The Business of Living is the Best Defense Against Death – Just ask my 101 year old brother

My 101 year old brother sent me this photo of his latest achievement, the completion of this model of the airplane Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in 1927.  

I am bowled over in awe, which doesn’t come often for me. For one thing, he doesn’t look like any 101 year old person I know.  True, I don’t know many 101 year old people. I don’t think there are many 101 year old people and certainly fewer who work on and complete a detailed model airplane, which requires dexterity, concentration, and abilities that many younger folk might  be stymied by.

I emailed the photo to family and friends. I received in return an email from a nephew with a copy of a 2001 Flying Models Magazine with a feature on my brother. 

My brother turned 80 in 2000 There was a celebration in Los Angeles.  He had moved to California from New York many years prior. Personally, I think that saved his creative life. After all, without the impeding judgment of nearby family  life can be more free and easy, right? 

 A little backstory, I was the seventh in a family of eight.  It was actually two families. Let me explain. My oldest brother, miracle man here, was born in 1920.  After him in fairly quick succession came four more children. The first five of what I call the “older part” of the family.  Then came a couple of birthing break years due to miscarriages and other problems.  As the depression started to heat up, out pops three more… The “younger part” of the family.  I was born in 1933.  Older brother in 1920, so there was enough of a gap that in no way did we have any real contact.  By the time I was in elementary school, he was eloping and going off to war.  He won’t talk about any of his time in Europe during World War II other than to say he was in the Battle of the Bulge.  A battle I have read about and understand why he won’t talk about it.  My only real contact with him after he returned from the war was after we began our Heit Family get togethers. And that was cursory at best with a quick peck and an even quicker “how are you?”, which really should have been, “who are you?”.  

I had no idea who my oldest brother was and visa versa. Each of us had what I call a family myth. His was his genius in designing model airplanes.  At 17 he sold the first of many of his designs.  Since that had nothing to do with my wanting to be Shirley Temple … who cared?

We arrive now to the year 2,000 and an invitation to attend his 80th birthday party in Los Angeles. For your perspective, I was 67 years old. 

By this time, I had already lost one brother from the older part of the family. I didn’t know who he was either. I knew my three sisters a little more because somehow I think we bonded purely along male/female battle lines… four girls, four boys. It was us against them and it made for a little closer harmony. Not necessarily more intimate, but more in the spirit of camaraderie. Probably because girls, even with rampant sibling rivalry, tend to be closer in relationships.  

All to say, I was going to try and find out who he was before attending the celebration. It’s the decent thing to do, right? Even then, I devoured mystery books and detective novels. So, now was the time to put what tools I acquired into practice. I began by buying every airplane model magazine I could find. I discovered the model airplane industry is alive and well. He sold his first design in 1937 or 1938. There was no way to research magazines of that era because microfilming and digital articles didn’t exist. What to do? Light bulb! I looked in the classified ads in the back of the magazine. In a section titled Antique Models was a list of individuals who sold kits of older model airplanes. I started calling around and asking if anyone knew of a Raymond Heit model airplane kit. The nays had it. At last, one man I called responded in what I heard as excited abandonment. He yelled, ”Ray?? Ray Heit??? I said, “Yes”. He said, “That is so interesting! I flew his Bayridge Mike in a competition last weekend and I won!” 

Initially, it was Greek to me but he finally translated. Bayridge Mike is my brother’s first design and this man won a recent competition with his model of that design. 

His name was Jim Alaback and he was out of his mind with joy when I told him Ray Heit was still alive. I explained I was Raymond Heit’s sister. I wanted to give him a gift of some of his old model plane kits for his 80th birthday. He put me in touch with a man in Oregon who sells antique kits. I thanked him and called the Oregonian. He had two of my brother’s designs from the late 1930’s and sent them to me. He, too, was glad to know Ray Heit was still alive and kicking. He had recently competed with his own model of Bayridge Mike and won. 

Jim Alaback called me back. Among other things, he was a stringer for Flying Models Magazine. He lived in San Diego and now that he knew Raymond was in California as well, he wondered if he could get in touch with Raymond to interview him for the magazine. 

Start the drum roll now. Hey, we all know I am a performer and at 67 I was still tripping the boards. Lest we forget all my siblings were present, minus one. In the family, I was known disparagingly as “the actress”. I was not about to let this opportunity go, to show my siblings that I was more than “just an actress”. And I didn’t. 

Most importantly, my oldest brother, who typically maintains “cool” as his permanent temperature, was singularly not cool. I was moved by personal revelations about a brother I did not know. The cherry on the cake was a planned interview with Alaback for the magazine.

And that is the one with the article my nephew recently sent to me.

Following the party, there was a meeting of minds and sensitivities of brother #1 with sister #7. A deepening of the connection which has everything to do with family and nothing to do with family. We had discovered each other and to this day maintain a growing and affectionate relationship. He has a passion that won’t quit. I believe it is that passion that gives his life the best defense against death.

Sending me a photo of himself at 101, 21 years after his 80th party, stirred the memory pot. As to that, I am of two different minds… so what else is new? Too much memory mucking around is not good, for it takes me out of the present where I need to be to keep my anxious tendencies tampered down. And yet, how important it is to keep those memories alive, both the yin and yang. They add texture and depth to a life lived. 

The Original Heits c.1938 in Atlantic City
The Seven Heits at Raymond’s 80th Birthday Party in 2000

Blending memories and realities is key to keeping my balance. For me, this photo has elements of the past, the present and the future. This my friends is Golden. Pure Gold.

Right??? Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

I Forgot To Remember

All right, already. I get it. You age. You lose inches. I was 5’7”. Now I am 5’5”. Does this mean there is a corresponding loss of gray matter in my brain?

