Motherhood, BDSM, TTWD


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John and I met G and her boyfriend in the city for dinner earlier this week, we had a lovely time.

My daughter is nineteen; musically gifted and talented beyond belief.  She is also gorgeous, funny, confident, poised, mature well beyond her years, sensitive, compassionate, creative and brilliant.  That I love her openly and without condition goes without saying – but I also like and admire her, tremendously.

On the way home, John and I were talking, and he said, “She is so like you,” I knew what he meant, and it had nothing to do with G’s attributes, some of which I noted above …

 Case-in-point, G’s tastes are similar to my own; her boyfriend is older and already successful in his career – she has confided in me that she does not want to spend her time making a boy into a man.

The kind of man G is attracted to also strikes a familiar chord; dominant, powerful, and over-flowing with raw sexual energy.

And then, of course, there is BDSM.  As with me, you will find no hints – no tattoos or piercings so stereotypical of The Scene to tip you off; a collar chosen for G would be made of pearl or fine gem stones.

For all the similarities, there is one glaring difference; G has never felt the need to pretend, or hide.  She has never denied this part of who she is – never been afraid to pursue her desires or indulge her needs.  She is reserved, but only to a point – she does not allow this characteristic to define her.  She is light years beyond where I was at nineteen, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

I was given an incredible gift; my father lived his life proudly, as he believed he should, and he allowed me to watch.  He modeled strength, integrity, honor, purpose and dedication to family legacy, as well as to himself.   He taught by example, not by suggestion, directive or edict.

As a mother, I have tried to be the kind of parent to my children that my father was to me; I failed, once upon a time …

I modeled a life I would not wish for my children – a life devoid of intimate fulfillment.  A life that denied my true self and who I am … as they watched, and learned.

My children saw my dedication to them, to their father, to my career and my patients, to a life well lived – a life played by the rules society is comfortable with, never mind true happiness.

What they didn’t see was a mother dedicated to her own knowledge of who she is, which is perhaps the most important gift a parent can give a child …

not permission to be all of who they are – but an absolute, an imperative; you must be who and what you are.  

As always, a living example is the best guide.

I got there, eventually, and perhaps that is what matters – even as parents we are on our own journey.

But if I could go back and do it all again …

I’d  take the handsome young, but still considerably older than I, doctor’s hand and have that cup of coffee.

Not because hindsight is 20/20

but because it would be the right thing to do.

The Ghost of Christmas Past


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John suggested we decorate the tree ourselves this year – I looked at him as though he were speaking some alien tongue hitherto unheard by me.

The thought alone was perplexing – the task itself felt monumental and daunting; John laughed with delight at my puzzlement …

As a child, our Christmas tree appeared as if by magic the first week of December; I came home from school to find it in the music room, elegantly standing in the corner by the french doors and adjacent to the fireplace.  It’s majesty, and artistry, transformed the already grand room into a holiday wonderland.

We didn’t own Christmas decorations, the artist my mother commissioned to create our Christmas theme took care of everything from the tree and garland to the stockings and mistletoe.  It was always spectacular, but it was never the same …

except for the family pictures.  Each year after the decorations were in place, a photographer came and took pictures of my father, mother and I somewhere within the holiday setting of our music room; these pictures became our family’s Christmas card – and, throughout the season, they were all on display as part of the decor in the entry hall.

Back to the tree …

I am many things, including creative; I can write, play the piano and violin – I can even compose, but the How To of Christmas Tree Decorating is not within my make-up.

“John, I hire people to decorate, you know this – I can’t decorate a Christmas tree; we don’t even own lights or all the things people hang on a tree …”

“Libby, close your eyes and take my hand” was his only reply

He led me upstairs into a guest bedroom – and when he said I could open my eyes, I found them laying on the bed …

all of the Christmas pictures – from my parents first Christmas as newlyweds, to last year’s with John and our children – and they had all been crafted into magnificent ornaments, each one a unique and splendid work of art.

Tears streaming, I looked at each one and remembered.

Two days later, the Friday after Thanksgiving, we – John and I and all of our children, were cutting down our family tree …

It’s still in the music room, but it is by far more beautiful than any other tree to have adorned this timeless place.

