Friday, November 20, 2009
Me? Aw, I'm just getting ready for ANOTHER attempt at leading services at my synagogue tonight. I did it for the first time several weeks ago, for the parasha "Lech Lecha" which is Genesis 12:1-17:27, when God tells Abram to go, and leave his home.
I'm good at the actual prayer leading, but the sermonizing was a new thing to me. I felt like my sermon was too bookish, too studied, too much reference to other Rabbis and not enough me or now. It's interesting, for sure, but I think I put some people who really don't care that much to sleep.
This time I was more inspired and a little less hard on myself as I was writing it, and I think it turned out better. I'll post tonight's dvar Torah after I give it. Until then, here's my overstudious one on Lech Lecha:
Hi everyone. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Shel West. Shel is short for Shelly, which in turn is short for Rachelle. Just don’t call me Anna, even though that’s my first name. I’ve never gone by Anna, only Shelly. Anna Rachelle West. It’s a pretty name and it is mine, but I rarely use the whole thing. Names are funny things. They define us as much as we define them. I never felt like an Anna, maybe because I was never called that. It was only in recent years that I started to call myself Shel. I wanted to be more grown up, more adult, without the sing-song E at the end of my name. It only sort of stuck.
It was hard to try and change my name. Almost as hard to change myself, my habits and behaviors. Sometimes, you have to change your location to change yourself, as we’re about to find out.
We’re at the beginning of the beginning of the Torah still, only the third Parasha in as we read Lech Lecha. The famous line heads the portion, it’s a well known song, and it commands Moses to move. Go, from your land, your birthplace, your house – successively smaller ideas of home, larger to smaller – and I (God) will make of you a great nation (with lots of descendents) and I will bless you (with wealth, says the Rashi footnotes) and I will make your name great (by adding letters to it, in fact). It is during this portion that Abram becomes Abraham, and Sarai becomes Sarah. According to Rashi it is when God takes Abram out of his tent later in 15:5 and instructs him to count the stars that God really explains that Abram must step out of where he is and what he has predicted for his own life, to grasp the concept that even in his nineties he will be the father of a nation. Rashi says that Abram relied on astrology and the science of the stars to predetermine what his future would be. God’s message to Abram is that if you go outside of what you know, and put your trust in God, the blessings will come.
There is a lot that happens in this Parasha. Abram and Sarai travel to Egypt during a famine in the land. This will happen again later. They tell everyone they are siblings so that Abram will receive gifts and wealth as the Pharaoh take Sarai into his palace. The Pharaoh and his household are afflicted with plagues. This will also happen again. Rashi says that Sarai’s word causes the tzaras to appear – she says “strike!” and an angel of God strikes them with the plague. Pharaoh arranges an escort to take them out of Egypt. This, not so much doesn’t happen again.
Abram, with his nephew Lot, take all the wealth they have amassed and go back to southern Israel, to the Negev. Abram and Lot split up because their livestock are too many and Lot’s suspicious herdsmen can’t get along with Abram’s. Lot moves to Sodom, which will be later destroyed in the next Parasha, and his choice of surroundings is intended to make us suspicious of him, and by proxy, his shepherds.
Sodom and Gommorah are besieged by kings waging war. The battle of Four Kings against Five is waged and Lot is taken captive. The names of the kings and the names of their kingdoms all make various references to their character, generally negative. Genesis says “The Fugitive” tells Abram about the fate of his nephew. According to Rashi the fugitive is Og, the last of the Rephaim who both escaped from the fighting but also who escaped from the flood. Abram here is described as “Abram the Ivri” which the modern translation renders as “the Hebrew.” The Rashi edition, however, says this means he “came from across the river” and therefore had the courage to fight against the odds. Abram gathers up his servants and this small band go and rescue Lot and defeat the kings’ armies. At the end of this odd story King Melchizedek – sounds a lot like Melech Tzedek, doesn’t it? – brings out bread and wine, because – it says – he is a priest of God Most High. That must be the same God Abram’s always talking to, right? He blesses Abram and they share bread and wine. Could this be the first blessing of bread and wine? This will happen again, every week, as we celebrate Shabbat, until the end of time.
Melchizedek is said to be Shem, a descendent of Noah. He is the king of Salem. Rashi explains that this is the same city that Abraham will later call Yirei. This city is eventually named Yerushalem, by God, who wishes to honor both Shem and Abraham’s name for the same place.
It is at this point that Abram begins to worry that his luck has run out, according to Rashi, which is why he has another conversation with God. “How will I know?” asks Abram, how will I know I will have an heir? How will I know that I will possess this land? God reassures Abram repeatedly, explaining that his descendents will outnumber the stars, and asking for an elaborate offering. This offering is special because Abram is instructed to split the cows, goat and ram. Rashi says that the smoke and flame between the pieces of meat is the sign that God is there. God tells Abram, “I am a shield for you; your reward will be great.” God tells more about the future, about the enslavement and oppression of his children, and of their return to the land.
Then we get the story of Hagar, who is supposedly Pharaoh’s daughter. Another royal Egyptian daughter will figure prominently later. Hagar conceives and begins to take her position as servant lightly, to Sarai’s displeasure. Hagar runs away but is told by God to return and submit to Sarai’s authority. Hagar calls God “El-roi” meaning “God of Seeing” and returns to bear a son to Abram, Ishmael (“God heeds”).
Just a few verses later God self identifies as El Shaddai. Rashi explains that this is a contraction of she-yesh dai: “that there is enough”. It is at this moment that God renames Abram to Abraham and instructs him in the ways of circumcision. This will mark the covenant in the flesh and shall be done throughout the generations.
God renames Sarai to Sarah. Sarai means “my governor” and Sarah means “governor of all”… clearly a promotion in rank. Abraham falls on his face and laughs, and thus God deems Sarah’s son will be named Issac, Yitzchak, or “laugh”.
Names have great importantance, whether it’s the king Melech Tzedek, Jerusalem, Sarah, Abraham, El-roi or El Shaddai. The entity or person is the same, but the names highlight different pieces of the individual mosaic. We get used to the name-changing from here out in Genesis. Jacob will eventually become Israel, also to show a change in the person.
This parashat gives us some method to our ongoing desire for improvement. Move from where you are. Get out of your rut. Step out of your tent. Change who you are. Change your name. May we all have the courage to step outside of our norms, to have a little faith, and make of ourselves a great people.
Monday, October 12, 2009
The work thing, for example, brings much mental stress. I know my position puts me at a level of the program mangers... I *am* a program manager, for all intents and purposes. So I'm supposed to socialize with these folks?
I don't quite have enough in common. I'm working on the family aspect, which many share. But I've been the lonely single person too, and we have at least a handful of those folks. Still, I just don't feel as related to these folks as I do to the researchers who make up the ranks.
I know it's logical and standard practice to not get too chummy with folks that you manage, even if they're not directly your folks. It's a stratification of the organizational structure. At once I am drawn to break ranks but still wanting the privileges, protection and influence of the upper echelon.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
It seems ridiculously relaxing to be sitting at a pub drinking a beer before the wedding of Liz and Miles. I drove three hours, from Northern Baltimore, straight here to participate in the mitzvah of celebrating with Bride and Groom. I'm seriously kvelling, if only because I find myself so incredibly in love with a wonderful woman. I fantasize about a Ward and June Cleaver life with her. I think I'm quite silly. And smitten and in love.
The drive was nice, clear skies and plenty of animals -- wild and domesticated -- to watch along the way. A fair share of flattened tragedies as well, including a small black bear. I try to think of the cycle of life and not get overwrought about death. I spent a lot of time thinking about my sweetie and how gentle and kind she is.
I left her to finish packing her house, in preparation for the move tomorrow to the new apartment, free from the madness of her Ex finally. The apartment is in the same building with her Bubbie and other extended family. The door frame of the apartment bears the marks of at least four different mezzuzot. We nearly crashed into the young Frum woman coming out of the laundry room. I suspect we'll be quite the spectacle in the land of the very Orthodox: me and my yarmulke and men's clothes and she and her giant chest tattoo, us both holding hands everywhere we go.
Don't be afraid. We're actually both very nice.
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Friday, September 18, 2009
I knew it would be a short day. I had already planned to leave early to get ready for Rosh Hashana. My grumpiness began with a coworker who is better at getting other people to do things than doing them herself. I made a suggestion and asked her to call if it didn't work. I called later to check in. She didn't try, and instead decided to solve the problem by coming in early Monday. Maybe she was going to tell me. Maybe.
Then, too much news reading ensued. Tea baggers and pseudo-political pundits and their poor logic and bad grammar. And their sentence fragments. Who does that?! More co-workers talking loudly in the hallway then stage-whispered secrets. My ire raised like hackles on a wolf. I needed to be alone.
