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Trust and Opening Yourself Up

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Day 41 – Yesod of Yesod: Bonding in Bonding
Every person needs and has the capacity to bond with other people, with significant undertakings and with meaningful experiences. Do I have difficulty bonding? Is the difficulty in all areas or only in certain ones? Do I bond easily with my job, but have trouble bonding with people? Or vice versa? Examine the reasons for not bonding. Is it because I am too critical and find fault in everything as an excuse for not bonding? Am I too locked in my own ways?
Is my not bonding a result of discomfort with vulnerability? Have I been hurt in my past bonding experiences? Has my trust been abused? Is my fear of bonding a result of the deficient bonding I experienced as a child?
To cultivate your capacity to bond, even if you have valid reasons to distrust, you must remember that G-d gave you a Divine soul that is nurturing and loving and you must learn to recognize the voice within, which will allow you to experience other people’s souls and hearts. Then you can slowly drop your defenses when you recognize someone or something you can truly trust.
One additional point: Bonding breeds bonding. When you bond in one area of your life, it helps you bond in other areas.
Exercise for the day: Begin bonding with a new person or experience you love by committing designated time each day or week to spend together constructively.

Excerpt from The Spiritual Guide to Counting the Omer, by Simon Jacobson. ©Copyright The Meaningful Life Center, 2013. All rights reserved. www.meaningfullife.com.

There have been times when I’ve been way too trusting and open, especially in the work place, where I have had trust broken. Too many times, friendships that I thought I had cultivated only went to the perimeter of the job itself and did not extend beyond the confines of those walls. This has not always been the case, but those are rare exceptions.

I wish it were otherwise. There are many who I’ve crossed paths with that I wish were still in my life, but…they aren’t for any number of reasons. Many times I only had the shared experience of the job to “bond” us. Once I left, that bond was no longer a real bridge.

I have cultivated some very deep and meaningful relationships (bonding) over the years. I cherish these, and I know what I’m going through right now pains them as they see me in pain, struggling. They need to know, and I feel I tell them, how much their support and care means to me, even when I can’t express it, or my head is buried so deep underground that I can’t see beyond the blech in front of me.

In reading the passage from Counting the Omer, I did have a deficiency as a child: I was a bit of an outcast, not well liked and not having many friends. I would wind up with one friend at a time, if that. I spent most of my time alone in my room as I got into the older grades. It wasn’t until we moved to Westchester NY and I entered a new HS that things began to change. It was there that I gained the friends that are still a part of my life now, and the few from my early college years.

I hope you cultivate the bonds you already have, strengthening them as you can. I hope you find new ones as you go along, and open your heart to others, as they should do to you.

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Bonding

Friends_Uplift_the_soul

I have been blessed with friends, actual true friends, not just acquaintances (which we all have, and are there at times, but not for the long haul).  I wish and pray for them all the good things that they need in their lives. I hope that I’ve lived up to my end more times than not. It is easy to get lost in your own miasmas of problems.

Here’s to good friends.

Day 38 – Tiferet of Yesod: Compassion in Bonding

Bonding needs to be not only loving but also compassionate, feeling your friend’s pain and empathizing with him. Is my bonding conditional? Do I withdraw when I am uncomfortable with my friend’s troubles?

Exercise for the day: Offer help and support in dealing with an ordeal of someone with whom you have bonded.

Excerpt from The Spiritual Guide to Counting the Omer, by Simon Jacobson. ©Copyright The Meaningful Life Center, 2013. All rights reserved. www.meaningfullife.com.

Brothership and The Only Child

pooh-bear-hundred

You can not choose the family you are born into. You CAN choose, or be lucky enough, to be surrounded by people who really do care about you, who become the family you want and need. The friends who are more than just friends. I have been lucky to have a number of people in my life who have stuck by me, supported me, care about me, through all that I’ve gone through, good and bad. Most of them have been alongside me since High School or the first years of College. The few others I’ve met and bonded with along the way. They have been true family, in so many ways, and I’m blessed to know them and be part of their lives as they are in mine.

