Ghosting

“I drove by your house,” Jeff said, “but the light wasn’t on, so I didn’t go in.”

After Jeff died, I left the light on for years. Nearly a decade.

Jeff had hazel green eyes, large and liquid, fringed with thick lashes like a deer. He had sensitive hands, calloused from his love of welding, work, painting, building, creating; but long-fingered and inclined to go in funny muppet-shapes when he was caught up in the description of something that ignited him; I loved him fiercely. I loved him in the blind, all-encompassing way that only young children or parents can love.

He struggled with depression, and I felt he needed me. I was running around the world raw, with no counseling under my belt to teach me where I ended and a person I loved began. So I broke off pieces of myself to try to heal him; I could see his magnificence, and didn’t understand why he couldn’t. To me, that was love- with no end to the love I could give another, not myself.

Jeff’s death was sudden, incomprehensible, unexplained, and cataclysmic to all who loved him. It changed us forever. I am not sure how I interacted with others for about 5-8 years; I hope I didn’t hurt anyone, because I wasn’t even there.

I finally encountered a rabbi in a way that felt like fate; he offered to counsel me, and it didn’t feel scary-he felt like a gentle father figure, so I gratefully opened the painful, acid-burned scar that was a decade of lost love, and asked him for guidance. I knew I needed to regrow my life.

After a year, he told me he was jealous of my ghost, of the unwavering love I had for him, and that he was in love with me. Well, not me – to be precise- he said he was in love with my “light” and my “heart.”

It felt authentic- because never before had I shown anyone my “true” self, the depth of this grief. At the time, I thought my grief was myself. I have compassion for this sweet girl running around the world in need of a counselor, but I wish I could tell her she chose the wrong counselor, and that predators will find people who are shattered, because broken winged birds are easy to catch and keep.

It was an affair; there is no way to gloss that over. Yes, I believed him when he painted a picture of entrapment and coldness, a story of terror and victimization straight out of Castle Otranto; I believed him because my protective instincts were stronger than my reasoning capacities, and I needed to feel like I was rescuing someone.

Not myself. Someone else.

It was a tormented, dramatic and toxic situation. It was harmful to two good-hearted, trusting women. It’s a novel in itself. (reader, I made amends with her as best I could. That awesome, ill-treated woman. I mourn her still.)

And then came the day when the man I had committed to in a (secret) engagement with betrothal ceremony (useful to be a rabbi, I guess?) with religious hoodoo-voodoo that had the added bonus of I’d already bought into the religious trappings with the naive and wholeheartedly I’m-drinking-this-punch commitment of a zealous brand-new believer,

the man I was going to go to nursing school in order to conduct my future life as a proper caretaker for,

swore to me on the Torah he wasn’t leaving me,

kissed me on the lips and said “I can’t wait to kiss these lips again,”

walked away,

cut off his phone line, his email, erased all tracks of himself,

and (I later found out), moved to Bali.

I waited for him, and finally a year later, I cleared myself of the vows I had made. Yes, I was that naive. I am inclined that way still, and have to work hard to break vows, words, ties.
So forgive me if I can no longer believe.

Forgive me if I can no longer leave the light on.

Forgive me if my loyalty now has a time limit.

This heart still runs deep and loyal. I protect it better now. I bestow it better now. I value it more now.

I have had years of counseling now, with two incredible, kick-ass women who have taught me that my life is valuable. That my life and energy and heart are more valuable than anything else, because my life and energy and heart are the only things that are mine. I get to nurture them and use them to create a story with my time here in this life. It’s the only thing of my choosing, the story I write while I’m here, the actions, words and choices I make.

I don’t get to choose for anyone else. That no one else’s life, story, heart or energy comes first, is very foreign to me and extremely difficult. I struggle with it daily.

But two good rabbi-teachers, (one male and one female,) a Maggid-teacher (female) and two life coaches (female) and the aforementioned counselors later,  I have learned how to release ghosts.

Do not carry the departed, no matter in what way they left. The dead would not want you to waste your life carrying them, and the living made their own choice. Let their absence teach you how to live more brightly. Let their absence turn your story into a wing, a torch, a promise.