I graused, I tweeted. Is this the way to start the new year? No clearly not. I left my office and the drama-politcs in search of friends. Stood around for a few moments, chatting and teasing. Someone offered me chocolate and I gladly accepted.
This is what it's all about. Friends. Kindness when you need it. Chocolate when you need it. Another excuse to eat gefilte fish and good ole reliable Balducci's challah, round please, to crown the new year with glory.
May this year be better than the last. May we all have peace and love and companionship. May we have solitude when we need it, and a warm strong hand when we need that too.
I'll take the ups and down, Hashem. I'll be loving and supportive when I can, and grumpy when I need to be.
May we all have the space to honor ourselves. May our behaviour honor You, and may our souls be a reflection of Your greatness.
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Thursday, September 17, 2009
Seems like there's a lot of sadness out there today. Today especially. Worn and weary, we are all so tired of trying. Trying and failing. Trying and giving up. Just trying.
Time will pass. The earth will turn and things will change. Probably more slowly than you want. This knot, whatever knot it is that you are trying to unravel, will loosen.
Stop for a moment and listen to the wind. Put both feet on the ground, flat. Feel your feet. Breathe through your nose (if you can). Feel the source of life, universal love, energy, G-d ... what ever you want to call it ... feel it come into you, right through the top of your head.
We're all in this together. All of us. Jews and Muslims. Lovers and exes. Family and friends. Strangers. We are all connected, whether we want to be or not.
So take a breath. Get yourself. Open your eyes. Know where you are. Know that I love you. Hard moments will pass. Love stays. Relax.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I did smile. I did. Jeff quoted someone else (Mel Brooks?) saying, "it's always funny when a Nazi gets shot." There was a disgusting joy in watching Hitler picked apart in slo mo by bullets. Then, there is the general desire to see some wacky US dudes wreaking terror on the Nazis, tormenting them with the stories of their disgusting rituals.
The winner for best Jeff Toppall quote of the night:
After Brad Pitt gives his wacked-out, violent and non-PC sales pitch to the new recruits, Jeff leans over and says, "Sounds like you at a staff meeting." He would know, but he hasn't seen me in action for over ten years. I have a little more chutzpah now than before. Feel the power.
Honestly, I'll have to see the movie again to stitch it all together. The symbolism is constant, it seems. Time management is amazing. From the old-style credits at the beginning of the movie, QT slows us down to get ready for the lengthy and detailed opening "Chapter." Character development without words, in the faces of the actors, was amazing. The bad guy was really well done. You *knew* him by the end. And you also knew what was coming to him. And it felt good.
Feel the power.
You should see my desk. It is an avalanche of paper waiting for a good echo to release it. "Hellooooooo!" Getting my shit together, it seems, is and will be an ongoing project. Honestly, I'm okay with that.
Love and it's complications have arrived. Let us (and by us I mean me) endeavor to keep sight of ourselves (meaning myself and all it's parts... there are many) and making sure we do what is in our best interests. Keep our word, yes. Say the right ones and mean it. Yes, yes. Restate and clarify and then, yes, protect the space.
It is the space I needed, truly. I could probably take more but I too crave the companionship. Alas: I am still figuring myself out. Thank you for your patience. And your honesty and communication. And yes, you did make it thunder, of that I am sure.
Right! Back to me! Ummmm....
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I had to sleep. I pulled over and maybe shoulda set an alarm. I didn't wake up until there was a crying baby outside my window. That'll wake you up.
Okay so it's 7:30 now. I'm relatively well rested after the standard 5 hour nap. I'll miss the Farmer's market on Peoria, but I should be there in time for the Scoggins shin-dig.
Full costume change. Coffee. Rub eyes one more time. Let's go!
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Friday, August 7, 2009
Where are we?
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I scoot around slow moving tourists. Not mad at you either. No I'm just getting my adrenaline pumping with a brief jog in flipflops. I'm excited. I grin widely, splitting my cheeks, and just make every connection I need. Effort combined with luck will get me on my way, and keep me as I go. G-d bless.
This is D.C., so varied that I am only one of many brightly colored comments. Mine is not the only head bobbing to personal music, there's a blonde and a dude with twists who's pounding out beats on the hand grip bar.
My city. It accepted me and I took it. A little too buttoned up for most bohemians but a few still camp out here. A little too lefty for the uber-suited, but they've got plans. The grand machinery grinds here. I heard it every night when I slept in the underbelly of Capital Hill, down in the moisture with the bugs.
Here I start, reborn as myself, having found my feet, my root religion. From here I start, going back to Tulsa to meet my past -- the one I left but didn't mean to.
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Monday, July 6, 2009
Okay, it's Monday and I've been gone from the office for nearly a whole week. I had a mailbox full of papers to sign, initial or otherwise photocopy and file. I have projects that languished while I was out, delirious with antibiotics from hell. And let me just tell you, I have no motivation. The shit didn't blow up while I wasn't here. Clearly, it's not going to blow up today either.
Maybe I'm just waiting for something to blow up. Like it's just not that interesting around here unless something's REALLY wonky. Or, perchance, maybe I'm just procrastinating again, relentlessly like I sometimes do.
So today I've filled my day with a lot of re-direction of other people, a significant amount of Facebooking, and reading my friends' blogs. To that end, I'd like to promote the cool people I know, and all the cool shit they write.
First, my dyke-buddy Vikki posts at Up Popped a Fox. She's long-term partnered with two kids that actually came through her womb, which I find amazing, in general. A social worker on a mission, Vikki will treat you to the bizarre views of her life, with an occassional recipe for a smashing cocktail.
Another fave is the Cleaner Plate Club by Ali, another college buddy, same as the Vikster. Ali has an amazing way of knitting words together to make a nice snug sweater vest for you, which you can then parade around in, showing everyone else what you've learned. This includes recipes -- for food -- travel details, knitting shit, burying beloved fish, and generally being gentle on the planet and to others. Ali's blog makes me look shit up and check my spelling before I post a comment. And, uh, check my verb tenses. Her writing kinda makes me feel like Keith Haring next to Michelangelo. But hey, Haring was still cool.
(para on Dykes deleted... not his blog! crikey! meanwhile I totally thought Chris was knitting his knuckles off. (shrug) .ed)
Kelly Wickham, at Mochamomma, came recommended from a good friend. I've been following her on Twitter for months. She was the first to get sent directly to my phone. She cracks my shit up all the time and then she writes some shit that blows me away. What could be better than that? Maybe if she was smoking hot... aw damn. The killer trifecta: humor, brains and beauty. Sign me up.
Last, but not least, is the soul-searching poet Jenn Mattern. Breed 'Em and Weep is a comfy combination of self-reflection and universal wondering. Her two girls provide plenty of fodder for funny stories, but it's her brutal honesty, unique lens and lyrical sentence structure that constantly seduce me. Yes, yes, that's what I said. What can I say? I'm at the mercy of beauty and there it is.
Several times over, honestly. Each one of these writers gives me new things to think about, ideas that roll around in my head for days, and with regularity a soul-shock that makes my eyes water and leaves me gasping for breath. It's good stuff. Check 'em out, and don't forget to leave a tip in the tip jar, to give the artist a thumbs up and keep 'em going.
Bless the ones who give part of themselves, YY, whether or not they know we need it. You know we do.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Was it a waste of time? Absolutely not. The upside of this unfortunate meeting is that I know what I want, and it is not what I have had.
Do I like fiesty women who know what they want? Yes, absolutely. I require someone interesting.
Is there a difference between being fiesty and being an outright bitch? Yes.
I know, I know. Some women "own" the word bitch and it means something good to them. Frankly, if that meaning also means you care mostly about yourself then I want nothing to do with it.
She wasn't rude to the waiter. She was weirdly, silently insistent. All in the eyes. She let the conversation drop, and would stare, simply. She was stilted and asked few questions of me that were of any interest to either of us. Although maybe she wanted me to talk about my job at the same length she talked about hers. Or maybe she wanted me to try to impress her with my vast knowledge of something, like she did.
Largely I didn't like her. But I feel like that's because she was a gorgeous but horrible amalgamation of everything I don't want. Almost like Lauren -- my estranged (still) wife -- in a different body. I'm sure she was more complicated than I might make her out to be. I suggested at the end that she was complicated, which she seemed to find offensive. I also suggested she was strange -- and she is -- which I meant as a point of interest, but again... yeah, who would like being told they're strange? Me, I suppose.
I know what I am. I am strange. I bridge lots of odd polar opposites and cannot be easily defined.
