Power of a Word

(*note: if you use this facebook app thingy, after you’re done, go right away into settings – apps – and delete it, because apparently it accesses a ridiculous amount of information.)

I did that Facebook word collage thing. My most used word was “love.” It’s a pretty nifty way to check in with the “word of the year” one-word new year resolution.

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Yes. 2015 has been about love. Finding out what love is. Learning what love feels like (dear wounded young-me: it doesn’t feel unsafe. It doesn’t feel like longing. It doesn’t feel like lack or pity or regret. It doesn’t feel like fear and danger, scrambling to prove your worth, make up for someone else’s accusations and blame. It doesn’t feel like lack or  inadequacy. You only thought it did, so you found, allowed, and created those things. Love feels like safety, peace and growing. Love feels rooted in honor. Love feels like questions and risking only in that it might be time to shift the status quo, It might be time to leap and listen to someone else’s perspective. Love feels like respect – for one’s self and one’s own needs and boundaries, and for the other and their needs and boundaries. Love feels like home. Love isn’t the games you thought you had to play in order to be interesting, or the manipulations and power plays that left you so confused, shaking and dizzy.  Love feels intrinsically interesting in simply being authentic with another, and learning their true self. Love feels like trust – and when the Demons of fear come up to tell you to distrust, love feels like completely knowing those are just fear and damage voices from your own past. Of your own creation. Love feels like being trusted, and holding your head up with shining heart, knowing your lover believes in you – love feels like choosing actions that show love and gratitude for his belief in you. love feels like abundance. Love feels like an energy flow of giving and receiving, not hanging on and holding back. Love feels like loving yourself, nurturing the relationship entity, and loving him are all in harmony and a constant flow.)

I’m so grateful to the counselors, healers, teachers, hard work, and examples in life who all helped me see completion of that particular broken place, that Groundhog Day lesson on endless repeat. Over. Finally.  2015, thank you for realizing my one-word intention in life. I taught myself how love feels through the long, slow and difficult process of becoming whole. Of loving this flawed being that I am – as I am.

look- I’m not perfect in this. I’m still struggling with the idea that I can be beautiful to him even though I’m not blonde and tall. I still struggle with perfectionism and fear. I always will, because I am human. The difference is, I am now safe to know I’ll be true to myself  I’ll walk away from anyone who tries to crumble my self-worth by telling me I’m not honorable and not trustworthy. I’ll walk away from anyone who tries to tell me I deserve unkindness and lack-mentality living. I love my life and myself enough to let go of anything that dims my light  and doesn’t appreciate my heart.

When the self-talk becomes kinder and more compassionate, what we accept and allow in our lives shifts, too.

This is how to make room for love. Teach ourselves how love feels by having the courage to practice love-in-action.

2016: I’d like to see love still infusing the collage, of course; it’s a garden that needs watering, and it’s a joy to nurture. I’d like the central word to be: writing. Completion. It’s time to see my novels, my babies finally born. I’ve worked on them so long. Time to laser focus. Love makes this possible – it’s a solid foundation from which to build. Success will be what form it needs to take. I don’t know what it looks like, but I know what it feels like: completion.

What will your collage look like in 2016? What is your central word intention?

Apparently, we don’t have to know how to do it, or what it will look like. We just have to set the intention and leap.
Loving and living into it : now. Today.

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Hope Farm

“Fall has arrived at Hope Farm…”

With these words, something rises in my spirit, just a little. There’s a glimmer like the reflection in a pond of a leaf shifting, caught just in the corner of my eye. Barely noticeable, except that my stillness in this moment is so profound, any shift is enormous.

If I move, will I break, shatter, be consumed with rage or grief or both?

No. I will not break. I have been there before, and this is not like that. This is sadness, yes, but it’s also the deep serene knowledge that I made the right choice.

When I consciously set out to heal, to learn to love myself; when I began to speak up, I also began a relationship.
During that relationship, I kept learning, growing, fighting the old shadows – and he was with me, though he didn’t always understand – he stuck with me. He allowed.
But the growth itself caused it to become apparent that there was a dynamic in our relationship that served neither of us.
It’s so ironic and so horribly sad that the growth itself that I did with him – the lessons his presence in my life sparked – those very lessons meant that eventually this had to end.

I have grown to see that the love I want has to begin with me – that the healing I have to do in order to call that love into my life is healing I have to do alone now.

It is a truth that we will accept harshness from others only equal to that we give ourselves. When the self-talk changes, the level of acceptance changes, too. This is the work, now – having the quiet strength to lovingly say no. No, I will not accept unkindness.

One day what I envision is this: a love that is solid, rooted in honor. Honorable behavior toward the world and toward each other. Trust. There will be no distrust from the beginning – that shattering wondering if my computer was searched or wondering why he’s hiding his phone … there will be no explaining old relationships or constant defending. There will be no asking who he was with- that simply will not exist because Honor will be the foundation of both of our intended energy in this life, a shared core value.

Further, arguments will be in order to reach understanding. They won’t be unpredictable storms out of nowhere with the object to quickly wound – wound first! – they won’t be power struggles or fear-based manipulations. They will be arguments with a solid foundation of knowing we love, knowing we are committed to continuing to nurture a relationship – arguments with the knowledge underneath -always the knowledge – that we love and therefore will not want to say things to hurt. There will be a kind of sparkly glue that holds us together. There will be no question of leaving, no fear of continued harm or deprivation causing doubt; no constant tests. That un-pin-downable, indefinable thing that is enduring, patient, joyful, trust-based, nurtured love.
There will be celebrations of each other’s strengths. Honoring and lifting up the good things- That is what I intend for my future relationship.

I don’t know how it will come about, but I am learning that when I set an intention I must let go of the “how.”  “How” seeks to control— and it limits.  If I let go of the knowing, if I let go of the worry of HOW I will meet this future person, I can focus on nurturing this intention. I can knit up my ragged edges with a lot of self-compassion, I can take responsibility for the ways in which I made choices that weren’t great, or caused harm; I can own my part of things and learn how to do better, and I can love myself as a person who is owning her sh*t and truly growing.

