change · faith · recovery · self-care · spirituality · work

A word, if you don’t mind?

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Dear Molly,
First of all, congratulations on closing the Addams Family.
I heard it was a fantastic run to packed houses nearly every night. And brava
on finally getting that one song that was giving you trouble. Fist pumping is
highly appropriate!
But, I’m moved to write to you today because I want to make
sure you realize how many irons you have blazing right now, and ensure that
you’re taking the proper time for yourself. (Although, I must say, I wouldn’t
be writing if I thought you were!)
As soon as the show closed, you began a new one the next day, yes?
Rehearsing almost daily with a dozen monologues to memorize by next Friday? You’ve been
searching for a new job or jobs, as well as having interviews or coffee dates with folks several times a week. You’ve been sitting on weekend
mornings for a portrait artist in order to make some cash, and you’ve begun
teaching on two weekday afternoons after work and before rehearsal.
Forget about your dishes, we’re way beyond them now! Have
you seen your car? Your apartment? Where is the calm space you so crave at
home? How about that outstanding parking ticket you need to dispute at the
Berkeley parking office? And the fellowship meetings you are barely attending and
the crispy, crackling nature of your office interactions right now?
Is it fair to say that you’ve got a few things on your
plate… AND that you’re not taking the normal care of yourself that’s necessary
for your health? Is it true that you’ve been feeling tired and coming down with
something?
Something’s got to give, my friend, and I don’t want it to
be you.
Yes, I know this is an uncertain and shifting time, and your
home is always a reflection of your mental state. I know it feels like there’s
no time for meetings, but doesn’t there have to be? It’s terribly uncomfortable for you and those around you when
you’re this wound up.
However, I do want to come back to say, I am writing all
this because I am in support of you. I
want you to achieve your best in all you do. I just want to remind you to set
first things first. Weekends, which have been your farmers market and cooking-for-the-week days, as well as nesting and organizing days, have been robbed by
all this new work.
Maybe — and I’m just throwing this out there — you tell the
artist you can’t sit with him until after your show opens? I mean, the worst he
can say is no, right? Maybe you ask a friend to help you with the enormous
bookcase you inherited from your upstairs neighbor that’s been standing, disassembled, in the
center of your apartment for a week? Maybe you really schedule that time to go
to the parking office, and don’t blow it off this time because you’re running
late for work?
Look, the bottom line is you’re in a huge amount of
transition right now. You’re taking a leap of faith that you’ll land somewhere
new and different than where you’ve been. You’re doing this to support your
art, and to support the idea that you have more to give to the world than a
well-crafted spreadsheet. I am in awe of you for taking the risk.
In truth, both ways are risky: to stay is a risk to sanity,
to leave is a risk to livelihood. But, I do have faith that things will turn
out well for you (Yesterday’s interview was promising & the second interview is set.). You are doing all the right things… you’re just not leaving
time for the rest of the “right things,” and that’s where I’m concerned.
So, take a minute to consider my suggestions. See if you can
come up with your own solutions, and talk to your friends to help you through
this quite chaotic but exciting time.
As a friend once said, The only difference between anxiety
and excitement is breathing.
So, breathe, Molly. And I’ll see you when you land, safely.
Yours, 

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.

action · ambition · aspiration · band · commitment · despair · faith · fear · self-abandonment · self-worth · singing · spirituality · truth · uncertainty · vulnerability

