Wednesday, July 5, 2017

It's not always black and white.

When I arrived in Oregon eight years ago, it was an adjustment.

We are from New York.

End of post.


I noticed, and wasn't afraid to ask:

"Where are all the black people?".

Now asking a question like this came from an honest and innocent place inside me. And it also might be offensive to some. I understand the implications yet I'm still sharing this story because what followed was pretty impactful for me.

New York is a port where peoples from all nations arrived to make a better life. They brought with them sadness for families left behind, excitement for new beginnings, and culture, food and language. Like folks who traveled to this West side of the country to explore new frontiers, there are new beginnings. Different experiences of it, but still important to note a similar story of leaving the nest for something better.

New York is very different than Oregon because of the diversity of the influx of different cultures who arrived, and as a result it has so much diversity you sometimes don't even notice it. In Oregon you notice it because the fact is there just hasn't been the diversity of cultures here. I judged you, Oregon, even though you were just being you. I really am sorry.

In New York, diversity is in the languages and smells of foods; it's sewn into the fabric of the place and when the color is absent from a place, you notice. Well, I noticed.

But after some time I didn't like the fact that I was noticing the absence of color here in Portland. I didn't like that I was asking the question "Where are all the black people?" I started to wonder if I was being a racist. I wasn't judging or hating like a "real" racist, but I was noticing and I wondered if that put me on the racist-spectrum. I was seeing me and them and that's a no-no, no?

I'm actually grateful that I worry about everything I feel, do or say because if I didn't worry, I wouldn't grow. #jewishjustification

So in recent years, I made a conscious switch. I didn't want to make a statement any longer of what was missing from my new homeland of Oregon. I wanted to see people, not first see the thing that made us different. Mid-life was calling me to love myself and other people more deeply. I wanted a deeper experience of togetherness.

So I went with it.

Every time I saw black skin color, I noticed the skin color and promptly after the noticing I said to myself "look at that man" or "love those shoes" etc etc. To my surprise and very shortly afterwards did lines of differences begin to blur and dissolve.

I felt good, I felt fluid, I felt floaty and I felt free.

Aaaaaaand, here are a few things I learned:

1. It's not an easy task to NOT notice our differences. I believe we humans learn to notice differences and it can actually be a good thing; When we see that we all come from different places, we can grow to understand others and learn empathy, and lots of things about different cultures and ways of life, as well as growing more deeply into our selves. I think it can be dangerous to skim over the obvious, proclaim "we are all One!" and deny us the opportunity to embrace the differences we have.

2. Skin color isn't a trivial difference, I mean, I could quickly notice and then switch to naming something else about the person, something that isn't the difference in our skin color. But our skin-color-spectrum is an indicator of where our ancestors came from. This is important to me, being from New York, the place where everyone came from somewhere else and that made life interesting and colorful. I do understand, though, that so many folks have not had the experience I had, and especially as far West as Oregon. But I wonder if, in Liberal places without so much cultural diversity, that there is actually a disservice being done by skipping right to the "We are all One!" instead of noticing how we are different? It's tricky I think.

3. This has helped me on my own personal path to accepting who I am, too, without judgment, and accepting Oregon for not being New York. It also helped me realize how integral it is for me to bring my whole self, ethnicity, color and crazy to the world, and how integral it is for me to live in an environment that embraces the same. And maybe, it might be OK for me to see a person of color and say "what a beautiful, black gal!" just like someone might say about me "what a beautiful, white Jewish gal!".

Or something.

But you get what I'm saying?

Who made the rules anyhow? How do you know what's the right way to be, or think, or feel?

We can all find a whole host of reasons to be offended by a variety of things in today's world. But what if for a moment we allowed ourselves to just be who we are, without worrying that we've made a mistake, or hurt someone, or said the wrong thing.

(Right about now, some of you might be thinking I'm using my White Privilege Mileage Points card. My grandparents left Eastern Europe for America because they were killing us Jews so stop it please.)

