Tuesday, March 9, 2010

before words

May 9

I just realized today that part of the reason I wasn’t able to write for a few weeks is because I was preverbal. As the journey goes with me I have retraced my life as the cells of my body shed off with illness and rubbing against life here. I felt critically the years around 2 for a few weeks as I bumped into everything and kept falling down. I tangled in 8 the days around buying the pink flower umbrella. That now is gone on its own to some other place. The teenage years bump and spin as my identity is tested and wooed by those colorful ones around me. But the deepest and saddest of all came calling last month. Memories have a way of living in our bodies and I have been treated I believe to the early years. The years of crying when you need something, screaming when you don’t get it, and sobbing so completely it takes over your body. A substantial part of our early years are spend crying and kvetching and squirming and reaching and feeling and feeling and feeling every sensation in our little bodies with only the cries and screams and squeals to express it all. We know everything, we came it with it, but we have to develop our nervous systems and our brains and our lives so what we know can emerge.

At this point in my life I believe for sure we come into this world with stuff. My mother can’t be the source of all my suffering. I brought some of it in with me. She is the source of some of it, for sure, my mother. My mother, centuries of being Jewish, and being born in the profound year of 1968 created a little sensitive baby with a big job to do and not the most organized nervous system. The limitations of my human mother commingled fiercely with my strong spirit. And what I experienced recently felt like the sadness of a baby developing a body not strong enough for my soul. I felt the disorganization of my mother and the overwhelming task of being an unexpressed artist with 3 babies and the generational squeeze of maintaining the 1950s home while breaking the work barrier for women. I felt the mismatched task for my father of wanting a simpler and quieter life and being married to an unexpressed artist. Toni Morrison once said that an artist without a canvas is a dangerous person. That’s my mom. And my dad didn’t have a clue. I spent a lot of time with old crying these days and feeling this deep deep old sadness and a grasping attempt to get what I needed with the helplessness of a newborn in an old country or a baby in my1968 family crib. I can feel the overwhelming experience of my mother and my father in the construction of my nervous system. And in the last two months it broke down. The structure around my soul, the system designed to fight or flight or flee has been simultaneously doing all three at once and nothing at all like a baby wanting to get up and get a tissue and some ice cream and not being able to even roll over. I don’t really know how it’s possible to reexperience your life, but I am sure that I am. Making Aliyah at 40 as a soul searching life struggling Jewish clinical social worker with awareness of body and mind and an insatiable curiosity and propensity for insight is no simple matter.

Last year I began deconstructing my life. Last month I began rebuilding my nervous system. Four years ago this March 29th I came to Israel for the first time. My aunt once said to me that she is excruciatingly sensitive, yes, me too. For my mother it scattered her, and my father it took him away to a quieter place. I think as Jews most of us are excruciatingly sensitive. Hey thousand of years of being picked on would make anyone sensitive. It’s our gift to the world and our work. Some of us are better at it than others. In this place the sensitivity of beings is a deeply rooted excruciatingly expressed country. I love it here.

And from here, with my parents safely walking on the boardwalk of Margate City, Jersey, I will rebuild my body so it can be a vessel for this crazy soul and a filter for my spirit.

My spirit came back to me again today

March 5, 2009

My spirit came back to me again today. There is a practice I think of a morning prayer I vaguely remember something about thanking every morning for the existence or presence still of your soul. Havanti. I think I understand. There is a return and sway and return of my spirit that here I feel with the pull and sway of this place. The connection here is so organic with all that exists human and cellular, absence impacts as much as presence. I can feel exquisitely what is missing in me. I wish I could say that about my other home understood absence. Absence is not so noticed. You don’t see your neighbor for a while it doesn’t impact your stride. There aren’t seasonal vegetables most don’t even know. Object permanence is still developing in that country. I think it got waylayed by object relations. Instead of human relations. If the object goes away we don’t look for it, we just get another one. Like babies.

It seems that each month here my spirit challenges me with the daily taunt of holding on to it as it roams around and attaches itself to all the interesting and alluring moments of temptation and familiarity. It attaches to old pains it recognizes in others, it attaches to the wind and the sea, it attaches to the smells and promises of flowers leaving the shuk in the grip of another soul building a home or relationship. My spirit lives on curiously and seeking. My spirit is free to roam. My body is another story and my mind a rat maze chasing cheese. But all my spirit wants is to be free. It’s aware of all the flowers. Maybe life is about staying close enough to your spirit so you don’t get left behind, because it’s playing. Even if you are not.

