November 2018

Alexandra wrote her November website early this month, before she left for a trip in October. So, please forgive us if there is more recent news that is not reflected.

Dear Friends,

My heart goes out to everyone “who suffered the unspeakably tragic devastation of hurricane Michael. Watching the coverage and reading the journalists’ first hand reports make it painfully clear we have to address climate science. Ninety-seven percent of the scientists believe human behavior is responsible for the increasing risk our current behavior and attitude is having on our precious earthly home. Each of us, no matter how differently we feel about the most pressing crises of our time, needs to pay close attention to what experts are telling us. Climate deniers, no matter what the belief, should search out hard facts about the statistics and probabilities for the new and farther picture.Rather than being afraid, we can seek our experts to inform us. The smallest things we do will cumulatively and collectively make a meaningful difference.

I remember leading a happiness retreat as Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2014 shortly after I’d attended a Climate Change conference at the Dalai Lama Center at MIT. I was deeply inspired after the presentations and being in the presence of His Holiness was, in itself, enlightening. We were to think, inspire, and transform. There were people in my audience in Washington who didn’t believe in the problem of climate change being an issue humans are exacerbating by the choices they make. I was in disbelief by their disbelief. We are going to have to rethink the way we live as well as where we live because our lives are more vulnerable when we live near the water. Hurricane Michael was dangerous, and when we’re asked to evacuate, we must pay greater attention then ever before. I remember riding out a hurricane by staying in our cottage in Stonington decades ago, but those days are over. We know better now.

In times of natural disaster we all come together to help each other put our lives back together. Going through a dangerous, life-taking storm is a vivid reminder of how important our community is and how we rely on each other for help and support. Whenever I see good people instinctively helping others, I’m touched, especially by their kindness and selfless intentions. Whenever someone has cultivated moral virtue, active virtue becomes a habit. People are able to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. The pleasure is in the right action.

A few short weeks ago I wrote about Hurricane Florence. Our Supreme Court welcomed a new justice. Soon we’re all going to vote in the midterm elections. Whatever your political beliefs, I urge everyone to vote. This is our civic duty, and should be a privilege. With liberty and freedom we have a responsibility to let our voice be heard. One person, one vote. If each of us takes our citizenship seriously, we will all be elevated to a renewed belied in our leaders and will trust their clear motivations to do what’s in the interest of the greater good, not just our own tribe.

The day after Election Day, November 6th, the Inn at Stonington is hosting a happiness retreat planned so it falls on my 77th birthday, November 8th. If you think it would be fun to come help me celebrate, this would be simply wonderful. Call the Inn for all the details. 860-535-2000 and ask for Abrey, Sue, Dorre, Anna Marie or Kate.

Before this fun celebration November 7th and 8th, I’m going back to France to have total immersion working on my book. I’ll fly to Nice, stay where my artist friend lived in Mongins, and take the fast train from Cannes to Paris where I’ll spend a week before flying home to the festivities. When Peter was alive we celebrated our birthdays in Paris, and it feels appropriate to continue this ritual where we crested a writer’s retreat. “Men in My Life” has me in a wondrous trance. I think about Aristotle, Carl, Peter, John, Roger and the Dalai Lama day and night. They are a waking dream. I hope by my sharing their inspiration, you too will reflect more on the most important people in your life, and in the process, bring them closer to you. The opening paragraph of Living a Beautiful Life I quoted Dr. Samuel Johnson’s poignant truth “the process is the reality.” I’m living and breathing my book, and if and when I’m fortunate enough to give it over to the “process” of having the manuscript a published book, there will be growing pains in this transition of letting go. While it is far too early for me to know what I will become passionate about for my next book, I can assure you I will be writing one before I let go of this one that is all-powerful to me. Because these specific men were such shining examples of moral and intellectual excellence, I’m rising to perch on their shoulders where I see both through my eyes and theirs. I love what my favorite French Impressionist artist, Claude Monet said, seated on a bench in his sacred garden, “come, sit next to me and hold my hand, together we can see better.” Writing this book floods my heart and mind with all the years of living my evolving life since Peter and I met when I was thirteen. Because my experiences with my favorite heroes are not only positive and make me feel tremendously fortunate to have them so central to my life and happiness, I owe them collectively for the illumination. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without the interweaving of these life-changing men in my life; I’m fortunate that I’ve never had to and never will. I’ve discovered it is up to me to keep these people with me wherever I am, when I’m thinking about them, and especially when I’m writing.

Recently I watched an interview on MSNBC with the presidential historian Doni Kearn Goodwin. I met her at the White House for a reception sponsored by a book event hosted by Laura Bush. Her breadth of knowledge and passion for her subjects astonishes me. She particularly likes to write about dead presidents, digging into their journals, letters and interviews with people who tell fascinating stories about private moments shared. She makes you care about them and what they cared about as though you are sitting around a table together having an important conversation. When asked what is the most important character trait of an American president she said “empathy.” Lincoln was naturally empathetic. He felt pain. One of her examples was of young school children putting hot coals on the back of turtles and he told them that it was cruel, that they had feelings. During the Civil war Lincoln understood the north and the south were in this together. He listened to the points of view; he wrote letters, learning and grieving in his sad stories and in politics.

Teddy Roosevelt came from a privileged background and didn’t automatically relate to the middle class, but he learned to see things through their point of view. A deal has to be good for both sides. Your word is your bond. F.D.R. grew in empathy when he developed polio and felt for the people who also drew an unlucky card. I was especially pleased in her belief that presidents who study history as well as are avid readers who also read prose and drama poetry have a greater understanding of empathy as well as learning from past president’s insights and advice. We learn from painful experiences about gullibility and trust. “Trust but verify.” Trust is earned, and built. When we study the history of the people we look up to as our trusted leaders, we look for and see patterns of dependability and exemplary behavior. Great souls tend to be self-deprecating.

As I prepare myself for my total emersion into my writing this book, I am lifted up on the shoulders of six of my favorite heroes. Their wisdom is timeless and will never be irrelevant. What’s astonishing is that when I dwell on the love and wisdom I feel for the men I’m writing about, it has the power to transcend all the chaos and negative energy. If a crooked stick is bent, you’ll straighten it by bending it the contrary way. There are appropriate times and circumstances to be a contrarian. There are times we should take a contrary view and act in contradiction to the prevailing wisdom.

Each of us knows the truth and power of love, kindness and compassion in the private chambers of the heart. When we follow this inner guidance, we will always have light accommodating our journey. When we know in our heart we have good intentions, our actions will make us feel good. I feel deeply grateful we are sharing this incredibly exciting journey together. I greatly look forward to our celebration November 7th and 8th at the Inn.

Happy November! Happy Thanksgiving! I’m excited to share my birthday with so many friends I first met through my books. Thank you sincerely for letting me know my words hold meaning to you in your private daily lives.

Love & Live Happy

Mark your calendars!! Save the Date!!

I'm happy to spend my birthday with so many of my friends I first met through my books. Thank you sincerely for letting me know my words hold meaning to you in your private daily lives.

Hope to see you at my Happiness Retreat at the Inn at Stonington on November 7th and 8th, 2018!!
(See Event Page)

October skies

Happy times

A Peter Megargee Brown masterpiece, "August Seascape"

Peter, a happy sailor

Peter, my hero!

Two of my heroes -- Roger Muhl and Carl Brandt

A photo taken at the Inn at Stonington during Alexandra's Wellness & Sustainability event. More photos to follow next month!

Fall, so beautiful

Love & Live Happy

Grace Note

"Do your best and leave the rest."

~~ Eric Butterworth