Saturday, December 31, 2011
G-d bless the lonely and the crowded. The ones who have ripped their hearts out and given them away. Bless the children who don't know and the adults who do. Bless those who never tell and those who tell Everyone.
Bless the old who know and won't tell anymore, without coaxing.
G-d bless the walker and the walkee. G-d bless those who build castles of money and think this makes them safe. G-d bless the rich who know they are not safe. G-d bless the rich in spirit. G-d bless the destitute. G-d bless the thieves, white collar, blue collar, no collar, no shirt.
God bless the clueless and the ones mired in shit and bless the shit. Bless all the shit that thou hast wrought.
Bless those who masturbate in secret. And those who masturbate in public. And those who don't masturbate. Bless the ones who fear masturbation and those who laugh at the procreators.
God bless the creative and the destroyers.
G-d bless the children and their abusers. Bless the evil and the ignorant. G-d bless the arrogant. Bless the atheist, and agnostic, I think. And G-d bless the faithful.
G-d bless the blind who can see and the sighted who are blind. Bless those too tired to look. Bless those who didn't know they were supposed to look.
G-d bless the asshole who throws trash out of the window, and the infirm who drop trash. G-d bless those looking for redemption and those redeemed and those beyond redemption.
Bless those who don't know and those who don't care.
Bless the stone throwers and their glass houses. Bless the ones with houses that won't sell, and those without houses. Bless those who would rather sleep under the stars, but find themselves in houses.
Bless the ones who take running water for granted and those who run from water and those who dive in.
Bless the full pantries and the empty souls and the full souls who have no room for more.
Bless the lazy and those who sell their children's souls for convenience or status, and refuse to consider freedom thru compassion. Bless those who are hard lined, and those too young for lines. Bless the lines that are supposed to protect us.
Bless the fearful and the terrified, and the justifiers and the justifications themselves. Bless the blade that cuts our meat and our fingers and throats, and chest open. Bless the bullet that defends a life and that ends a life. Bless the hand that pulled the trigger. Bless the brave and the coward.
Bless the dark and the light and the blanket. Bless the bed, sheets smoothed down. Bless the monster under the bed.
Bless the denial that we all carry around, snuggle under, until it is time for facing our monsters.
Bless our thumbs, and sense of superiority. Bless the tired and the illicit and the crazy. Bless those who know but won't talk.
G-d bless those who read Proust and those who want to and can't and those who wonder who is Proust.
Bless those who work hard and those who don't care anymore and those who would like to care but can't.
Bless the prostrate and the energetic and the wandering lost.
Bless the incomprehensible and the random. Bless the ones who thought they were brilliant to invent ____ and then sad to find it dangerous. Bless the dangerous.
Bless the Jews and the fucking radicals and bless them even when we hate their actions and want to beat them up for accosting women and children.
Bless the camps all the crowded miserable horrible camps.
Bless racism and idiots. Bless all the bombs. Or none of them.
Bless those who believe in only black and white.
G-d bless those who believe in favorites.
Bless the miserly and mean and stupid and all the old and young. Bless the middle aged and fat bodies we drag around and the clothes made in China.
Bless the Chinese and the Palestinians, and Al Queda and the next terrorists. Bless the deranged and the sweaty and the smelly. Bless the good stuff and the reprehensible.
Bless hell and those who go thru it and those who never make it out.
Bless those who make things that disturb us and those that can't watch.
Bless the rock and the hard place
Bless the fire and the ice.
Bless the cold that keeps us moving and the warmth that we enjoy. Bless the laughter and the desperation that makes us laugh too hard.
Bless the insecure and the infirm and the strong and capable. Bless those who mistake strength for good and vulnerability for weakness.
Bless the ones who remember and those who forget.
Bless the nature of things and the essence and the spaces in between.
Bless the void and the connections.
Bless you too G-d, even if you are an atheist.
Bless all those who are determined to put prayers back in school, and those who realize it never left.
Bless those who say wtf and those who wonder if you made that up first.
Bless the wretched and the joyful. Bless the wretched joyful.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Then one day you'll have a baby, and you'll get hit an indescribable number of times harder, with love. It's why new parents can just sit around and watch their baby. For long periods of time. Even if it's sleeping.
The career, and all your plans don't matter much any more. It's all about the baby and nursing and watching it grow.