Yeah, But…*

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Here’s something nobody knows about me: When I access
something very truth-y in my morning journaling, my handwriting becomes
miniscule.
Written like those boardwalk booths that used to write your
name on a grain of rice, I find myself getting really tiny with my words – and that’s when I know I’ve struck
something important. Shh, don’t say it too loud or it might whisk off the page.
Let’s back up a little though.
Yesterday, I got to see my therapist (the Rosen Method
therapist I’m still seeing. Despite my doubts before every time I go, I always
leave laughing that I doubted). We hadn’t seen one another for about a month
due to schedules, so I had a lot to catch her up on.
Last time we spoke, I told her I felt like I didn’t have any
options available to me in dating land. Like Goldilocks, I’d experienced the
too hot, the too cold, but have yet to find the “just right.” I mentioned this
yesterday because I was talking about my job search. I told her that as I was
driving over last night, I realized that it’s not that I don’t have any options
available to me in job land – it’s that I refuse to commit to one path.
She challenged me on this a little, and asked if it was
“refused” or something else. And, surely, it is fear and paralyzation.
Because here is the secret, sacred truth: I do know what I want to do.
I told her that I see my job options like a scene from Sliding
Doors
. If you haven’t seen the movie, the
premise is based on Gwenyth Paltrow in one version of her life catching a
subway train before the doors shut; in another version, she misses that train.
At that point in the movie, we follow both these lives and their divergent challenges and
successes (and haircuts). 
I told her I see three options of my job life for myself:
One: Be a Jewish professional, or a community professional,
a leader, an organizer, a bringer-together-er.
Two: Do something counsel-y and social work-y, working
directly one-on-one with the populations I want to serve, particularly youth.
And three.
And this is where I began to cry.
Be an artist.
I laughed through the tears, and said, “Well if tears are
any indication of truth, then the third one’s the charm.”
The third one is also the hardest. Requires the most work,
the most vulnerability, the most action, the most fortitude, and… the most uncertainty.
I told her I’m not willing to be a starving artist. But
perhaps there’s another way.
As a note, by “artist,” I mean in all disciplines, starting
with performance, starting with that Yoshi’s singer I mentioned yesterday.
Starting with that dream.
I think I’ve mentioned here before that I’ve been told I
don’t let myself dream. It came up a few times yesterday when I had to correct
my “Yeah, But”s to “Yes, AND”s.
Every time I even begin to think about following this path,
I get buried under a mountain of “Yeah, But”s. I don’t think I need to list
them for you, since I’m sure you have your own bevy that attack your own
dreams.
So, we/I were careful to reframe them. I told her at the end
of the session that I feel like my whole life has been an exercise in “Yeah,
But.” And she told me that that is changing; that I am changing it.
And it was in my morning pages today that I recorded
something I thought of after I came home yesterday that actually knocked the wind out of me. What I wrote
in the miniscule, micro-truth script:
When we are in alignment with our highest good, the Universe
will rearrange itself to help us.
I don’t have to know how to do this. Because I don’t. What struck me so suddenly and
viscerally were the words I’ve heard repeated for years: When we take one step
toward (G-d / Fate / the Universe / our Highest Good), it takes a thousand
toward us.
I will be carried. I
will be helped. I won’t have to do this alone, because, “When the student is
ready, the teacher appears.”
I was floored by this revelation. I was floored that I
actually heard and felt and believed it. It was a moment of belief.
I take care of the What and G-d takes care of the How. I’ve
heard this for years.
What I have needed to do is admit and commit to the What.
I have “Yeah, But”s coming up as I write this. About money,
and too late, and this is for other people and other lives, and what are you
thinking of me right now as you read this and are you doubting me and rolling
your eyes, and how, and how and how.
Yes, I have doubts and fears. AND. I only have to hold onto
the “What.” I only have to hold on to my dream. That’s my only job right now –
to not go back to sleep, to not abandon my dream, again. To not continue to break promises to myself. To not
drown myself in those fears and doubts. Because
I am trying to live
my truth
. And all this wisdom says that’s
all I need to do.
(You know, along with reaching out, asking for help, seeking
people in these professions, gathering intel, honing my vision, practicing and
learning the fuck out of it AND remembering that the pain of avoiding all this
is SO MUCH GREATER than the pain of trying to do it.)
Molly, you want to be a singer in a band? You want to
perform onstage in dive bars? And at Yoshi’s? And be a lounge singer? You want
to feel proud and full and felt and heard?
All you have to do is say, “Yes.”
*(Thanks, Joel Landmine, for the title grab. See: Yeah, Well…)

action · despair · dreams · fear · friendship · god · miracle · perseverance · persistence · spirituality · surrender · theology · trying · vision

Men at Work.

