Powering up

swanstakingoffI’ve been trying to get back to writing this blog post for months. But my writing seems to be suffering from some kind of inertia, much like the rest of my life did until about a year ago. I was thinking about how hard it was to move from the couch to the front door in the first 2 years after my company died, 10 months after son died. And then once I started going out again, trying to be part of the world, I realized that at first it felt like I was pushing a massive boulder up an infinite hill. Yes, this was my own private hell, although I couldn’t think of what I was being punished for. My boulder didn’t roll back down again, but I worried constantly that it would. The worst had already happened, but I still imagined there might be bad things at every turn.

I wondered if I would ever get even a fraction of my energy back. Things move so slowly when you’re in the dark. Progress is imperceptible. I managed little things in those 2 very dark years. I cooked. I started a writing group. I could temporarily illuminate the darkness by bringing people into my home. That was a start. It was the beginning of the end of isolation. Then I went on the road trip and made my film and almost accidentally I wasn’t back to work but I was back to living. Doing and finishing little things led to doing and finishing bigger things.

It was almost as if I had too many programs open on my computer. Everything was so sluggish. It was like I’d left the computer on for far too long, never doing a full re-start. So powering up was so very slow for me. Some invisible code was rushing around trying to make connections between things. Before the connections were instant, I was firing on all cylinders (forgive the mixed metaphors). But after my loss my random access memory seemed totally fried.

There is only so much memory in a device. But there is infinite memory in a human mind. When the one person I’d known, loved and spent my life with died, all of the references to our shared history died too. These infinite memories became inaccessible, jumbled and disconnected. I didn’t know who I was other than my son’s mom. My other identities were insignificant in comparison. So restarting me took much longer than an overworked computer. Powering up was so slow. It started about a year ago, and little by little I see signs of new memories being formed, new connections being made (with myself and others) a new history being written. I still feel slow, not the old me.

Reading this article in the NY Times about wisdom reminded me of my conversations with myself about powering up. “Older people have much more information in their brains than younger ones, so retrieving it naturally takes longer,” according to a study they cited. Since I am no longer creating new memories with my son, I guess I got stuck in the old ones, even though I try to forget them. Maybe it is the forgetting that scrambled who I am. I’m using an old operating system; memories that help me retain a connection to my old life. Maybe it’s our losses that make it take longer for us to power up.

I was walking in the park yesterday and saw how long it took for these swans to take flight. They were slow getting started but beautiful once in flight.

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Yesterday I wrosebudas thinking about happiness. I thought I’d write about it, but then just got busy and forgot about it. But there have been quite a few sad moments in the last week or two, probably because my son’s 5 year death day anniversary is about a month away. This kind of anniversary is hardwired into my body. Even if I could forget the calendar, my body won’t.

“How come you’re always so happy in the morning mom?” my son asked me on the last day I ever saw him. We’d stayed up all night watching a presidential debate. He loved that I woke up at 1:00 am to watch it with him. I’m not a night person. But this was important. We had such a good time that night, our last night together.  At about noon I went into his room to see if he wanted breakfast (he had his own apartment not even a mile away, but loved coming home for weekends to what he called his summer home, my flat in London). He was just waking up and I smiled at him, one of those big smiles that seem to go on forever. I always smiled when I looked at him, and especially in the morning. He was always a little grumpy when he woke up, and could never understand how I could wake up so happy. I couldn’t help it. I loved being his mom. I was happy. How could I not be?

Yet, I think that I’ve always been a happy person. Lots of hard things had happened in my life up until that point. I’d get stressed, and even had some big heart breaks. But I was still mostly a happy person. I knew that in my heart. But what made me so happy? Was it only because I had my son from the age of 19 and from then on my life was truly complete? Was it because I had a single mission – to take care of him and to make sure he had a great life? Or is/was my happiness due to something else?