You'll start learning from your kids, 'cause you're smart, and they will teach you so much. And they will break your heart, many times.
Then, with your second one, you'll wonder how you could possibly love another child as much as you love your first. (I was very protective of Patrick, and couldn't imagine loving another as much as I loved him.)
And then, you meet the second child, and somehow, there IS enough love. It's not like a small fishbowl and now there are two fish, it's like there's a bigger bowl. There's plenty!
By the time you have your third child, you trust that there is going to be enough love to go around, and you find that also there is the brother and sister now to love this third child. Patrick only had me and his dad."
After a moment, she adds, "And cousins - you get all those cousins who love you."
"Yes, that's true."
"Our Sidney is going to get SO much love, 'cause she's the youngest cousin."
Smile. "I hadn't thought of that."
Sunday, December 11, 2011
New idea : the Republican party has no choice but to attack every institution with an ounce of credibility. This is, sadly, the result of letting radicals take over the party, and rewarding drama queens like Newt Gingrich (no offense to drama queens).
If I started several wars that helped bankrupt the federal budget, raided social security for the entire baby boom generation, and I fought regulation to the point of assisting wall street in bringing down our economy, and I didn't have any real candidates who could lead, I might attack constantly too.
Alcoholics and addicts have an interesting tactic when dealing with their lives. It's all too easy to fight about _______. Meaning everything. Anything except the real problem. The drinking or drugs. So they can be extremely belligerent. It's easy, to the unaware, to get sucked into an argument that is ultimately a diversionary tactic.
So emboldened (confused?) has the radical right become that they even attack the idea of democracy - insisting now that we are supposed to be a republic. Sure it's a crafty move, one imbued with academic finesse, but it's just another way to tear down what we have struggled for 200 years to build.
It is the very fact we are a democracy that allows radical right to tear down our institutions - the ones that have helped lead us to some sort of balance. The govt, the news, and the schools.
Yes, it's an experiment. It is after all ONLY 200 years old. And when the sands of time wash over us in another 200 years it will look very different than it does today.
The question is simply this: can we give the problem we face a name? Is it radicalism that threatens the foundations of our government?
NPR - having decimated the government's credibility, the new target is our best journalism or source of information.
What other institutions are to be attacked in the war of ideology? Universities.
Starve the beast - stated strategy. Why isn't this more publically discussed?
John McCain - brow beaten into positions I don't think he believed in.
Ronald Reagin - idea: poor people are bad. But was he the last compassionate conservative?
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Good to sleep, wonderful to dream. And to wake and bless the house and all our plans, children, loved ones and "enemies".
Now, to stick to the plan. Work. Not stress.
Monday, December 5, 2011
I had to smile when "That 70s Show" (tv sitcom) had Red (the dad) on an episode the other night, with his hat on, going to dinner with his wife. It's one of the only sitcoms I watch, and my favorite character is this Dad - he's less contrived than Archie Bunker, but cut from the same cloth. It could just be that Archie was more like my grandparents, and Red is more like my Dad.
Speaking of Dads, my biological father had a birthday yesterday. I mean, he's dead, but it's still a birth day, isn't it? I got sad this morning when I realized I may be the only one on the planet who remembered it today. (Yeah, ok, a day late.) It had been nagging in the back of my mind... early Dec... I wasn't close to him for most of my life, so it's a tough one to recall. Heck, birthdays of best friends and dear family are elusive (the 17th or the 19th? or was it the 21st? It was an odd day...)
It's weird how some thoughts have come to me only as a result of age. For instance about 10 or 15 years ago, I realized that there were fewer people on the planet who had held me as a baby. My dad died, my grandparents had mostly gone. Slowly they were leaving. I have one grandparent left. My Mom :D and two sweet aunts who were probably all about holding me. It's cool to know someone who has known me that long.
But today it was a sad surprise to think that maybe no one else remembered my Dad's birthday. His mom died about 7 months before he did, in 1998. And his step dad, my sweet surviving grandparent, maybe isn't good at those kind of dates. Would he remember?
My uncle might remember, but I don't know how good he is for birthdays either, even for his brother. My aunt, his wife, may have remembered. It gives me an excuse to call her. I think my Dad was born in 1940, so he would have been 71 today if he had lived. Wow - that would have been something. Hard to imagine him old since he died pretty young. 57.
Seemed old-ish then. Pretty young, now.
