god · Jewish · relationships

Devotion.

2 16 Camp Harlam.jpg
Camp Harlam’s Chapel on the Hill. Kutztown, PA.

The following is a list of the organizations at which I’ve worked during the past 10 years:

The Bureau of Jewish Education.  Congregation Beth El.  Oakland Hebrew Day School.  Brandeis Marin.

Perhaps you notice the clear and obvious trend: Jew.  Jewish.  Hebrew.  Jewey jewness.

I grew up Reform in northern New Jersey, and attended Sunday and Hebrew school, high holiday services, and occasional family services.  For a while (apparently at my and my brother’s behest), my family sat down for Shabbat dinner with a challah and chicken dish every Friday night.  One year, to our father’s ire, my brother and I chose to honor Rosh Hashanah by walking around the duck pond across from the synagogue while our parents went to services.

Ben and I went to Jewish sleep away camp, and learned the songs and more melodic prayers.  I became active in my synagogue youth group which participated in wider NJ-NY events, connecting with high school students across the region, singing those camp songs and new songs, and crafting inside jokes and photo albums.

When I lived in South Korea teaching English after college, I attended a Passover seder on the American Army base in Seoul (where the hagaddah [prayer book] was written in English, Hebrew, and Korean!).  After being abroad, I moved to San Francisco, got a job at a property management company, and fell in with the Chabadnik family (one of our tenants), who were generous and inviting and funny.

Then, I quit that job, became awfully ill with a 104-degree fever, and pondered what in the hell was I going to do for work.  As I lay bedridden that week, I asked myself, “Besides ‘creativity,’ what do I love?”  I answered myself, Well, I like being Jewish. !

I then went on the internet and Googled “Jewish San Francisco.”  The rest, as they say, is history (aside from the 103-degree fever with which I attended my interview with the BJE!).

Yesterday, I got to sit in the synagogue that is attached to the school where I work.  Every Thursday, the school gathers together to sing and pray and learn.  And I love it.

The songs are generally similar to those I learned in Jew camp and youth group, and I like to notice what’s different from East to West coast melodies.  The order of the service is the same; the wave of choral voices and clapping is the same; the eternal flame over the Torah is the same.

I’m not religious.  I love Jews and Jewishness and songs and clapping and “L’chayim-ing,” but I do not love the dogma or doctrine — the very little I admit that I know of it.  I do love the wide-openness I find in Reform Jewry, and how whatever my conception of G-d or Jewishness can fit generously inside the fleshy parameters of the religion.

Yet, what feels the most significant, most comforting, most embracing is that I can sit inside that synagogue yesterday, hear the voices of children and guitar crash over me, and mourn the present (folding and unfolding) dissolution of my relationship, and be witnessed and honored and held by the hand of whatever G-d there resides.

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anger · authenticity · faith · forgiveness · grief · growth · Jewish · possibility · spirituality

T’shuvah

(In my vague and limited Jewish knowledge) T’shuvah refers to the time in the Jewish calendar between Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish New Year—and Yom Kippur—when our names are sealed in the “Book of Life” by G-d for the next year.

T’shuvah literally means to return, but most interpretations take it to mean a time of repentance. A time of atoning for our “sins,” and to acknowledge where we’ve “missed the mark” of our own moral target.

I’m not one for “sins,” or for “atoning,” or for asking forgiveness from a spiritual entity. In my own spiritual practice, there is a habit of taking note of where we’ve been wrong and amending that behavior, whether through direct conversation with someone we’ve harmed or through choosing to act differently in the future.

But, the idea of asking a “higher power” to forgive me for anything at all has never sat well with me. I simply don’t think that anything that has the power to create life and death and change and love would need my asking. I believe that whatever “G-d” is, “it” is much too loving or non-personified to ever require me to ask it to forgive my behavior.

As I said, I still think the process of taking stock of my behavior and righting my own wrongs is very important to my emotional wellbeing and my personal relationships. But on the spiritual plane, G-d would never need me to ask for forgiveness. There’s nothing to forgive – there’s only love, acceptance, and a desire for me to be my best self.

