Friday, August 31, 2012

In response to a restorative emergency

Yesterday I took the whole day off, thanks to clients who agreed to reschedule their appointments. I really needed a day completely unstructured, completely free.

It has been a good summer, but a stressful summer. The Holocaust museum, the tattoo, which (should say) I'm beginning to get used to, the stalker, not to mention the awful month of July, the hottest month in recorded history in the U.S. It wasn't as hot here as in the midwest, but it was bloody hot. And of course there is the presidential campaign which is poisonous all around. By yesterday, with that old devil moon coming to fullness, I was at the end of my rope psychically, psychologically, and physically as well.

My day off was glorious and restorative in ways that are hard to describe. I meditated and prayed as usual in the morning, but after that, I did exactly as I damn well pleased. I didn't clean the chateau, I didn't cook, I didn't listen to the radio (as there was way too much venom being spewed over the Republican convention. Who needs that?)

At the National Botanical Garden

There's a spaciousness, literal and metaphorical, in a completely unscheduled, unstructured day. A day without plans is a large, well lit room with no furniture and many windows, all thrown open so the breeze can blow through it. Ahhhh.

See? I really did need a day off!

I met a friend for coffee after which I walked my ass off, popping in and out of my favorite locations on Capitol Hill and the national mall. It was perfect.

When was the last time you reserved an entire day to do exactly as you please? I highly recommend it. Shalom.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Foul Behavior All Around

I think if you did a double blind test of those of us who don't own TVs and therefore will not watch either presidential convention, with those who do, our blood pressure would measure far lower and calmer than those who have decided to tune in.

On Facebook I feel I am picking my way through a minefield of toxicity from both my Democratic and Republican friends. Reactions are ugly, toxic, hateful from both liberals and conservatives. I find myself searching for cat videos, pics of friends' kids - anything to avoid the political poison floating around.

Before the last election I was all over the toxicity, venting my spleen right and left. I'm older now, and too I live TV free - I highly recommend it for good health and well being in general, and never more than right now specifically.

What I was wondering this morning is if a huge national disaster would pull us together. Oh wait, there's the hurricane, but people used it as an excuse to be ugly and hateful. What about the drought? Yeah. That, too, is being bandied back and forth as the other party's fault.

If I had money, I would leave the U.S. until after the election. Though ... the Eurozone isn't in much better shape, is it?

I love human beings, but even so, right now in the midst of all the hatred, I'm recoiling from my own species, both those I agree with and those I disagree with.

Is this awfulness necessary? You tell me.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What a summer! Good lord.

It was a good summer for me, mostly. Stressful, what with the stalker (who I have not heard from in a few days. Hoping that trend continues into perpetuity).

In so many ways this summer has been a time of profound healing ... which is also, come to think of it, stressful. Healing requires mindful presence, endurance, the strength to face the rigors of change and evolution, to be brave and clear eyed, open hearted. Healing is not for sissies.

I've stuck with it more or less, ducking out now and again via the soothing chill of a martini. Ahh liquor. I am not the first nor will I be the last to self medicate upon occasion. Fortunately, as a part of growing older, I can't tolerate much of the oldest psychiatric medicine. Because I have been constitutionally unable to mount a truly successful escape, I have mostly benefitted from the Summer of Extreme Healing.

I look forward to fall which is, in Washington DC, still several months away. It isn't until after Halloween that the weather truly cools down. Until then, many days will be humid, some will be downright hot, and there will not likely be a good frost for many weeks, necessitating a continued battle against the bugs until close to Thanksgiving. At the beginning of the summer, a humid day doesn't seem so bad, but at this point I am over it. I see jackets hanging in the closet, but can't imagine ever wanting to wear them.

It has been a loooooong, hot summer. But I don't want to complain. Life is good, I am healthy and happy. Shalom!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back to the drawing board


I asked another beloved family to celebrate Shabbat with me this week, but ended up rescinding the invite because I had to work Friday afternoon. The stress involved in getting dinner together for guests after a day of work was definitely not what I had in mind when I decided to try celebrating the holiday.

Friends say that with family, you ask people to pitch in and help, reducing the pressure involved in getting dinner on the table. Yes, that works with family because they know where everything is and how things work in the kitchen. With guests, I could ask them to help but would then have to not only answer questions about the where's and how's, but also maneuver around them. That would be, for me, even more stressful than doing it all myself.

So here I sit, wondering how to proceed. I would like to celebrate Shabbat by spending time with people I love, feasting, toasting, and relaxing, but the pressure involved in doing all the work of preparation, every week, is discouraging. Last fall I hosted Thanksgiving dinner here at the chateau. It took me two days to prepare. It was a lot of fun, also exhausting. I wouldn't do it again.

Shabbat is a family centered holiday. I live alone, have no kids, no husband. I am a family of one, so how do I square my solitary life with this family based holiday?

I do not have an answer to that.

Though I did indeed enjoy Temple Micah's Friday night service, the temple itself is an impossible commute for those of us who live across town and don't have cars. By bus it is a very unpleasant hour each way. By subway it's even longer as the closest station is a half-hour walk from the temple. So that's not going to work for me.