We’re all going to have to leave, at some point – it’s the deal we make when we come in the door of this life. So don’t waste a moment carrying someone else’s life or leaving.

How magnificently the trees blaze as they let go; I wish to burn as brightly.

Expand into the unknown with fierce courage – it is all we have, and anything else is an illusion.

Ghosting is a choice that says nothing about you or your worth. As Brene Brown says, “We are not here to negotiate our worth with other people.”

For a still-living person to ghost another is a choice they make which expresses their own life story in this world. It has nothing to do with you.

IF they have told you why, learn what you can, know they’re taking care of their needs, and move on. If they haven’t, learn what you can, and move on.

I myself have cut off contact with three people in my life- and I gave them plenty of warning before I had to take that step. I asked for what I needed; I communicated clearly and respectfully. I told them what step I would need to take, and I took it. The behavior was severe and grievous that caused me to choose to leave no door open. There does come a time when we have to “bless and release,” even the Dalai Lama does that.

But people who abandon without the respect of communication? They have chosen to become ghosts, no longer a part of your story. I don’t really feel the need to make any judgment statements about it- just know they aren’t your people, and move on with your awesome life. Don’t leave the light on. Don’t waste a month, let alone a decade.

Mourn, excavate the story of what/who you believed they were, and release. If they have passed away, know that moving forward doesn’t equal forgetting. Grieving is a process of unraveling everything they were to you and knitting yourself back up together again. It takes a long time; it takes love and patience. But while you give yourself that grieving space and time, also release fast! Do the grieving for your own healing, and let them go. You can still love, and let go. Life is waiting for your heart and the light, undimmed, that you alone can give.

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Talisman

People don’t seem to be at all suspicious of bad fortune.

When something good happens, something we wanted and maybe worked for, we look for the loophole- all of a sudden, we’ve stumbled into the dangerous and unpredictable realm of the Goblins (or Fairies or Elves- all equally twisty for us human folk), and we are wary, tense, ready for the hidden dagger, the tragic trap in the Fairies’ Gold, the hidden twist in the Genie’s wish.

But when something bad happens, we aren’t hunting for the hidden promise, the gift. “Ah! Of course,” we say knowingly, feeling good in a strange, dark (and Goblin-like, if we could only see ourselves) way, that if we didn’t see it coming, we at least foresaw something bad- and even if we weren’t quite as prepared as we thought we would be, at least we knew. We watched the news, didn’t we, in order to know, to be informed, in readiness for just such a happening as this. Dark triumph.

And with the laws of finite probability, we can live years -decades, even- ready for “something bad”; prepping for it, experiencing it internally over and over, and it will come eventually! It is a relative certainty.
And maybe there’s something good – good possibility and promise sparkling around the edges of our life, so we might even get specific and define that something Bad as a threat to the something Good that’s nosing toward us, wagging its tail. “Look out behind you,” we call to Good Thing, even while we absolutely know with every power in our Goblin-made lenses, that the Bad Thing will gobble up the Good before it reaches us.

Until the moment something bad finally actually happens, and we’re almost relieved. “At last- it’s here- I can face it.”

This is how we call in “bad luck,” and make a home for it. This is, in fact, how we create it. Fairies and Goblins alike tremble at the power we humans have to create “bad fortune.”

This is how we fail to use the powerful magic lenses, the talisman we’ve been given. (It was originally supposed to protect us!) We can choose, really. We get to find our way into the Fairy halls, passing the throne and the ballroom, with hardly a wistful glance at the glittering gowns and impeccable tailoring, at the swirling, dancing, laughing party guests in their elaborate masks, with certainly not one single taste of the vast, gleaming array of steaming dishes, savory and sweet, ripe fruit bursting with promise, and every kind of drink or nectar we can imagine (and many we can’t)- we can be strong, ignore it all, and make our purposeful way to the Forge. We can set our lenses there in the crucible that’s been sitting unused, and we can take up the ladle of molten, liquid Dream and pour it gently on our lenses. We can coat them in any powerful transformative substance we wish.