Maybe being happy has something to do with cultivating those happy moments, planting seeds and then watering them. I think there is definitely some choice involved in being a happy person. Even after the worst thing happened I still try to find things to do that will make me feel like life is worth living, to find things that I can truly engage in. In the early months after Shaka died, I went to work every day to keep my company going, to make sure that what we’d built together continued and, I didn’t want to let my employees down either. When the company later went under I started a writing group, made a documentary…  This is how I’ve survived the last 5 mostly heartbreaking years – I cook, I babysit, I write, I try to help people who need a shoulder or some encouragement. I do not let myself sit alone in the quiet. I avoid thinking about my missing son; I don’t look at his photos, I try not to think about him at all. It is an act of will that takes all of the energy I have. I put myself wholly into whatever I am doing in the moment. This might have been what I’ve been doing all of my life. I needed to pay private school fees, or college, or rent… and all of those grown up things.

This morning I was reading op-ed pieces in the New York Times and I stumbled across an article “Looking to Genes for the Secret to Happiness.” It refers to a study that found ““our genes can tell the difference” between a purpose-driven life and a shallower one even when our conscious minds cannot.”  It goes on to say that purpose is pretty elastic and only needs to be something greater than immediate gratification. Being a mom gave me the greatest happiness, and the greatest purpose. Nothing will ever compare to that. I don’t have a big purpose any more. But each little mission I have in a day gives rise to the chance of moments of happiness. I may not be able to choose when I’m going to be happy. But I can usually choose to do something, to take some action, to be purposeful about something. And in doing so I am relieved to know that there is a good chance that some happiness will blossom.

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My greatest accomplishment?

ClearBlueSkyAs I get closer to my birthday, not a particularly special or noteworthy one, I am naturally looking back … That’s what we do with birthdays, right? Mine comes in about 48 hours.

Yesterday I found myself making coffee, and while the water was boiling, I started dancing to some music in my head. The sky was blue above me. My kitchen ceiling is all glass. And I was happy. I was bubbling up and out, just like the hot water in the tea kettle.

This year has been the longest, darkest, coldest, rainiest year I remember since I’ve been in the UK. I came here nearly 25 years ago. I so appreciated the sun yesterday morning. The sky was clear. For about 5 minutes I forget everything and just danced to my inner DJ.

And then I remembered where I am, my life as a whole. And started thinking about the one person who would have been here, or at least called… and certainly the one person who I would really want to talk to on my birthday. And he is gone. I stopped dancing. But I didn’t immediately plunge into my darkness, the place I live emotionally when I stop moving. There was a residual of dance left in me. It kept me moving forward, stopped me from plunging downward.

Most of us think of where we are in life when our birthdays come. It is a time of evaluation and re-evaluation, for setting goals and for looking to the future. I can’t yet find my future. I might have found my inner DJ, but my future is still missing, along with my missing son. I don’t really have anything to be proud of. I saved that for him. All of his accomplishments, his dreams and achievements, made me happy. He was my greatest accomplishment. I was so proud of him. He was so lovely. He had the best of me multiplied by 10, or a million. He was more than I could ever have imagined being. He lived his dreams to the fullest, sometimes crashing to the ground… but he soared. And I sometimes floated up to meet him, carried on his wings.

Not long after I stopped dancing on this beautiful and sunny day, the first in a long line of dark and cold days, I realized something. My son was not my greatest accomplishment. The fact that I am still standing after he died is. He would never have believed that I would still be here, that I would have a few minutes of dancing to some silent memory of music, in a momentary sunny moment. I can’t believe it either. The fact that I am still here is my greatest accomplishment. It is something that I thought, knew, would have been impossible. And yet it has happened. I am my greatest accomplishment. Somehow my son has become my inner metronome… He is my constant pulse. He makes my heart beat when it is so broken that it cannot find its own rhythm. He is my greatest accomplishment, and I am his. My birthday reminds me of his death day… but my inner DJ reminds me to dance when the sun comes out.

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Desert flowers

DesertI’ve been wandering around in the desert these last few years. I’m not sure I will come back with any tremendous insights or transformation. I’m not even sure I will come back. Maybe I am the desert.

Most of my identity was destroyed when my son died. My once green and fertile life became the desert. But even though I can’t always see it, there is life in the desert. There are seasons too. Changes in the desert are very subtle. You have to look very closely to see what those underground streams are nourishing.