I'm scratching my head, wondering, questioning - and I will admit - once again feeling like a freak in the religion of my ancestors. I flirted briefly with the idea of seeking a partner, but then realized that wanting a partner just so I could celebrate Shabbat is not the best reason to throw myself into the unsavory world of old folk dating. I mean really, do you ever really look at men of my age? I try not to!

In every way you can imagine, I enjoy being single. It suits me, except in terms of celebrating Shabbat.

It's an interesting conundrum that I will be chewing on for awhile. Perhaps this idea I had of celebrating the Sabbath should be respectfully placed in the round file as we used to say back in the day when we kept information on paper. I'm still thinking about it, but I'm not expecting to come up with a viable solution.

Judaism has always been an ill fit for me. And yet I yearn for it. It's so interesting. Shalom.


Friday, August 24, 2012

More like the tortoise than the hare

Has this directional marker always been here on the east side of the capital? Really? I never noticed it before. So weird. I tend to notice these things. Oh well.

I am a very slow processor of information. I always have been. My tendency, when I need to make a decision, is to take in lots of information, let it all simmer in the back of my mind/heart. I sleep on it, think about it, pray about it, wonder, let go and then return to whatever conundrum I'm trying to resolve. When I give it time, I am much more likely to come to a balanced understanding and can make much better decisions.

Sadly, I live in a society of snap decisions. When I was younger, I was always in awe of the people who knew straightaway whether they wanted to say yes or no, who could make decisions within seconds or minutes. I wanted to be quick like they were.

I made many very bad decisions because I didn't really get how important it was for me, personally, to sit with ideas over time before deciding.

The night my ex husband proposed, I was so taken aback. It was the last thing I expected. At the time I was engaged in a torrid affair with a violinist. I believed my relationship with my then boyfriend was winding down, not ramping up. We had just been through a terrible era after which I really had no interest in staying with him. I was gathering my wits about me before vamoosing, but then he popped the question.

I remember saying, "Uh, uh, uh .... uh .... I don't know what to say!" He said, "You're supposed to say yes." So I said yes, with a lump in my throat and a very heavy feeling in my stomach.

It should not be surprising to hear that I was miserable in my marriage and that it did not last very long. Good lord.

I could tell more stories of poor decision making, but what's the point in doing that?

What I'm thinking about this morning is how grateful I am that I've learned to honor what works for me, even though I'm swimming upstream in my society by taking my time. These days, when I come to a decision, I can be fairly certain it's the best decision for me. I am grateful to be able - maybe should say determined - at last to give myself the time I need before saying yes or no.

One of my mantras these days is to say what I mean and mean what I say. In order to do so, I have to take time, think, sleep, wonder, pray, think some more. The people in my life who are sharp and quick and fast thinkers are at times quite annoyed with me. I don't blame them for wishing I could hurry up. However, it is such a relief to know in my heart of hearts that when I say no, I mean NO. When I say yes, I mean YES, with my whole heart and whole mind.

Honestly I am such a freak in my society. Oh well. Happy Friday. Shalom.

I love the cloud in reflected the window. Looks like a passenger in the back seat.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

God bless America

The capitol was gleaming in the morning sunlight. That's my shadow in the crosswalk.

I woke up early yesterday as always, but instead of sitting on the sofa drinking coffee, I got dressed up and walked down to Room 20 (the "ceremonial courtroom," the judge told us) in the U.S. District Court of DC to witness the ceremony in which a friend officially became a U.S. citizen at last. He is a Brit who loves America. 

It was so cool! The experience was healing on many levels. To be in a courtroom in which everyone is happy was a revelation for sure. Not that I've been in so many courtrooms, mind you, but for instance the time I showed up to contest a speeding ticket, no one was happy, including the judge. My experience as a juror in a criminal trial ended abruptly when I burst into tears and couldn't stop sobbing. Though perhaps I was the unhappiest person in that room, not to mention the most embarrassed, I don't think anyone there was feeling chipper either. It was a hate crime trial, so very very sad and ugly.

I also had to go to court to finalize my divorce. That was not a happy environment either.

But people gathering to take the oath and become U.S. citizens? That is a happy occasion. People were smiling, snapping pics of each other. We friends and family of those being naturalized were jazzed for them. It was really a great experience.

The most moving part, for me, was the role call when each person's name and original country was announced. I expected to see a lot of folks from central America and Africa, and indeed there were many from those locations. But there were people from everywhere - Finland, Bosnia, Bulgaria, France, the U.K., Germany, S. Korea, Taiwan. It was very moving.

Not as moving was the oath they were required to take. They had to promise to take up arms for their country - yikes - and to renounce allegiance to "foreign potentates." Hmm. My friend is a citizen of the U.K. who now holds dual citizenship, hence he doesn't have to renounce his allegiance to the queen. Thank god! I imagine he wasn't the only one there to achieve dual citizenship. No matter, they all held up their right hands and swore to it.

A member of the DAR gave a little speech before the ceremony began. My friend said he could have lived without that. Indeed. Except the ancestors had to be acknowledged in order for the ceremony to work. That was one way to call them in.

The experience brought to mind the fact that we know exactly how and when our country was founded and who the founding fathers were. England was not founded all at once by a certain group of people. It coalesced gradually after which somebody somehow decided who would be king. I bet that was an interesting decision-making process. Wow.