  2/17/09: G-d Jar Projects:
  – My band
  – my mural
  – the play or musical I will be in
  – the songs I write
  – the essays and poems
  – the bass I play
  – the vacation I take to Hawaii
  – the sketches I make
  – the painting I do
  – the creative job I am making
At the time I wrote this list, none of these were true or in my life. Today, of this task list I wanted “God” to complete, all except two have come to fruition.
It would be a year from putting this list in my “g-d box”
when I would apply to graduate school for creative writing in poetry. It would
be two years from then when I would take my first oil painting class at that
college and start writing my daily blog.
It would be 4 years from putting this list in the jar when
my friend would become a flight attendant, and ask me if I wanted to escape winter and my chemo treatments and go to Hawaii for cheap.
A few months from there, a year ago, I would finally accept
the invitation to be a part of the band my friend had been asking me to join
for years, and actually use the bass I’d bought for $5 when I was 19. And not
long from then, I would begin auditioning and taking acting classes, and eventually be cast in a play.
The only items on this list that haven’t come to fruition
yet are the mural and the creative job.
The mural seems less important than it did 5 years ago, though
it would still be very cool to do.
The creative job “I am making” (whatever that means!) is still in
flux, in process.
Astonishing, isn’t it, that things I had no idea how they
would come to pass have all come to
pass? I could never have imagined when I wrote that list that I would actually
be in a band, or be able to go to Hawaii. Those were
the gifts and “rewards” of successful, other people. But, some part of me has
always believed that I can be one, or they wouldn’t have been in the box.
I love looking at this list. It is so concrete. I can check each off with a stroke of joy and elation: I
painted! I wrote! I acted! I vacationed! WHOOP! Look at me, enjoying a life (in spite of my self).
We all know what I’m going to say: If everything else on the
list has come to pass except the last one, then there must be hope that even
that can come to pass as well.
I am not sure I’m exactly an optimist, but I am a believer
in the efficacy of asking for help, not doing it alone, but doing it. Eventually.
Because, I should mention that going to school has saddled me
with nearly $90,000 in student loan debt and sent me into a recovery program
around my relationship to money and scarcity. I should mention that my airline
friend offered me the trip to Hawaii because I needed a break from cancer. And that I only finally reached back out to my
friend with the band as I was sitting alone and bald in my apartment, listening to a CD,
and busted out crying because I wanted to be a part of something like that –
because I didn’t want to be taken from the chance to have that in my life.
It’s not as if this list got checked off according to the
“easy way,” is my point. It took a lot of work, help, reaching out, despair,
action, pleading, and god damned willing it to be.
I would not have
chosen this route to getting these items checked off, and yet, here I sit
elated that so many of them have been. They say that it’s the journey not the
destination, but these journeys sucked. The routes to getting here, to crossing
off these accomplishments that have brought me joy, were really horrible, scary, and
painful.
It’s a strange dichotomy to sit with: The immense gratitude for being where I am, and the questioning
of the benevolence and efficacy of the path that brought me here.
So I guess what I sit with now is whether I want the road
to crossing off the last item on this list – “my creative job” – to be as
arduous as the roads before it. It is true that sometimes we don’t have a
choice, and choices are made for us, but I feel today that I do have a choice
on whether I want to struggle toward this final goal, whatever the
circumstances, or if I want to acquiesce toward it. Maybe not even “acquiesce,”
but move with joy. I mean I have a whole list of accomplishments to buoy this
part of my journey, right? 

Maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t have to be so hard. 

action · anger · faith · fear · god · hope · perseverance · rage · self-will · spirituality · surrender

But, damnit, I *do* care.

