Wednesday, November 17, 2010

breakthrough (or is it break-in) in the library...

So further breakthrough this evening, I would say. (I think my prayer to leave behind envy and comparing myself to others is being answered.)  

I went to the local library this evening to pick up a vegetarian cookbook on hold for me along with a few books about writing.  In the dark parking lot, I saw a girl, maybe seven or eight, walking—almost strutting—back straight, head high, a book clasped in an arm that swung as she walked.  She looked so content, maybe even a little proud of herself.  Clearly going to the library and coming out with a choice book was no small thing to her.  It was no small thing to me as a girl either.

When I was a girl, the brick, vine-covered building that housed an uncountable number of books was, of all places with a roof and walls, my favorite.  What a concept: a place that lent books and for free!  And as if that was not enough in itself, it was SO quiet—somewhere that did not permit loud voices, let alone loud, angry voices.  Where else was silence so protected?  The Vineland Public Library was about 12 miles away.   We went maybe once a month, maybe more often.  My parents could barely speak or read English.  I had been waiting impatiently to learn to decipher the code I saw in my father's newspapers, the only printed material besides cereal boxes and the like in our house.  My first time in the hallowed library, I decided I would read every book on its shelves (eventually every book in the world).  I started in the "A" section.  

Another decision made around the same time was that I would write books, too.  I announced to my parents that one day, I would write things that made people laugh and cry.  It was people's hearts I wanted to reach with my words.  By then words had already become sacred containers for me, places to harbor the secrets I could tell no one but God to whom I wrote them.  Words and the necklaces they made strung together in sentences, were also my means of giving thanks and expressing my joy (the latter a state of being to which I did not feel entitled given my parents' suffering under Hitler).  So my tears and my laughter were held by my words; maybe that is what prompted me to say that is what I wanted and believed I could inspire in others.   

So, no question about it, I felt and heard the inner call, a congenital mandate to write.  Then life happened and along the way (very soon after my decision to be a writer),and the child, I was greeted in school and by others with great shaming and other discouraging messages, among them that to want to write was selfish.  There were much better, more generous things to do with my time that would help people.  Writing was only an option if I was good enough to stand out and clearly I wasn’t. 

Fast forward. 

Most visits to the sanctuary of a library in present day are bittersweet.  There is the delight of being in the presence of walls of books filled with pages lined with words.  A unique ecstasy and comfort all in one!  And there is sadness at knowing I will only taste the smallest fraction of those words.  An even greater sadness is that not one of those books on the shelves was written by me.  What happened?  How not to be overcome by a sense of failure—not in the eyes of others, but in my own heart?

Tonight, as usual, I felt the thrill of being in the library.  There is still no place like it.  I decide to browse a bit after checking out The Vegetarian Kitchen and Writing from the Heart, etc.  I see the titles on the spines of the books that seem to me breathing entities—so full of life.  It is especially in the fiction section that I start to cave under the sadness (although I can get hooked among the “self-help,” personal narrative, or books about writing and parenting, too).  What do I feel? 

The voices clamor, accuse, condemn my failure, shouting relentless (under the radar, regretfully, of the guardians of the library’s silence).  There is no excuse, they say.  And it is clearly too late, they punctuate their solid case.  I have no answers for them.  I agree and agree.  But today—today, I am aware of such patterns and want to make a different choice.   So, meekly, at first, but with growing conviction, I try. 

I do not try to outshout the committee in my head, as a friend calls such convocation.  Instead, I speak lovingly and gently to me.  I breathe.  I acknowledge tenderly that it is true: I have loved writing all my life.  It is wonderful to know this has been a calling before I knew the word calling. How fortunate.  And yes, perhaps most of my six decades, I and my life circumstances did not yield to this love such that I created a body of public work.   

And—what if it is not too late?!

