riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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Putting It Out There (Are You Listening, Universe?)

Loss is a beast. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly understand or be free of it.

I have felt somewhat distant from the losses I experienced earlier this year, partly because they both lived on the other side of the country. Partly because I’ve deliberately kept myself busy these last few months, with work mostly. It didn’t occur to me until just now, but I did the same thing after Kaz died.

Which is not to say that good things aren’t happening. All the hard work seems to have created some momentum.

I have been writing on my book, and it’s going really well.

I just started a new blog series for a large company – to be announced soon.

Ruby is healing beautifully and as beautiful as ever.

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I am taking the first steps towards buying a house – finding out what I can afford and looking around my area. I hope to buy something toward the end of the year.

I have stopped eating meat and am trying to avoid dairy – the former a lot easier to do than the latter!

Things are going well at my PT gallery job.

IMG_20160425_151435I spent a very special weekend at a conference at West Point Military Academy recently, and am about to attend a prestigious writers’ conference in NYC.

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I’ve made some wonderful new friends and connections.

Still, there is a layer of loneliness to life. This is more of an observation than a complaint. I don’t think it has to do with the rural area where I live. I see plenty of people through my job and social life.

No, there is loneliness because I am alone at home (other than the dog). It was a necessary cocoon, of sorts and not in a bad way, as I healed. Now I miss having another person around to share moments and conversations.

There is so much life still to live.

But it has to be the right person… someone who doesn’t need much, someone who is intelligent, intuitive and kind. Someone who has a good sense of humor, a passion for something, is artistic but not egotistical, talented but humble. Someone who understands what is important in life and isn’t afraid to live it.

Am I asking for the stars? I hope not. I used to think it impossible to meet someone as cool as Kaz. Now I feel more ready to accept what a friend once told me, “It won’t be the same. It will be different.” I also feel like I’ve learned the lessons I needed to learn, and I’m ready to apply them should I get the chance.

The idea of going on a dating site does not appeal to me in the least. I’d like to meet someone in an organic, no pressure kind of way.

It’s been 5 years since Kaz died. Strangely it feels both like yesterday and like a lifetime ago. I’m proud of how I’ve changed my life – moved across country, started a new career and a whole new social life.

What’s missing is a partner… and a house.

Not sure in which order they will come to me… but I am putting my desires out there into the universe.

I hope the universe is listening, as I listen to it.

candles2

 

 

 


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Remembering a Friend

A lot has happened lately. A good friend died last month in Los Angeles, shortly after my father died. His name was Brian. He was around my age, and his death was sudden. News of it spread like wildfire, friends, family and co-workers sharing their shock, sadness and tributes on social media. While I’ve talked to a few people on the phone, it is taking me some time to process. For now, I just want to share some memories.

Brian was a good friend of my late husband Kaz. They worked together at DreamWorks Animation for a few years and remained friends afterwards. They both knew music really well, loved football, hard liquor and curvy women. I met Brian in 2008, the year that Kaz and I officially started dating – I can’t remember if it was at a show or at Thanksgiving, but I remember liking him right away.

Brian was rough around the edges but a sweetheart. Tall and blond with a raspy voice and loud laugh, he always reminded me of a viking, except he was from Montana. It seemed like he was always either going fishing or had just returned from fishing. Every time we went over his house he offered us fresh fish to take home.

Brian had started dating a woman named Erin around the same time as Kaz and I started dating, and the four of us used to  hang out quite a bit. We went to a lot of rock shows together, the Glow Festival in Santa Monica, bike rides on the beach, Thanksgiving, Super Bowl and Halloween parties. We witnessed each other’s ups and downs. Brian and Erin were really supportive when Kaz was ill, and were among the last people to see Kaz alive.

After Kaz died, Brian and I hung out every now and then and kept in touch via texts and phone calls. We got together every year to celebrate Kaz’s birthday at Jumbo’s Clown Room. We went up the mountain to visit the spot where Kaz’s ashes were scattered, and  to see Kaz’s favorite band Clutch.

Once, after he watched my dog for a week while I was traveling, I gave him the gift of a small handmade knife with his initials engraved on the handle. It was perfect for skinning fish. Of course, when I gave it to him, I forgot to tell him that it was a knife inside the rolled up fabric. When he unwrapped it, the knife fell to the floor with the pointy end lodging into the wood an inch away from his big toe. I was mortified, but Brian thought it was the funniest thing ever.