Or, we can stalk through our lives in human instinct, as human beings created with a negative bias in our brains (so we could survive in the caves and dwellings that Bad Experiences taught us to seek, and gather around our campfires and tell stories that taught us all, deeply, how to Survive when the Night gathered outside the ring of our fires) We can magnify our talismanic lenses with Doom and Prediction of Failure and all the substances that fairies find so horribly unfashionable, so they mostly exist right here in our world, all ready to hand – it’s not even hard to gather them. It requires no quest. We can even do the re-coating of our lenses while sitting on the couch!

We can continue to seek and call Bad “fortune” to us, and look for it even when Good is determined to find us- we can continue to look for the Bad as avidly as any lover in the marketplace, sure his heart’s desire is around the next corner.

This is just to say: I am writing fairytales. In them are clues I’ve hidden; clues that will help any humans that should happen to stumble accidentally into the Other realm. The hidden things will help you survive, and they’ll even help you build a kingdom successfully, if that is what you desire.

I’ve been forbidden to simply tell these rules outright, because it is another truth of humans that we have to work for things, or we don’t see their sovereign nature, and run the risk of simply discarding that which is valuable beyond our ability to imagine.

Do you have what it takes to craft your talisman? You will need it – your very life depends on it.

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Choosing the Warrior’s Path…again

When times get a little rough, when we have chronic strife, we can choose to complain about another person and make them wrong, make them small in any way our brain chooses to present evidence for that – or we can choose to learn. We can choose curiosity.

I know which I choose.

I have to actively make the choice; as I sit with anger coiled like bitter fire in my belly, the anger resolves into words – it recites the wrongs to me. It recites the good things I’ve given and the wrongs I’ve perceived and received, in my imagination. As I breathe and listen, I start to hear a pattern. The self-righteous bluster is flat, like the old-time stage scenery that was painted skillfully on plywood, shaded to look like structures of depth and substance. The more I look at it, the more I see deep grief underneath. The grief of a dream tarnished, a dream I’ve rebuilt, a dream I’m afraid of losing- a dream that was created by a child, a very young me.

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The grief turns into questions. “Was it real? Am I a fool?” and flashes quickly into labels like “Betrayal.” Then it moves to list what I did wrong, where I messed up. It holds some truth, here – I could have done better. I can do better. But the self-hatred that shows up is a twisted form of the “bargaining” stage of grief. I breathe and observe.

Then anger begins again. The list starts repeating itself. I don’t do or say anything; I used to journal, but I found that writing gave the anger more substance. I am a storyteller; when I write things, I paint them in great detail in my mind, most of which are edited off the page. The world takes on life; the things I write breathe in me, and grow. I do not wish to feed and give life and substance to this bitter dragon, so I watch, and wait.

I consider compassion. Not empathy-that isn’t a road to take here – identifying and plunging in with a heart all to ready to imagine, feel, and perhaps project, is not wise in this instance. Compassion is bigger than that. Compassion breathes and says “Yes.” Yes, what you are experiencing is valid. Yes, you are held and supported. Support doesn’t mean I agree with the stories that create what I’m experiencing, or what you are experiencing – it means that beyond the stories and the pain, there is support that sees my, your, brightest light. Support can also mean taking no action at all. Compassion doesn’t seek to control. It simply IS, and I breathe it in.

I stop writing stories about what the other person is thinking, feeling, choosing. I stop trying to follow the labyrinth of “WHY” to find some way to comfort my rational mind, which seeks to understand and seeks to answer every criticism it can imagine is leveled in my direction. Trying to understand, or think I understand, is a form of control. I breathe again and feel the knot loosen.

I survey the future I had built for myself: the vision, the lovely castle in my mind and heart. I breathe in again when a knot of grief, followed by resentment, quickly followed by story (“can’t they see what I saw?”)  forms. It loosens quickly, almost sheepishly. Good.

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This is the warrior’s path. This takes patience, self-compassion, and commitment.