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I’ve had “I’ve got you, babe” stuck in my head for the last
few days. I’m catching up on the 2nd half of the final season of House, and one of the characters was singing and playing
it the other day. I’ve been thinking about it, vaguely, in relation to the
whole “turning it over” concept that’s asked of me in my current work. Turn it,
everything, present, past, future, over to something else, something “caring,” it tells us because, as we’ve learned by now, trying to do it, to finagle it on my
own, doesn’t work out too well.
However, this “care” business… Well, we heard me gripe about
“god” the other day. And luckily I still have a few prompt questions to write
through and maybe get somewhere with around … “god.” I just don’t know what
will come of it. Although I’ll do it anyway.
I know I’m “not alone,” I know that there’s healing and
progress and momentum in doing this work without knowing the outcome. But, I’ve
had to up my own woo-woo-ness to help get me there a little. Because, as I’ve
said, sometimes “god’s plan” includes some really fucked up shit. And fuck
trusting that “thing” whatsoever. Asshole.
Jews are supposed to “wrestle and grapple” with god. It’s
part of what we’re asked and allowed to do.
On Saturday night, I saw a play that was focused around a
Catholic family in the 50s and their relationship to each other, Catholicism,
and a nun with a heart condition. The main character is a 12 year old boy,
heading to confirmation, and he keeps on questioning the doctrines. Why did god
put us here, is one of the questions the nun asks. He replies, To have fun. –
That’s not the proscribed answer, by the way.
If you don’t learn this, you go to hell. Well, I’m not sure
I believe in hell, he replies.
He isn’t quashed at the end; in fact, his questioning helps
to open everyone else up.
And so, I have to believe that my questioning, my hesitance,
my ire will do the same.
I am past a point of blind faith. But, sometimes there’s
nothing else than that either. So, what then?
There’s a billboard I drive past on the way to work. For
about a month, it was an ad for a casino, portraying simply the eyes of a
ravenous, coy, coaxing woman. The copy read: Luck will find you.
Each time I drove past it, I said aloud, No it won’t.
Luck doesn’t find us. We find Luck. To quote the 80s: “There is no fate but what we make.”
And yet, … I’m past the point of blind willfulness, too.
I know that a belief in hope and change, in love, lead me to
show up for things that are uncomfortable. I know that my knowledge that I
really can’t do it alone leads me to call people, write this homework shit, and hope
that the next right action will open up to me.
I know I’m not hopeless, or a hopeless case. I know I’m not
throwing off the mantle of faith in favor of self will-ing myself through my
life. I’ve spent plenty of torn-up hours trying to “make it work.” Trying to
change others, my past, present, and future.
So, I know I’m at surrender. I know I’m at the place of
letting go, and trusting “what is.” Or trying to trust it, rather.
But, I’m scared. I’m scared for me, I’m cautious with my
hope for others; I’m a great scoop more apathetic about the god thing, at the
same time I’m more charged about “moving forward” in many places in my life.
I’m tired. I’m grieving the loss of innocence. I cannot yet
believe in the (fucking) “care” of a higher power. I think Fate is an asshole.
The schmuck who pulls your chair out from beneath you when you’re about to sit
and, like Nelson on The Simpsons,
cackles, “Heh Heh!”
I thought I’d given up that one, that punitive idea, that
pull me closer/push me away god.
I could decide to call this all evidence of that god, and therefore defy and reject the whole concept. Every
day I go to work with a woman who lost her baby at 8 months pregnant. Every
day, she and I, simply by our presence, remind one another that nothing is certain in this life. Joy is not guaranteed.
So, like I said, I’m ramping up my woo-woo tools again. I’m
reading affirmations, listening to them, signed up for the Oprah/Deepak
meditation month. I’ve got to. I’ve got to give myself some pudding in which
the medicine is slipped.
I’ve got to tell myself, in a fake it till you make it way,
that I am alright. That 5-year mortality statistics don’t mean anything to a bad-ass like me.
That I am cooler than I think I am, and worth every effort and so much ‘then
some’ that I take toward my health and my goals.
I’ve got to say, I believe in the care of these simple
things. In the care of a little self-love. In the care of a coffee date with a
friend, the soft breathing of a baby.
Anything else can go fuck itself. 

community · connection · courage · encouragement · poetry · spirituality

Connect.