When I left Los Angeles for New York, I took the Northern route and traveled through Montana. I called Brian from the road a couple of times to tell him what a beautiful state he came from, the most beautiful I had ever seen. He loved hearing that. I felt like I understood him just a little better having seen his home state, where one felt the wildness in the landscape and the people.

I will never forget Brian. He was larger-than-life in many respects, beloved my many, a really good and loyal friend, and a helluva lot of fun. He loved Kaz like a brother and was so kind to me after he died. We didn’t talk too much directly about this mutual loss, but we toasted many drinks and shared many laughs remembering the good times. Kaz’s death rocked many people’s worlds and I know it was a huge loss for Brian. He went up to visit Kaz on the mountain on a regular basis, always posting a pic of a Maker’s Mark bottle with a brief note, “Came up for a visit. Miss you big Kaz.”

It’s strange to think of the world without Brian. I’m so grateful that I knew him and got to share some good times with him. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones.

We will all miss you, big Brian. Give Kaz a hug for me.

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Kaz and I at Brian’s Halloween party

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Erin and I posing with Brian at a Fear Factory concert

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Brian’s Maker’s Mark bottle on Kaz’s mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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31 Days of Gratitude (and Counting)

Is there anyone out there who hasn’t heard of Elizabeth Gilbert? She wrote the book Eat Pray Love, is known for encouraging meditation, positive thinking and, for a while, she kept a happiness jar. Basically, every day she wrote down the happiest moment of her day on a scrap of paper “for even the horrible days have one least-bad moment.” I admit, the first time I heard of the happiness jar, I thought it sounded… corny.

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Elizabeth Gilbert’s “happiness jar” (photo by Elizabeth Gilbert)

If I had a best-selling book, millions of dollars, a loving husband and multiple homes, I’d have a happiness warehouse. It was so much easier to think of things that were annoying/upsetting me, and all the things I didn’t have, rather than the things I did.

My attitude changed towards the end of last year. A job had run its course, freelancing was slow, and I was low on money. On top of that,  my dog suddenly needed thousands of dollars in medical care. I felt myself on the brink of a panic attack on more than one occasion. But panic, I did not.

Instead, I set up a GoFundMe campaign, pitched a bunch of story ideas, took an online workshop in a more lucrative area of writing, networked more aggressively, updated my resumes and applied for jobs.

There was one job in particular that I wanted very much. I told myself that I would be okay if I didn’t get it, and mentally prepared myself for disappointment, but I never gave up hope.

To my surprise, donations started pouring in for Ruby’s surgery, and then, the day before Christmas, I found out that I got the job I wanted. I felt so overwhelming grateful that I decided to focus on gratitude for the rest of the year.

I remembered Elizabeth Gilbert’s happiness jar. What if I wrote down every day not my happiest moment, but something that I was grateful for? I pulled out a huge glass jar that I had bought at a flea market last year, cleaned it up and set it on my desk.

my gratitude jar

my gratitude jar

On January 1, I wrote my first gratitude note. It wasn’t very profound. I was grateful for my new haircut, and that so many people liked it on Facebook. In fact, a lot of my notes over the course of the month mentioned really random things: like finding two pairs of jeans that fit.

But almost every day, I wrote about being grateful for:

  • My family, friends and colleagues… including my freelance editors.
  • My dog… and the support that people showed to her/us regarding her surgery.
  • My home… which is warm and safe and quiet.
  • My new job… new co-workers, and the volunteers who help us.

Then a strange thing happened. As the month progressed, I started feeling more grateful, more often.

On January 9, I wrote: “It’s morning, so the day hasn’t happened yet. But I’ve been waking up feeling grateful, first for being well rested, second for my lovely home. Also Ruby seems to be healing well. When I think about how much joy she bring to my life, it brings tears… of joy.”

On January 11: “David Bowie died early this morning. While I am deeply shocked and sad, I choose to acknowledge and be grateful that I lived at the same time as he did. He was a gift.”

On January 18: “It snowed overnight and I woke up to beautiful, still clean white snow. Feeling grateful for this serene winter beauty, seasons that I missed for so long. Also, today is MLK, Jr. Day. How lucky are we to have had him in our period of history.”