I have this commitment to myself, and to the life I have been given. I made this commitment years ago, when I put on boxing gloves for the first time in earnest, and chose healing instead of despair. When I chose to walk on coals far hotter than anything I’m experiencing now. When I chose every day to face violent storms again, and again, and again – choosing day after day, even though my legs would freeze up and refuse to carry me some days; even though my hands would shake and refuse to hold my pen; even though the symptoms of the war I fought sometimes showed up in humiliating ways, stripping me in public, rendering me unable to hide PTSD; even when the symptoms made each miniscule step forward an enormous effort- an effort that took everything I had. I have often made mistakes, been unskillful and emotionally irresponsible, but I showed up. I learned to deeply celebrate the smallest of victories. I fell into self-reproach when I stumbled, but I kept showing up. I got myself to the counselor. I got myself to the boxing bags. I made the healthy food. I walked away from abuse. I chose myself. I apologized and took responsibility. I suited up, wrapped my hands, allowed my tears to fall in prayer, and showed up with relentless determination.

From that time, I know a core of strength lives in me that nothing can destroy. I’ve obscured it lately with self-reproach and unkind words, self-blame. I have assaulted myself, as though if I could figure out what was wrong with me and uproot it at the source, I would finally be chosen. I would finally be seen.
I kept learning, kept taking responsibility, kept building more lesson plans for myself and seeking out what I had done wrong. thinking I was still on the warrior’s path, the path of wisdom.

Do you see the disconnect, here? I only saw it this morning. The ego got fairly tricky on me, and decided to disguise itself as betterment. As “healing.” As thinking I know what someone else is choosing, and what they’re experiencing. “This person is angry at you because you are flawed and you messed up.  You messed everything up. Again.” There are so many flaws in this belief. This is all a form of control. It’s ego, thinking I know what is going on in someone else. Seeking to control someone else’s choices and the perception *I invented*, by changing myself. It’s choosing an imaginary someone else before myself, my real self.

It’s Black Panther’s brother, choosing death “instead of slavery,” when really, he was choosing death instead of the firewalk that is swallowing pride, making peace, honoring himself, and choosing to live. Choosing to learn. Choosing the fight towards freedom that comes with walking the warrior’s path. pri_66417644

Other people’s choices HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. Others’ perceptions aren’t my business. And so I release it.
I return to my power by realizing my worth. By focusing on myself again, my own life, and what a deep gift it is, and has been. I return to my power by focusing on what I choose. By choosing my own life.

I ask a question: If what someone else chooses for their life has nothing to do with me, and “self-improvement” is not what I thought it was, how, then, can I transform this? I thought I had let go. Apparently, it’s a matter of letting go, then letting go again. Maybe we’re never really “done” with releasing. Maybe that’s one of the most important lessons to learn in this life.
Love and release. Love and release. Love doesn’t seek to bind. Love allows. Even when my mind doesn’t comprehend another’s choice, love says “Good. Choose. Choose for you. If you don’t choose me, it isn’t personal.” Release. Love myself.

This is what I can learn, here. Lessons and self improvement that come with a sense of self-compassion, love and curiosity, those are the lessons I will follow, now.
Because how can I be walking the warrior’s path of love, if I refuse compassion to myself? So I just gently bring myself back to the path. This time, I feel so much lighter. I feel joy – this will be a dance.

I breathe again. I hold the fluttering bird that is wounded me in this instance. Her eyes are dull with pain, and she’s thrashing around a bit, one broken wing trailing stiffly through my fingers. I can feel her heart stuttering wildly, panicked, in my palm. She’s nearly incoherent – “he was- I thought – we had- he said – he hasn’t – he chose – but I brought – I was- why can’t -” these are the words that she gasps. I just hold her, breathe, soothe her. I imagine her surrounded in warmth, safety, comfort, and also freedom- I don’t restrain her with my hand. She is free to fly at any time.

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I whisper to her, so gently, the way I’d talk softly to a child who had awakened from a nightmare – “it is all unfolding as it should. whatever you are trying to make happen, release your hold. come back, now. Come back to my heart, and when you are ready, open up again with me. believe again with me. trust again with me. love again with me. it is all unfolding as it should. You will see; the painting of this life will be a beautiful masterpiece, when we are done.”  I stroke her feathers, and feel her calm. “I know it hurts. It is okay. Let it hurt. Let go of blame. Let go of reasons. Let it hurt, accept the hurt, and let go of any thought of why or predictions of what. Just be.”