Please relax and follow my thoughts as best you can.

My lovely Doctor takes very good care of me. He will not allow me to read any of my test results. He understands the high level of anxiety I operate under, aka neurotic lady, and knows any test results sent to me will be read as a death sentence. Therefore, he promises he will interpret my test results and call me.  Like I said… a good guy.

A few days ago, he changed the routine of my blood pressure pills. Tell me if this is too much information. A few days ago, I watched some television, got into bed, read, and after an hour or so, fell asleep.  🎶Hitchcockian spooky chord🎶

I awoke with a start. It was 11:30 P.M. Shoot me! I go to bed early.  🎶another spooky chord🎶 

First silently, then aloud:

Me:  Did I take my evening pills? 🎶the most chillingest spooky chord🎶

And then began the evening from Hell. As I age, the levels of stress don’t just creep up on me anymore.  They jump, leap and pole vault into world breaking Olympic records of anxiety.

I think passing a certain age, for me 85, for people of my heightened sensibilities, (nicer sounding than “nutcase”), closing my eyes brings about many nights of Hell.

It’s not that complicated.

If I close my eyes tonight, will I open my eyes tomorrow?

I wish I could say this is a new phenomenon for me. But I have always had a little of the Angel of Death from Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks’ Two Thousand Year Old Man in me. I imagine I sleep wearing a bejeweled necklace of peeled garlic. As Mel Brooks would tell it, “Vel, the Angel from death, flies in. Takes one whiff from my necklace. Feh!  Flies right back out again.  And I am good for another night.”

The night when I couldn’t remember if I took my pills I went through my  DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES scenario.  However, a new subtext was added to my already high anxiety.  First the inches? Now the memory? 

My whole life, as an actress and writer, is predicated on MEMORY.  And I was good at it. I never had any difficulties. There was the usual opening night nervous actor’s nightmare of standing on stage, mouth open, no words coming out… panic personified. But this wasn’t a nightmare. This was real. I thought about all those times I listened to friends complain about memory lapses. I always had what I thought were words of logical comfort.  

Me:  Stop! You are not losing it. Remember, the brain can only absorb so much information.  As it absorbs new information, it has to release old information to make room for the new.  Right? You don’t know what information the brain released. Right?  So of course you can’t remember. Because the brain released that information. It isn’t there anymore.  Right? You can’t possibly remember what you don’t know. Right? Feel better???

Somehow that convoluted rationale doesn’t work anymore. What a surprise! This new stage of my life is giving me a real run for my money. What I mean is on certain days of the week, when a new twinge twinges or a I can’t remember if I took my pills, it frightens me. Then I remember what one of my many therapists said to me. Don’t laugh. Every stage of life required an ”at-that-stage-of-life” therapy.

Me:  I’m afraid.

Fear of death Therapist:  Can you talk about it?

Me:  I don’t have enough money.  You don’t have enough time.

Fear of death Therapist:  You do know that fear and excitement have exactly the same physical characteristics.  Heart pounds, pulse quickens, breath is short.  Choose excitement!

Me:  Excuse me…???

Fear of death Therapist:  You can choose fear.  You can choose excitement.  CHOOSE EXCITEMENT!!!

I forgot she said that. Not because I had a brain blip. But because fear clogged my brain arteries. As long as I can do it, it is my job to unclog those arteries. Let in the light. I guess It’s time to get out the shovel, dig deeper into awareness and acceptance… one more time. No matter how much I try to hold back the dawn, I continue to change. A euphemism for the aging process. I know I have no idea how many more changes are left for me. I also know if someone tells me one more time the only constant is change, we are done, finished, kaput.

Just to keep you in the loop, I forgot to take my pills that night. Spoiler alert! I am still here, a sadder but wiser girl.

This particular change is difficult for me. I am loathe to surrender my memory advantage. In an argument or discussion, it has always been my get-out-of-jail card. It is difficult to be judgmental and opinionated if you don’t have the facts as I see them, right???  

Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. Take a look at how Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold in the film, Gigi handle their memory lapses.  All to say, be kind to others and mostly to yourself.

What Is Past Is Prologue

My Dear Friends and Family,

Your first quiz, for a free pass and tour of the National Archive Building:

What Federal Building in Washington, D.C. has that statement inscribed on it?

You are just too smart for me. You are right!

Northeast corner of the National Archives  Building in Washington, D.C.

Sooo…. What has any of this to do with anything? You always know the right question to ask. 

The news of the world at the present time gives me very little pleasure.  I really do try to limit the news media of the day, but somehow it creeps in, not on little cat paws, but earthquaking Shrek-sized feet.  I have lost my Pollyanna credentials, but still keep an optimist’s eye, even if it is a little cockeyed, on what I read and experience.  I don’t know about you but for me it is getting harder and harder to join Candide (by my dear friend Voltaire’s character) in his famous exclamation,

“This is the best of all possible worlds.”  

Really???  I don’t think so!!! Maybe instead he should exclaim along with the rest of us as we struggle with the ways of the world,

“Wha’ happened?”

How many times can I quote Voltaire again?  “History doesn’t repeat itself.  People do.”

If something still bites me, I shall of course put my Five Hundred Dollars in.  It used to be two cents but with inflation…

So I am going to go back into my memories to write about them.  Not to worry family and friends, no names.  And the only fool you will find in my stories? C’est moi.

Here’s a sample…

Even if I need fingers and toes to count, I think I can figure it out.  I just turned 88, right?  So if this wedding took place when I was 8, then that was 80 years ago.  Get out!  80 years ago… Yikes… we are talking 1941.  On October 19, 1941 my eldest sister got married. 