Two days later: “This morning’s sunrise was brilliant. I am so grateful to have this wonderful home office that faces east. I get to see the sun rise every day!!”

On February 1, I wrote a draft of this blogpost… and that night I learned that my father was in the hospital. He passed away a few days later.

When I returned home from California, it took me a while to write another gratitude note, even though I did feel grateful for many things… like the fact that my father didn’t feel any pain, that he wasn’t in the hospital for a long time, that he was surrounded by his children, and that he had lived such an active, independent life up until the end.

I was also grateful that my siblings and I got along so well, despite the pressure of incredibly difficult decisions and living together for a week. That – and the fact that my father still had all his own teeth at 86 – was something that even the nurses were impressed with.

When my late husband died, I was so angry, disappointed, confused and upset it took me months, if not years, to feel grateful about anything. This time, I could see the positives.

Two days ago, I wrote this: “It’s been a ROUGH couple of weeks, but also much to be grateful for. Family. Friends. An amazing father. New opportunities. And a graceful exit.”

It feels like gratitude grows on itself, like the more you notice, acknowledge and feel it, the more things you feel grateful for. I love my gratitude jar, and I’m going to keep filling it up, even when times are tough.

Thanks for the idea, Elizabeth.

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pops

 

 

 

 


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Don’t Call it a Shrine (Living with a Loved One’s Things)

“What do I do with their things?” is one of the biggest dilemmas faced by those who have lost loved ones. At first, it might feel sacrilege to give anything away, or change anything about their closet or room. After a while, there’s this growing pressure to do something. But do what? And when? How long is too long to keep things just the way they were? How soon is too soon to change them?

The answer is… there is no answer. It’s up to the individual, and what feels right.

After my late husband Kaz died, I made the unusual move of immediately giving away some his belongings to friends and family. If someone asked for something, I gave it to them without question, and without really thinking about it.

I saw his possessions as little pieces of him, and at the time, I saw giving his things away like spreading him around, seed-like. Later, I wished I had waited and thought about it a little more, but there was no going back. And there was still A LOT of stuff left.

In the years that followed, I gave away more things – some that he had specifically bequeathed, others that I thought he would want certain people to have. For example, he had drawn several designs for a “Mom” tattoo that he never actually got. I framed the drawings and sent them to his mother on her birthday.

I tried to give his favorite clothes (especially his favorite shoes) to people I knew, but I still ended up with several shopping bags, some of which I gave to Goodwill.

Most people were supportive of my decisions, but a couple people expressed dismay. They didn’t deter me. In general, I tuned out the naysayers and drama-makers while I was grieving, and still do to this day.

Of course, I didn’t give everything away. I kept the things that meant the most to me, things that reminded me of Kaz and embodied his energy. I still have clothing, books, artwork, music, films and knick-knacks that belonged to Kaz… some of which I keep in my home office, behind my chair. I call it Kaz’s Corner.

When I Skype with people, this is what they see in the background.

Kaz's corner in morning light

Kaz’s corner in morning light

The opposite side of the office, my desk area, looks like this.

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That framed motorcycle print is the one that Kaz had up in his office, and the Yohimbe Brothers album cover to the left was on the bathroom wall in our old apartment.

On the shelf below are more of his things, as well as my mother’s. She was an artist, so I’m lucky to have things that she made, including artwork and pottery. Below is a mug that I use to drink tea, and (in the background) a bowl that I use to hold pens. Her artwork is in every room.

While there are things that belonged to Kaz and my mom all over the house, my office holds the highest concentration. This is where I want their spirits around me the most – the place where I’m the most creative and do my best thinking.

It’s no surprise that the office is my favorite room. It’s where I feel the most like me. It’s  private and warm. In it, I feel protected, loved and safe… which gives me the wherewithall to write and live courageously.

This year I’m taking on a new job and a lot of new responsibilities, while at the same time exploring deeper issues in my writing. I’m grateful to have this safe space, where my muses and guardian angel spirits keep me company.

Please share how you have incorporated your loved one’s things into your daily life. I think it helps people to know how others deal with this.

