Years ago, my former spouse and I went to a marriage counsellor. The counsellor’s name was Andre. Andre was our second of three marriage counsellors, and we’d had to switch from the first one because she was that lovely kind of barmy where she refused to bill our insurance, and refused to talk about anything other than her dead son. Which, while interesting, wasn’t very helpful to our foundering marriage.

So somehow, after extensive internet searching, I’d come upon Andre, and we went to meet him at the appointed time. But when we arrived at his “office,” we discovered that it wasn’t really an office at all — more like his “apartment.” Indeed, there was no waiting room; no guest area. We had to wait out in the hallway of the West Village apartment building before the previous patient exited his flat. And when we went in, we discovered his home was stuffed to bursting with junk, and sofas, and I think even a piano. And cats. Several cats. Though I can’t recall now whether my ex was allergic or not.

The cats were the big, surly kind of cats that you find in big cities — where they’ve been kept indoors too long by fretful owners and so they develop insistent, mewling voices. And as we got down to the messy business of marriage therapy, the beasts roamed the apartment like they were wandering the Savannah, tracking catbox crumbs and furballs behind them.

What I am saying is that these were not the retiring, soothing kind of animals one might expect a therapist to keep. These cats were a menace.

So Andre started talking, waving his arms, at which point I realized his shirt was see-through. And he was telling us about some other clients he’d had who had come in to resolve past relationship trauma. THE PROBLEM IS, YOU HAVE TRAUMA, Andre told us. At some stage in his other clients’ relationship, they’d gotten pregnant and decided not to keep the baby. But they’d gotten married; had other children; couldn’t figure out why their relationship was so mired in conflict.


My ex and I sat in cowed silence. As if on cue, one of the cats began to hork and gag. Another cat, nonplussed, climbed up on the sofa behind my ex’s head and settled in for the show. And the barfy cat bolted across the room to the kitchen, where he hopped on the counter and unleashed his demon within. Out came a long snake of hair and Meow Mix, unfurling from his throat like a serpent’s tongue.

Without missing a beat, Andre continued on his rant and leapt up to clean the cat vomit. As he turned to wipe up the mess, I could see the tiny beads of his man-nipples twinkling through his shirt at me.

THAT’S WHY YOU NEED TO LEARN TO COMMUNICATE, he shouted over the din of the cat’s retching.

Andre began to talk about Imago Therapy and how it was the foundation of couples’ therapy, but…he’d lost me. He spent the rest of the session chasing the cat around, scooping up puddles of barf.  And all I could hear ringing in my ears for hours afterward was the sound of a cat retching and the word: Imago.

That was our only session with him. Our marriage was over less than a year later.

There’s a lot they don’t prepare you for in marriage counselling, even if your experience is not a vomit-laden horrorshow. They don’t prepare you for the 22 year-olds at the sailing club who your husband will turn up with at home on a rainy night when the parties get cancelled. Or the times he’d show up at home without his wedding band. Or any of that…other stuff.

Those therapists — they don’t tell you to stop feeling like you deserved to be treated like that, long after the marriage failed and your former spouse whispered to everyone that the failure was your fault. Because you were thin and blonde and kind of a jock, and he was kind of a geek, and so whatever happened must’ve been your fault because the optics were a bit conventionally lopsided.

But the weirdest thing about that era had to be Andre. I hadn’t anticipated that I would ever hear about Andre again after I left his office that day. But years later, when I was on my own, I came to learn that one of the girls who slept with Cheating Bill had been a long-time client of Andre’s. It was mentioned to me in passing, like it was nothing; like the specter of the man in the see-through shirt in the funhouse full of cat barf who’d been the canary in the coal mine of my ending first marriage wouldn’t rattle me.

You should read “Getting the Love That You Want,” someone said to me, after the era of Cheating Bill, It’s by Harville Hendrix. It’s about Imago Therapy.

No thanks, I said, Just…no thanks.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Ah-Ha Moment| Ah ha moment: Did you have an “ah ha” moment this year?  Was it a big one?  Or just a small enlightenment?



There was one Friday evening in July when my friend JRA and her husband and I sat by the Hudson, and ate lobster rolls, and watched the sun set over the Palisades.