Lately I’ve seen a few green shoots in my desert. Individually they didn’t look like much to me, just efforts to survive, attempts at having fun. But seen globally they begin to tell another story. I have been living a secret life. In fact, I have many secret lives.

Last week a track I recorded was released. [listen to it here].

I’m not a musician or singer/songwriter. I don’t have any desire to be one either. And I don’t listen to tech/house music. But when I was visiting a friend in Madrid a few months ago she and her business partner asked me if they could record my voice, just me speaking about something (listen to the track and you’ll see what I was talking about), something improvised. Sure, why not! It was fun!

Last year I made a documentary (trailer is here and if you want to watch the whole film, just email me and I’ll send you a link). I’ve never made a film before. It got into two festivals. I did it because I wanted to see one of my screenplays made into a film but that seemed overly ambitious as during this period I was anchored to my couch and couldn’t see a future. There was no reason to think anyone would ever want to make one of my screenplays into a film. So I did the only thing I could think of – I made one myself, about me, this journey, about the desert. And an unexpected outcome is that my life imitated art. I started shooting stuff not sure there would be any message, anything useful to say to myself or anyone else. But as I came to the end of the film I saw that the ending became my new beginning. Just making the film got me going in a new direction, in a direction.

And then there is my secret restaurant, again started on impulse and mostly out of necessity. In these dark months not long after my son died I barely left my house. What once was a house filled with people, laughter, cooking and love became and empty space filled with sad memories. No job. No family. No money. One of my son’s friends told me about these crazy secret restaurants in people’s homes and suggested that I do one too. I’ve always cooked for large groups. Why not? And although it is not a business, it is a hobby that brought (and still brings) me face to face with loads of strangers and brought me out of what would otherwise have been total isolation, back into the world – even though the world now is inside my house.

All of these little, random activities have somehow managed to grow out of what I thought was completely empty, my broken heart, my inner desert. These were not the activities of desertflowerthe old me. Yet they are the beginning of the new me. Microscopic traces of who I used to be have somehow been given just enough water and nourishment to grow by the mere, sometimes fleeting, attention I have given them – like flowers in the desert after a sudden storm.

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Building myself up

Winter can be hard, especially in cold dark climates. I love cloud and rain, but there is something about winter that makes the lows lower and even the highs lower. But during a low it is sometimes hard to remember what it is that makes you feel better. Fortunately, on the heels of a particularly dark spell, plans that I’d made weeks ago came to my rescue.

TristanDrillingI’d promised a 12 year old that he could spend a week of his winter break at my house since his mom would be at work. Sunday night he called me. We’d planned that we would build something together. He’d decided he wanted to build a longboard when we first talked about it. In the weeks leading up to this week I did a bit of research. Hmm… well, it didn’t look like it was going to be as easy as I thought. So when he called I asked him if he’d come up with an alternative. Nope. I hastily gathered together all the links I’d found on google for how to make a hand made longboard and sent them to him. Lesson 1 – make a plan.

Monday morning I went to pick him up. Before getting into the car he handed me a tiny piece of paper with a long list of supplies we would need in miniature handwriting. What is a riser? He didn’t know. What are trucks? He did know what those were.  Next stop Homebase. Test 1 – should I trust his list of materials? Why not? Someone in the wood department was bound to recognize the things on the list. Worst case? More research using my iphone. We filled my car with birch plywood, paint, varnish, brushes, sand paper and more. I already had the power tools.

Lesson 2 – call in expert advice when needed. I made friends with the guy who runs theskateboardbottom longboard shop in Camden. He was great! I called him at least three times. I don’t think he really believed we could do this. But he managed to explain every single step, down to the precise measurements for where to put the trucks and wheels and risers (finally found out what they were). My young friend and I spent the first afternoons of the week making a pattern for the shape, cutting the wood (finding we have enough left to make 3 more boards!) and sanding. Lots of sanding. Lesson 2 – have patience.

skateboardtopAnd then the rest of the parts arrived just as the board was finished with being beautifully painted. Drilling holes was more fun than sawing for my young friend, probably because at least this tool fit in his little hand. We talked a lot about how the principles of building something like a longboard can apply to life in general – learning from failure, being nervous about the outcome, accepting things will turn out different from we planned (in this case, so much better than we hoped), not listening to doubters and negativity. And I was reminded than when I’m really low and need building up, I need to just do something. Almost anything will work, even a longboard! Lesson 3 – build something.