That said, I have been reflecting that this week of t’shuvah has certainly been one of returning. I feel that my actions are those of a woman returning to herself and her values; returning to my true nature, and returning to ideas and hopes that were feared or abandoned.

I am in a musical. I’ve returned to that dream of acting and singing, despite the fears and self-judgments it still brings up in me.

I have officially announced this week that I am moving on from my office job. Again, a return to my true desires, my internal compass. I have stopped hitting the Snooze button on my instincts and drives.

No matter what comes of it, disaster or “success,” I am trying something brand new for me. And that is certainly a return to curiosity, innocence, hope, and creation.

I told my coworker that I boycott Yom Kippur these days. The fasting and the communal atoning of sins. I shun this day and its activities because the idea is that by atoning for our sins, we will be “inscribed in the Book of Life” for another year.

According to the Jewish calendar, in 2012 the evening closing Yom Kippur was the moment of my Leukemia diagnosis. I spent the day of Yom Kippur in an ER. And closed the chapter of that day with cancer. I was 30 years old.

I have done a lot of work around turning that diagnosis into the seeds of a new life. But I will never deny that I have a few wheelbarrows full of anger and grief that still need … sorting or composting or alleviation. Or simply time to feel them, and then to let them go, perhaps, if that’s what happens.

But for me, the idea that on one of the most holy days of the Jewish year, on the day when a person is either granted another year of life or is not, I cannot hold the tragedy of being told half my blood was cancer on that same day.

And, I imagine, my feelings toward all of this will transform, lessen, or evolve. But, for now, I boycott Yom Kippur.

I have used this week of T’shuvah to take stock of where I am desirous to return to and acknowledge and rejoice in the truth of my soul, and to note where I already am. I have used this week to affirm that life can be new and different and fulfilling.

I will never need the forgiveness of an entity that is either made of benevolence or simply is the indifferent force of Life itself.

My week of T’shuvah is and has returned me to a place of excitement and possibility. I don’t need a communal atonement to reward me for how exceptional that is.

That said. Shanah Tovah u’Metukah — May you have a good (tovah) and sweet (metukah) year, friends. And may we write our own Books of Life.

allies · career · community · debt · fear · friendship · hope · Jewish · love · perseverance · scarcity · self-care · support