After a breakup, however it happens, the ego can get very loud and hungry. It screams at us to blame the other person – to list the ways in which they were wrong, the times they hurt us, the cruel things they said- it will even urge us to twist things around so that we might still appear in the right, no matter what! Memory shifts solidly in our favor – when in truth, everyone remembers things differently – our memories are not real. They only exist in our own minds and can transform, like the refocusing of a lens shifts a photograph. The problem is, if we give in to that, we put ourselves in the “victim” chair.  “That person did this, and this and this! and said this!” then we are in a place of reaction and anger, telling over the old perceived harms like toxic, poisonous little thorny rosary beads.  Each time we go over the cycle of harmful thought, the ego is fed but it wants more; the ego has a bottomless hunger. It makes things worse. If we look for “evidence,” whether for good perceptions or bad, we can always find it.
IN reaction, there is no empowerment.  We are at the mercy of others’ actions and choices – we are basically saying that we did nothing, could do nothing.

In a place of pain, it can feel like the right choice; it can FEEL like self-empowerment to say “I was right, he was wrong.” but if we listen to the ego and actually are tempted to think it’s showing us the “truth,” we are in for a painful road ahead and a longer time spent healing. Some people actually never really heal.

So: here’s a way to find out whether it’s true or not: simply check to see how it feels.
When I am in hurt and anger, remembering perceived harms, I feel small, tense, ready to spring; my stomach hurts, I cannot rest – there is no peace, I feel sick, and my energy drains away.

When I move away from that, distance from the ego and away from focus on whatever anyone else did, and when I focus on my own choices, I feel expanded, powerful, serene, peaceful. Even in the sorrow of loss, of endings, of breaking up — the wish that it didn’t have to be this way — the undeniable longing that somehow I could stay – there is still a kind of peace. We can choose this at any time! We can breathe, tell the ego, “Thanks, but this isn’t helping me,” and re-focus the lens. Refocus the lens to the beautiful memories, or the times in which we felt held and loved. Refocus the lens toward gratitude for those times, and the knowledge that by struggling through the hard things, by engaging in the discipline of saying “no” to toxic things, we are moving TOWARD, not away from, that beautiful feeling of wholeness, peace, love, happiness.

When I focus on the good, on love and continuing with compassion for both myself and him, I feel healthy. The energy returns.

Thus in a “growth” mindset rather than a “fixed” one, the mistakes are not things to hide from or fear to face: they are enormous, beautiful opportunities for growth and learning.

I believe we are here to grow, so I do much of my learning “out loud” in the world these days…it is my gift to my fellow humans.  Look – I have flaws, lots of them. If I can show the process of seeing them, having compassion for myself within that, owning them, learning from them and moving forward,
maybe then I can help others have self- compassion too. I think this is where much of our healing as a society will begin.

We are here to learn. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. I am grateful for this relationship, for the companion who held up a mirror and showed me my ego, so i could do battle with it. Ultimately, it does not matter what he did or chose, or whether he can take responsibility or seeks to blame… that is his lesson to either learn or encounter again. That is where the healing comes in. In the distance from someone else and what they choose; the letting go.

I am grateful that I have grown so much in self-love and loving self-talk that my “limit” has raised – that I will no longer tolerate certain energies in my life, but will, with loving compassion, release and build a strong protective wall around my life.

I used to think that being loving meant allowing all – Chesed (in Jewish mysticism, one of the sefirot, a kind of holy chakra) – lovingkindness —
but Chesed must be balanced with, on the other side, Gevurah – discipline/strength.

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This was always my struggle.  I was never able to say a loving “No.”  No, I do not accept that kind of talk toward me. No, I do not accept this kind of arguing for the sake of wounding. No. I love you, but no – this is not the way I intend to spend my life.

And so, with a loving “No,” we both are lifted up, though we cannot maybe see it yet past the pain of change and loss.  My dear friend and companion – so much laughter. Incomparably beautiful times under the stars, the trees, seeing the magic in the world – on a beach sparkling in the moonlight –
painfully, I give us both this gift. with gratitude, I let go.

HopeFarm

this is a real farm, and it’s really called Hope Farm. with thanks to Rebecca Larken

Fall has arrived at Hope Farm. The trees magnificently blaze as they begin to let go… the chlorophyll that masked their true colors has drawn inward, revealing the rich hues of gold, amber, crimson – and so, may drawing inward for a time of healing allow each of our true colors to blaze forth as we release what no longer serves us.
There will follow a time of emptiness – barren branches –

and then: Spring.  Spring will come softly in to Hope Farm, and she will bloom as she has never bloomed, abundant and joyful with fragrant blossoms.

Parting in gratitude now for the loveliness that was you in my life, making space, examining my own stuff, drawing inward, releasing the past, and sitting bravely with the emptiness in prepation for the glorious, rioting Spring.

Anger: Four Steps to Release and Heal

Anger. What is it, why does it happen, and what is the healthiest way to deal with it?

These questions have been coming up as I have carried anger for the past three days. That doesn’t feel good in my body or heart, so I decided to really examine what was happening.

I came up with these key things: four ways to diffuse and heal the anger.

 

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1) Name it.

What am I REALLY feeling? Anger is a secondary emotion – there will be something underneath it.  So go through, list the things you feel out loud. “I feel angry because ________.”  Keep going until you run out of reasons. Then, dig deeper.
“I feel minimized because _________.”
“I feel used because _________.”
“I feel threatened because _________.”
“I feel betrayed because _________”
“I feel afraid because _______”  whatever comes up, name it.  For each one, list reasons until you run out of things to say. Let yourself cry if you need to. purge it.

When you have done this, sit silently with your heart and give yourself love. Give yourself approval. Remind yourself that you are safe. No one can harm you or detract from you without your permission.

 

2) Reach Out.

Connect with other people who remind you how loved and how incredible you are – not necessarily with words, but simply with the way they are happy to be around you.

When we interact with others, the way we relate to them is a reflection of ourselves. We are creatures who project — and that’s why if we find ourselves continually saying negative things about others, if certain words/phrases keep repeating/patterns keep repeating with every relationship, it’s time to examine ourselves. For example, if people say their ex is “crazy,” (they’re likely to say that about all of them), it’s time to take a hard look at their own issues. Or If we are continually suspicious of others, it’s time to do some counseling to heal whatever it is in us that is living in a lack / fear of loss mentality.

So : go interact with the people you have good things to say about. The people you love. The people who make your heart smile. The people who know, love, and bring out the best you.

3) Take Personal Responsibility.

After a time, if the anger cycles and re-cycles, it’s time to examine what it’s trying to tell you. Anger is a signal. I was told once by an incredibly brilliant person that “Anger is a sign that we need more self-care.”
It can also be a signal that our boundaries have been crossed in some way. It can be a signal that we aren’t being true to ourselves.