I’m an only child.

Let me tell you about my brother.

Sam & I became friends on July 5th, 1973. We went to the same High School, had a math class together, and that was that. Through a series of events, we wound up meeting when walking to summer school and started talking. By the time we had gotten to school, I had asked Sam if he wanted to join me at a Planet of the Apes movie marathon at a local theater. He said yes: we met at the movie house, spent over nine hours in a pretty packed movie theater. This began a friendship that has lasted close to 40 years now.

We’ve had our adventures, times we’ve just been plain silly, laughed a lot, a few times we’ve been pissed at each other, but with more times of caring about each other.  He is privy to my thoughts, my hopes and dreams. We’ve remained close, even though he is not close in proximity. I could tell you about our stories: how we drove all night to Massachusetts to find a girl I was mooning over, only to chicken out and drive back home (in the same night); our Sangria & Pretzel “In Concert” evenings; Godspell and his meeting his future wife; double dates; adventures in father-hood; long phone calls, both good and bad; moving escapades; movies and meals and concerts and long, long walks around Westchester & NYC; everything that goes into 40 years of friendship.

Yesterday, out of the blue, he and his wife Barbara did something extremely generous out of the goodness of their hearts. It was unexpected, and  it is greatly appreciated.

Thank you, Sam & Barbara.

This, in no way, is a slight to those others who have been in my life almost as long. I’ve had the honor of having the close friends of Rich, Kim, Norma, Laura (and, sadly, Charles, who is missed) almost as long as Sam. They, and others, have made the journey I’ve been on worthwhile.

Here is to friends, who are your brothers and sisters. I love mine, with all I have to give.

 

Finding Passover

“Passover has a message for the conscience and the heart of all mankind. For what does it commemorate? It commemorates the deliverance of a people from degrading slavery, from most foul and cruel tyranny. And so, it is Israel’s – nay, God’s protest against unrighteousness, whether individual or national.”
~ Morris Joseph

“Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the inalienable right of every human being”. – Morris Joseph

passover tat

At this Passover season, I wanted to find more meaning for myself in the holiday, as I did during Chanukah. Again, the Seder used to be conducted solely in Hebrew (first by my Grandfather when I was very little; then, in our home, by my father) and held little to no meaning for me. It was done, and we had to wait for dinner to be served. The meal itself was always anticipated with delight, as it was one of the few times a lot of interesting dishes were made.

But, the ceremony itself? The meaning behind all the words? It was a chore to sit through as a kid and even as an adult.

Then, with my father’s passing, the task of running the Seder fell to me. Since I barely speak any Hebrew, I do it primarily in English, with Hebrew phonetics for the prayers and certain passages. I still remember the songs, and the lilt, the cadence, of the readings, and do my best, at times, to emulate what I do remember.

We used the same Haggadah for years, and the literal translation of the Hebrew text was ponderous. Last year my mother was unable to be with us (she had had an operation and was in a rehab center) and this year she is gone. I have tried two different texts both years, searching for a translation/interpretation, that would bring the spirit of the Seder to life. Both texts offer sections that illuminate, but neither is “just right” yet, in my opinion.

In looking at Passover quotes, I found the two above from a 19th Century Rabbi, Morris Joseph. Those two quotes have helped me, a lot, already. There are many ways that liberty of the individual is still confounded; it is not an ancient concept, the thousands of years ago story that is told during the Seder. Yesterday on Facebook, so many people rallied around issues of equality. It stirred up things on the boards, from both sides of the issue. It also spills over into those around the world who have no freedom, whether it is sex trafficking, child soldiers, fear of reprisals from “gangs” or power groups, or even a people not being allowed their own land: yes, I do believe that Palestinians should be allowed to live in peace, as I do believe Israelis deserve it too.

I’m trying to find my own inner peace  (read HERE for my friend, Lisa Kramer’s, take on Inner Harmony) and I’m trying to understand what I embrace on a deeper level. Passover is one thing that I still need to dig deeper into.