The warmth of candle glow

The kiss of mistletoe

The magic lives and we believe

It’s in our hearts to stay

Wishing you a joyous holiday season filled with fond memories of Christmas past, all the wonder of Christmas present, and the eternal hope of Christmas yet to be.  

Is Relevant Today


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Reply and Invitation


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I am very fortunate, here you have made an excellent point.

I was born privileged.  I had a father who adored me, and a mother who was there for me when my life was falling apart and I believed I might never be whole.  My parents saw to my education,  gave me direction, purpose and a passion for life. They gifted me with their love as well as their incredibly high expectations for personal discipline and achievement.  Most importantly, my parents made sure I could think for myself – even to the extent of disregard for convention. I was privileged, yes – but the only thing I had is what every child should have, and deserves.

And yes, I was born rich.  But nothing was ever just handed to me, my father made sure of that.  “To those much has been given, much is expected,” were words to live by in our house.  I spent part of my school holidays volunteering – the American Red Cross, Special Olympics, an orphanage in India, a school in rural Nicaragua – just to name a few.  Believe me when I say I well understood just how lucky I was; I saw firsthand the horrors of poverty and hopelessness, and I felt the responsibility to improve lives where I could.

As to my lack of dedication and discipline in childhood; no, I did not play softball and I was not a Girl Scout – perhaps you’ll find this to be analogous:

I began playing the piano at three, the violin at five; soon thereafter I spent more than an hour each day in practice.  By age six I spoke fluent French and was no longer permitted to speak English at dinner.  Reading literary classics was required, as were book reports – oral and written, and this was apart from school curricula.  I also studied ballet, read the New York Times and was expected to be conversant and knowledgeable about current events as well as The Arts. Again, I feel every child should have the attention, guidance and direction of her parents and make no apologies for my solid upbringing – and to suggest that Rich Children have no discipline, or parental involvement and affection is patently absurd.

I do not personally know Paris Hilton, so I can’t say for sure, but your comparison of her to me seems a bit misguided – at least respective to what I know of her adult life.  If Paris Hilton is the rubric by which you measure all Rich People, I feel you must see us dilettantes, which you should know by now I am not.

You suggest that I should feel some kind of guilt for my life. I have no guilt, no shame for having had the advantages I have had – why should I?

I availed myself of no free rides.  I harmed no one. I have taken advantage of no one.  I have given of myself – my time, not just charitable donations. I work and I always have.

My life, in some ways, may appear to be easier because of what I have, but I have never believed that wealth and privilege make me better or more important than anyone else, and I have never conducted myself as though I believe that I am, somehow, superior – as you suggest.

Please understand I am offering no justification here, nor do I feel I must present counterpoint to your inaccurate points of assumption, but my life is nothing you imagine it to be, and it never has been …

Your belief that I have “never had a REAL problem in my life,” seems to come from your belief that money is the be-all-and-end-all for happiness and fulfillment – it is not. Having financial freedom might make life easier in certain respects, I’ll give you that, but money is not a panacea – the trials of life happen to us all, rich and poor alike.

Your son had many demons – some you know, and some you were spared meeting.  He was many things – beautiful/brooding, thoughtful/obsessive, kind/filled-with-rage, capable/broken, romantic/isolated, stable/unbalanced, successful/driven by fear, troubled/accomplished.  I don’t think Paul was ever comfortable within himself – ever at peace, and that is heart breaking.

I am not responsible for Paul – not for who he was, or for what happened to him.  There is no one to blame; you were the best mother you knew how to be, and I tried to be a good wife.  Sometimes, all we do isn’t enough.

Like you, I have wished that Paul and I never met.  In my sadness this wish seemed noble somehow, but then I remembered all that wish would erase; the very real happiness he knew for many years, the love he learned to accept and give, an understanding that the world, and life, can be beautiful, the satisfaction that came from knowing he was a good father — he knew these things because of what we shared, and they enhanced his life immeasurably.  I no longer naively envision a world in which Paul and I did not meet, or marry.  No more will I torture myself with thoughts he’d have been better off without me; it did not end well, but that does not mean our love was invalid or wrong.

