The Dance

We dance

step by step, beat by beat

to the rhythm of broken dreams.

Linked

we twirl and bend and fall

tears streak down hollow cheeks.

Worn out soles

and ragged feet

buckle calves tightly wound.

Eyes glossed over

in painful pasts

spin sorrow refusing to drown.

At the end of this bright tunnel of love

darkness waits alone.

This song will end

the dance will fade

my heart will decompose.

Misconception

Misconception hides around the corner from me as I navigate through alleys of my heart.

Usually, it leaps out just after I pass, falling flat on the broken pavement behind me while I focus on what lies ahead.

Sometimes I feel wind move behind me, rustling hairs I’ve shaved off the back of my neck.

I don’t turn around.

I don’t want to hear sympathetic murmurings of those who think they know me.

I don’t want to see the confused gaze averted when it locks on my stoicism.

I don’t want to taste the stinging heat of shame dripping from your tilted head as you pass judgment even as you claim to be trying to understand.

I can clear the air, I guess.

I can lift the veil and show you who I am today, right now with my heart so full and my soul settled in a rhythm I wrote all by myself.

I can let you in enough to stop the rationalizing group discussions and mental gymnastics your misconception uses as a dance floor.

I can take misconception on, my sword of words ready to duel; I know in the cage where we battle I win.

I can be explained.

But you like the way misconception feels.

You like the mystery and drama surrounding unanswered questions you don’t think to ask me.

You like the way it screams at you; tantalizing blows to your core.

You like the stories you tell, connecting you to me.

So you don your misconceived mask, crouching in the shadows until I pass, never knowing there are no corners here.

I see you, Misconception.

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.

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.

Truths

Today I saw myself differently.

I saw how others see me…how others misunderstand me…how others judge me…

And I understood why.

Not because I am secure…confident…in who I am…or what I believe…

But because I am honest…about who I am…and what I believe…

And I refuse to pretend.

I saw how it can hurt…to feel like you have to try to be…something else…and how I can come along…and tell you to be you…and you can’t…for thousands of reasons I will never understand…but for thousands of reasons that are valid and true for you…and how you might resent me…maybe even hate me…because I am doing something…you think you want to do…or you think I believe you must do.

But…I can’t pretend…and I have thousands of reasons why I can’t…and those thousands of reasons are valid and true…for me.

So take your reasons…and your truths…and live them…to the best of your ability…and let me take my reasons…and my truths…and do what I need to do for me.

But please know…that even though I believe something…strongly…openly…loudly…I do not judge your beliefs…no matter how hard it is…for me to hear them.

Father Of Mine

The discussion was about Divine Intervention and whether it is an integral aspect of belief.

It was mostly intellectual with the bouts of emotions (that always seem to trickle through with me) getting properly addressed and shelved by the most significant influence in my life.

First, my mother left.

She tried to pipe in with emotions at the forefront.

It wasn’t the point so she lost interest.

Then my brother tried to lighten the mood with irrelevant quips.  He went back and forth from the computer screen, seemingly trying to take part, but on his terms which were to change the topic and make everyone laugh.

Soon it was just my father.

On my side of the world, the topic pulled my husband in and sat him next to me as we worked through a complex topic that needed less than a screen between us all.

My father closed with a comment that made my heart sing.

“And that’s all for this session of intellectual conversation between father and daughter.”

And I flew.

My husband and I talked about why our stimulating, interesting conversation bored or turned off other members of my family.  He wondered if they don’t know how to participate in open communication based solely on intellect.  I’m not sure that’s true.  I supposed that maybe they thought it was a fight.  Or that it was a session between teacher and student – that he was trying to guide me.

I thought it was incredible bonding and loving.

Maybe that’s because everything I always thought about my relationship with my father was based on a childish view on genders.

I was positive my father wished I were a boy.  My theory was that he enjoyed our learning sessions but was secretly upset that it meant nothing because I was unfortunate to be born a female.  I saw the look in his eyes when he practically begged his sons to learn and then they would drift off or get angry when they didn’t like the way he taught them.  Then he would reluctantly sit down with me.  I was so jealous of them.  I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want his attention.  I thought his brain focusing on me was the most amazing thing in the world and I craved that intellectual attention.

I still think it’s great.  And I still crave it.

But after this long over-due conversation I realize that all those years of resentment were based on nothing but my silly insecurities that held me back from a deeper relationship with my father.

I saw a look in his eyes that I recognized from my childhood, sitting at the dining room table trying not to jump in with an answer to his question before he completed his thoughts.

He enjoyed every minute of those learning sessions.

That look in his eyes that I took to mean disappointment that I wasn’t a son…I’m pretty damn sure it was a look of pride that it was his daughter who was capable, willing and craving to grow up to be the one he could stroll through the throes of intellectual connectivity with.

So until next time…

Your Daughter.

P.S.  Is this a good, non-sensational blog post? Wouldn’t want to disappoint you…:)

Loving You

Come quick!

My husband’s shout propels me off my seat and out on the balcony.  The flock of White Storks are back.  They are flying overhead in a haphazard pattern, lazily flapping their massive wings as they circle their way over our heads and past the mountains.

I am leaning against the gate, my head raised, my toes lifting me up slightly so I can see a bit more, my arms extending towards the wonder that just flew by and the arm of my husband wrapped around my waist.

I exhale as the last straggler disappears from view.

We go inside.  I make a small remark about wanting to go to the Hula Valley to see the birds migrating before the season is over when I notice that my husband’s face is splitting with a beaming smile and a strange look in his eyes.

I love you.

I burst into peals of laughter as he says it over and over.

It’s been more than seven years since the first time he said he loved me.

He said he loved me even though I rolled my eyes when he pointed out a beautiful flower.

He said he loved me even though I told him zoos gave me a headache and that I had no interest in seeing fish swim around in an aquarium.

He said he loved me even though I told him that he could hike all he wanted without me.

He said he loved me even though I smirked as he caught a cockroach and freed it outside.

He said he loved me even though I made a face when he started talking about science.

He said he loved me even though I insisted that knowing how to tell birds apart was a weird and awkward bit of knowledge, especially for a kid growing up in Brooklyn.

Seven years of loving me without needing me to take an interest in what he thought interesting.

Seven years of smelling the flowers as I waited impatiently.

Seven years of appreciating the world around me while I took little notice.

Seven years of loving someone with an incredibly different disposition.

Until…suddenly…here I am…getting excited about a flock of birds on their way home from their winter retreat…looking up the differences between Great White Pelicans and White Storks…and laughing hysterically with someone who doesn’t quite know how he could change a person so much…just by loving them.