautiful and my Aunt was intelligent. I discovered later that my Mother was also intelligent. My Aunt was screwed-up, her life was shitty, she was not intelligent or beautiful. Her daughter was not the favorite granddaughter, I was the favorite maybe because my Mother was beautiful and my Grandmother couldn’t stop looking at her either. It seems that no one could.

I was not beautiful, and that would not have been a problem if I hadn’t wanted to be beautiful. However, I not only wanted to be beautiful, I wanted to be more beautiful than my Mother, but I pretended that being intelligent was more important because from very early on I realized that there was no way in God’s world that I would ever be even half as beautiful as my Mother. So on the outside I poo-poohed physical beauty and sang the glories of intelligence, but when I looked in the mirror, I would have given every iota of intelligence to look like my Mother or better.

My Mother was also thin. She looked to me as if she had the perfect figure. My Father drooled. He said there were Breast-Men and Butt-Men and he was a Breast-Man. My Mother had big breasts and a tiny waist that showed them off. I had a big butt and no breasts and, until I was about twenty, no waist of which to speak. I was so ashamed of my “bee-stings” as my Grandmother called them, that when “sex raised its ugly head” (which was what she attributed adolescent evils to) I was quicker to take off my panties than to unbutton my blouse. There was no way I could be beautiful, not with my Mother around and there was no getting rid of her. It wouldn’t have done any good anyway; she was installed in my head from very, very early on. I had to be intelligent so I worked at it very hard. My Mother, when I was an adolescent, informed me that “Men prefer dumb women”, that was not encouraging, but I had no choice: I couldn’t be the beautiful one. To make things worse, I didn’t even like my Aunt, who was supposed to be the one who had gotten the brains (and all I could see was that she had gotten the neuroses) so I had to find another model to be intelligent like. I might have chosen my Grandmother, who was almost my favorite person on Earth after my Father, but my Father insisted that she was common: “I could never understand how such a lady like your PERICOMother could come from someone so common” he would say.  That didn’t leave many people to choose from, so I ended up wanting to be like my Father: intelligent, and, of course, a man. I don’t have to explain the problems I faced on that front; most girls from my times wanted to be their Fathers. Even my Grandmother, who thought my Mother was the most beautiful thing alive, considered that she did not “deserve” a man as Good as my Father. “Women are devious” she stated without a shadow of a doubt in her voice: “Boys are much better than girls, more up front” and considering that I was her favorite, it was hard to figure out.

Anyway, as anyone can guess by now, at the age of 15 I was one hell of a mess inside while trying desperately to keep up external appearances so no one would catch on. It was around that time that, one evening at home I suggested we order Pizza Pie for dinner.

“Don’t be stupid” my Father said, fulminating me with one of his you-are-the-lowest-form-of-life looks; “ ‘Pizza’, in Italian, means ‘Pie’ so Pizza Pie is redundant” and he launched into an explanation of the origins of pizza, or something like it. When he finished, I assumed a smart-aleck look on my face and, with a wink at my Mother, asked: “Can we at least order the pizza-pie now?”

I thought he was going to go into melt-down under the heat of the rage that invaded him: “You… YOU have the sensitivity of a rhinoceros” he growled and left the room.

I was fixed. That was it. Not intelligent, not beautiful, not a man, not a figure worth commenting on (no bust, all butt): a rhinoceros. Straight and simple: the rest of the ride was downhill until about the age of 50.

By that time, I had forgotten about the problem of not being beautiful, or at least moved it into the darkest corner of the subconscious, and had taken up trying to look at least decent and clean with the wrinkles that had begun to appear on my face and the slight hang that the skin under my chin insisted on having. I had given up on becoming a man all together when I married and had two children, not because I liked the role, but because it was inevitable: it is hard to be the man when you have married one and installed yourself in a house with him and are confronted every morning with the fact of who has the “hardware”.

Life had not gotten any easier given all the “nots” (and you can spell that with a “k” if you like) that had accumulated: not beautiful, not thin, not intelligent, not a man, not a good mother, not a good housewife, not a successful writer… not, not, not. It’s a wonder I could even live with myself, as if I had had a choice.