When I moved west, I saw too much black and white, but I'm embracing the rainbow I am now and seeing the differences between you and me as another opportunity to learn more about you, and about me. Striking a balance however and whenever I can. So there's the rainbow, and the black, and the white, and the gray. All of it.

I'm gonna be fierce, and bold. I'm gonna be me. I can't censor every little thing about me because then that would defeat the purpose of me being me. But please tell me if I've offended you but also explain to me why so I can learn more about you, and so that I might not hurt you or others in the future.

The canvas is blank and I know it's up to me and the brotherhood of society to paint our diverse palette into view. We may be One, from a spiritual perspective, but we are also human and our humanness makes us Amazing. We are one big portrait with each individual stroke a color or an absence of color, each as important as the other.

Poetry aside, I've also come to learn that many experiences and situations in life are not always black and white, and yet, sometimes they are. I can just continue to strive to be present, and open, and honest and humbled - and to feel like I did earlier:

Good, fluid, floaty and free.

Sharing this post was a good place to start. Onward and Upward!

btw, New York does have the best black and white cookies, just sayin'. #generallyspeakingitallcomesdowntofood

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Wonder of Wonder, Miracle of Miracles.

I just had an ah-ha, whilest scrubbing my teeths.

I am emersed in Jewish and mystical study, and the study of spiritual and religious practices of the world, more now than ever as I write my Sabbath Queen show. There is so much to know, so much to learn, and for this lifelong student, I'm in hog heaven.

As a child, I always loved to learn. Moreso about people, and from people and situations, and less from a textbook. Looking back now, I think I thought the constant need for information wasn't the right way for a person to be. Maybe a teacher at school once told me to stop asking questions in class one day. Or maybe my line of questioning in different situations was provocative. Or maybe people didn't like always being under a microscope having to talk about themselves. Or ... I dunno.

Here is my ah-ha: Judaism is a path where you may still not have learned everything even as you take your last breath. Prayers, Hebrew, stories, holidays and festivals, practices, commentaries, customs. The irony is astounding to me, that I am learning and questioning and deepening my understandings about Judaism right now as I write my show, and live life, and meet new people, and I am completely unapologetic about it. 

I've landed in the best place someone like me could land. Willy Wonka! 

I never really believed that "everything happens for a reason" far beyond something's happening, and shit, I have to deal. But if I step away, or step up, and see the novel of my life from an eagle's view, I now see my journey as pure, guided, and sensible. I see it as purposeful and on time. And might I add, happening for a reason. 

I believe the world needs, at the very least, a bridge between Judaism and Christianity, and light shining on what we have come to believe as differences. I also believe that Peace within comes from understanding our self. And Peace in the world comes from understanding our neighbor. And that is what I am living and doing, by writing, and sharing my stories, and putting this show out there. And asking questions, And just being who I am ... Who else can I be? 

Thank you, almost-fifty!

It is a miracle, truly, to reflect in this way.  I stand in wonder of the twists and turns and decisions of my life to this point. And I never forget what my mom said once, that no matter what, I "always land on my feet." I have, and I do and I need that landing to walk forward. I need those roots from which to draw my strength. And I, like the eagle, also have an alternate perspective as I fly above myself, and see a line in a map showing the trail I've taken so far. 

From Fiddler on the Roof (because the song popped into my head and then I wrote this blog post. And because ... Jewish):

But of all God's miracles large and small,
The most miraculous one of all
Is the one I thought could never be:
God has given you to me.

God, Life, Love, Family, The Presence - The happier I become, the more authentically I can say Thank you to everyone and everything. You were given to me so I may be wonderful in my living, so I may understand what a miracle is. So I may fulfill my purposes. 

I, too, was given to you. 

We are wonderous miracles given to each other.

I am grateful I'm not having a crisis; I'm glad my midlife awakening is not asking that I get a sports car. That shit is expensive! I'm content in doing the high-speeding instead soaring high up in the air, eagle-style. Yeah, definitely. Because also, you know the traffic nowadays, Oy. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Golden Retriever.