I haven't heard from the stalker since Tuesday, a very good thing. Maybe she read yesterday's post and will bugger off. Ya think? Or perhaps this is my dream, but in any case, may it be so.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I've been a little bit under the weather the last couple of days, not sleeping well, dizzy, queasy. If I had a boyfriend and was 15 years younger I would wonder if I was pregnant. I'm definitely not!

After the glorious experience of Shabbat, all manner of sad news came my way. I have heard awful stories this week, including the news about the neighbor who was beaten severely (who is now squeezing his wife's hand after multiple brain surgeries), about a wonderful, long term client whose life has turned upside down and inside out, about a friend's cat who just suddenly died.

On top of that, the woman who was stalking me has returned in full force. Until last week I hadn't heard from her for a few weeks. I thought I was free. But no. The thing about stalkers is that they don't quit. To her, the aggressive and unwelcome behaviors, the texts, letters, gifts left on the front porch, are all wonderful things to do, things that will convince me that we can be dear friends for life. The woman stalking me can not take it in that all her efforts are a monumental waste of her time.

Here's the text I sent to her today after receiving a long letter in which she suggests we get mediation from a professional. Mediation? This text is almost exactly the same message I've sent her time and time again. I wouldn't even bother, but the social worker and lawyer who have advised me say it's important to document my repeated attempts to get her to bugger off. So I say it over and over. It's clear as a bell, yes?

I can not help you.

You are mentally ill.

I will not meet with you under any circumstances. You can not convince me to do so no matter what you say.

If I see you close to the property I will call the police.


She immediately texted that she meant no harm and would not approach the house, but she did approach the house last week, banged on the door, left a bag of expensive jewelry that I put out on the sidewalk straightaway. Even worse, I think, is that she got one of my bartender buddies at the Matchbox to text me, suggesting I come down to the restaurant. That is despicable! And she has no idea. She is very troubled.

Oh. I am so bugged by this. I would publish her name but there could be legal ramifications from that, I am told. Maybe I should contact her spouse. Or keep trying to just take big breaths and let go. I'm trying.

And I wonder why I'm feeling slightly ill? Good lord.

Looking forward to my massage this week, to seeing the Sufi acupuncturist. May the stalker turn in another direction. May she seek the help she needs.

May I let go of the stress around this. May it be so.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Difference a Day Makes


Yesterday until sunset, I was dancing with the energy of Shabbat - tra la. At sundown on Saturday, we re-enter the "real world," get back to work, in other words. I experienced a distinct sense of crossing the line from the sacred back to the mundane yesterday as the sun set in a perfectly clear sky.

This morning the weather was turbulent and stormy, after which it became gray and still, thick with humidity but not hot, with showers off and on all day. My first client arrived in tears and subsequently decided not to receive bodywork today. In many years of working together, I've never seen this client immersed in such deep sadness. I didn't ask what happened, but it didn't seem good.

A friend asked me to send Reiki to a young man who was beaten severely just around the corner from Eastern Market early Saturday. In fact in my tra la Shabbat bliss yesterday morning, I noticed that the police had cordoned off a block of N. Caroline Avenue, but I didn't give it a second thought. I wondered if someone important had decided to visit Eastern Market. And then I was on my way.

The man who was beaten is 29 years old, with a wife and two young children also many dear friends on Capitol Hill. He's in a coma after surgery and no one knows if he will survive.

The precarious sense of being off balance, a state I associate with the "real world," came roaring back into the range of my perception almost exactly at sunset and lingered through a night of tossing and turning, followed by a day of intensely real tragedies. Perhaps I'm being dramatic. I'm not sure.

One thing that occurs, in the wake of the bad news today, is that I now feel doubly committed to celebrating the Sabbath as best I can. Life is short, anything could happen. Marriages crash and burn, people are beaten, houses are broken into. Regular, normal, very happy people receive awful diagnoses, seemingly from out of the blue. It happens every day.

Part of what I loved about Shabbat was that feeling of balance. The world was not spinning out of control. All was well and I was happy.

OK. Back to "real life."


This morning

Saturday, August 18, 2012

God is pleased

I like the title of this post, but let me say straightaway that I don't actually believe God is ever pleased - or displeased, for that matter. The god I worship does not have a personality or opinions, likes or dislikes. The god I worship is so far beyond all that. Good lord.

But if I could perceive God as an entity, I would say, given how great this week's celebration of Shabbat has been, He would approve. I believe I was able to penetrate to the center of the holiday's soul: celebrating life, spending time with people I love dearly, letting go of worries and errands, feasting and toasting. Resting, walking, being with people I love, and enjoying - this has been my Sabbath this week.

Today was the most gorgeous day in DC in many weeks. The air was soft and warm but not hot, there was the sweetest breeze, the cloud people were puffy and magnificent, the humans were out in force, smiling, at least it seemed like that to me.

Ah, now the sun is hanging low on the horizon. It's time for Havdallah, letting go of the Sabbath so as to go back to the mundane realities of life.

I understand how, if the Sabbath is genuinely celebrated, going back to work isn't such a bad thing. It'll be fine!

