Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture
MY HAPPY PLACE

Sunday, June 21, 2015

What Would Your Greeting Card Say?

I was shopping for a greeting card recently, and the "aim" was to buy the "most neutral card that exists." I must have spent more time on this endeavor than I have spent choosing my surgeons for complex surgical procedures. 

It was an unbelievable challenge. This could be the result of the greeting card business and it's very own aim, but other than purchasing "blank cards," there really are no "neutral" cards for holidays and special occasions.

I love the new Empathy cards which have come out. I think they are brilliant. Perhaps I need to discuss my dilemma with Emily McDowell, the innovator. Maybe she can make a card that says "Well this just sucks that I couldn't find a card that says absolutely nothing overly gushy on it, so have a (fill in the appropriate occasion) anyway!" But I digress.

I am usually pretty successful at my endeavors, but on this one, I was not.

And it activated many thoughts for me:

Am I missing the whole point here? Okay, yes, the greeting card business can, indeed, be far too gushy. But maybe the lesson here is that we could use a little more kindness. Right? In this case, where gushy was not "deemed appropriate," I was in a pickle. But maybe the greater lesson is that we could all benefit from sending one another love!

Right?

As I thought about it, that was what felt right to me even if it was out of bounds of what was "needed" for the card. Because, in truth, that is what my daily aim is anyway. Even if I don't always succeed at remaining steady or equanimous about it.

For instance, some of the family members in Charleston, SC who have now tragically lost their loved ones in the massacre were able to root themselves in a love which I flounder in and out of. One was able to say, "God loves you and so do I." To me, this is pure grace. Personally, I have had to do a lot of grief work and experience a lot of loss and anger and work my way up the mountain towards forgiveness which I catch glimpses of and then sustain for portions of peaceful time, only to have to work my way back to it again. I just don't NATURALLY embody that kind of spiritual freedom.

Another said, "We are the family that love built and we have no room for hate." This feels more accessible to me. I know this one in my bones.

So, perhaps moving from a place which is accessible and authentic, rather than forcing neutrality, would most likely be one of the answers here.

However, some situations are not clear cut. We may not always be "invited" into certain homes. Even with a greeting card. The card itself may get boomeranged.

Those homes may not have been built by love. So navigating your inner world of true expression with "the rest" (the outer world, the reality of various situations) can be the pickle.

Navigating worlds which are not yours becomes a spiritual practice and brings me back to my original aim which is to just hold others in love. Without necessarily sending "neutral" or gushy cards at all.

Intention is truly the skin we live inside of. And I want to keep making my insides as beautiful and as compassionate as possible.

How about a card that says, "You are always welcome to visit a room in my house. And my house is a house that love built."

"The House That Built Me." 

www.emilymcdowell.com

6.21.15


Jill Bacharach

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sister Teacher

Years ago, it was an image on television or in a magazine or newspaper which made time stand still. We all have these. Images so powerful that they live inside of us as real memories.

Today, these images are on constant download through social media that it is harder to have an impact which is lasting. Some of this may be due to our diminishing attention span. It seems more and more rare to just choose to sit and "be with" what is before us before rushing off to the next thing. Multi-tasking is the new place of reverence. 

However, I still revere the place of stillness. It is my teacher.

I awakened this morning to an image of two sisters. Two sisters whom I know and have had the great privilege of seeing together. The images speak so loudly of their love in the depths of its quiet. 

I am in awe.

In awe like Michelangelo awe. 

Of course I don't know any of the complexities of the relationship. I only know what I can see. I know they are very different people who have shared interests and navigate what could be for others, challenging dynamics, with incredible grace. 

Awe.

Each time I feel a little lost in my own ability to keep what I love alive inside of me, I am presented with an image of them, like an answer to a prayer. 

It is almost always quiet. Non-presentational. Intimate.

I don't think there is anyone on earth who knows you the way you know your sister. If she lets you. If the relationship is close, or even if it is strained, but there is a fierce tie of love (or commitment to loving each other), I think that the ways in which you have walked side by side with each other, and borne witness to each other's lives sort of "certifies you" as a "person of valor." Which is why, for so many of us, when we hurt our sisters, or when they hurt us, we want only to repair what has been hurt.

I have always had great difficulty believing that something was not possible. But I have learned that one person cannot do the work of two. Two people have to show up for a relationship. Period. That sometimes, being released, is part of one's karmic journey even if it doesn't feel natural to a heart which only wants to pour love into the hearts which it loves.

