Staying Strong In Times of Transition

When working with my private writing students, I show them how to use transitions to establish logical connections in their essays.

Transitions are words, phrases, and sentences that signal relationships between ideas. Once you get the hang of using them, they make your writing flow.

Grammarly

If only the transitions in our lives were as simple and clearly defined.

I’m writing this post on September 22, the beginning of the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world.

According to the astronomical calendar, my favorite season–summer–has officially ended.

Another transition.

As glorious as the early fall days are in New England, the shortening of the daylight begins to weigh on me. Increased work demands detract from my creative endeavors.

Bittersweet fall anniversaries arrive.

The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is a transition to a time of reflection and renewal. The holiday begins on the eve of September 25 and coincides with the New Moon.

During this lunar phase, the Moon is located on same side of the Earth as the Sun. The moon won’t be visible in the night sky.

The missing moonlight, however, makes for a better time to observe galaxies and star clusters. Bonus!

This idea got me thinking….

When someone is missing in our lives, we live under a dark shadow. It’s hard to see past the loss.

Yet, perhaps, like during the New Moon, this period of darkness offers us an opportunity to see more clearly.

For only when the moonlight “hides” can the faint objects come into full view.

Like following the stars of a constellation, you begin to “connect the dots”.

Maybe you’ll have a eureka moment, like a meteoric flash, that transforms the horizon.

If it is still possible for your loved one to return, then you may reconnect with greater understanding. You can share the insights observed in your night sky.

And if there is no chance for return, then hopefully the clarity and awareness gained from their absence can help you transition to a new phase.

What does the transition to autumn mean to you?

Dear Reader, Thanks For Writing!

Writers appreciate hearing from their readers.

M. Weidenhoff

Writing can be a lonely business. You spend hours in your head, talking to yourself, hanging out with imaginary people.

You sit at a desk trying to spin chaos into order.

Some days, the jumble of words magically align, like a string of pearls to polish and present.  

But where these words land, who sees them, and how they are received is not always apparent.

That’s why it is so gratifying to hear from a reader–whether in-person, through email, or online comment. (I occasionally get a phone call but only from those I know personally.)

Many of you prefer communicating via the Contact Evelyn page rather than leaving a public comment. Some readers ask for writing advice.

Through my website, I’ve heard from men I once dated and friends from years back. Occasionally, I get a creepy letter or comment. That’s when the BLOCK option comes in handy.

My blog stats range far and near: Israel, India, Denmark, New Zealand, Romania. I hear from kindred spirits across the country. I feel fortunate to have met, in Real Life, two of my blog readers and was enriched by the experience.

My July 2022 post Is It Ever Too Late To Find Love? generated a lot of mail. (Including one marriage proposal!) You had lots to say on this topic and wanted to share your tales of both woe and joy in love.

Loui Juver

Because I write frequently about grief, I receive letters from readers sharing their personal loss. These are the hardest letters to read, but also the ones that most touch my heart.

A distraught woman who had just lost a close family member in a fiery car crash wrote to me a couple months ago. She read an essay I’d recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her letter was detailed, heartfelt, and, I admit, triggering for me.

Still, I took the time to answer the best I could, knowing that she was in the hardest part of her grief journey.

A.M Zilberman

Ten years ago, I published an essay in Tablet Magazine about feeling ambivalent toward my 20 year old daughter’s impending marriage. This story continues to circulate, probably around wedding season, and I receive emails from mothers and fathers in a similar predicament. Fortunately, I have gained wisdom since then to share, along with a happy ending.

I receive fewer letters about my short fiction, though some readers have questioned whether I was writing about them. Answer: No.

One of the most memorable letters came from a Montana reader of my YA novel, One Is Not A Lonely Number.

“I’m the only Jewish girl in my school. Reading your book made me feel less alone. Getting to know Talia and her friends meant so much to me. I loved the way you showed how they were religious but also regular girls who get into fights and mess up like everyone else...”

Whether a debut or seasoned author, such personal letters often mean more to the writer than a book review or promotional tweet (which, of course, are also appreciated!)

I like to pay the kudos forward.

After reading a book or story that impacted me, I will take a moment to find the author’s contact info and let him/her know. This practice has led to enjoyable correspondence for me as well.

We creative souls write for many reasons: to make sense of the world, understand ourselves, explore obsessions, persuade, provoke, illuminate, entertain, and inspire.

Many of us write to connect with others.

So, thank you dear reader for writing!

Is It Ever Too Late To Find Love?

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

– Nora Ephron

In the past month, I’ve been invited to three weddings. My Facebook feed is filled with announcements of engagements and wedding photos of beaming couples.

And they’re not all young.

2022 is turning out to be the Year of the Wedding. More couples are expected to getting hitched than since 1984. According to some reports , an estimated 2.5 million U.S. couples will marry in 2022. The pandemic is certainly a big factor behind the stats.

Credit: Thomas William


As a writer, I’m drawn to love stories. Fiction and fact. Big and small. I’m fascinated by beginnings and wonder in what ways a couple’s origin story might influence subsequent chapters.

Writer-once-upon-a-time

Credit: Jeremy Bishop

I like to ask long-time married friends how they met their spouse. Do they remember their first kiss.? (Surprisingly, not everyone does!)