The Sabbath is a radical holiday. I highly recommend you give it a go. Seriously.

Happy Saturday night, y'all. Shalom.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Welcome the bride

Tonight I will begin my brand new practice of celebrating the Sabbath. I've observed it in the past, for many years with my family, then for a year after my first initiation into Reclaiming tradition, but always on someone else's terms. Tonight I begin fresh.

What we did in our family was light the candles while singing the prayer to what I have been told is the melody that's supposed to accompany the Chanukah blessing. Oops. We didn't know any better, growing up. After that, Papa took over as rabbi, saying some beautiful things about how to welcome the Sabbath "in joy and peace." He invited us to understand that on the Sabbath, our blessings would be enriched, our griefs and trials softened." It was very cool. Then we blessed the wine and the bread, and had dinner together.

When I was a little kid, my father dressed for the occasion, wearing a suit and tie. We wore nice dresses and came to the table clean and well groomed. I have very fond memories of Friday nights when I was a child.

After my initiation, after I had thrown the Torah in the trash (a long story recounted a few weeks ago here) I decided to make amends by celebrating Shabbat for a year. I kind of made up my own rules, though I said the words my father used to say, lit candles, blessed wine and bread and rested. At the end of the holiday I did the Havdallah service, something we did not do in our family observance.

After a year, I stopped celebrating. I don't know why - it was so nice!

After reading The Sabbath World, I'm inspired to again give it a go. I've asked my sister twice to send me the words my father used at our family service. She has forgotten - twice - so I take that as a sign that I'm supposed to start from scratch, kind of like I have done with my clothing this summer.


So far, I have only two rules - that I will spend the Sabbath with people I love dearly, and that I will eat well, drink wine and celebrate life. My focus will be to imagine the possibility of a profound and lasting peace - the shalom that is engraved on my arm.

Tonight one of my dearest and nearest Hill neighbor families is coming to help launch the practice. I'm going to make a simple dinner, enjoy their beautiful daughter and both of the parents, too. I'm thinking: love fest. Yeah.

It's OK to let the practice develop from the inside out, or so says Judith Shulevitz who wrote the book The Sabbath World. I'm excited and curious to see how it turns out.

Shabbat shalom, y'all.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Late summer is noisy. For instance, last night, sitting on the bench on the terrace here at the chateau, I heard four different kinds of insect chirps. I believe two of them were crickets, one probably a mournful cicada (it was an intermittent croak), and the fourth ... tree frogs? Such a sweet peeping sound. I also heard a train whistle. Very cool.

Early summer is full of birdsong, but late summer sound belongs to the bugs. I have been trying to enjoy whatever I can of this season, and was making headway in that direction, sitting on the bench. It wasn't too hot last night, and so peaceful since everyone leaves town in August. Alas, I was only able to sit outside briefly since, in late summer, the mosquitoes get vicious. My theory of increased mosquito blood lust in late summer revolves around the idea that they know the season is dwindling, hence they must carpe diem and have as many baby mosquitoes as possible. Maybe?

Late summer is a great time for bugs, but not so much for me, not just this year. I'm struggling with my usual late summer symptoms as well as the unwinding I mentioned yesterday. But the weeks will pass and then it will be fall. My sinuses and stomach will calm down, there will be a cold snap that kills a lot of the bugs. Then I'll be out and about again here in this crazy, beautiful, wounded, powerful city. I am so lucky, it's not right to complain.

Fall will arrive, it will. It will. I am counting the days! Hell yeah.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The angle of the sun is shifting rapidly these days. I notice areas of shade in the garden here at the chateau moving every day in accordance with the late summer dance of Brother Sun. He is rising later and setting a bit earlier, too. No matter what, fall will arrive, as it does every year. I so look forward to it.

This summer was a season of dramatic unwinding, from long-held obsessions and regrets, from the echoes of past lives, from the yearning for lives I never lived. I lost a dear friend whose life changed radically, I said goodbye to two clients whose mental illness overcame them, making it impossible for us to continue working together.

This summer I threw away all of my summer clothing - every sock, every nasty old teeshirt - all at once.

This was the summer when it became possible for me to put away the photographs of my dog Jake that were everywhere in the chateau, except for the one on the ancestor altar. I've toyed for three years with the idea of getting another dog. This summer at last I came to the realization that though I love dogs, and I had one dog, I don't want another one. It's a relief to be able to say it out loud.

It has been a bloody whirling dervish of summertime unwinding, I tell you. I'm tired, and a bit dizzy, as a result. Wouldn't you be?

It wasn't all about letting go. It has been a summer of deep healing and transformation during which I received a tattoo, faced the fear of walking through the Holocaust Museum. I did a lot of teaching this summer, a satisfying and fruitful experience for which I have a lot of gratitude.

It was a summer of hard work - good work - but still, can fall arrive soon enough? I think not. I dream of the cool, the crisp, the changing leaves (which will not be very pretty this year because it was so dry. I don't care; they will be pretty enough.) Maybe we'll have winter this year, too. I hope so!

I am full of yearning for autumn in the midst of late summer heat and humidity. I am so done with this summer! Enough is enough!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The luxury of unstructured time

The sky was full of puffy cloud people yesterday. When there are crepuscular rays, I believe that means the cloud people are smiling. You know how people beam when they smile? Yeah.