Bossypants

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“You look like you’re leading something,” she said.
We met for an info interview. My former boss and I. I wanted
to run past her my career ideas, my flailing, my desires, my questions. And what can
happen in an hour (I should know by now), is phenomenal.
We caught up briefly, I heard about the cross-Bay move, the
house hunt that fell magically into place after a year of city-looking, about
the semi-adult kids, and about the current work.
I met her in 2008. I had a fever of 103 that weekend and
had to cancel our initial interview, so we had to meet on a Sunday, fever or no
fever — I had a drastically depleting bank account, no safety net, and did what
it took. What it took was meeting her in a Starbucks, rabid coffee addiction
being the first thing we aligned on. We sat talking for over an hour, about the
job, sure, but about lots of other things, too.
I didn’t even apply for that job. I’d applied for a
different position in the organization, and having been passed up for that one,
they handed my soon-to-be new boss my resume, and said, Here, she might work
well for you.
I was blonde at the moment. I’d quit my job at the property
management company with no net and no prospects. No plan and no direction. I’d
simply had enough of crying in my car at lunch because I felt so stuck and lost
over my “career.” I’d been there almost 2 years. They were great. But it wasn’t
“me,” and I didn’t know what “me” was anyway, so I stayed.
Until I didn’t. Until my coworker there went out to lunch
with me, and I can’t even remember exactly what she must have asked me, or
exactly what I must have said. But it triggered action, for better or worse.
I called a friend of mine after that lunch, and he asked me two important questions: Why would you stay? “Financial security.” Why would you
leave? “Love. Self-love.”
I’d never said those words before. I never knew I’d had such
an impulse or a drive such as that. “love” or “self-love.”
What I didn’t have was a plan, a back-up, a safety net. And
for all that people say about “leap and the net will appear”… well, I should do a leeetle bit of my part in assuring a safe landing, too.
So, that weekend, I gave my notice, hosted a my now-annual “Pre-Val Hearts & Stars” party, dyed my hair blonde. And then scoured the
interwebs for hope. Which, FYI, is not where hope lives.
With a fever, a toilet paper shortage, and lots of “I
want to do something ‘creative,’ but I don’t know what that is” spinning, one
morning I woke up, and asked myself, What do I like to do?
Strangely, the answer was, “Well, I like being Jewish.” Ha.
So, onto the interwebs I went, and typed into google: Jewish, San Francisco.
I applied to everything there was. And I got called in for
the first job at that organization. And then I got called in by my soon-to-be
boss.
I was tired, desperate, and blond. I was feverish, scared,
and brain-addled.
I got the job.
(Here, I could insert the same style story that got me the
job at the property management company, under very similar circumstances including toilet-paper and food
shortage, but I’ll leave that for now – except to say, perhaps you now can
understand why it is that “Stability First” is my current motto and touchstone.
– No, It’s not “fun,” it’s not zany, or “creative,” but – guess what, to paraphrase
a friend I heard last week, It gives me the table upon which to build the
puzzle of my life. Stability first gives me the freedom and the ease and the
breathing room to … buy toilet paper.)
And here my now-former boss and I sat yesterday, at another
coffee shop, so full circle it makes me smile, and here were are again, talking
of Jewish, talking of organizations, of helping, of building, of changing. It’s
6 years later, now, almost to the date, that she and I have sat
across tables sipping our addictions and exchanging our personal and professional lives.
She showed up for me during cancer. She brought me gift
cards to Trader Joe’s so I wouldn’t go hungry or worry about doing so. She
brought me a travel Shabbat kit with candles and a prayer that my mom and I
would use once when she was here. She brought with her to Israel a prayer, a plea, I’d written during cancer that I’d asked her to take with her there, and she did, under a lemon tree in her parents’ backyard, dug, burned and buried my prayer with her small niece and nephew. She told me how incredible I was and how inspiring
I am.
And yesterday, she told me the same. She gave me hard
answers, great ideas, helped me think through my own. This woman is a mentor
and a friend, and lost or not lost, I have allies like her, unique as she is,
all over this planet. 

community · faith · friends · generosity · gratitude · help · Jewish · love · service

That 20/20 Thing.