In my case, I betrayed myself in a huge way. I kept silent. I fell into old people-pleasing behavior and did not speak what I wanted or what I didn’t want; I didn’t speak what I was feeling — I did something that was NOT o.k. with me in that moment.
It was a very horrible, difficult experience, and the rage aftermath was nearly crippling.   Apparently I have healed so much that my subconscious is telling me in no uncertain terms, it is NOT ok with self-betrayal anymore.

This anger is mine, I own it, it belongs to me.  When you say that, you stop putting it on others. You stop saying “He did ….x,y,z” and listing the actions and circumstances that triggered you into reaction, that were a catalyst for the anger response. We can waste years of life if we continually justify our anger with someone else’s actions — because the focus will always be on something we cannot control. We will be in reaction, telling the harmful actions and choices over like rosary beads, re-opening the wound and reacting again as though it just happened. The stress hormones will flood the body anew. I can feel them come up even now, if I play over in my head the circumstances that led to my anger.  This is not healthy for the body or soul,  and it keeps us stuck. Stuck in old circumstances that no longer exist (the past does not exist except in our own head, since everyone’s experience of a moment is different!) stuck in reaction, basically — it keeps us a victim.

So. Owning the anger is an empowering thing.  I KNOW people can do absolutely horrible things, and depending on the degree of the harm, there may need to be years of processing anger. This is a healing step.  But once the healing has occurred and enough time has passed, there is a time to own it all, take responsibility for our emotions, and know that we can make choices.  We can’t choose what others do. Sometimes we are truly helpless and someone else’s behavior is deeply violating. What we can choose is how we heal, how we walk forward, how we honor ourselves – how we talk to ourselves from that moment on. We don’t have to take any responsibility for what someone else chooses to do – if they treat us badly, we don’t have to choose to say “They treated me badly because something in me is not worthy of respect,” or “I invited that,” or any other variation of taking blame for someone else’s shitty behavior. No…what we can instead choose is “I love myself/I am incredible/ if they can’t see it, their problem,” and so on. This is owning our anger, owning our response, and knowing that we deserve better and can walk away faster next time.

I uncovered that the person I was truly angry with was myself. I was livid with myself for staying silent, for freezing and complying, falling into a very long-ago established abused-victim behavior. I was furious with myself for being afraid to speak up. Underneath that, I was deadly afraid. If I had betrayed myself again, when would it stop? When would I finally learn my own worth, stop caring so much what others think, and SPEAK UP when something wasn’t ok with me, or when a boundary had been crossed?

This was a harmless, innocent situation, (albeit thoughtless and rude-) and yet the old harms came up due to a chance dynamic.  What, I wondered, would teach me to believe in myself and know that I was valuable and speak UP?

The answer is : the anger. The anger is teaching me. The anger is there TO teach me. I just had to stop ratcheting around the room like a burning ping-pong ball, and create stillness. I had to stop running from the anger, I had to stop reaching out to try to communicate with the person I had been angry with, I had to look within and tell it, “Ok, anger, I am listening.”

Every human being is going to experience anger. If we could stop putting shame and fear around it and start listening to what it’s trying to tell us, we might all be healthier with it.  Anger in itself is not a bad thing. It’s natural and it’s vital to our survival. What is important is how we use it – if we can create some stillness and listen to it, if our subconscious feels heard and honored, it won’t try so VERY hard to get our attention.

 

 

4) Self Care.

Now it’s time to remind ourselves that we are loved — and that we are accepted and whole just as we are, anger and all. When something happens that triggers anger, there is a great vulnerability afterward, and the self-esteem will take a big dip.
We  need to feel some solidarity and safety, and the awesome thing is, we don’t need anyone else to give that. We always have that available, because we can give it to ourselves!
A good start to rebuilding self-esteem and feelings of security & being loved is to do some self-care practices.  Cook a healthy, delicious meal, or take yourself out on a date! Take a bubble bath, or do some self-massage with oils or scents that soothe you. Take a walk in beautiful surroundings. Write a gratitude list, and really ask your heart to feel the goodness of these things in your life. Exercise – do something that isn’t a punishing chore, but fun and playful! Something you enjoy. Write yourself notes about why you are awesome. Write affirmations (short and sweet!) and say them to yourself while meditating, or while taking a walk.

Do the things that empower you, do the things that make you feel most YOU.

If we feel empowered and safe, we will experience less anger. If we feel loved, we will experience less anger. The constant work is to give these things to ourselves.

I wish everyone healing in this continual process… I know I feel a lot better 🙂

Book Love List

this is inspired by Sioux, whose blog you can find here: http://siouxtrett.wordpress.com

my blog entry will not be so clear, concise, tidy and understandable as hers;  I am a sprawling, messy writer.

Here goes:

a “Love List” for my book-    Image

My poor book that I have not worked on in over a year, because I’ve gotten too busy with FEAR RESPONSES, HEALING and OLD DREAMS.

My book that is really begging for attention again, like Figaro does persistently in the morning, his silently obstinate furry face totally un-ignorable — my book, you’re going to get my time and attention again and to merry hell with everything else.

Everything else being:

Fear Response: a certification that will lead to a business that is a side-passion in a health-related field, that will lead to more certain income.

Old Dream: a Maggid certification/ordination… this is in lieu of rabbinical school, which would have taken a lot more money and many, many more years. This has been two years of training, and it will be over in September. It doesn’t really feel like a “detour” as such, because it will add to my writing, and it has been a very rewarding experience. It has also challenged me to face and conquer some major demons, so I feel it has been a unique opportunity that is actually completely necessary on the road to completing this particular novel. (AND I have had to really conquer the fear of rejection, so that will serve me immeasurably as a writer. I  have a much thicker skin now, thank God.)

HEALING:  Figuring out the whole “love” thing (which, duh, no one ever figures out – it’s a cosmic joke, it’s why we are here in the first place, isn’t it, so I’ve gotten over trying and have gladly let go of the old – and may or may not lampoon him mercilessly in my book- and am enjoying the new and keeping it in perspective. I’m not sure I believe in romantic love any more, to be honest…there is love. But the romantic thing is, perhaps, a dopamine-flooded illusion. Maybe.) I’ve been focusing a LOT on boxing this year. I am stronger. I am healthier. I feel awesome. I’m getting good at boxing. But working out so much means sitting and writing has become anathema. I’ve tried to find ways to stand and write.  I’m still working on this. I think the fitness aspect will help the writing, actually, if I get more methodical about exercising early in the morning and then hitting the keyboard.