Much of the content in your note was known to me – your thoughts and feelings about my childhood of privilege, my parents, your belief in who I am, but some of what you said was unfamiliar, too – and then it occurred to me that you, like me, are a victim of Paul’s misrepresentations.  I feel no need to clarify at this juncture, or even understand; that well is deep, dark and full of terrors.  As for your misconceptions about me, this is the last time I will try to explain.

I will end by saying my door is open, just as it has always been; you have five grandchildren, each of whom possesses all the good that was Paul, who will welcome you back.

Thanksgiving dinner is at 7:00 o’clock, but the festivities will begin early in the day; I would very much like it if you would join us.

With affection,





















Scylla and Charybdis


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It has been suggested that I have regrets …

Having been raised by a man who did not believe in regret, whose mantra was: “we make the best decisions we can at the time, looking back with sorrow and remorse is pointless.  Regret cannot change what has been, it can only steal the joy from what is here and now” – I struggle with the idea of regret.

If you’ve read this blog, you know I overthink – I analyze everything I feel, everything I am.  I am nothing if not considered, and I know myself well – perhaps too well. 

The stark, cold fact is this: I regret the pain endured by the people I love;  I do not, however, regret anything I’ve done.  If I had it all to do over, I’d do no differently.

Healing is not linear, for anyone, and the remnants of all-but-forgotten pain find their way back into our lives on occasion – today was born in the shadow of what has been.  

As my daughter matures, she questions and discovers –  in her eyes I see a girl I no longer know day-by-day, but recall with clarity, wisdom and the of hindsight of now gentle reflection; I no longer abhor her choices, I understand them.

I knew even before the choice was made the choice I would find the courage to settle on – the choice I had to make.  And I knew then it would come with moments – forever moments – of wrenching, soul depleting agony … 

But to have denied myself, to have remained in the abyss of what had become my life – even for the sake of my then husband, and children, would have been the end of me. 

The choice between Scylla and Charybdis …

that in the end wasn’t a choice at all

it was what had to be.

Dear One,


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I sit here this morning, looking out my window down onto the front walk of our house.  It is gray now, but should be sunny for  a time this afternoon.

I spent earlier hours reading and replying to an old friend, which is time I treasure, and now contemplate what to say to you, my daughter …

I am not at my Journey’s End, no matter how contrary to that idea my words and life may feel, and seem;  I have merely found a warm and safe place to land at the end of hard day’s sojourn.

For every dream come true, every wrong made right, every longing made reality – there is a deeper meaning and truth to discover and explore; the circle never really ends.

You say love plays no role in your feelings for Him, yet he is your moon and your stars – your world and your being.  Is this not a kind of love?  Is it not an emotional entanglement you cherish?

I sensed, in what now feels like another lifetime, that a connection to your partner is necessary for complete fulfillment; do not fear love, ever – in whatever form it takes.

Knowing, and being known, is sweet torment, and unavoidable in these relationships.  We are intuitive by nature, and we live and feel instinctively; you cannot hide from Him, it is pointless to try.

And you ask if I have hidden anything of myself in a gilded box, safe from the eyes of the world …

The answer is a resounding, yes; I did this Once Upon A Time

But hiding from him was impossible from our very first, hello — now more than thirty years ago.

He terrified me, made me feel things no other man on earth had ever made me feel — desire I longed to know, but dared not entertain or pursue.

I ran, retreated into myself – there I locked the beautiful box and purposely misplaced the key.

Do not hide from anyone, most especially from yourself – the result is always painful, and the path is paved with regret.

And seeing through needn’t cloud feelings of adoration, we are all flawed and imperfect.  Love is, in part, seeing someone’s darkness and forgiving – whether that love is for your father, or for Him.

You say you do not know why you respond to Him as you do, but we can become burdened with whys … I questioned endlessly – it drove me to lengths I do not wish for you, and still I cannot explain my why in an exact way.  In the end you will come to accept what is, and sometimes this is all we can hope for.

Learn to enjoy the moment, the here and now

And, above all …

be true to who you are.