It's a nice rainy morning in DC. Well, not exactly nice. It's terribly humid, pretty hot, too ... but the rain is glorious. How I wish I could send this rain directly to Kansas City, my home town. They are dying in the drought back there.

I have a whole day ahead of me with no plans, nothing I really have to do. My house is clean, the laundry, too. I even ran the dishwasher yesterday. There's plenty of food in the fridge, all errands are up to date.

I'm not usually so together, but I put in some extra time getting things in order since a NY friend was supposed to come visit for the day, but plans changed. I'm sorry not to see my friend, but love a clean slate!

What do you think I should do with my day? The sky's the limit. Oh yeah. Happy Tuesday.

Monday, August 13, 2012

There is no end to the circle

I learned recently that no argument is truly Talmudic unless it contains disagreement. Wow. I knew there was a lot of bickering ongoing among and between all those medieval European rabbis, but I didn't know that conflict was one of the rules.

I am so Jewish. What do I always say? I say that conversations with people who do not exactly share my values are always the juiciest. That is how I learn. I like hanging out with like minded people. We can reinforce each other's versions of reality and thereby stroke our egos. It's nice and comfortable, but I never learn anything. In my heart of hearts, I believe disagreement can add energy and spark to a conversation, as long as both parties are respectful. I'm Talmudic! I find that kind of hilarious.

Respect is the bottom line. "You're wrong," is really different from "I strongly disagree." When the argument turns into character assassination, that is not enlivening or interesting. It's simply destructive.

You're wrong, whether directed at myself or others, is the location from which I begin to assemble my torches. You're wrong can lead to mob mentality, everyone dropping to the lowest common denominator, like in the Frankenstein movies. I experienced this mob directed you're wrong energy many times when I was part of Reclaiming.

Directed at myself, you're wrong tends to motivate me to put together a self pity torch, stinky like old cheese, misshapen and so shoddy it hardly burns.

I strongly disagree can lead to a nice glass of wine, a sit down, a long and lively discussion such as took place for hundreds of years in Europe during the middle ages. Those rabbis could go on and on. I'm certain in addition to the strongly disagree conversations there was a whole lot of character assassination. Tempers can flare when people disagree. My guess is that the best teachings in that holy text resulted from the strongly disagree exchanges.

In the process of unravelling my torches, I noticed I'm building new torches all the time. For instance, I created a torch of rancor towards myself for making the mistake of getting a tattoo. It burned hard for awhile. Now it isn't raging quite as wildly, but it still burns.

I'm beginning to understand that the process of unwinding the greasy rags and building the cleansing bonfire from the clean sticks is something that must be ongoing. Or, the thought came to me, I could choose a day or a week each year, focus on and gather as many torches as possible, dispose of the smelly rags and burn the torches, then move on into a new cycle.

It took most of the day yesterday to understand this process is in many ways just like what we do during the High Holy Days, when we get things straight with others and ourselves. We unravel our torches, make amends to those we have burned, forgive those who have burned us. On Yom Kippur we attend a huge cleansing bonfire, a burning bush as it were, through fasting and prayer, remembering the ancestors, giving thanks.

You should have seen my face when I put it together, that this process I'm involved in is essentially the High Holy Days. Ha. 

My conflicting feelings about - well - everything are authentically Talmudic. I'm so Jewish! Good to know.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

We are not amused

I thought today was supposed to be cooler and less humid than it has been, but alas, it's soup out there. How sad. I have the whole day free. I imagined spending the day walking, taking pictures, thinking about things, you know.

Earlier in summer this kind of a day doesn't seem too bad - humid, yes, but bearable. But by mid-August, I am so over the thick air. It's not at all fun getting out there. Hence I have barricaded myself inside the chateau. I did some deep cleaning which is always a good thing, and ran a few errands, also slightly amusing. Now I'm twiddling my thumbs, trying to decide how to spend the remainder of the afternoon.

Am I complaining? Good lord, I'll stop right now. Life is good and I am extremely grateful. Shalom.

Friday, August 10, 2012


The Holocaust is over and I must rise from its ashes. This is my new mantra, based on the title of the excellent book by Avraham Burg. When I ordered the book, I figured even if it was terrible, it would be worth it for the title. But it is an EXCELLENT book, an incredible book.

His book and The Sabbath World, by Judith Shulevitz are doing more to help me unwind my Holocaust torch than I could ever have expected. Both books are helping me feel more at home with my odd brand of Judaism (which, as it turns out, isn't as odd as I thought). Increasing my comfort with my faith is a prerequisite to letting go of my life-shaping identification with the Holocaust, especially with that moment I've mentioned so often lately. You seriously can not understand how perfect these two books are. I am healing.

Just as I was thinking about this, standing in line at the bank yesterday, a guy at the next window said, "Hey, I like your Shalom tattoo." Turns out he is the owner of The Star and the Shamrock deli/tavern on H street in the very groovy Atlas District. It's worth clicking on the link to see how they decided to merge the worlds of Irish food and drink with Jewish food and drink. Very fun.