But when I see these two sisters, something inside of me heals a little. Their love has become a beacon for me. 

I think the love we bear witness to in the world, in all its variations, is there, not to exclude us, but to let us know, in the quietest of ways, that it is a part of us as well. 
A few years ago, as my hips were healing, I was with them during a weekend. I vividly recall a moment which moved me deeply. I knew I had wanted to grab my camera and capture the sweetness of what I was witnessing, but I knew it was far more important to allow what was swelling up inside of me, to come into its fullness. And just sit with that.

One of my mantras is "You are held in love."  

This was the moment I was held. It wasn't mine, but I didn't have to intrude upon it either in order to know of its existence or power. Or to know it could be shared as I was already feeling it.

It was the most subtle gesture from one sister to the other. But it disarmed me. 

Perhaps because it was so simple. So easy. Perhaps it even slayed my own dragons. The quiet stillness of two sisters standing together as one. No walls between them. Just tenderness and gratitude for each other.

I think we get so good in life at erecting walls which we decide others are not allowed to penetrate. When the truth is, we may actually be shaking behind them or worse, we may have even forgotten why the wall is there in the first place.  

When I see these two, beside each other, to me it looks like how two people lift each other up and grow the best in each other from a place of mutual respect.

I sit in hushed awe of them.

Not only because I recognize that my eyes do not intrude, but perhaps because they bring me closer and closer to a part of myself which is becoming whole.

In gratitude for all of the ways you teach exactly what I wish to know, I sit.

4.10.15

Jill Bacharach

  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

No More Whys

One of the most important questions I no longer ask is "why?" I just don't feel that is of great use to my life or to my heart and I believe it will send you about on a circle of unending searching for a question which has no answer. If you believe in god, or a higher power of some sort, I don't think that god or the HP is a justice-based system and when we ask "Why did this happen? She's been a good person! She didn't deserve this." We are applying a system of justice to a world that works in ways we cannot apply that system to. Our world and our lives are mysterious and they demand faith from us. I don't believe we can speak to god or our HP the way we wish to demand an answer from our mechanic.  

So... I have a lot of questions. I am puzzled myself as to what the meaning is behind the fact that I have placed myself in this moment in my life in a job where I am bearing witness to so much suffering and where I am the recipient of so many stories of suffering.

I am watching adult children caring for their adult parents. I recognize the look of pain and despair on their faces which tells me they are facing the inevitable and the stress of the overwhelm they feel around their care. I am watching elderly come in and out of moments of clarity due to dementia and Alzheimers and I myself, feel the pain of where they have departed to when they have gone because I am responsible for these souls for part of their journey now. I too, have experienced the delight of when they arrive "home" within themselves. I have found a few ways to see those moments and it's like a triumphant breakthrough leading only to the next moment of inevitable heartbreak.

I see stress and strain and anxiety in the faces of those who come to visit their loved ones, wondering if they are making the right decisions. Sandwiched between generations. Arriving each day with such exhaustion and devotion because they feel they are the only ones who will take this journey on.

One thing I am continually learning each day and as I look back on my life, is that we cannot know if our decisions are the right ones. But we can know if we are showing up in love.

The people who are teaching me the most are the ones who have this kind of devotion. They seem to have the heart of Hanuman. The man who comes every day and stays all day beside his wife. He cleans between her toes with his bare hands.

The son who comes to see his father every day, sit with him, knowing his circumstances are grim, but he shows up day after day after day after day with a smile and a desire to help even as his father is totally unresponsive.

The wife who comes every day - although her husband is angry with the world, and stays rooted and steady... every day.

Another wife whose husband is in a coma, who has put her faith in god's plan. She lost her son 2 years ago, she fell apart and she is piecing herself back together even as she is slowly losing her husband.

The aide who tells the patient everything she is going to do as she changes her and moves her in her bed, listening to her as she cries in pain, and speaks to her so compassionately and patiently, the way a mother would speak to a crying young child. It has made me cry many many times, the sheer beauty of this kindness.

The woman from housekeeping who chants every morning before she comes to work and from one look at her, you can see that she is rock steady, field, clear and pure, untainted by any of the circumstances around her.

These people are not drained by their circumstances or by their work. Their anchor is not anxiety or fear. It is love. They are my teachers.

However, I am restless. Some of these people need more help than they are getting and it is just not in my integrity to sit idly by.