It was the Friday before my ex-husband got remarried, but I didn’t know it when we’d made our plans to meet.  It was also the Friday before my hip surgery.  So a lot was on the line that weekend.

But in those small moments, on a docked barge, eating seafood and drinking wine, and gossiping and talking about nonsense, my life felt like mine again.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Work| What sort of work did you do in 2014?  Was it new to you?  Did you take on new responsibilities?  Change jobs?  Or take on a new task at home?

You may or may not be wondering what happened to Frederic in the midst of all of this Major Life Change.

Years ago, when we still worked in the MetLife building, as the world was ending around us, there was one day when Frederic looked at me very sadly and said, Promise me we’ll always be friends. And I was so taken aback by it that I’d made the promise, even though in my heart I was saying, Yeah, right, buddy. If our respective marriages fail and we don’t wind up together, I’d probably rather see you rot in hell rather than be your FRIEND.
And in truth, for a long time, I very much wanted him to rot.
We’d had this Big Love. And nobody gives you instructions for what you do with a Big Love that doesn’t end with rice in your hair, and a baby in a carriage, and one of those wood-paneled station wagons like everyone’s Cool Mom in the ’80s (am I dating myself here?).
So Freddy got married to an ex-colleague of ours and moved to the ‘burbs, and I stayed on the Upper East Side, and we each had to grow up in our respective ways once Everything Changed.
It took me a long time not to be mad about that.  Because sometimes, it felt like everyone else was moving forward and I was Staying The Same.
It took us a long time to be…Friends.
This was partly because he had called me out of the blue one Friday about three years ago to tell me he was marrying someone we both knew, and the following day, I got hit by a car. Within 72 hours, I had found out my then-boyfriend was sleeping with another friend’s sister, and my entire life unraveled into a shame-spiral of public humiliation, and I’d had to slink back to California where I sat slack-jawed at SFO, my arm in a sling, too bewildered to explain what was happening even to another friend who’d seen me at my worst.
So I blamed Everything Bad on Frederic. Because he was easy to blame, and because he wasn’t there. He didn’t have anything to do with anything. Technically, he didn’t even  DO anything to me, except go on with his life, which he had already been doing for the better part of a year at that stage.
Then, one day, after months of not-speaking, I was in London, and the night before, I’d just been caught in the riots in Notting Hill, and I was overcome with the urge to email Frederic.
That evening we exchanged a few messages like nothing had happened, and then he said, “BTW, I guess we’re speaking again.”
And so we were.
And so we have been.
Some people in my life have said, “You never should’ve scratched that old scab.”
But the reality is, you don’t stop loving someone just because it didn’t work out between you. As I’ve gotten to know Freddy as his friend, I’ve realised, too, that it was never going to work out for us.  We had something special, but the sharp edges of our personalities are such that it would always be barbs and jabs. For one, he is fastidiously neat, and I leave wet towels on the bed. He wears cargo pants at the weekend, and in my view, that’s a sartorial death wish (I have young kids! he whined when I called him out on it, I’m not going to carry a diaper bag).
(Buy a nice messenger bag and burn the cargo pants, I told him. Or just take a cyanide pill right now, I said under my breath.)
And so this year, when the opportunity for us to work together professionally arose, I seized it.  We got to be…normal friends; normal colleagues.  We got to sit in meetings; tell old jokes; talk on the phone; and, be the grown-up version of ourselves that we had become.
I have learned over the years is that Big Loves are very, very big. And if they are real, your heart doesn’t shrink when they change shape or size — you just have to choose to work at them, and with them, in whatever form they shift into.  And it’s good to be friends with Frederic now. It’s a choice — it’s a natural choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s not work.
I like who and what our relationship has grown into. Is it a little crazy — this friendship; this relationship; this work that we do? Sure. But sometimes things worth having are the result of a solid history, and a little bit of crazy, and a lot of hard work.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

1000 Words| There’s the old saying that a photo is worth 1,000 words.  Give us a photo with that impact that sums up some significant event of your 2014, or give us 1,000 words about a pivotal moment in 2014.


