July 1, 2012

Nora Ephron’s Neck & Whether that Matters in the Afterlife. ~ Marisa Goudy

Since I saw that Nora Ephron passed away at age 71, I’ve felt compelled to share her quotes and witticisms.

Each post I’ve made has included a tribute to my own mother who died at the even more ridiculously young age of 60. A whole lot of people have left this earth since my own mom unexpectedly exited the scene in 2010, but, for whatever reason, Ms. Ephron is the one with whom I would most like to imagine her sharing a heavenly glass of wine.

I think it’s that line from the speech that Nora gave to the graduates of her alma mater, Wellesley College that really gets me:

Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.

My own mother would probably be considered “a lady” for all that she generally preferred Guinness to Chardonnay and was as likely to enjoy a college football game as she would a Broadway show. She merely sipped at rebellion and she was always more likely to cheer for the woman who was taking on the system than to actually launch her own offensive.

Surely my mother felt the constant tension of being a good Catholic girl and a true-blue Massachusetts liberal at the same time. Her urge to protest was ever tempered by the glares of the nuns that still made her blush 50 years later. Some girl talk with a woman like Nora would likely do Mom a world of good.

I will always associate memories of my mother with memories of Nora Ephron because of the sparkle in my mom’s eye as she listened to the funny and moving address the woman gave at the Omega Institute’s 2007 Being Fearless Conference. As soon as Nora was done speaking, I scooted out to buy my mom a copy of her 2006 essay collection I Feel Bad About My Neck. There was a lot of scary stuff going on in the world, so somehow it was a relief worry and laugh the tyrannies of modern beauty that women of a certain age would put themselves through.

Later that same day, however, I saw my mom’s eyes shine even brighter as she met her new true-blue heroine. Caroline Myss, who, like my mother, was permanently tattooed by her own Catholic girlhood, spoke about the Interior Castle and the mystical terrain of the soul. “She’s the one,” said my mom about Caroline. She stuffed the Ephron book I’d bought her into her purse. “Hearing her, it seems a little silly to be thinking about my neck.”

Today, neither Nora Ephron nor my mother is thinking about her neck. We can only speculate whether their experience of the afterlife is anything like what Caroline Myss and the rest of the mystics are trying to prepare us for. It is impossible to know if the ladies mingle with the troublemakers on the other side or if any of our earthly exploits matter at all.

Collectively, we are left with a bunch of cute movies starring Meg Ryan and Ephron’s myriad creative and insightful contributions on the nature of modern life. We also have a stack of Caroline Myss’s books featuring her no-nonsense perspective on healing and the spirit that will guide us long after that writer and teacher is gone.

Personally, I am trying to heave myself out of the frumpy young mom ghetto and reintroduce myself to lipstick, regular haircuts, and a few sun salutations now and then. At the same time, I’m supported by collection of “expert” perspective on the rigors of living a divinely inspired life.

Like my mom, like Nora, I am living that delightfully (and tragically) human blend of the pedantic and the sublime. I can only hope that I too can make the journey amusing, clever and irresistibly charming at the same time.


Marisa Goudy is a writer and a communications consultant living in New York’s Hudson Valley. A Cape Codder by birth and temperament, she will always be a mermaid living in the mountains. She is passionate about the role of the divine in collective and individual health and healing and worries endlessly that the number of screen in her life will permanently alter her Waldorf-educated toddler. Find her at www.marisagoudy.com


Editor: Seychelles Pitton

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Patricia Runcie-Rice Jul 11, 2012 10:54am

I’m sure Nora is sipping the heavenly wine with all of the troublemakers up there! Be they actual troublemakers, or troublemaker cheerleaders. I think so many of us would love to get right into the fray, but arent sure how. I loved that through art and entertainment, film and writing, Nora would cause a modicum of trouble, but still graciously reach a broad audience. Hope her successor emerges soon. Beautiful essay….

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