He showed me a star of David tattoo on his shoulder. It's very classy. Within the star is a geometric pattern featuring his initials. Wow. He, too, is a member of the Jewish tattoo brethren! He told me many people have been offended by the logo of the restaurant. He said they never intended to make it look like the yellow star European Jews were required to wear on their coats. It's not a reference to the Holocaust. It's supposed to be gold, like the gold stars people wear around their necks. He went on to say that his grandparents were Holocaust survivors and his parents were born in Germany right after the war.


He was very casual and friendly, invited me to come into the bar and have my tattoo photographed for their website. I'm thinking about it, though I'm not sure I'll take him up on it.

What an interesting experience. If not for the tattoo, he and I would never have had that brief conversation. The encounter reminded me of a recent convo with a neighbor. By chance we saw each other at Eastern market. She saw the tattoo after which we dropped deeply (and briefly) into a great conversation about our post modern Judaism.

The owner of the Star and Shamrock is doing just that, celebrating his Judaism in a post modern way, celebrating his spiritual inheritance within the culture in which he lives. He, for one, knows that the Holocaust is over. He has risen from its ashes.

So can I. Hell yeah. Onwards and upwards. Shalom.

Super wild cloud person yesterday afternoon. He was big, too.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Anything could happen

I interrupt my process of letting go of the Holocaust to salute the Catholic church.

I just read that the Pope has changed his mind about condoms. Here is a link. I am flabbergasted and profoundly grateful. Wow. Who saw that coming? (I just discovered he made the change in 2010. Oops. But today is the first I've heard about it, so it's news to me.)

This is just the sort of surprise that resonates with the same kind of energy we felt during the 60s. It felt dangerous but also miraculous, as if anything could happen. Just like now.

This is a great time to be alive. It calls on us to step up and transform ourselves, personally and culturally. Even the Catholic church is channeling the energy of change. Wow!

Here's the other great piece of news from this morning, about the meeting of 900 nuns who are gathered to try to figure out how to respond to reprimands from the Vatican. The story features a great picture of a couple of nuns in silhouette next to a window through which the St. Louis arch is gleaming and resplendent, a powerful symbol of where the nuns are, standing at a gateway, a threshold, in the middle of the worst drought in 60 years. Will they step through? Who knows? But their process in this meeting is extraordinary. 
"They sat in silence for a long stretch, sang songs about truth and mystery accompanied by a guitar and a choir, and heard a keynote address by a futurist who was escorted to the podium by seven liturgical dancers waving diaphanous scarves of pink and tangerine."

Well, wow.

Just wow.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Domino Effect

Major revelations, while thrilling, also create a lot of chaos. This is occurring within me and outside of me.

I'm realizing I'm not actually a commitment phobe at all. I'm fiercely committed to my work, for instance. My tendency in the past to cut and run sooner rather than later was informed and colored by the memory from that life. It instilled in me the certainty of death, accompanied by relief. Get it over with has been a life-long motivating philosophy, not because I fear commitment as I have assumed my entire adult life. When I think of that memory, in the "showers," the confluence of profound relief with the certainty of imminent death, well, that's quite a filter through which to view the world. Death, all my life until now, has represented the good part, the escape, the relief. I depended on that memory in some crucial way. It became, over my lifetime, an organizing principle around which I spun out my personal values and ethics. Good lord. No wonder my favorite line in Titanic was, "It'll all be over soon."

I should say I've never been suicidal. I believe death is god-given and not to be controlled by us. I've always seen it not only as a blessing, but as THE blessing. Now I'm not as certain of this belief - and actually most of my beliefs.

Meanwhile in my external environment, things continue to shake down. My beloved West Elm living room rug has suddenly decided to disintegrate. It is unravelling, even when I'm not in the room walking across it. The unravelling spots do not correspond to furniture placement. It is so bizarre. Apparently I'll be rug shopping, too. First the clothing, now the rug, what next?

In an effort to be pro-active and dance in shamanic alignment with these goings-on, I've thrown out all of my essential oils, old boxes of teabags and anything else I can find that might be past its expiration date. I replaced my toothbrush, bought a new bar of soap.

What else can I do but go with the flow of the unwinding paradigm? Onwards and upwards, indeed!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Joie de Vivre

How could, and why would, anyone love the tower card? To find it exciting or dynamic is one thing, but to love the card? To love the idea of a bolt of insight so profound, it knocks down a huge swath of unconscious constructs, blows holes in the grid of personal values from where every one of our stories arises - well - that is kind of crazy. The tower card wreaks havoc. Who would love that?

(sound of throat politely clearing) I would. In fact, I do.

I love nothing more than the rare moment when I change my mind about something I always believed was The Truth, no matter what that thing is. It's the awakening that thrills me, that shows me clearly how fragile the idea of reality is. It's humbling to be sure, but well worth it.

What is real? Truth is not set in stone by any means. Even neuroscientists say we are storytellers. We receive unbelievable amounts of sensory information every second. It's the job of the brain to decide what it all means - and there's the rub. My brain (yours, too) decides something is true, based on past experiences and according to personal values. Once the brain decides what is real, it takes an act of God to change that opinion. Keeping an open mind is difficult, it requires work to keep restructuring brain maps and neural networks.

