Sunday, January 31, 2010

I woke today from a dream in which I was following the guidance to "go and get my biggest dreams out of the basement."  I had gone to the basement and was looking in every box to find the dreams buried there.  (The boxes in which I was searching actually do exist in my basement; they are the ones where my life’s writing is collected.)   I knew that these dreams had been with me for so long.  I recognized, even before unburying the hidden dreams, that I already knew what they were—that I have always known and have also known how to find them.  Now was the time to bring them into the light. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This morning at the end of meditation, I invited ease and presence into my day.  Being open and vulnerable.  Coming to the day and each of my encounters with an unprotected heart.  Being fully present to the one I face—which would be me most of the time. 

What would it be like to move through this day without the sheath of judgment, or identity—or at least with as thin a sheath as possible?  To choose in the moment to be as aware of my energy as of my goals.  To keep my awareness expanded rather than shrunk to the size of a pea-sized thought —or several pea-sized thoughts in the pod of “Should.” 

When the contraction happens, relax.  Open up.  Breathe. Come back to here and now.  Release my automatic grip on future and past.  Not grab onto negative thoughts blowing by like debris in the strong wind.  Close my eyes right where I am.  Root in my Source. Breathe in and out deeply and slowly.  Fall back into my heart.  Bring my mind to rest in my heart.  More breaths.  A kind of calibration. 

Ask for guidance.   Then proceed. 

Today, I may need to do that often.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

awoke at 3 AM.  now it's 4:09 AM. if it was a dream that woke me, i don't remember any of it—can't find even a trace left behind like a trailing ribbon caught on a branch. (a few weeks ago, i actually woke up saying: Ani Tuzman, Reporter: The Inside Scoop.)  this morning, it might have been my lips that woke me, swollen, itching & stinging from this herpes virus.  last week, they looked like a clown's mouth: brightly painted, pink, ballooning lips that practically stretched from my nose to my chin.  i'll be glad when this is healed.  i heard Louise Hay earlier tonight invite us to listen to our bodies.  i have been trying.  the message right now seems to be patience and acceptance.  ironic how acceptance leads to letting go...  i'll try for some more shuteye.  sweet dreams to all of us, eyes open and closed.   sweet letting go, too.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Picture a man on a tightrope under a full moon.  He has stepped off the edge of his roof and is walking forward.  Now, picture that he is holding the end of the rope in his hand (instead of the high-wire extending before him, some destination on the other side, such as another roof or one of those platforms you see in a circus). More of the tightrope is unraveled under his feet with each step forward.

This was the image on a greeting card handed me by my friend, Anna, as we sat in front of her wonderful old stone fireplace last Friday night. As I stared at the card, it felt a bit like looking in a mirror, seeing my life reflected back.   

A little over a year ago in the autumn of 2008, I stepped off solid ground.  I was following an inner call first heard 10 years ago.  It was the call to write a book about an 18th century mystic rabbi and healer, the Baal Shem Tov.  For the next ten years, I worked on and off on the book, while juggling the balls of my life and being juggled by life.  

Then the time came when on and off no longer worked.  I yearned to be on all the time, to bring the book to the finish line and hand it to whomever would help bring it into the world.  So I jumped into the unknown, knowing only the passion I felt and the rightness of following a path that did not yet exist.

Not only did the book pull me powerfully towards it, several things pushed: I had turned sixty. My dear mother's Alzheimer's was progressing rapidly, revealing the transitory nature of life and of a sharp mind. And to top it all off, I got a wicked case of the shingles causing me, who almost never gets sick, to consider my mortality.  The time had come not to wait.

I did not even notice the tightrope while I hovered in a timeless groundlessness, devoting myself to the book.  I became a recluse spending most of my waking hours in the 1700's, in the Polish countryside, relishing the company of the Baal Shem Tov and others whose lives he touched, like Leya, Rifka, and Channah, who I grew to love.  

