DIANE GOTTLIEB

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Musings of the Season

Can you believe we’re well into December?!?  The holidays are around the corner, and a new year with new promise is finally within our grasp!

 

Still, I always feel the bittersweet pinch of nostalgia in December. This year, without being able to be with family, I’m feeling it even more so.

So … this week, I’m posting a piece I wrote three years ago that expresses that pinch, along with the sadness I feel about the loss of part of my culture, and the complicated feelings of having another year go by. (I promise–it’s from a downer though!)

So much has changed since 2017. But as I reread this piece, I realize how much has stayed the same.

We can still look to the past, at the lessons we’ve learned. We can appreciate the guidance we’ve received and honor our growth. And we can still look to the future with wonder and hope and look at our lives with gratitude.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for being a part of WomanPause, to thank you for your energy, and for the light you bring to this world.

 

Wishing you warmth and love this holiday season. It is with warmth and love I present to you “Musings of the Season.”

(Originally published in Lunch Ticket, a wonderful journal I had the great blessing of being a part for two years.)

 

Musings of the Season

It’s that time again. We’re coming up on the holidays. Leaves have fallen, blanketing the lawn in warm shades of yellow and red. Christmas lights are aglow. Tumultuous 2017 is edging toward its close, the promise of another year on the horizon. Joy to the World!

For some reason, I’m just not feeling it.

It’s not because I’m turning fifty-seven this December, taking one further step beyond the midpoint. For the most part, I am in love with my age. I feel good in my skin, lines and all, and care less about what others think of me, a freedom I fully embrace. No longer needing to wear false modesty, as younger women are often taught they must, I can sing my own praises—and own my faults and mistakes. I do have a couple; I have made many. Just ask my kids.

My general sense of malaise is not personal. It’s bigger than I am. Much.

My Parents Were of a Time and Culture, of Fiddler on the Roof, Eli Wiesel, and Yes, Joan Rivers

I’m suffering today from what I call my cultural mourning—a mourning for the beautiful, spiritual, and sometimes maddening culture of the Eastern European Jew. My mom grew up in the Old City of Jerusalem, but her family hailed from Russia. Her dad was a mystic, a rabbi who poured over the texts of the Zohar day and night, a Kabbalist seeking his path to God.

Mom was a small, powerful woman; she had tiny eyes that sparked great fire. She was sharp and quick and determined. She began studying philosophy in her seventies.

Dad was from Germany. He was a lucky one, who left before the doors to escape were forever sealed shut. Dad was handsome, oh so handsome; he was kind and dyslectic, and his grey-blue eyes held vast pain, great love, and always the hint of wonder.

My parents were of a time and of a culture, of Fiddler on the Roof, Eli Wiesel, and yes, Joan Rivers. There was prayer; there was song. Their culture had an insular nature—some of that was of their own choosing, some because they were never embraced. Their culture was one of resignation and hope, living precariously side by side. It was rich; it was poor, it was rhythmic—a culture that breathed its every breath as if engaging in a fight for survival. A culture of survivors. The youngest members of that precious group are now in their late eighties; how much longer will they survive?

It Felt As If We Stepped Into a Time Warp, Except Time Had Not Stood Still

I grew up in Queens, New York, in the ’60s and ’70s, amidst the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, Kennedy, Nixon, and King. Throughout the maelstrom of change, there was always the calming backdrop of my culture. We’d been here before. We’ve lived it all. And all would be okay.

I miss the music. The Yiddish. I miss the accents, the kugal, the jokes—I love that borscht belt humor. I miss the questions, the questioning, the deep discussion for discussion’s sake. I miss.

I, too, am what may be called a “survivor.” I was widowed at forty-two, left suddenly alone with three stunned children. I’ve had cancers (three of them to be exact), and I was sexually violated—#MeToo.

We all have a story to tell, if we live long enough.

We are all survivors—until we’re dead.

This past August, my husband and I (I remarried) went to see Judy Collins and Steven Stills in concert. Sweet Judy Blue Eyes is in her eighties. Mr. Stills, not far behind. The venue had an outdoor bar that was open before the show, so we went out back to grab a beer. There were women in long, flowered skirts, gauze tops, peace sign necklaces and beads, men in faded 60s-band t-shirts, over equally faded jeans. It felt as if we had stepped into a time warp, except time had not stayed still. Somehow, the Circle Game lyric had escaped many of our fellow concert-goers: “We can’t return, we can only look, behind from where we came…”

That night I felt deeply for another culture, the hippie culture, on its way out—still holding on for dear life. Why are we so afraid of change? Sometimes it’s time to let it go. Let another group take the stage.

Every Fall, I Am Witness to a Whole New Flock of Families Getting Ready to Make Adjustments to the Nest

I work full time as an English tutor and I’m just finishing my busiest season of work. Starting mid-summer each year, I become swamped with rising seniors who must face the dreaded college application essay. It’s so scary for most of them to reflect on who they are and on who they want to become. It’s delicious, though, this magical coming of age exercise, and I feel so honored to be my students’ guide. I love those kids, and their parents, and every fall, I am witness to a whole new flock of families getting ready to make adjustments to the nest. It’s bittersweet and it’s beautiful, and I realize how profoundly I’ve been blessed.