I guess I should tell you about the miracle-y things that have been happening during this time. There are two major
ones, and here they are:
One: My Job
(It’s funny, when I was home sick with strep prior to going
to the hospital, I emailed my boss about my home-sick-from-work status with the
title of the email “I thought Job was a later chapter” – little did I know!) ;P
So, as some of you have been reading, I’d been unemployed
since graduating with my Master’s in May. I’d been actively looking, thinking
about moving back home, applying to anything and everything, with no luck for months. Then, I got the job I now have at the synagogue in
Berkeley.
When I got this job, I was resentful. I was thrilled to
increase my bank balance from $3.98, but I felt ashamed that I had worked so
hard and arrived at what I considered to be an entry level position in the
front office – somewhere I’d been many times before. You heard me gripe about
it, be the opposite of humble about it, and generally kinda be a dick about
having finally gotten a job when I so desperately needed one.
So, here’s the “oo ee oo” part. I got sick. I got really
sick. I will be in and out of the hospital for the next 5 months or so, mostly
in. So, I can’t work, obviously.
My boss’s son had cancer when he was a child, and his son is
alive well, and just had a kid of his own. My boss has had empathy for my
situation from the beginning, and as this started to go down, he said to me
that they would have a temp in until I came back – that they would hold my job
for me. …
At the time this was said, I still didn’t really know what
all this cancer treatment would look like – how long it would be. So a few
weeks later, when I now knew it was going to be 5 months, not one, and my boss
came to visit me in the hospital, I hemmed and hawed – would they still keep my
job for me, knowing how long it would be ‘til I came back? Should I tell him?
Should I not and just hope for the best?
Well, I ended up telling him. And you know what he said? “I
know how important job security is at a time like this, and your job will be
here for you when you’re ready.” WHAT THE HELL? How are people so nice?
And here’s the miracle part – IF I had gotten a job with any
other company, I can’t imagine that they would be a tenth the amount of
understanding. I mean, a bottom line, deadlines, emails, someone needs to be ON
IT. If I had gotten any other job, I
can’t imagine that they’d hold my job for me ‘til I was healthy, let alone come
visit me in the hospital as several of my BRAND NEW coworkers have, and the
others who are planning to.
I couldn’t have planned this at all – and I was so pissed! So, hindsight is 20/20 and all that, right?
Although, there’s the part of me that’s like, um, hey G-d,
you OBVIOUSLY saw this cancer thing coming, having set me up like a champ here,
couldn’t we have gone a different route … but, it is what it is.
Two: My Apartment
I used to work for the property management company that
manages my apartment building here in Oakland. When I worked for them in SF,
they helped me get my apartment in SF, and when I moved to Oakland, they were
equally as generous in helping me with my apartment here (which, by the way, is
a 5 minute walk from the hospital at which I’m being treated…).
I left that job under not the most admirable circumstances,
and earlier this year, I emailed my former boss to say as much and to apologize
for not having been the worker I could have been. He emailed me back to say, yes actually, I could have handled that better, but that
he “had my back” if I needed a reference or anything.
Later this summer, however, I emailed him when I was in my mania of “do
i move back to New Jersey right now??” and I asked if I could give two-weeks’ notice on the
apartment if needed, instead of a month. He emailed one word. “No.” And his
assistant emailed me a form for the 30-day notice format 😉
So, I had no idea where I stood in his shit books or not
when my mom called him early in October and said, basically, my daughter has
leukemia and isn’t working, what can we do here?
Cue the “oo ee oo” once more. My former boss said … he
himself had leukemia two years before. He asked if I’d applied for disability
(if I’d have any income at all), my mom said yes. And he said, Don’t worry
about it. Just keep me informed, and we’ll work it out.
What? In SF Bay Area? Rent is a “we’ll work it out”??
Miracle. He told my mom that I’d helped him out when he’d needed it, and true,
I drove his dad to dialysis three days a week for a period while I worked there
(although, I think I got more out of that one – I learned a lot in those
conversations with that man).
My friend said recently to me that we get what we put into
the world, and all the goodness that’s coming back to me is simply that. I’m
just getting back what I’ve put into it.
It’s a little weird to think like that though, because my
immediate thoughts are, it’s not like I am nice on purpose, it’s not like I’m keeping score of how great a
person I am as I go out into the world. I just am how I am. So it feels weird
to feel like, in a way, I’m being
rewarded for that “just the way I am”ness.
However, I was contemplating that ridiculousness the other day, and I
thought to myself, Molly, I don’t think cancer is a reward. 😛
The bottom line of the above two amazing stories is the
generosity of the human soul. It doesn’t really have anything to do with me.
I was talking with my current boss the other day about how
many people are wanting to help and do things for me, but there’s often not
much to do. I mean, I don’t really need much, except for some cards, and
visits, and on occasion a ride to the doctor or a grocery run. But only one
person at a time needs to do that. So there’s not a lot for people to do, and I
feel that desire they have – to want to do something. To want to take some aspect of my own burdens away
from me, because there are going to be many things that only I can and will go
through by myself in this process.
So, I’m going to try to think on what people can do that’s
concrete, that gives an opportunity to help and feel useful. Because this is what I
said to my boss – these days, we rarely get the chance to help each other
anymore. We’re all so independent, and I can do it on my own, that as a society and a people, that no one seems
to need help anymore.
In a way, my being sick gives others the opportunity to help
– to allow them to feel that good nachas
(Yiddish) from doing something for someone else,
just out of the
kindness of their heart
. Not for gain, or
to check that score card I talked about. But just to help, because you can, and
because you want to.
The capacity for human kindness shines very much in this
portion of my story. Which, really, isn’t Job, because I’ve got a lot more
support than he ever did. And I never owned any goats. 

