Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rites



My goodness this year has been a coming of age transformation and transition! Not just for me, of course - we are now in the midst of a societal, collective transformation of huge proportions.

On the personal level, too, it has been a rather harrowing year in some respects. Age 60 is now just a few months away. Gulp. Please do not misunderstand - getting older agrees with me in so many ways. But no matter what, it is daunting. I'd be an idiot if I didn't get that this is a big decade coming up, right?

Perhaps in response to the daunting nature of my next birthday, my spirit guides have encouraged me to be courageous - whole hearted as well as brave is what they mean, willing to stand up straight, lift my chin, put my shoulders back and walk into the 6th decade with a smile on my aging face. They've suggested I work my way up to my birthday by doing some stuff I've avoided because I'm afraid of it.

For instance, I am going - for the first time ever - to walk through the exhibits at the Holocaust Museum this month. One of my greatest teachers, perhaps the greatest teacher I have ever had, will be visiting DC later in the month. She and her partner wanted to go, asked me if I would accompany them. I swallowed hard and said yes. The tickets have been purchased, the date and time is on my calendar. I will not schedule clients so will not have the option of backing out at the last moment.

Saying yes to the invitation is a big deal for me. I've spent many an hour in the library of the museum, especially a few years ago when the excellent librarians helped me locate my ancestors' shtetl, found a pictorial archive of the place, a business directory in which my family's name appears.

Also, because the Nazis were just plain old weird, recording every detail of the murders, I can tell you that the Melikiers, and everyone else in the town, too, were killed by asphyxiation in volkswagons on August 9, 1941. The shtetl was bulldozed.

There is only a railroad crossing in western Ukraine now where the bustling shtetl once was. But because of the excellent library at the museum, I saw pictures of the people gathering at the street market, pictures of the living world before the Holocaust. My ancestors were short, stout and alarmingly hairy. Ha. I loved seeing those pictures, and in a museum! It made my lineage palpable, real. I felt I could reach back through time, connect with the foundation of my tribe. It was an amazing experience.

The journeys to the library have always been wonderful. Perhaps the journey through the exhibits will be healing, too. This is my hope, and if not, I'll be OK anyway because Pandora will be with me. I still believe she can do anything, hence if my energy is askew she will instantly notice and help me restore balance.

Another way in which I'm going to mark the passing of my youth is by finally at last getting my tattoo. I've thought about this for years, and in the last year have finally pinned down exactly what I can live with for the rest of my life. It's the word Shalom. I am so not a biblical kind of gal, hence the contemporary Hebrew which is clean and streamliined. The word looks like a magical row of sigils. I love the word Shalom and all its layers of meaning. I will have it inked on the inside of my right forearm.


I know, Jews are not supposed to be tattooed. But the thing is, the God I worship doesn't really mind what I do as long as it's not mean or destructive. The God I worship understands that by getting this tattoo, I am confronting a fear of pain, but also a fear of commitment. Getting a tattoo is a lifetime commitment! I am committed to the idea and soul of Shalom. I am.

The placement of the tatt, on the inside of my forearm, is an echo of the prison numbers the people in the camps received. I purposely chose the location. It's treif to be a Jew having the word Shalom tattooed on that part of my arm. It's so treif it spills over into the territory of holy. At least this is my justification.

OK so here's the crazy bit about that tatt - the artist who will do the deed is Fernando, a name I subsequently discovered means "be courageous." Yeah. And the only time he had available in the next six months is the day before my visit to the Holocaust Museum.

File all of this under the heading: "You Can't Make This Stuff Up." Hell yeah.

Shalom.

11 comments:

ellen abbott said...

wow

Carolina Linthead said...

I second that wow. I have long thought of getting a tatt, but I just haven't been ready...haven't found that meaningful symbol or word that I could live with henceforth. This feels so right for you, Reya! All of it...it is time...your time. It is going to be an interesting decade, isn't it? Peace be with you, always. I love it!

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence. It is definitely right for me!

Shalom means a lot more than peace. I should post about it. Once I have the tatt, when anyone notices and comments, it will be a great invitation to talk about Shalom. Awesome!

Ellen - uh yeah.

Pam said...

Such a meaningful post Reya. I hung on every word as I know how much this means to you.
I was interested also in your words "mark the passing of my youth".
I too, will be 60 in a few months and have never thought of it quite so definitavely.
I still feel to be my young self strangely now in a "senior's body". Have in recent months thought it is now time to step up to the plate and acknowledge this next phase. Like the comb-over or male ponytail,with age issues sometimes it's just time to give it up, let it go and move on.
As mentioned, Shalom is so right for you Reya, and yes please post more about its meaning.

Reya Mellicker said...

Pam! How beautiful that on so e level, you and I will cross that threshhold together.

Forget the comb overs! Full speed ahead. Love you, Pam.

Reya Mellicker said...

Some level

Washington Cube said...

I am inkless, but I can say that everyone I know who has gotten a tattoo has done so to mark something momentous in their lives--the passing of a relative, or some change in mindset or lifestyle or a mark of faith. I think your tattoo is quite beautiful and "yes," I think you will be talking about it with strangers. I know that I always ask people about their ink, because there always seems to be a story behind it...and I do so love stories. Such a week you have ahead. Oy!

Washington Cube said...

P.S. I forgot to tell you, I heard from Playaz Phil this past week. We had quite a chat fest going on. Do you still have the same email? Write me at washingtoncube@aol.com

Steve Reed said...

Bravo, Reya -- both for getting your tattoo and confronting the Holocaust Museum exhibits. Onward and Upward, as you always say. :)

(I really can't think of a more perfect tattoo for you.)

Reya Mellicker said...

Steven if you are in agreement, then I know it's right. Shalom.

Meri said...

I reposted this to Finally Me -- it just sings to me.