Marcia Byalick

Cautiously Courageous: Reflections On Life Expanding Decisions

I recently went on a women’s empowerment cruise, invited by my daughter who was one of the featured speakers. Sitting in that audience, I wondered if I were their age today whether everything out-of-the-box would still seem as scary. Then I realized most of these women had a safety net my friends and I didn’t have… us as parents encouraging them to have goals that trumped being safe and secure. We instilled in them the knowledge that although making brave choices generates anxiety, it’s survivable and so worth the risk. My parents’ fears of the uncertain were contagious; hopefully our confidence in our daughters’ resilience is too. ...
People waiting for the doctor

Our Broken Medical System: The Doctor is Not In

Want to start a dinnertime conversation guaranteed to unite everyone, regardless of politics, wealth, temperament and intelligence? No easy feat ever but especially tough in the madness of today’s world. I’ve found one I believe that finds us all on the same side …the frustration of dealing with the before, during and aftermath of our annual visit to the doctor. “We are experiencing heavier than usual wait times,” begins the process, upping the anxiety ante. When does the clock ever strike “usual” time” I wonder. Being a veteran of this time suck, I usually put her on speaker while I distract myself with some predetermined activity. An alternative to murdering somebody. It occurs to me how grateful I am not to be bleeding at that moment. “Your call is very important to us,” she continues. You know what? I don’t believe it is. Prove me wrong and just answer the phone....
separate bedrooms

Marriage, Everlasting in Separate Bedrooms

Revealing the fact that Bob and I, after over 50 years of marriage, now sleep in two different rooms? I wasn’t ready…until now. Sarah Jessica Parker, Victoria Beckham, Catherine Zeta Jones, not to mention the Queen… they all came out with it The New York Times recently did a story on homebuilders who saw increased demand for homes with two main bedrooms. The Better Sleep Council notes 26% of married couples report sleeping more soundly when they’re alone in a bed. And follow up studies show getting a healthy night’s sleep may be one of the single best things you can do for your relationship. Yet we believe happy couples sleep in the same bed and unhappy ones don’t. When we hear that a couple sleeps in separate rooms we immediately assume their relationship is in trouble. Committed couples, they say, just work out the windows-open-vs-closed thing…the light-on thing…the sleep apnea thing…the TV-on thing…the going-to-the-bathroom-three-times-a-night thing…the-pulling-the-covers thing…and the insomnia thing. With the wisdom that comes with age, I no longer have to bow to whatever the super judgy ”they” say. ...
Mother and daughter in field

My Daughters and Me…Next Phase

The mother-daughter bond can sometimes feel close to telepathic, like high alert empathy that’s super sensitive not just to the words but the pitch and the tone of the words being said. For better or worse a raised eyebrow or a deep exhale is decoded immediately. The biggest lesson I’ve learned after decades at this mothering thing is that my worth increases with every word I don’t say. If one of us suggests a new spice…or TV show…or bra, we’re all in. When returning from a trip, we each unpack and go through the mail the first hour we arrive home. We are all currently obsessed with Jeremy Allen White, star of The Bear. Nature? Nurture? Who knows. It’s just kind of lovely. Playing the cancer card (I think it’s legal to accept any perks that come along with that prognosis) they agreed to joining me on a three-day getaway in the Berkshires,...
Woman meditating at sunset

What Do You Have to Complain About?

When I listened to myself and my friends and our first world problems, I discovered what they all had in common. Unmet expectations. “Expectation is the root of all heartache,” said the wise William Shakespeare. When I complain about the day I had… the traffic, the miscommunication, the wasted time… it’s all about assuming the traffic would cooperate, the email would be received on time, the elevator would be in working order. What if there was a world I just lived in the moment, encounter to encounter? Without expectations there’d be nothing that “should have” happened that didn’t. There’d be way less to complain about. I am, at best, a mediocre student of meditation. Emptying my mind and quieting my thoughts enough to let troubles drift off has been an elusive goal. But after looking hard at my grumbling self, maybe defusing a few of life’s inevitable triggers is a possibility. A look at today’s headlines should slap any of us into “I have nothing to complain about” mode. At Weight Watchers they used to reward a ten percent weight loss with a pin. If I cut ten percent of my griping, about two complaints daily, perhaps I can reward my loved ones with a me who quietly exhales the minor hassles and shares a glorious sunset instead....
couple hugging

Why We Need a Hug Now!