He was crazy smart. Like really. Crazy. and Smart. We think he was bipolar, which explains both, sort of. I love that he was a damn good writer and an award winning journalist. I think of him when I see college football marching bands - he was the drum major for the university of florida, one of his proudest achievements.
And he bought me my first horse when I was about 7 or 8. A beautiful quarter horse, Mr. Skip. One day I'll have a horse again. I'll remember who first taught me to ride.
He loved to tell stories and jokes. He gave a lot of compassion to people - so I was told after his death.
Jews have a tradition of lighting a candle each year on the anniversary of someone's death. We remember our dead on certain holidays too (Yom Kippur, etc - see this link for more info). It's said that as long as someone remembers you, you live on in the world. For the first time, I think I'll be making a donation in my Dad's honor. And I'll be lighting a candle :) For his birthday. Sucks that they are so small. Burn out quick.
May his memory be for a blessing. Maybe, at last, he rests in peace.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
One of the most influential books in my long affair with literature.
"The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there." — Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values)
This too, found after Writer's Almanac today.
from Wikipedia: The novel's title is a quotation taken from the novel's end, where Susie
ponders her friends' and family's newfound strength after her
"These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the
connections — sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often
magnificent — that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a
way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events my death brought
were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some
unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this
miraculous lifeless body had been my life.
A book I've yet to read.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
So we seek balance, those of us who make our own rituals, or help others find their footing.
Losing everything is devastating. And at the same time, eventually, there comes a new sensation, after the grief and shock has worn off a bit. It is almost like a quiet sunrise. Could be a small smile at some silly thing for the first time in a while. Maybe noticing something beautiful an it doesn't hurt.
These could be a signal of the beginning of a new life, little green shoots, a possibility of transformation, like the Phoenix out of the ashes. Nothing amazes and humbles me as much as the strength of the human spirit.
This lovely short article, Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea, gives the Hindu interpretation of the power of going to pieces. I suspect there is more behind the story of Akhilandeshvari, something about coming apart and still climbing on the back of the crocodile (Fear), bit by bit. (I didn't find more story after 5 mins of research online, so I will leave you to your own devices/detective skills.)
Even riding on the crocodile, notice, gives some measure of comfort and consistency. So does falling apart itself, once you've been thru it a time or two.
I found that disengaging from all the status symbols, going around like the little cinder girl (who begs for sparks, having none of her own) has incredible power, even if in just releasing the constraints of Society's Expectations.
Mind you don't want to stay there, forever a waif, but it also lets you appreciate the small things, like washing machines, and cars that run. "Hitting bottom", no matter in what guise, also gives a HUGE shot in the arm to Compassion :)
Giving in to the flow and letting yourself Become, with curiosity and kindness, makes dis-integrating into chaos... not fun, but maybe more bearable.
And if you are determined, it strengthens your faith ;)
ps. My Grandma Verne used to hug us tight and whisper "Love you to pieces!" (smile) Now *that's* a powerful statement ;)
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I woke up thinking about the ways we all respond to this universal human "thing", grief.*
My own grief these days centers around children growing up. Because I've missed some years of their childhood, the ending years when they really aren't kids, but are making leaps into the world (college, first jobs) the experience of regret and loss are fresh. Some days knocks me to my knees.
I've learned to let it knock me down and then do what needs to be done. Of course the kids don't know (and I assume don't read this blog) so I get a few Mommy points for dumping guilt and self-pity and just encouraging them :) Some days I pick myself up by the scruff of the neck and remember that I'm very lucky to have such good kids, smart funny and kind. So get over it - they are fine, I'll be fine, and while I'm not the sun in their universe, I'm a powerful moon. Their job is to get a bit further out of my gravitational pull anyway, right?
Grief, I've always said, is a strange animal. It has a life of it's own. We hate it, but it is one of the most powerful waves that will ever hit us, and it comes again and again.
I remember the sensation of first hearing about loss (brother, dad, etc) and how the mind freezes, time stops, the universe shifts. And then there is that sense of shock and, if you've been thru it a few times, you think, somewhere in an addled brain "Here we go".
The shock and denial now seem like buffers to me. The frantic struggle of the mind to reorganize your personal galaxy into a recognizable form is met with resistance from that part of you that can't believe it. There is suddenly someone or something missing and you aren't sure whether to fight or flee. I did both in various ways and also tried laying down, playing dead to see if it would go away.