Her ex transitioned from female to male while they were together, after the birth of their daughter. We had an awkward conversation about transgender issues, where she told me what all the words meant, like I haven't been alive for the last fifteen years. The gender bending didn't appeal to her, in fact she's fleeing from it. My own squishy self-definition made her really uncomfortable. What's the line between being butch and being trans? I'm not a transvestite, I contend, because I don't do it for fun. But I don't exactly identify as female, either. Mind you, I want to keep all my parts. That's not up for discussion. The body stays the way it is. The rest is in my mind, and how I define myself. It is just outer appearance? She says yes. I say, I don't think so... it's more important than that.
But you know what? The gender conversation was probably the most real part of the conversation. The rest was... yucky. Yucky attempts at being interesting. Yucky attempts at maintaining control of the conversation.
Yeah. I just didn't like her. When it comes down to it. But there was that fiesty part, the piercing eyes, that I still found attractive. But I know better. I see trouble coming a mile away from this one.
Why? Why am I attracted to this personality type that is just not good for me. Why do I go for women who want to tell me what to do, when I KNOW that's not what I want or need?
Other props to me include being really upfront with her. Ballsy. Not the person that I was before. When she showed up, all late and shit, she walked up as I sat outside texting on my phone. She says, "texting someone?" That's her opening line. Not "hello." Not "nice to meet you." Baby, don't try to be sly. So I said, "Facebooking, yes. Pleased to meet you." I extended my hand and, because I had decided way before that if she was cute, I would express it somehow, I did the pseudo kiss-on-the-cheek. Really more a meeting of cheeks, but still, brash, eh?! (Yes, so forward, Shel. You might as well have goosed her.) Still, she's cute. Fact.
Also a fact, she knows it. Wah wah wah. Total downer. Then! She talks about it! How cute she is, how high femme she is. Mind you her nails were dirtier than mine. At some point I thought, I shaved my chin for this? I shoulda left it stubbly. She probably wouldn't have even had lunch with me if she had seen that.
Yeah. No. Not even. Weird. Weird.
So I walk her to her car. I've got my fly hat on and I say, "So, what do you think? Will you call me again?" Really knowing, hoping she'll say no. She says, "Probably not. I've had my share of gender issues and..." "Yeah," I say, "I've had my share of dominate women, too." "Well that's gonna be a problem!" she suddenly exclaims. "Yep, yep, it is." "You should find someone submissive."
And sure, I'll take relationship advice from you. "Right," I say. The conversation stops and we look at each other for a long moment. I break the silence: "Good luck."
ICKY PEOPLE! Just fucking icky. The unspoken pushyness was really profound. And me, in my medicinal haze, being my usual open, playful, cute self just got ill. Emotionally ill, for a moment.
I told her about the wreck and the infection and the meds during lunch. It held her attention for a moment. I said, "I'd probably be funnier if I weren't on these meds." Now that I think about it, the giggle she gave there was probably as fake as the nervous laugh she made when I told her I had beard envy. Not penis envy, but beard envy. She started to ask me questions, to probe where I was on the gender curve, having been told I have no interest in surgery or hormones. "Would you want to grow facial hair?" "Well I already have it," I said, touching my chin where my mini-Shaggy-goatee was just an hour before. "Would you want to walk around with your shirt off?" "Hell yeah!" I said without thinking.
When I was three I refused to wear a top. This was around the time my mother first grilled me with the ever so open question "do you want to be a boy?!?" What the hell could I tell her at three? At seven? I knew enough at thirteen to lie. And at sixteen when she asked if I was gay.
Back to the blind date grilling. I said, laughingly, "So this is your transgender quiz? Keep going." Yeah. End on beard envy and then the question, "where's the bathroom?" Then, when she comes back, "Are you ready?" Over over over.
Ugly, people. If you've got a sweetie, hug 'em hard and be glad they'll put up with your shit. If they make you crazy, take a good look and ask yourself if it's a crazy you can live with... then hug 'em anyway.
Seriously. If this is what I bring to myself, then what the fuck am I doing? And if you're still reading, what the fuck are you doing? :-)
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I'm sick, it's true. And I tell you, right now I can feel it. It's not like crashing my Vespa at the end of March wasn't enough. You know, broken fingertip, ankle raped by asphalt. It's not like I don't already make the same exact turn every day on my way to work, in my limping LandRover, and curse the spot. There's been a dead smushed furry somthing there for the past three weeks.
No I know I'm not feeling well. I hide behind my monitors. I hate people secretly, without reason. Short-tempered, I bark. Brittle bad-ass, snapping at friends and people who try to take care of me. That's just before melting into a puddle of weepy, nose-reddening self-pity, writhing around in despair.
No... then I can go into some sort of auto-pilot... particularly facilitated by FB Mafia Wars. Click. Click. Fidget, wait. Click. It's the ultimate mouse-in-maze cheese hunt ever, for me at least.
Now my ears are burning, and I'm pretty sure it's coming from inside.
I crank the volume on my music, to drown out the LOUD OBNOXIOUS voices coming from the hallway. I think again with queasiness about the grinding sound now suddenly coming from my front wheels in the truck. Or maybe that queasiness is from the meds Doc T gave me yesterday. They are pretty potent, making the world spin just a litle. And I feel... ill. Hard to describe yukkiness, coiling and hissing in the base of my skull. Light bothers me. Some sounds bother me. That voice in the hall particularly, but she seems to have gotten the hint from my music volume and is now no longer using her outside voice.
I whip up hatefull thoughts more easily than I cry. I wonder about my defense mechanisms, and knowing that those who care for you are the first ones to take advantage of you. I know it. Four year old me knows it. And she's been around for a long time. She sits in a rocking chair on the front porch, a bitter Lily-Tomlin-take-off, smoking a long pipe and reminding me that it's never safe. Ever. Never safe. Feeling bad now? Just wait, it gets worse.
It's probably the brake pads wearing down or just wearing out. I should stop driving it until it's fixed, I can tell. Wonder how much that'll be. Wonder when my money will get straight. Wonder when I'll pass Adult 101... I'm not sure that I have. Is it possible to get a grade in 301 and still be remedial in 101? All the kids in the advanced class love my prose but they don't know I still can't tie my shoes.
Spinning, spinning. I know. I do! Or else I couldn't write it down. No no. I document to disarm. Proof and evidence of existence. I am here. Here I am. Beautiful and bumpy and infected.
And worn out. With a smile in the corner of my mouth. Even as I pool up in distress. I reach out and feel love coming back. I can imagine your hand on my head, smoothing my hair. Many hands. Many snuggles and nuzzles.
And that's when I know I just want to go to bed. And dream of Angel Caretakers who don't know how to steal.
And tho you're not here, in this moment, I can tell you that Ani DiFranco serenades me with Amazing Grace, and I'm sure it's gonna be all right.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
which is another way to pray
I beg for a moment
for a slice of time when I am fine
otherwise I fling from heartbeating to heartracing
am flung from up to down and around
why this why that why now bastard
how could you
when will I get a moment of rest
instead of watering them and watching them grow
time is tight like skin over a burn
the universe hates me and sends
sickness upon all who touch me
I have pleaded, unworthy
wished, without giving first
is that it? is it a price to pay?
is it all chits in the bank
tokens to sell, deficits and profits
score keeping tallies and
tandem break downs
tortured souls tapping out
rhythms and syllablles
never spoken but
screamed in here, between my ears
time telling what
only time will tell
she keeps her secrets and slyly seduces me
with a humor only she understands.
the joke's on me
upright for which I am eternally gratefull
thinking, my Lord and for that I am proud
You did that.
If I thank You for each breath with each breath
can I have all I wish for?
Will all my wishes come like horses and
trample me to the ground?
I consider I already have my wish
I already praise Thee Adonai,
with each breath and every language I know
olde english, hebrew and so
I tried to cut it out of me, to
bang it out with my fists
I set my wanting aside and only observe
even then I am thronged by masses souls hearts
in need of things
life, love, comfort
You, God, give us all we wish for
we do not know how to stop it
how to handle it
make it go when it seems gone
these people of my heart
the ones I have dared to let in and love
the ones who I care for
whether they know it or not
these people, my people,
if I bless them You must promise not
to curse them
Would I trade this world
the one where any man
can stand with death in his hand
for one where no one can stand upright?
Choice, my God, hurts.
If you can't make it not hurt,
if that's part of the whole nasty deal
can you show me why?
Can you give a picture, so I could explain?
Or just comfort myself
silently in slow tears.
I consider, I already have my wish.
Dripping quietly behind dual monitors
hiding behind technology because the rest is
too hard, my God, it's too hard.
yes I feel my feet,
so far both of them.
What are you telling me?
What is the message? The moral of the story?
I tempt fate, leaving my door open
I tempt fate, living so
walking around town with this cap on my crown
I do tempt fate
Bring it to me. Bring me the gun man
bring me the hater
I will surely take out my rage for You on him
disgrace your Face
To not defend is also a crime
lesser yes but how
naked as the Naked Lunch
I suckle my own instincts
to bring something of nourishment for the rest
I pull from my own
to see into the distance
type without checking
the endless sheet of paper I never have to change
I consider I have my wish
Naked, yes, I was
Am Still naked in front of you.