My son looked a lot like my young friend here when he was that age. I don’t think he would believe his eyes if he saw me building a longboard. I’m sure he was smiling down from wherever he is now, happy that I was so happy this week… even if he might have been a little jealous.

Recently I’ve had longer moments of feeling good. I’m building things in other parts of my life now too. Four years into this journey, my new life without my son, I can see signs that I am building myself up again. If I make a plan, have patience and just keep building… well, I will probably find myself becoming more of myself just like the longboard came into itself.




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Running upward

The holidays have nearly passed. And for me, that is a good thing. Holidays remind me of who is missing, and that I will never ever again be the same person I used to be – a mom. I know that I used to be someone before my son was born, but that was so long ago and I was so young then that the memory of that old me has disappeared. So, my new life is all about creating a new me. I’m sure she is in here somewhere.

For those who have lost their children the holidays can be extremely difficult, especially for those of us who have lost our only (or all of our) children. Facebook is filled with photos of happy families. Everyone I meet on the street is talking about their family at this time of year. I don’t have much to say in that department – my family is dead. No one wants to hear about that, not even me.

I love children and hearing about other people’s children. But something is different during the holidays. I feel really left out. I miss my son so much now. Four years is really so little time to recover from the loss of the biggest part of me. I’m not really sure recovery is even possible. Maybe the most I can hope for is a kind of acceptance. And I don’t have little people, grandchildren, the legacy of my beautiful son. What is left for me is my own life and the children other people are willing to share with me. And for that I am grateful. I’ve felt really lucky to have some new and old friends bring their kids around for holiday meals at my house; there have even been some complete strangers with their kids turning up to my secret restaurant.

The future stretches out ahead of me. I’m still so young. There will be as many years ahead of me as there are behind me. So, I need to find a way to keep going, a way to keep swimming upstream against this current of loss and grief. This journey takes strong muscles. I was not born with these muscles. They are like the undeveloped parts of the brain that are sometimes developed by people who have had extreme head injuries. They are like the little antlers that grow out from little soft bumps at a certain point in the adult deer.

Like a salmon I’ve wandered huge distances in my life. But four years ago I started this new life. It was not planned, and I seriously doubt it was programmed into me, as some of my New Age friends would like to have me believe. When salmon go home to spawn they too have to develop all new muscles.

I read this in Wikipedia today:

“As the salmon comes to end of its ocean migration and enters the estuary of its natal river, its energy metabolism is faced with two major challenges: it must supply energy suitable for swimming the river rapids, and it must supply the sperm and eggs required for the reproductive events ahead.”

I’m not going home to breed. And I am not going home to die, as so many salmon do in prespawn mortality. Or not now anyway. But I am running upward, going home like they do, using my new strong muscles to go home to the new me, to give birth to the new me. Using some innate homing device I hope to discover this new person in my natal river.

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On the way to somewhere else

Journeys are strange, unpredictable. They are never what we imagine they are going to be. Sometimes they’re better, sometimes they’re worse. But mostly they are not what we planned.

I’d prepared myself as much as I could before leaving London for Boston. I was so happy my film was an official selection in the Boston Film Festival. And yet, it doesn’t feel right to use the word ‘excited’ to describe my feelings about my film, the story of the journey I’ve taken since my son died.  There is really no appropriate word for this experience. It felt great to finish the film. And it was a huge honor to show it to the public. But like everything these days, it evoked both happy and sad feelings.

On the way to Boston, I went to visit a girlfriend and her husband who live about an hour north of the city. We’ve reconnected in the last year or two after many years of having been out of touch. We met in Boston a long time ago. Then my son was barely an adolescent. She was single. My son grew up. And my friend got married. These were the things we expected in our life journeys. But twenty years later things are not what either of us thought they would be.