I'm in a constant state of retrieval.

Retrieving lost parts of myself for recrafting purposes.

Retrieving lost parts of myself that I gave away to others.

Retrieving life moments for reliving purposes.

Digging inside to remember who I am.

Retrieving the light, a golden retriever.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Trinkets & Treasures.

For several months I was jamming through life, unaware, just barely present. Disconnected really.

On this one day, I rested for a minute in front of my dresser. I was tired, sad, feeling pretty hopeless.

I looked down onto the dresser's surface and saw what now appeared to me to be healing presences of all types - necklaces, charms, candles - all together in close proximity, some bracelet chains draped over mala beads, a hamsa resting next to an amber charm. I saw, well, I remembered in that moment that most of these trinkets and treasures had been given to me by this life's family members, each one with a special meaning, given with love and generosity.

The light switched on, I smiled in great gratitude and then breathed a really deep breath, opened up my chest, and lowered my neck and opened to receive the peace I knew was mine. When I opened to receive, my heart space, inside and out, was warm.

It was so good - I was at perfect peace.

I don't think I had been in such a deep state of gratitude and peace in a really long time. Hence my disconnect and lack of presence in those months. Of course, yes, they are connected. But we forget so often.

After all this, I looked up from these sparklie trinkets and treasures, little wondrous angels who had just reminded me, and I smiled again as I looked in the mirror -  I was wearing this heart T-shirt.

Yeah. I think I somehow knew I needed a heart opener when I got dressed that morning. And so it was.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Decisions, Decisions.

For several months now, I've known that something big is happening. Haven't been able to put my finger on exactly what it is, if it's career related, family related. It just feels big, and it's happening.

It's also happening for so many of my friends. I keep asking around, "Do you feel like something big is happening?" And they answer "Yessssss!"

How could something big be happening to so many of us simultaneously, in April/May of 2016? I think there was some planetary stuff, or maybe the election is making us all rethink everything. But really - I mean, it's not like the same exact big thing could be happening to all of us. How could that be? We're all holding onto the same string that's attached to a big balloon and floating together above the US?

Whew, it's all kind of amazing, and kind of freaking me out.

Aaaaand ... Too much thinking.

Usually I expend energy trying to figure out what exactly the unknown is (in this case, "bigness") so I can proceed in doing things in support of that thing, or decide what "it" is, so I can create a nice, white picket fence, feel safe. OK,  it's a little ... hmf hmf ... control freakiness.

Trusting-the-universe's-plan-for-me type of faith and groundedness is not really how I'm built. Up until now anyhow. It can be unnerving to await, and allow quiet and calm in, and to see with new eyes, and to imagine all new things, or a new plan for my life without having to have any answers or direction. Just. To. Trust.

This bigness feeling, whatever and whoever and whyever it is, has changed me. I actually don't want to know what it is, which is part of why it's big I suspect. A new me is growing as a result of this big thing, or the big thing is forcing me to grow.

No more thinking!

I just want to continue experiencing the feeling of joy and greatness and expansion that it's bringing forth from me.

What a wildly different approach from how I've operated up until this point; It's like I've been substituting Kava tea for my coffee in the morning (for those who don't know Kava, just ask at Whole Foods.) I literally don't want to make a decision about anything, well, maybe some decisions like holding myself to some kind of schedule, setting little goals, getting exercise, doing good deeds and having fun.

You're built how you're built, and I do need to know a few things. If I don't decide on at least a few things, my life will consist solely of sleeping and eating, so this kind of nicely paced day-to-day decision making I can trust.

But I want to not decide what this bigness is. To reign in the invisible big energy that's encompassing me right now, to name it, put it in a box, steer it - well, I wonder if that would actually diminish its potential, and very well diminish mine.

Yet, there is still the me who wants to know ... c'mon!

What to do, what to do ...