And, too, a big change in perspective or belief reveals clearly just how fragile are our values and belief systems. They seem so sturdy when we keep reinforcing them. I think this is why fundamentalists are so dangerous and narrow minded. They keep laying the same paths in their brains, day after day. Pretty soon they are functionally incapable of seeing anything different from what they believe to be the One Truth. It scares me to think about it.

For someone as hard headed as I am, the tower card experience is sometimes the only way I'll see things from a fresh perspective. I try, but I am so passionate about my beliefs. I am invested in my beliefs. Well, aren't you?

I tilt towards fundamentalism by nature, hence the tower card is my friend.

Here's the insight I'm working with this morning. It's about how I've always been a quitter, I've always been willing to throw in the towel sooner rather than later in many different situations. I have never feared death, only staying alive. I have always been in a state of tense waiting for the disaster to unfold. I realize, as I unwind the torch of the Holocaust, that this outlook stems in a rather direct way from the sense of relief I felt at the end of that life I described briefly yesterday. Knowing we were all about to die was a relief. You can't imagine how happy I was to lay aside my emaciated, sickly body.

That millions of people died in the Holocaust, also in the bombing of Japan as well as in the battles from the Pacific to Europe to Russia to Africa - that they died is not what's seems awful to me about WWII. It's the suffering before they died that bothers me, always has. This point of view is resonant of that last thought - We are done here. At last I could put down the burden, I could let go. There was no sadness about dying, not even the tiniest bit. I welcomed it.

At least this is what I tell myself I can remember. Is it real? You tell me what's real, please? Whatever it is, this glimpse has shaped my behavior and outlook all my life.

But the tower card experience that is this crazy summer has opened my mind to a shift in that lifelong pattern. Closing in on age 60, I'm just about ready to fully, whole-heartedly embrace life for its own sake. Who would have ever guessed? Not me, I tell you.

It might seem ironic that this has come to me so late in life. I've always been a late bloomer. Better late than never, I'm thinking, hey?

L'chaim! And shalom.

Monday, August 6, 2012


The shamanic lifestyle is tricky. We live multi-faceted existences with many levels of goings-on, or as my teacher Pandora says, we are so many places doing so many things in this life and in all the lives.

Hell yeah.

In addition to buying clothes, becoming acquainted with my tattoo, slogging through the heat and humidity and of course in addition to my work as a bodyworker/healer, this summer I've been immersed in my memories of the Holocaust.

What I remember is being really afraid. I remember walking a long, long way, carrying heavy things. The only other scene that's clear is in the "showers." I remember the smell, how uncomfortable it was in there with all the naked people in the cold or the heat, can't remember which. It was dark but I remember catching the eye of a woman across the room, she pressed up against the wall by all the people, but with her head turned so she could see me.

It wasn't a particularly meaningful eye contact, though it was a deep connection that brought clarity. As we gazed at each other, the thought came to me, We're done here. It was such a relief!

One of the torches I carry has to do with these memories. I don't know why, but the Holocaust is with me, in me, of me. It's with me when I walk around taking pictures, at the Matchbox bar, in dreams and nightmares. It always has been. Of course I want to put the Holocaust torch on the stack of dead wood with which I will make a cleansing bonfire. And yet this torch is dear to me, essential, you could even say. It's a significant part of my identity and colors my world view, which I'm sure is not exactly a great thing. And yet, there it is.

While I figure out what to do with the Holocaust torch, the shamanic work of preparing for the cleansing bonfire is ongoing, not unlike a movie playing at the back of my mind/heart. The last few days, when I pay attention, I notice I've been unravelling the greasy, moldy rags that are wrapped around the tips of my torches. It's the rags that are moldy, not the sticks themselves. Setting fire to old, greasy, fuel soaked, moldy rags would create a toxic, not a cleansing bonfire. Once the sticks are clean, then I can ignite the fire. What will I do with the greasy rags? I wonder. Maybe I'll throw them out, just as I did with my mildewed clothing. Who knows?

When people ask me, "What have you been up to?" I usually have no idea how to respond. I'm living my life, cooking dinner, working on clients. I play Words with Friends and Scramble, read the New York Times on the ipad. I get on FB, post to the blog. I walk around, take pictures, do the laundry, you know. When I refer to my "real" life, I sound so boring. It is my internal life that's interesting. But to explain this in a casual conversation would make me sound like a total nut case. I may be a nut case, but I prefer to keep that truth from my neighbors and clients. Hence, I must seem quite dull to most folks.

Lately when asked what I've been doing, I've been able to tell the story of my mildewed clothing and show off the tattoo. It's better than saying nothing. I guess!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Unbearable Lightness of Shine

"Dear friend, your heart is a polished mirror. You must wipe it clean of the veil of dust that has gathered upon it, because it is destined to reflect the light of divine secrets." -al-Ghazzal

Are you seeing what I'm seeing in the above juxtaposition of images I've posted recently? Whoa. Being shiny is really hard work, but well worth it. Reflecting the light of divine secrets? Yes please!

Maybe there are some people who automatically shine. Many babies are naturally shiny. The most radiant among us, though, are the ones who pay attention to their inner light, who, with patience and compassion, gently clear the dust and detritus from their body/mind, every day.