coffee · frustration · gratitude · Jewish · poetry · progress · work

Normal Functioning Levels

In an effort to “put my needs first,” I’ve decided to change
this to a weekly, instead of a daily, blog. So, Sunday will be our day
together, folks. Two buses and an 8:30am clock-in time will make weekday
blogging a little bit like killing a wildebeest before breakfast – highly
unnecessary.
So, I have a job. ! This past week, starting on Wednesday, I
began working in the front office of a synagogue in Berkeley. This, will be an
adjustment. Honestly, my commute was easier when I was crossing the bridge!
But, I have a job. I needed one, and now, finally, I have one. I’m still not
clear on wtf it took so long to find one. It certainly does fall into the “underearning” category of a job “below my education and skill level,” but, then again,
the first bit of advice in the How to get out of debt… book is **Get A Job, ANY Job** So, I have a job.
It’s not going to be that bad either. There are a lot of systems in
place that are way wonky, i.e. ten-step processes, when they could be 3, but
that’s sort of why I’m there. In the rest of life, usually when I want to help
others streamline things in their lives or make them better, it’s usually none
of my damn business and I get to practice holding my tongue and trusting they’re on their own path. But, luckily, here, it very literally is my business, and so, I’m going to get to organize
and streamline, and “correct” what’s really silly.
That’s part of the advantage of coming in to a new place,
you see things that other people haven’t noticed, really, in years. Why do you
click these three things instead of this one? Oh, I don’t know, it’s just how I
was trained, so that’s how I do it. Why is there an old, dusty dead Foreman
grill in the kitchen – does anyone use it? I don’t know, it’s just always been
there. WHY do you print off paper
calendars of the entire year for the weekly staff meeting that barely get
glanced at, and then thrown away?… So, I do get to come in, with fresh eyes,
and be like, whoa, uh, this is stupid.
That said, there are going to be a lot of advantages to this
job that are not monetary. There’s a pre-school, and this week, the little kids
were getting their intro week, so I got to see all these two and three year
olds come in the front door, all nervous or excited. I got to encourage them.
There’s a very sweet, wise-ass kid studying for his Bar Mitzvah who comes to
hang out almost daily with the youth group advisor, so we get to wise-ass at
each other. There’s a piano in the chapel off the main sanctuary that once I
get keys, I was told absolutely, I could come in there and play during lunch.
It’s not a bank. That’s an advantage. It’s a synagogue. This
means people coming in looking to volunteer; retirees looking at the gift shop
for cards or mezuzahs. Kids coming for Hebrew school; adults coming for Torah
study. It’s a community that I’m getting to become a part of. And that’s not
something every job has at all.
Even though, I’ll tell you, I was highly disappointed that I
didn’t get the Marketing job I wanted, (and I got a letter from the IRS this
week saying that I owe them money from 2010, likely because I didn’t report my
student loan money properly), this isn’t going to be that bad. Am I still going
to be living a bit meagerly? Likely. It’s not a high paying position in the
slightest. Is it more than minimum wage? Yes. Am I waiting tables? No. Am I
making sales calls all day, like one of the jobs I interviewed for? No.
It could be worse. And, it can only get better, I suppose.
Mostly, I am glad that my stress hormones are in retreat.
Returning to normal, without the barely contained underground river of how
am I going to pay my bills???
I slept
almost the whole day yesterday. It’s like, with the stress in retreat, the
whole system floods with a great big PAUSE, system shutting down now, crisis
averted. Yesterday I woke up, ate breakfast, thought about going to the farmer’s market,