Now the book, The Tremble of Love, is just about complete. Looking down now, I see the tightrope beneath my feet—no destination visible yet.  Before this—despite the "risk" of falling (i.e., failing)— I took step after step in a rich darkness that was sacred space.  Maybe, I was in the womb, being birthed along with the book. Now, I have been thrust into the bright lights of "reality" where I must make my way, carrying the book, balancing carefully until we arrive…

I share here as one who is no more and no less special than anyone else. The image that often arises is that of a flower radiating its particular fragrance naturally. The flower (I imagine) feels no pride, no compulsion, nor is it self-conscious.  It does not doubt its value nor compare its color, form, scent (or lack of scent) to any other growing thing.  To be its beauty, to emanate its fragrance is simply (and exquisitely) is its essential nature, its purpose for existing.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday night. Deep winter in New England (according to the calendar, but not the thermometer). All the things one could do, places one could go like salsa dancing at the old veteran's building (an old building, not one inhabited by old veterans ) a few towns away. There aren't as many options as there are in NYC, Tokyo, Paris, or any number of other metropolitan areas. But here, too, close to Northampton and Amherst, there are multiple choices and opportunities to be social. Most of the time, I choose to stay home—like tonight.

I light several candles, my way of invoking a cozy fireplace. The music that feels just right is the chanting of a mantra, enveloping me in meditative energy, which is what I need now. Most weekend nights, thoughts cross my mind, sometimes scurrying like mice, other times stampeding like a herd of large, loud antelope. These thoughts accuse me of being perhaps not antisocial but most certainly asocial. I consider the truth of this and, not sure, settle on the sofa with a stack of books next to me that all week I have fantasized reading on "the weekend." Up for water, then back down to relax.

Here's where I have to insert something about relaxing. I was never taught how to. It was never modeled by my immigrant parents—not in the farmhouse of my childhood, nor in the suburban Philadelphia duplex where I lived in my teens. On the farm, the pink sectional sofa (for which my parents had saved for years) was shrink-wrapped in heavy plastic. I did not know the word shrink-wrapped then, nor did I know that sofas were meant to be sat on by anyone except for "company." Under the sofa was a Wall-to-Wall Carpet "like rich people have." The Wall to Wall carpet, referred to like it deserved homage, was a non-descript gray color the color of sidewalks. We were not allowed to walk on it just as we were not allowed to sit on the pink sectional, even though it was wrapped in plastic. It was necessary to walk on a portion of the carpet to get from the kitchen to the two small bedrooms, so a rubber mat was laid down for the purpose of treading lightly between rooms with minimal disturbance to the living room. Reserved for company that we rarely had, the Living Room was not lived in, which is an irony I do not think I noticed at the time. Nor did I notice that nobody relaxed.

Relaxing was dangerously close to being lazy and everyone knew that there were great perils in being lazy. It was one of several unofficial commandments: Thou Shalt Not Be Lazy. So maybe this is why it is such a big deal for me to stay home and get cozy on my pale aqua-green cushy sofa. I, too, saved for my sofa—for two years, so I wouldn't have to buy it with a credit card. After it was delivered, I did not sit on it for two weeks. When I shared that with a friend, she suggested we have a sofa-welcoming party and we did, inviting two other friends, all of us sitting together like peas in a pod on the new sofa. I cried.

So maybe I am not asocial, just a happy camper deliciously alone in my small farmhouse (not the same home). A year ago was the first time in my 61 years that I have lived alone—neither with parents, roommates, husbands (consecutively), nor children. My youngest who comes home holidays and summers is (for now) living in a residential school. Some nights, like tonight, the silence is so delicious, the solitude so vast and nourishing, that I remain in my abode alone rather than go out on the town or even just into town. Who knows? Maybe there is a season coming in my life when I will put my boat in with all the other boats and enjoy rowing gently down the stream, merrily. That sounds good, too.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Commas. Talk about imperfection. Despite numerous attempts to study this illusive symbol, my use of commas has not been mastered. There is for me a correlation between being nobody special and being imperfect, making mistakes like writing things with too few or too many commas. Those last words recall a poem, MIDLIFE, that I wrote many many years ago. I shall post it here. It was freeing to write it, to find amusement in that which I at times could take so seriously.


