Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

State of Mind #3: Sick again

I've got a cold today. It's Sunday though. It started yesterday and I noticed it early. If I get a cold during the work week I deny it because I feel I can't stop. But I've acknowledged this one and think I can beat it by tomorrow or the next day if I'm careful and honest with myself.

I'm noticing an entire storehouse of emotions opening up with this sickness. Vulnerability, grief, fear of abandonment, fear of imperfection, fear of what I'll never see, say, do, be or have. Last night a friend showed me a book of homeopathic remedies. I said, "Hey, I'd like to have that book." Today I'm stricken with this understanding that I might never get around to getting that book. I might never have it, might never use it. I might just continue being me as I am now instead. And somehow that seems so tragic.

Things are magnified when you're ill, but only magnified.

Yesterday's parsha contained the 10 "utterances". One of the first good drashes I ever gave publicly was from this parsha, and I talked about the sequence of the commandments -- beyond just that the first half are about our relationship with God, and that the second half are about people. I tried to find other symmetry, other relationships between them. The last "utterance" (or commandment) is not to covet. And I linked that back to number one, that "I am the Lord your God." If we really do have faith in God, we can more easily accept that what we have and what things will come to us are God's will. So i still have to work for everything in my life, but if I don't get that book, I just don't need it very much. (This is not about an impoverished person "not needing" money and food. This is about me wanting a book and being realistic that I might not get around to getting it.)

But back to feelings. Time has a different shape today. It feels slow and gentle. I want the day to go on forever. I want to take the time I need to do what I need to and to rest in between. And the truth is, I want the time to wallow in today's darkness. I have a strange relationship with inertia... I often don't like change, even for the better. When I had cancer, I didn't know what I would do when I could no longer rely on tri-weekly chemo treatments to incapacitate me. I didn't know how I could do without them. It was the strangest thing. I remember when I started radiation... I would have to go in every morning. In the afternoon I was starting to volunteer at the school where I had been working before my diagnosis. The idea was that when the radiation ended, I would ease my way back into work. Now here's the funny bit. Teaching is my love, my life, the thing that makes me feel I'm contributing to the world. But I was so afraid of that change back into the classroom, that I grieved over the idea of not getting to come in every day to the hospital and get to work on the puzzle in the waiting room while sitting in a hospital gown and waiting for my hair to grow back. One day as I was working on the puzzle and eavesdropping on some older men talking about older men topics, I suddenly just didn't want to be there another second. Only then, when I couldn't stand the thought of being there another second, did I realize how much I had been wallowing in this other "time zone" where things are slow and I only have to care for myself and my illness.

I'm visiting that place again today... where I feel sick and sad and alone, and I'm actually enjoying it. I know it won't continue. (Oh, how long has it taken me to learn that! That the only thing a person can really count on is change!) So I'm grateful that it won't go on, and also grateful that I'll be back. No matter where I visit in the world or what happens in my life, there is this state of being waiting to be experienced, and needing to be experienced. And I will go there, and I will leave there again to visit another way of being.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

State of Mind #2 / Fridge Poem 4: Obnoxious Voices

Today and tonight I was amazing.

I taught all day, then helped with a Tu B'Shvat seder I've been helping plan for months, and then I ran my Partnership for Torah program, all in all servicing over 100 people. I know the work I did was very good. And I did my best. And yet a couple of people were a real pain. Just a couple, badly timing their innappropriate issues and ways of being. They didn't mean to be a pain, but were nonetheless.

This in itself shouldn't bother me. People are people.

And yet it does.

I think it's because it sets off all those screaming voices in my head about not doing things well enough or reminders of peope being angry, or resentment at how tired I am, even though I wanted to do it and enjoyed doing it.

Hence, tonight's magnetic poem (before I head to bed)

Obnoxious Voices

Don't trust the obnoxious voices
territorial animals that claw and pierce
their worried rhythms into your magic.

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Fridge Poem 3: A Good Day

Concrete is Caramel
and Cat Litter is Clean as
Perhaps Perfume
If you Continue to Permeate
with Precious Curiosity

(To be honest, the magnets just got me started. There is no magner for "permeate."


Monday, January 10, 2005

Fridge Poem 2: Close Echo

The healing voice of a companion
embraces your angel
your ghost.
This peace that surrounds you.
It is love.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Jewish Identity #3: Where's the Art, Joel? Where's the art?

Thank you Joel for referencing me, and for once again inspiring me.

I want to post a personal frustration of mine that links so closely to yours. There are so many Jews like you and me, who love religious Judaism and are bogged down by the packaging that so many religious Jews present. But we are failing at presenting ourselves to the world more effectively.

Just last night my husband and I were talking about the movie “Kadosh” which I do not want to talk about here in depth. Maybe another time. I have plenty to say, believe me, and most of it negative. The problem, though, is that when ONE MOVIE comes out depicting Orthodox Judaism, it remains ONE MOVIE. So whether it is harmful or exploitative or painful or inaccurate or insightful or inspiring, it stands alone as only ONE MOVIE. But if it is THE ONLY damn movie out there, then audiences will deify or demonize it. What I’m getting to is simply this. WE NEED MORE GOOD CONTEMPORARY JEWISH ART.

(A quick and single note about “Kadosh”… I think my husband made an important point about this movie which is that its biggest flaw is not necessarily its inaccuracies or how it deals with women’s issues, but that it depicts being Haredi as SO DAMN MISERABLE. No wonder no one wants to be frum.)

For any stranger logging on to this site… and if you do so, please let me know, because as far as I know right now only 2 or 3 friends will ever see it… I am, among other things, a writer. I studied creative writing at Oberlin College where Joel and I became friends.

Since that time I have continued to write, including a few general uncontroversial and inspirational Jewish pieces published on but I also have a collection in the works of Jewish fiction. And I’m sorry to say, it is the only fiction of it’s kind that I have ever found. My stories grapple with Orthodoxy but don’t embrace it completely the way that stories tend to when published by Orthodox publications. Kiruv is so crucial right now as frum Jews are trying to draw other frum Jews in. So there is a problem to face of whether or not it is detrimental to print that ambivalence. For me, though, and for Jews like me, I want to hear STRUGGLE. I want to hear how hard it is to be Orthodox. Because DESPITE HOW HARD IT IS, I choose it daily and I LOVE IT. That is the point, to me about being a Jew. You work very hard for what you achieve, and that’s what makes it so beautiful and worthwhile.

However, I have searched far and wide and cannot find a place where I feel I can publish this fiction. This is awful. Not only does it mean that I can’t share my work (and celebrate fame and fortune). It also means that if I DO publish, there are no alternative voices to balance out mine. (I should be lucky to have such a struggle.)

The first of the stories I am talking about here begged me to continue revising it for a good five years. I have finally put it aside and called it finished. But at the point that I resolved to do that, I also resolved that I needed to write more stories to accompany it. I needed to show that I cannot say all that I need to say in one story.

How can we get the art out there, Joel? How can we do it?

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