Forgiveness, or Letting Go

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” ~Bernard Meltzer

creative-brillianceNot to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control… to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare.” – Lance Morrow

The question of forgiveness has been on my mind for the last few months. It has been brought up in the prayers I have read over &/or said; it has been mentioned by friends; it has appeared in a number of more subtle ways.  I’ve thought about things that I’ve let go, and especially feelings I still have to conquer in that vein.

I’ve never said the words “I forgive you,” or “I forgive myself, or “please forgive me.”

I’ve said I’m sorry, and have meant it, to others if I hurt them in some way (no matter the intention: they were hurt). But forgiveness? It was not part of my family’s lexicon. It is something I’m struggling with-the word itself-in this next step of what I’ve been going through.

I understand that how we react to things determines the power something has or doesn’t have over us. If we “feed the bad wolf” that wolf will thrive, in all its negative and draining ways. I don’t want to be that person, nor emulate things that I did not like in my parents…and the things that I have to let go that are inside of me, that I have to forgive, purge as best as I can, learn from it, and allow myself to move on.

Forgiving myself is somewhat the hardest.

There is nothing I can do about the past. I can never achieve a better relationship with my parents. Things are  left in whatever state they were in when they passed away. I can work on how I react now and in the future. Do I forgive my parents for their faults, the things I felt wronged in? I’m not sure if forgiveness is the word at this moment; yes, it may be semantics, but I know I have it within me to let these things go, some more easily than others.

I’m still trying to understand the whole concept of forgiveness.

I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. – Maya Angelou

 

“Everything Must Go!”

caratulas_STEELY_DAN-EVERYTHING_MUST_GO-CDWhile I continue to go through cabinets (Thank You, Lisa & Sam!!), papers, et al, the pile of what needs to be looked at is still a big one. I’ll look at contacting an estate sales person, to see what is worth anything and what is tag sale/flea market stuff. Money is money at this point, and any extra finances are helpful in the long run. Plus…

…I just want to be uncluttered.

Downstairs from me, another family is emptying out their mother’s apartment. They had many, many days posted in the building (and I’m assuming elsewhere) to sell what they could, a tag sale. Yesterday, the sign changed to: “Items still left: if you can use it, come in and take it.” That, to me, was sad. Not that they couldn’t make money off of things, but that items that made up part of the woman’s life is now just flotsam.

What makes up a memory worth keeping?

Sam, when he was down, and Lisa too, advised to not just get rid of things willy-nilly, not to make rash decisions in the effort to clean out, cleanse, uncluttered. I know I did that in the first week: it was such an arduous task before me, and the depth of emotions coursing through me just wanted it all gone. I’m glad I did what I did then, and doing it step by step now has served me well, even though it still hits me emotionally. I get to a certain point and I just can’t process any more of it.

I’ve also hit a wall in doing this work by myself: for whatever reason, I can’t bring myself to do it alone. When someone is over, I’m stirred to go through things. When home alone, I shy away from it. Something to talk about in session. Avoidance, yes. I just don’t know why.

In speaking with the Rabbi today and brought up this point. It’s still too raw for me to face all this alone. Everything must go takes on many meanings for me: I have to let go of past hurts and learn how to forgive and move on; I have to part with things that have little to no meaning to me, and even with some things that do; everything must go, eventually.

 

Something Found

Love2The going through things continues. My friend, Sam, was down yesterday to help me do sorting, cleaning and more tossing away. This time, some boxes of my own things that I haven’t looked through in years. We tossed out three boxes, rearranged a few more things (switching out more of Mom’s stuff for my own), and then…Sam found something I thought was long lost.

A letter from a friend in High School, Jill,  one that I carried in my wallet for years. The ink had bled a bit, there are tears in the paper where it was folded for so long, but except for one word, I was able to read it again after so many years. While I don’t remember why I was so upset then to prompt what she wrote, I do know I said it:

I had a thought of killing myself then. 17, prime teenage years for thoughts of suicide. This is very difficult to write, now.