The choice I make again: what can I learn from this? What can I learn in curiosity and playfulness, without reproach to self or others; how can I expand from this, how can my life and my heart become a bigger place?

This is the warrior’s path. It is deceptively gentle at times. It seeks stillness in the midst of story, talk, jagged energies that blame and criticize, rumor, choices not made from the highest self – and, as I just learned, it also recognizes self-harm in the seductive form of self-reproach and self-blame; it walks back to center, takes responsibility, which doesn’t look like shame- it looks like a gift. The gift of learning and improving.
How wonderful, really – the opportunity to see where my aim was off, my arrow didn’t fly true, and improve my aim,

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The warrior’s path winds to the center of the labyrinth and tries again. Patiently, without pride, without carrying anything but determination and curiosity, slow step by slow step, firmly, never giving up.

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Courage

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Soapbox Alert: let me drag out this old, worn box and climb up on it for a minute (or two).

People who are slinging around the words “cowardly” and “selfish” when it comes to suicide…those people lack courage in my eyes. They lack the courage of heart that is also called compassion. Deep compassion can be painful; to face that we don’t understand but can still allow – to say “I don’t know,” and really understand that we do NOT know what someone else’s experience is, and therefore cannot label it and make ourselves more comfortable. Because, let’s face it, we want to KNOW. We write stories about others – we project – because we want the illusion of understanding and control. When really, we have no control in this life. Everything is impermanent, we are going to suffer, we are going to experience loss and sometimes things are not going to be tidy or make sense – it’s the deal we make when we come in the door of this beautiful, painful, messy world.
What do we have control over? Only ourselves. Our actions, our thoughts, our choices, our speech. These things add up to: our learning; the evolution of our own soul during our own journey here in this place, together and alone.

So what is Courage?

Compassion is courage , in my eyes.
Forgiving someone else, truly forgiving (and having the strength to either wipe the slate clean if called for, or maintain any boundaries necessary to protect and honor ourselves) – that is Courage.
Saying “no” with loving energy when we need to honor ourselves and honor another with honesty- that is Courage.
Choosing to live our truth – Courage
Choosing to be honest in word and action, and that means even speaking when we’ve done something hurtful and could avoid conflict by being silent – Courage.
Sticking with a relationship and learning from it, or leaving when it’s truly time to leave – Courage
Remaining sensitive in a world that batters the heart – fighting to keep that sensitive heart open – that’s courage too.

Staying loving and open … the deepest courage there is.

Therefore: whether he lost the battle with despair & bipolar disorder or whether he didn’t and we are jumping to conclusions (because we can’t really know what happened)
Robin Williams was an example of courage, in my eyes. We tend to deify a celebrity when they die – we also tend to vilify them. Why don’t we let a person be a person, and honor their journey & struggle? He was a person who gave other people a lot of himself. Let’s leave it at that. I hope kids and adults alike will learn from how he lived. I hope we will all learn from our own responses, here. While we are still alive, we can learn; it is never too late to make a different choice. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong and choosing to learn – that’s what we are here for.

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(Zen and) The Art of Farginnen

I have only an hour until my next class, but I want to set something down to return to later –

just a brief sketch.

The Art of Farginnen.

Ich Fargin…

When someone else is shining, do we envy that person and want their light,

or do we rejoice for them, hold them up, get our ego out of the way and let our heart expand?

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The latter is what it is to fargin. 

Just came from a class on farginnnen taught by my rabbi David Zaslow (who will have a book on it coming out sometime in the future), based on the teachings of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (זצייל) and I am inspired. I never had a word for something I have tried to practice for years now. It can be difficult, but as I taught myself to celebrate when a friend landed a great role or published a book, I found that I felt so much better. Life felt more beautiful. Truly celebrating friends’ successes in areas of my own passions led to a more expanded life, heart, and mind. It also, oddly enough, created more flow in my own life – it was almost as if getting rid of the contracted places of envy got rid of energy blocks, and as my focus became more positive, more beautiful things were able to take root and grow in my heart and life.