The culture lives inside out here. You can see it. People walk from the shuk carrying their fruits and vegetable overflowing from see through plastic, they balance babies and packages on bicycles along with rugs and mops and giant bundles of toilet paper that seem to be the trend here. If they are in a car at all it’s small and things are tied on the top out the back over the bumpers, tied with bubble gum or hair pins or PVC piping, or whatever they can find. The sidewalks here breathe. People walk here. And they carry things. And they eat outside and sit in the parks and talk in every crevice there is. They sit on the beach late at night, in tiny parks that litter the neighborhoods and along the sea where the water catapults itself up onto the port to join us and only leaves the shadows of human trash and organic sea matter on the planks of wood as gravity brings the water back to its source through the cracks. Here people eat while they are walking and sing while they are riding and mop their dirt out onto the sidewalk in a decidedly local way of swooping the water from inside to out. They hang their sheets and underwear and air all matter for the sun to cleanse. Here there is much for the spirit to attach itself to. It’s all for the touching. And here you can even touch each other. As a matter of being, it happens all the time.

This last month I think my spirit and I have been roaming in different arenas and I think my spirit is smarter than me. I am brought back again to the essential swap of time and space. Things happen differently here and I think I made the mistake again of trying to make things happen instead of allowing them. I put my head down and worked hard steadily to find work. And only I found isolation. In this inside out culture I need to reorganize from inside and live on the out.

In music the space between the notes holds the magic. In poetry the pause. Here it’s the space between the people, and you have to put yourself in it. For a soullost Israeli but a grown up as American I am a bit squished. My deeply internal inclinations are at one here, but my learned and warped independence creates interference. Sit alone with my computer or socialize my way to a job? My patterns are changing, but the deeply ingrained adaptations are showing their inadequacies here.

This place is filled with old souls and free spirits and even the secular folks here live in close quarters with the sense that there is an energy there that makes things happen . The place is small and almost everyone in it has encountered their soul. War immigration desecration of home and limbs threat to existence death fear insecurity of home and life have been in the pocket of most here. It makes for a different way to live. In the states my natural way of living intuitively and passionately close to my soul didn’t fit with the general man made lifestyle. Here my American independence and sense of personal power are irrelevant. I am allowed for the first time to use my very basic self and I can figure out how.

I don’t want to be an American here. I want to be the person I have been struggling to hold onto for all these years in the face of constant threat. There I had to hold so fiercely onto myself so as not to lose me. Here there is full permission to be myself and the threat to existence happens as a whole. It’s all haffooch here. Here threat is more distant and the distance between people is more threatening. Why is it that what we most want we cannot sometimes handle? Threat to the whole makes the parts closer here. All the close personalities are strong here. Even the weak ones. So the incoming influence of others globs on and the challenge to hold onto yourself becomes because others are attaching to you, they ARE attaching. With their ideas and opinions and foods and invitations, and even for someone as strong headed as me, I find myself turning around to look as see if the person I am being at the moment is me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jerusalem leaves me inadequate....with fragments

October 8, 2009
I’ve just spent the day in Jerusalem…  on pilgrimage I suppose for Succot. Jerusalem truly is a feast for the senses the imagination and the spectacular. The sheer magnitude of people, the faces the languages the sects and the awed. We wandered through M… the shuk of all shuks for authenticity and raw essence. I’m finding now my sensation to be profoundly rich and my words to be plainly inadequate. Jerusalem can do that to you.  To keep treasured… the ride to the train station with the furry hats and old me boys, the kind woman who taught me all the way home about Polish men and living without fear and fed me homemade snacked ….the Rocky figure of the sweaty and bouncing boxer crossing himself across the Ayalon, and the man who responded warmly to my stretching at the eternal traffic light at the intersection of Jabotinsky and Arlozorov, rak Ivrit he taught me all the way across and welcomed me to Israel. All the way home. All the way. From one handed to the next.
Yesterday October 7 all over the streets of Tel Aviv on my bicycle…. three Russian giggling woman…..I’ll have to come back to all of this…..