I’ve done my best not to censor myself here. Rest assured, while at times I have wondered why I am here, why we hurt so much at periods in our lives (and why I’ve felt as horrible as I have the past months), but… I do not want to hurt myself, nor die. I feel I still have a lot to live for, for myself and for those who care about me and love me, and to give of myself to others.

Her letter reached me to my core, and any thoughts I might have had at the time (serious or passing: honestly, I don’t know how deep it was then) were blown out of my system. I re-read the letter this morning, and the message comes through loud and clear. Thank you, Jill, then and now.

Dear Stuie,

I really don’t know just what to say. I feel so shocked by what you told me at the concert.From my point of view, I don’t see why you have any reason to feel insecure. You’re such a beautiful person! I really mean that. you have so much to offer others. You’ve really made me feel good many times, when I was in a lousy mood. You have a talent for making people feel different emotions & especially for making them laugh…and I mean with you, not at you!

Whether or not you accept Christ, your body is still a temple of God. You have no right to destroy it. There is a purpose in your life, just as in everyone’s life. That purpose may not be clear to you now, but nevertheless, it is there. You must live to fulfill that purpose or you may not only hurt yourself, but someone else as well. Especially your friends. And you have many, including me.

If you ever want to talk, or [piece missing}, please come to me. I sincerely consider you my friend and to me that means that I am willing even to die for you. It says in the Bible “No greater love hath any man, than to give his life for his friend (brother).” So, please, if I can ever help, please let me know! Sometimes I’m dense, but do this for me! You are my friend, my brother, and I love you!

Forever, Jill

 

(ps: the picture attached to this: another friend made that wall hanging for me, another item found. Good things to turn up.)

Goodness Within

helping-handsMay you receive an answer that will bring you joy and peace. May God be with you, may health and strength sustain you, may nothing harm you, may wisdom and kindness enrich you, may you be a blessing to this world, and may blessings surround you now and always. Amen.”   ~from Talking to God by Naomi Levy (c)

What good is goodness within if you are not sharing it with others?

The prayer above is from the conclusion of Ms. Levy’s book, which I have been carrying around with me everywhere I go since Rabbi Pam gave it to me. It was a gift of goodness, and her extending herself has been a blessing for me, a saving grace. I only just read the conclusion this morning, as I’ve experienced parts of the book in pieces, not reading the book from cover to cover but in allowing discoveries to happen.

The line “…may you be a blessing to this world…” is what has stayed with me this morning. I’ve talked about what constitutes a good person before. My question above, though, is where my thoughts go to. If we are just a good person for ourselves, is that enough?

I don’t think so. There is so much pain, suffering and hatred in the world, so many ill feelings towards others, and they seem to rise to the top a lot easier than taking the time to do something for someone else. The people who reached out to me during my time of crisis are those who saw/felt a need, and they took some form of action. Again, I thank them all.

Yesterday, with my SO, we were browsing through a Barnes & Nobles Bookstore. There was a display table not full of self help books but ones about helping others. There was one on creativity, and how to enrich. Another about “good deeds.” Another about how, instead of complaining, finding your way to actually do something about the issues you find fault with (which I totally agree on, and while I have been a complainer, I’ve also known I’ve tried to rectify, or at least voice solutions). It’s just instead of just voicing them…it was about doing.

Being a blessing on the world, as I see it:

  • Extend yourself to someone in need
  • Do something to combat hatred towards others
  • Be a better listener and lose the judgement
  • Care about the world, not just your immediate area/life
  • Stop being complacent, but do so in a peaceful, respectful manner

There are more, of course: we can all add onto this. It’s what came to mind first. I find when I go with my first instincts, my gut, I’m usually more in tune with what is right for me. I know I’m still struggling to find my own grounding, to find my way in this next part of my life. I’m not sure where this will all take me. I still have fears of the future, trying not to let that overwhelm me. It’s all part of the process of living.