I was there and I loved every minute of it.  Against parental sturm and drang, the lovers persevered.  Like every World War II movie you ever saw.  The parents said wait until the war was over.  Unequivocally, my sister said, NO!  (You must have heard that word from her a million times)  Well, having missed out on my eldest brother’s wedding because they had eloped (which they were never forgiven for), Nana surrendered and told Pop to surrender too.  (That’s the kind of marriage they had)  Here comes the juicy stuff.

It was to be a home wedding… 

~ SJ Heit October 19, 2021

Stories like that one give me a sense of peace and continuity. As I begin to write some memories, there are many thoughts that crowd into an already overcrowded mindball.  I think the most important thought for me is this…

When does my memory meet with a perspective that will allow me to remember the memory and at the same time, give it enough air to be able to see it in a perspective of whatever smarts I have gleaned over these many years? 

Not many, I can assure you.  

My favorite Three Little Words have always been, I LOVE YOU. Abused, misused, and ultimately, on good days with great humility, expanded to include the judged, and found wanting persons who brought grief to my person;  a real achievement for this Master of Judgement.  Today those 3 words are neck and neck with these 3 words, I DON’T KNOW (for every control freak I have ever known, including yours truly, this is yet another miracle).

The Heit Family on the Atlantic City Boardwalk Circa 1938

There will be some memories that I shall want to share with you and some I shall not.  Not because of shame or guilt. Come on guys, we have all lived with those emotions forever, so as not helpful as they are, they are very familiar.  And in this case, familiarity really does breed contempt.  Most importantly, hopefully, there is a way to acknowledge their presence and yet fold them into my life.  

Oi vey, who asked me to do this?  No one, that’s who.

Not true.  I am asking me to do this.  

Today, this is the phrase I trot out for all important occasions and decisions, IF NOT NOW, WHEN???!!!

Right??  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane

The Making of a Millennial

You know how I love to tell a story.  So, sit back and relax.

My driver’s license is about to expire, just in time to get the new real identity card that everyone will need to have by 2023. I needed several different forms of identification.  I was going through my files to locate them when I came across a letter you wrote to your teacher when you were 11 years old… 

It was a letter explaining in exquisite literary detail exactly who you are, and amazingly, still are.  I marveled at your self knowledge and awareness… and you were only 11!  I realized you have always known the essential you… always.  It is a sad but real truth that at 11, who is going to listen to you, no less, believe you, I ask you… WHO?  No one, that’s who.  And rather than confront the powers that be, and that includes me, I am ashamed to say, (confrontation is truly alien to you) you chose to hide behind your books and for lack of better words your attitude, sometimes explosive, sometimes silent.

I feel like you should print this letter you wrote onto a sandwich board and when the next therapist, parent, sibling, friend or grandparent exclaims who you are and what you need, please walk onto the runway of your life wearing your board of definition and ask them politely to read your Declaration of Independence.  

I totally relate.  I always knew who I was and what I wanted but as in every generation, fighting society and family rules and society and family ethnics and ethics is a losing battle for an 11 year old.  “You’re a kid.  What do you know?”  Grrrrrrrr.

Well, you’re not 11 anymore, and I believe, now is your time TO BE.

I know it is very difficult to take any action no matter what the age or the direction.  Fear is a deadly paralyzer and the longer we wait the harder it is to move.  Late blooming is a universal perennial pattern of life.  It took me years to catch up to me.  I used to be much younger.  You should see my 8×10 glossy.

I  was the only one who held me back.  I listened to everyone tell me who I was and what I needed to do.  I was always a good actress, so what I did was act as if because I believed even though I knew I was moving in the wrong direction, I needed their support and approval. I blame no one but myself.  And I don’t even blame myself anymore.  Believe me, blame never repaired a flat tire.  Early on, unconsciously, I knew I did not have the courage to do the salmon thing.  You know swimming upstream against the current.  Of course, now I’m so old I don’t really have the energy to do that upstream stuff anymore.  That’s O.K.!  Along the way, life has had a strange way of giving me what I need when I needed it.  Sometimes it appeared a little early, when I didn’t know what to do, and sometimes a little late, when I knew what to do but didn’t.  Life’s a bitch.

A life disclaimer: Sometimes no matter how well you know yourself, your limited experiences (unfortunately mostly suffered by the young) prevents you from understanding what is important to you.  Our values are informed by our experiences… and ‘dats ‘da trut!  It took a long time to figure out what was important in my life.  Early traumatic beginnings fostered a need for control that almost spoiled the game of life in all its bountiful relationships, human and natural.  The day I realized my true life size… just a speck in the universe… meaning I did not need to raise the sun every day… oi vey so very heavy… my L5 healed, my chiropractor lost his job, and I found peace.  Not consistently, but enough of the time to give me the joyful along with the painful noise of life.

I can’t erase the fear for you and I don’t care how many cannabis stores there are in this country, I cannot create a no-risk-courage-gummy to help with decisions.  But I can assure you; you cannot make a mistake.  Every actor, artist, inventor, athlete, in fact, every creative person worth his or her or their  salt values the so-called “wrong turn” in their life, as a right turn into their enlightenment.

Try calling mistakes by its real name:  EXPERIENCE!  Wowie!  Zowie!

Of course, from my DNA and heritage, I want to remove the obstacles in your path and do it all for you.  This action, were it possible, would limit your experience and your growth.  Maybe it’s a good thing we don’t live near each other.  I can pretend I would never do such a thing.

Here’s the best thing my miraculous millennials and I will never know whether you do or you don’t…

TAKE WHAT YOU WANT AND LEAVE THE REST

If you decide to take nothing, that works for me too.  You can do what computers allow us to do… DELETE. Then call me and say, “What email?!”

That’s good for me!  Was it good for you??

