abundance · community · faith · friends · friendship · gratitude · healing · joy · life · love · support

Card Reading

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I had very specific plans for when I came home last night:
watch Apollo 13, “take care” of myself,
and go to bed by 10.
Only one of these happened.
For most of the day, I was out & about in lots of conversation with
lots of people, expending lots of up, outgoing energy, and I wanted to counter it with
some quietude. Before coming home for the evening, I was in a coffee shop,
finishing up some extra work, and addressing cards for some friends.
I didn’t have the address for one, so I texted her for it,
and told her that I must have 10 of her envelopes at home with her address on
it; in fact, I had one of hers on my mantle.
She asked me which one, but I couldn’t recall exactly, and
told her I’d send her a photo of it when I got home.
This, was the first domino toward the hijacking of my
evening.
I did come home, take a photo and send it to her, a lovely
decorated envelope with stickers and curly-cues and kind words, like all of
hers. Next to it on my mantle (well, the top of a bookshelf, really) were a
card from the director and one from the assistant director of the play I was in
in April, with deliciously glowing, appreciative, complimentary, and supportive
words. Such kindness and such a reflection of my being “seen” by them, in one
of my aspiring avocations. The last one up there was a thank you card from my
best friend on Long Island’s wedding, thanking me for being there and what a
treat it was to have me there, literally in her bed, the night before the
wedding, and helping/watching her get ready the next day; that it wouldn’t have
been the same without me.
You can see why I keep these things.
But, it was also time to probably pack them away, do some
cleaning. And I wanted to send more photos of my friend’s envelopes to
her, since I knew she was in a space to need her own (literal) sparkle reflected back to her. 
And, down the rabbit hole we go, into the desk drawer where I keep
cards, envelopes so I can remember return addresses (yes, I know there’s a
better way), and art inspiration bits, like postcards from galleries or pages
torn from magazines.
I’ve known this drawer needs attending to. If, god forbid, I
were to croak, it would be hell for the person cleaning it out, and I know
they’d just trash the lot, since, who keeps someone else’s old greeting cards.
But, also, it’s unusably full at the moment. Because in it,
too, are all the cards I received when I was initially diagnosed with Leukemia
in late September 2012, and also a host of them came in around the
Hanukkah/Christmas season that year.
I’ve been avoiding having to carve through them. Because how
can you discard those messages?
When I was sick, I lined all the cards up on the walls of my
hospital room. I taped every single one up around me, to remind me of the
network of support and love that I had. Each card, a message of love, faith,
healing, fortitude, just for me. You couldn’t come into my hospital room
without immediately knowing that I was loved. And how f’ing important was that.
This was not the room of a dying woman. This was not the
room of a woman told she had a 40% chance of living through the next 5 years, even with treatment.
This was not the room, either, of a woman who looked like a patient, despite
the baldness, weightloss, and IV stuck into my arm and chest. I wore jeans and a
sweater, like everyone else. I was a human, not a patient. I was a woman loved,
not a pity case.
How rallyingly important was that to know, feel, and
remember every single day.
But, when the trips to the hospital were finally over, and
it was time to reacclimate to living in my apartment full-time, what to do with
those cards?
I’m a keeper of things. Sentiments, magazine pages,
interesting rocks I find on a mountain or beach. I wouldn’t say I’m a hoarder,
but I do have a bag of gently used tissue paper in my closet … but it’s folded
neatly and in color blocks, so it’s okay, right?!
I also have a bag in my closet of the covers to theater
booklets of plays I’ve been to; movie stubs; plane tickets; the brochure for a
place I went camping or an attraction I toured.
The trouble is, I’m not a scrap-booker, so I just kinda
carry this bag of non-chronologically ordered “crap” with me from home to home.
But, that’s okay. One day, like the cards, I’ll go through them.
But, last night was for the card drawer.
It was slow-going. I had to take a deep breath before taking
the rubber band from around the batch of 2012 holiday cards. I knew this was
going to take a while and probably bring things up.
But I began. And with each card, I was reminded of why I’d
kept them until now.
Here’s the one from my college classmate, now in LA, saying she’d
enclosed a gift card to Trader Joes.
Here’s one from a former colleague saying she loves getting
the bloggish updates I was posting then to my lotsahelpinghands website.
Here’s one handwritten from an Etsy company saying “a friend”
was thinking of me and wanted me to stay warm. This, I remember, accompanied a
package of 6 “chemo caps” ranging from thin to thick, the one I wore most, a
fuzzy leopard print that kept me feeling fun and warm. I still don’t know who
sent those, as there was no name. Thank you, whoever you are.
Last night, with each, if I knew the sender and their cell number, I
took a photo of the card, and sent it as a text with a note of thanks to them.
Each text, a reminder to us both of what friendship means, even for people who
aren’t close.
It was nearly 11 when I finally decided to stop. I’ve
barely made a dent into the drawer. But was able to cull a few things out,
deciding that with some, having a photo of them now is enough.
At the closing of this activity, I found myself in soft tears of
gratitude. So many people surrounded me
with love. With funny cards and sentiments, with crazy wacked-out envelopes, with heartfelt messages of hope and healing. And only a handful of these folks
were people I keep in regular touch with. So many people came out of the
woodwork to support me.
I was told once during the time I was sick, that I had no
idea how many people were rooting for me. I agreed. I knew I had no idea, and I
knew that was astounding and one of the greatest showings of human generosity
that I’ve witnessed.
I had priests, rabbis, Muslims, and Buddhists praying for
me. My mom’s hairdresser and my Aunt’s student. I had a class of
kindergarteners praying for me.
I remember, too, when I was sick, trying to figure out how I
could send thank you cards to everyone who’d contacted me, but I could only
handle a few.
In this retread through the cards, in sending them back out
to their sender with my note of thanks, I hope I am closing that loop of love,
and letting you all know:

Your prayers worked, and I love you back.  

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authenticity · career · community · dating · deprivation · family · fear · love · self-care · self-worth · support · truth

Phone a Friend.

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I was invited back for a second interview. And I politely
declined.
If there’s anything I learned from my awkward dating experience recently, it’s that saying yes to something you’re sure you don’t
want is lying and wasting both people’s time.
Therefore, when I was passed up for the job I’d applied for in this organization and my resume got handed from one branch to another, I did my due diligence: I showed up,
made a good impression, and knew that this newly offered position was not a
fit. But I got the callback anyway.
So on Wednesday, when I got the “want to see you again” email, I called my mom. Not always the paragon of rational decisions, but someone who here I felt could be, I told my mom about the parallel metaphor between my career and my lackluster first date. And it’s strange and
uncomfortable follow-up.
A friend earlier that morning suggested I just go to the
second interview. “You never know.” But, see, I think you do. When you’ve given a fair and first chance at
something a worthy go, I think at that point you get to say whether you’re
interested to go further.
As a mentor once told me, A first date is just an interview
for the second.
We do get the chance to say no at some point, yes?
I felt so, and I just needed a little corroboration. Not
always a co-signer of my machinations, either, mom was the right call. She
listened, and then she asked what advantages this job could have over my
current one. They were few.
One, I told her, was suggested by my friend earlier that
morning: You could meet a nice Jewish guy.
After
hearing this very short list, she replied, “First of all, you are [insert some
really nice and positive characteristics, like, smart, beautiful, brave and
wonderful] and you don’t need to take a job you don’t want to meet a
hypothetical guy.”
Or something like that.
It was really the only enticing reason of the bunch I gave to her. If the job I’d actually applied for in the first place was still
available, I’d still be interested in that, and I do know it’s still open. But
this offered job would be a lateral move, adding a 3 hour commute for what I imagine is
similar pay and responsibilities that don’t really align with my values or my
career goals.
So… she said it sounded like I already knew what I wanted to
do. But what I could do was be honest about my goals, tell them that I was still interested in the first job, be very
flattering and kind about their
organization and say if other opportunities came up there, I’d be interested to
have that conversation.
Unfortunately, in the dating world, it’s not as easy or
accepted to say, “Hey, I’m not interested in you, but if you have any friends
you think’d be good for me, let me know!”
But, Romance and Finance don’t always overlap.
In the end, that’s what I did. Called the woman who’d
interviewed me for the second position, got her voicemail, and told her exactly
what my mom coached me in saying.
What my mom really did was help me to feel comfortable owning
my truth.
This is not always easy. And sometimes I need someone
outside of my own limiting self-beliefs and self-sabotage to coax me and just
sort of shuffle me along on the path I know I want to follow.
In the pre-school in the building where I work, some of the
students have a cute ritual when their parents drop them off in the morning:
Push on the Tush.
It is exactly how it sounds. Having been deposited in their
classroom, feeling safe in their surroundings, the child is ready for their
parent to leave, and wants to have a ritual for that separation. So, the parent
stands in the doorway, and the kid gives him a push on the tush. And out the
parent goes.
For me, that’s what my mom did. Having come to a conclusion,
but needing a little encouragement, I reached out to a person I knew could hold
and support me, and then give me a little push. 

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.