 

 

 


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Love = Responsibility

This isn’t easy for me… but I’d like to ask for your support with something that’s dear to my heart. My dog, Ruby, has a serious leg injury and needs surgery in order to walk properly again, and I can’t afford to pay for it without help.

I adopted Ruby about 18 months after Kaz died, within weeks of starting this blog. Some of you might remember those early posts about being a new puppy owner.

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first pic of ruby, 15 weeks old

There were so many issues to deal with back then: crate training, leash training, vaccinations, getting her spayed, teething issues, barking issuestraveling issuesinfections, switching doggie daycares, and puppy classes.

It was a lot. But she was worth it.

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I was still actively grieving at the time, but Ruby was a healthy distraction.

She made me laugh through my tears. She forced me to go outside when I normally might have stayed in bed feeling blue. She was the best hiking companion.

birthday hike with Ruby

She helped me heal by helping to mend and strengthen my broken heart. Taking care of her gave me a purpose and made me feel strong again. For the second time in my life, I was responsible for another being.

Ruby in the morning

The responsibility that comes with loving another is no joke. Human or animal – when you love someone, and they need your help, you do whatever you can to help them.

These days, Ruby needs a lot of help. She tore her ACL earlier this year, a partial tear that wasn’t obvious right away. I’ve spent the last few months taking her to various veterinarians and physical therapists to figure out how to deal with it. They all came to the same conclusion: she needs surgery, followed by physical therapy, and 3-4 months of supervised recovery.

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Ruby today, holding her injured hind leg up

The whole ordeal is going to be stressful, expensive and time-consuming. But I’m determined to get Ruby back to health.

At 3+ years, she’s much too young to be hobbling around, and it would be cruel to let her go through the rest of her life in pain. She deserves to be able to run and play and hike and swim the way she used to.

So, I’ve set up a gofundme campaign to try and raise some of the money for her medical expenses. It’s called Help Ruby Run Again. Many friends have contributed, but there’s still a long way to go.

If any of you are inclined to make a small contribution, that would be awesome. If you can’t donate, then maybe you could share the link, or just keep us in your thoughts. It all helps.

gofund.me/helprubyrunagain

I’ll be posting about Ruby’s progress in the coming days, weeks, months.

Ruby will run again, and I will run with her. 🙂

Thanks for reading and for your support.

– Niva

 

 

 


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Keeping the Creative Spirit Alive

For most creative types, creativity is not a choice. It’s a must. Like breathing, we need to create in order to function and maintain a sense of emotional and mental balance. On a practical level, this means we need the space, time and necessary equipment to do our art. 12000898_10153586813975930_7373778667979507386_o

One of the things I love about writing is that it’s something I can do anywhere. I don’t have to rely on anyone else or any fancy equipment. All I need is my computer, or a pen and paper, and my imagination.

Filmmaking, on the other hand, requires technology – a camera at the very least, sound, lighting and editing equipment. This all takes money and usually a lot of planning. Often it requires working with a team, even a small team.

These days, the filmmaker in me is a little lonely and antsy. It’s been a long time since I’ve directed anything or even visited a film set. I’ve met some filmmakers in upstate New York, but I miss Los Angeles in this respect.

The one thing that keeps me going, however, is photography.

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Like with writing, photography is something I can do anywhere. I’m not a professional. I take most of my photos with my cell phone while walking or hiking with my dog. But what it gives me is so much more than that. It’s my new creative outlet.

These are some recent photos I took of the Catskills.

I’m lucky that where I live is very photogenic. The light is quite dramatic and it changes throughout the year. Winter light is even and diffused. Summer light is bright. Fall light creates these very long shadows.

Taking photos has developed into more than a hobby. It’s a way for me to practice my directing eye. When I take a photo (and edit it), I try to say something with it… convey a mood, a feeling, a thought, even a very, very tiny story.

The animals around here are also photogenic starting, of course, with my favorite model, Ruby.

I hope to get back to moving pictures soon, but in the meantime capturing these still moments is keeping my filmmaking spirit alive.

How do you keep your creative spirit alive?


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Seeing the Stars at Night

It’s funny how life turns out. I never thought I’d be living in the country. I’ve always been a city girl, the kind that screams at the sight of a roach, and jumps on the furniture at the sight of a mouse. On our one and only camping trip, Kaz found it amusing how paranoid I was in the tent at night. “What’s that? Did you hear something? Is there something in the sleeping bag with us?”