My mother still loves to retell the story of her starstruck blind date with my dad, and their first kiss on a carriage around Central Park. 

There are the “I knew the moment I saw her” stories.

And the quieter stories of sparks that developed over time.

There are couples who didn’t seem to click at first and then, like defogging a mirror, a clearer vision appeared–a common plot of Hollywood rom-coms.

Then there are the stories of those who met much later in life, each person carrying long histories the other had no part of.

Novels I’ve enjoyed with such themes are Meet Me At The Museum by Anne Youngson and Mr. Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Credit: Rusy Watson

When you can’t take anymore depressing news headlines, I suggest turning to the weekly Vows section of the New York Times.

There you will find fascinating and diverse true love stories (beginnings only, of course) complete with photos, sure to bring a smile. Profiles of love after great loss, through illness, serendipity, and against all odds–as the saying goes.

Some of my favorites Vows stories are of those who meet late in life-a testament that it’s never too late to find true love.

Two octogenarians marry but decide to live “apart together ”. 

Credit: China Rocha

Folk singer Arlo Guthrie and Marti Ladd’s 20 year friendship culminated in a 2021 wedding.

Uplifting stories, uplift us. Stories of love and new beginnings inspire hope.

Author Joyce Maynard has published essays about her late-life love. After divorcing in her mid-thirties, she spent the next 24 years successful in her writing career but failing at relationships. About to give up after another dud date , she met Jim who became her husband and “true partner” at age 59. Sadly, Jim died of pancreatic cancer barely 3 years later. The experience inspired Joyce’s 2017 memoir, The Best of Us.

Joyce & I at Wellesley Books

Finding love again after loss, whether from divorce or death, can seem insurmountable. Yet people do. Their broken heart opens, making space for a new beloved while still carrying the memory of the other. I’ve witnessed this beautiful and bittersweet transformation among friends and family members.

Dr. Helen Fisher is a biological anthropologist who has done extensive research and writing on the nature of love.

“Romantic love is primordial, adaptable, and eternal.  It’s a basic brain system that, like a sleeping cat, can become awakened anytime in your life . Being in love beyond one’s mating years give you energy, well-being, motivation, and focus.”

What we think of as inevitable phases of love (sex drive, romance, deep attachment), Fisher thinks of as brain systems that can occur in any order. More surprisingly, she concludes that they do not have to disappear in longterm partnerships.

Fisher’s brain imaging studies show that some couples continue to experience all three phases well into their later years. Her studies in this area are intriguing.

“You can be in intensely in love at 22 as you can at 92.”

Helen Fisher, Ph.D
Credit: Ellie Cooper

Interesting to note: Dr. Fisher got married for the first time at 75 (!) and she and her husband live in separate households in the same city. That tidbit definitely sparked my curiosity.

So, don’t give up if love is what you are still seeking.

It’s easy to become discouraged. But no matter how long it takes, it only takes One to begin a new story. 

Credit: Julie Kerner

Your Brain on Grief

Getty Images

Why does grief hurt so much? 

Mary-Frances O’Connor’s new book, The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss attempts to answer this question and more through neuroscience and personal stories of bereavement. 

Dr. O’Connor, a clinical psychologist, directs the Grief, Loss, and Social Stress Lab at the University of Arizona. She studies the effects of grief on the brain and body. Her findings show how the brain’s hormones and neurochemicals produce this aching and seemingly unbearable sensation we know as grief.

Perhaps you’ve had the experience of disbelief after a loved one died.

Maybe you even continued to look for him or her, even though you witnessed the funeral. O’Connor explains this phenomenon. 

The brain struggles to understand what happened when our loved one dies. The dimensions that we once knew them in—space and time—disappear. 

Yet we remain attached.

AgeFotoStock

Our brain hasn’t yet caught up with this disparity and still expects our loved one to return.

The brain has to unlearn the predicted associations of place and time. The passage of time is needed to update the mind maps we used to locate our loved one.

Alicia_Garcia: Getty Images/iStockphoto

O’Connor’s grief studies include loss of important friendships and romantic breakups. These losses also produce a sense of disbelief and yearning.

Absence of a special person, O’Connor says, sets off emotional alarm bells. Our invisible attachment bonds are stretched beyond what we think we can handle.

This alarm is compounded if the absence occurs abruptly, a.k.a “ghosting”. Since our brain believes and knows the absent person is still “out there”, it searches for explanations and seeks to “fix” whatever led to the departure.

Just as after a death, our brain must learn to imagine a future apart from this absent love. 

I found the The Grieving Brain a fascinating read. O’Connor sheds light on the universal experience of grieving, helping us to feel less alone, less crazy, and better equipped to move forward.

***

She concludes with this comforting thought:

“The physical makeup of our brain–the structure of our neurons–has been changed by them. …and these neural connections survive in physical form even after a loved one’s death…Once we have known love, we can bring it into our awareness, we can feel it emerge and emanate from us…Because of our bonded experience, that loved one and that loving are a part of us now, to call up and act on as we see fit in the present and the future.”

Update: My adapted essay, “Losing My Words”, has been included in the newly published Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving, Loss, and Healing. 101 Stories of Comfort and Moving Forward.

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