Nothing worked of course. You can push the grief back, and it comes back harder next time. You can give into it, and it still comes back. The finality is so freaking... final.
Those first days, weeks, months of shock eventually wear off and then there is a weird struggle to decide what the hell now? Now what?
Most people get up, do the dishes, feed the children, go to work. Routine helps, right? Work takes your mind off it. You just have to know there will be moments when grief suddenly joins you in the car, and you will pull over for it and cry.
In college I fought the "moving on" stage - and I can hold a fight longer than anyone I know. ug. Months of anger and bitterness and despair. I'd lost a really close friend and man was it ugly.
Now I see it as a part of my indominable spirit - the girl I was. It was me against G-d and the inevitablity of death. I fought that fight like a madwoman. Mad doesn't begin to cover it. (I think I at least made G-d throw up his/her hands and walk out of the room. Death, I'm pretty sure, laughed; which still pisses me off.)
Funny at 17 I already knew somehow that I didn't want to move on, just "get over it". I didn't want to lose my friend by letting go and accepting that he was gone. That would make it worse! I'd start forgetting! I couldn't stop time but I could fight like hell. I guess Death and Time won. Like doctors and nurses, G-d lets them do the dirty work.
Now those big losses are smaller - I orbited along, slowly moving away from each loss and now they are something I have to pull out intentionally, most days. The deaths and divorces, they are part of my past but don't define me (as they did for a while).
All this had been filed way back in the "Stuff that Happened Long Ago" file until my friends lost their spouses. All I can offer them is some small things I cherish - some time, some attention, a listening ear, reading and writing. Meals. Cookies.
Yeah so I don't have any brilliant ending to this. There is none. Life happens. Death happens. You are small. We are small. Don't sweat the small stuff.
Grief: n. from the Latin kick your buttus. Part animal. Unpredictable, known to be entirely independent. Especially provoked over loss of toys in the young, youth in the old and potentially at any human death.
No telling how you will deal with it, when it will come along, when it will bite you in the ass, or just rub against you to remind you of someone you love. Best to remember, as my Dad once joked about a dog**, it gets smaller. Whether you want it to or not.
*btw, elephants grieve too, but I think they are the only ones - ha, in our limited knowledge.
**referring to a small poodle. When my new boyfriend, petting her asked "Will she get bigger?" Dad answered, "No, she only gets smaller." Boyfriend nodded, "Oh, ok." Best Meet the Boyfriend moment ever.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
"Don't we all want life to make sense? To find some underlying purpose to the continuous ups and downs, the fear and the joy, the accomplishments and the disappointments? ... we want to know "what it all means," as if there were some ultimate wisdom that could ease our striving and uncertainty. The sages encourage us to study life for clues and act as if that understanding were possible. Jewish wisdom sanctions the yearning, even ennobles it, at the same time teaching that there is no meaning: only a kind of dance between meaning and ambiguity; understanding and misunderstanding; faith and doubt; essence and no-essence. And the more joyous the dance, the richer and more holy the life.
We may all accept this intellectually, even think it's obvious. But how many of us see our daily challenges - a disagreement with a loved one, a deadline, even a traffic jam - as holy? Never mind major disappointments or crises; those eruptions of chaos. We relish order, neatness, resolution. We forget that life has no straight lines or easy paths. The process of becoming is circuitous, to say the least. Yet so many of us expend endless energy wishing and trying to make it otherwise. We long for those happy times of satisfaction, even celebration, of feeling like all is well, balanced, and fulfilling. During these times we can look back on our lives, even the tough times, and see all that led us here as somehow necessary and right. Life does have a purpose after all.
And we can't help but be surprised when those happy times don't last. We believe families are supposed to get along. Faces are not supposed to get wrinkles. We judge people when they don't "have it together," especially ourselves. In short, most of us think that life is supposed to work out the way we hope it will or even expect it to. We secretly want the kitchen to be finally clean. And yet, if the kitchen was always clean, there would be no meals."
(excerpt from Yearnings, Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life, Rabbi Irwin Kula)
going to do the dishes ;)
Monday, February 14, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
As so many things have since, this struck me as supremely odd. Yet I've had a few other brave souls give me the same reaction and it is, I would discover, quintessentially Jewish.