How can I fall in love with my life

October 3
How can I fall in love with my life?  Falling in love with a human hasn’t been so successful. How can I be fully in love with my life? My new home? My new sense of home?  To be a Jew in the Diaspora is very different than to be a Jew in Israel. The yearning is replaced by a dizzying candy store of possibilities. The loneliness is replaced by the labyrinth of faces and cultures that leaves the identification of a fellow Jew elusive.  The effort to satisfy needs and wants screaming from my Jewish soul are irrelevant here in a place where satisfaction is possible, probable, and in every inch of existence here.   My searching has been the beehive of my existence. Now I find. How to shift all consciousness to finding. To rid myself of the slave mentality. To believe I am no longer slave to the closed the distant and the not knowing. No longer slave to alienation. To separation. To the wandering of a misplaced person. What now? How now? From where inside me does this construction come? Binyan. I am tired. And weary. From the dying of old structures of being. The beings are fighting for their survival, but I no longer want them. How to sever your limbs and your rhythm? How to deny the reaching out that has been the driving force of creation in my life. How do you tame the anger for so much time in pain? How do you justify the anger and resolve to love life. I want to love my life. Every challenging chaotic bit of it. How can I evade the darkness of repetition? The familiarity of struggle? How can I fall in love with my life?

Friday, December 25, 2009

act of

December 22
After Ulpan cranky from school trauma
“It’s an act of freedom”, she tells me simply.  The woman with the Charlie Chips cans.   To shed your past….is an act of freedom.  To release the parts that causes pain and restriction. To allow the spirit to live big.  To allow the body to breathe freely. For the spirit to wash in and out with the breath. To clean the body you must be able to breath. A shallow breath clogs the body. A wheezing breath is the spirit squeezing through the gook to get out. Constriction from external refusal leaves the body weary; without enough oxygen. When expression can flow freely in and out of the body it cleanses with every breath.  With every stuffed impulse, the body retains the fruit and it molds. Too much mold makes the body more weary. A sneeze, a new Italian Ulpan friend told me yesterday, is when you’re are trying to find your way. I sneeze a lot. Maybe it’s the spirit forcing it’s way out.  I’ve been sneezing and searching with vigorous symmetry.  Michael just called. Free expression. 

our feet sometimes take us

Somewhere in the 3rd week of October
I don’t know how it happens that our feet sometimes take us just where we need to be. I was exhausted and sick and feeling more like I wanted to be under giant fluffy covers than to step into the street and the ein sof of all things here. But my feet moved, so my body had to agree. I’ve been wandering for so long that my feet are still roaming like legs off a bicycle that still feel like they are peddling. So off we went with my legs to a place navigated by who knows what and carried out by my feet.  I left the complication of unpacking and figuring of just arrived belongings from and  I wandered as I have many times through Neve Tzedek and up towards the park on Shlush Street and was pulled straight down the stairs of a nostalgically comforting antiquey place partially undergound in the stone walls of yesterday. I was in that mood where you’re too tired to talk to anyone and you think maybe if walk with your eyes closed noone will see you. So dreamily I rolled to the back of the store not really looking at anything and there in the corner was a giant Charlie Chips can! A Charlie Chips potato chips can…. the ones that were to delivered to my house at 724 Kentwood Street Phila, PA 19116 when I was a kid. They were the best chips ever and this big soft guy we called Charlie came every week in a truck and delivered eggs, I think, and Charlie Chips potato chips.  For a moment I questioned where I was. Or how old I was. Then I blinked my eyes in that silly am I dreaming way and looked again. But there it still was in a nostalgically comforting old stone place on Shlush Street in Israel. A Charlie Chips can with Mountville, PA 17554 written on it. I carried it to the front of the store to the distinctly Israeli woman and she said strongly, Yea, I lived in Philly for 25 years. 25 I think. In one moment my worlds merged. She knew Philly, she is Israel, she knows the Jewish community of Philly and the ish of the suburbs and the struggle of the Diaspora Jew and the intensity of the Israeli Jew and the burden of both. She knows where I grew up, why I belong here and all about the Charlie Chips can. She is the only person I know who can follow the lace of all the parts of my life and my soul’s journey to here. She has four of her own kids, one at 43 and one at 45. So as we sat among the pieces of various periods of American and world history we merged my world. We brought the wandered fragments here. Dayenu…and that would have been enough.  But then my eyes wandered as my feet did and they fell onto a giant framed poster of a little boy face to face with lying down camel intently feeding it a peanut. Above them were the words: Sunday Magazine of the Philadelphia Press...August 27, 1905. I was smitten. Both with the boy and the camel. It’s a Herbert Paus Normal Rockwell looking poster. Remember, I just came out of 3 months in the desert with the camels!
I could barely pull myself away, but managed to say goodbye to all of them with her invitation to come visit me more. And Dayenu, that would have been enough.
On Friday I went to back over to say hello and to visit the boy and the camel but I arrived after she closed. Shabbat sends everyone to dinner and rest early here. So I peered in the window to visit with the poster as old friends and it was gone. I searched around as much as I could through the window and couldn’t see it, but I felt for sure that it was for me.  Did someone buy it?? It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be that someone would interfere with my life like that.  So I decided not to panic and went home knowing that the boy and the camel were with me.
I returned a few days later and woman who know my life said she had something for me. Dayenu. She pulled out the giant poster of the boy and the camel and said it must be mine. Dayenu, that would have been enough.   But…Sometime after we talked it had randomly fallen off the wall and shattered. Nothing ever falls from her walls.  With the glass shattered and some scars from the fall on its face, she could not sell it. It was mine. 