❤️ Love, Sally-Jane

Where Does It Hurt? Don’t Ask!

My Dear Friends…

Let’s start with the gratitude.

Each morning that I open my eyes I am grateful. I mean really grateful. I mean not taking it for granted grateful.  I mean at my age that eye opening event is not a given. Yeah, yeah, I know… at any age.  But let’s get real.  At almost 88, for me that ranks as almost historic. I have a brother totally compos mentis and active who recently celebrated 101 years who would call me a child. If only. No, that is not true.  I can’t believe I am going to write this.  But there really is no other age or time I want to be in other than the one I am in now.  With what is going on how is that even possible?

Well, let me tell you what supersedes all… LIFE… however challening and difficult… LIFE!

So back to my daily awakening. I open my eyes and I am grateful. I roll out of bed… yes, that’s what I said, I roll out of bed to the bathroom. I am so much more aware of the waddle I purposely use and the care I take all in the prevention of the real villain of getting up there in age… THE FALL.  Too many of my friends and relations have gone the way of all flesh because of a fall. So yes, I do not mind walking and moving like an aging elephant if it prevents my falling (I admit, at my age I am happily the elephant in the room, always.)  

Where was I?  Oh, yes! I return to roll back onto and into bed and am the happier for that initial journey. And that is when I take my first snooze… maybe 5 minutes.  And then it begins.

I open and close my eyes many times. When I close my eyes, I try to go for another little snooze.

Foot or Head note: This process usually begins around 6:00A.M.

True, it’s early, but I finish reading around 10:00P.M. the night before only because that is when  the eyes seem to close all by themselves.

So… 6 A.M. begins the eyes-opening-awake-eyes-closing-snooze time. I think this is an old habit.  From my school days through and to my work days, I always struggled for that extra sleep time. Then, I needed it. I had show business hours. I went through the motions looking like I was awake (not!) until around 11 A.M. However, now as I have no set schedule except that which I create with the help of friends, family, and my various enterprises, I am beginning to realize after about half an hour, why I am putting off getting up and out of bed.

Waking my body up after a night of slumber is no easy task.

Who knew?  Not me.

I heard from others how getting older takes its toll on the body. Not me. I plied my body with exercise and movement. But even with practice, the body reaches a point of no return. Again, I thought, not me.

I feel like Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (great movie by the way). Her character never cried uncle in defeat.  

Forced by decisions she made, finally she cried UNCLE!  I find myself forced by simple body arithmetic, crying UNCLE!

Sue me!  My body has a different agenda than my head.

It is like the photo of myself I look at and the mirror I look into.They are both parts of the same person. And yet, they each tell a different story.  

It is not good for my morale to remember hopping out of bed to get ready for the day.
The word hopping is not in my vocabulary unless it applies to Peter Rabbit.

It is not good for my morale to remember shouting to a friend, “I just got out of bed.  I’ll be ready in 10 minutes.” Ten minutes would just be the getting out of bed part.

It is not good for my morale to go without breakfast which I regularly did.
I need the food to process pills.

Ask me if I am depressed?
I am not. Wistful, sometimes, but not depressed.

I repeat what I wrote before: There is no other age or time I want to be in other than the one I am in now.
What?  Am I crazy?  Well, of course…

Yeah, yeah, I am a late bloomer. So was Grandma Moses.

And I haven’t even mentioned the STATE of STATE affairs. The rending of our Founding Fathers dreams of a nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.  It’s almost as though I want to say to each of the politicians that electronically spout the lies of racism, the election, the pandemic, the vaccinations, the climate… ”Hey, guys, I know how hard it is to get out of bed in the morning.  Don’t!”  Imagine having a break from all their nasty insanity… now that’s something I might try to hop out of bed for.

By all manner of ways and means, I should be depressed but a phrase keeps rolling around in my brainball:  The Best of All Possible Worlds.

Voltaire, a writer extraordinaire of the 17th Century, wrote a novella Candide.  It is a satirical take on those of us who choose to remain optimists as the tsunamis of life appear on the horizon ready to sweep us out into the roiling sea. Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein did the lyrics and the music of this very successful musical adaptation. 

Oh, by the way we have a present day CandideTed Lasso. Maybe that’s why the show is so successful and why everyone loves him so much. He is the cockeyed optimist. He lives in the best of all possible worlds. He believes. Maybe we love him because we are on cynical overload and want to believe, too.

Summing it up my friends, it is definitely harder to get out of bed in the morning.  All my body parts have to be aligned for it to happen with a minimum of discomfort.  

I fear the news, personal and otherwise, is not going to get much better for at least the near future.  However, As the Pilgrims and other early seafarers after months and sometimes years at sea, in survivor relief, shouted, “Signs of Land”!!.  

And I believe there are happenings that warrant encouragement:

* Brittany Spears’s father is out! 
* Prince Harry and Prince William reconcile. 
* In an extraordinary bipartisan agreement Cuomo, DeSantis, Abbot, Cruz ,Hawley, and Greene, before establishing their new law firm, have formed their own anger management Foundation.
* Trump has joined an Ashram in the Catskills.
* Melania has left with her mother for Monte Carlo. 

But for the most encouraging sign of all follow these instructions:

Take the fingers of your right hand, place them on the inner wrist of your left hand, if you feel the beat all good things will follow.

Right?  Of course, right!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

Congress: Has it always been this way??

My Dear Friends and Family,

“So what is she talking about, now?”

So glad you asked. And if you thought you’d get a direct answer…fuggetaboutit!

Most know I am the 7th of 8 siblings. Of the 8 only 4 remain. The three youngest (oh, to be called youngest at 90, 88, 85) and the oldest brother of the whole clan… 101 years young with all his marbles intact.  Periodically, we check in with each other. 