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I haven’t much to say today, so I’m going to pull a Melissa
and give you one of my favorite poems.
I first heard David Whyte on the carride home from my annual
women’s meditation retreat perhaps 5 years ago. My friend, in her new and
exciting Mini, maybe even with the top down, decided we were a little too
altered at the moment to listen to music on the drive down the mountains of
Napa, and so put in a CD of David Whyte. I’d never heard of him. Or his Irish accent. Or the way he repeats his own lines when he recites
them, the way he pauses to savor and emphasize words. But, I did that day.
The next time I heard the poem recited, it was in the
hospital, maybe a year and a half ago. The same friend brought a slightly battered, second-hand copy of the David Whyte book named for the poem. The nurse that
day, with her Hawaiian flowerprint scrubs and her own Aussie accent, saw the gift exchange and exclaimed her own
love of David Whyte. So I asked her to read this one aloud to us, and
reluctantly, shyly, she assented. It was so still and lovely in that room then.
When you get a chance to hear him, do it. Till then, reading
will suffice.
            Everything
Is Waiting For You
            Your
great mistake is to act the drama
            as
if you were alone. As if life
            were
a progressive and cunning crime
            with
no witness to the tiny hidden
            transgressions.  To feel abandoned is to deny
            the
intimacy of your surroundings. 
Surely,
            even
you, at times, have felt the grand array;
            the
swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
            out
your solo voice.  You must note
            the
way the soap dish enables you,
            or
the window latch grants you freedom.
            Alertness
is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
            The
stairs are your mentor of things
            to
come, the doors have always been there
            to
frighten you and invite you,
            and
the tiny speaker in the phone
            is
your dream-ladder to divinity.
            Put
down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
            the
conversation.  The kettle is
singing
            even
as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
            have
left their arrogant aloofness and
            seen
the good in you at last.  All the
birds
            and
creatures of the world are unutterably
            themselves.  Everything is waiting for you.
                    David Whyte. listen. (start at 1:19; so good!) read.

community · death · faith · god · health · order · reality · recovery · spirituality

In Vain.

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God? G-d? Him, Her, It, We, They?
The Great What Is?
The tendency of all things toward progress, perhaps. Toward
health and order.
Cut your hand, and assuming all other things are right with
your body, it will heal itself. In a week or two, it will be good as new.
Sometimes scarred, but altogether, well.
In parallel, cut your spirit, your psyche, and the tendency
of them are toward healing and health. If we don’t hide away the wound, or habitually fiddle with it, we’re sort of compelled to heal. It’s the natural state of ourselves,
and it’s my experience and observation that the order of life will lead us
there.
In this, I can believe.
In benevolence, I have a harder time, these days.
I’m at the part in my personal work where I’m supposed to
think about “god” and my relationship to it, whatever I choose to define it as.
I’m at the part where I come to believe that it wants the best outcome for me
and all creatures. The part where I’m supposed to take a deep breath, open my
arms, and fall into the caring embrace of this power.
Balls.
Because here’s the part that snags my shirttail: sometimes
“god’s” plan includes the death of babies. Sometimes it includes the overdose of
a friend, the death of a parent before you’re old enough to know them. Sometimes “god’s plan” includes rape. And of course, sometimes it includes
cancer in a healthy 30 year old.
I will not stand with those who say it’s part of a plan. I
don’t think it is. I think you can take those experiences, and choose to
integrate them into a theology and a world-view that helps you get through
them. Mostly, you can choose to tell yourself, perhaps truthfully, that their
or your experience will benefit those around you. That others get to witness
how you struggled, railed, and got through it anyway. I do believe that we can
choose to turn our experiences into something valuable.

(Though I do have unresolved issues with being or using anyone as a goddamned touchstone on how to life your life more fully. “I could go at any time, just like him — I think I’ll learn from his pain & in homage and reverence, I’ll paint that portrait; become a doctor; take a trip.” Balls. F’ you, man. My life is not your feeding ground. — … unless of course, it is.)

