Oprah Wants My Life and I Do Too

04.4.12

Last week I met Ms. Oprah Winfrey. She was everything I expected and my expectations were high.

While in St. Louis six of us were allowed to interview Oprah except we didn’t have cameras or even paper and pen. The team from OWN ran video and I’m hopeful that it will air as part of their behind the scenes features online.

Everyone introduced themselves to Ms. Winfrey and it became abundantly clear why she owned the airwaves for the more than two decades. When Oprah sets her sights on you she pulls the most relevant details out of you as if there’s a string attached and one tug from her unleashes everything. She is a remarkable woman embarking on a remarkable journey.

When Ms. Winfrey made her way to me I told her I was a blogger. I’m thinking that I was the only one in the group who didn’t have a related career. She said to me, “So you just sit around and write all day?”

“No I can’t just sit around and write all day. I have to actually do something so I have something to write about. I never miss picking my kids up from school and I never miss tennis.” I explained.

Oprah’s head whipped around in search of Sherri Salata and she said, “Sherry do you hear this? She never misses a tennis lesson. I think we’re doing something wrong here.” And then she turned to look at me and said, “You don’t need LifeClass you’re living the dream.”

And I knew she was right, because I am living the dream. The adjusted dream. The dream where we live modestly and my husband loves me and I love him just a little bit more than that and the kids love us but we secretly know that we love them more than they could ever love us because that’s the secret all parents share.

That dream.

I had a question for her and she gave me an answer I think I’ll remember for for as long as I blog. I asked Oprah how she dealt with negative feedback. I started to explain that bloggers get a lot of grief in comments and on places like twitter and her answer stunned me.

Oprah Winfrey went to on talk in detail about a woman who was mean to hear on twitter. She mentioned her name, twice. She went on to talk a little bit about the solution and quoted her friend Maya Angelou:

No one can hold a candle to the light that God shines upon you.

I think I got that quote right. It was really quite beautiful when Oprah told it to me and what struck me was that with all of her success and millions of people saying, “Oprah you changed my life, you made me better, you made my life happier.” Ms. Winfrey would still remember the name of one detractor on twitter and this made me love her a little.

It reminded me how vulnerable we can all be. It reminded me as a parent that although I may congratulate Jane on her accomplishments the things that she may remember are the failures and the criticisms. When I talk to Alexander after baseball games I need to be more aware of the good plays because it’s clear that he remembers and replays the bad ones, he doesn’t need any help with that.

I spent the day Tuesday in New York City. I did the chazzerai tour of the Lower East Side picking up wasabi peanuts from Economy Candy, tees from Katz’ Deli (and a sandwich for myself), and bagels from Kossar’s. I stopped into Ross and Daughters but I couldn’t bring myself to schlep a smoked trout on the plane. In hindsight I could have, the flight was all Chasidim and I could smell deli food everywhere.

I went uptown and found a pair of shoes at Bergdorf’s and then headed across Fifth Avenue to grab Jane a little charm from Tiffany and Co. As I walked toward the third floor elevator a familiar voice said, “Jessica!” and we left Tiffany to have a snack and talk about our kids. It was my friend Jon who used to live in LA but now lives in one of the Carolinas (North I think?).

It’s totally normal to run into your friends 3,000 miles from home. Right?

I’m still digesting the messages of Oprah’s LifeClass. At the very moment it seemed totally irrelevant to my own life something would resonate deeply. I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything.

Writing Our Own Obituaries

05.4.11

This morning I went hiking with another blogger and we both lamented the amount of time blogging takes from life. I have no great need to write. I could walk away from writing at any time, or so I tell myself.

She has a need to connect and to create. I have a need for solitude, blogging is good for solitude. I want to be with my friends and my family. I don’t necessarily want new friends, I’m cautious that way.

Then this morning Drew shared this link with me. It begins with:

Here it is. I’m dead, and this is my last post to my blog. In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote—the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive.

If you knew me at all in real life, you probably heard the news already from another source, but however you found out, consider this a confirmation: I was born on June 30, 1969 in Vancouver, Canada, and I died in Burnaby on May 3, 2011, age 41, of complications from stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. We all knew this was coming.

It is a beautiful tribute to family and to fatherhood. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the blog, but anxious about it too because there is a clear ending.

When my Grandmother died my mother wrote her obituary and she felt conflicted, because sometimes my Grandmother wasn’t happy or kind. My Grandmother broke the day her brother died in World War Two and although she was pieced together, rage simmered through the cracks. The Rabbi, the very kind Rabbi, told my mother that we write our own obituaries. The people left behind are simply sharing it with the world.

I don’t know that this will make me better, kinder or gentler. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be more introspective or generous. I do know that I’m living the life I’ve painstakingly created, and it’s good. I can make it better because ultimately we all write our own obituaries.