All right. Okay.  long apologia over. Now to the Love List for my book (Which is, for now, entitled “Steampunk Torah;” merely a description of what it was when it was a weekly serial – it needs a title of its own–)

I love you, Archives. I love you so much. You are unique, dangerous and weird and I still haven’t completely explored you. I am excited to figure out  the dark powerful mystery that surrounds you.

Characters I love dearly:  Jac, Professor Malone, Is.  You three are supporting characters right now, and I love you so much. I am not sure how you sprang out of my brain; you are hilarious and clever. You behave in ways that surprise and delight me. I have had to add a sequel simply so I can preserve your lives — and the sequel is duly added — you are not going to die on my watch.

I love that these things are in this book:  Shrødinger’s Cat, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Amaranth, the “unwilting” that was mentioned in John Milton’s Paradise Lost as a flower in Eden, that happens to contain more iodine than the average grain, which happens to dissolve ink, and so it is used as a “murder” weapon against a Manuscript.  I still have to perfect the method of iodine extraction here, but I’m very proud of this research.

I love Mari’s journey that people will never read.  How she began as a heroine who simply reacts to the men around her, and how I realized that, and how she is now shifting to drive her own story – to create her life, not react her life.  I love how her “life” in this sense mirrors my own awakening.

I love the “villain” characters who grew from people in my life, who came across my path like ugly little gifts, to become the love-to-hate kinds of nasties that one needs in a book. And I love that they are faceted, not just plain nasty.

I love the illustrations that grow in my head until I need to put the colors of my book down on paper.

I love that you haunt my dreams still, book, you maddening, sprawling piece of weird adventure.  I wonder what is going to happen next. I wonder how you grew – truly it is a mystery to me where you came from.

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I love that an agent in Jerusalem whom I never would have met under ordinary circumstances (but you propel me out of the ordinary, and I love you for that,) stayed up all weekend to read you, book, and then told me she needs to know how you end — I, too, should love to know how you end —

I love the fun contraptions: the “Certainty Principle” which uses the spheres in their paths as a sort of guiding principle to manipulate space-time realities of human beings;
the wearable double-boiler (dangerous!) and wings; Figaro, who is not really just a cat, as he seems to follow his own space-time rules, but then, that’s a cat for you; Professor Malone’s clockwork carriage (highly dangerous, do not try this at home!), the Manuscripts…

I love the questions you make me ask, such as:

Who is to say that magic does not exist, since it’s all just bendy science, and therefore entirely provable and possible?

If the nature of space-time as we perceive it is defined by our limited perceptions, what if our perceptions were to be given a little shove of encouragement to expand?

Where will I find an editor who believes as passionately as I do in the semicolon?

When are you going to be finished?

The Distance

The Distance

My ancestor was named “Gentleman Jim” because not only was he one of the first to wear gloves, he was one of the first to box in a new form that had something called “the distance.”

The distance: a specified number of rounds. A stopping point, even if no one had fallen. To “go the distance” meant you had boxed all the rounds and you were still standing.

It’s my hardest lesson right now. When to stop boxing. I’ve hammered it into my very bones – my guard is up, that glove next to my cheekbone so familiar I don’t think about it now – my body knows what to do – and I love it. My gloves are a part of me. They feel like home. I feel strong; I feel ready.

But the distance is a new, scary, unfamiliar lesson… and it’s a hard one. I was not prepared for my next challenge to be… stopping.

To take the gloves off and leave the fight… go the distance, and then stop – that’s going to be the toughest fight yet.

Put down the gloves. Let down my guard. I’ve forged a soul of steel and now
softness is the scariest thing imaginable.

love – it is the only match I fear – he will still come in past my guard patiently, though my glove has stung him a few times. I don’t know how to do this anymore; I was never going to allow this again- So I slip. Feint. Even pull out the “Ali Shuffle,” then jab with a slip so I can load my uppercut, just outside his view …

but this is not how to win this kind of match.

Pause…and learn something new: perhaps this man is different. There is a good man out there, who doesn’t deserve to stand in the ring, to fight a battle and take the blows meant for a far lesser man. It’s time to stop that fight – that creep is long gone, banished with a hundred thousand hits over the course of a year, when I watched my sweat form pools drop by drop on the floor and knew it was my body’s way of weeping – knew I was washing him away in a tide of salt- I could see his weakness, his lies, his toxicity leaving me with every drop. I forgave myself for allowing him into my life- I learned to trust myself again, to trust that I would never again allow someone to treat me badly.

It’s exciting, really – it’s the one thing we can say “never” about; I will never allow someone else to treat me badly. I will never again experience that particular kind of life-wrecking pain.

As I became stronger, he became…utterly ridiculous.

Eventually, after 20lbs had been sweated away and my boxing gloves had faded, were worn and cracked with use, his face no longer swam in front of my glove as a target on the heavy bag. If he came into my mind at all, it was with surprise, and “what on earth was I thinking?”

Every time I wrapped my hands in preparation for another bout, binding my hands and arms like tefillin, I told myself I was binding my heart to my own power and locking that loser OUT. Then twenty pounds shed turned into thirty pounds; I dropped the weight of him I was carrying like a rancid crucifix across my back – left it behind in drops of sweat on the floor measured over the course of a year. Shed the way he had aged me, found joy again and youth again in new companions and new life — I stopped being a victim.

Every painful fight was a triumphant step forward.

Waiting for a good man to walk into my life, I met a few who made me realize that I had forgotten how to put down the gloves and open my arms. That I can fight may still be a good thing, however – there IS a time to fight – to ensure I will never be treated badly again…

But even so, I believe that not all men are untrustworthy. That not all men seek to control; that not all men will try to chip away at me until I am small enough for them to feel bigger – I still believe there are men out there who deserve all the love a woman can give, though I have yet to meet him, and though it’s scary, so scary, to open this heart –

I’d best accept it. Go the distance. Leave the ring. Learn what true courage is and be vulnerable sometimes, be open again; only this time, with a power that nothing can shake. This time, there is a difference. I bring more of myself when I love that self for the first time in my life – and no one can take that from me.
What I have to give I can give freely now, knowing that there is a solid core of strength in me that no one can diminish.

I don’t need to fight because I am now a warrior. It’s a paradox that comes when you’ve fought your way out the other side – the deepest strength is required for not fighting. The biggest fight any of us will ever face is : no fight at all.