But I will not say
that I believe that “god” puts these obstacles before us on purpose. I just don’t think it’s
that intelligent.

The intelligence in focusing all flowers toward the sun (or
moon, depending), the intelligence that makes all those little newborn turtles
scurry toward the ocean, the intelligence that turns felled trees into
compost: it’s order, it’s incredible, it’s inspiring, but it’s not benevolent,
necessarily, and it’s not because a force underlies all and declares some of those
turtles will be scooped up by predators in their first moments of life – that’s simply part of the order of
it.
Because here’s another side to the whole “God as
benevolence” thing: it means (or can mean) that we believe we have an ace in the hole. It means
wishful and fantastic thinking that “god didn’t take us this far to drop us on our ass” or “god is
slow but never late,” which translates to, if I hold out long enough, if I pray
hard enough, if I act well enough, I’ll be alright. And buddy, that just ain’t
true.
It’s not really about god at all. Being or becoming
“alright” has more to do with how we chose to interpret and incorporate out
life experiences. God isn’t gonna rescue me, reward me, or punish me. It just
doesn’t care like that. But I do. And you do. And together we can form a lattice of support
that feels bigger than ourselves, that carries us through and over those hard
times. Together, we are aimed toward health, and we connect to improve our
chances of getting there.
In that, I can
believe. I can believe in our collective desire toward joy. I can believe in my
desire to clear out the junk in my heart, so that I can help you
toward joy, too.
Is that “god”? Not really. Is it good? You bet. 

anger · detachment · faith · fallibility · family · forgiveness · humaness · serenity · spirituality

The Father-Daughter Dance

My friend found out yesterday that her father is dying in
Switzerland, and she and another friend happened to be at my house yesterday
morning when she got the call. It felt like divine timing that she “happened”
to be at my house, instead of alone in her apartment, when she received this
call, and then had to argue with her phone company to get international calling
added to her account so that she could call the ER where her dad was admitted.
We were able to sit there with her, just to sit in my kitchen
while she paced my living room, on the phone. Able to make her tea and just
set it there, whether she wanted to drink it or could or not. Able to bear
witness to her tears, and her fear and her love and her fraughtness about
timing and money and taxes and passports and citizenship.
We were able to help her talk through her very next steps,
just the ones she needed to do that day in order to prepare to get on a flight
tonight.
It was a gift to be able to be present with that.
These past two days, I’ve pulled the “Emperor” card.
Shuffled them thoroughly, cut the deck, and again, this morning, I pulled the
Emperor card.
I squick at this card. I don’t like it. In my book, it lists
the traits of this card: Fathering, Structure, Authority, Regulation.
Um, you all know my dad was in the military, yes?
My friend yesterday, between phone calls, told us how much
she loved and admired her father; what a kind man he was, how great a man he
was. It was obvious that she had great esteem for him.
I, do not have the same feelings toward my own. And
strangely, I got an email from him just a few days ago.
We haven’t spoken in months. Not since his brother died
unexpectedly over Christmas.
But, I had been thinking about him, and that it was probably
time for me to send an, “I’m not dead” email, just a check-in, just to touch
base. And then, there was his email.
So, I replied. Reported the generic updates I would tell a
casual acquaintance about my life. And it’ll probably be another several months
until we speak again.
I’m still livid, folks. I’m still angered and betrayed and
astonished at how he behaved when I had cancer, when I was going through chemo.
How he demanded phone calls on his time table, instead of mine, when I was the
one in a hospital bed with chemo dripping into a port in my chest. How he simply told me, when I
asked for this to change, that, “This is how it works.” How, even though he was
newly retired
and was working in
the yard
of his fiancé, he somehow didn’t
have any other time in the day to call his daughter in the hospital.
And mostly, it’s just sad. It just still saddens me that
this man has no idea how to show up for people. That if it isn’t something that
is structured, regulated, and orderly,
he doesn’t know how to address it, and therefore, he simply tries to quash it.
And, unfortunately, people, I’ve grown up too much to be quashed by him
anymore.
I’ve done a ton of work around him, asking for compassion
and forgiveness. In fact, just these few weeks, I’ve been using a new
affirmation: I forgive my dad fully and easily.
Strange to realize now, after the new email, the
Emperor card, my friend’s ailing father, that this might be part of that process. This doesn’t seem like coincidental
timing to me.
I know that I have more work to do. I know that I feel very
unwilling to forgive him, even at the same time that I have compassion and
understanding for someone who never, ever had kindness modeled for him. Someone
who didn’t have his own father, and only a step-father who demanded perfection and doled out derision.
I know “how” to have compassion for him. And sometimes, many times, I have it.
But, forgiveness is another thing.
And I know that my unwillingness to forgive, to continue to
drink the poison I intend for him, is only holding me back, and is only
creating blackness in the light I want to move toward. I know that my
unwillingness to forgive yokes me to him as surely as shackles, or, perhaps, as
surely as love. 
I also know that it is only in the past few weeks that I’ve
begun seeing this new therapist, and last week, just the mention of my
father, almost in passing, came up. She remarked later that it was clear there
was some work to be done there. Which, obviously, I know, and hope for us to do together.
The last thing, and the only thing that’s keeping me from
burning that Emperor card is the end of the description in my book. It says
this card can also stand in for the archetypal father “in his role as guide,
protector, and provider.”
Surely, mine was not able to be this in a way that was
supportive. But these are the exact qualities that I’ve been seeking and hoping
the “Universe” embodies. That I’ve been praying for, and trying to trust the
Universe to have. That it supports me with guidance, protection, and
provisions.
Individual, versus Archetype. Reality versus Fantasy.
Compassion versus forgiveness.
I really hate that card. 