What if (in line with the theme that prompted me to write all this) I am meant to write like me—not to write like anyone else.  That’s the deal, isn't it?  The truth.  What if it is not too late to surrender to this life’s passion, to swoon (with awareness and consciousness) into the embrace of this Great Love.  What if nothing’s wrong?!  (Now, that’s a good stretch!)  What if the book I am completing now is the fulfillment of this longing and there is more fulfillment to come.  What if it is not selfish to want to write and to write.  Fiction, no less.  And poetry.  And rants like this one. 

What if, I can bless all those authors of published books, some of which would inspire and move me, and others not?  What if I can fully accept me as I am? What if it is really perfectly fine to write a long rant like this one in order to hold my experience more consciously and to offer it just in case my experience touches another heart.

I am reminded of a poem by Galway Kinnell, called The Sow.  It includes: 
for everything flowers from within of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
 to reteach a thing its loveliness
Surely that is what is happening within me: I am reteaching myself my loveliness.  Such self-blessing will bring about the full blossoming.  Ah, perfect.  My prayer/intention is to allow love, beauty and wisdom to flow through my words as naturally as a flower yields its fragrance.  

What if in truth, this has been happening all along?  
Thank you for listening.

envy is the real snake in eden

what'll it be?

i love (well sort of love) how when one really commits to a profound inner shift (see previous post), life offers opportunities to "practice."  without telling the whole story now (since i am feel called to working on The Tremble of Love), i will just say a bit now.

i have been sprouting an idea re: supporting those wanting to birth an inner book.  i thought of a wonderful name for this endeavor and envisioned creating an ebook offering encouragement in this process.  late last night, i  started creating a blog where i could field questions from people about their needs, which could help inform the creation of the ebook.  today, i googled the name i had given my blog only to learn that it has been trademarked by a British woman (a lovely seeming person with similar passions to mine).  she has written an ebook; i read an excerpt available as an "ebooktaster" online and found it to be wonderful.

i get to choose now whether to go down the old familiar, full of mental potholes road of comparing myself, coming up short and being run off the road into a ditch.  or...

i get to have a new, as yet uncharted, creative response to the "information" revealed.  which will it be?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


one of the habits i want to leave behind is comparing myself to others.  what a weakening activity.  awareness, acceptance, action: means it is good that i am becoming more acutely aware of the many ways i do this.  (true confession: i actually just looked at how many FB friends a woman had and felt deflated!  talk about ego!!!)  acceptance means as i become aware of all the ways i do this, i accept and love myself not an iota less.  action?  hmm.  i can say that i won't do it anymore, but i sense there is more to it than that.  some inner shift that needs to happen, at once subtle and immense.  like moving a mountain with a hearty sneeze.

you tell me: have you conquered/overcome/ renounced/ dissolved....a habit, whatever its nature?  how?

From the album Autumn Splendor 2010 (part of the collection: 3.2 Megapixels of Consciousness)

the cascade of golden leaves in the center is actually a reflection in the water.
wish you could see them shimmer.  (I have a video; maybe will upload that.)

Closest I come to painting.  

Writing The Tremble of Love

So one of these days, there will be a website and a blog for the book that I am completing, The Tremble of Love, an historical novel inspired by the healer, lover of life, the Baal Shem Tov.  A post like this one would then find its home there.  But for now, I shall post here, speaking these thoughts and feelings into the vast empty fullness of cyberspace where millions (or is it billions?) roam with not even a handful stumbling into this blog space.  Nonetheless, it feels good for a few moments to expand beyond the isolation of my little study and (what at the moment feels like) the enclosed space of my mind.

So here's what brings me to post.  The book contains many references to Kabbalah, the Zohar, the Book of Splendor, (arguably the greatest Kabbalistic text), and to Rabbi Isaac Luria, his 16th century community of Kabbalists in Safed, and his cosmology.  What I am facing is how much to include about Kabbalah and in what depth? This is a vast vast subject—a world.   I know that I want to birth two subsequent novels: one set in Safed and the other in Spain when the Zohar first emerged.  For those, I will immerse myself in Kabbalistic texts, teachings, concepts and practices.  The Baal Shem Tov was a great Kabbalist (some even say, the reincarnation of Luria, aka Ha'Ari).  So rightfully, there must be some inclusion of Kabbalah in The Tremble of Love.  How much then to elaborate on the sefiros and the creation of the world according to Lurianic Kabbalah?