Surprisingly enough, after years of psychotherapy and alternative systems that taught you how to hate your father out loud and how to feel superior to your mother then aged 75, at 60 I believed I had undone most if not all the knots and was living a pretty decent and peaceful (if not gloriously happy) life.

Then Chus came along. Chus is short for María Jesús, and María Jesús was only 30 to my 60, had long wavy black hair to my eternally straight, thin blond stuff, and seemed much surer of herself than I had ever felt in my entire life. Chus and I had what I term “our little encounter” when we were thrown together to staff a weekend workshop of the most recent therapy on the market. There I found a plus that gave me an unexpected status: I was a good organizer. Chus had everything else, but she was just about the most disorganized, flighty, unstable person I have ever met and she was supposedly in charge of the event (even though she kept telling everyone that she wasn’t and disappearing to prove it). I was flooded with a sense of my own superiority and set about showing it with how-can-you-be-so-incompetent looks in her direction at every chance, until finally I just took over the whole shebang and set about organizing so that we could pull the event off.

Everything went smoothly in the end, mostly because there was a marvelous team and there wasn’t much to organize as long as someone was willing to coordinate the energy and creativity of the rest. Chus and I did not fight, and ended up hugging and giving each other a big kiss and congratulating each other on the success. It was therefore a surprise when she phoned me about a week later and said: “I have done a worksheet on you and I want to read it to you”. In this therapy, when there is a conflict or resentment, we write our judgments about the other person, question the veracity of the thoughts and judgments and then turn them all around to ourselves; it is very effective. We made a date for the following day and met at the park bench we had agreed upon. Chus read her page. Her judgments about my controlling nature, my power struggles, my unpleasant looks were right on and I could only nod in agreement thankful that we had already solved those issues on our last meeting. On question five, however, one is supposed to list the “disagreeable” things that one thinks about the other person, and I was in for the surprise of my life. Chus was a little uncertain about reading her list, but decided to go ahead and do it just as it was written on her sheet:

“You are controlling, demanding, bossy, old and UGLY” she said turning slightly red on pronouncing the last words. I had no problem with the first four, there was no doubt in my mind that I was all those things, and many more as my ex husband had delighted in confirming during our rather painful divorce (is there any other kind?). But no one in my whole life, not even me, had ever used the word UGLY to describe me. Even “rhinoceros” was not UGLY. And now, there it was.

For a moment it hung there, suspended in the air between us; it echoed in my ears and everything stood still. Then suddenly it burst forth, broke out and entered my chest as if it were an enormous, beautiful, free bird opening everything inside of me for the first time.

“Oh my god!” I gasped. “I’m free.” I felt the wings, I felt the beating of those enormous wings, ugly-ugly-ugly-ugly, taking off inside of me as if my heart would burst with love and joy and freedom. I looked at Chus who was still gasping at how she had dared say such a terrible thing to me, and cried: “Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I finally heard it, that most feared word. What a gift, thank you, thank you…” and I was crying and laughing and hugging her.

“I’m sorry…” she began to stammer, but I stopped her.

“You just gave me the greatest gift I have ever received” I said, knowing that there was no way I could explain or she could understand. But I understood, finally, after 60 years of trying to be more beautiful than I was, of trying to always see myself in the mirror as beautiful, of fearing that someone would find me not-beautiful, of struggling in an ever losing battle, with the frustration and impossibility of being what one is not, I understood: it was so clear, as crystal clear as the tears of joy streaming down my cheeks: She had said I was Ugly, and nothing had changed in or on me; she could have said I was Beautiful and nothing would have changed: I just WAS. What she saw or didn’t see had NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. What I saw in the mirror or didn’t see had NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. I was what I was what I was and someone at times would see me as beautiful, and others at other images8k7044mftimes would see me as ugly and others wouldn’t even see me, and NOT ONE CELL IN MY BODY, NOT ONE BREATH IN MY EXISTENCE WOULD CHANGE, EVER. I was just me, and in the moment I heard the word “ugly” that knowledge became an experience that expanded like the wings of the UGLY bird that nested in my chest forever. That, whatever it was, was Being Beautiful. Yes Man!!!


Slowly the mind seeps into consciousness. I am awakening. Morning. A feeling of sadness creeps up towards my throat and then down to the solar plexus. Not strong, slightly heavy. Really no problem… until the mind begins, and the mind does begin.