In these disorienting times I feel like I’m holding all this emotion in my body with nowhere to put it. There was actually a study where healthy adults were monitored for how often they hugged. Then they were quarantined and intentionally infected with a cold virus. Those who received more hugs had less severe disease. Counterintuitive, no? That those who receive more hugs are somehow more protected from infection? Maybe if CVS dispensed comforting hugs.......

Tattoos: Never Say Never, Even After 60

I grew up in a world that was divided into two kinds of people: those who had tattoos and those who were afraid of people with tattoos. In the movies, prisoners and gang members, carnival workers and criminals had them. They marked reckless, defiant outsiders…tribal members with a shady moral compass.  Nazis tattooed people. End of story. Then in the 70s, the stigma dimmed a bit. Fashionable, creative, adventurous celebrities like Cher, Peter Fonda and Janis Joplin displayed their ink. The chests and arms of those “in the service” in Viet Nam showed their proud affiliation. For the first time, although far from my thing, I saw tattoos as an indicator of something relevant to a person’s individual story, a canvas of their experiences....
Antique clock

What’s Really Important is Time After 50!

I went in to buy a vacuum years ago and listened as the salesman tried to close a deal, assuring a woman my age that the appliance had a twenty-year guarantee. “I don’t care about that,” she answered. I felt sad for her. Last weekend the scene repeated itself verbatim when I went to purchase a new mattress. After a split second of recognizing “yep, that’s me now,” I flipped the message and bought the most luxurious mattress I’ve ever owned....

We’re Stable and It’s Good News!

The doctor called with my latest test results. “Your cat scan was stable.” she said. I was silent. My immediate reaction was that’s fine, serviceable, like propping up a wobbly table leg with a book of matches. “Everything OK?” she asked. Yes, everything was OK. OK is good, right? What was I expecting? What did I want her to say? Your cat scan was great? Yeah. Reason returned, however, as I contemplated the past year in the rear view mirror. The hardships we survived deepened my understanding of the word stable; its worth has appreciated a thousandfold....
Bulletin board

With a Little Help from My Friends

No one I know thrived this past year. We’ve all felt cheated and deprived and scared. That fickle finger of fate wagged at everyone and everything we hold dear. Yet my friends showed up, challenging the test of time, over and over and over again. My nurturers and cheerleaders expanded to include the children of my friends…and the friends of my children. COVID and cancer turned the writers in my weekly Zoom class into dear ones sending poetry and orchids and loving notes. I made myself small and hid under the silver lining they embodied, and rode out the storm....
young woman stand in the room open curtain see sunrise

A Jab of Hope

I’ve always prided myself on being a keen observer of human behavior. In pre-pandemic times, if you described a stressful situation, I believed I’d accurately predict how my friends will react. As we battle the gut wrenching COVID infection rates upending our world, I’ve been doing a deep dive into how those I know best are coping with its aftermath of anxiety and depression. Who would arrange all their hangers to go the same way. Who would read 20 books. Who would have the hardest time adjusting. How arrogant I was. Behavior during COVID times is hardly rational....
Magical autumn forest with sun rays

No Downside To Being An Optimist

At 10:00 on the night before Thanksgiving, two nurses walked into my room to say, without a trace of panic, that the ninth floor had to be evacuated to prepare for an influx of COVID patients. All seventeen of us were immediately to be transported to the fourth floor. Calmly and efficiently it took them ten minutes to maneuver my bed, my IV, and all my belongings thrown on top of the blanket, through silent hallways and down two elevators to my new room....

Last Call Before Surgery

In a few days I’m going in for six hours of abdominal surgery. My friends ask, are you worried? Not consciously. When I focus on the logistics, I fully trust those charged with taking care of me. Am I anxious? Not really. My hands are warm, my heartbeat regular, my stomach fine. That’s not to say I’m in a comfortable state. It’s the waiting, the anticipation that’s doing me in....
Marcia Byalick

Marcia Byalick

Marcia's written three novels, three self-help books and dozens of essays for women’s magazines. She’s taught memoir writing, wrote for the Long Island section of The New York Times, and served as the content editor of beinggirl.com.