(Via Filmclub)

Last week, I was in London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and back to London.  This hideous tour of the British Isles and the Continent required multiple 3.00am wake-up calls; many short-hop flights; innumerable waits at passport control; and more back-and-forth through Paddington Station than I care to even think about. It was not an unpleasant trip, but it did leave me with the desire to punch every single person who whines at me about how glamourous my life of international travel and fancy hotels is.

Because it is not. It is, however, different than your life. Maybe.

On the flight back to New York, I noticed that British Airways was offering Beaches as a film selection. And I had jetlag induced amnesia and somehow forgot for a moment that I was a lawyer, and my best friend was an actress, and we had met when we were 11 years old.

Beaches is kind-of a special film, as cheesy as it is, because there aren’t a lot of films out there that elevate female friendships to the level of the sacred. The late ’80s were the era for that: Beaches; Steel Magnolias; etc.  I guess nowadays, Bridesmaids is what passes for that kind of film, and while it’s not a bad movie, I don’t think it has the same…je ne sais quois.

Seeing each other through marriages and divorces and major/chronic illnesses, and life and birth and death on the silver screen is…One Thing.

Shitting in the middle of the street is a totally different…Thing, I think.


I have lots of very close, excellent girlfriends. But my best friend is like my sister. We have Always Been Together. We have Stuck it Out.

For instance, back in 2009, when things were very, very dark, I called her up and I told her to drive to Carmel Valley, California, where I was working with a client. And I gave her a list of things to bring, which included peanut butter, and bread, and gallon jugs of water. She sort-of comprehended that I was going to force her to climb Half Dome with me, but I’m not sure she completely understood what that meant.

So we drove from the coast through the evening and into the wee hours to Yosemite Valley; through a fire; through me getting a speeding ticket and screaming my frustration out at the Park Ranger who pulled me over. We were all nerves, and latent anger, and frustration, and smouldering embers back then.

And at the break of dawn that September morning five years ago, we climbed Half Dome.

We made it to the summit, but it took her years to forgive me.

It was so wonderful, then, when Paul proposed in Yosemite, with Half Dome in the background, because it wasn’t just important to me, and to my family, but it honoured all of the parts of my heart, and the people who had gotten me up the mountain.

Which all led me to being incredibly jetlagged, on a NY-bound plane on Sunday night, after a series of European short-hops, where I was doing the incredibly stupid thing of watching Beaches.

I guess the truth is that it wasn’t a pivotal moment, per se. But have you ever had one of those flashing moments when you remember: This is who I am? My life has been so topsy-turvy this year. So unsettling and so unsettled. And watching that sob-fest of a film reminded me that This is home. I have a best friend with curly blonde hair, who smells like sea and salt and sunscreen, and who sings songs with a low and brave voice, and who knows me by the name I call myself, and who, on more than one occasion, has saved my life.

Sometimes the big moments are hiding in the very small ones. Sometimes they are obvious, and sometimes, they are hiding in 25 year old motion pictures.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

The PlankIt has been said that you must learn to take care of yourself before you can be effective at taking care of others.  How did you take care of yourself in 2014?  How will you take care of yourself in 2015?

This year has been a lot of…surviving. In fact, I’m breathlessly surprised it’s December again, because I’ve been living Lord, just get me through this day! for enough days that it’s a bit odd to wake up on the cusp of another year turning over.

And I haven’t been good at taking care of myself. In fact, I slept for 12 hours on Saturday night, and I knew it was the only sleep I’d get all week. I hadn’t slept more than four hours a night before that, and I haven’t since. I could give the excuse of Too Much To Do, but that’s a rookie excuse.

Too Busy is, in my view, the stuff of amateurs who can’t budget their time appropriately. But if that’s the excuse I’m giving to myself, then I’ve become one of those people who doesn’t know how to prioritise. Who can’t tell the difference between what can be delegated or outsourced; what can be put off; what needs to be Done.

The truth is that I’m anxious; I’m thinking about too much. I can’t focus on any one task for long enough to get it done, so everything takes longer than it should. I’m tired, so everything takes longer anyway. And an additional truth is that sometimes life is just that way.

