Catherine Oxenberg

Catherine Oxenberg
Anecdotes, insights and resources relevant to anyone interested in exploring the mystery of life and death.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Today was a wonderful day!

Today was a wonderful day! I spent all morning with my husband at a couples’ workshop lead by Rabbi Mordecai Finley and later, in the afternoon, I took my girls to raise money for the Malibu library at a painted potty event! (more on that later in the next blog!)

I wished to God that I had known about these relationship skills when I had timidly ventured forth into the dating pool. I can only imagine the pain that I would have been spared!

In Finley’s words, “most people suffer because they don’t know how to love well and to be loved well. They haven’t mastered the tools for intimacy.”

I reflected back through my relationship history and marveled at how easily communication broke down and how cavalierly hearts were broken. Relationships were always a mystery to me. Long after I had let go of Mr. Right, and settled for Mr. Right Now, I still wondered where the handbook was?! And where was the man who was willing to admit he needed to read the manual?!

I am about to celebrate 12 years on marriage on May 8th and if one counts Hollywood years like dog years – that brings us closer to our 94th anniversary! Cause for celebration, indeed! And, thank goodness, I am married to a man who comes willingly to workshops with me. Not because there is a ‘problem’ anymore but out of sheer enjoyment.

We have reached the place where growing together has become fun.

I can’t say that it was always the case.

It seems to be that the first few months are the much coveted ‘honeymoon’ period. The next stage is - let’s meet everything ugly about the other- this is traditionally when many relationships fail. When the going gets tough, and as the glow of infatuation fades, most starry-eyed lovers are ready to launch into the arms of another more alluring object of desire.

I believe that the reason the shadow side surfaces is because -everything that is not love surfaces in an environment of love, in order to be transmuted and healed through that love. But often, the shock of the other person’s shadow is more than most are prepared for and you run for the hills.

The other problem is - very few people will take responsibility for their shadow, instead they blame you. How many times have we heard, “You’re the problem!” or “It’s your fault!”?

The day I met my husband’s shadow, every ounce of my being wanted to flee. This was not the man I had fallen in love with! This was a monster!

Hoping for an out, I went looking for sympathy.

Instead, every single person I met with gave me the same advice. “If you leave Casper, you are going to attract the same kind of man, over and over again. This is your pattern. You need to take responsibility. There is no point leaving him. At least, Casper is willing to work it out with you.”

And, although it was the single hardest thing I ever did, it was the best decision I was ever encouraged to make. (I can’t say I made it all by myself!) At that point, the tables turned, and he took the full force of my hurt and rage. I honestly don’t know how he stuck it out. It took me years to forgive him, and he just hung in there.

What I realized was that he was not the cause of all my hurt. He had triggered a wellspring, but I needed to look at the origin. And I did take full responsibility for my part in our dance of darkness.

What I learned today, is that the opposite of anger is wisdom. You have to make a solemn oath not to be an angry person. (I’m choosing anger, but you could substitute any negative emotion that has a destructive impact on your life)

You cannot dump that anger on others and expect them to metabolize your toxicity and you can’t suppress it either. You have to learn to metabolize your own toxic emotions.

Seems so simple! Well, why isn’t the whole world living like this!?

Instead of suppressing anger, one must replace it with another emotion such as curiosity. Who would have thought of that!?

Curiosity requires one to move out of the limbic brain (fight or flight) into the neo-cortex brain where it is impossible to feel anger. So, you trick your anger by moving into a higher functioning part of the brain.

Curiosity about the other person. What was happening in their life that caused them to react in such a way? Can we investigate before we jump to conclusions and make assumptions based on feelings?

The goal is to become dis-identified with the anger, regain our ability to think clearly and rationally and find a way to access the higher self.

Anger lowers your intelligence (proven fact) An angry person is not a moral person, and I have decided that I don’t want to process the world from anger. I have a choice - regardless of what life throws at me.