There was one patient who was terribly sick who completely disarmed me and I suppose I have not been able to look back since.

Both of his arms were entirely black and blue from being poked at with needles. his leg muscles were atrophied and he could barely breathe from repeated bouts of pneumonia.

He said that he could tell me exactly how many ceiling tiles there were in his room.

That said everything to me.

Then he told me:

"The person who runs this facility needs to spend six months in this bed to know what this feels like."

I could not disagree.

"You place my tray just one inch too far away and I cannot get a drink of water. If I drop my call bell or can't reach it, I cannot get to the bathroom. And my only other option is to start yelling."

This man is absolutely correct.

Then he told me that he had had the worst night of his life the night before. That CHUNKS of blood were coming through the tube in his catheter.

At that point, I basically excused myself and ran to the nurses station. Later that day, I overheard his daughter being told that her father probably had a UTI. When I heard that I was irate inside for her father. Chunks of blood? Let's just say this: he was in the hospital by the next day.

This man changed how I go about my life.

I can sum it up best by saying this:

"When you really care, you just don't care."

Here's what I mean: the first part is obvious. What I mean by the second part is this: you just don't care what others will say or how they will respond. When asked why I am going out on a limb etc, it isn't important to share why.

Knowing that my intentions are clear and pure and integritous, and actions, of course, ethical, is what matters.

Maybe this has answered and clarified why my most beloved says I am now "deployed." Maybe.
But one of the things I know for sure is that none of this is about me. I care because I care about these people and their well-being.

Life is so messy. Our losses run so deep. But I do believe that what is essentially us is never ever lost.

In the book Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser said the following:

"I pray that each one of us stays awake as we fall. I pray that we choose to go into the abyss willingly and that our fall is cushioned by faith- faith at the bottom we will be caught and taught and turned toward the light."

I am uncertain about the meaning of my deployment. I do know that it is not about me and that I am choosing to be of service. Choosing my teachers every day. Offering kindness which goes very far. But finding ways to practice seeing kindness and love within very painful experiences has become one of my my greatest practices of all.

God bless.

2.28.15
Jill Bacharach

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Standing

My teacher spoke about how she responds to positive reinforcement like a golden retriever. It was a great moment of self-reflection and comic relief. I watched myself this weekend as I was receiving an experience which bubbled up inside of me in a way which began to overflow. It was hard to contain the joy. 

“Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates melancholy from happiness.” Virginia Woolf

When you grow accustomed to being without something for a long enough time, the experience of having that very thing, can topple a place inside of you which has been waiting in the wings to be dialogued with but perhaps never closed up. 

I thought I would fall to pieces upon seeing my teacher because I had missed her so much. But instead, I simply felt deeply happy. I felt my body, which had been so fatigued and so unready to work, dig into its roots and rise from its depths just to stand in its own center. And as that happened, my heart was exposed to news which saddened me deeply: the death of a friend, a recent diagnosis of another, haunting grief. The list was long, but my roots were deep and I did not grow dizzy. I was not distracted by anything. As fatigued as I felt, I was rooted. 

I have spent much of my life being very familiar with grief. I watched myself this weekend, however, moving continually toward what felt like love rather than what felt like loss even though I have been comfortable and accustomed to living without.

Coming from a history of deprivation, this really is groundbreaking and radical. But… maybe… just…

maybe 

this is because the ones who truly love us really do instill in us the experience which we so naturally know is our birthright.

*

I realized that, I too, am like a golden retriever. But I would describe myself in this way. I am the type of Golden who is a Classic Jewish Grandmother. Those who know me well, know this to be very true about me.

Let me explain:

I am pushy without offending. 
I am just so happy to see you that I am busting inside (in other words, “kvelling”).
So much so that I will tell you I have traveled “Just to take a look at you and now that I have, I can go. No need to discuss. No need to ask you questions, but I hope you have eaten and that you will eat again before too long.”
I will look at you in a way that helps me remember because I understand the brevity of life and the joy of the moment. 
And lastly, I will of course, give you a zest of a squeeze as every good grandmother does. 

*

After the weekend came to a close, that same night as Viola Davis won the SAG award she said, “Thank you to all of the people who love me exactly how God made me.”

Yes.

Thank you. 

With reverence and love in my heart, all I can say is “Thank you.”



