My Story: Who Am I?”

 

At least once in every person’s life, each of us will ask our self, “Who am I?”  More likely, each of us will ask this question again and again.  And most of us have also wondered, “What am I doing here,” as well as “What is it all about anyway?  I haven’t a clue!”  Today the answers to these questions are more important than ever.  The rapidly occurring economic and climate changes in our world create enormous challenges that ask us to reconsider our priorities, values, choices, and our very understanding of “Who am I?” and “Who we are as human beings?”

My life began in New York City on May 10, 1937.  I was born an identical twin.  Life was comfortable and safe.  My twin, Alice, and I thrived, and soon were known to all in our neighborhood as the “Twins” or “twinnee.”  Such endearing names meant that people couldn’t tell us apart, and we became simply, “the Twins.”  We fortunately lived far from the battlefields of World War II and all the other wars that too quickly followed.  Life was good and serene.  I never imagined it otherwise.  Childhood unfolded without incident and before long, Alice and I had graduated from Bronx High School of Science and were about to enter College.  Alice chose to go to one college, and I attended another for      a year.  It was the first time Alice and I were really separated, and I very much enjoyed my independence.  No longer a pair or a “We,” I had suddenly and joyously become a “Me.”

I was also engaged to Gilbert, whom I married on December 25, 1955.  How young, naïve, hopeful and eager we both were!  We had our dreams, our goals, and believed that nothing could prevent us from attaining them.  Oh the joy, passion and exhilaration of youth.In 1956, we moved to Washington, D. C. area.  Gilbert attended George Washington Law School at night and worked by day at the U. S. Patent office, and later in the U. S. Naval Weapons Department.  Like so many women before me, I willingly gave up my own education and chose instead to go to work until Gilbert finished Law School.  I worked until our first child, Paul, was born on May 13, 1960.  Gilbert graduated from Law School in June of that year, and our family of three settled into tranquil domesticity.  As stay-at-home wife and mother, I was following a timeless path, and never once did I question it.  I was content and this was my path, and I fully and completely embraced it.In 1961, we moved to Los Angeles and settled in the San Fernando Valley.  Gil joined an Intellectual Properties Law Firm in Los Angeles, which handled patents, trademarks, copyrights and unfair business practices.  Several years later, the firm made Gilbert a partner and we have remained in California ever since.  Our second son, Robert arrived on March 13, 1963; life was rich and full.

My personal journey into wholeness began during the early 60’s, when women began to raise their voices and their consciousness, openly questioning our present way of life, the “Glass Ceiling” and the inequities of being a woman.    What women really wanted was equal pay for equal work (they still do),along with respect, dignity and the right to choose.  Instead, massive change suddenly carried men, women and children, indeed all of us, into a vastly different world. Nothing seemed to remain the same, and only half of our marriages were able to adjust to this new world, where so many women became single mothers and divorcees.  Life was changing and growing more complex and the pace of our days and nights were quickening as well.  Everyone was busy… busy… indeed, we were too busy to notice.

In 1964, Gil and I lost our baby girl only days after her birth.  We were devastated! It was not only a shattering moment, but also one that was to impact our life and our marriage more deeply that we had imagined possible.  The turmoil and issues raised by our baby’s death initiated my spiritual awakening and encouraged me to take the first steps upon a sacred journey that continues to this day.  Like all journeys, mine began by asking the existential questions that arise whenever the unimaginable and unspeakable happens.  Questions like, “Why, Why Me, and “Who Am I? were challenging me to grow and leading me to new possibilities and new vistas.

Growth and Transformation caused additional stresses. The loss of our baby, as well as the changes in our relationship and world, were relentlessly driving us towards divorce.  By late 1965, like so many others who were divorced, I had become a single Mom.  Life presented me with one learning experience after another and to cope, I started psychotherapy.  Didn’t we all?  With the help of a wonderful psychologist, I changed, and I slowly healed.  I was also discovering the rich inner life and realms of the psyche and yearned to know more.

And suddenly, another unexpected shift in the wind.  By the end of 1966, Gil and I were once again man and wife.  And once more, I chose to be an “at home wife and mother” and on May 28, 1968 we welcomed Bruce and Gabrielle, a set of preemie twins into our home and deep into our hearts.  My twins had lots of challenges and difficulties.  They shared a “twin speak” – their own language, and were in 6 physiotherapy sessions/week for their second and third years, and then suddenly began to catch up.  My husband helped a scientist fine tune his invention and to get it patented – not knowing that it would help one of our twins to survive and avoid a lot of brain damage.  It was the first ever intensive care unit for a neonate in distress.