A sample check in:

Sally-Jane:  Hi, Raymond, how are you?

Raymond:  Still here.

Sally-Jane:  This is a good thing.

Raymond:  It’ll do until something better comes along.

Sally-Jane:  That’s why you are still here. There is nothing better.

Raymond:  I’ll take your word for it.

Sally-Jane:  So what are you reading?

Raymond: For Liberty and Glory by James R. Gaines.  It’s about Washington, Lafayette and their Revolutions.  I am really enjoying it.

Sally-Jane:  Oh, yes, I read about it. I’d like to read it.

Raymond:  Well, I’ll send it to you when I finish it. 

Sally-Jane:  Great!

Raymond:  On second thought you better get your own copy.  At the rate I read, maybe you’ll get it before I die, maybe you won’t. 

I got my own copy. Reading it provoked the above question, “Congress. Has it always been thus?”

The Continental Congress in July of 1776, adopted the Declaration of Independence proclaiming the former colonies of Great Britain to be independent sovereign states, declaring war on Great Britain . 

There were no political parties at the 1776 Congress. There were just 13 SOVEREIGN STATES… maybe like 13 political parties.  How were  the representatives of Massachusetts going to agree with representatives of New York, no less with representatives of South Carolina; issues of culture, geography, climate, to put self interest before common interest.  All issues combined to make their individual State legislatures vastly more important than any central government.  

Indeed, the first several Congresses after the Second Continental Congress, which was the Congress of the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War were all Unicameral, That is, no political parties… just sovereign states, each one pulling in their own direction to fulfill their duties as representatives of their States.  Most representatives of the original 13 states wanted a weak Central Government allowing them to deal directly with their own local issues as they saw fit. There were only a few who thought a strong Central Government would be much better for the nascent nation; better for issues of economics and foreign intervention. There is strength in numbers. Even I, who needs all my fingers and toes to count, know that 13 against 1 or 2 has a better chance of succeeding. Let’s face it, if all 13 didn’t agree to sign the Declaration of Independence which was a declaration of war against Great Britain, we would all be having tea with milk, fish and chips in an old newspaper, and singing God Save The Queen instead of God Bless America. I realize for some this would not be a bad thing.  I am totally aware how this country is bonkers over British Royalty.  Diana is more celebrated today than she was over twenty years ago. For that matter so is Victoria, Elizabeth I, and dare I even mention the Royal Soap Opera for all time, Downton Abbey.  But I digress…so what else is new?

OK back to Congress. The divide in the United States that I find so disturbing today had its beginning in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia 1787. The Constitution was a plan developed for a stronger federal government with three branches – executive, legislative and judicial – along with a system of checks and balances to ensure no single branch would have too much power.

From that moment, this country has always been divided between States Righters and Federalists.  A really interesting not so side fact is that prior to Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency, all Senators were appointed by the Governors and Legislatures of the individual states. Under Wilson’s term in 1913, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution changed the words, “chosen by the legislatures thereof” to “elected by the people, thereof”.  Make of that what you will. Personally, I think it was supposed to open the Senatorial selections away from State Politics (aka legislature) to the State’s population. However, if the state’s population is as divided as the legislature… what’s the difference?

I’m sorry, my dear friends. I get carried away by the history involved in birthing this country and in doing so lose my way.  Get to the point, already, for goodness sake. 

In reading this book about the struggle George Washington had in winning the  American Revolution, I see that the albatross around his neck was the Second Continental Congress. They signed the Declaration of Independence, which was a very brave and courageous thing to do, and then ignored most of the requests and pleas and beggings of George Washington to fortify and supply the Army that was fighting for Independence. This Congress did everything in its power to focus on their own and their state’s individual needs and ignore the battles for Liberty and Freedom that were going on all around them. (brilliantly depicted in the movie 1776)

OK here’s the question for you to answer… is it in the nature of the beast (aka Congress and humans)  wherein self and local issues will always outweigh the common good and as the world turns, is it harder for the individual of good purpose to make a difference, no less get elected?  And the biggest question of all, HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY?  Whatcha think?   

Hey guys, before you think… I have an important recommendation for you.  For the most wonderful and powerful depiction of this Second Continental Congress please see the movie musical 1776. It is brilliant and written with historic accuracy.  I promise you. You will love it.

As a matter of fact, it is in that movie the seeds of my question about the ultimate fate of Congress is first planted.  

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

Words, Words, Words

My Dear Friends and Family,

This past week one of my daughters sent me this video of Jon Batiste performing “FREEDOM” on the Colbert Show. (I have included it below.)

As I watched, I felt I was transported to a Gospel Church moment. Batiste, who has long been Steven Colbert’s band leader is Black and Beautiful and moves like a dream. The song was a totally infectious experience and I think I played and danced to it several times. My daughter was right when she said it was a joyous happening to be shared.  And so I thought of all of you, my dear friends and family.

As I got ready to send it out, I started thinking about the name of the song and Batiste’s definition of the word, Freedom.  Being Black and Beautiful, he wrote the song from his perspective of the word. I get that. I understand that.  I applaud that.  

However,  I might sing and dance to his song Freedom from an entirely different perspective.  Along with oh, so many of my fellow beings, I could shout and dance out my freedom from a year of Covid Pandemic isolation.  

And as I continued my thought line, the lyrics of another song crept into my consciousness…

Words, words, words

I’m so sick of words

First from him now from you

Is that all you blighters can do

If you think Freedom is one thing, and I think it’s another, how do we communicate? In truth, it’s like we are all speaking a foreign language in an attempt to find a path to understanding. I thought about confusion in communications around three very important words…

What I wanted most in my life was to be KNOWN. If you know me, you’ll love me. Now, don’t yell on me. I was young and I was desperate. One important slice of this equation was missing. If I didn’t know me, how was anyone else supposed to know me?  When I was a student and fiancée, I defined Freedom as escape. The only way for me to be free was to escape home and family. Unfortunately, early in my life, my courage was limited to making a fool of myself on stage. In the 1950’s the approved way to leave home was to get married. Marriage equaled Freedom.  Twenty-seven years later Freedom equaled Divorce. Go figure!!!