Verily I say unto thee: Nothing at all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

One potato, Two potato

Yesterday I was sifting through a bag of little red potatoes, picking out the ones that weren't soft.

For some reason I just thought the soft ones weren't good any more. I honestly don't know where I learned that.

In any case, I sifted, and at the end of my bad potato-be-gone escapade, I had about a dozen "good" ones and a big pile of "bads" that I threw in the trash.

I stared at the trash, the little soft ones forming a potato layer of insulation for the garbage below it.

And I had a blast of thought - about my grandfather, and him and his family being so poor and only having potatoes to eat. And then it popped into my head, a potato famine that impacted the Irish so horribly.

I wondered if, like me, they all thought the soft potatoes weren't good to eat?

I think their parameters and circumstances were completely and utterly different. I also can't assume that they didn't have their own experience of privilege (like mine of trashing soft potatoes) alongside their suffering. Although my instincts are saying that the privilege they experienced was more along the lines of gratitude for living to see the next sunrise.

I didn't take the soft potatoes out of the garbage, despite these reflections. I didn't want the experiences of others to guilt me into trusting what my instincts felt were right. I mean, what if the soft potatoes were going bad and could make me sick?

But I was highly aware - that I was the blood of those before me, those who had experienced hardship and tragedy. I have hands formed from generations of DNA. I'm also aware that I can feel the hardships of others who I'm not related to by blood.

We can relate to most anyone, can't we? Just paying attention can open those gates up.

Yet relating to others doesn't necessarily mean we need to change our own identity, thoughts, behaviors. I have my own hardships; there were times in my 20's when I only had a handful of change to get me through the week. Where is that line we draw, the one that compels us to judge others' experiences as worse than ours? Can we give selflessly but not judge? Truth be told, I can never really know how someone is experiencing their own experience - I think I know, but only based on what I believe is the threshold of good and bad, based on MY own experience.

A whole host of ponderings, all over a bunch of spuds.


Well, maybe the little guys had some inspirational tidbits to psychically share with me today.  Maybe they know more than we think, see things we don't. They do have eyes after all.

Monday, April 4, 2016

I got you under my skin.

I generally don't pay much attention to what others do.

No, that's not what I mean.

I don't pay attention to what others do in that way of attention turned into comparing what they do to what I do. My attention tends to be paid in being inspired by their work, or standing in support of their endeavors, whether it's listening, or offering to execute a task or two on their behalf.

But paying attention and then lessening my confidence is something that's long in my past.

Well, no. I'm lying.


That part of me that I just claimed to be long in my past I recently discovered has actually been laying long and low in the sleepy part of me, right here in the present.

It woke me up last week and started making comparisons.

I was dumbfounded!

I thought for sure I was enlightened by now.

I believe it's very good to pay attention to others, in the way of being inspired to aspire. That's totally legit. But being inspired to aspire doesn't mean you're supposed to reduce your worth to below zero in the light of others' dreams and successes.

I'm built (and you, too I believe) to carry all that I can inside my little frame, with everything almost right there under my skin -  my emotions, inner workings, blood 'n guts, intuition and insight, icky thoughts.

Perhaps the battle of my remembering to recognize the good and uniqueness of myself when I'm not really feeling so valuable in comparison to others - perhaps this process actually stretches me to rethink, and remember, and redesign my understanding and perspective of the situation, and of myself.

Maybe this is why I have stretch marks?

So I guess it's not such a bad thing to have this sleepy part of me awaken now and again, and do some seemingly awful things like scratching at me, and comparing me, and implementing separation tactics, all the while making me weepy and unbalanced and vulnerable (I completely recognize the drama queen I can be).

Because after all that ... ahhh ... I remember.

Contrasts in life are so important.

Maybe I am enlightened!

In any case, I think I'll just keep you around, weird and awakening side of me, now that I'm starting to believe you're not all bad. Truth is, I got you under my skin and you're teaching me to stretch. Maybe stretch marks aren't so bad after all.