abundance · change · community · joy · love · recovery · spirituality

Those Three Little Words.

I said them.
I can’t believe I said them.
It was my turn, my turn to say something, and I could feel
your eyes watching me, waiting, and I just blurted them out. It was just what came to mind as I
sat there in those few silent beats, my thoughts whipping from one thing to another, the split
second where a thousand things could have been said, but instead of anything else… I said those three
little words:
“God is Love.”
Oh, god! Did I really just say that?? Did I really just say
the words that for years, eons it seems,
I’ve gagged at, rolled my eyes at, laughed at, scoffed at?
Did those words really just pop into my head and out of my
mouth? Oh god, I’d take them back, but…
I have despised this phrase: “God is Love.” The first time I
heard it, I think I vomited in my mouth a little. It was so despicably
saccharine and hippie and idiotic. There have been few phrases in the whole
English language that have caused such antipathy and revulsion in me than this
one.
“God is Love,” ew. Really? Just, Ew.
But, the first time I heard it must have been nearly 8 years
ago now. I was 24 when I first heard it; I’m 32 now, and apparently, somewhere
in that time my rejection of that phrase,
that idea, that sticky ewwy gooey warmth, has softened.
This is as much news to you, as it is to me.
I sat with a group of folks yesterday morning, and at the
end of our time together, a piece of paper with affirmations printed on it is
passed around. You can choose to say one of these, or make up your own, or
simply pass. There are phrases like,
I am enough
I have enough
I do enough
There is enough time
There is enough love
There is enough money
I am right where I’m supposed to be
My life works
I am not my income
I am not my debts
I am lovable exactly as I am.
At various times since I’ve sat with this group, different
phrases have appealed to me. Some don’t, sometimes I make my own up. Lately, I really
like this line from another part of the literature which reads, We will come to recognize a power greater than ourselves as the source of our abundance.
I like this, because it means I’m not the source, I don’t
have to wrench or squeeze or wrest things out of life. I also like it because
abundance can mean so many things, and affect so many areas: The Source of
my abundance of: The physical, financial, emotional, locational, material, spiritual,
comedic, familial, romantic. Of my thought life, my priorities, my perseverance,
travel, prosperity, boundaries, action. Abundance of my vulnerability, intimacy, sexuality, authenticity. My focus. My laughter, my joy, my health, my vitality.
A power greater than myself is the source of all these and
more, because surely, I am not the one who makes my heart beat, the trees
flower, or puts those two new kitchen chairs out on the street just when I was
thinking of needing new ones. Something else, just the anima of life itself, or simply gravity that causes the moon to phase, is greater than me, doing things without my hand, and offering me more than I’ve begun to know. 
But. God as Love?????
Ick.
And yet, it happened. The sheet with the affirmations passed
around to me, it was my turn, and as I scanned the list, none of them spoke to
me, and I was in the act of passing the sheet to the next person when those
three little words escaped my lips.
I was taken aback. I was shocked at what had happened, what must have transpired in almost 8 years. I
said something I thought I would never, ever say. Didn’t ever want to be like
those saps who say things like God is Love.
And yet. M’ F’er. I did.  