At different stages of my life, Freedom meant something else.Today, I’m not sure if my mortality has increased my vision, but I am open to most everyone’s interpretation of Freedom. Except, of course, if their freedom takes away my freedom. This is a no-no.

I think it is inherent, dare I say it, on a cellular level most of us want to be known. It takes a great deal of courage to be known. I have a sneaking suspicion that fear wipes out that courage. This makes me believe you cannot be known without being FREE.  

TRUTH

First I shall tell you, growing up in my family my ability to survive was based on how well I could lie. From the womb, I was an actress, so pretending (that’s the polite word for lie), was very easy for me.

I shall admit, I had a lot of help from the adult community. How many times were you told, don’t tell mama, don’t tell poppa, if that’s your sister on the phone, tell her I’m not here… and on and on the requests go.  I’m not accusing anyone. Goodness knows it’s an accepted social practice… the little white lie.  But as a child, it’s difficult to discriminate the social lie from, “I did not lose  Mother’s engagement ring that she was saving to pawn because she needed money to pay into her Christmas Savings Account for your presents so you don’t get any this year.”  

I think about storm troopers throwing open the door and shouting out, ”Are you Jewish?”  What would you do?  I for one do not know. Of course, I’d like to think I would proudly stand up and do the honorable thing, but isn’t that the question? What is honorable? To survive or not to survive. Furthermore, in the scheme of life, he or she who casts the first stone could break a window and then what???  I do not feel the need to lie anymore. This is a good thing. And frankly, I don’t have a lot of patience with those that continue to lie. Nothing really is that important.  As long as I follow the Golden Rule… Do Unto Others as you would have Others Do Unto you… I don’t think I have to.  In someone’s wisdom (I wish I knew who)… THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.  BUT FIRST IT REALLY PISSES YOU OFF.

LOVE

OK  now we have come to the sticky part.  Oi Vey!  For this I am going to be moided (Brooklynese for murder). For me, there is no universal definition for the word love.

How could there be? Our life experiences forbid it.  However, when has that ever stopped me from having all the answers? I’m still making it up.The difference today is I know I’m making it up.

 All right, we need to separate Romantic Love from Universal Love. 

I have been in romantic love at least a billion different times, with all God’s critters.  Mostly male of every stripe and color. Only about 10 of the billion knew I was in love.  And of the ten, I married only one. Once was more than enough. Now, everyone has their own romantic love stories to tell and if I felt like it, I would tell you mine.  But I don’t. So I won’t. You can always do what I do and make it up. A kind of coupling of your truth with romantic love.   All to say that romantic love is brilliant and necessary for population growth and hormones. (It’s dropping by the way… population growth, that is… not hormones!!! Any theories???)  

Universal Love. For me it will always  belong to the world of Spirit. It is in that world I find myself more and more comfortable and more and more the need to inhabit. Yeah, sure, of course, to some extent  this feeling is age related. However, I have to acknowledge this world of Spirit has always been with me. I was among the many who had experienced early childhood trauma. Too young to know about God or religions, but always knowing somehow during this time, I was cared for.  In many of my darkest times, it is and was always there. It comes in the form of humor, wonder, and yes, mostly LOVE.  I have found my place in the Universe and I am loved not just by my friends and family. I can look at a sunrise and even knowing I had nothing to do with bringing it up (such a relief to have that off my plate!), be in love with the wonder of it all. I and those who can experience sunrise, sunset, and all the wonders of the Universe, know we are loved. How come it took me so long to get it? I don’t know.

Which reminds me… I want to share a new “AHA!!” with you. Just yesterday my 3 favorite words were, “I Love You”.  Today, with MY PHD in Judgement intact,  my 3 Most Favorite Words are,

 I DON’T KNOW.

And that’s my definition of Freedom, Truth, and Love.

Right?  Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane❤️

Gratified and Satisfied…

My Dear Friends,

We have all heard it a million times… writing is such a lonely craft. No matter how writers try to distract themselves from themselves, eventually they must succumb and begin the lonely climb from sub to conscious thought, from pen to paper or fingers to computer. Yes, I am describing my own journey. And then the thoughts are dispersed to the person or in this case, the “list” of those brave souls that signed on to accept and read my blog. All to say, I thankfully, always get some response to what I write.

So that even if I write in the wilderness, eventually after sending the blog out, someone or someones rescue me from my solitude and brings me into their thoughts and responses and I am profoundly gratified and satisfied.

Hey, let us not forget my friends… I began my game of life as a performer. My passion was in putting myself before an audience and hoping I gave them pleasure or challenge or both. That give and take audience response was my initial lifeline from dysfunctional family life to dysfunctional married life. My ever growing, developing, nurturing, constantly challenging, and most loving relationship with my daughters was and always will be my raison d’être, but performing was definitely my second choice.

So writing in the wilderness is very difficult for me. And without response… OI VEY! … you’ve got to be kidding… a killer… an absolutely killer. I’ve been told to not be bothered by the lack of response… blog readers don’t usually respond. Well, in this last Blog about the Netflix movie, I Care A Lot…. I specifically asked for a response… and I got it.

I’m going to try and figure out how to rework my blog so I can keep this “audience” response going. In the meantime, I want to share some of the responses I received.