I am learning how to love myself, my knuckles,
the veins behind my knees, the way I clear
my throat too often and am impatient with my children
especially the youngest who was not expected to live—
cut downs in his wrists and ankles, plastic tubes through
his nostrils—the stigmata still there, the dots and dashes
like secret zippers in his flesh.

I am learning to love my unpredictable digestion, the pain
I cannot reach inside my knees, the grossly uneven balance
of good intentions to deeds carried out.
I am loving the hardening of my thighs when I stride
on the too busy street I live on, inhaling the silence
between cars that rush by as if they were on fire.
I am teaching judgment to bend his stiff knees.

I apologize less for being alive, for leaving food crusted
on the forks I’ve washed, for too many or too few
commas when I write, for parents who speak with accents
thick as soup and beliefs they didn’t mean to use like whips.
I watch my gratitude swell like the moon. I keep company
with respect, accept—even see the charm—in my outdated
wardrobe, the seduction of time, that rascal death.
I am laughing as I write... I have spent the last hour+ trying to customize the "classic" blogger template so that it will have a distinctive look rather than appear identical to any number of other blogs using this template. Only moments ago, did I realize that here I was trying to make the blog special and unique! There is NOTHING WRONG with that, with expressing one's individuality and preferences, e.g., giving something like a blog its unique flavor. It just made me chuckle to notice how hard I was working at doing that when, in fact, I like this template, and it is much easier to use as is than to modify a great deal. Ah, EASE! Ease is another characteristic related to being nobody special. All too often ( without me even being aware of it), trying to be somebody special calls forth my perfectionism—not a good friend to bring to all my endeavors, especially to writing. I think it was Natalie Goldberg in either her book, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing The Writer Within or in Wild Mind, who suggested writing lousy on purpose, sitting down and intending to write the worst junk in America. In this blog, I will not be trying to write junk. But neither will I be efforting to write something noteworthy thereby running the risk of the Voracious Perfectionist devouring a post on its way to cyberspace. There can be great joy in crafting of words so they render an image or a nuance of emotion just perfectly and delight when the process of careful crafting leads us to discovery. I did this passionately in my recently completed historical novel, The Tremble of Love; I lost myself in getting it just right: true to the character, the scene, the moment...

Here in this blog, as nobody special taking notes on the journey home, I will playfully allow... Words are the containers in which I hold just about everything: my delight, thankfulness, bewilderment, prayer, Love... I first heard the expression: "Don't hide your light under a bushel," from my friend, Annie Bissett (an artist whose light shines through her strikingly original—sometimes whimsical, often profound, always inspirational—Japanese woodblock prints). I have made the decision to let the bushels of words come out from where they might otherwise cower under the dark shrouds of Doubt, Judgement, Not Good Enough, and other shadows cast by fear. I invite you to do the same in your own way: to let your light shine, to bring your full bushels to the festival....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

welcome to the nobody special blog

welcome to the nobody special blog.

How did I get this idea for a blog? Spontaneously at midnight last night. Well that's technically not how, but when. Maybe the better question is "why?"

It's easier to write fearlessly and shamelessly, being nobody special rather than aspiring to be somebody wearing this or that hat, having this or that degree, expertise, notoriety. I have all of the above: Hats. Degrees. Expertise. I also probably have a small measure of Notoriety, or at least a small reputation for my writing groups with children these past 27 years—and with adults for the past 10+. But where were we? Yes, I remember.
I can already tell that writing as nobody special makes it easier to let what wants to flow from me flow—without what I share being anything special at all. This is just my take, my gratitudes, my praise of the holy everywhere, musing, sorting, contemplating out loud in hearing range of anyone who happens to drop by. If I am nobody special, and I am, then the critics can pack their bags and go find someone who IS striving, who they can compare to authorities in her field or whatever else they do. (Really, I am probably tricking my own inner judges; I drop off their radar when I am not efforting to be, say, or do something special.) It's just me reaching from my heartmind with words to yours. A kind of bridge. A bridge that is no architectural feat. A bridge that is nothing special except that all bridges are by nature something special. I say that because anything that spans distances and makes it easier to meet, or simply to get from one side to another, IS indeed something special.