My ancestor did it. He wore gloves in a world of bare-knuckle boxers; he went the distance in a world of “fight until someone is down,” though it was a new thing and I bet he came under much criticism. Perhaps his nickname “Gentleman” began as a mockery, schoolyard bullies giving him a title to wear through the ages – he turned it into fame. His courageous blood lives in my veins. I can do this.

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.

Into the Heart of Mourner’s Kaddish

In 2001, someone I loved very deeply died really suddenly. I won’t tell you his age, as he was always mortified about it, but he was very young, in his early 30’s.  I wish you had been able to grow older, mortified or not, dear heart…

I crawled into a cave, and I didn’t accept his death. I kept on with my work, and did not accept his death. I tried having other relationships but was oddly disconnected (to this day, I do not remember those relationships very much at all) and I did not accept his death. JeffreyS

Then followed ten years during which I waited for him to come home. Knowing that when he had had an impulse to talk to me, he had driven by and if the light was not on, he didn’t come in, I left the light on for years.
There were shards of broken glass in my chest for ten long years; I could not breathe too deeply without tears.
And I did not accept his death.

I had a ten-years-delayed “rebound” relationship with the man who had begun grief counseling with me, who saw the raw ugliness of my grief that I had allowed no one else in the world to see, who told me he was in love with me and jealous of a man ten years gone from this world – that relationship taught me a lot and began a process toward acceptance, and very painfully woke my heart up from its long disconnected state,

but I still felt as though I was behind sharp glass panes, utterly separate from people, in a cage of frozen grief.

Last November on the anniversary of Jeff’s death, I decided to say Mourner’s Kaddish for a year. To do something for him, when I could do nothing. To spend time with him in the only way I could. To teach myself to accept and let go.

In the beginning, I felt sheepish about breaking the “rules” — I was not saying Kaddish at the traditionally accepted time — but I knew that on a deep level I needed this if I was ever to move on and heal, and perhaps one day have a healthy relationship. At the same time I also felt a bit of resistance, as always happens when I am faced with “structured religion.”  I felt like I was fulfilling an obligation, following a rule, and that chafed somewhat.

Still, I stood up to say Mourner’s Kaddish for my friend.  Painfully, I said his name aloud for the first time into the still air of that synagogue and something inside cracked open, just a little bit.

Then, there was a lot of grief. A LOT. I said Kaddish in a whisper, unable to speak around the enormous lump in my throat; I said Kaddish with tears flowing in a bitter flood down my cheeks, dripping off my chin and spotting the prayerbook. I said Kaddish and sometimes the grief felt like it was tearing its way out of my body, and I would wrap my head in my prayer shawl in mortification to feel so out of control in the synagogue, in “public.”

But, as a wise friend (a wonderful, supportive fellow Maggid student) said to me once: “if you can’t cry in the synagogue, where CAN you cry?”

I said Kaddish with anger that I was saying Kaddish for a man who had died far too young; I said Kaddish wishing I could go back to that week and help, somehow – living through the “bargaining” stage of grief  (“If I had gone with him, he wouldn’t have tried that drug. If I had not distanced from my best friend in all the world, he would not have felt so alone…”)

I said Kaddish remembering him, with a smile on my lips; I said Kaddish thinking of his family and wondering where they were; I said Kaddish remembering the first time I saw him, in a temper, with a scowl on his face, his skin glowing darkly across the room; I said Kaddish with a small giggle inside, remembering calling my Mother to tell her, “I have met a scenic designer. He is going to be trouble for me, somehow.”
I said Kaddish, and I walked through all our too-brief days together, our lifetime together and apart. I said Kaddish with the taste of our first kiss on my lips, and with the bond in my chest that we had formed, two twenty-somethings who played together like kids, and who always assured each other they’d be married, as soon as they figured things out…as soon as he no longer turned to drugs when he was sad…as soon as….as soon as…

I said Kaddish with compassion for us both, remembering our “dates” to Costco when we were both too poor to go out, and how we laughed until we had tears rolling down our faces, hunched over helplessly giggling and making the most delicious lunch out of free samples…the plastic ring he had gotten from a bubble-gum machine and how he had put it on my finger, and how it was more precious than any jewelry I owned…

I am nine months into the process of saying Kaddish for my best friend and love, and now I realize why the tradition is to say Kaddish for a year after someone has died.

Because at some point, time has done its work; you wake up one morning and realize, saying those same words you’ve said week after week, that a changed heart is saying the same words. The words become a steadfast marker against which you can see your own growth and healing, and as you say yet again the words of Kaddish, the meaning seeps into your bones.

AT first, it’s just the rhythm that is soothing: “…Yit-barach v’yish-tabach, v’yit-pa-ar v’yit-romam v’yit-nasay, v’yit-hadar v’yit-aleh v’yit-halal sh’may d’koo-d’shah…”

It is like a mantra – a heartbeat. The sound of it on my tongue reminds me of the time when I was in Greece for the summer, living on about $15 a week, taking the afternoons to simply float in the sea.  I had met a Polish girl there, and was teaching her how to swim. We lay back in the salty water, floating high in the stillness as the salt held us up, just our ears under the water, faces to the sky…and all I could hear was the musical chime of the rocks and pebbles beneath me as the gentle rocking of the tiny waves stirred them, and faintly, underneath, my own slow, steady heartbeat and the whoosh of the flow and ebb of my own breath in my ears. The water was warm; it was the safest I have ever felt, in the womb-waters of mother earth herself.

That is the rhythm of Kaddish.  It wraps you in its timeless serene acceptance of what is – it rocks you gently, and over the months, its assurance that nothing – no one- is ever truly lost seeps into your bones.

Then, the meaning of the words began to be clear.   (A few translations will be at the end of this post.)

Mourner’s Kaddish is a song of joy –a giving of thanks —  an affirmation of life!

IMG_7067The day that new layer of meaning struck me, as I was saying Kaddish for the thirtieth, fortieth time, I gasped. I knew then that this ancient prayer was not only for Jeff’s soul, it was also for mine. I knew then that this beautiful prayer was telling me that I was not alone (how many people have said Kaddish throughout the ages?) and that I was still alive, and that I must learn

how to live again.

