“We are Stardust.” — Joni Mitchell
I am neither an astrologer nor an astronomer, nor am I a songwriter. I just love stars. I am perpetually stunned by the vastness of time and the universe, so I am drawn to cosmic events, volcanoes, and the motion of the seas.
My husband Mark loyally treks out to Central Park with me at 3:00 AM to watch meteor showers, though he has no personal interest in them whatsoever. His interest lies in my safety—he’s not cool with me taking solo late-night trips to the Reservoir. (We help each other out; we take care of each other: that’s how we’ve stayed married for thirty-six years and counting. He always brings me flowers and makes the coffee in the morning. I make sure he doesn’t run out of bananas, cereal, and cashews; I cook nutritious food. These are small signs of our affections, our devotion to each other, these actions that say “I love you.”
I saw my first solar eclipse on June 30, 1973. I went to Jones Beach with Dale, the man who became my first husband, and did yoga asana, especially sun salutations, which felt necessary. I wanted to tell the sun I was grateful for its warmth and light. What if it didn’t come back?
We watched the earth grow still as the gulls stopped their noisy flight and found their nests. We nested, too, in the sand, and remembered not to look at the sun’s face, not even a glimpse, as doing so could literally be blinding. The air turned solid, and I felt a change in its energy. Later, the sky grew light again, and the birds resumed their journeys. An eclipse marks part of the earth’s history. It symbolizes—metaphorically and perhaps otherwise—great change, things coming to an end, even death.
Dale and I got married. We had a son. And then our marriage died. We were not a good team. I thought divorce was for other people, not for me, but I knew I had to leave if I wanted to survive. My marriage had been a gigantic mistake, and I was ashamed.
I started therapy because I wanted to make sure that I would never make a mistake of such enormous proportions ever again. In treatment, I learned what qualities I valued in others and how to be a better partner myself. I learned to recognize when I was feeling anxious—often—or depressed—also often.
In treatment, I learned what qualities I valued in others and how to be a better partner myself. … Once I was aware of my feelings, my judgment improved.
Once I was aware of my feelings, my judgment improved. I felt worthy of happiness, and I learned how I wanted to live my own individual life. Yoga asana provided me with concrete ways to find and keep my center. In short, yoga and psychoanalysis helped me grow up and acknowledge a great blunder but not let it stop me from going forward. My life wasn’t over, I discovered, it was just beginning. I mourned, closed the door, and went forward.
Eventually I met Mark, got married, and we had a child together. I finished psychoanalytic training, got my doctorate, and trained to be a yoga therapist. I worked bone hard, but I loved it.
Then and now, all along, people dear to me and otherwise have been and continue to be born and die. Some get sick and haven’t died yet. I say “yet” on purpose, as we all live in states of “yet”—not yet born, not yet dead. “We are billion-year-old carbon,” Joni Mitchell said. We are all in continuous states of change.
My father’s cousin Cecile just died. Cecile was like an aunt, a better mother to me than the one who was mine, and she showed me how I could be a meteor, a shooting star, as she was. Her trajectory led her back to the earth just a few weeks ago, but she made it clear she had enjoyed a long and fruitful life and that she was grateful. Cecile stood up for her beliefs and spoke her mind. She went forward, whether she was afraid or not, and taught me to do the same. She knew how to have a good time. Also, best of all, Cecile encouraged me to marry Mark.
Like Cecile I let people know how I feel about things—sometimes more than people care to hear. But I also share my gratitude. I am grateful for my family, my friends, my work life, yoga. I am grateful for my many mistakes. The sun hides and then reappears; there is always another day–until there simply aren’t any more and our individual stars return to earth. In the meantime, I continue to savor my life and the lives of those around me.
In a few days, there will be another solar eclipse. I’ve bought protective glasses this time. I’ll watch the birds and meditate on stardust.
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