My Friend Mona

Even when she was sitting down, Mona was a moving picture.  Her presence commanded attention.  Mona was beautiful, had style and was intelligent. The last time I saw her was when she came to Rome for a post G8 anti-global demonstration. We marched together then had dinner at a trattoria in Piazza Farnese while talking and talking as we’d always done. But for some reason I can’t explain, the magical relationship we once had was swallowed up by nothingness. Now, more than 15 years later, I’ve learned that Mona died last summer of ovarian cancer. And the news has crushed me.

From the very start Mona and I had something in common–we were both foreign women living in a small provincial town in southern Tuscany. Born in Cairo, Mona grew up in London. She’d studied all over Europe, spoke four languages and had a doctorate in literature. Her love of literature made her good at description. Like the protagonist of a novel, Mona was glamorous and had the talent of making the world around her seem glamorous, too.

But beauty does not save you from pain.

Now that she’s gone, she’s always present because it seems, at this time of sorrow, I’m addicted to caressing memories of moments we shared.

My Friend Mona

Most every morning, after coffee, we’d call one another and she’d read our horoscopes.

My Friend Mona

During the summer Mona kept her perfumes in the refrigerator to make the fragrance last longer.
My Friend Mona

We both liked to laugh a lot. When I was in the hospital, she came to cheer me up.  We laughed so hard that a nurse came in and said You don’t laugh in hospitals! and this just made us laugh even more.

My Friend Mona

I’d been invited to Francisco Smythe‘s exhibition in Rome.  Before going, Mona invited me to her house for a brunch of salmon and spumante.  She lent me her mustard colored cashmere coat for the occasion then drove me to the train station.

My Friend Mona

At my birthday party one year, a small group of friends came over to celebrate with me. We all danced wildly save for Mona who sat on the sofa smoking dressed in red like Paolina Bonaparte.

My Friend Mona

One morning I went to visit Mona. She answered the door elegantly dressed wearing a light colored tailleur so I asked where she was going. Nowhere, she replied, I’m just reading Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (the book that inspired Mick Jagger’s lyrics to Sympathy for the Devil).

Portraits in words.

I recently read that if, in our diaries, we write about people who have qualities we admire, we can, in some way, appropriate those qualities for ourselves. By recognizing what we like in others, we give ourselves something to strive for.

There are many qualities about Mona I’d like to have for myself. She was scintillating, intriguing, fascinating, original, sophisticated, au courant and so much fun to be with. Mona, like all of us, had fears, too. But when she walked on egg shells, she did so to crush them.

I’ve been hesitant about posting this. But not having the possibility of saying goodbye to Mona while she was still alive has left me with a feeling of emptiness. Writing about her may not change that but it will give me the chance to thank her for all the abracadabras she gave me.

 Au Revoir Mona.

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The Diary as a Thermostat

Plastic surgeon, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, noticed that some of his patients, even after facelifts, still saw themselves in a negative way.  After much research, he understood that the problem was not external but internal.  What was in need of a makeover was not their face but their self‐image. Further research led him  to elaborate a theory based on cybernetics he called psychocybernetics.


Cybernetics, a theory developed by Dr. Norbert Wiener, is based on the concept of self‐regulating systems aided by goal seeking mechanisms. For example: a self guided torpedo that’s propelled forwards towards a target using “sense organs” (sonar, radar, heat perception, etc) to stay on course. If the torpedo has positive feedback, it continues as is.  But if it has negative feedback, a corrective mechanism meant to steer the torpedo back in the right direction is automatically set off. The torpedo then zigzags  back and forth until errors are corrected and  it’s back on course.


Similarly, every time we give ourselves a direction, a self‐correcting mechanism goes off in our nervous system. And if an obstacle gets in our way, we don’t give up on our activity but, instead, make necessary adjustments. For example, if I’m pouring myself a glass of water and my cat gets in the way, my hand will automatically change its trajectory to keep from spilling the water. But still it will continue in its efforts to pour water.


For this self‐correcting mechanism to be activated, a goal is needed. Because you can’t get back on course unless you know where you want to go.

We set our goals based on the image we have of ourselves.  And if we have a poor self-image,  we’ve got problems. Solution? A self-image makeover! If we can change our thoughts, we can change our lives.

A diary can help. Not only can it help us learn more about ourselves, it can help us construct the image we want to have of who we are. In the words of John Lennon, “imagine!

So maybe it’s time to sit down and write in our diaries about the life we imagine for ourselves.  And write with all our will and desire to construct that image. And, if we ever feel lost, we can reread our words and self-correct to get back on course again.


So today in my diary I will write that I’m near the Eiffel Tower  wearing a Muy Marcottage huipil dress! À toute à l’heure!



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A Political Statement

They Tried Keeping Their Balance

In archaic Greek sculpture, figures were rigid with their weight resting equally on both feet. But then contrapposto was introduced where the body rested most of its weight on only one foot leaving the other foot ready for action.

When I was little, my very best friend, Laura, and I never tired of walking on curbs with our arms swaying up and down to keep from falling. Without knowing it, we were learning the art of equilibrium. Because, to keep your balance, sometimes you must counterpose one movement with another.

Too many people confuse balance with stasis. But they are not the same—one is about being ready to move whereas the other is about refusing to move. In other words, balance is about compensating if necessary whereas stasis is about refusing to accept necessary change.

 And this is my political statement for today.


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