I fully believe this is a practice we can cultivate, just like we are tending a garden in our souls.

It was (and is still) a practice that grows by doing. Once in a while when i feel the twinge of envy, I still have to consciously reach into my heart and ask it to be more generous. I have to make an effort – but it’s less frequent now that I have to work at this so hard…
Or when I feel that envy twinge, I look at it as information, telling me that I want that in my life too, and I tell myself it’s a sign post and a gift — time to take that as an example of what to build in my own life! Then I celebrate for my friend… in the consciousness that abundance is real; that there is enough for everyone.

I think the lack of ability to fargin, or a “nicht farginnen” consciousness – (someone who lives in envy of others’ achievements, eating themselves up with jealousy or regret, or trying to take the spotlight or attention…etc…) is born of a poverty mentality.  If someone is wounded in a way that makes them feel there won’t be enough to go around, they must cling desperately to what they have, there isn’t the flow of energy that allows giving and receiving, this is a ripe breeding ground for Nicht Farginnen.

Ich fargin … I feel at this moment that it is a pure form of love. I am so happy to have a name for this now, and a book of guidelines for building a practice of nourishing my own heart’s ability to fargin.

The things it’s harder to fargin about…? That’s just a sign it’s an area we need to nourish in our own lives. If I envy someone’s book being published, I’d better turn it around – celebrate, and convert the envy into rocket fuel to get me working on my own book.

There will always be enough. There are enough acting roles, and the right one for me will find me. There are enough readers for every different kind of book. There are enough venues for every voice that needs to be lifted in song. There are enough ways to see and be seen. There is always enough love for everyone; there are enough clients for every coach — we are all different, and the ones who resonate with us will find us…

Ich fargin. I aspire to this – to lift up those around me whenever I can. to celebrate them.
To live with a generosity of spirit and heart, and not live in the contracted place (which is so painful anyway…who would want to live there???) of envy and starved poverty mentality .

This is incoherent; I have dashed it out very quickly – If you have thoughts on this subject, please add comments — Ich fargin! I will be grateful.

Also – a question for discussion: What is the response when we know that someone else is nicht farginnen us? When their behavior speaks of envy and/or judgment?
I believe continuing the process of trying to forgive is necessary; letting go; seeing with compassionate eyes. Because otherwise, we might fall into the trap of contraction which is so contagious, isn’t it…

One or Three Ways to Get Over Yourself (and other people): On becoming a Maggid

I found a very very silly story for the Maggid concert. I spent a few days brushing it aside, cutting it down, making fun of it…and still it hung around. I’d swing at it and it would bob away, only to come fluttering back like a gentle, idiotically persistent moth.

It’s a very silly story.

Just today while I was boxing, sweating out some frustrations and some chattering mind-gremlins, the story grew fangs. It grew arms laced into hard little boxing gloves. It hit me. It bit me. It gave me the reason I was telling it… and I had to stop, breath coming hard, and drop into some pushups and laugh. Okay, and maybe cry a little.

So. this is being a Maggid.  Wait – is this being a Maggid? It’s like I am my own court jester. A part of my mind sees my struggle (maybe a struggle I haven’t even admitted to myself yet), comes up with an analysis, sees past it to the heart of the matter, puts on a motley cap and bells and THEN- and only then- brings a story to my attention; but it doesn’t explain it. It just gives me the story so I can (maybe) figure out my own sh*t. Then it hands me the cap with bells and tells me, “Wear this, dance around, tell a story and stop being an idiot.” Also, it reminds me I don’t have to battle other people’s opinions of me..because other people’s opinions are reflections of themselves. (It usually says this while holding up a very useful fun house mirror.) 
It says other people’s actions and choices have nothing to do with me, and everything to do with themselves.
It says my own actions and choices have nothing to do with other people, so I’d best own the choices I make, (and love them, or make better choices) because those actions are reflections of who I am.