Jill Bacharach
1.25.15


Thursday, January 8, 2015

#whatif

Last night I read a tweet by one of the most beloved people on Broadway. She wrote: “I just had an uncontrollable sneeze during the saddest moment in the play. Oy. #fired” 

My immediate response was that this was the most human, no, dare I say it, the most EXQUISITE human moment. Because when I think of my own experience, I know that I tend to choke on my words in moments of trauma or terror or tremendous sorrow just as I am endeavoring to move through them. Just as I am sharing or receiving bad news and think that my head may hit the floor. 

I sat with this.

My aim is to be very intentional about how I approach this time in my life. To that end, I am seeking congruency in my thoughts, in my speech and in my actions. 

I knew that “Oy. #fired” may have been a joke but it made me a little bit sad and since I have absolutely no business and no say, and no agency there, I just hope that she moves through it rather quickly.

My teacher has taught about making your life your yoga (rather than making your yoga your life). And I am aiming to do this every day with every action that I take. However, where I must watch myself is here: I find myself getting stuck in a continuous observation which causes me to ask, “Why are you so angry?” when I see anger smack in front of me. The truth is, this is not really any of my business. I may need to just get out of the way. Or, maybe I need to be kinder to my own heart since it actually hurts me to be in that field. 

Back to the saddest moment:

What if we allowed ourselves to be fully human? Wouldn’t that mean that we would see more of who we are and who we want to become? What if we chose to love ourselves, rather than reject ourselves, during the moments which take us by surprise or frighten us, or disarm us. In moments where we find ourselves to be most lacking in poise. What if? Who would we be then? Might we be softer? More tender with one another and easier to understand as a result?

Isn’t the “Oh shit, I sneezed” just a made up version of someone’s version of what someone else thinks several someone elses wish to see? 

Real life can’t hit that mark. Isn’t it magical when it doesn’t? 

What if we never choose to be someone else’s story? But only choose to make our life our yoga. Each endeavor, a dedication of full heart to the best of our ability. And each endeavor a practice of forgiveness and kindness towards ourselves and those around us. And when it doesn’t work, we just try again. What if?

Why not? Because honestly, to your left she’s being diagnosed today with something hard to swallow, and to your right, she’s fighting for another day of life. So what if we tried to not hit the mark the way someone predetermined it was meant to be hit for today, but hit it the way we naturally hit it… and then love a little more, and laugh when it happens and we just #lovewhilewecan.

#whatif?


1.9.15


Jill Bacharach

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Brief Moment In Time

On the night of June 25, 2014 I was in an accident. 

For the last six months, I have been trying to forgive myself.

No.

It’s been much longer than that. I spent a good deal of 2014 trying to recover from the previous decade of my life. From 2003 until 2013, I had not spoken with my sister or my mother from the moment of my grandmother’s death following her traumatic accident. I had prayed for reconciliation and when it finally began to burgeon in the spring of 2013, I gave everything to it.

But by the winter and spring of 2014, this brief moment of visitation had come to an end. 

The first time around, I never actually knew why, but ten years later, I slowly began to learn the painful truths which had led to such heartbreaking distance.

This time, I did not get to learn what caused the separation, but even as I desperately wanted to address every nuance of dis-ease, I could not do it alone no matter how hard I tried.

*

I was asked by a beloved friend how much time there was between when I stepped out of the car and when the train hit my car. I had to reconstruct this for her. It was a mere 20 seconds. 

I would never have survived.

*

As I am still trying to forgive myself for making that wrong turn. For having been stuck. For not being able to get “unstuck,” for not being able to stop the train. For… for… for… 

I am so inside that experience.

My family is the train and I am the car on the tracks. I became the obstruction. 

They are barreling towards me in spite of my location telling me to get out of their way. 

Did it really have to take a train for me to hear them?

Police? Trauma which made me shake every single night and awaken in pools of sweat?

Charges which caused me to have to appear in court several times? Prosecutors? Judges? Attorneys?

Did it really have to take a train for me to hear them?

I can still see the crash. I can still hear the sounds. I can still feel it in my body. 

When will that part end?
I can’t catch my breath.

But I know, even if contracted, that I am, in fact, breathing. It’s just taking the time it is taking. Because, I have been irrevocably changed. The car was destroyed. She no longer exists. 

But I’m here.

*

Danny Strong said, “I don’t think god meant for people to not have a family.” For a long time, this was my prison. Because I didn’t think so either. But family is so many things. I see evidence of it every day.