From Jim:
In my reading lately I’ve come across the concept referred to as the attention economy. Mostly in reference to social media like Facebook, Twitter,  etc. it is the idea that our attention is finite and of value and we should pay attention to how we ‘spend’ it.

These dark, ironic ‘humor’ movies and shows make me feel like I’ve not only wasted my time but been ripped off in terms of my attention. And since everything is tracked these days I am starting to be much more circumspect in how I allocate my attention. 

Here is the original article which introduced the phrase attention economy into my brain… I Talked to the Cassandra from the Internet Age (NY Times)

From Donna:
I saw the trailer for “I Care A Lot”. Half way through the trailer, it ’sceeved’ me out and I moved on. What a horrible plot!!!… The world is frightening enough these days without adding to it.

From Pamela:
I was afraid of that. I saw the blurb and could feel the ickiness. Glad you STOPPED WATCHING!!! Your senses are too precious to fill with such a vile version of humanity!

From Paula:
In CA almost impossible to have someone declared incapacitated in the courts.  Court also sends out its own independent investigator.  Anyway wanted you to know this so that you can sleep again…

FYI, I never watch movies like this anymore (even in the past I rarely watched) – no matter what the reviews.  Too much ugliness in the world already. I need an escape.

From Vel:
Just read your blog and SO glad I decided to pass on that film! But here’s a bit of news that gives that swindling racket a ‘Hooray for you, Girl’ upbeat twist: At 93, She Waged War on JPMorgan—and Her Own Grandsons

From Dianne:
I read your blog.  That movie sounds horrible.  Glad you switched over to reliable Agatha. 

From Lana:
Ugh. I watched that movie last night. I wanted to quit part way through it — I actually found it very uncomfortable and a little bit horrifying. I also wanted to see if it had a satisfying end (yes, sort of). But I went to bed with a flutter in my throat, kind of wishing I hadn’t watched it. But it made me wonder if, during the Trump era, producers made more movies like that — characters derelict of conscience or humanity

In reading up on the backstory of the movie, I see an article in The New Yorker was part inspiration: 
The Takeover
The whole thing scared the be-jesus out of me. 

From Ron: 
This came from reading your blog …

Now if you have any responses to these responses… write on MacDuff!  

While there have been shows where some audience members left before I did, (I’ve been in a few “turkeys” in my time), but as Laurence Olivier said, “If you haven’t had any bad reviews, you can’t call yourself an actor”.  

You see this is the kind of digression that counts as a distraction when I am trying to write. All I meant to say is… if you want to respond to any of the responses my machines are always open.   

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

RBG… A Light Has Dimmed

My Dear Friends and Family, 

On Friday night, September 18th,  after returning home from a life affirming and joyous outdoor Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) celebration with seven others, a lovely mix of family and friends, a friend texted me about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  I went into a tailspin (aka depression). 

What was my problem?  Her imminent death had been a foregone conclusion for years. Her heroic mission kept her alive beyond the miraculous. Her staying power was Herculean. Knowing what her demise would mean to Affordable Care, Roe v. Wade and so many other issues of humanity,  she left a request to the American people:   

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Mitch McConnell used the same rationale while Obama was President. But that was 15 minutes ago and he changed his mind… again.

All right!  All right!  From the moment I heard of her demise, I found myself wallowing in dark and dangerous thoughts.  

Always at these times, I go into a dialogue with myself. Here it is.

Me: (in fear of the future) OMG what am I going to do?  What’s going to happen now?  Is there going to be a Revolution…Civil War…do I have to join a gang of vigilantes.   Is America going the way of Job?  First the Pandemic, then the Election, now RBG!

I have to leave this country.  Where?  Where can I go?  Any country I want to go to doesn’t want Americans.

Me: (in the moment): Calm down. We have a lot of grieving to do.  Your fears are diminishing her story.  Who she was? What she accomplished.  Her strength and tenacity as a woman, a wife, a mother, a lawyer, a jurist and ultimately a role model for men and women. If you stay in this minute,  I promise, ultimately it will show you  how best to live in a world that throws the best curve balls ever.

I GO DOWN TO THE SHORE

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall —
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice
Excuse me, I have work to do.

Mary Oliver

You know what?  This staying in the moment thing is really hard. If I stayed in the moment, felt the grief, felt the power of this petite woman’s life to change what had previously been thought impossible to change , yeah, right!!!  What is it about staying in the moment which I know is really the only way to live but, oh, my friends,  it is soooo difficult. 

I have spent a lifetime believing that to believe in God is to believe that all things are fair and there will be wonderful surprises.

The best surprises come out of not knowing!  I think there is a lesson in this.  

I have no idea what the fallout will be from this cataclysmic event. It doesn’t make any difference. Whatever happens we will always have RBG’s strength, tenacity and perseverance to keep up us in the light.

Love, Sally-Jane

NOTES ON THE 2020 LANDING OF THE ABOMINABLE SNOWWOMAN

May 7th:  Dress in Hazmat suit, gloves, mask.  Carry wipes and survival portion of peanut butter cookies….

Arrive Fort Lauderdale Airport. Wheelchair Server in mask waits while I wipe down the wheelchair.  He explains why the airport looks abandoned… “It went from 180 flights a day to 6.”

Arrive at gate my usual 90 minutes before flight. Most of my fellow passengers sit patiently.  I know I look like a cartoon.  Not a giggle, not a murmur, just head and eyes turned away from each other.  It felt as if by looking they would be exposed to the virus. Not a lot of sound. Oh, so serious… or should I say, terrified.    

Airline glitch:  We were there in plenty of time to be loaded onto the plane 2 or 3 at a time. They waited until 15 minutes before flight time and loaded everyone the usual way with all standing belly to belly in the aisle. The plane was 2/3rd full. The middle seat was empty but if you were in an aisle seat you were inches apart from someone across the aisle and exposed to the line of passengers as they went down the aisle to their seat.  