The faces of friends who read
are shocked to see me
knowing the dark corners
surprized to find me functional
from experience direct Direct evidence
Without others present I must
pass the crazy torch to myself
Yes I am that crazy
Passion unbridled and luckily mostly uninterested
beware the laser focus of intent
you may burn under its intesity
or just crush under its weight
Naked here me
For you, for me To what end?
writer's flow much worse when you can't turn it off
much more frightening when you know you can't control
when it comes or when it goes
how bitter or sweet
Will you wake up?
Will you snap out of it
And go back to the work that is
Our Every Day Lives
It's packageable and sold
black market costs more
and tastes so sweet
Life, not for sale
Not for hire
We hardly know how to steer it
much less ride
Much less plan
Driven by passion by force
I insist on the will to resist
I cannot condone the random violence
I must insist it be planned
and ultimately disregarded
because it will not work
It won't work
Talk to me
That's all we can do really
Talk, try to understand
Talk to me, what do you need?
You know I am here for you
I exist to keep you
I duck, from
birds slamming into my windows
from feet standing in front of me
I can only see toes
as I duck
behind my monitors
behind my every day.
I'll wave to you as I pass by
If you'll blow kisses as you go.
Send love, strength and hope
In buckets and boatloads
To the Celstial Processing Center
for intensive distribution
to my people sweet hearts
the ones who don't even know
Friday, June 5, 2009
Ach the love! The light frothy milk at the top.
The button of choco-flavored foam.
Had I not gone to lunch, had he not been driving,
My love, I would have never known your spicy kiss.
Coffee comes and coffee goes but
Misha's roasters ought to know.
They do it there, you smell it:
The love poured into, over, and on
A tiny bean uncovered in a huge fruit
How did this meeting ever come to pass?
I won't question but the flavor brings me out.
The elixir on my tongue
Front to back and side to side
Every millimeter tingles and screams with joy
The sweet chocolate dances with coffee
And I am gone
Gone gone, head off and floating
Mind reeling remembering
The coffee of kings the drink of legend
Each mouthful is a history
What a glorious day!
Raining outside and strolling through the
Cement castle of parking places
My feet skate lightly and my head
My head is traveling
Back in time
Around the globe
This taste this flavor as powerful as a memory
As moving as a song
As savory as love
(Blessing for spice? For drink? For all that comes from the Earth? Baruch Ata YY. That's some damn good coffee.)
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Sparkly, shiny Shavuot! How you pull at my heart. What a blessing to find you, hidden here amongst the holidays, celebrations and fasts. Ticking of time and passing of signs... I always did miss you. Maybe I wasn't ready. Like the newly-freed slaves weren't ready.
I woke up this morning hearing Cantor Bortnick's voice in my head, from the Shirei Shabbat on Friday night. I wasn't planning on going, having just been there in the morning for Shavuot services. But I had had enough of work and bolted at quarter after five. "Heal us and we shall be healed. Save us and we shall be saved." The first lines of the prayer for -- you guessed it -- healing, of body and mind. It's one I stutteringly recorded months ago for a friend in Hebrew. I've been saying it a lot recently over my ankle. In English and in the Cantor's unique timbre it sounds even better.
I had decided on Friday that I'd check out a different synagogue on Saturday morning. Having just heard the Women of the Bible concert with the four Reform Cantors (all female) from the area, I had a little more information in my pocket about where to go. I intended to go to Cantor Boxt's Temple Emanuel, but they weren't having services. So I went to Northern Virginia (I know, crossing the river!) to Rodef Shalom. I still don't know what Rodef means. Yikes! I looked at the root which points to being chased or pursued. WTF?
Anyway, the building was magnificent, really. With a sort of woodsy, of the earth feel... lots of giant wood beams and plenty of glass. They have a gift shop that makes WHC's look like an airport kiosk. Their library looks very municipal, but they've got videos and it looks like much cooler stuff in it. (Why did I not know Frida Kahlo was Jewish?) Big reception hall with the requisite dude setting up tables. A small group was meeting in the library before services, clearly a Torah study group which wasn't advertised on the website. They also use the NEW Reform prayerbook which frankly is reason enough for me to go. I'd really like to get more familiar with that. They were more casual than WHC in some ways, and more formal in others. I can see that they'd be a big competitor, if that's possible... and I'm sure it is. One of the largest congregations with a female Senior Rabbi. Excellent Cantor, but Bortnick has the voice that sounds like home.
Plenty of "wow" moments as I looked around this synagogue. A handful of ho-hums, and at least one "huh?" moment. Overall I just really enjoy sampling other congregations, seeing how they do things.
Okay so that's morning. Afternoon I putz around at home... I eat at home not out, because I know later I'll be going out to see Terminator and money will surely be spent then. I nap. I wake, and putz and drive and greet and roll some dice then we get on our way. Movie -- ticket issues and minor anxiousness but we settle down front long before the actual movie starts. Totally excellent ride, this movie. Had me shrieking like the girly girl I am. Big explosions. Wicked machines. What more could you want from the big screen, when you don't really want to think too hard?
Spontaneous dinner at a nearby bizarre Asian buffet: shellfish galore, weird desserty things, California rolls, and everything else you can think of.
You know? It's just one good thing after another. My cup, surely, overflows.
And yet, wisps of sadness cloud my eyes. Why? Who knows. Projecting, probably. Investigating, this hole in my ankle, and elsewhere. Tiny missing parts. I wonder about the Source of Hole Fullfillment and I wonder.
I know, I know my lot is full of grace. Let me not pretend that this life is not truly easy, even with its complications. Life must have texture, yes? Careful not to slice yourself on it.
Friday, May 29, 2009
I planned on going to the Adas Israel synogogue, where Tikkun Leil Shabbat (TLS) and Adas (and I don't know who else) were going to do the all-night study session. It started at 9 and I shut my eyes at 7, wanting to catch a cat-nap before the long hours. Four hours later I woke up. Nice. I do that. Should've known better.
Okay, fine. I've done holidays solo before. Gives me the time and space to really bury my head in texts, and think and think and think.
I woke up to a thunderstorm. Gentle thunder, not frightening. I read just a moment ago of a mystical tradition that says the skies open up during this night for a brief instant and at that very moment G-d will favorably answer any prayer. Then I thought, crap, I missed it.
Then I laughed.
I wonder if it makes a difference to anyone else out there to know that for all my seriousness, for all my potentially apparent religious devotion, there is a mental divide where I can reflect on the mysticism with cynicism. I am the shrugging new high priest, letting the people make a Golden Calf while Moses is off communing with G-d.
Then I get all devout and shit again.
I will do and I will listen. Then I'll question and pull it apart and buck Your authority. I'll get my heart crushed and I'll shake my fist at the sky and scream "WHY?" I might get mad and walk away, but I'll be back. That's pretty much how it works with me and You. It's what makes it real, and not just me going through the motions, either on the devout end or on the questioning end.
Know what I mean?
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
I try to direct my desires, to those for whom it is appropriate, warrented, motivated. These rules narrow my options significantly. Again, I fail at self control, wanting what I cannot have, wishing for what will never be, for what shouldn't be. Shouldn't. It shouldn't work and indeed it shall not.
Over, done, end of story, yes? Then stop, by G-d, stop yourself. Change your mind, for once for good and get on with it! Get on with living with life... yes yes yes, it's not so interesting over here where all the people are made of wood and going through the motions like an Old Navy mannequin. That won't help you with your looking on and such.
No, first do your homework. Like work there's an inbox full of names you don't know and links leading you through the process with your hands firmly tied behind your back. This guided communication provides safety in anonymity, because as we all know, I am much more comfortable being naked and exposed online above all. No, this way they don't know the extent of oddness peering back at them through the screen. And they won't remember me at all when I close the match, saying "distance too great", "I don't feel chemistry" or quite simply "other". I won't think less of them as they line up to tell me: no, no, no.
Oh! That's it! This is a lesson in No. Must be the year for NOT getting what I want. Perhaps I've had it easy up until now, unappreciative of how easily a wanton woman falls into my lap and writhes so rigorously. I'm a big fan of the rigor, but only when not accompanied by necrosis. Stiffening, in general, denoting an excitement, a presence, a towering "hello! I'm here" and green flag waving.
I don't consider the baggage, because of my own activities it is less clear. I have forgotten already the crazed, cuisine-laced relapse that follows a fine fucking. I missed the opportunity to truly examine this behavior before. I almost forgot the wincing pinch, the pressing down and subtle force required to get me where I need to go. I forgot I was ashamed. I forgot I was twisted and broken and in need of repair.
