Triggered

Triggered.

You laugh at the word and point out how overused it is these days.

You sit in your leather chairs, backs comfortably reclined as you swivel behind the glossy desk proclaiming your entitlement.

It is so easy for you to roll your eyes and then apologize for your reaction. Your genitalia allows you to retract at will. It hangs between your legs, launching you onto the high horse you barely even know you’re riding.

Yes, yes, she was compelling. Attractive too. Surprisingly believable.

You marvel at this circus and flare your nostrils at the injustice and casually wonder how all the other women are taking this.

You ask them politely, giving them the floor as though they suddenly matter and you are very cautious not to assume you understand, even as your head tilts gently to the side and nods in misplaced solidarity.

You don’t even know what we’re talking about.

Some of you try. There is sincerity in your attempt to open eyes conditioned to see only half the world. The best of you lower your voices and open your ears, acknowledging this moment as the start of change, even as you are reminded that it is deja vu all over again.

Over and over and over again.

Triggered.

One in 5 stare at their screens and watch their personal hell parade in front of their eyes in varying degrees of burning shame. Four in 5 have had their eyes peeled open since they were taught to beware, beware, the beast is always out to get you; your virtue protects you from becoming another statistic. One in 3 tasted it. Two in 3 witnessed it.

Triggered.

You sit with your knees spread, airing out the sword you hold above our heads while our thighs squeeze together and our bodies clench in collective resistance.

Triggered.

We hashtag our anger and air your dirty laundry because we are done.

Triggered.

We march and we stand tall and we proclaim our strength and you pretend to see us.

Triggered.

You laugh at the word and point out how overused it is these days.

Triggered.

Your laugh is uncomfortable because you see us rising up as a solid wall of broken women triggered by memories of generations of your betrayal. The trigger she pulled when she stood before the world and yanked the comfortable rug from under your feet, revealing mountains of naked truths hiding beneath it cleared your vision long enough for you to glimpse the ugliness of your desire.

And you are triggered.

Originally published on The Times of Israel.

Goodbye, Cobblestone Road

This is a very painful post for me to write; one that crept up over the years on occasion but willingly returned to its suppression box when I pushed it in.

My husband and I have been married for over 13 years. Before our marriage, we spent intense, life-altering years with a revolving group of friends who experienced traumatic moments with us, sharing our blood, sweat, and tears profoundly. Our life is full now; family, friends and evenings spent unwinding with content happiness fill the nooks and crannies of our once broken hearts. We worked hard for it, and we are proud of it. But then a tug – always suddenly – makes us yearn to dig up a long-buried life.

The week of my husband’s 35th birthday the door swung open and blew his oldest friend in with fragments almost forgotten. The initial joy of reconnecting overshadowed the caution we knew we should be holding out in front of us like a shield. We let our guard down. It burned.

As his birthday drew to a close, we sat together, just the two of us, and sewed up the hole ripped through our carefully reconstructed souls, reaffirming our place in time and letting the past settle in the dust behind us.

Still, it is grief that follows us into the present.

This is a eulogy.

To all the friends we’ve loved and lost, we remember you fondly while we walk on without you.

* * * * * * * * * *

The past blew into town, whirling around in a drunken stupor and a cloud of cannabis.

Drawn from a place of need, we reached towards it desperately.

But the past is dead.

Still, we tried.

We thought it would feel comfortable, like slipping into a pair of well-worn shoes.

It was familiar.

The chaos and uncertainty shot through our veins and almost had us hooked.

Almost.

The noose hung slack against our necks, and we were transported to that moment when the floor fell out beneath our feet, and we plummeted to our living graves.

Breathlessly, desperately, we reached out for each other and unwound our throats from ropes as soft as cotton.

We had lost our footing for a moment. We had been deceived by the sounds and smells of what we thought was our worth. We had been drawn in the colors and spaces we no longer belonged.

We stepped away and held each other in arms more secure because they shook. We stepped away and breathed the air we chose to fill around us. We stepped away and came back to a place where we are always loved and sometimes lost and never tormented. We stepped away and left the past whirling around in chaotic memory where it belongs.

Burials are painful, but we cannot leave the rotting flesh exposed for all to see.

Somewhere behind us where we won’t look back, we buried familiar faces and loyal friends. We will always mourn them. We can never get them back.

Resume Me

I write the cover letter, attach the file and hit send.

For the hundredth time, I sigh.

My resume travels across the interwebs to be reviewed by someone who will not read between the lines. I will be drawn out and imagined as someone I will not recognize, and a door will be closed in my face because I don’t fit.

I will be classified and shaped and discarded.

I will be ignored.

The words I carefully constructed to define who I am will carry no weight on a screen.

I wonder how I define people.

Do I also see them as their experiences? Do I judge their lives by the stars that aligned the moment they were born?