and climbed back into bed, waking up 4 hours later. Took another mini nap
after trips to the library and grocery store, cooked dinner, watched a dvd, and went to bed at a decent time.
I needed it. Obviously. I’ve been stressed, man.
In that/this period, though, I’ve also started to do some
other things. I’ve begun to soak my own chickpeas to make hummus from scratch.
I’ve begun to marinate tofu so that I can bake it. I bought quinoa from the
bulk section at a way cheaper price than anything packaged. All of these
organic, all of them cheaper than buying ready packed or ready made.
I’ve really enjoyed doing this. Experimenting with different
flavors in the hummus, roasted red pepper (jarred, but one day, maybe my own),
garlic, pine nuts, lemon. Using the tofu marinade to pour onto veggies I’ve
steamed to go with them. I’m getting healthier in my eating habits. More
interested, and more creative. Part of that creativity was borne of necessity, the need to buy things cheaper
as money has run out during these months of unemployment.
Coffee is no longer in my cabinets. This makes me awfully
sad. But, it’s not good for me, so I’ve been reading, so it’s going the way of
the dodo. That, I will miss. But it’s not like coffee’s moved to England, and
I’ll never see it again. I did, indeed, get some decaf with some caf this week.
There’s just nothing quite like the texture of coffee.
One place I had coffee was at the poetry reading on
Thursday, at which I read my rather explicit new poems. I didn’t preface them
by saying the experiences described were mostly not current, which I sort of
wish I’d said, as what will people THINK of me??, but it all went well. I got good feedback on my work. The words
“bold,” “brave,” and “funny” were thrown around. I’m glad I read the work, even
though I was nervous about it. Every time I perform, it makes me want to do it
more, and again.
I wasn’t able to “get it together” to make broadsides of the
poem I wanted to, but there will be time for that. I had a few other things on
my mind this week!
All in all, it was a highly emotional week. The anticipation
of whether I was going to get the job I wanted. Interviewing for it at 9:30pm Sunday night via Skype and finding out at 11pm that I hadn’t gotten it (the other girl had more “proven experience”). Waking up
Monday morning, knowing I was about to accept a job that has the same title and
pay rate as a job I accepted 5 years ago. Calling a friend to ask if I could ask them for more money. Crying, mourning the loss of where I think I ought to be, and
what I ought to be doing. The loss of my ability to save on any significant
level so that I might move back East some time this century.
And then calling to ask for more money, not getting what I
asked, but a token amount more than what they offered. The new chaos of
commuting to a new job. The first few days of a job when everyone is still
evaluating you. The knowledge dump into my brain from the girl whose job I’m
taking and training with. The highly anticipated poetry reading where I was
bold and brave and scared as fuck. And the crash, like air let out of a
balloon, a deflating of all the energy, worry, and stress as I crashed out
yesterday.
There are still going to be challenges, of course. This is a new job. There’s a lot to continue to learn, and
the girl I’m replacing leaves on Thursday. I still
do have some financial issues to contend with like the
IRS letter, and the fact that I don’t get paid till the 15th. But,
by the way, I did sell my electric guitar and the amp for the price I never
thought I would get (thank g-d for asking for help). So, it will be ok. But, I
still feel deflated. I’m going to need time to bulk back up and refuel to normal
functioning levels.
Til then, and in order to get there, I will TRY
to be kind to myself. Get out of my head, and my own problems. And be grateful, if even for a moment, that I am finally employed at a job that is far from atrocious. 