The Hamptons


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We were in The Hamptons for the holiday weekend.  I actually spent Memorial Day weekend in The Hamptons throughout most of my childhood; my mother’s parents had a summer home there – a home she inherited, that my cousins now use more than any of the rest of my family.  Until Memorial Day weekend, I hadn’t been there since 2009, despite the fact that I, technically, now own it.

I have no idea how many people have keys to that house; I have two uncles, who each have a wife and two sons – each of whom has a wife and two sons of his own; living in New York, all come and go with some frequency.  My two oldest sons also have access to the estate, as do John’s children.  There is a caretaker in permanent residence, and a cleaning staff keeps a regular schedule, so the house has been well occupied throughout the years, even with my absence.

The weekend was celebratory for us; my oldest son announced his engagement. The party was elegant and the food a work of art – the future bride and groom couldn’t take their eyes off each other.  All was as it should be.

Having all of my children in one place at one time has become reason enough for celebration – none of them live too far away, and individually we see them quite often, but to have had all five in one place at one time was priceless.

My daughter came with her boyfriend of several months; my middle son brought no date at all, which we all found a little puzzling …

Toasts were made, family ties rekindled through the sharing of tradition, and John and I watched – his arms folded tightly around me, as the first of my children announced his upcoming marriage.

Marriage – I am torn; when love is right, and the union works as it should, it brings immeasurable joy and fulfillment, but when it is wrong, and difficult to maintain, nothing on earth can yield more heartbreak, sorrow or emotional pain.

G asked me if I could go back in time, would I still marry her father – knowing it was wrong, and knowing also all of what would eventually come to pass.  Her eyes did not betray the answer she hoped to hear, and there was only one …

“Yes, I suppose I would, because I wouldn’t want to live without you and your brothers.”

I tried to make her understand that I wasn’t unhappy until the last few years, and that being married to your best friend is not analogous to a life in prison.

“But it was never what you have with John, mom.”

“No, G, it never was – but it never could have been.”

And that is how the conversation began …








Of What Will Be


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I loved him, I love him still.  I was never in love with him, and I’m beginning to understand he wasn’t in love with me, either – at least not at the end of our marriage; obsessed isn’t synonymous with being in love.

I don’t know when it happened – when he stopped feeling intense, romantic love for me, and I suppose that no longer matters – if it ever did.  Perhaps I had been mistaking obsession for love for a very long time.

When I was in the eleventh grade, just before I began dating Paul, I was going out with a boy, Evan, my parents – actually my mother, wanted me to date; according to her, he had good breeding and his family was well connected and traveled in the right circles.  I laughed at this then, just as I do now, but I agreed, reluctantly, to attend campus events with this boy whilst away at school.

One late afternoon, at the end of a recital, we took the long way back to my dorm, stopping to chat in one of the school’s gardens.  Before I realized what was happening, he was holding me too tight, kissing me too hard, and touching me in places I didn’t want to be touched.  When I finally broke free of him, I sent him away, but I remained in the garden alone.

I wasn’t there long when Paul, fresh from baseball practice, walked through the garden on his way to the dining hall.  I wanted to hide – I didn’t want him to see me like I was; I had been crying, and my blouse had been torn in the kerfuffle with Evan – but the garden had no hiding places, and its single path in and out left me no recourse other than to address Paul.

He smiled when he saw me, but immediately thereafter realized something was wrong.  I didn’t want to tell anyone, especially Paul, what had happened with Evan, so I ended up telling him that Evan and I had been making out and things simply went too far.

I knew he didn’t believe me – making out with a boy in the gardens was definitely out of character for me, but he didn’t press me for the truth.  He asked if he could walk me back to my dorm, and I said that he could, and somewhere between the garden and my room we decided to skip the dining hall and go into the village for dinner.

An hour later, Paul arrived at my door and we went to dinner.  I didn’t find out until we got back to campus that Paul had, between dropping me off at my room to get ready for dinner, and returning to collect me so we could go to dinner, beaten the hell out of Evan.

I was, even then, horrified.  I don’t like, and never have, the age-old notion that a man defends a woman’s honor through physical altercation with another man he believes has wronged her.  I passed it off as adolescent posturing, for the most part; Evan, in the final analysis, was just being a sixteen year old boy – yes, what he did was wrong, and yes I asked him to stop several times before he actually did, but I wasn’t harmed in any real way by what happened;

and Paul, he was just …




I no longer know how to complete the sentence; I haven’t for a long, long time.