a letter to a friend.....so here I sit....

October 15, 2009
A letter to a friend,
 Ok, so, here I sit in a little cute apartment in Neve Tzedek with my dog trying to get treats out of her kong and mounds of boxes with a likeness to my life before.  I wonder what it is like to be person who is not so emotional? I feel so much.  It's strange and at the same time completely normal. Of course all things worked out for the best. I went to the beach sat for while with the sea and wrote down everything I wanted in an apt. The pickins have been very very slim. Not much to look at in my range in Neve Tzedek. So I set out to make something materialize. I had tried to call the guy who offered to make me an apt out of part of his house many times previously, but my phone for some reason lost his number and couldn't access it. So after the beach I walked to his house with this feeling always that he was going to be involved somehow and I tried one more time to get my phone to cooperate and with the hope that perhaps all things are possible I pushed the button for his name and his number appeared. Strange.  I called and asked for magic and he said he had an apt for me. I met him that night talked him down and the night before ulpan started I moved into the the compound of an old Yemenite family. It's right on the edge of Neve Tzedek right off the circle between the David Intercontinental and the shuk. It's amazing. It's quirky cute with lot's of windows and a merpesset. Ground floor big kitchen with lots of cabinets and a whole family looking after me. The old matriarch lives here with various family members in different apts all interconnected around a courtyard. I think I'm the first non family member in 80 years. 
Succot was amazing surrounded by succot hanging from balconies, on the corner of streets, parking lots, and sidewalks.  Simchat Torah was blinding with all the dancing and singing and succot all around. It was impossible to resist the happiness of torahs (torot?) dancing around all corners with singing people under them.  I was just here cleaning and waiting for my new toilet. The first night I slept here I couldn't use the toilet. 
So here I sit, with all my stuff, a bit blank. I think I'm afraid to unpack all the old pains and patterns. My furniture is unbubbled and the boxes are piled. To have my grandmothers chair and my great grandmothers cedar chest here in Israel is something even i don't have words for. I'm so glad to have brought my life with me...although at the moment I'm not sure how to integrate it all. It's a bit sad and lonely. I feel the weight of all the years of packing and unpacking and moving and schlepping and searching on my own. I almost can't feel the excitement now. Still here I am alone. But not at all. I live alone, but not for a moment after I walk outside. I'm in the pocket of old and new. I can feel all that has changed in me....and also the pull of the old pulling me back as old habits and hurts don't let go easily. I am so much my newer and truer self, with the stepping back and forth that happens as you gradually go from more time new and less time old. For some reason as it all sheds off, it's really as if I can feel the pain of all the years of my life passing out of me. I'm waiting for the moment I feel free. Perhaps when glasses and books have founds their places and the sandals are back in the sand again. I'm tired. 
I just waked over to the Carmel market and got hangers and toilet paper and somehow I'd forgotten how exciting it is there. Now I'm buying ear sticks not just cucumbers.