My friend has been married for 15 years. Last time I saw she and her husband they were having a wonderful life together. And so was I. But then tragedy struck. He has a rare form of something like MS that has almost completely paralyzed him, and all in just the last two years. This very fast and furious disease will never go into remission. It has left him with only the use of his left hand. For a classical and jazz guitarist, and writer, this fate must seem like some diabolic irony. We talked about it – how it doesn’t seem so random that the things or people we love the most are taken away from us, or from some of us.

I spent two days with my friends. My heart ached for them as I’m sure theirs did for me. Their lives have been pared down to the most basic level. Two once happy people are struggling to find any light carrying their individual burdens. The future they once saw has disappeared and they live very much in survival mode, each dependent on the other. He, on her for mobility and the basic necessities of life. She on him as he is now the primary bread-winner. She can’t leave the house to go out to work. I was blown away by each of their dedication! I don’t know that I could handle either of their lives. And what is truly amazing and inspiring is that he has written two or three books by using speech recognition software. But now he is slowly losing his voice. What then?

People do what they have to do, live with what they have. Some do it so much more elegantly than others. My friend’s husband so inspires me. I know he is miserable in his new body. How could he not be? But most of his time is spent in action, doing the only thing he can do. He writes. And my friend, what choice does she have? She cares for him. And they do have their happy moments. It reminds me of Shel Silverstein’s children’s story when he asks the zebra – “Are you black with white stripes? Or white with black stripes?” Are we sad with happy moments? Or happy with sad moments? I am not sure we have much choice in our realities, the traumas and tragedies we suffer in our journey through life. But perhaps we have a choice in feelings and actions we focus on.

On the way to somewhere else, a traumatic and life changing event happened to me. The same, but different thing happened to both my friend and her husband. Our lives now are so different from the lives we were living and expected to continue living. Yet more proof that we are built for survival. A heartbreaking reminder that our paths most often have detours that require us to use our innate navigational skills and to rely on the wisdom of fellow travelers we meet on this journey called life. On the way to Boston I met some of those travelers, and their experiences have helped me to focus more of my happy moments.

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My mother’s hands

I remember listening to a Christian singer, must use inverted commas for that (in American, quote marks), singing My father’s hands… Amy Grant. I would sing along driving with my son, down long California roads, on camping trips. I wasn’t a Christian and both of us wondered why we listened to her. But we loved her voice and her lyrics and somehow adjusted to or accepted or something… lyrics that seemed, to us, all too religious. We heard “father” and mused about our own fathers. His, my son’s, imperfect and distant. My own, pretty much the same for different reasons. And yet, we heard her song and it resonated with us, maybe because we longed for our idealized father.

But I look at my hands, my fingers tonight, and see how they resemble my mother’s. Hard to believe I even remember her hands. I had a mom for about 22 years, and then she died. No more stories, no more reference points. That was the end of the line for her family. She didn’t know it then. She had cherished the seeds of her lineage in me, my son and the future she didn’t know. My son died. She doesn’t know that (or she does, in that mystical after world). And my sister, my only full blood sibling, will never have children. So it is at an end, my mother’s legacy. The grandson she so cherished, that kept her alive 3 long years after she was told her cancer was terminal, died and took away the genes that made her hands come back to me when I see my own.

I remember when my little brother, my half brother born of my father and my step mother, saw his dad, my dad, for the first time since he was 7 years old. He was a young adult. He saw our dad walk in and just grinned all over. “I look like you” he said to his dad. He did. And he had lost that reference point of being like someone else when he was 7 yrs old. And then found it again.