What shall I do if I should find a fair face to fall in love with? Shall I unplug my psyche and pretend that it works? Shall I uncover the lumps and bumps beneath the super-hero cape? Somewhere inbetween all-important and essentially ignorable I'll sit, a seven-year-old in a white t-shirt tank top not knowing male from female but knowing force and fear.
I can take my history with me, carry it like a cross and let it sink me to the bottom of the river. I could let it sink, to settle in the muck, but I'll have to remember this bend of the river and point to it on my way. Remember to forget the name of Amalek. Never forget how you were hurt. Now forget about it so that it won't keep you down.
I am the superbowl quarterback who must have a short memory. I am the historian who knows how it played out before. All the knowledge. None of the fear. May this be Your will.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I have. Radio in college, at KDIC: the most phallic call letters on the planet and they were mine. I was relentless with Wimmin's Music and Fun Dyke Tunes. It was awesome fun. Theater in high school. Cheesy little publication we did in middle school. Now I tweet. I am a content generator for Facebook. I cannot stop.
I slow down, sure. I have instituted periods of enforced quietness. Problem is, eventually I do have something to say. Problem? For nay-sayers, for folks who feel like I put too much out there, for folks who just wish I'd be a little bit different, in this one little way.
Everyone's got an opinion. Sometimes it's hard for me to form one. Sometimes it's coming out of my mouth before the whole story is told. A little bit of age and a couple of lovely people giving honest feedback, and I know that I need to shut up and listen from time to time. I practice. I fear that I err too much on the side of "make yourself small"... and I can only shrink myself for so long. Eventually the real me will bust out in some expletive explosion or just a burp and that'll be the end of the honeymoon.
Please reference my doormat-asshole dial for a visual understanding of my dilemma.
Balance balance. That bitch always comes back.
Dear Blog, I miss you when I'm gone. I know it's me. I know it's in my head. I've got so frickin' much to say, but it comes at me in clumps and lumps and then I get distracted. There's this life thing, you know, the one that keeps generating all this content, and trying to wrap my arms around that. Well... life is hard, but it's all the same.
Let's remind each other to remind each other that bitching is fine, as long as we can look up sometimes too.
I have talked a lot in the past, to anyone who'll listen, about finding comfort, even divinity, in the small things. Water running over fingers. Birds singing their hearts out. An amazing sky, like a fiery divine canvas.
I gotta tell you. I'm ready for some effing large scale happiness. I'm not trying to be Miss Too Big for Her Britches. I'm just saying. If I can thread this needle, then I should be able to stitch this together. I think I'm gonna need help. I'm pretty sure that's the title of the next lesson coming up: How to Ask for Help from Others.
God I SUCK at this lesson. What is this, the fourth time through? Muther. At least.
I'm ready for the big picture. I'm ready to try this out. I'll be honest and an asshole and loving all at the same time. Respect. Give respect. Focus. Be real. Be yourself, whatever the fuck that is at the moment. Steel yourself, then relax.
Upright? Yes. Steady as she goes then, love.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
For weeks I've been thinking about you, Blog. Thinking about how I've neglected you. Sure, I crashed my bike. Sure, I've lived the last four weeks with at least one leg elevated. I've been busy. Work has been kicking my ass. Kicking. My ass. And when I get up to get going it lays me out again. And I get up. And boom, again. Seriously. It's been weeks since I've gone without a major fuckup. You know, I'm resilient, but this? Fuck. Fuck me, man. Fuck me? Fuck you!
And that's pretty much where I'm at now: Fuck you. I'm out of steam and have two more days to pull through. I'm behind STILL at work, and not working at this moment right now, as I should be. My body is... being mortal and shit. Fucking irritating. I know, I know, it's doing what it can. I should be nice to my body, since I treated it like shit for decades. My love life consists of an online, overly-chaperoned quiz application and excessive visual hunting ("damn, she's gorgeous, ring check... married. fuck.") Like I would actually speak to anyone.
Mother's day is coming up, and I don't want to harsh anyone's potential happiness on that day so I'll say this here and now: Dear Mom: You were supposed to help, not hurt. Fuck you.
Okay so I can check that off my list of things to do.
One year, when I was in junior high, or high school maybe, I bought the recently released in paperback "Mommie Dearest" for her for mother's day. I had no idea what the book was about. I was getting a gift because she said she'd take my birthday present back if I didn't get her something. Maybe reading the back of the book would've alerted me to the fact that this was not an appropriate, dutiful gift. I was stupidly bold and daring... without meaning to be. Her reaction? An astonishing muted retreat. What was she gonna do anyway, beat me? HA! Awesomeness.
Bold. Bold and brash. And stupid.
Not much has changed really. I get by on luck and love, and I have had plenty of both. I love and luck comes to me. And when I'm lucky, I get love. I'm extra bold and brash at this moment because I have been SUPREMELY energized and fortified by the word knitting of the best poet I know. To me, for me, beautiful delicacies of syllables images blessings, wrapped up in love. I am momentarily invincible. As a result I can say anything.
I consider the Blog, the open letter to anyone who'll read it. It's a shouting in the darkness, to be sure. One sits on this side, tippity-typing and never really knowing. It's a love letter, sometimes. Multidirectional. I consider much of my writing as a conversation with G-d, you know, giving the low-down, taking stock of what's what and where, and putting in a couple of requests for this or that. I don't ask for much or very often. When I do, it's often in writing.
I count the number of sentences that start with "I" and I wonder what Gramma would do to fix that. She always just left it off and started the sentence like normal. You would assume the "I" was there. Not sure it would work here. Thinking it'll sound a lot like Tweetering or status updating. No, no. I should put myself in the picture. After all, if I am not for myself, who will be?
No, yes, I will put myself in the picture. I will not hide and I will not be hidden. I won't hide myself from you, as I've done recently. My brain bubbles over with ideas and thoughts and then I arrive at work and can't capture it. It was in the deep winter that I tossed away any concern and spent hours at work not working but writing. I was wide open and pouring it out. That changes. And changes again. You may wonder how it is that I could ever hide, an elephant behind a birch. And of course, here, on the screen, in pixels first then letters, I am all brash and bold. Naked always. Exposed, but only in pieces.
I know. I know it's not about me but about the connections, person to person. We crave it and shun simultaneously. Welcome to the wire; balance well.
Now I am tired. Tired of wobbling back and forth, unable to maintain balance. Falling off of writing, falling into the brain-suck of TV. Falling off Facebook, unable to keep up. Dropping balls like rain. Some juggler I am. Weary, I am. But I just got this safe place to curl up in, sent to me in pixels and letters. Fortify, regenerate, rest, she said, safely. No harm will come to me here. Thumb pillow, here I come.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Then, much like now, I found the process of getting ready to write to be a big distraction in actually writing. I loathed having to change the sheet of paper, one for another. I wanted one long sheet of paper so I wouldn't have to stop. I wrote based on the title, which I always deliberated over for at least as long as it took to get the typewriter out and set up.
My stories then were of beautiful people doing beautiful things, being stunning and fabulous. I had no idea what I wanted, except that it should be excellent. I had no idea what excellent looked like, but I could describe the scent of the wind and the way it bends the new grass all day. Details, it seems, I've got.
When I get seriously stressed out, that's where I go. Into the details. I remember being somewhere once, where I really really really didn't want to be. But as things are often out of our control, I went into what was controllable: water running over my fingers. In a moment of sheer nail-scraping undesire I went into the water. I think that's when I started to pray, for real, for need, to assuage the fear. And this is the message I got then: this too shall pass.
And of course it did.
Today. Today is different. I have total control. Well more or less. I control what happens next. If I want to flake out, I can. Sometimes I do. If I want to get down and get to it, sometimes I do.
And that's where I start to watch myself, and wonder, "Shelby T., why do you do that to yourself?" I'm good at wishing. Really good. I've got a VERY active imagination. Very thorough imagination. Very detail oriented. I've also got a penchant for chasing what feels good. This makes me only proficient at taxes and excellent at fucking. Just saying.
Now, that chasing the good feeling... that comes back to this past Saturday's Torah reading, if you can believe that. Those poor G-d chasers Abihu and Nadab just wanted more of the estatic vision. Who could blame them? There was already tension: would the Shechinah appear and reside in what they had built? Moses and Aaron going in together, what's going on? Where's G-d? So in their great passion, they brought strange fire, breaking the rules, these priests. And what happened to them? The story goes that G-d zapped their souls, with a red beam through the nose, leaving their bodies and clothes intact. Some say they were drunk when they went in, breaking another rule stated nearby in the text. That's still chasing pleasure, and at the wrong time too.
Careful... careful with that motivation to feel good, to be at the pinnacle, the highest high. No one can live there, no human. There is a time and place. You may get lucky. You may see the face of G-d. You may feel ecstasy. Or you may have to keep working.