And yet, I was always trying to get us out of the city. To Joshua Tree, to Santa Barbara, to the coast, anywhere but inside the urban jungle. 10306074_10153212167690930_8118499099981483930_n When he was sick, and especially when he got depressed, one of my most frequent questions was: “Why don’t you sit outside?” “And do what?” he’d respond. “Just feel the sun on your face, the wind, listen to the birds, breathe some fresh air. It’s good for you!” But sitting outside on Hollywood Boulevard wasn’t his thing. I don’t blame him.

I often think of him now and wonder what he would say about my current life, if he would have been willing to make this kind of move to the country (probably not, his work was in the city), if it would have even occurred to us (again, probably not). 11150378_10153212167250930_9164052667769912565_n I know he would have loved the roads around here, which are perfect for motorcycle riding. He probably wouldn’t have liked the winters. But I think he might have liked the solitude. He was kind of a loner, or at least a homebody. He liked being at home, playing his video games, watching television, relaxing. He would have enjoyed how much I cook here.

Who knows. He might have been surprised by how well I’ve adapted to the solitude because I was always the social one. I still am, but in smaller spurts. Ironically, I relate to his homebody-style more now than before. 10421348_10153212167615930_3991056468008253707_n It’s hard to describe how much I love living in the country. It’s not perfect. I do miss certain things about the city, but on a day-to-day basis, I feel more content than I have since Kaz was alive.

As I write this post (the original by longhand on a yellow legal pad), I am sitting in the backyard on a weathered metal rocking chair that has a cotton cushion. I’ve sat on this chair all through winter. I call it my “outside office.”

The sun is out. It’s in the 60’s. The clouds are mere wisps. There is a strong breeze blowing, and a family of black flies buzzing around me. In the distance, the flowers that line the edges of the house have just begun to bloom. 11156179_10153212166650930_8998367947681788918_nRuby is lying nearby in the grass, her eyes half-open in that way dogs do when relaxing in the sun. This morning she was sniffing all over the yard instead of the usual stick-fetching, and I was reading a book. It was peaceful, both of us doing our own thing, occasionally looking up to check on the other. 11146263_10153212319680930_3791173026327755806_n Some people don’t want to deal with flies or dirt (which is unavoidable in the country), the wind, the quiet, and so on, just like some people prefer air conditioning to open windows in cars (I’ve always been the latter).

Apparently, there’s such a thing as Ecotherapy, which is literally contact with Nature, and it’s becoming more important as the world grows more populated and the environment continues to deteriorate. This article in the Washington Post discusses concerns that health officials have about how people in the future are going to get enough (unpolluted) nature to stay healthy. “The World Health Organization predicts that 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas within 30 years.”

If I’m still here in 30 years, I’m pretty sure I won’t be one of those people. I like seeing the stars at night. 10360203_10153212167320930_1901981881794809668_n


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Feeding Your Soul

Sometimes bad things happen out of the blue and stop us in our tracks. Other times, we may find ourselves in situations that feel like they’re slowly eating away at the core of who we are. In either case, the hurt and pain makes the world seem different, uninspiring, devoid of meaning, unfair and cruel. We lose our sense of purpose, our will to continue. We think to ourselves, what’s the point of anything? What’s the point of me?

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And then… one day, weeks, months or even years after our pain began… something or someone causes us snap out of it momentarily. It can be almost anything. A piece of music, a kind gesture from a friend or stranger, a ray of light filtered through the trees, the sound of birds chirping, a memory, a line of dialogue, a smell, an animal, a joke, a dream, a piece of art… anything.

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In that moment of inspiration, we suddenly remember the other side of life: beauty, love, joy, laughter, goodness, grace.

At first, we might resent that these things still exist when our pain is so deep. We might resent that the world continues to turn while we feel dead inside.

But another part of us cries out, possibly a meek voice that requires a special type of listening. The voice of our soul, which has been long neglected and patiently waiting in the darkness.

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In that moment, our soul peeks out from behind the curtain shrouding our heart and turns up to the sunshine of inspiration.

Like the first daylight after a storm, it feels a fleeting sense of hope again. If it happened once, maybe it can happen again.

Our soul urges us to find more inspiration, for it is hungry.