During this 12-month journey, I happened to experience an interpretation of Mourner’s Kaddish that is one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received. I was in the time when I was beginning to feel a beauty and expansion in saying Kaddish; comforted by the rhythm of Kaddish – my grief had worked its splinter-sharp edges to the surface and had been worn into sea-glass by months of tears –

I was serene, aching still, but open; tender new growth had begun to soften the wounded places.  I was at a Rabbi Zalman Shabbaton in Ashland, Oregon, and the Mourner’s Kaddish that weekend was done by Rabbi Andrew Hahn, (“the Kirtan Rabbi”) – it was a kirtan Kaddish.  It was utterly beautiful. (*Is* utterly beautiful, actually: you can find and hear it online, if you don’t have the opportunity to hear it live.)

Also during a Rabbi Zalman shabbaton in the previous year, I randomly met an author, Hyla Shifra Bolsta, who had written a beautiful book: the Illuminated Kaddish.

Through Hyla’s artwork and through Rabbi Andrew Hahn’s kirtan, Kaddish opened before me; I experienced new depths in the magnificent heart of the prayer.

Kaddish is a road through the grieving process: it is a guide. It lets you listen to your own heart and know when it is time to let joy back in; it holds you up like the ocean in Greece held me, telling you, it’s okay, it’s okay, feel your grief, feel it all, you will not shatter.

And then, later: it’s okay, it’s okay, you’re alive and that is wonderful – your beloved is still alive in you.

Throughout the year, I have unravelled every stitch of what he was to me in my life: every bright glance, the funny way he blew his nose, his maddening stubbornness and his sweet, sweet voice; his breathing next to me and the sweet smell of him, that spot behind his ear that always smelled like woodsmoke and sweet meadow; his practical jokes, his quick, stormy temper, and his loyal, gentle heart…his beautiful eyes that noticed everything, and his long, sensitive fingers that sketched the things he noticed with such clarity and whimsy…

All of it has been unravelled, tiny stitch by excruciating stitch, and has been knit back up into myself, over the course of nine months saying Mourner’s Kaddish. All the moments of who we were together knit back into who I am — and suddenly, he was a part of me, not shut out by my grief. The memory of him lived and breathed in me, and I began to feel like he was with me; in my mind I would see his smile when something wonderful happened, and I would feel, suddenly, the warmth of him near. I felt as though I was living with all of my heart, as I never had before.

Surrounded by my community who let me be – who did not judge, who did not need to talk to me about my grief, who just stood with me and once in awhile squeezed my hand or put a comforting arm around me— held in this warm sea of mother earth’s lifeblood, held in the heartbeat of my community, I said Kaddish, and I finally healed.

Ariwildernessillustedited

I finally let him go.

I finally realized that while I loved him with all my heart, that was a gift that made my heart and soul grow larger- there was infinite room in my heart to love again.

I have three months left to say Mourner’s Kaddish for my best friend and love.

I have three months in which my heart might still sting with grief, but it also – so suddenly! even in the next breath! – might be quick and bright with joy….

because during this journey of saying Kaddish for my dear friend, I learned that it is okay to stand there saying Kaddish for him and also feeling the sun on my face. That it is okay to be laughing inside at a funny thing that someone had said just moments before, or to be still feeling elevated, serene and blissful from the prayer service that had come before.  I learned that it is all okay. That I did not need to die when he died. That grief is the deal we make when we draw our first breath here: we are going to love, and we are going to lose people – and we are all going to die sometime.  We will also learn things along the way — and in a way, saying Mourner’s Kaddish for a year cycle is a distillation, a metaphor of the whole journey of a life.

It is a beautiful gift to have this tradition that allows healing and understanding to come.

One of the messages Mourner’s Kaddish held for me was a vision of my future self, who said, “Don’t use up your life refusing to mourn, refusing to let go of those who are gone. Do not carry the dead—we will all end at some point — let their deaths teach you how to live.  Mourn, so you can fully expand into the length and breadth of your days here.”

At the last comes acceptance.  It cannot come at the beginning: there is a necessary process to go through first, and Mourner’s Kaddish is a beautiful guide through that process.

Mourner’s Kaddish interpretation by Rabbi Avram Davis:

(taken from the Illuminated Kaddish by Hyla Bolsta)

Exalted and Sanctified is the name of Loving Kindness in this world.
Created according to the Intention
And may it be established in your lifetime
and the lifetime of the Community
Speedily. Soon. (Amen)

May this name of the Infinite be blessed Forever;
Blessed and Praised, Glorified and Uplifted, Honored and
Elevated.
The power of Chesed {Loving Kindness} is Greater than all
the Hymns, Prayers or Consolations
we can utter in this life.  (Amen)

May there be abundant Peace and a good life for all the community;
for ourselves and all Creation (Amen)

Mercy and Peace sustain us the far heavens,
so may it Be for us, for all the community, for all of Creation

(Amen.)

kadheb

Mourner’s Kaddish (Transliteration)

Yitgadal v’yit-kadash sh’mei rabba (Congregation – Amen)

B’allma dee v’ra chir’utei v’yamlich malchutei,

B’chayeichon, uv’yomeichon, uv’chayei d’chol beit yisrael,

Ba’agala u’vizman kariv, v’imru: Amen

(Congregation – Amen. Y’hei sh’mei rabba m’varach l’allam u’lallmei allmaya)

Y’hei sh’mei rabba m’varach l’allam u’lallmei allmaya.

Yit’barach, v’yishtabach, v’yitpa’ar,

v’yitromam, v’yit’nasei,

v’yit’hadar, v’yitaleh, v’yit’halal,

sh’mei d’kudsha b’rich hu (Congregation – b’rich hu)

L’ayla min kol b’irchata v’shirata,

tush’b’chata v’nechemata,

da’ami’ran b’all’ma, v’imru: Amen (Congregation – Amen)

Y’hei shlama rabba min sh’maya,

v’chayim aleinu v’al kol yisrael v’imru: Amen (Congregation – Amen)

Oseh shalom bim’ro’mav,

hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu,

v’al kol yisrael, v’al kol yoshvei teyvel. v’imru: Amen (Congregation – Amen)

 

Kallah: white spaces

I thought I went to Kallah in order to deepen my practice- or, rather, to connect to Judaism again.

I wanted to find again the joy I used to have in it, before my heart was shocked, frozen, contracted, tight and small in terrible pain. The innocence was gone; I could engage with my mind but simply could not silence the angry-teenager-me who fought and pushed against everything that resembled structure or control in Judaism.