It says we can change the reflection at any time, but only when we realize that no one else is responsible for it.

Awesome.

If I were writing a Mind Body Green article right now, it would be called “5 steps to realizing that other people’s dumb behavior is not about you, and your dumb behavior is not about other people.” (because apparently more people read things if they have numbered steps.)  

 

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To Kill the Angel in the House

Some of us still struggle against her.  Yes, even in “this Day and Age,” no longer Victorian times,

there is still a feminine ideal — she is giving. She is caring, she is understanding.  She doesn’t take up too much space; she is small, thin, dainty, always feminine.  She smells lovely. She is soft in voice and in body – she never loses her temper or raises her voice; she hardly speaks at all, really, unless it is in a charming and enchanting way.  She is The Angel in the House.

I’d like to kill her; I’d like to finally be rid of her.  She hangs weights on my tongue and silences my voice.  She makes me wish I were a size 0, yes, that’s Zero, the perfect size – ZERO! Take up absolutely NO room in the world, ladies, you will offend no one! Zero! the perfect size to curve enchantingly around your man, to drape winsomely in the spaces that he doesn’t need to fill!

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On paper, it’s ludicrous. We shake our heads: No, impossible. Women are not like this today – they are empowered, they are strong, they are unapologetic…

it’s more subtle, perhaps, than a corset, but trust me, the Angel in the House is still present among us.

Inspired by a walk with a friend today, and coming home to see a drag queen performance by another friend- I am musing about The Angel in the House;
I should like to throttle her completely. One day, I will.  She is why I box – when I am boxing, she leaves the room in despair, no doubt to sink frailly onto a couch in a near-faint, fanning herself and calling weakly for water…

This is a passage on the Angel in the House in an article called “Professions for Women” by Virginia Woolf.  It is a bit long by modern Internet Attention Span standards, but it really is worth the read:

“What could be easier than to write articles and to buy Persian cats with the profits? But wait a moment. Articles have to be about something. Mine, I seem to remember, was about a novel by a famous man. And while I was writing this review, I discovered that if I were going to review books I should need to do battle with a certain phantom. And the phantom was a woman, and when I came to know her better I called her after the heroine of a famous poem, The Angel in the House.

It was she who used to angelinthehousecome between me and my paper when I was writing reviews. It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her. You who come of a younger and happier generation may not have heard of her–you may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House.

I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it–in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all–I need not say it—she was pure. Her purity was supposed to be her chief beauty–her blushes, her great grace. In those days–the last of Queen Victoria–every house had its Angel.

And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in the room. Directly, that is to say, I took my pen in my hand to review that novel by a famous man, she slipped behind me and whispered:

“My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing about a book that has been written by a man. Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts and wiles of our sex. Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all, be pure.”

And she made as if to guide my pen. I now record the one act for which I take some credit to myself, though the credit rightly belongs to some excellent ancestors of mine who left me a certain sum of money–shall we say five hundred pounds a year?–so that it was not necessary for me to depend solely on charm for my living.

I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing. For, as I found, directly I put pen to paper, you cannot review even a novel without having a mind of your own, without expressing what you think to be the truth about human relations, morality, sex. And all these questions, according to the Angel of the House, cannot be dealt with freely and openly by women; they must charm, they must conciliate, they must–to put it bluntly–tell lies if they are to succeed.

Thus, whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her. She died hard. Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her. It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality. She was always creeping back when I thought I had despatched her. Though I flatter myself that I killed her in the end, the struggle was severe; it took much time that had better have been spent upon learning Greek grammar; or in roaming the world in search of adventures. But it was a real experience; it was an experience that was bound to befall all women writers at that time. Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer.”