community · connection · faith · grace · healing · isolation · laughter · spirituality

Too Hot to Handle

There’s a maxim around here that goes: G-d will never give
you more than you can handle.
To echo Wednesday, bullshit.
I think this phrase is missing a key point at the end of it: G-d will never
give you more than you can handle with the help of others.
I think G-d or the Universe or life will always give us more than we can handle *alone.* I think, in
fact, that’s the point. In order to be able to handle that which is handed us,
we
must reach out for help from
others, or help from “god,” which often comes in the form of help from others
anyway.
I think it’s important that we are given more than we can
handle alone, otherwise, surely, we all would. If we could live like Sandra Bullock in “The Net,” ordering
pizza via the internet, watching a yule log screen saver, and never knowing our
neighbors, we would. But I still think about that movie every time I nod or say
a passing hello to my neighbors: I am not anonymous; I am not alone.
In that movie (sorry, y’all!), Sandra’s character gets
accused of something or other, but no one can identify her, and her identity
gets stolen. No one except one character (her shrink) actually knows who she
is, actually recognizes her. The neighbor says, no she doesn’t think that’s her, even though they’ve
lived in proximity for a dozen years.
What kind of challenge of growth is there in that? If we
were intended to live in isolation, there wouldn’t be all this talk about
connection and community, mehta and helping one another, and my understanding of tikkun
olam
(repairing the world) has a lot to do with
eliminating disconnect.
I opined to my coworker, who was listening to Pandora the
other day when one of these new modern radio songs came on (I don’t remember
which one). But it was one that eventually has a chorus of voices yell, Yeah!,
or Hey!. And I theorized that the proliferation of “modern” songs that feature a chorus of voices at some point is a call for
connection, to refill and replace the actual being with others—if we hear a
chorus of voices yell, Hey!, on the radio, we want to yell along with it, too. For a
moment, we are also connected to those voices, even though they be
computer over-layed with one another.
This “new” sound I hear has a lot of that, and my opinion is
that they’re also trying to create community in the best way they know how, to
create a moment of connection and a feeling of being a part of a crowd…even
when you’re just driving alone in your car, and the person next to you is as
well.
I do think “G-d” gives us more than we can handle. In the utter inability to handle things on our own, I think
we’re intended to reach out to one another or to a “power greater than
ourselves” for help, for guidance, for support, and mostly, for laughter.
The amount of laughter you can have alone is much less than
what you can have in interaction with each other – like I’ve been saying about
random connections with store clerks or bus passengers: You never know what
will be said by the other, and it creates something totally unique.
This morning, with all of this on my mind, in my notebook is
a printed quote by Anais Nin:
Each friend represents a world in
us,
a world possibly not born until
they arrive,
and it is only by this meeting that
a new world is born.
I make it a point to say hi, or at least nod to or acknowledge
my neighbors, to let them see my face, and I theirs, as I rush in and out of the building at
the ends of a long day. I want to be able to recognize, and possibly say hi,
when I see them on the street, and, mostly, I want them to be able to pick me
out of a line-up.