adulthood · dating · integrity · intimacy · Jewish · progress · recovery · relationships · responsibility · romance · sexuality

Progress, Not Perfection.

So, I did not sleep with my okJew on the second date. We did
however come back to my place, and have a rather heated make-out session.
It was lovely. But. I feel today no better. I realize today
that even though we didn’t sleep together, which was something I didn’t want to
do, knowing him so briefly, that I still feel a sense of sadness around it. And
in writing some about it, I realize that it’s sad because I still don’t fully
believe in my own inherent worth – that I’m more than my body.
Even when we were making out, however fun it was – and it
was, and I’m sure that if we ever do have sex, there will be no problem in that regard – but I felt not fully
present. I felt a little disconnected – and, really, I was. I was disconnected
from the emotions that can come when you are making out with someone you know,
like, and maybe even more than like. I was only acting from one part of myself,
not all of me.
And, knowing that, I notice the desire to pack “Beauty” back
up behind her glass terarrium, and say, see, you can’t be trusted. But really,
it’s not her fault. I didn’t have to come back to my place – it could have been
a short date. I didn’t have to have the extended make-out session – I could
have ended it earlier. But, I did. And this is where “progress, not perfection”
comes in. Because I really could beat myself up here, and retreat back into
isolation, and a position of “See, you really don’t know how to hold intimacy
and sexuality, so you better pack it in.”
Yes, I could do that, but I don’t think that’s the point
here. The point is that I realize that heavy teenage-like petting is a little
more than I want to do on a second date. I realize that I still want to feel
known more than that, and have more of a connection before getting so physical.
I have so much f’ing evidence of how much sex before emotional intimacy is the
cart before the horse, and so, yes, I can beat myself up for not having learned
that “well enough,” or I can be glad that I didn’t have sex when I didn’t
really want to, and be glad that I let him know it was time to go, and didn’t
interpret his erection as an obligation, as I wrote yesterday. (But, … Whoo-ee!
anyway…) 😉
So, there’s that. Of course, I begin to go all the way to,
now I better let him know what I’m looking for before there’s a
third date, and another round of, okay thanks, bye! That I need to explain what
I’m available for, and to ask if that’s what he’s available for.
Some of this sounds valid, some of it sounds unnecessary. I tend
to be an oversharer. I don’t think I need to do that, or at least, I don’t need
to do that today. I won’t see him again, likely, for another week or so, as
he’s busy during the week, and I’m camping this weekend, so I have time to let
some of this dust settle and ask some women, and see what happens.
We did have a good date, overall. In fact, it was a great
date. But I feel overshadowed by my remorse.
Again, it comes back to choice. I can choose to see this as
a failure, and head down to self-flagellation, and I’ll never get it, and how
come you don’t get that you’re worth it – that makes you so not worth it. (A
lovely circle of reasoning, that one.) Or. Or I can choose to see this as an
opportunity, as I spoke so much of yesterday. An opportunity to notice my
growth and change, and also to be happy (or at least contented) that I do notice how I’m feeling, and how I was feeling last night. I wasn’t
feeling present, and that I wasn’t feeling present is a good thing. That I
noticed it. Noticing it is the first step, I think. Then I
can work on doing something about it.
I’ve written a lot of poetry about not feeling present
during sex. Now, I know that that can extend to making out if I’m not properly
known by someone, and they’re not known by me. This person is nearly an entirely unknown
entity – of course I don’t feel
intimate.
So, I can choose to take this as information for next time –
whether that’s with this person, or someone down the line. I can choose to
allow myself a little bit of affirmation over keeping my pants on. I can choose
to acknowledge that I’ve come a long way to be so present with myself to notice
these even slightly off-kilter parts of me.
Forgive the reference… but, in the final Twilight book
(spoiler alert?), the main character, Bella, throws an invisible defensive
bubble out around herself and her family during the cumulative battle. Imagine
it almost like a Bio-Dome, to mix pop-culture metaphors. In the book, Bella can
feel as one of the opponents pokes into the various places of her bubble,
looking for a weak spot – testing the defenses, and seeing how strong it is. I
feel very similarly about this work with dating/physicality. I feel that my
bubble is being poked and prodded, and I’m getting to see where I still have
spots of weakness, or places that can be firmed up.
I am sad that I don’t yet feel that I’m worth more than my body, or that I could be wanted or
acknowledged or “seen” for more than my physical self. But, this is simply a
place of “weakness,” a place where I could use more care and strength and
affirmation, and behavior that will support the idea that I
am more than that. So, I am glad for the opportunity.
I’ve been shown where there’s work to do – and if that’s not what relationships
are for, then I’ve got the wrong game. 
adulthood · change · dating · fear · intimacy · Jewish · love · progress · relationships · sex · sobriety

Mind your own music stand.