Photographs and Memories


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John and I were alone in the city for several nights last month; our pied-a-terre, that once belonged to my parents, a delightful respite from work and day to day life.

I’ve changed very little in the apartment since my mother gave me the keys during the height of my affair with John – for some reason I just never got around to making it my own; even the pictures there are of people and places long, long ago …

I first noticed this during a particularly vulnerable time in my life; Paul’s behavior was erratic, my mother’s illness had returned and was terminal, I was in love – for the first time in my life, with a man who was not my husband, and I was searching for answers.

I was visiting my mother, and I couldn’t sleep; no matter what I did I could not quiet my mind – I wanted out of my marriage, and I was just beginning to realize that.  About two in the morning, I got dressed, left a note for my mother, took the keys to her car, and the key to the Manhattan apartment she had just given me, and drove into the city.

It had been several years since I had been inside the apartment, and it felt strange to be there alone.  I made tea and sat down at the piano, but I didn’t play, I just sat there admiring the glow from the city lights across the park.  Exhausted, I made my way to what had been my bedroom as a child, but  suddenly realized I was now the master of the house, so turned the opposite direction and walked down the hall.

And there they were, the pictures of my wedding day.  Hanging one below the other just outside the door to what had been my parents bedroom suite – lasting memories of a day I now wished had never been.

I looked at each picture in turn; my father and I alone; my mother, father and I, me with each set of my grandparents, me with my mother …

I had seen the photos many times, but for the first time ever I realized Paul wasn’t in this set of displayed pictures.  Our wedding portrait was prominently displayed in my parent’s home, but here – in Manhattan, it was as if Paul did not exist – even in photos taken on the day of his marriage.

In that moment, my guilt was overwhelming.  I knew the photos were not meant to exclude Paul from our lives; his absence there indicative of nothing – but they were, on that chilly morning, a reminder of all I had done to him, and continued to do, even though I knew my love for John was destroying him.

I got into bed and cried until I just couldn’t cry anymore, and then I slept.  When John called later in the morning, he knew by the tone of my voice something was wrong.  I told him about the pictures, how I’d never noticed Paul’s absence among them before, and I shared the depth of my guilt. He listened, and he understood.

Last month, John and I took those pictures down from the wall they had adorned for almost three decades …

but their outline remains in the faded paint, the scars of what has been.








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In between my hating Paul for what he did, and finding a way to get beyond it to a place of renewed friendship and affection, I ignored it.  I put it out of my mind and I went on with my life.

It is that time in which I was purposely oblivious to my own feeling and pain that my daughter’s answers lie, and that is a dark place I don’t want to know – not for myself, or for her.

To say I had fully reconciled all that transpired between us prior to Paul’s death would be a lie, and I’m still not there today.  He left behind a tangled, complicated mess.  Emotions, the intimate details of my life, my feelings for Paul – these are not easy subject matter for me to delve into.

Yet, in preparation for my upcoming discussions with G, I have begun to revisit the past; I’ve reread much of this blog, letters between John and I, my private journals, and email between myself and a handful of trusted confidantes – and I have concluded that my life was disordered and happening outside my control; while living it it did not seem so.  It was pain filled, and the storm was constant, but this view that it was somehow incoherent and random is new.

Love and Other Mysteries, which is told in retrospect, is revealing of my discontinuous process; the story is yet unfinished, or even up to date, because I haven’t worked through my own thoughts and feelings past the point of my last post.

Today, my role is mother, and only mother. Would I want my daughter to do what I did – which is to find ways to mitigate having been violated?  Would I want her to look at the whole picture – inclusive of her own choices, whatever they may have been, to somehow find rape and assault less reprehensible?   Would I want her to look past the actions themselves because the man – any man, was mentally ill at the time?   No, on all counts, no.

But the man we are speaking of in this context is her father, so I walk a fine, fine line.  Paul was not a monster, but he was capable of terrible things.

I did so much to protect my children, and at the time I thought it was right.

Now, I’m not so sure.