Having two babies with special needs and challenges encouraged me to return to school.  I began my studies at California State University – Northridge.  Little did I know that I would remain a student for the next seventeen years, earn two Ph.D.s, become a Post Doctoral Scholar, and teach in the prestigious UCLA Medical School.  Nor did I realize that I would be the first woman with a family to be accepted into the Department of Neurosciences at UCLA, or that I would become a Psychologist in private practice.  The miraculous unfolding of this path is still a surprise to me and to almost everyone I meet.

Special guidance programs to assist an older student with the challenges of graduate school, and of balancing school with family life simply did not exist when I returned to college in the ‘70’s.  I was onmy own!  Upon acceptance into UCLA’s Dept. of Neuroscience, I was informed that I would not receive any special accommodation.  I would have to take the same number of units/quarter that every other student twenty years younger would be taking.  The pace was overwhelming and exhausting.  Somehow, the family and I made it through the first two years.  Nevertheless, the prodding and ignoring of special circumstances continued, and so I decided to transfer into the Dept. of Anatomy in the School of Medicine and earned my doctorate there.  They were kinder and gratefully, I no longer had to hide my motherhood.  The transfer also afforded me the opportunity to teach in the School of Medicine at UCLA; it was a very privileged and satisfying experience.  After graduation in 1983, I was awarded an N.I.M.H. Post-Doctoral Scholarship, also at UCLA.  I felt deeply honored.  Yet, research funding was becoming scarce and age discrimination assured that I would not be granted tenure.  With the encouragement of family and faculty, I looked for ways to use my training and my skills in more satisfying ways.

I decided to apply to graduate school for a second doctorate. Yes a second one; this time in Psychology. I missed working with people, and always wondered what made people grow into their particular selvesand personalities.  I graduated as a Psychologist from William Lyon University in San Diego in 1987, completed my internship, passed my licensing exams and also earned my license as a Registered Psychologist in British Columbia, Canada.  Since 1991,   I’ve had a private practice as a Psychologist, started my practice as a Life Coach in 2002, and earned my certification as a Cancer Patient Advocate in 2005.  It is a special privilege to help people claim their own power, accept responsibility for their choices, improve the quality of their lives, and to realize their most cherish dreams.  I truly value their willingness to risk in order to grow.

My children are now grown and I have four wonderful grand-children., Breeana and Catie, Carmela and Carlos.  Since my family lives near by, I get to see all of them often.  I have enjoyed many roles as daughter, twin sister, wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, woman, student, teacher, scientist, psychologist, author, coach, neighbor and friend.  All are important parts of me, and all have given much back to me, in return.  For many years, I have also served as an ECOSOC Representative to the United Nations on behalf of The Institute of Global Education, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization.

Presently, I am co-creating a Grandmothers’ World Council with a Maori Wise Woman I know in New Zealand.  We hope the Council will grow in its own time.  I love to travel, and my “stage” is truly aglobal one.  I pray that my health will allow me to continue my travels for many years yet to come.  Confronted with Gilbert’s long and serious illness over the past five years, and the numerous life and death crises we have endured, life presently seems tenuous and unpredictable.  We are learning to deal with uncertainty, fear of loss and dying, and the many difficult issues, questions and challenges that Gilbert’s illness has brought to each of us.  In many ways, despite the fear, growing and yes, some suffering, we have grown wiser, more accepting, and ever grateful for the blessing we still have.   I am sad to tell you, that Gilbert died on May 20, 2011 and is finally at peace.

I so often feel humbled, as well as surprised by the person I have become.  Never did I imagine nor consciously plan the many challenges, losses and successes which have helped me become the “Me” Iam today.  I am often surprised    and amazed by what has taken place during my 72 years upon Earth; Iam eagerly looking forward to what is yet to be.  What will unfold next is yet to be discovered and experienced.  Although the aging process bestows both loss and gifts, challenges and change, I do not fear what will be.  I am following Spirit’s sacred call, trusting the days as they unfold.  Life, in all its mystery, is precious and very, very sweet.

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