There was a false messiah known as Shabtai Tzvi (Shabbetai, Sabbatai) whose movement is crucial to mention in the book and I do.  It is one of the threads pulled throughout the weave of the novel.  But I keep standing on the precipice and avoiding jumping into a deep (dark) exposition of Shabtai Tzvi's specific theoretical and practical  aberrations of Lurianic Kabbalah.  I do some of this--have to, but, much as I might like to wax more philosophical, I know this is territory in which I need more schooling and contemplation in order to be truly insightful.  And how much do my readers want and, perhaps more importantly, need?   I don't want to back away from what would be important and responsible (not quite the word, but can't find the right one at the moment) for me to elucidate.  I am also aware that this is not an academic, pedantic text and do not want it to have that flavor.  HELP!

Some days like today, I rewrite passages that I have already rewritten dozens of times, trying to convey true and useful context (about Sabbatean kabbalah in this case) without either oversimplifying or overcomplicating.  That is precisely the balance I am trying to find.  Truth is to find that place, often one actually needs a GREAT DEAL of knowledge in order to synthesize and reflect essence.

Postscript: It will help to kick the judge off my shoulder who likes to let me know that no matter how I am doing, it is wrong.  Might also behoove me to invite Trust to stand with and in me: Trust that I will do my best and be guided to what is needed that this book be a thing of beauty, inspiration, and love.  It is a primary intention for this book is that it be a sanctuary, that it serve as a refuge—not taking readers away somewhere, but leading them into their own hearts, the place of ultimate refuge.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Expectations 101: How much is enough?

So how many balls does one expect to keep in the air & how many plates to keep spinning if you are not in a circus. Or at least not an official circus. I love some of the balls that have passed through my hands but some times I lose track of them--or not really lose track: I just can't juggle them gracefully and they plop at my feet. I don't say this next thing as a poor me but rather as observation: I never really learned about reasonable expectations. What is enough? How many calls or emails to expect to respond to; how to accept not replying when one so wishes she could be present to these encounters of heart to heart? How many hours to work in a day? How much to do before you can rest? When is it all right not to be "productive"? How challenging to see all those castles in the sky in need of foundations.

All this not meant as lament. Although, I do feel somewhat untrained, naive, and clutzy as a tightrope walker trying to find balance on the taut, narrow highwire of time.

Just thought of those billboards that say: "Got milk?". The billboard of my overtired mind tonight says: "Got illusions?" It's not really a question; I know I got illusions--spinning like dazzling plates under a circus canopy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Interesting to witness an interaction tonight in a small group of women sharing in a teleclass. One woman began sharing some difficult emotions related to feeling isolated. There was such tender genuineness and inquiry as she spoke. Another woman interrupted, starting to give all sorts of advice--even said: "how can we fix you?" This second woman was generous-spirited probably in her desire to perhaps alleviate the discomfort of the first. Nonetheless, I found her interruption annoying (a reaction I initially censored in myself).

I muse on this, neither to judge anyone (including me) nor to fuel or justify my annoyance. I just am reflecting on how we can rush to "fix," to relieve what we perceive as discomfort and/or pain rather than allow it to be there and give space to its expression. This is different than energizing someone's complaining or fault-finding. The first woman tonight was simply sharing very vulnerably (as was our suggested "assignment" in these small groups). I wanted to listen and allow her to express what she was feeling and witnessing about herself.

How often have I not allowed someone to simply "have their feelings" without intervening with the unspoken excuse of helping. I have been most likely to do that with and within myself: not accepting feelings I believe I should not be having rather than letting them be like rain or fog or a maelstrom of sudden, unexpected hailstones.

I would like to allow--in others and in me--the changing, unforecast weather of emotions. I don't need to throw gasoline on raging or smoldering fires, just can elect to be present. No judgment. As little impatience as possible. In this presence, there is peace and there is the power of love. There is connection.