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For the first time in a while, we do something that seems so simple but actually requires a bit more energy… we notice things. We allow ourselves to feel and observe and enjoy the world around us.  And each time we encounter another moment of inspiration, we grow stronger.

We grow stronger because we are feeding our soul.

Our souls are individual. What feeds your soul might not feed another’s. But feeding it is essential.

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What feeds your soul? What inspires you?


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Dealing With Loneliness

I read several other widow’s blogs, and one of the main themes I see is Loneliness. It’s not just something widows or widowers battle. But I do think it’s especially challenging for someone who has lost their life partner to grow accustomed to being alone again. Loneliness is one of the most painful aspects of being a widow.

One widow recently wrote: “I don’t know what to do when it’s just me.” Then she listed all the things people usually suggest, and why they don’t work for her, like watching TV, crafting, coffee with friends, working out, cleaning. I suggested reading a good book, but she’s finding it difficult to find a genre that transports her, which I understand. 

Her post made me think of how I’ve dealt with my loneliness over the past few years. I’ve experienced many days of sleeping or watching TV all day, and many more nights of crying myself to sleep, due to loneliness and missing Kaz. There is no substitute for his presence.

I can’t decide if I feel less lonely now, or if I’ve grown so used to being alone that it’s become normal (and therefore less painful). It’s not that I don’t remember what it feels like to live with Kaz on a daily basis, but I do feel a growing distance from that reality. Part of that is time. Also, I no longer live in the same apartment, city, state, coast as we did.

Of course, we all know that you can’t run from grief — the loneliness comes with you wherever you go. When I did the road trip, the loneliness hit me really hard because I was witnessing incredible beauty and had no one to share it with. Now that I live in a rural area, life is even more solitary than it was in Los Angeles.

But so far, I’m maintaining. I recently listed ten ways to maintain as a writer, but some of these apply to battling loneliness as well.

Here are a few more…

Keep communicating with your loved one.

One of the things that helped me the most after Kaz died was writing him letters, and talking to him out loud. It made me feel his presence even though he wasn’t physically there. I don’t write to him as often, but I do talk to him. And it still helps.

Meet new people.

I’m not talking about dating, but meeting new people with common interests in a non-pressured environment. Meetup.com is one way to meet people in your area who share similar interests. There is a group for everything under the sun. Or you can start a new group and see who joins up. There are Facebook groups for just about everything too. When I adopted Ruby, I joined a Meetup group for people who like to hike with their dogs off-leash. I’m still friends with a couple I met from the first hike.

Take a class, or learn a new hobby.

I took a weekly Caribbean dance class ($15/class) in the first year after Kaz died. It was one of the most difficult but rewarding experiences of my life. Eventually, I’d like to take a photography class, along with a cooking class, and, believe it or not, a gun shooting class. The good thing about classes is that there’s usually at least one other person who feels just as nervous as you do. I also started taking photos and joined Instagram to share them. At first, I only posted photographs of Ruby, but now I post photos of life in general. I like taking photos because it’s another way to express myself other than filmmaking and writing.

Other ideas that are free or cheap…

Visit friends and/or family. If you can’t afford to travel, set up a Skype appointment.

Volunteer to help others in need. If you don’t want to deal with people, you could volunteer with animals.

Go to a concert. Check the local paper for listings. There’s music in every area, often free. 

Go to a museum. Many museums have a free or discounted day/night.

Join a local choir or singing group. 

Join (or start) a book club. 

Join a grief support group.

Travel somewhere you’ve never been before.

Ask others to visit you, and show them around your area.

Even if you do only one of these activities, once a week or once a month, it might help. It will definitely get you out of the house and meeting new people.

If you don’t want to meet new people yet, you can do things at home like listen to Saturday matinée opera broadcasts Live From the Met, or (if you don’t like opera) listen to a podcast. Podcasts are like television shows for the radio, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them out there. Serial is an excellent, true murder-mystery story, and it’s FREE. All you need is a phone or computer with internet connection.

I have also recently become obsessed with the Turner Classic Movie channel, which only plays classic movies. If you’re going to stay at home and watch TV, I highly recommend TCM.

You can also do yoga at home. There’s no shortage of free YouTube videos to guide you.

If you want to try meditation, you can check out the meditation app HeadSpace, which is free for beginners.