‘Sad’ it says, and the feeling increases a bit. ‘Getting old’ it says a few times; ‘nowhere to go, nothing to do, future downhill’.  Then, as it has now defined a ‘problem’, it begins to look for ‘solutions’. I observe. ‘Maybe if I lived closer to my children’. Which one, I wonder. What for, I ask myself shaking my head lightly. Now I am fully awake and I explain to this drowsy wandering mind that I have no place in the lives of my children, that I have no life of my own at the moment in either of the places where they live, and that I do NOT want to spend these still active years taking care of grandchildren (Good God! They’re too old to need taking care of anyway; it would be more like their taking care of me and that certainly would bore them all the way out of any love they might have!). Just think what a bother I would be: a bored, frustrated bother. What in the world would I do with myself?

The mind continues: ‘Get a project. Go to Africa like Wendy, join a volunteer organization like the Red Cross, go to Haiti to help sweep up after the quake, make yourself useful.’ Africa…. hmmm, could be interesting. It could also be deadly, a woman my age. ‘Wendy went, she is your age.’ Yes, and she got kidney stones from dehydration and had to be operated on. ‘She married an African 20 years her junior.’ I don’t want to marry an African and run an orphanage; I don’t like children that much. Wendy has a hang up about never having had children; she is satisfying her frustrated maternity. Not for me.

By this time, I have opened my eyes and am running my hand over Salomé’s tummy. Salomé is the love of my life at this moment. I scratch her behind her furry ears. She closes her bright, brown miniature-schnauzer eyes and cuddles closer to me. Better than Prozac. Something begins to open in my chest and I hear myself whispering: “Thank you, thank you, I’m so grateful” over and over until I feel the gratitude filling my heart. My chest expands, all heaviness disappears, there is opening as I take a long, deep breath. “Thank you, thank you, I’m so grateful”. Salomé has sat up and is looking at me, trying to figure out if I am speaking to her. I smile; she licks my hand with her rough pink tongue. “Thank you, thank you, I’m so grateful.”

Suddenly, I am filled with gratitude and wonder. I have such a busy life, there is so much to do –and I love it all- that I barely have time to watch a film on the DVD occasionally. Where in the world would I find time to go to Africa! Suddenly I can see my life. I can see me creating exercises for the workshops I give twice a month, giving the workshops, seeing private clients who want to learn to do the work I teach, the beloved work that has brought me to this place of peace inside, this freedom that even allows me to contemplate migrating to California or Africa, knowing I could do it if the impulse moved me. ‘All this and heaven too’, my mind says as I realize that I am busy enough to almost not have time to write. Almost.

Salomé has jumped down to look for a ball in hopes that I am awake enough to play. I roll over on my side and close my eyes again. It has been almost 18 years since I began my second life. The first one –the one where I was wife, mother, homemaker- ended after 30 years. Jokingly I often say now “30 years of forced labor and I retired”. Don’t professionals get their retirement after 30 years in a company? Well, I had been in the company of my husband for 30 years and I retired. It sounds better in Spanish: we say “jubilada” which means ‘jubilated’ or released into joy, into jubilation. “Thank you, thank you, I’m so grateful.”

I love my children, I loved my family, I loved my husband (I still do, and it makes me so happy that he has found someone else to live with), and I was ready to be free and to be me for the first time in my adult life: I was ready to BE.

The slight morning heaviness is gone. Outside the window, the day is cloudy. Rain. ‘Don’t forget your umbrella.’ Sometimes the mind takes care of necessary details. ‘It is Wednesday.’ Wednesday… Wow! It’s Wednesday! Train Day! Today I go from Madrid to Barcelona on the AVE (which means “bird of prey”) that has a white engine car shaped like the head of an eagle, with two bright red eyes when it is in the station, and reaches a speed of over 300 km/hour. To me it is the most beautiful train I have ever seen and to ride in it once a week is a treat.   images0gxduljb That may seem strange, considering that the 3 hour ride is to see a sport’s doctor for a pain under my shoulder blade that has lasted almost a year, but the AVE is one of the gifts of having that pain. Three hours out and three back. Six hours of absolute freedom to do with what I want. Absolutely alone with myself. I don’t need to talk to anyone or take any calls on my cell phone unless I want to. Just me and the beautiful train.

