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.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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…
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.”
With reverence and love in my heart, all I can say is “Thank you.”
Thursday, January 8, 2015
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.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
On the night of June 25, 2014 I was in an accident.
For the last six months, I have been trying to forgive myself.
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.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
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.
Monday, November 3, 2014
I have been thinking about the in-between stage when you are crossing a threshold. It is a potent and painful and transformative time. A time, I believe, when we need to use the whole of ourselves. When we must harness our power, get quiet. Sit in the pain and the mystery, and if we are lucky, lean into the practices we have learned to cultivate.
The image which strikes me is from the film The Horse Whisperer. The scene when Pilgrim, the traumatized horse hears Annie’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) cell phone ring and then bolts out of the water he is being trained and calmed in, and runs as fast and as far away as he can. Tom, (Robert Redford) goes after him but from a very far distance, sits and waits. And waits and waits. He waits for him all day. Until he gains the slightest semblance of the horse’s trust. He sits and waits in the deepest stillness and quiet. Waiting and watching and showing him that he is simply there. Asking for nothing. But simply offering his devotion.
For me, this scene is one of the most stunning and exquisite acts of love.
I am here. I am right here. I see you. I know you hurt. And I am listening. Waiting. Waiting until you are ready. Waiting without judgment. Waiting with love. Waiting until you are ready to trust me. For as long as it takes.
This is the only way it can work in relationship. The person who needs the least amount of intimacy, no matter the reason, sets the tone.
I have been the horse. And I have also been the whisperer.
To be the whisperer means to show up without ego. To show up with an intention to see the other as whole and capable. To let go of the stories of the past and see the other as bigger than the stories which have been hoisted upon them. This is what it means to love.
I experienced this with a three year old boy. A child whom I loved deeply. A child who found it challenging to trust the world. As a result, he had a very difficult time attaching himself to anyone. By the time the boy was four, he would cling to my leg and cry when I was about to leave and say goodbye. Because I saw him. I saw past his story and began to heal something without asking anything of him.
Maybe what happened was I loved him the way I always wanted to be loved and I promised (without saying so) that I would wait until he was ready to approach.
Imagine what it would feel like to have someone wait for you in love precisely the way you wish. Imagine what it would feel like to have a person sit and hold you in love without judgment. Hold you. And surrender to your approach.
That boy (now an adult) was my nephew.
None of this was of his choosing and for a brief time, I became the horse, but also had to become the whisperer again. This time, a whisperer for my own healing and for his, so that there would be no more clinging for either of us and so that he could keep bursting out of his hard shell.
It is all in the approach.
Some horses are destined to become whisperers.
Friday, October 17, 2014
When I was a young girl, around four years of age, I played the role of a staunch devil’s advocate every opportunity I had. I seriously preferred to argue the case for another human being than to agree with my mother when she would call a person an idiot for cutting her off while driving. I always dreamt up a reason for it. Perhaps the driver was on his way to the hospital because his wife was about to deliver their firstborn child. Or worse, she was struck by a car and was in critical condition and traffic laws no longer applied to him. And my reasons came quick.
I’m sure she tired of hearing of them.
The thing is, we never know what another person is carrying.
A few days ago, my friend’s world fell apart through a diagnosis she was given. This is not a unique story.
My dearest friend did not know how she could be of use to her. And then she became very clear. Love. When our world falls apart, we really just need to feel safe and to feel loved. In the simplest of ways. Short visits. Warm soups. Allowing space for fear.
I have a friend who played this role in my life sans the circumstances.
She could lift me up with a single sound. And tear down my walls with a single look. She is a teacher, wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, student, and now grandmother.
I saw her recently and I was both immediately lifted, and immediately opened. It is a beautiful state to be in. But I immediately felt like a cub out in the woods for the first time. Vulnerable. A little bit in shock. Unaccustomed to how the world works but aware of how it does. (So I didn’t choose to sleep.)
I have been trying to figure out how I could be of use. What I want to contribute. The list has always been long, but the list which shuts it down, longer. That is the list I am trying to work on. To silence the voices that have been silencing me for years.
Many of the the things I wish to contribute are wonderful things. Areas of buoyancy and verve.
One whisper has always been to help others through their grief. In this moment as our friend was told that she "may be rapidly losing her battle with life" (and mind you, doctors neglect the fact that their assessment and what is true may be huge realities apart from one another)- while my dear friend is unravelling noneleless, I see that this may not be such a good idea for me. I am steady and strong and I know what to do. But I am absorbing the shock and horror of my friend’s distress to a degree that I must work through because it is disturbing my sleep, I cannot move my neck well and my “good” shoulder is freezing up. This is all part of the Fifth Chakra, the center of my voice. Center of vibration. Center of purification and of truth. We vibrate with the impact of whatever is happening to us. The function of this Chakra is to achieve harmony. And to sort out what our soul longs to hear. I think that as much as I have believed that I wanted to usher others through their grief, I see that when all is said and done, the pain of the loss is just too much for me (perhaps because as much as I like to think I have, I still have not sufficiently released my own).
There is a fierce part of my nature which like Voltaire “May not agree with what you say, but -will defend to the death your right to say it.” That is the pushy New Yorker in me. But there is also a very sensitive side who WILL defend to the death and that part of me still needs a bit more care and attention.
Right now all I know is that I am meant to listen. Listen as lovingly and as carefully as I can to give my best attention.
Maybe that is what we are meant to do every day. Maybe that is our greatest task in life. Because I really believe, and always have, that loving is listening. Fully listening. Listening to each other. Listening to the whispers. Listen to our bodies. Listening to the innermost quiet. So that we can listen to our deepest conversation. Our spirit. And ultimately find our way home.
Whether we are embodied or not.
May we each find our way back to this most precious whisper.
My deepest prayers to all who are transitioning and all who are struggling to let them go.