It is so inspiring to learn that there exists an elegant language to resolve conflict. This wasn’t bumper cars or ‘Punch and Judy’ (Does anyone else remember those obnoxious married puppets who use to beat each other up or am I really dating myself!?)

When someone comes at you in anger and you are able to respond with, “I’m sorry. I care about you deeply. I want to hear everything you have to say, but not in anger. So, I’m going to have to leave the room. I am not leaving the relationship, I still love you.”

This was so simple, so mature and deeply honoring. Where was this dialogue when I was in my teens!?

And I wondered, why aren’t my children learning these skills in school?

Why isn’t everyone educated in the language of inter-personal communication? In the language of love?

Why does it seem that a bunch of angry teenagers are running this world?

It is a cruel irony - that many of life’s most valuable skills – the ones that would guarantee leading successful love-filled lives - are not  part of our mainstream curriculum.

My marriage is no longer a battleground. Our union is blossoming and flourishing as a beautiful garden that we commit to tending together on a daily basis.

I feel blessed to share my life with someone dedicated to living a life of virtue.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jose Arguelles- the visionary who decoded the Mayan calendar

I was saddened to hear that Jose Arguelles died on March 23. He was my daughter India’s godfather, and a sort of godfather of “The New Age” movement. He was the first to decode and interpret the Mayan calendar and brought us the Mayan prophesies. He launched the Harmonic Convergence, initiated the whole 2012 phenomenon and gave us Earth Day. 

I remember the Harmonic Convergence well, it was held over Aug 16-17, 1987, and I was asked to host an event at the Palladium theater, in Hollywood, with actor Levar Burton. Tens of thousand of well-meaning, New Age groupies around the world were following Jose’s guidance, by celebrating the first stage of planetary awakening. 

To be precise, what we were really celebrating was the end of the last in an endless series of hells. Although, it does seem if this final hell has been slow to pack up and go home!

I could really sink my teeth into a hell-free ideology!

In 1988, I was filming in Hawaii, when I met Jose and his wife Lloydine. It was interesting for me to hear from right from the source, how the Harmonic Convergence movement had birthed of its own accord, with no push from Jose. It had been a veritable grass- roots phenomenon that swept the globe like wildfire. We all found it ironic that I had hosted one of his events, before actually meeting him!

My eye caught a poem on the wall in their powder room. The words were hauntingly beautiful and I asked Lloydine if Jose had written it. She pulled me aside and whispered, “It was written by Jose’s son, Jason, who recently passed away. Please don’t mention him, he gets too upset.”

I jumped into my sleek little convertible and went to do some sightseeing around the picturesque town of Paia. The country road was narrow and winding, and I knew that I was driving too fast. 

It was a beautiful sunny day in paradise, radio blaring, wind in my hair, who could resist the accelerator? Not me!

Suddenly, I felt as if my body had been ‘taken over’ by an energy or sensation that I did not recognize as my own. I was both heavy and light - simultaneously. Something eased my foot off the accelerator, and the car slowed to a crawl. 

I heard a voice – and it was not mine. 

“Tread lightly upon this earth, like your lover would trace his finger  down your face.” 

I do NOT talk to myself like this! And definitely NOT in that poetic language! 

I became fully present. 

I continued to drive slowly, and became acutely aware of every sensation - the feel of the soft leather steering wheel on the palm of my hands, the hug of the bucket seat around my hips and up my spine, the feel of the breeze playing with the feathery fabric of my clothes. 

I could feel the car glide gently along the curves etched by the road, quite like that ‘finger’. 

Suddenly driving was lovemaking. What a new experience!

I felt ashamed by my lack of reverence and previously unconscious behavior.

I returned to the Arguelles’ home and shared my experience. Jose’s eyes welled up, and for the first time since his death, he opened up about his son. He had been killed in a car crash and he was sure that he had intervened on my behalf.

As we near the much anticipated, Dec 21, 2012, the man who started it all, will be gone. But never forgotten! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My first offense!