And then there is that song that rocks me from the insides out every time I hear it, maybe because it foreshadowed a life I would have without grandparents, without parents, without a son. Without a legacy…

Grandma’s hands, Bill Withers

Grandma’s hands… I had two grandmas at one time. It doesn’t seem all that long ago. But it was before my son was born and when I still had a future. Their stories are so different, and yet I am woven from the two. One was the daughter of a madam… she survived so much, something I can’t imagine because I can’t imagine having shame or religion (my grandmother was sent to a convent so her mom could keep working as an entrepreneur, a madam, in the days when women didn’t have that many choices in making a living). My grandma wasn’t the best mother because her mom wasn’t the best mother, even though she provided well for her daughter, and in the best way she could.

The other grandma… Well, she was a party girl. And a musician. She’s known in history for being at the heart of the Seattle jazz movement in the 30s. She had 14 abortions and only one child, my dad. Crazy to think of what that must have been like at the time. She finally gave in to having a child because her husband, one of 13 children, insisted on having a family. He got his child, only one, like me – my dad. Once, as the story goes, my grandma dropped my dad, who was a baby at the time, and instead of picking him up, she called her own mother who lived 12 blocks away, to come pick him up. That is really hard to comprehend… her detachment, or whatever that was. Maybe selfishness?

My grandmas both did the best they could under their own circumstances, but they were not the best moms. My mom was the best mom. She had to be. She saw what it meant to the children of not such great moms, how hard it was for them. She made up for all of it. She loved me so much, everything about me. Just like I loved my son. I learned that from her I think. I see her when I see my hands. She knew she was dying of cancer when I told her I was pregnant with my little boy. She had been told she only had a few months. But somehow she hung on for 3 long years after, enough to meet and love her little grandson, my little son… enough to be there for me as a mom, while I became one.

When I see my hands and see my mother in them, I see what she would have loved in me, her daughter. I know what I loved in my son. I don’t know if he would have looked at his hands or feet or eyes and seen me. I don’t know what he would have remembered after I was gone, because he preceded me into that great beyond. If there is anywhere there, he is with my mom, dad, grandparents….everyone else but me. I am left with what I have, hands that look like my mom’s. And a sense that I was connected to others, to my past, through my genes, even if I am not connected to a future.

If I get to heaven I’ll look for my grandma’s, my mom’s and my son’s hands…

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Different kind of gansta!

I went into central London a couple of nights ago carrying my knives. It sounds so funny to say that. But I was kind of nervous. I rocked up to a pitching contest hosted by Rain Dance (the  London film festival organizers). I’d been trying to think of what to do this night, my son’s birthday, for about a week. It was an anniversary and I wanted to honor it in some way. Normally I would have prepared a feast and invited new and old friends to share a meal and some stories about my son. It was his birthday. I couldn’t ignore it. He has been dead for more than 3 1/2 years. But the day of his birth is the day my life changed irrevocably. From then on, from 19 years old, I was a mom. Nothing else really mattered.

I’ve been really busy lately. I think I have increased the busy-ness in direct proportion to the fear I’ve had of this birthday. In a few more months it will be the 4 year anniversary. This time of year makes me sad, in spite of the sunshine.

So, on the eve of his birthday I decided to do something really different. The moment I saw the email invitation to attend or participate in this pitching contest, I knew I’d found it. I’ve never pitched a fiction film idea before. I didn’t prepare. I had no idea what it would even be like. I’ve been writing screenplays off and on for the last 20 years, but just for fun. More recently I use this time to give me something to look forward to each week. I started another writing group a couple of years ago. It helped me go from week to week during my darkest times.

I walked into the cinema where the pitch contest was being held. Gulp. It was not what I expected. The cinema was filled, all the seats were taken and there was a big line up the stairs that edged the seats. Those in line were waiting to pitch. I’d be the last. What had I gotten myself into? I sneaked past the panel of judges, people with loads of tv and film experience, in the darkened theater and found myself waiting with my knives. I listened to the pitches and compared myself to those pitching. I could do as well as some for sure. But it was clear that there was so little space that if I were to open my knives during the pitch someone would no doubt call security. So I held onto them when it was my turn. My film is about a 30 year old woman who wants to open her own restaurant, but she is such a rebel that she keeps getting fired for changing the menu in restaurants where she works.