I’m an optimistic and joyful person in real life, but I’m not going to lie to you or to myself: Sometimes this whole middle-part of being an adult is…a slog. Marriages, and divorces, and babies, and pregnancies, and fertility treatments, and jobs, and job loss, and meetings in cities nobody ever wants to travel to, and parties where everyone is sitting around moaning about mortgages and school fees, and all of this punctuated occasionally with death, and destruction, and chronic illness, and baby loss, and everyone’s parents getting older.

True, the middle bit beats the alternative, but it’s still a weird emotional Thing when just moments ago you were some lithe little girl who didn’t think twice about your age or attractiveness whilst standing on line for an event or nightclub, and then one morning you wake up to a hurricane, grey hair, and a cancer diagnosis, all the while hobbling around on a hip that needs fixing.

Oh no. Even having this discussion is becoming the world’s biggest cliché.

So what have I done to take care of myself in the middle of this perfect storm?

Probably not as much as I should.

However, I’ve learned a lot.

So what will I do next year?

Talk with friends more. Ask for more help. Create more sacred spaces. Read more. Spend more time with Roo. Practise yoga twice a week. Write more letters. Get massages. Continue to order delivery via Seamless and care not at all whether anyone judges my domestic skills. Not buy a crock pot. Cut fewer corners with my health. Spend more hours on the people that matter, and give less time to the bloody irritating people who try to wish me a blessed day and try to give advice on things that are frankly, none of their business.

Develop a thicker skin.

I spent many, many years being less. Trying to disappear into myself. I am okay now with taking up the space to which I am entitled; being loved; being…more.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

HeroWho was your hero this year? Tell us why. What makes a hero in your eyes?

I tried to define this term, so like any human living in the 21st century, I googled it, and came up with this:

noun: hero; plural noun: heroes; noun: hero sandwich; plural noun: hero sandwiches
    a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
    “a war hero”
    • (in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semidivine origin, in particular one of those whose exploits and dealings with the gods were the subject of ancient Greek myths and legends; the chief male character in a book, play, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize.
    North American
    another term for submarine sandwich.

(Source: Google)

Hmmm. None of this sounds correct.  The chief male character? A submarine sandwich?


One of the interesting, lasting effects of a couple of bad relationships in my 20s is that I have a lot of female friends. I’d spent my teens hanging out with boys — mostly because I felt alienated by the high school politics of Mean Girls. But after dating a couple of jealous guys (then marrying one), it got to the point where having friendships with men became…challenging. And less important to me.

This is not to say I don’t have close relationships with my male friends — because I have those relationships, and they’re great. But I’ve spent the last decade or so cultivating friendships with other women, and sometimes I’m sad to think of what I missed out on in my youth because I didn’t actively nurture these sorts of things.

My girlfriends are amazing. From all angles, these women blow my mind. Athletes, writers, artists, musicians, parents — they are all genuinely beautiful souls. My friends have crossed marathon finish lines with me; they have battled terrible travel circumstances while pregnant to be in the hospital with me while I had cancer surgery; they have taken care of my dog while I’ve had to travel to advance my career (or simply to allow me to face the sometimes challenging circumstances that come with having a job like mine); they have supported me when I have insisted that I totally knew what I was doing and that it was a great idea to chase married men; they have tended to my wounds, and nursed my broken heart, and listened to my endless rants about my favourite thing to whine about that I’ve been ranting about for 3.5 years.

But aside from who they are and how they are in relation to me, each one of these women contributes to this world so meaningfully, it breaks my heart with beauty. Whether it is how she manages charitable grants, or how she donates time and money to the communities in which she works/lives, or how she raises her children, or how she creates art, or how she has turned immeasurable loss into an opportunity to give, each of these ladies is a meaningful example to me of who and how I want to be.

I am surrounded by women who show up; who raise me up; who create things. Sometimes this makes me absolutely furious with jealousy because I love them so much, I want to be the things that they are.

I suppose that’s what a hero is, isn’t it?  Not somebody’s lunch, or the sympathetic guy in the story. It’s the person who makes you better than you think you are; it’s the thing that keeps you striving for better; it’s the part of the story where the going gets good. And in my life, that role is played by a bunch of bad-ass (mostly) blondes.