It makes sense now; I did not want to be controlled. I was pushing against Judaism because I wanted to trust myself again.  I had failed to push & stand up for myself against a relationship that controlled me in a way I find horrifying to remember – so Judaism had to stand in for him, and I had to prove to myself that I valued myself enough to fight.

As much as I fought with it, I never thought to leave. I stuck with it. Somewhere under the layers of grief, loss, fear and harm, there was a hard solid core of utter loyalty to Judaism. I’m a little surprised that I did not simply walk away, considering that my first introduction to this religion began with abuse and betrayal- but I couldn’t.

Ultimately, even though my choice to become Jewish has come with some sacrifices, it was a choice that was made from a very deep soul place, a knowing that it was where I belonged.

People often ask me why? Why would I choose this? Why would I do this to myself voluntarily?

I was asked the other night if I would walk away– deny Judaism for a relationship, for a marriage. No, I said – without question, no:  I do not know who I would be if I were not Jewish. Judaism is my heart.  When I became Jewish, it was like I was given an extra piece of my soul.  Though there has been a lot of pain, I live more fully now. I am more awake.

So. I went to Kallah in order to find that again – beyond my first rabbi’s version of Judaism, beyond what he taught me and later betrayed, as though he had held every teaching over the years in one hand and set a match to it with a sly grin –

I wanted to find again the purity, clarity and magnificence of my own heart in Judaism.

And I did find that —

but I found so much more than that.

It wasn’t in the classes, though the classes  were wonderful –

When we read the torah scroll, we focus intensely on the black letters. Especially those of us who are slower in our Hebrew – those curving letters used to bring me to tears – how beautiful they were to me, and how closed! I would focus on them fiercely–Image

but sometimes, we have to remember to pull our focus back, and to see the white spaces around the black letters as well.

In the white spaces – that is where our most unexpected lessons can live.

It was in these “white spaces” at Kallah, outside of the services or classrooms, that the lessons of the heart, not the mind, came to me.

My growth was not from the teachers, though they were incredible and gave much that fascinated me – it was from the other people.

Again I am struck by the thought that one could know Torah even if one never studied it, simply by connecting to, learning from, studying other people with an open heart.

Not just the beautiful moments – the difficult ones, too. That person who frowns, looks you up and down, doesn’t respond to your smile and “good morning,” but rather, looks away with a scowl on their face — very unpleasant feeling, isn’t it ? — the impulse is to flinch away from that, laugh it off or fend off the feelings that come up — but what if, instead, one says “hmm, interesting,” and observes the feelings and thoughts that occur?

That scowling other person has just become a mini-meditation.

Now on to something more pleasant:  the beautiful moments.

The man, Jack- his surname is the name of an angel, and he is an angel to me- walks up to me in the cafeteria.  “I want to say something to you, I don’t know if you can take it in right now?”

he waits while I bring my scattered brain back from cafeteria-crowd-mode, and focus my eyes and attention on him.

“Sitting next to you last night at the concert – was a wonderful experience. You are so beautiful, loving, and kind. It was a gift to me.”

“what a loving thing to say,” I tell him quietly, smiling into his sweet eyes and laying my hand on his arm.

“It is what you are to me.”

The woman in my chanting class who walks up to me before class begins.

“I want to tell you that you are beautiful, and that I love you,” she says, putting her arms around me gently.

My “spirit buddy,” Matthew, who listens to my hurt one morning and then quietly gives me this gift:

“You were not at the cabaret the other day?”

“No.”

“There was a woman who said: ‘Why am I always early?  Is it because maybe on some level I don’t think I am worth waiting for?”

When someone looks into your eyes and gently hands you a piece of your own puzzle, not because they want something from you, but because they have the desire to give –

that is pretty much the deepest healing.

And so, yes, I did connect to Judaism again. It wasn’t what I was looking for: I will never go back to that initial infatuation, that Maxfield Parrish painting of innocence and magic;

It is better than that. I hung by my fingernails through the barren time, and now I am rewarded – this has deepened into a journey of love. Love that I can trust now, absolutely – love that has given me something I never yet possessed – the ability to look into someone’s eyes and take in the kindness that they are giving.  I always feared that, fended it off.

In fact, I believe that was the one lesson that I could not learn from my former rabbi:

“Can you hear me?” he would say , “I love you. Can you really try to hear that?” he must have said this a hundred times – a thousand. “I never said ‘I love you’ so much in my life.” maybe that was what I was for him – he learned to love.

I could not hear him.  I could love, with all that I was; I could love with every scrap of my being – but I could not be loved.

And so, the deepest lessons from Kallah were not taught to me in a classroom — they were taught in a cafeteria, at the lakeside, and in a “spirit buddy” meeting, or talking to someone else during a service. They were given lightly and easily, with no embarrassment or stories around them, with no need for response or measuring up.

I wonder if these people have any idea that they were soul-teachers to me. Sometimes, i guess, we are blessed to give someone a piece of their own puzzle–but maybe we never even get to know what we gave & how we transformed their lives.  And that is okay… because the healing has been seeded, and it’s going to spread like a mint plant…may I one day have the opportunity to give this kind of healing to someone else.

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Judaism on Homosexuality

This small blog post is just the beginning…I’ve been working on this for quite a while – two years, in fact.  My research is not done. I don’t know when it will be done — it’s important to me to have rock-solid evidence that states: Stop supporting bigoted, cruel words and behavior with the Bible, because it ain’t kosher.

So, this is just a post to point out an article I found that is talking about exactly what I’ve been researching. It’s a good article. (it’s at the bottom, if you want to just skip my post and get to the article!)

I’ve grown very tired of people slamming the Torah (Old Testament) and saying that it is homophobic, fostering hate, just look at those verses, etc. We all have seen how people misuse the Bible to cause harm, pointing at verses and saying it’s clear that God “hates the sin..” etc.
No, it is not clear.  And NO, homosexuality is not a “sin.”

(And…really? “God hates” are two words that do not go together. At all. Ever.)

I’ve been doing a lot of research. I’ve been searching for articles, reading books, reading Torah, asking people about this. I began this research two years ago when a gay friend told me he was treated badly in an Orthodox shul. I set out to write him a letter about the many reasons the way he was treated was not a representation of Judaism or any kind of religious behavior, but, rather, a representation of human ignorance and fear and cruelty, plain and simple. (and that he needed to promptly find another shul–I’ve never attended a synagogue in which such behavior would occur–in fact, I’ve never attended a synagogue in which gay marriages were not performed.)