I’m not suggesting that any of these activities will  take your or my loneliness away completely. They won’t. But they might ease it for a bit. Or lead to a few minutes/hours that you might enjoy. Or to meeting new people, maybe even making new friends. You never know.

If you have any other suggestions for dealing with loneliness, please share them below.

Wishing you peace and light, always.

– Niva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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What Makes a Home “Home”

Yesterday marked three months of living in my new home, and I’m happy to say that it’s actually starting to feel like “home.”

What is it that makes living quarters actually feel like that? For me, it’s a few things.

Decorating

living room art

Living room wall

The other day I finally unpacked all the artwork I brought with me from L.A. and put some of it up. This wasn’t as simple as it sounds. I now live in a 2-BR apartment, instead of 1-BR, and have significantly more wall space. Also, the living room is green, which is tricky. So, before I put anything up, I walked from room to room asking “which color theme are you?” and tried to listen to what each room told me.

The living room wanted only black and white artwork which won’t clash with the green.

The bedroom asked for the big yellow painting I used to have over my bed in L.A., and my mother’s pastel-colored artwork. It’s going to be a powerful, feminine sanctuary when it’s finished.

Bedroom wall

Bedroom wall

The hallway claimed all the rock ‘n roll artwork, including the Coop lithograph, which now hangs just outside the kitchen.

Hallway corner

Hallway corner

Coop lithograph

Coop lithograph

The kitchen and the bathroom are still undecided.

Most of the artwork used to belong to Kaz, and reminds me of him. But in L.A., every wall also held an image of Kaz. Now, only my office (the smaller bedroom) has images of him. My office is the most private room in the apartment, not only because it has two doors which I can close from the inside, but also because it’s where I do my most creative thinking, spend most of my time, and feel the most content. It feels right to have Kaz with me in this room.

There’s still a long way to go with the decorating (rugs, matching towels, TV stand, etc.), but putting the artwork up was a big first step.

Cleaning

I know it sounds like I’m getting all domestic, but seriously, once you start cleaning your house, it’s Home! The other day I spent a couple of hours vacuuming, dusting, tidying up and mopping the kitchen floor. It felt good! I’ve also decided to go to war with the critters. A clean house is the first battle move.

Candles

In lieu of no fireplace, I’ve been using candles to add, if not real warmth, then decorative warmth. Some of them are scented (nothing overpowering), and make the house smell lovely.

Cooking

Some of you may recall that, for a long time after Kaz died, it was difficult for me to cook like I used to, and this was painful because I really love to cook. Now that I live in the countryside, where restaurants are far and few between, I’m back in the kitchen on a regular basis. I’ve made Chili, Meatloaf, Quiche, Frittata, Pumpkin Pie and Ice Tea, which I heat up for hot sweet tea in the cold afternoons. Soon I will make my first soups. But my specialty seems to be Apple Crisp.

It started in late September when I went apple picking with some friends and came home with 20 lbs of apples! I made my first batch of crisp with half of those apples, and the rest of the apples I brought to friends in NYC. My mother and I used to make apple pies together when I was a kid and, to this day, nothing recalls that feeling of home to me than the smell of yummy, buttery apples wafting throughout the house.  A tip: don’t throw away the apple peel and grinds right away. You can boil them to make hot cider and/or add them to tea for flavor.

(had to go big with this pic)

apple crisp

Fresh Apple Crisp made with hand-picked apples (can you smell it??)

Traveling

The first two months of being here, I went to NYC four times (!) and Washington D.C. once. I’ve seen lots of my family and friends in the city. I even saw Kaz’s mother in D.C. But after all that visiting and traveling, I cannot express how nice it was to come home to the quiet, natural beauty and slow pace of my new neighborhood, the comfort of my own bed, and the peace of my own office.

Staying Home

I don’t know when I’ll be traveling to the city again (maybe Christmas). For now, it’s nice to just plant roots and settle in. I guess staying home reinforces the feeling of Home.

All of these simple things have helped me adjust to the new reality and feel less homesick. I’m building a new life and a new career in a completely new environment. It’s a lot. When I unpacked the artwork, it was like reuniting with old friends. A little bit of Hollywood in upstate New York. 🙂

Can you think of other things that make a place Home? Design tips welcome!