Alert! My first offense! I have offended someone with my blogging! And not just someone – she happens to be one of my closest friends!
Well, use to be! (Not really! I would never have posted this blog unless i had spoken to her first!)

This blog is about making amends - because I would like for our friendship to continue into our sunset years! (We are already in our golden years!)

I had this fantasy that my diatribe would soothe all with dulcimer tone and silken cadence. Not going to happen!

The worse thing is that I have offended one of my best friends, someone I love dearly. The last thing I would want in the world is to cause this person distress. Who knew she couldn’t see that I was smiling the whole time I was writing about her!
My heart sank when I read her email; she felt she came across as unsupportive, bratty and a little bit evil.

I quickly reread my blog and I could see why she might think that. How easily words can be misunderstood. I guess I had used her as a device, an entry point into my story.

My muse felt used and abused! Horrors!

And, I can see what offended her – it wasn’t so much about what I wrote, it had more to do with what I left out.

The danger of omission! Such a common mistake we make, especially with our nearest and dearest, where we assume they can fill in between the lines. So, we edit – and that editing leaves room for dangerous black holes.

I had forgotten a proper introduction!

If I was going to tease her, first, I needed to honor her, I needed to build a loving context.

After apologizing profusely and begging her forgiveness, I let her know that my intention had been to include her because I wanted to give her credit for inspiring me to write that blog - She was the one who gave me the idea.

I could see where the honoring aspect might have fallen short.
I could see where I might have neglected to mention she had suggested I write a mission statement for my blog, so other (not her!) people, who might not know me, would have a better understanding of my direction and purpose. The way I wrote it sounded like she was the one questioning my intention.

The truth is, (I’m smiling) that my dear (not sarcastic!) friend (the greatest!) Inga, is like a wonderful big sister to me. It’s not because she is a tinge older than me, (at this point, she would want you to know that she, unlike me, has not one gray hair on her head) it’s because she is wise in so many ways – not all ways – otherwise she would have no need for me! I count on her insight, her humor, her support, her beauty and her unique and original perspectives. I love her unconditionally.

I get to tease her and call her on her ‘stuff’, usually with a chorus of “I don’t believe you!” when I hear her tell me things like “I use to be cross-eyed and buck-toothed.”

And she’s right, if I am going to include her, she deserves an honorable mention, not a glib throwaway - with a snarly finale. (Now you are all going to have to go back to the “What is the point of this blog” blog, to see what the heck I am yapping on about)

But now that I have introduced her – I must warn her, that from now on- now that we have established that I love her - she will be fair game! (Now I’m feeling slightly evil!)
It’s okay honey, you can proof read everything I write about you from now on, and maybe I can convince you to start a sister blog and you can hitch it to mine!

Women are my lifeline. I have big sisters and little sisters, and sometimes the roles switch, depending on the mood and the need.

We get to talk about everything, we get to vent with each other, we get to encourage each other, including supporting each others primary relationships, and holding a perfect vision for the other - especially when the other is having a ‘wobble’.

And we get to throw down a dozen juicy topics on the table, simultaneously darting from one to another, like drunken hummingbirds. Somehow, by the end of our playdate, we have covered every single conversation, wrapping them all up with a neat little bow. It is a thrilling experience that leaves us full and exhilarated.

I use to try this style with my husband, feeling that he was somehow losing out on one of life’s greatest joys. I would trap him in a corner, and dazzle him with the fascinating details of my day!. But I began to notice a dazed, frozen expression of feigned interest as I ran him in circles with my feminine convolutions. (Warning! This word does not exist!)

He just couldn’t take the onslaught of emotion (from the venting) and constant juggling back and forth of subjects. He would try really hard, but I caught him on several occasions, falling into a comatose state.

Then it struck me - He’s overwhelmed! His nervous system is shutting down! This was not good for him!

It was then that I realized – most men make really lousy girlfriends!

Except for Inga’s husband, who really likes listening to her! For one thing she is very entertaining! (Now she’s going to think I’m mocking her!) But seriously, he does! And he’s got great stamina! He can really hang in there! Not that my Casper doesn’t have stamina! Boy, I am really digging myself into a hole here! But Jack listens for a living!