Maybe I do.

Maybe my bias is just as devasting to others as the emptiness I feel when I wait for someone to open that file and draw the lines that I know do not define me based on the way my life, full of unexpected curveballs and experiences out of my control, is spelled out on one page.

I cry out, “Meet me first; hear how I view my shape before I list my virtues and wait for approval!”

I cry out to the ruffling pages of people who mean so much more than the words and the outside reflection of things they have done because that’s where they were or because that’s what they thought at that time. I await in the silence of one-page profiles of people filling the air around me, falling to the ground in a heap where they will be stepped on because their resume said that they were not worth a look in the eye.

I cry out to a world that will not hear because I speak in a tongue made for the street and trip over the one used by those sitting at a desk in an ivory tower.

I click send and I lose another line in my shape and I know that if I need to do this another minute more, I will have erased the best of me.

Taking a Stand for Sarah Tuttle-Singer

This is a sacred space.

It is my quiet – where my thoughts flow across a clean, white screen with no smudges and smears.

It is a private space with a door opening to the outside allowing others to peek in within the safety of words drawing boundaries with their intimacy.

I write boldly about my feelings in the most cautious way.

I use words that make it clear I am in control, and you have no place here.

I don’t get many comments or likes.

I get viewers…readers who peek into my soul and know that they belong on their side of the glass…watching and listening while minding the signs.

KEEP OFF

PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH

DO NOT CROSS RED LINE.

I drew the lines carefully and consciously when I first began finding myself in this sacred space. I was afraid of any response – afraid someone else would enter and rip me apart. I wrote deeply always from a place of feeling…of individual perception…of no judgment.

I feel…I am…my heart…my soul…

Rarely you…you don’t belong here in my innermost feels.

It was a good strategy, even though it isolated me in the blogosphere and kept me under the radar.

But I need to shatter the walls for a moment to talk about Sarah Tuttle-Singer.

For years I read her words with an eagerness pulling at my heart.

Her sentences painted pictures I could immerse in; her thoughts turned me inside out and forced me to re-examine where I thought I fit in.

And I watched her sacred space fall prey to hate.

Vicous, horrifying hate.

But I’m a coward, so I continued lurking and quietly congratulating myself for keeping my little corner here empty.

I don’t want to be a coward.

I want to stand up and say how much I respect her as a writer, how much I admire her courage to face off against all the assholes. I want to stand beside her and swing at each jerky fastball heading her way. I want to claim how little of a shit I give about our differences and how much I connect to our similarities.

The thing is, I’m scared of you.

Here’s the biggest secret I hide beneath my broken past…

In my here and now, with all the pain and suffering behind me, I am what you some of you would call a liberal fucktard. I am so open-minded my brains sometimes fall out. I lean wildly to the left even as my roots try to pull me towards the center. I fight for equality and understanding and acceptance. I’m not always articulate, and I don’t have an academic background to lean against. But I’m a severe empath, and I get ravaged by other people’s feelings.

I’m also deathly afraid of you yelling at me.

I retreat and retreat until my head is deeply embedded in any sand it can find just so I don’t have to defend the thoughts I can barely control.

And then I read words I recognize as my truth, and I have to stand up and join the fight.

I don’t know if I can do more than this.

I don’t know how much my heart can take.

I may go back to bleeding all over this space the way I always have.

I may seal myself in and curl into the ball on the floor you don’t have to address.

But for this one moment, I am standing up and screaming out to the world from inside my warm, safe cave.

Just shut up.

Sarah Tuttle-Singer should be able to pour herself out onto blank pages without you telling her to die, or that she should be raped, or that she is evil.

You don’t have to like what she says, or who she is if you want to make it personal.

You can disagree with her and try to debate whatever you want with her.

Enough with the hate I can feel sizzling through my screen.

Maybe try to listen.

To open up and see her soul. It’s right there in front of you.

It’s beautiful.

 

 

 

Paused.

It is ugly, this beauty.

It aches in a way that tastes of bile.

The light reflecting off the wall shines a spotlight on the pain…the empty feeling where feeling should be…her presence missing from the picture.

Dusk.

The in-between.

Where the day is and isn’t.

Starting and beginning…the pause between the two.

I am paused.

She was just here…with me.. this exact spot only yesterday three years ago.

Paused.

She paused.

And all I want is to be able to stop time from taking me away from that moment.

Disappear into the stillness

Find her holding her breath waiting for me to start the clock again.

She is missing in the space between time…missing me…the way I miss her.

Time is ruthless.

Night is falling.

It will not let me wait for her.

Letting Grief out to Play

Every year, I would sit down during the three weeks and write. I always wrote about pain and suffering, the land of Israel and the idea of redemption. I couldn’t run away from relating to the entire period so intensely and savagely.