What they are referring to is the innate struggle. It is often unspoken because it is so deeply inherent. Being Jewish is to be stereotyped, to be a minority, to be sometimes vilified, and yes, occassionally discriminated against. It's happened to me in the mere 10 years since my conversion.
To many who were born into the mantle that is Judaism, it seems odd that someone would willingly embrace their faith. It is of course more than a faith - ask any secular Jew.
Today I attended a fund raising meeting at our new Temple.* It's a small shul**. I have belonged to two large synagogues, in cities with strong Jewish populations, and yet the challenges are the same: funding is scarce, resources thin, the congregation is involved but sometimes marginally. Once in a while key people burn out. A multitude of decisions teeter on the head of a pin - we must balance our expectations of congregants with a sincere acknowledgement that many things distract people from supporting their Temple. Life is demanding.
As with other faiths, religious life used to be the center of the community, the services were well attended, shul was socially important and economically relevant. Not only were major life events celebrated, but shared too were the mundane details of life's routines.
Now we struggle to make ends meet. This recession has not translated into more attendance in organized religion. As the country and the world falters, so do the institutions that support it. Why should we be any different?
Once again Jews are reminded that while we are unique, we are not Special - our Temples are also hard hit by economic scarcity, and most were already struggling before the recession.
Why kvetch when the budgets are tight?*** As someone observed wisely today in our meeting, yes, we are running a deficit, but we will survive as we always have. We need to plan long term and deal with near term shortfalls.
Are we surprised? I knew there would be hard times when I chose Judaism, I just didn't know how, when or where. I undertook the committment with as much forethought and foresight as I could muster. I considered it for years before I even began to study. And I knew I had no idea of what I was getting into. My longing for the beauty of the liturgy, the intellectual and philosophical rigor, the transcendant music and chanting, the sublime Hebrew and Yiddish, the tight-knit community, the fascinating history and traditions, the mysticism (which I was too young to study at 36) all outweighed my doubts. Just writing about what attracted me to Judaism, to this day, puts tears in my eyes.
Similarly I knew when I met my husband that there would be challenges, tho I could not predict what issues would arise. We had 3 years of off and on dating before we ironed out the details. And like all couples we will always have things to work out.
Marriage offers plenty of opportunities for growth. Something causes pain or discomfort before motivation and attention is turned to what needs to be addressed. So first imbalance, some struggle or work, then usually, resolution and peace regained. Or detente declared.
I think it works the same way at Temple :)
Other long term / life committments, such as college and career present the same opportunities. Who among us can say we really knew what to expect? Did it go as we planned? And yet we accepted the challenge, perhaps with a prayer we would succeed. Now we all know people who have radically changed their lives as a result of the recession, a historical event that few predicted, even counting the experts. Millions are still struggling to deal with entirely different circumstances than they foresaw.
We learn to expect the unexpected.
The difficulties in personal life, the challenges overcome, much as we loathe to admit it, make us stronger. Why wouldn't this fringe benefit apply as well to the Temple where we gather to thank G-d for our blessings?
Decades ago Scott Peck, who wrote the Road Less Travelled (second best selling book of all time), described the decisions of parenting as having to struggle with choices. He observed that while we must do our best to make the right decisions, we are all human and sometimes we will make mistakes. He went on however to note that it was very important, crucial even, for our children to see us struggle with parenting. As role models, the more important lesson was in the how not the what. How we arrived at a decision was the key to showing our kids we took parenting seriously. What we decided was less critical. That we love them enough to struggle with the responsibilities inherent to parenting - that was the treasure to show them.
In effect, it is the journey, not the destination that matters.
Maybe it is a blessing to get to work hard to support our Temple (or Church or Mosque). Call me crazy, but it does seem to bring us together doesn't it? It even encourages creativity. And cutting away where we can. Keeping what is crucial.
I believe that struggling to protect our faith, our community and our values is the point. If G-d is watching us, maybe that is the goal - to see if we care enough to have the courage and determination to make the effort, to find solutions. Even if it feels as though we are sometimes wandering in the desert, looking for the Promised Land.
*I chose a seat in their meeting place - the lobby. HaShem has such a sense of humour. I stayed as an observer, left on a subcommitte :)
*** I honestly didn't hear anyone kvetch today at the meeting - concern, yes. Complaints? No. It's a lovely group of warm committed people. I'm really enjoying this Jewish community :) Small but active!