Now I have leapt out of bed. Salomé has hopefully brought the old sock with the ball inside to see if I will play, but I have other things to do. Mind is busy now: ‘Don’t forget to take out booklets and program for Saturday’s conference’. I wonder what car I am in on the AVE. The tickets are on the dresser: 7. Good! I usually am in 8, and 7 is one car closer to the cafeteria car which is number 4.

Morning chores: breathing exercise, molding massage, shower, Chi Kung, walk to park with Salomé, glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in the local café –one of the few places in Madrid that allows dogs. Back home, breakfast, answer e-mails, gather material for Saturday’s conference, watch clock. Eleven a.m. and I am free! Walk to corner with bag hitched over left shoulder (spare right one). Heavy with two sandwiches and a Tupperware full of fresh lettuce, nuts and cheese, dressing: healthier than the food on the train.

Thanks to the new aches and pains that seem to appear as time pushes on, I now take care of myself much more than before. Until the body began making demands, I gloriously ignored it. However, on Wednesdays I allow myself to go to the train cafeteria and buy a bag of chips and a coca-cola. Junk food.

My bag also contains my notebook and several ball-point pens (in case one or more run out of ink). It is my writing day. I usually spend the three hours outward trip writing at least one full vignette for this book -sometimes I manage two- and gazing at intervals at the shifting countryside racing by. The multicolored earth. Tones of pale beige through gold and onto green. Olive groves and softly rising hills. Little towns whisking by, their red tile roofs and church steeples, occasionally the ruins of an ancient castle on the highest hill. I write and gaze and write some more, then breathe deeply: it goes by so fast.

I have no idea what I will write today. On the corner, I hop a cab and the minute I settle in the seat and give the driver instructions to take me to the train station, my mind begins: ‘Slowly the mind seeps into consciousness. I am awakening…’ and my hand has extracted pen and paper and is making notes.220px-invernadero_de_atocha_madrid_-_view_2

Atocha, the largest train station in Madrid, is in itself a delight. An enormously long rectangular building three stories high with an arched glass roof, it contains a tropical rain forest. Yes, a live one with a mist-making watering system that keeps it humid. At one end of the dark green forest with its huge spreading leafy plants, there is a swampy pool containing hundreds of turtles of all sizes. It is definitely overpopulated, and turtles crawl upon other turtles to take spells out of the water and dry off. The air around is filled with the chirping of myriad sparrows who find the cool, green, humid habitat more inviting than the bustling traffic outside.

Today I am late, so I don’t pause to enjoy the strangeness of an inside forest. I arrive at the gate barely 4 minutes before closing time. Another minute’s walk and I am on the train. Sighing, I settle back in my seat, release the individual table from the seatback in front of me, spread my notebook out and continue writing: ‘Sad’ it says… I know that I must get my writing done on the way out: coming back I am usually tired, my body protests the sheer torture of the treatment, the needles and painful massage, and I allow myself to watch the movie, read a book or simply doze.images2pbzar1t

A half hour later, when I glance up at the luminous panel at the front of car 7, I see we are travelling at 303 km/hr. The morning’s heavy grey clouds accompany the landscape that whisks by. And the silence, the train makes no noise, people watch the movie or doze or read or work on their computers. Silence. “Thank you, thank you, I’m so grateful.”

I wonder if this treat, this being in love with the train ride, is the reason my shoulder doesn’t seem to finish getting better. ‘Well, now: there is a possibility. I could take out an AVE ticket to different places on all my Wednesdays; write as I travel, have lunch in Sevilla or Córdoba or Aranjuez or Valencia or Jerez or Murcia and return in the afternoon.’ I watch my mind turning over the possibility and smile. I could do that, nothing to stop me now. What fun!

Yes, I whisper to my heavy mind of the morning: you see, we are free. Wednesday can be our day, no clients, no programming workshops, no answering e-mails or even afternoon walks with Salomé; no having to plan or procure lunch. All day, surrounded by strangers with whom we will not talk at all (unless they are handsome and charming and want to flirt). So you see, I tell my silly morning mind, I really do have a full life here, no need to run to children or to Africa or anywhere for that matter. For the time being there is nothing but gratitude at 300 km/hr “Thank you, thank  you, I’m so grateful.”