I watch myself, watching movies, not studying. I have watched myself put more in my mouth than I could stand, just for the sensation. I have put myself in emotional pretzels, just to feel passion.
I still want the story to be excellent. Still not sure what I want. But a little age makes the concept of planning quite desirable.
Careful, how fast you go around that curve. Yes, the ride is sensational. And then, there is the rest of life. Careful.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Perhaps I'm just an obsessive multi-tasker. That surely comes to play in many spheres of life.
I want the ankle to heal. I want to ride my motorcycle... I want another motorcycle. I want to go to Israel. I want someone to kiss. I want to feel. Everything.
And then I remind myself: be careful of what you want.
I want to live, by G-d, loudly. So you can't get me to swear to this grand theory when I'm weeping my eyes out, feeling the low after the intense high. That doesn't mean I don't mean it. It means I'm busy wailing and mourning. DND, BRB.
You know, good shit often hurts when it's gone. That's just how it works. Like love. Like skin.
I want to heal. I want to feel. I am obsessing over not obsessing. Not so much in a corkscrew spiral downward. Maybe in a gearing up to spring?
Spring, new, rebirth. I hate myself again for crashing my bike. I was waiting so long all winter for good weather, warmer weather.
I wait, I wait. And my insistence on Now brings it crashing to a halt. I need to slow down. Even further than before. Slow. Way. Down. Change direction. Is this me telling myself to chill? A voice from the other side of the room that is still just me: There is love out there. There is language in there. Just wait.
Great. I do need practice in waiting.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Just to be clear, cuz folks want details and want to know everything's cool.
I did lose control of the Vespa, going about 30 around a curve, in the right lane. Water + speed + curve = no es bueno. Simple physics really.
And THAT's where that limit is. Good to know. Moving right along.
Road rash on the ankle. Shin is numb, bruised and swollen. Closed fracture on the middle finger tip. And thumb, but that one's not so bad at all. Apparently I was giving Someone the finger as I was going down? Bad Shel!
I have insurance. It's being towed to a repair shop. All is well and right in the world. Except that neither the strippers nor nurses ever showed up.
Every song sounds great to me right now. Annie Lennox is giving me a HA! like only she can, straight from the first track of the 1984 soundtrack. Beautiful. Gorgeous.
I just read Ali's blog and was SUCKED IN and transported to a spot where a Yogi Penguin showed her a place where you can always find a stretch of time, in between the moments.
If music is about the spaces inbetween the notes, then is life between the moments?
I am and I am here and mostly put together and that my friends is amazing. I could have little face. I could have broken bones. I am battered but whole. Story of my life. Dig it. Own it. CANNOT bring me down, baby. Goes down and gets right back up. Witness.
Watch me. I don't care. Watch me win.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
a definite beat
deep and through and through
shakes you over there
and tremors here
you there she where
we left her stretching
out over the unseen
over the nettweetsphere
reaching touching true
between the planet's rhythm
and the electric connection
there is a symphony of
breathing walking knocking
me to you and you to she
waves of optimism
crashes of oh no oh no no no
mundane my brain
but you connect know see
movement soulwise, bonded
which why how where
we're moving together
this is true regardless of recognition
where are we going?
where do you want to go?
so many directions
all the bits and bytes don't represent
even part of the options
imagine the solution is
must be in the connection
the electricity in the band of rain
stretching across the land
pulling across oceans
assuming the sum is more
I'll ask again
where are we going?
The rabbis used to say: make
Peace where there is strife.
Strife caused by: fear, hunger
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Twice now in recent days I've been reminded of my "wrath". Twice. By two different people. Two women. (Men, I assume, would simply think "oh shit" and dissapear. This is a vast assumption.) I do tend to get riled up. It's true.
And verbally... those damn words... I can really let 'er rip. After the fact -- after my wrath has been called out -- I wonder if I didn't actually mean my words, or if I simply should've come up with softer, better ones.
This is my pet project, really. Myself. Bringing out the strengths of this tattered ego and unfurling the flags of my psyche. There's a goal in here somewhere. A reason. A truth to be told. A story to relay. A soul to defend.
Yes, that's it. A soul to defend.
I am somehow naturally inclined to defend. I defended the kitten being swung by it's tail when I was only six. Got my first black-eye. I defended the girls being chased by the boys... or at least the ones running behind me screeching "Save me!" I defend the religious against the non-religious, and the non-religious from the believers. I mean to defend hearts from being broken, and then I break them myself. I am a perpetual traffic cop, just wanting the flow to keep flowing. I am quick with the advice and adamant about the suggestions. Bullyish, though my heart is is the right place.
That's just it... easy on the bullying, Shelby T. You can't make anyone do anything. That whole free will thing, remember?
Needs. I do have needs. I try to minimize them whenever possible. Something from Taoism tickling the inside of my frontal lobe is telling me if I am small enough I won't get hurt. If I bend enough, I won't break. Still I need. I need things spelled out for me. I need the obvious stated, and then re-stated again not too long after, because I might not trust my memory. I need clear stop and go signs. I need a manual, that I won't read closely but I will stick a bunch of post-it notes in at odd angles with little scribbles like "yes!" and "important".
I need petting. I need kisses. I need snuggling. Need need need. Knead. Twist turn, punch down. That's what you do with dough.
Punch this shit down girl. You've got stuff to do. You can't wait. Go! Go! Go!
Note to self: focusing on Hebrew is not easy. Try lubing up the grey matter with a little grain alcohol next time.
Self of note: You get taller every time you work out at the gym. And those oblique exercises make your cramps feel like they're going all the way around your gut. Does that mean they're working?
Note to self: Stop farting around and do something. Waiting sucks.
Selfish note: Must find snuggling. Stat.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Slow down! Give me more time. I feel like I just woke up. I feel like I just got my driver's license. I feel like I just figured out what it is I want to do. I just realized my hands aren't shackled.
Now my boundaries are determined by what I can and can't take, what my personal limits are. How long can I sleep only five hours and still study and do martial arts? How will my work suffer? I've taken the girlfriend metaphor that I've struggled with for eighteen years -- longer -- and have transposed it onto myself. Folding it over, living with myself... dating myself, as I told a friend once. Dealing with myself, with no one else to blame.
I'm not a bad date. We definitely have a lot in common, me and me. I've taken myself out for concerts and dinners and movies. There's never any tension about whether or not I want to have sex. Although amazingly enough I do yell at myself for dirty dishes in the sink and the complete disrepair of whatever is in disrepair. I am kind of a slacker.
When I said, right after graduating from college, that I wanted to spend the next ten years watching T.V. I meant it. And, I did. And now...
You know my career has chugged along. I'm smart and fairly sociable. This goes a long way in the corporate world, especially when you're find yourself amongst programmers and other geeks. Especially when you wind up managing them, at some level. But even at work I am prone to slack. I need deadlines. In some cases a little frenzy is good. Or extreme work hours. If I put everything off totally then I have to pull an all-nighter... well this is just what I do to myself.
And that's what I'm watching: what I do to myself. Partnerless, after being partnered for so long, it's astonishing to realize what crap is yours.
So... I'm dreamy, which can make for motivation sometimes. There is nothing holding me back but my own mind. Unfortunately, there's a lot to that. I'm pretty good at fucking with myself, and not as good with doing what I need to do. I give in and eat a Honey Bun because I know for those three minutes that I'm stuffing the sweet, warm gooeyness into my pie-hole I will feel as delicious as it tastes. Nevermind that ten minutes after I'll wish I hadn't done that. I'll watch a stupid T.V. movie -- live and with commericals -- rather than study. I'll stay up late just to try and squeeze out a blog post. (er.... )
Most days are a combination of a good job keeping to the plan and a handful of oh-well's. Today I didn't study but I did go to the gym. I consider writing to be part good deed, even if it takes me a minute to get into the space. I was good at work today. Big meeting; my part was easy, easy, easy. (I ended with the phrase, "I've got some work to do." What else can you say when you list all the things you still need to fix?)
Some days I slip. Badly. Some days I call in sick and hide in bed. Some days I *am* sick. Some days I drop everything. Like, on my toes. And figuratively as well.
I love it when I think I did well, and then find out after that I bungled something.
Check, check, recheck. Measure. (Hmmmm.) Tall enough? Strong enough? Smart enough? Loveable? Liveable? Contributing? Helping? Doing the Right Thing?
It is an obsession, I think, to worry about such things. And I think it is also necessary. Otherwise, I'd just watch T.V.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
The baby shower I thought would be easy. My overly-simplified plans of just giving a wad of cash went out the window during a consultation with a close female friend. So close that she could say, no cash, here do this instead. The This being handmade gifts from Etsy -- I got two, a cute print of a bird on a bike and a onesie with Obama stenciled on it -- way classier, for sure. Just the touch the gift needed. (And where was my Work Wife for this task? She would've made me buy something too, certainly. As would've Pig. Frankly, I thought Sparky was channelling Pig when she said it.)
