A Million Shades of Green

I’m like Garfield, just different, she says as she pulls on Freddie Mercury’s orange fur, baiting him.

I like lasagna, but I hate Sundays.

She laughs as Freddie pounces. I don’t bother disciplining her about the cat again. Their love is wild and free-spirited. Plus, she likes the way he makes her look like a warrior.

Get it Ima? Cause Sunday here is like Monday and I hate going back to school.

I’m half smiling as I settle into my seat on the bus.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday.

I didn’t tell her how I relish these quiet mornings at the start of my week, how I put my best foot forward and make commitments to myself I know I won’t keep. I didn’t tell her how I hate Fridays and the crippling disappointment I feel when I realize I didn’t change the world since Sunday. I also didn’t tell her to withhold her love from the cat so he’ll stop biting her.

There doesn’t seem to be a point in full disclosure here.

I like the way my brain races along with me just outside the window. I think thoughts I know will become words I’m going to have to release.

My thoughts are green now.

It’s so lush outside. Just a few small downpours and the fields came alive. They’re dancing with shades of green; bursting with something so natural it aches.

I breathe deep. When the earth is resurrected, I become more alive.

The bus rolls up to a stop. My forehead is pressed to the cool glass. I am calm, and the kind of thoughtful that means overflowing with thoughts that pull me in every direction.

The green is still flashing by. Now it is tinged with olive and adorned with red, black, brown and metal.

The kids are heading back to base.

This green is freshly laundered and smells like home. This green is hulking bags full of more clean green slung over slight frames, tiny young frames, supported by laced up boots. This green boards the bus again for a week, two, maybe six. This green is going back to serve.

My thoughts are muddled green and Sunday, tossed with fresh blades of grass and topped with goodbyes.

…I hate Sundays…Separation Sundays…green plastic soldiers…blowing in the wind…grass is greener…on which side?…teenage warriors…mutant green turtles…samurai swords and M-16s…turning tween, then green, ya’alla gever…crisp slacks and burlap sacks…holding on a moment longer…sending out a teenage soldier…see you on the flip side…don’t forget to tell the world I tried…

Green churns through me as I head to Jerusalem to make something of my life. Green gathers at the Central Bus Station, showing up to serve all over this sprouting country.

Don’t forget to pick up candles.

Colored candles, bright and bold and full of light. We’ll light them one by one and talk about gratitude.

When the yellow and white and orange and drops of blue dancing flames flicker in my windowsill, I’ll be thinking of green-clad children saying goodbye.

Source: Times of Israel

Ceasefire

In between war and peace, there is a space where words like ceasefire float around as though they mean something more than pause.

For me, a ceasefire is like a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. You know it’s something you’re going to have to deal with. You just don’t know how long you have to brace yourself for whatever this ultimately means.

I remember the pit in my stomach that formed when we knew my sister was full of colon cancer. For 22 months, it sat and grew thorns that jabbed at me incessantly. When she died, the mass inside me emptied so fast that I was left with a gaping hole I didn’t know how to live with. It took me a long time to replace it with things that brought me pleasure and comfort.

I’ve been here through intifadas and wars. I’ve seen the cycle enough to know what it means to be given a ceasefire. And the pit is growing again. This time, I feel the entire country twisting around with me in discomfort. I don’t know the answer. I wonder if there even is one. But I know that we cannot go on much longer like this.

This is what Ceasefire means to me.

* * *

I have been here before.

So many times before.

Words depicting bloodshed and war shot from the only weapon I’ve ever held comfortably in my hands exploded in empty fields of papers no one will ever read.

I wrote of pain and suffering and heartache and confusion and the humanity inside me that is ripped apart by my need for safety and my need for peace.

I am flesh and bone, so I duck and cover, but I am heart and soul, so I rise and resist.

I don’t understand any of it.

I don’t know why I am chained to my history and my people any more than I understand why I am sympathetic to mothers on the other side of the wall I hate but hide behind as I teach my children tolerance and love and how to communicate effectively to end conflict.

This region at the center of turmoil and battles in the name of gods who don’t have the decency to show up and put a stop to this endless loop of hatred and fear eats me alive and sustains me at once.

Sinatra croons in my head as I watch my country flirt with war.

“Bang bang, she shot me down

Bang bang, I hit the ground

Bang bang, that awful sound

Bang bang, my baby shot me down”

Bang bang.

Ceasefire.

Bury the dead. Bandage the wounds. Build another wall and burn another bridge.

Ceasefire.

Regroup, reload, relaunch.

Cease.

Cease to what? Hate? Exist? Believe?

This land has hooked me, reined me in and entangled me in her torment. I cannot pry myself away from her now.

Ceasefire.

Simmering in the quiet air, raging deep beneath broken trust, our fire holds still another day.

Ceasefire.

Hanging for a moment in time, it is too heavy to remain suspended between hope and reality and will come crashing to the broken ground.

And I…

I am here, planted in a land that was buried alive in a shallow grave. She is slowly decomposing, her stench cannot be masked. I can’t describe how her wretchedness roils my insides yet fills me with a yearning hunger never satiated. This is not prose – it can’t be written from imaginative thoughts. It is a vivid description of the land I feel beneath my feet. It is more real than I will ever be.

This land cannot cease to fire; it is the only way she knows how to breathe.

Originally published on The Times of Israel

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.

 

 

 

Dry eyes

My grandmother ran out of Poland towards Russia with only the summer clothes she was wearing and spent the next five years seeking warmth in a world that had frozen over.

I was raised on her story, as well as all the stories of my generation’s grandparents. We were their proof that it had been worth it and we were reminded of that as often as possible.