Look at the Dalai Lama. That dude is so shiny! He makes it look so easy, but it isn't easy.

What I think is that if you spent 12 hours a day meditating on compassion, you'd be pretty shiny, too. However, the complexities of life for us regular folk interfere with practice on that scale. We have to do the laundry, pay the bills, after all. But most of us can carve out a few minutes, learn a few ways to practice radiance, if we are so inclined.

I love the way Sufis describe the work of becoming shiny. They speak often, and eloquently, of polishing their hearts. What a beautiful image!

How much polishing does it take to shine with the divine intensity of crepuscular rays? That requires a lot of light. If - when - I lay down all my torches, set them on fire, a "cleansing bonfire" as my spirit guide called it, the light from that fire could be fabulously shiny.

And still, I resist. But at least I have connected the dots, noticed the pattern. Baby steps.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Not yet

Have I created a bonfire of all my torches as my animal guide suggested the other day? No I have not. The more I think about torches, the more I realize the bonfire isn't likely to take place until later this fall, maybe not even until winter solstice.

I'm telling you, I have carried a LOT of torches in my time. Still carry quite a few. It feels like this:

You would think I would want to lay them in a fire pit and ignite them ASAP, wouldn't you? If I did, I could run wild and run free. But I resist. Part of that has to do with the dog days of summer - why create internal heat from my torch fire now, when it's hellacious here in the swamp? In addition, I believe deep down I can and will build something very artful with all these old torches. I recognize these are rationalizations, not valid arguments, but hey, apparently I am devoted to internal hoarding of lost loves, ideas whose time has passed, memories now faded and stained. At least for now.

I used to believe I could build something new from what's old and moldy, but maybe not so much since I threw away my mildewed clothing. Something has shifted, yet I hang tight to my torches.

My examination of the vast hoard of moldy torches continues. I could pretend to put them down and burn them, but what's the point of that?

And so I carry on, shlepping these damn heavy torches wherever I go. Sigh. What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

I guess!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I tend to think of myself as someone who doesn't have a style when it comes to clothes, but that's not accurate. I've always had a style or styles, all my life.

As a toddler, my style was Princess. I would have been more than happy to wear a tiara every day. I insisted on wearing dresses and mary janes, eschewed my mother's idea of proletarian dress, i.e. sensible shoes, plain brown overalls and such. Yuck! My sisters were fine with the modest, dressed down look, but I was not. I was shamed for my love of girly style, made to feel frivolous and vain. Can a four year old be vain? You tell me. It took years of therapy and noticing that many mothers allow their daughters to wear tutus, grow their hair to their waists, and sport tiaras whenever they damn well please before I was healed from the shame. It wasn't just me who loved the princess look!

As a grade schooler, I still loved my dresses. I remember distinctly some of my favorites from those years. I was also really into uniforms at that time, especially nursing uniforms. I learned how to fold a nurse cap from plain white paper. During that era I would have loved being allowed to wear a nurse's cap every day. I loved my Brownie and Girl Scout uniforms, too, festooned with pins of course. It was so pre-Michael Jackson. I did not wear one glove though, so maybe it wasn't Michael Jacksonesque.

As soon as I came into adolescence, I began dressing like a whore. The shorter the skirts, the tighter and more revealing the outfits, the better. I wore a lot of ugly make-up, too, including the then popular white frosted lipstick, in an effort to appear even more sexy. Oh dear. White lipstick? What were we thinking?

I see girls in early adolescence all the time whose style is similarly whore-ish, according to current styles. They must experiment, they must try to express themselves through dress and make-up, but oh - it is so embarrassing to see them! Good lord.

And then there was the summer of love, 1968. After that I adopted two styles: hippie chick and vintage. I loved my John Lennon teeshirt and bell bottom jeans - of course! - but I also began shopping at second hand clothing stores then. I loved wearing fashions from the 30s, 40s and 50s. Those clothes fit better than what was stylish at that time, aka Twiggy style clothing for women who were skinny with no waist or boobs or hips, and long legged, all of which I never was.

During the 80s, fashion took an unfortunate turn. Oh the frizzy hair, oh the shoulder pads and ugly balloon pants that fit tight around the ankles! I wore crazy Balinese-like prints, clothing with the biggest shoulder pads I could find. I dressed like a clown - but then, so did everyone else. I was also very fond of the Annie Hall look with the big pleated trousers, vests and hats. I had an aqua plaid sports jacket that I called my Paul Drake jacket. I loved that jacket.

Something happened to me during the 1990s. I don't know what it was but I can say for sure that I gave up on having a style. I adopted a look I call Bag Lady. I've dressed like a Bag Lady ever since then - until the day I threw away my mildewed clothes this week, that is. It's a brand new day. As of this week, I am no longer wearing old, faded, stained, worn out clothing. I'm starting from ground zero, so I can go any direction I want.

I'm over the anxiety about starting fresh, curious to see what I decide to wear. I am so over the Bag Lady look, my goodness! Gypsy style is quite in vogue this season. That appeals to me, definitely. And of course the REI active wear makes sense for a person whose work is physical and spends a lot of time outdoors.

Figuring out my style, after so many years of dressing like a shabby bag lady, is going to be fun. I'm jazzed.

What a crazy summer!