So, I got a card, and with my printed out map and directions I was off on my scooter. I got lost. I was late. Like seriously late. One hour late would've been cool, probably. I was buying the card at CVS then, though. The house was someone's mother's house, out in Virginia, the place where I am most likely to get lost. I did get lost. I found my way and snuck in, awkwardly pulling my blue Doc Martin's off at the bottom of of the stairs. Everyone was upstairs and the Games were underway. I was trying to avoid those. I regarded the collection of shoes. There were a ton of sophisticated, nice casual women's shoes and about four pairs of huge men's shoes, only one of which were sneakers. I considered I might be under-dressed. Oy. Late and underdressed.
At least when my white face emerged from the stairs Felicia and Von both let out a hearty "Shellyyyyyyyyyy!" and came to hug me. Please give a hand to the only cracka in the room. Thank you. Where's the food?
I was also the ONLY person from the office, where Felicia used to work with us. I'm sure there's some sort of weird something because the organization did let her go. And during the "game" where we went around the room to introduce and say how we all knew the couple there was a dull silence when I mentioned my company by name. I said we bonded on a work trip to Arkansas, and Felicia added where she feared she'd be lynched by the white folks.
Hello my name is Shelly. I can vouch for this black persron. Really. Who am I? Just a cross-dressing lesbian jewish convert. Is that a gun?
To their credit, Felicia and Von have awesome friends. Most they know through church or the programs through the church they help run. Good people. Solid. Preggers. I say it's a boy (it's a small belly!) who'll come in the early afternoon.
Still, I didn't know anyone else there besides the center of attention people. And I was not feeling, you know, gregarious. Even for how sweet the people were. I told them I had to cut out and snuck back down stairs after about a total of 40 minutes at the party.
I zoomed home. Still a beautiful day outside, I was seriously enjoying riding around. I got home promptly at 4:20 and opted for a nap. An hour later I needed to get up and move. The Shiva Service was to start at 7 and I wanted to get there early, unlike my two hour lateness at the shower.
Google maps, again. Print, again. Helmet on, again. This time I've got a bag of prayerbooks with a half a dozen shiny black kippot stuffed in there. "I hope the hats don't come flying out down the highway," I said to Milkshake. She was unconcerned.
Zipping down the road, getting on I-270, I tried to remember the name of the woman who I was supposed to contact at the house. I recited the name of the man who died. I got there about fifteen minutes early to find that, since the funeral already happened, the whole crowd is there. They've been noshing on the vast spread for at least a couple of hours now. Actually I have no idea how long they had been back from the grave site.
The house is huge and beautiful. There is food or beverage on every surface. There is one non-white face in the whole crowd, and she was there to do the dishes. Boom.
I met the ex-wife of the deceased, and the sons. It's the daughter though, whose house we're all at, and who is my contact. I met cousins and close family friends. "Hi, I'm Shel West, from Washington Hebrew." Pressing hands, meeting eyes. A blur. Finally I met the daughter. She is feeling this, big time. Her face says to me confused, sad, overwhelmed. "I'm so sorry," I said I explained there's a part during the service where the familly can address the crowd. Even just a sentence or two, I assured her, you don't have to do it at all. People move, more faces, hands. I got introduced to a cousin who is a lay cantor and they'd love to hear her sing. "Sure!" I said, honestly exuberantly. We talked about the flow briefly and her smile was a great welcome to me.
People moved. Some folks got ansty about starting, other folks would stand around and talk forever if you let them. I tried to ride the crowd's emotion, letting it do its thing, perhaps not reining it in enough. A couple of times we started to talk about the prayer books ("there's more in the front") and kippot ("you don't have to wear them if you don't want") and the page number. The page number. Forever Jews will be yelling out the page number. G-d bless 'em.
The cantor-cousin started singing a niggun. She had said "that'll calm 'em down." Herding Jews is like herding cats. This is Moses' true miracle, moving that many Jews all at the same time. God must've known that.
Anyway, the service part was fine. You know me, nose in book, talk to the kippah. Cantor-cousin sounded awesome which reminded me that I am flat, flat, flat. And not a cantor. I do love it though. It was good. It was going a little long with extra singing. I felt some people start to shift and wiggle. Twice we were silent, once for the "optional" daily prayers... yadda yadda redemption, yadda yadda Jerusalem... ah, we'll pick up on page 30. The second silence was for the silent prayer. I've been at services enough to know the silent prayer routine, and gave the idea a go for myself... written words, words of the heart. Yadda. It was good.
When it was time for the "family to say something" I looked up to where I had spotted the daughter sitting the one time I looked up earlier. Her eyes got big as saucers and she started making the "time-out" or "he's safe" motion, I couldn't tell which. "I could not...?" "Of course," I said, trying to not miss a beat. "Let's continue on page...." Thank God for the page call out, the most reliable segue ever.
I read a fair amount from the pre-printed, kosher-for-Reform, temple-distributed prayer book. It's a special one for the Shiva service. It's got some nice words in it, although sometimes I feel like it's a little too God-focused for someone who might be really pissed at God at such a moment. (Ach, God, I know. I want more. I want less. Who could put up with me but You?) I took it nice and slow on the Mourner's Kaddish. I thanked the crowd for coming, and for joining, and reminded them not to say goodbye, but instead l'chaiyim. That's how they told me to end it. And I'm a good little soldier, sometimes.
So folks go back to the talking thing. I thank the cantor-cousin and she thanks me. The cousin who was handing out books came by. Some woman I hadn't seen before at all comes up to me and grips my hand fiercely as she thanks me. "Really," she says. "Really." Death grip. I look her in the eye, really. "Good luck," I say. Then the daughter comes to up to me. Her face! My God. She is crushed. A face of strength, softened by bludgeoning grief. Eyes, just overwhelmed. I might be giving her the death grip. I wish I had said, "I wish you a good night's sleep" but it might be too soon for that for her. What I did say was something about wishing the best for her. I don't remember. She wanted me to eat. There was a LOT of food. I declined, thinking my garbanzo beans would be soft when I got home.
I spoke to the daughter's husband too, once before the service and once after. His face also will haunt me tonight. His face said "Help me" and "I'm exhausted." I wish them peace, soon but not too soon.
May we all get what we need.
It's not necessarily productive time. Once I tried to study while playing multiple games with E. Yeah, no.
Still... There's so much interaction in the competitive jibbing (?) and playful taunting. It's a dynamic I get, I can deal with. Works.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009
No, I'm giving myself permission not to be perfect or even try to be for my university level Hebrew class. It's probably an excuse, but I really need it right now. I've been physically ill, on and off for over a week. I'm trying to cram this language into my brain and do my job, which is easily more than 40 hours a week. And I'm trying to take care of this body in a way that I haven't been for the first 39 years of my life. And, you know, do the dishes and shit.
I feel like a slacker, though, I do. I know people with children who are doing as much as I'm trying to do. I know people with children who are doing more than I'm doing. I try not to compare, but I do. No one really knows, I explain to myself, how heavy my brain is on me, how complicated this existence is. I should say how heavy my heart is, because that comes into play too, in complication, and in stretching out time.
Time is so stretchy right now. It disappears from me. I sit still in silence in my living room. The T.V. isn't on. There's no music on. Milkshake comes by periodically, and the green digital clock on the VHS player tell me that time is passing. I feel a moment, and the clock says it was forty minutes. 40. And where was I? Lost in thought for forty minutes.
I'm overwhelmed, between class and work, and I need time to get lost in my thoughts. And I feel like I don't even have 40 minutes anymore. It's not really any wonder that I'm sick.
So... I'm patting myself on the head, and putting in stupid T.V. and probably falling asleep on the sofa. I'll get up, go to work and go to class and look Rivka straight in the eye and say: Yeah, I didn't do it yet.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Even my internal thinks seems to require a keyboard.
Why is it that I am so easily moved by an old soul in a young body? Why is it that I feel my life depends on Hebrew? Am I really supposed to go back to shuffling through papers and playing traffic cop to electrons in cyberspace when there are bigger issues out there, even in my little world?
People are sick, suffering and in pain. I know only a handful of them and am still overwhelmed.
I wonder if God gets overwhelmed.
(Yeah, I know, I actually left the O in. Shocking. I had shrimp the other might too, just to reinforce to myself the Reform nature of my commitment.)
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Monday, March 2, 2009
Today was a snow day, and plenty of people who could have come in and prolly shoulda come in just didn't. It was a giant excuse for everyone to stop.
You know, I stop. I do. I slack. I fart around at the office. I write blog posts and entertaining personal emails there.