– Virginia Woolf

Mrs Edwards and Fraulein Kussin met in the boxing ring on 7 March 1912 (1)

Maggid process- Finding a Story–Letting Go

Maggid process- Finding a Story--Letting Go

With such a magnificent blaze the trees let go – I wish to burn as brightly.
Sometimes when I’m supposed to find a Maggidic story, the story finds me.
Often, it’s something I don’t really want to examine all that closely- so I might push it away for a time, but always it comes back, standing outside my door, wagging its tail,
and I have to say…all right. Come in. I’ll learn you, story, and I’ll tell you to others.
The pain that comes with the kind of clarity this requires is not small…
sometimes it involves facing things I’d rather not face, letting go of things in my life that I’d rather were “Forever,”
but when I finally sit down, let the story come fully, crack my heart open and let it really feel, there’s a cleansing that happens with the burn of loss. There’s the feeling that I am open, clear, and living absolutely fully again without blockages of things that aren’t really in alignment with my chosen expression in this life. There’s an immense feeling of power, as though my life force is no longer diluted…

but it’s hard to remember that, and hard to let go when the heart is aching with loss.

That’s when I look to the trees in the fall and winter as guides. How they celebrate the letting go–and how dignified they are when they are bare; what courage it takes to sit with emptiness for a time, to allow the barren branches to be, rather than trying to cling to the old simply so we won’t have to experience the pain of loss…
when we truly let go, and stand with open heart and bare branches, that’s when there is room for the new, beautiful, pure life to grow.

Let go…let go…let go, and feel with what radiant light you burn – glow, like the trees, with magnificent fire, and trust that something new that is good for your heart will grow where there are now empty branches.

Jacob’s Ladder – God Was In This Place (yes, even this)

“Good. Strong back,” he says, and traces two fingers down my spine from neck to tailbone. (There is only one man in the world at present who can get away with this without risking injury.)

חלם –  chalam – to dream. What does it mean? Dream.  There  is immense power in a waking dream, or disparate pieces of a dream in the process of coming together. The blacksmith holds the steel in the fire, not until it is red hot, but beyond that- until it is a really terrifying thing he’s holding, capable of harm, at the white-hot edge of creation. What courage it takes to hammer it then; what strength and care, and trust in himself. Image

It is the “The Shabbat of Jacob’s ladder. Of dreams that move toward reconciliation,” Rabbi Wolpe says.

I feel like I’ve been been in the fire a long time, not truly trusting myself. It’s been a long quest, this “Tigger Leaves the Theater World” adventure.

Now, today, with the feeling of two fingers tracing down my back which used to be broken, which used to radiate pain and be my reason for shutting myself away from the world and losing hope- two fingers tracing down my strong back, straight and enduring as steel, I have a new feeling: I can hold these weights in this pose indefinitely. I have truly healed. I am stronger than I ever knew… and right in that moment, I know why I have been doing this crazy thing…I know why I’ve been doing all the separate, seemingly incompatible things I’ve been doing and learning.

Every blow, each terrible, hard lesson, everything I tried, every failure or loss tempered me. Made me strong. Showed me the depth, breadth and resilience of my own heart.
Because of it, I know now what I have to give the world. I know what stories I can tell, I know what I can teach, what healing I can bring to others.

חלם –  chalam – to dream, also means to be healthy , strong, to restore to health.

I can look back to many moments over the years and say truly, “God was in this place, and I – I did not know it.” There was a reason for everything- even the car accident.

Trust yourself. Keep going. Whatever you burn to do, whatever gives your soul joy- there will come a time when each separate piece begins to come together and make sense. Don’t listen to doubting voices; listen to the wild beat of your own heart. Keep going! It is the Shabbat of dreams… What is your dream? 

the Wall

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photo by James Starkman

The next story I am telling (this coming saturday) is dealing with the time when the Berlin Wall came down, and the time period a little before it. It’s rough going, this story. I did not realize how much of my psyche (my inability to tolerate confinement or the perception that someone else has power over me) is formed from what I experienced in East Berlin.

Stomach, heart, mind: stop stressing – it’s long over.
Doing research for this story is a very surreal experience… a lot of what they’re saying on various websites about the Berlin wall simply is not true. 2012

Weird being an eyewitness to something unfolding–and hearing what they’re saying about it these days that simply is NOT true- not a word of it –kinda makes ya think a bit about “historical facts.”

This maggid training is an interesting journey. I had no idea it would be so deeply personal…

it’s a challenge. I like it – a lot.