I’m obsessed with food. So was my son. He used to live in NY where this film will be shot. He used to work in the same kind of restaurants as the character in my film, but as a waiter while he was looking for acting work. And like the main character, he finally did fulfill one of his dreams and opened a restaurant, his very own, on an island in Spain. It was his own creation, a fusion menu, where he could riff around any themes he wanted to.

I did an ok job at the pitch. But it was more important that I even went out into the city and did something way outside my comfort zone, in his honor. Since his death my whole life has been outside my comfort zone. After the pitching there was a little cocktail party. A beautiful woman dressed in a gorgeous sari came up to me saying, “I knew I had to talk to you but I don’t know why.” Little by little my story of my son came out. She cried and later took me to dinner. “You didn’t bring those knives on the tube with you did you?” she asked. No, I hadn’t even thought of the possibility that my son’s knives might have been deemed dangerous and that I might have been seen as a different kind of gansta!

Sometimes life is just so challenging that it is necessary to fly way higher than is our habit, to soar where the air is thinner and things don’t look the way they usually do. Going home in the taxi with my knives gave me a funny kind of comfort. I live in the city where my son once lived. His knives are now my own. He is with me wherever I go by virtue of the artifacts he left behind and the incredible bond we still have.

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A ghost in Cannes

Today I’m having one of the most coveted experience a person could ask for. I’m in Cannes for the film festival. The sky is blue. The temperature is perfect. And if I want to I can dress up and go to the premiere of one or another new films, walking up that intimidating red carpet with photographers and very beautiful people everywhere. I suppose all that could make this a dream experience for a novice filmmaker would be if my own film were premiering here. But I just walked from where I was sitting and checking emails about 20 yards to the beach. I put my feet in. A little cool yet for swimming, but such a burst of energy… and some sand in my sandals.

I’ve been coming here for years, starting when I used to live about 6 miles from this very spot. When I lived here I would just ride my scooter from Antibes to Cannes and rock up to whatever film looked interesting (not the red carpet ones as they would not have accepted my scooter apparel). And then after I moved to London to start my digital entertainment company I started coming here looking for films to put online. In fact, there were about 4 conferences a year here in Cannes that were related to my new company. Those were such exciting times. The future was filled with limitless possibilities.

My son came with me to many of the conferences here in Cannes with me. I don’t know why I was so surprised that my actor son was suddenly such a great ambassador for our company, how he was so great at selling. This tall, beautiful, sunny man made everyone want to listen. He was so excited about everything we were doing then that anyone in his energy circle would immediately be ready to sign any deal he proposed. He absolutely loved coming here with me. He’d set up all of my appointments and remind me of everything he thought I should be doing, giving his mom her CEO duties. In his enthusiasm he often forgot that I’d been in business longer than he’d been alive.

I came back to a conference here, a music conference, just 3 months after he died. I hid from people I knew and found myself avoiding contact with people I didn’t know. At this time I still had my company to run, and a lot of reason to keep it going in his memory. But I was still numb then. I could still remember who I was; I was running on autopilot.

This time, three years later, it is different. I lost the company the company that my son helped me build but I have begun to forge a new career. He would be proud of me for taking the baton from him. He is the one who is supposed to be a filmmaker. He was the reason that I poured all of my energy into working from the time he was a tiny baby so he could afford to focus on his creativity. Now I’m the crazy one, the one who is here in Cannes trying to sell a film or two. I miss him, my little cheerleader. He was the reason I did everything in my adult life. I know I was his cheerleader for many years. But I’m beginning to realize that it was really him cheering me on. Even before he could speak he would smile at me and I knew exactly what I was doing and what I had to do. I had a purpose.

Somehow I know that I must have been me before I was my son’s mother. I know that I used to have passion, creativity, energy and direction long before my son was ever born. Wandering the aisles of this conference center next to the sea I can’t help but see myself in the film posters featuring ghosts, vampires or those who have disappeared. Even with all of this sunshine I somehow feel I have become a ghost of my former self. I am missing my cheerleader. I’m hoping that even if time doesn’t heal everything it will at least help me find or rebuild my inner cheerleader. She must be in there just waiting to come out.

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