So, although my husband is the love of my life, my girlfriends are my indispensable support system.

I don’t need to torture him with my feminine hurricane all the time. I can whip up a frenzy with my girls and feed my man the eye!

Friday, April 1, 2011

What is the point of this blog!

My dear friend Inga asked me why I was writing a blog, “What’s the point?!” Suddenly, I felt myself up against the wall, panic-stricken, scrambling to justify my cyberspace soapbox.
Do I look like some desperate, attention-seeking Malibu housewife?!

Yikes! How embarrassing! I mustered all the dignity that I could find.
“Of course I have a point!”

Three years ago, I was approached by a literary agent, to write a memoir. The idea of dredging through my past didn’t thrill me at first, but I decided I would give it a try. I did have some pretty good stories: how Prince Andrew proposed to me on the balcony at Buckingham Palace the night of Princess Diana’s wedding, how my mother was a princess, how Richard Burton had been my mentor, how the Kennedys’ thought I was their cousin, why I had married infamous producer Robert Evans for a week (I have to table that one until he drops off the perch), how I recovered from an eating disorder, recovered from childhood sexual abuse, recovered from infidelity (there was a lot of recovering!) blah, blah, blah…

In all, I came up with 42 chapters. I was told no one would tolerate a memoir of that length. So, I began to chop the rich and multi-faceted smorgasbord of my life into 12 tapas-sized morsels.

The final feedback was that the stories were great but there was no through-line. “What did that mean?” I exploded, “It’s my life! Are you telling me that you can’t find ‘me’ within the context of my stories?” I walked away, completely flummoxed and tossed my ghostly life into a dusty drawer.

A month ago, another friend of mine, amazing healer Chris Maher, suggested that I start a blog. “You have so much to say, you have a voice and there is an audience out there.” I was very flattered by his confidence in me. If it would be a way to make a contribution - that intrigued me. But then I felt my stomach lurch, I felt an immediate surge of resistance. Not surprising, since the outcome of my last writing assignment - Was I setting myself up for another line-up of rotten tomatoes?
And precisely because it brought up so much fear, I decided to listen to Chris. I decided to confront that fear head-on.

Now that is the superficial explanation. There is also a deeper motivation, an almost primal urge that revealed itself-
I am a creative being - and although my children are my proudest creations, my soul cannot be sustained by a diet of 2nd grade book reports! (I had to do 10 until Celeste got the hang of it)

As soon as I committed to the blog, I began to get in touch with a flow of creativity that unleashed inside me. It is a veritable deluge of ideas. It is overwhelming, and hard to shut down when I want to go to sleep. I am driving my husband insane as I continually turn on the light to jot down notes by my bedside.

I realized that I had been in denial of how much I needed an outlet, a place to express myself. Chris was right - I have a voice, a story, a point of view, and there is something so profoundly cathartic about sharing that with others. It is a way for me to connect, to reach out, to feel part of the human community in a way I never knew I needed.

I have no expectation that anyone will find me out there, no guarantee that anyone will resonate, no attachment to any outcome. This blogging becomes an act of faith.

I realized that I can no longer sit around and wait to be hired to have an outlet. I need a continual outlet or the energy inside me stagnates and I become restless and irritable, eat too much sugar, obsess over sagging and eventually become ill! – All no longer an option!

So, the bottom line is: I MUST write or I will suffocate!

And because I am a woman, I will write about everything from my favorite new shoes that don’t cripple me after 30 minutes to a yummy guilt-free recipe that my daughter India has invented, to ways to become a better mother and more fulfilled human being, to improving quality of life, to developing deeper more meaningful and loving relationships, to greater intimacy with the Divine. And anything else that tickles my fancy!

And there you have it. That is the whole point!

Of course, the real truth is that everyone needs a creative outlet!

Hey! Inga! You paint! I scribble!