Several years ago, about 5 or so, I was dating a wonderful
man. I was also in therapy. These things were and were not related 😉
One day, my therapist and I stumbled across a metaphor that I’m reminded of
today – when I get into relationships, it’s as if I’ve been the conductor of my
own orchestra, and ultimately, the highest ideal and intention is that my
partner, boyfriend in this case, have his own orchestra, and that the two sounds mix
and meld in a way that increases the beauty of both, without losing the
integrity of either.
Surely, you may have your own metaphor for this, as there
are many, but that’s what came to me then.
The “problem,” as it were, is that I was noticing my
tendency to want to begin to conduct his orchestra. That if his oboe were a
little more resonant, or his triangle more tingy, we’d sound better together.
The result of this peeking over onto his side, was that I began to neglect my
own. In beginning to mind someone else’s business, I forgot to mind my own.
When this happens, things like self-care, integrity, and reason
begin to go out the window. I become more interested in making sure you’re
doing things “right,” and that we “sound good together,” that my whole balance
of living gets thrown off.
That was then. This is now. Will it be the same?
When, before I began dating that man, I asked a trusted
friend if she thought I were ready to date – as he would become the first
person I’d date while sober – she said that if I was ready to handle the
emotional twists of a relationship without drinking, then go for it.
And so I did. I learned a lot, and ultimately, it didn’t
work out, but I learned so fucking much.
I learned how to try to love, how to try to be loved. I learned how to be
honest with another person. I learned to look at the clouds and see shapes and
animals again. I learned how to relax a little.
Yes, these are things I can learn “on my own,” they are. And
I get more of that now than I did then. But, too, there are some things that
can only be learned in communion with
someone else.
I notice that that big hunk of manic-depressive wild-haired
meat that I call my inner manifestation of Love is “up” right now. As when I
met her on one of my shamanic journeys, and she threw herself on me after I
gave her one bit of kindness, she is not yet one who knows balance. When I
pushed her off of me, she got rageful and went Neanderthal.
This is part of my pattern. Show me some kindness, and
suddenly, I light up like Times Square and drape myself on you, my needs,
expectations. Show me that you can’t possibly meet those demands, and I will
turn to ice quicker than an eskimo’s piss.
There’s more to this. As there usually is. If you’re not
meeting my demands, and I’ve turned cold, you won’t really know it. It’s subtle
closing off and shutting down, this Elvis leaving the building. We’ll have sex,
but I won’t be present. I’ll still try to use it as a way, the main way, to
connect, but it doesn’t really work when I’m not there.
Also, as I recognized last night on my surprise-last-minute okJewpid date, before I know more or better or have a peg on the situation,
sure I’ll be outwardly as gregarious and charming as always, but… I felt it – I
felt my shell.
Perhaps this is “normal.” You’re meeting someone for the
first time – you of course have some guards, maybe. But, I’m just so much more
acutely aware of how scared I am. How scared I am to allow that shell to melt,
because inevitably, in my past, it has meant a descent right into that enormous sigh of relief that you are here, that I can now
relax, depend on you – and make a few adjustments to you while we’re at it.
When I let go of this shell, I start a pattern that leaves
me alone, sad, and feeling pretty childlike. Not womanly. Not adult.
So, I keep the shell. I’ve kept it for years now. Better to
avoid the whole game than to try to play it differently, acknowledging and
using the new skills for living and being that I have. I could have garnered a
whole fleet of new tools and attitudes, but fuck if I let them out of the gate.
They’re like a trained – well, I was going to write “army,” but I’d rather
leave the military out of my love life, thank you – they’re like a well-trained
dance company. Having rehearsed for years, perfected, practiced, fallen, and
learned – but … me, their manager, I will never and have never let them perform. They
are a lost art. They are a lost gift, because I’m too scared of how they’ll be
received, or of if they’re really ready for the big show.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but with the Cousin, I
said at one point (not to him) that I felt like I wanted to put him up on a
shelf, and “fix” myself, or get better, and then, only then, when I were
better, then I could take him down, and we could have a wonderful life
together. Life.Does.Not.Work.In.Darkness. It does not work in absence, and it
does not work without my active participation.
I may be the world’s best anything, but I’d never know it.
And so, it’s time to see if my conductor skills, my dance
company, my emotions have learned things that I may not know they’ve learned.
Because my date was awesome. And, likely, I may want to date
again.