I am turning fifty-seven this winter, not ninety-seven. My friends are not dying off, even if their parents are. We’re at that weird place in life where we meet at funerals (our parents’) and weddings (our kids’) and at dinners in between. We see each other losing weight, gaining weight (even at our age, we can’t escape the weight carousel) and we watch each other age, gracefully of course, a few more wrinkles ’round the eyes, our brown hair, a little less convincing—although we’d never tell.

Happy Holidays to All

It’s fall now; it’s cold, and it’s dark. It gets dark so damn early in fall. Winter is just minutes away. But I’ve lived long enough to know that spring is sure to follow, no matter how long those lion’s days of March seem to want to linger. This turbulent year is edging towards its close—hallelujah—and a new one is waiting in the wings. I deeply miss those who have come before, and I am grateful for all those present. So, I hope you will join me in thanking God, or Goddess, or Nature, or Nurture, for life, for love, and even for change. Happy holidays to all. Have a happy, healthy New Year.

 

 

As always, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment or send me an email.

See you in two weeks!!

XOXO

Diane

12 Comments

  1. Diana Everett on December 14, 2020 at 9:44 am

    No culture here, only child from atheists.

    It’s been quite a journey, no children, my younger adult years filled with boring clerical jobs, road races, climbing, skiing, hiking, eventually truck driving, basically rebelling against “a woman’s place.” I was born a tomboy forever resisting!

    Happy holidays everyone, no family to miss they are all dead, been alone for a couple decades, lots of calls for Democratic candidates this year bleeding into the Georgia elections. Why do I continue to volunteer only to be sworn at when I have no children and no investment in this country?

    I don’t know, guess because it’s the morally correct thing to do because right now the USA is a failed state and hopefully new leadership will change that–and perpetual, ongoing civic engagement by younger generations–forever.

    • Diane Gottlieb on December 14, 2020 at 1:23 pm

      So good to hear from you, Diana! It sounds like you are doing well. A woman before her time, blazing the trail for generations to come.
      Happy holidays to you!

  2. Sherry Danner on December 9, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    What a rich, deep, touching piece, Diane! “It’s bittersweet and it’s beautiful, and I realize how profoundly I’ve been blessed.” For me, this line captures your hard-won perspective on life and the general tone of your writing, which is why we all keep coming back for more! Thank you for this beautiful peek into your personal memories and for the way your writing helps us reflect on our own with loving eyes.

    • Diane Gottlieb on December 9, 2020 at 1:34 pm

      Aww, Sherry! Thanks so much! XO

  3. Nicky Mendenhall on December 7, 2020 at 11:02 pm

    Diane – What a beautiful piece of writing. It brought to mind my own culture growing up on the farm with extended family near. I too miss what is now but a memory. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Diane Gottlieb on December 8, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      Thank you, Nicky! Those memories–so precious. So bittersweet.

  4. Melissa Greey on December 7, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    I loved this piece and how you reflected back into time , we all need to do that cause we all live on the merry go round of life but we never know unless we take a moment to think about our life.. you must be proud of your piece of work it’s a treasure , happy you shared and touched us all
    Cause the wheels will keep going round and round

    • Diane Gottlieb on December 7, 2020 at 7:03 pm

      Thank you, Melissa, for those kind words! Those wheels–round and round they turn.
      Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and new year and some time to reflect back in joy.

  5. Greta Holt on December 7, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    Oh my goodness, what gorgeous writing and musing. Today a friend FB posted my mom singing when she was only 20. Tears.

    Isn’t it interesting that 2017 seemed tumultuous . It surely was, but . . . OMG, 2020.)

    I wonder what people who don’t identify with a strong culture feel as they travel though life. You and I are lucky in that regard, I think.

    Love and Season’s Joys to you.

    • Diane Gottlieb on December 7, 2020 at 7:01 pm

      Oh my, Greta!! Your mom singing at 20!!! Wonderful, and yes, tears, I’m sure!

      Let’s hope and pray the tumult will be over soon–and, if not, let’s keep those seat belts buckled!

      Grateful for the cultural connections. Grateful for your kind words, and of course, for all that you are and do!

      XO

  6. Sarita K Sid on December 7, 2020 at 3:05 am

    Diane! I can’t believe I’m the first to comment 🙂 It’s only because I’m here late to comment on the previous post 😉
    I missed this when it was published in Lunch Ticket, so I’m glad I’ve had a chance to read it now. I love this in particular: “We are all survivors—until we’re dead.”
    It’s fascinating to learn about the culture you came from, the people & traditions you miss.
    I’m learning to appreciate aspects of my culture & traditions now, because I’m coming to them of my own free will. It’s gratifying to see our daughters embrace their ancestry & take pride in the visibility of Sikh service to others around the globe, especially where there is hunger.
    Thank you for this community you’ve created for us all, regardless of where we’ve come from. And yes, Happy holidays to all.

    • Diane Gottlieb on December 7, 2020 at 3:55 pm

      Thank you, as always, Sarita. I love all the connections–to past culture, present, to ancestors, new friends–and love hearing about others’ experiences. So glad you shared yours.

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