What do you do to make this a better world? It does not have to be big…I think the smallest thing can be the biggest, for whom it helps.

Moral Compass

compass_sm“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.”
~Henry David Thoreau

“Morality is of the highest importance – but for us, not for God.”
~Albert Einstein

“Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

I’ve been thinking about what makes others consider another person to be a good person, as well as how someone defines themselves. No one is perfect: mistakes are made, ill thoughts can come, hurtful things can be done or said, not always consciously or meant that way,  or selfish reasons can sway you one way or the other…there are so many things that mar the make up of a “good person.” Does that negate the good that they do/are in the long run? Does their being human take away from doing their best to live a good, moral life?

In one of my first meetings with the Rabbi, in my seeking out a side of me that had rarely, if ever, been truly explored, the question of living a good moral life was brought up. It was what I felt religion, in any form, should be about: not so much how you honor God, but how you honor yourself and those around you, seeking out the good in others and yourself, and living it day to day. Mistakes and all. I was unsure of who God was and what role God played in our lives, if at all. I had been surrounded by so many who have this unwavering faith in God…something was missing from my life, and so I am exploring this. Readers who have been with me and this blog all along know that.

To me, doing your best not to harm another person in any way is a start. We do things by our actions and our in-actions that can hurt another, or a group. I find that living a humanistic life, thought process, is more how I’ve interpreted what God would want, or how things have been portrayed through religious services that I’ve attended.

This has been part of my makeup for a long time, even when I’ve been at my most negative. It’s there, lying underneath at times, submerged by a stressed moment, or feelings of fear-especially of the unknown. It’s why I wrote a few days ago about why my bouts of anger bother me.

I get to see the Rabbi today after a full month of no communications. She was away, and now back safe and sound. I am looking forward to continuing our discussions, and seeing where all this will take me.

What is Failure?

Not doing something, not trying at all, is, to me, failure. Allowing fear to guide you, avoiding rejection, is just hiding. I’ve taken chances, a number of risks, and not all of them have panned out. I’ve heard “No” a lot more than yes, or been met with silence, which becomes its own “No!” in so many ways. The things that do say “yes”, the things that have come my ways…not all of them were what I had hoped for too. Some, so much more. It is all a crap shoot, and you just don’t know unless you try.

If I hadn’t left the food service industry, I would not have created my theater company. A huge risk financially, but one that paid off creatively and even with the headaches of running a company, was still a pleasure. If I hadn’t asked my ex to marry me, I wouldn’t have my son and daughter, which I can’t imagine not being in my life. If I hadn’t asked my now SO to meet me for a day in Philly, I wouldn’t be in a relationship with a wonderful woman right now. If I hadn’t sought out help after my mother’s death, I’d hate to think where I’d be emotionally right now. All things that have moved my life forward.

So, why do I feel that at times that I am a failure?

I’ve felt that at times in my life, when things unravel. It is depression, anxiety and fear talking. I get that; but, underlying it is a sense of failing, and not understanding why I feel that way.

Right now, I’m torn between the two feelings. Part of it I know is that I’m still on unsteady grounds with finding a full time job, or creating enough of a Freelance life to feel stable. Part of me still really can’t answer the question of “what do I want to do?”; the answer, right now is to pay the bills and not worry day to day. That, to me, is not enough…but, should it be? Am I putting more strain on myself this way, feeling I should be more than what I’m doing at the moment?

Part of me also feels that turning to the prayers, trying to work out who God is to me, what spirituality in my life at this juncture, this crossroads, means…I know it is a big positive. It’s late in life, and I’m finding meaning here and there.

Sorry for the rambling, but this morning…I’m all over the place. I don’t want to feel like a failure, and the pieces of my life that haven’t worked out, I just need to accept them as my past, learn from them, take what I’ve learned, leave the negative aspects behind and move on. I have to find the way to cut the chains that still bind me to them.

I have to try, or that will be failure.