Fearfully.

There was always an element of fear that flowed through my emotions. Maybe it was how I was raised. Maybe it was the depressing contatas I sat through every year in Camp Bnos. Maybe it was the Holocaust stories we read every Tisha B’Av. Maybe it was the song of Eicha sending shivers down my spine.

Maybe it was irrational.

Maybe it was real.

Some time has passed since I connected to this mourning period. I have sat shiva. I have ripped my clothes. I have recited kaddish at a grave. Somewhere along the way, I lost the part of me that mourned for the utopia I believed in.

Losing belief; I think that may be what I am mourning for.

***

I used to feel it.

I used to be able to touch the history of the Jewish people, to smell the burning temple, to hear the wails of mothers walking the narrow alleyways, clutching the emaciated bodies of their young. I used to have the torment that connected me to my heritage, to my land, to my people.

It’s gone now.

I buried some of it with my baby boy. Some of it slipped into the bag of my past I had to let go. I shoved a chunk of it into the dirt that encased my sister. The rest dissolved into the air around me.

Gone.

I sort of miss it.

Without it, I don’t know why I am here in this land. I am not sure where my place is among my people. I am lost in a world that doesn’t understand the unbearable weight of grief thousands of years old.

Without it, I have to view my own pain as immeasurable against the pain endured by the masses. I have suddenly become an individual with a hurt that cannot be locked in the confines of three weeks, taken out to be inspected for relatability on one day.

Without it, my grief is my own. It comes and goes as it pleases. It has no laws to follow, no schedule to keep. It pulls me back from the little joys I reach for and violently wakes me in the night.

I miss the container within the giant storage box where my grief used to lay; no different than the millions of little boxes cramped together in a collective hold. I miss the opening of the gates as the flock of grief poured up and over and pretended to make a difference for less than a month. I miss the quiet collection as the flock sunk back into the small spaces and clasped the lid shut tight.

I hate that I miss it.

I hate that it’s gone.

***

The feelings expressed above are rooted in my personal experiences. No two stories are alike, but we can find similarities in our journeys. How do you relate with the concept of mourning on Tisha B’Av? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

How to Lose Your Faith and Keep Your Friends

how to lose your faith and keep your friends

I am one of the few lucky ones. I have my husband and my children on this journey with me. I have my family who loves and accepts me. I have learned to connect with the people I love in ways that don’t hurt. We talk about life and feelings and our shared past and our interests and the weather when there’s not much else to say. We don’t talk about religion and we try to avoid politics. I know pain and disappointment linger in the cracks of our relationships but I try my best to be open, loving and understanding. I can love you even if you hate my choices. And I know you love me even though you hate my choices.

Friends are not family.

But I am still one of the lucky ones.

This one is for you, my friend.

***

You choose your friends.

You find your common ground and you hang out in the same places and have similar schedules that make it impossible to do anything together on any random night.

You save your friendships for the end of the week.

Your friends are in the same social circle you wander around, even if you are always on the outskirts and they are in the center.

You meet in shul or outside the shul and you invite each other over for Shabbat meals. You sit in the park while your kids run around and you catch up. You talk about your life and your feelings and your kids and your politics and your interests and your religion and you feel connected.

You form friendships out of a religious belief even though you have come to realize that the people behind the label mean more to you than the belief you may or may not share. And you treasure your friends so you think about them when you think about what you may or may not believe.

You need to put yourself first so you make some decisions and you walk off a cliff. Your friends don’t know because you didn’t tell them you were planning on hurtling through the air with a wall of rocks to your right and vast open air to your left. There might be a body of water beneath the clouds you are plummeting through. Maybe not. Your friends don’t know so they don’t know you survived.

You decide not to go to shul anymore and so you don’t see your friends quite as often. You take off your head covering and someone raises an eyebrow. You start disappearing from school pickup because you are going through too much to explain to other people. You make some uncomfortable comments about rabbis. You show up at the park on Shabbat in weekday clothes.

Then you write some blog posts and think about the last time you got together at a friend’s house for a Friday night meal.

You survived but you’re not unscathed.

You go back to the park on Shabbat afternoon because you crave something you didn’t know you ever had.

You find that you can still connect with your friends as long as you don’t address the elephant you dragged into the room. You talk about your life and your feelings and your kids and your politics and your interests and sometimes even religion.

But you want to talk about the elephant because the weight of it is slowly draining you and you can’t keep pretending it isn’t there.

Then you find yourself in the park and you are with your friend and you are talking about the elephant and it is shrinking because your friend is talking about it with you.

And you realize that you can lose your faith and keep your friends if you have the kind of friends like mine.

***

The feelings expressed above are rooted in my personal experiences. No two stories are alike, but we can find similarities in our journeys. Have you ever felt this way about a friendship? Let me know in the comments below.