It's not that. It's not that because that's a down moment, not a standard. What seriously disturbs me is the effort to maintain that lifestyle.
That's technically awful isn't it? To judge and publicly disapprove of how someone chooses to live? Even if that way of living is doing the minimum possible and expecting other people to give you even more than need. That sense of expectation, deservedness. Privilege. It pisses me off.
Don't worry. If you're reading this, it probably doesn't apply to you. It applies to Alicia-with-a-dot in Hebrew who talks during class like she's the only one there. She complains that her homework should get an excellent, because for *her* it was excellent. With all that red. Or the horrible teacher who just wants a captive audience. The person who wants a government job so they can barely show up and still get paid, who winds up getting promoted just so other people can get rid of them.
Where does the total lack of motivation come from. You can't blame it on weed. I know too many smart and productive pot-heads.
I know. Rant.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
It seems that I have resumed duties as Facebook content provider. Hello and welcome back to the show.
My life is on Facebook. Sad, perhaps, but shockingly true. So much so that I felt I had to limit co-workers a little. Momentary fears not appropriate. No, no, complete strangers can see that shit, but I can't have my #1 being all up in it. Work dynamics are strange enough anyway.
Speaking of which I'll be going to a hockey game later with my boss, after having essentially blown off all of this morning and most of this afternoon. I'll have to do something to show that I'm worthy, if I haven't already. I'm banking on the fact that I have, I realize. I'm just tired, and so I slept. Not much more to it than that. I've got three hours or more to get some work done. That's at least equal to half a day at the office.
Right. Working. Let me get on that.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Which means I have a hard time getting it right. Which means, damnit, I want to say it by myself. I'll call together a full chorus in my head for the responsive line. I need it. Forgive me, I am lazy.
Meanwhile, back at headquarters...
Friday, February 20, 2009
I was nervous, of course. I *should* be, you know? It's worthy of a few butterflies.
So I met with Diane S., who leads lay services occassionally. She says she winds up doing it like three or four times a year. Her usual co-host just lost her husband, and so was not up to singing, though she was there. Diane and I went through the service, as she usually does it.
Me: Oh, Shabbat Evening II... yeah I like that one better than I. (flip, flip, flip)
I notice that she *doesn't* do the Hatzi Kaddish. Gulp. I *just* wrote a friend about how psyched I was to do this particular prayer, since I recently learned it's very not kosher to do it alone.
Diane: Just let me know if you want to take anything out or put anything in.
Me: (!) Oh yes.
So, we added the Hatzi Kaddish to the begining, and continued through what the service would be, checking to see if I knew the tunes to various prayers. Yep, know that one. Ooo, we should just read that one in English, 'cause I have no idea. Yup. Cool. Cool. Chant Oseh Shalom instead of wrapping up with it? How about ending with Ein Keloheinu? 'Kay?
People start to come in. My hand is sweating, holding the prayerbook. We sit down. I feel like it's NEVER going to start. I wonder if Diane has lost all sense of time. It feels like the first time I ever smoked pot and I thought that an hour had passed in the space of three minutes. I tell myself to chill and just be. "Moses and the bush," I remind myself.
Be. Look up. Don't look at the faces of the people who are looking right at you, wondering when the hell the service is going to start. Resist the urge to ask Diane again if the woman doing the candle lighting knows when to come up. Breathe. OMG Diane's never going to ... oh, she's ready.
Diane has to gesture to me to get me out of my seat. My facial expression is probably "oh right!" We start. Breathe.
First a lively "hine matov" and then, the long awaited Hatzi Kaddish, right there.
Diane is chanting with me. Mind you she's not the most... musical. I step back slightly, and start in, wobbling slightly. I realize, about ten words in, that no one else is with me. I am doing a solo, not entirely abnormal for this prayer, but still slightly shocking. I get to the line where the crowd should join in, nervous and waiting for the sound. They're there, including the guy who always wears suspenders and is basically his own horn section. He pronounces everything with an S, in the Ashkenazi style. He's on it. I'm golden. Line is over and I'm back to the rest of the prayer. A voice in my head says, go for it. I let it rip, just like I used to before I was cognizant of the practice of chanting it publicly on purpose. I screw my face up, I bend my knees, I sway and I clear my lungs of air.
And *that* was when it became Just Fine that I was going to be doing the chanting tonight.
The rest of it was awesome. With Diane next to me I felt like Cantor Bortnick (with a cold). I was able to use my Big Voice to power over and through, actually *leading* the tune. I kept my nose in the book, because when I looked up I was distracted by the faces looking directly at me. Talk to the kippah.
When Diane and I sat down briefly for a moment of silent prayer she quickly told me, "You've got a great voice, I'm so glad you're here."
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The title "status update" should be read in a loud British accent. And you know, like "stay-tus", British-like.
Okay fine. Don't.
It's Thursday, not quite but it will be soon. All day I've been thinking it was Thursday. I've wanted it desperately to be Thursday. I really want time to pass. Weird, and not.
I was asked tonight "Are you okay?" Like, yeah dude, I'm okay. Life is rough and this is the inside of my head. I still am who I am on the outside, even when that's a little rough too. This is how I operate. You see me on the outside. You know me on the inside. It's not so incredibly incongruous.
Like my Vespa and my Rover. Yes. I can do both. I can do extremely fucked in the head and mostly put together in real life. I can do excessively weepy and then do my best bad ass. Survival.
Doesn't mean that my lows don't get low. I think it freaks people out a little. Until they get used to it. Maybe. Sometimes even I am not used to it.
So I'm up. Yea me! It's not hard when I have awesome friends. I do. You all rock. And there's stuff, there's life, things to do. People to see. There's tons of stuff I should do that I don't. (Hello homework!)
It's not hard when the music FUCKING ROCKS.
Okay, so here's the skinny on Collider and why I think they are so fabulous:
Rocking beat, hard core sound, with an edge of funkiness. Awesome lead voice. Incredible bass guitar artist with a five string bass (one string is lower than standard). And the songs are not predictable. Listening to and knowing the songs in their complexity makes the live shows incredibly seductive as you are pulled into the whipping crescendos and hairpin turns. It's beach music meets punk meets Led Zepplin. It's nutty and multilayered. It's FUN and COMPLICATED. Just like I like 'em.
So I had a blast tonight. Great music. Just enough beer. Danced 'til my kippah was sweaty under my hat. A rush, a soul song, a lift. Lovely. Thank you.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Work is being... you know, work. And life is being difficult and complicated. I am actively attempting to ratchet myself back, care a little less, perhaps, become less involved. Because, you know, I never get involved. And I definitely never care.
Nope. Don't care. That's nice, just another news flash, another drastic headline. Another plane going down. One more bawling, weeping soul -- I don't really care. I'm as distant as the other shore. Yep. Yep. Don't care.
I am annoyed by work, as it continues to pop into my consiousness. Another new employee? Really? Did we get any information about that? I don't think we have an open phone line. Where are we on expanding our phone capabilities? *Who* is calling me all frantic? A salesman? He's being rude? Jeez, people.
Okay, what's this about a crisis with the proposal? Well who was supposed to do that? Okay, we need what kind of file format? Sure sure, I can do that. Okay, people, breathe. This isn't life or death, just millions of dollars of project money. Someone's job could be on the line and we've got forty minutes to burn this DVD... patience... wait for it. Breathe. No, I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to me so I don't rip your head off.
His hard drive won't read at all? What did you try to do to fix it? You don't remember. Well that's okay, we'll take over from here. Yes, go back to programming the web application. I'm sure we'll figure it out.
I'm sorry what? Of course I was serious. I'm way more serious than you think. No no, I didn't mean that of course. I'm not thinking about that. I'm off onto something else, you know, more important, like work.
I can't tell what's working and what's not. I can't feel anything but angst, frustration and fear. I'm sure there are other feelings in there somewhere, but right now it's all just pooling up in my eyes, making it hard to focus on the screen.
My whole life is on a computer screen. And a whiteboard. But I'm not paying much attention to that.
Okay, so back to work. Time to make a Powerpoint presentation. I have two hours before I have to leave for martial arts class. Must go to martial arts class. Though I won't be able to hide all this weepy shit there as easily as I can duck behind my monitors or shut my office door.
Don't care, don't care. I don't care. Nope.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Included is this gloomy and beautiful pic I took on Valentine's day. I haven't had a poignant V-day in a long time, but this year was oddly difficult. I checked out early, ducking into bed before 9 PM. I had company was but was lonely. Had an awesome dinner, and a largely productive day, going to the gym and sword class. But I skipped synagogue services, evening and morning, and felt like a bad Jew just because my favorite cantor wasn't on.
Dear friends sent me sweet emails. Other friends had their hearts ripped out. This heart thing, this love thing, is dangerous and seductive.
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