Friday, January 24, 2014

977. Glow

A lovely essay by the Coffee Shop Rabbi--please read the whole thing:

"Chanting My Way into Torah"

Then I begin to notice how the melody comments upon the text: emphasize this word, that phrase.  Make a sort of soprano hiccup (geresh!) on one little preposition.  Gradually the text warms up, or I warm up to it. The little incense table begins to take shape, and glow.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

976. Presence

Thanks to a link in this op-ed by David Brooks, "The Art of Presence," I found this interesting piece about how to respond and react when someone you know experiences a trauma:

A New Normal: Ten Things I've Learned About Trauma

The author, Catherine Woodiwiss, is recovering from a serious accident. She writes, among other wise words:

2.  Presence is always better than distance.
There is a curious illusion that in times of crisis people “need space.” I don’t know where this assumption originated, but in my experience it is almost always false. Trauma is a disfiguring, lonely time even when surrounded in love; to suffer through trauma alone is unbearable. Do not assume others are reaching out, showing up, or covering all the bases.
It is a much lighter burden to say, “Thanks for your love, but please go away,” than to say, “I was hurting and no one cared for me.” If someone says they need space, respect that. Otherwise, err on the side of presence.

I've learned this past year that some people seem to prefer the "unbearable," suffering alone, to its alternative: allowing others in at a time when you're most vulnerable. Allowing them to see you at your worse and weakest, and trusting that they'll love you no matter what. But if you don't love yourself, then it's very hard to accept that others do. Pushing them away becomes a survival tactic to help maintain the status quo—but  ignores the fact that in times of trauma, the old status quo generally flies out the window.

I don't know what Judaism says about this, but I keep coming back to Pirkei Avot: "Find yourself a teacher." In my experience, when I've been at my weakest it's helped immeasurably to imagine everyone around me, from the guy who sells me coffee in the morning, to my clients, to my friends and rabbis, as a teacher, and remember that at my emptiest I can't possibly have any idea of what they might offer to fill that space. So I try to let them in.

975. Expansion

"Spread over us your shelter of peace," we ask God every Friday night in the Hashkivenu prayer. We can interpret this to mean that peace requires expansion, observed the rabbi at services this week, since God needs to create something wide for the shelter to be able to cover us.

But what if only God expands in this scenario? What if we remain closed--will peace reach those places within us that stay hidden? The question made me think of the times I've walked down the street with a friend and it started to rain. If my friend has an umbrella and I don't, then I'll try to squeeze under hers. Invariably I'll wrap my arms around myself in an attempt to become as small as possible, but that usually backfires; it creates an awkward, uneven gait, and I end up bumping into shoulders and elbows and getting soaked. The only way I can stay dry is to relax and synchronize my steps with the shelter-bearer.

I think that's the big problem with achieving peace--we're afraid that expansion will reveal those parts of us we don't want to see. It's one thing to pray that God, or the other country or person, will become wide and open to reveal new shelters and pathways. It's not so easy to reciprocate, however.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

974. Happy 2014, and here I am again

It sure has been a long time, well over a year. I'm still here, and doing fine. I've been very busy with a new business on top of my old business; both are fun and complicated, and take up too much time. Not a whole lot of creative juice has been left over for writing, though, which has been OK; the new stuff has mostly filled that need, and more.

But I'm still trying to make sense of one of those bullet points from way back at the end of '12:

  • ended a long friendship that had become toxic; as sad as a death, and I will be mourning this loss for a long time

Mostly, in my experience, time really does heal all wounds, but not always. Sometimes time creates scars weaker and far uglier than the original thin skin. It's taken me over a year to understand that there will be no closure to this particular pain and I need to learn to live with it, move past it, and change its story into one of comfort and compassion. I need to stop imagining that the clock will magically turn back and all will be well. I've tried to heal in many different ways; maybe reviving this blog and watching myself think in public, so to speak, will help.

Aside from all that: yes, I continue to chant and sing! And I'm still thinking about how the meaning of all those words and notes (and, in my art, their shapes and colors) fits into the larger story of Torah and life. Maybe I'll write about that, or maybe not. Either way, I hope to again be able to make time and space to write something, anything, every once in awhile.