My family may no longer be in my life, but they have always lived in me. That’s just how I was built. 

The train may have destroyed her, but it cannot destroy what is essentially me. That never dies.

For a brief moment in time, I was able to experience deep healing in my heart and in my nervous system and I know that no matter what, no matter what the actions are on the part of my family, my love for them is also part of my DNA.

I stood in grace and forgiveness even when things were said to me which were devastating to hear. I made this decision even as I wept in grief. And I would do it again.

Oprah asks the question, “What do you know for sure?”

What do I know for sure?

I know that I came here to keep going no matter what and that I came here to keep loving. 

Maybe I came here to find out what family means as well.

To keep breathing new life into whatever it means.

Step by step.

What I know for sure is that I bless them all. I bless them all with love.



12.23.14

Jill Bacharach

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holly

Today one of my most treasured and beloved friends let me in on a little secret and told me that I have joined a new rank and I must say I am truly delighted! I always felt a little outside of my favorite group: everything that is identified with and comprises of the word “WOMAN.” But yesterday I was officially initiated and inducted into the “SISTERHOOD.”

How do I know? 

Well, I looked at my Quicken and calculated how much money went to my tailor for the purpose of alterations in just the last four months. 

My tailor is from Italy and she has known me for 14 years. In that period of time, she has primarily shortened my hems and consistently made things “smaller” for me. I am not complaining.

I described to my friend, with a lot of levity, that in the last four months I had to have my clothing taken in and yesterday, taken back out. So she told me that I have now been officially initiated into the Sisterhood! And I am grateful. Truly.

Of course this comes at a great cost to me, but I never knew what the experience was like to stand in the mirror and need two more inches of room. Four months ago, I needed two inches less so that I could look presentable as I was still working towards regaining my strength and weight from my “life event.” So busting at the seams was a great sign. And being told that I had joined the ranks of everyone else who has walked this path, was an even greater one. 

*

But something else happened at the tailor.

I was asked to bear witness.

Her name was Holly.

I never found out what her mother’s name was, probably because she was spitting bullets left and right and I decided not to ask. I suppose she remained an archetype to me.

Her name was Holly and she was beautiful.

“Stand up straighter.” 
“No. Not like that.” 
“That looks stupid.”
“Don’t put your hands there.”
“Don’t smile like that.”
“Don’t stand near the telephone.” 
“Why would you do that?”
“Why don’t you ever think?”
“Suck in your gut!”

Now THAT was over the line as far as I was concerned and that was the moment when I intervened.

“She doesn’t need to suck anything in. She’s beautiful.” I said.

“Why do you have to be so short?” her mother persisted.

“Well, maybe if they didn’t design dresses for women who are 5’10, it would be a bit easier.” I said.

“Stop putting your hands there. You look stupid.”

I couldn’t take it. I really couldn’t. It was terribly troubling to me to experience this beautiful woman being verbally and psychologically abused in front of me by her mother.

I offered Holly a position to place her hands in for photographs. She felt more at ease as a result.

Her mother was ruthless about every move she made and so I decided to spend the entire time countering every comment Holly’s mother made and making Holly smile. Silently, I was sending both of them love, Holly and her misguided mother. 

I made a decision about what to do with my energy. Instead of continuing to feel angry towards Holly’s mother, I turned the anger into a prayer:

Dear misguided mother, “May you someday see the beauty of your own daughter. May you stop the madness of criticizing her and attempting to make her feel small so that you can feel superior. May you let go of the need to be right. May you see the light in her that beams so bright. May it no longer frighten you. May you stop cutting her down and clipping her wings. May you stop and allow her to be free so that you can be free of your own criticism. May you be free. May you feel Holly’s love. May you feel and express the love in your own heart. May you forgive yourself for not seeing what has been standing before you. May you know that you are forgiven.”

My tailor then nodded to me so I knew I could try on my pants for her. So while Holly was in her dressing room, I was sure to yell “Holly, I’m going to do some of my own sucking in now as well!”

After we assessed I needed the two full inches, I changed back into my clothes. I had a good laugh at myself because I could have just left the pants in my closet and saved myself this trouble. 

But there is a reason for everything. 

I never would have been initiated. And I never would have met Holly.

I wished everyone a good day. And a good holiday. 

It sure feels like it’s time to bust out the Holly. Don’t you think?


Merry Merry to all and to all a good flight.  


11.19.14

Jill Bacharach