Black and white images of striped prisoners dominated my youth and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that my life was a living testimony to six million corpses.

I devoured memoirs and drew black and white sketches of emaciated Jews melting in pools of blood. My drawings hung on the walls as trophies, as though they meant we had won.

I knew what gas chambers were before I had ever watched a Disney movie. I scoffed at Socialism before I learned about Democracy. I could recognize Hitler and Stalin and swastikas before I ever saw a picture of JFK. I wasn’t brought up in the shadow of the Holocaust, I was brought up in the tangible fear and hope and pain and joy of a generation who went through something they either couldn’t stop talking about or never mentioned at all.

I didn’t think death and destruction could faze me; I was basically a survivor.

Almost 11 months ago, my ninety-something-year-old grandmother walked across the green grass leading up to the hole they were lowering my 17-year-old sister into. She stood as tall as possible for a 4 foot-something woman and looked straight ahead. “Dayeinu,” she stated. She remained stoic and unmoving throughout the week, solid as a rock. When someone told my father that we don’t ask questions; we just cry, she marched over and made another statement. “We ask questions,” she said, “we don’t cry.”

At one point I escaped the crowds and went upstairs to the room with the candle where we watched my sister die. I took out her paints and brushes and covered one of the canvases she never got to use in the colors of my pain. The release was more powerful than a thousand tears. I brought it down to share with my family and someone said, “show Bubby.” I sat down at her feet and held up the painting. She stared at it and patted my hand. “Bubby, I can’t share any other way,” I said. I wanted her to know that my eyes dry up when it hurts, but the words caught in my throat. “I know,” she said, “I see you crying.”

My grandmother survived more than the Holocaust. She survived immigration, she survived the loss of her mother, she survived the loss of her son, she survived the loss of her husband and she just survived the loss of her granddaughter. Dayeinu.

For two years I held my breath as I waited for my sister to die. Then she died and I stopped breathing. For almost a year I have built up a tolerance to air filling my lungs. I can learn to live.

The siren blared yesterday and rang in my head all day. I wanted to think of the lives lost…I really tried…but I have carried their memories in my essence since the day I was born and yesterday I suddenly felt like I wanted to break away.

I turned on the TV and the images of my youth jumped out at me on every channel. Nothing made my soul churn, it was like flipping through a worn out photo album and knowing each picture before getting to the next page.

Without warning, images of Syrian children flew across the room at me and slammed against my chest.

I thought of a child running for the border with just the clothes on her back towards a future she could never be certain of. I thought of her grandchildren, raised on her losses. I thought of her eyes drying up.

The ringing of the siren subsided. I took a deep breath and I reached for those paints and brushes.

My grandmother’s story was told. It is time to tell the ones that are screaming out at us from behind our screens.

Source: Dry eyes

When There Is Nothing Left To Say

There is so much I could say…so much to write about…

I could write about my sister…and her cancer…and what it feels like to be so far away…to be torn between my children and the baby I held in my arms at 14 years old…whispering my secrets to one of my only family members who couldn’t be angry at me…who I knew would never judge me.

I could write about my daughter…and how she has blossomed and regressed at the same time…how third grade is revealing what the course of her school life will look like…how she reminds me of me…at my most vulnerable age…and why that scares me.

I could write about my oldest brother and his grief…his mother-in-law and her table full of guests…how she battled another type of cancer…and lost.

I could write about my other sister…who is taking one day at a time…and trying her best…and how proud I am of her…and how much I wish I believed in prayer so I could get on my knees each day and pray to keep her going.

I could write about yet another sister…who is changing her life…is making emotional sacrifices she never thought she could make…so that she can become the big sister who swoops in and gets things done…perfectly each time…and how I wish I could speak to her every day.

I could write about my sister who is most like me…and so could never be written about…because it would not do justice to who she is…and I could never express how much I miss her anyway.

I could write about my parents…and how I almost lost them…and how I thought that whatever progress was made was never going to be actualized…until cancer came along and changed the direction of the path we had embarked on.

I could write about Israel…and the blood that is spilled…and the daily attacks.

I could write about Europe…and Paris…and Belgium and the United States and Obama and the outrages and the silences and the hypocrisies and double standards.

I could write about it all.

I should.

But I won’t.

Because tears are streaming down my cheeks.

Pain is flowing out of my eyes.

Sorrow is stopping my heart.

This broken world is spinning too fast.

And I can no longer feel enough to breathe.

All I can do is spill it out…through my fingers…onto the keys that form the letters to write…that I have nothing left to say.

Our Dying World

The world is bleeding.

She is heaving her last breath…convulsing in pain…as she tries to heal wounds she doesn’t know how to lick.

She has been beheaded…stabbed…shot…

She had been blown to bits…burned alive…ravaged…

She has been raped…sold…defiled…

She has been trampled on…spit on…stoned…

She has been through every imaginable torture…and even more unimaginable deceits…

Yet she still struggles to survive…even now as she slips away…

Because she only knows how to love…how to give…how to believe…

She will not understand that to stop the pain she will have to open her core and swallow humanity alive so that she can continue to exist.

She will never do that.

She will die.

And we will die with her.

I Am Israel

They want me to live in fear as great as their hate

To cower as I walk

To tremble every day.

But I will not.

For I am stronger than they can ever understand

Taller than I seem

Fearless as I’ll ever be.

I represent love

Beauty

Peace.

I am filled with purpose

I am resilient

I am powerful.

I am Israel.

And no matter how many wounds I lick

No matter how many bodies I bury

No matter how much blood seeps into my core

I WILL NOT DIE.