Two weeks ago today, I lost a dear friend. Roger Moss was my therapist at a pivotal time in my young adulthood, and became one of the most important teachers and beloved mentors of my life. While our clinical relationship came to its natural “closure” when I left L.A. in the late ’90’s, Roger remained a touchstone for me always, up through the last time we visited last summer. He had a way of relating that was, from the very start of knowing him, so familiar, so warm, so intelligent, so full of love. Though I didn’t fully believe he was right until years later, it always made me feel better to hear him say that the only thing wrong with me was that I thought there was something wrong with me.
Among his other pursuits, Roger was a Professor of Psychology at California State University Northridge for over forty years, but you’ll find virtually no information about him on the web — he intentionally kept a low profile because his political activities in his later years were, shall we say, rather radical. But just because someone doesn’t show up in Google, I know now, doesn’t mean that they haven’t had a HUGE impact on the world. As the notice of his upcoming memorial gathering at CSUN says, “He was beloved by thousands of students and faculty whose lives have been notably changed by his classes, conversations, and film discussions where he challenged fundamental assumptions and transformed lives. He will be truly missed.”
Roger IS truly missed. And yet, he is with me even now.
There are so many “Roger-isms” that I’ve integrated into my life. I pull them out from time to time, sometimes for myself, but more frequently these days for a friend in need. Some classics include “Love takes many forms,” “Potential is deadly,” and “Don’t be attached to outcomes.”
He would often tell me stories about his own life, I guess as a way of relating and of learning together. I don’t remember much from the stories, to be honest, but I remember this one punch line he repeated often, where his little Rōshi said to him in a thick Japanese accent: “Rogah, you think too much.” I often repeat that line when I find myself getting my panties in a bundle about something or other… sometimes it’s best to stop thinking too much and just be. “Rogah, you think too much.”
When I was going through some of my darkest times, Roger would say to me at the end of a session, “What are you going to do next?” When I left his office, what was literally next? So I’d walk through my evening – I’m going to drive home, make dinner, do the dishes, call a friend, get ready for bed, etc. One little step at a time. Stay present. When times are tough, this little practice helps me immeasurably.
Roger was authentic before it was hip. He introduced me to David Whyte‘s poetry by giving me a cassette copy of “Close to Home,” and instructed me to listen to the words by just letting them wash over me. Amazingly powerful.
He read Mary Oliver‘s “Wild Geese” to me for the first time, and I learned, “You do not have to be good…”.
I have a piece of paper folded into thirds and then again in half, which I keep in the sleeve of my FranklinCovey planner. On it, Roger wrote out a line from a poem by Antonio Machado. He might have been writing it from memory, as I’m not sure the Spanish is exactly right, but here’s what he wrote:
no hay camino,
El camino se hace
There are no roads
The Way becomes manifest
In June 2000, I cycled from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the California AIDS Ride. On the seventh and final day of the ride, I found Roger in front of his apartment on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, cheering on all the riders with a handwritten sign that read, “Almost there!! Great job!” What an amazing gift he gave to so many.
Roger wasn’t well when I saw him last year. He and I spent a couple hours together in late August in Ventura, where he had been living (and as far as I know, still was). Over a cup of coffee at Pete’s Breakfast House, he told me he’d gotten carbon dioxide poisoning from the place he was living in, and it had almost killed him… and it was clear, he was having a really tough time recovering. He actually looked really old and not well… overweight, low energy… not the spry, youthful man he was, well into his sixties (he just turned 70 last August). And still, the same Roger with those same beautiful blue eyes, wanting to talk about the same matters of the heart in such a genuine and beautiful way.
Thank you, Roger, for all that you offered of yourself to me, to so many others, and to this planet that you cared so much about. May you be of blessed memory.