When I set out to write that letter, I had no idea if it was true – I just had my gut instinct and my heart screaming at me, no way could I ever align myself with a religion that discriminated against people and pointed at a verse in an ancient book to justify it.

So, I spoke with a rabbi – my mentor at the time.

He told me to look at the Hebrew.  He told me (basically) what this article is saying.

So. Here’s an article by Reb Jeff that addresses …you know…THAT verse.

It’s a good article. It’s not a pretty article: there are some things in it that might challenge people; it doesn’t gloss over the ugly parts of a rougher time period…

and it’s a very good article.

Would people please spread the word?  Can we stop this ignorant misusage of one of the world’s most beautiful books?  (Even if you don’t revere it as a holy book, it’s got some of the most incredible poetry in it.)

Anytime you hear someone using “the Bible” as justification for discrimination against anyone who identifies as GLBT, tell them to look at the Hebrew. Tell them to think a little. Tell them that there are a lot of ways in which the “rules” in Torah are questioned, in that very same book, by things that occur later on – it happens on purpose, people, because the point is that we are supposed to think!


    I have had someone I thought was a friend point to violent stories in the Torah and say “that’s what Judaism is: a baby-massacre religion.”  (needless to say, this person is not a friend any more.)  That person was (obviously) not only speaking from massive ignorance and narrow-mindedness, but was also violently incorrect. Judaism is not a “rote” religion. The things that happen in Torah are not things we are supposed to emulate and try at home- they are things we are supposed to learn from.

Torah is a mirror – it’s the journey of lives. It is trial and error. It’s a LOT of error.  It is a blueprint for relationships. Torah is also chock full of very powerful metaphor. Sure, it can be taken literally – but there are so many other ways to read it.

But to look at it as an historical document for a second: back then, they simply did not know that people could be made in such a way that they were attracted to, felt romantic love for, people of the same sex.  They didn’t have a word for homosexuality.  Therefore, the verses people misuse are not about homosexuality. They are not about loving relationships.

Even if the verses were as people say and a “rule” were being laid out in Torah against homosexuality for some odd reason, many “rules” that are laid out in Torah are completely contradicted by things that happen later on in the book.  It’s just the way it is – it unfolds exactly like life –  I think the point is that we are supposed to see ourselves in it, in all of our flawed, contradictory, messy humanity;  we are supposed to learn compassion for ourselves and for others.

Torah is transparent.  It doesn’t sugar-coat anything.  It is also not a museum piece – it is a living text;  our obligation is to interpret it as our times require.

There is only one “rule” in Torah that is more important than anything else.
The main rule, the only rule, that is never questioned is : love. Loving kindness. that’s it. You want to sum up the Bible? Love.

So when people are using the Bible as an excuse to discriminate, they are not following the Bible’s precepts in any way,

which means a lot of things:  it means that we can stop blaming religions and God for the things that people do. It means that people can stop feeling like they need to hide if they are homosexual and also very religious.  It means that people can stop using a book – a book that could be a vessel for great healing in this world- as an excuse to cause harm with hateful speech and actions.
So. If you’re gay, bi, transgendered, and someone brings up the poor maligned Old Testament to you, please … please…help heal this world by setting them straight — or rather, setting them on the correct and loving path, whether it’s straight, gay, bi, trans…you get it…

“Also be ready to defend the ideas that there is more than one “religious” way of looking at these questions. From the perspective a Judaism that is willing to change with a changing understanding of God’s creation, the religious reading may be the one that leans on the side of compassion and love.” – excerpt from Reb Jeff’s article, “Judaism on Homosexuality.”

http://www.rebjeff.com/1/post/2013/06/judaism-and-homosexuality.html

While My Guitar Gently

About two years ago, I fell in love.

You know what that’s like…? Or maybe I’m talking about lust, infatuation, because love is something that incorporates and transcends those things…and lasts, through devotion and work and growth…

So at first, let’s call it lust.  Though this was more than lust, this was sublime – I actually can still feel it.  My heart swoops when I remember the day, the moment that I was overtaken by this ecstatic feeling that raised everything around me along with me to an elevated state – gosh, even the dingy Portland streets shone and gleamed with it .

“There’s someone else, isn’t there? I can sense something.”  My (at the time) long-distance boyfriend asked.

He knew I couldn’t lie; I don’t do that.

“Well…yes. Yes, there is, in a way.”

“In a way?”

“I fell in love today…I fell in love…

with a guitar.”  There was an awkward pause.

“I … I can’t…explain.  A guitar.”  I was incoherent with longing; with the desire to share this beauty but the impossibility of communicating it to him, because he just didn’t understand.

This guitar was …oh… its song was molten honey.  It turned my bones into tuning forks and I had embarrassing tears standing in my eyes every time I heard it; it was like the time I sat in a room and heard Wynton Marsalis play – the notes were thrown out so lightly, to hang impossibly suspended in heart-shattering delicate crystal pure perfection in the middle of the room. The sound didn’t seem like it came from him- it somehow enveloped all of us who sat there… my heart stopped…

that’s what this guitar is like,

even if my teacher was playing scales.

I was in Portland to study Hebrew, and I also took a class in my secret passion – classical guitar.
I can’t hear a well-played classical guitar without tearing up.  It’s embarrassing. My Mom and (ex)boyfriend took me to a restaurant in Jacksonville for my birthday, and there happened to be a classical guitarist (my Mom knows about my kryptonite…it is my kryptonite…) and I sat there with tears running down my face for a while.  My Mom held my hand and grinned at me, with joy that she had given me such a beautiful, absolutely perfect birthday surprise… My boyfriend looked wildly uncomfortable. I just can’t help it. It reaches inside my chest and squeezes my heart so painfully. so beautifully.

It happens even if I’m trying very hard to block it, trying to think about other things, remain sane-ish…

rafael rodriguez

 

(This isn’t my teacher. This is a Cervantes guitar. oh my heaven…gulp…that guitarrrrrr) 

I still love this guitar. I lust after it. I long for it. I can hear its notes still …

Oh, I’m heavy with longing. To play like that. To play like that.

I can’t even tell you.

I plunk away at Greensleeves or Redemption Song and long , long, long for something I will never touch.

it’s a beautiful feeling, and it reminds me that I am alive….and it reminds me that I am mortal, and that in this lifetime there are some things that are not for me, but that I get to hear and appreciate and love them.
It is so bittersweet.

It stretches me, and challenges me, and sometimes I despair, but the listening is sweetly painful and so it will have to be enough.

This is love.