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Paul and I went to a wedding at Luttrellstown Castle during the first weekend in August, which is where Posh & Becks were married 15 years ago.

I love Irish weddings.

The last one we went to was on the west coast, in County Mayo, in an ancient church, in the shadow of Croag Patrick.  It happened to be held in the church where Pierce Brosnan was married, too.  So I’ve made my tour of Irish celebrity wedding venues for the year.  And Paul and I were just about the only two in the whole church who didn’t rise to take communion. Paul, because he doesn’t.  And me, because I’m a divorcee.

This recent wedding, though, was a second marriage.  It was held in a Unitarian Church on St. Stephen’s Green, so I didn’t have to pretend like I’d never been married before. Like it was some dirty secret that I once wore another man’s ring, and had a different last name.  Sometimes, I even feel like I talk about my divorce so much because I’ve now become so conscious of the fact that I shouldn’t talk about having been married. Like how you find you talk about a surprise when you become conscious of the fact that you shouldn’t blow it.

This recent wedding was an Irish-Paraguayan celebration, filled with warmth and colour and all the beautiful, hopeful things a marriage celebration should be.

The other thing I should mention here is that Irish weddings go on forever.  We had arrived at the church at 2pm, and at midnight, when we left the reception, we were among the first to leave.

These days, it seems all I do is go to weddings; send baby gifts.  There was a week earlier this summer when I sent off eleven sets of baby gifts.

I love kids.  I think I want kids.  But sometimes, I feel people forget there is more to a woman’s worth than the hardware on her hand, or the products of her womb.  I have friends who have lost children; who have miscarried; who have struggled with heartbreaking infertility, and I see them shamed, and maligned, and peppered with awful, but often well-intentioned questions that imply they are not trying hard enough.  That they do not have strong enough faith.  That they have done something wrong.

I went through it myself when I had cervical cancer and people said, Can you still have children? Are you still able to have children? What about kids? What does Paul think about kids?  Is Paul okay with what you’re doing to make sure you can still have kids after this?

Oddly, most people’s reaction was not, Thank God they caught your fairly aggressive situation by total accident. Thank God you’re alive.

I will tell you honestly: That was my first reaction. I was focused on the practicalities of what I was dealing with, and I was not really considering Paul’s feelings/future offspring.  My reaction was fundamentally one of: Oh, thank God I’m not going to die. I was thinking about how bad the cancer was; how much I had to lose; whether or not I would survive; how much tissue would be excised; whether would I need a hysterectomy; whether would I need chemo/radiation, etc.

So now, every time I go to a wedding, or someone asks me about kids, I get a bit defensive/annoyed. Even now, I’m sitting here going: Thank God I’m sitting home on a Saturday night, alive enough to write this blog post.

And I’m still baffled that my fantastic education, my great friendships and relationships, my successful career, my travels, the way I have treated others, and my personal happiness were not enough.  At the time, it was as if only my fertility and my partner’s biological aspirations mattered.

With more distance between me and my experience, I still wonder: Am I worth less to you — friends, family, advertisers — because my insides have been hacked up by the surgeon and the only little feet running around my apartment are Roo’s? Every time the Facebook algorithm fills my newsfeed with Amazon Mom ads, and cool kid gadgets that I won’t be buying…I wonder.

Just because I have reached A Certain Age and there is no ring on my finger, and no kid in my arms — it doesn’t mean that I’m invisible.  It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in where you are, or that I’m ignorant of the fact that we’re in different stages and seasons of our lives.  It simply means that what I am doing is right for me, and where I am is okay, and our callings are each worthy of respect and compassion.  That I worked really hard to have the career I have is not…selfish, and my choices are certainly not a referendum on yours. What I’m doing is just…different.

It seems funny that I have to say this; that I have to reassure myself by writing it; by shouting it. That I have to tell it to other people around me: We should all just be supporting each other to the extent that we Feel Okay Doing That and Taking It In, and Minding Our Own Business.

There is a saying that people in recovery use, and I’ll share it here: Take the best and leave the rest.

This year has been an exercise in doing just that.