Albany arrival was smooth and as I was picked up by a masked man in a van who closely resembled a good friend, I diligently threw away my hazmat suit, gloves, wiped the handles on the door and settled myself for the anticipated beautiful ride through the Berkshire mountains to my home.

Quarantined from May 7th –  May 21st.  Grateful for the help and thoughtfulness of friends and family as I made the adjustment from South to North. I was afforded a glimpse of the winter I thought I had missed – snow, sleet, rain, cold temperatures greeted me throughout my quarantine. It was just fine with me.  By the end of my isolation, I had survived the transition and as a reward, the weather changed and a much awaited warm spring had arrived. I have so much to be grateful for… first and foremost, the pulse is pulsing. This is good. Everything else is a plus… food, shelter, family, friends (although at this age there is a growing list of absenteeism from the list). So this sense of disquiet that I find growing inside of me…. where is it coming from??

Let me try to explain it to me and pass it on to you.  

It is not news to anyone today. We are being challenged.

There are those of us who are being physically challenged with the arrival of this virus.  All speed to healing and return to health.  And then there are those of us who are economically challenged. This may be the time to look at what we were doing and rethink and re-tool, remembering as we go… we are not human doings, we are human beings.  Please, I am not being glib. I remember so many times in this very long life of mine I thought it was all over only to discover if I just moved a little to the left or to the right (and I am not speaking politically) I would get out of my own way and be able to see a different picture of my life and how I was living it. For me, it opened up the world of possibilities. 

However, how do I see those possibilities if I am afraid? I think the biggest challenge all of us face is the emotional challenge… and that is the basis of my disquiet. And what is that emotional challenge?  I am glad you asked…    

FEAR! 

Every time I have heard in a documentary or film or theatre or book, FDR’s assertion, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”,  my head shakes like a bobble head in the car window. He was right. I know he was right.  So if he was so right why am I still afraid? I am doing everything I am supposed to do. It doesn’t seem to help. I can’t tell you how many times I know I have caught the virus. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have any symptoms, I know I have it.  On one level, it simply proves I am a member of the human race because I know I am not alone. I have plenty of friends and family that are sure they too either go to sleep with the virus or wake up with the virus.  

What does this mean?  Well, for me, it means I have to take greater pains to guard against a fear that not only consumes me but paralyzes me. As I get older, I recognize more and more the lack of control I have over life as I live it.  There are actually not days, but minutes that I can surrender the illusioned control and live from that one moment to the next. And those are the GOOD days.  Because the actual truth is that actually no one has any control over any of this life as we live it.

It has only taken 86 years (a drop in Methuselah’s bucket) but this is how fear operates in my life.  It is mostly hidden and it has many disguises.  For me, the top three disguises are shame, guilt, and most of all, anger.  Every time I feel shame or guilt or anger, and I take the time to do a little self examination about where these feelings are coming from,  up pops… you got it…fear!  I’m telling you guys.  I’m a regular scaredy cat and most of the time I don’t know it.  The mask that covers my fear is the best on the market.

And herein is the beginning of my disquiet.  As I have come out of quarantine and joined the rest of the world around me, I am confronted not only by my fear, but almost everyone I come into contact with as well.  And I don’t care what you mask it with…. impatience, annoyance, or the most reliable, anger… it is fear.  My belief is if I can’t get a handle on my fear I am going to spread it. It is far more dangerously contagious than the virus. For me, the negativity and the hopelessness of fear are far more isolating than any quarantine. 

I think one of the many ramifications of fear today is this growing pervasive attitude of selfishness. I read about it a lot and I see it when I walk around the lake. 

“I don’t have to wear a mask.”  

“I don’t have to self-distance.” 

“The sign at the beach reads closed until further notice… not for me.”  

In this pandemic, where so much is unknown as well as the lack of consensual leadership, the attempt to convince the human condition that we are all in this together is almost impossible.

I have known for a long time that there is little and mostly no control in life. I remember that maybe every other day, for maybe a minute or so. And when I do, I realize even though I want to desperately, I cannot really judge someone’s selfish behavior.  I cannot sit them down and explain that their selfishness comes from the basic fear we are all experiencing and “we are all in this together”… they would do what the lady with the dog in the Ramble of Central Park in New York City did and call the police to have me arrested for harassment.  

So I must find my way, recognize that the life as I knew it has changed and when the dust settles (testing, vaccines, no curves at all) it is going to be not only different, but better.  

Right???  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

OK  Everybody, back to your smiley face…

P.S. Below is a link to a Documentary by Showtime about the live (yes, I said LIVE) television Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris that ran for an hour and a half every Saturday Night from 1950-1954. (Preceded by Sid Caesar’s Admiral Broadway Review from January – June 1949 and followed by Caesar’s Hour from 1954- 1957.)

Yes, I was alive but I was very busy between school and performing and it was unthinkable to spend a Saturday night watching TV with my parents so I never got to watch it.  It was de regeur watching for my family.  Of course  back then I knew about the comedians of the cast but as the years past I knew more about the writers from that show, Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, Woody Allen to name just a few.. funny men making funny words for funny people. Well, I found this Documentary on YouTube ( I loooovvvveeeee YouTube) I laughed so hard.

Lucky for me the bathroom was nearby.  For some this is will be a new happening, for others a stirred memory and for a few others it might just be “Sid?  What was his last name again?”

This is my gift to you, my wonderful friends and family, for being a patient and considerate and conscientious pandemic person.  This is far from over but who doesn’t need a reward for Good Behavior.  Have a laugh on me…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V7W5xcXUhA