Ghost Year

2021

 

 

 

 

 

Oh my, just like that it is 2022. I find that hard to accept. Although I have done a bit more social, a bit more live things, it has fundamentally been almost two years. Two years of masking, of distancing, of staying home, of busy work and isolation. Two years of cooking for myself with the occasional pickup or delivery to break the monotony. Two years of home repairs and reorganization. Two years of loneliness and zooming.

It feels like 2021 was a ghost year. A year that didn’t really happen. Except I feel my age at least a year more, I see my body changing. I feel myself falling into ruts and routines because there is little to break them. Some are healthy, some very much not so. I feel old because the things I used to do that felt young aren’t happening all that much. The apathy of isolation makes motivation toward self-care an often fleeting thing. Perhaps saying so will help.

I am hoping that this new year will allow me to release those things I have been struggling with and to be open to whatever my new reality is. I know that I have no emotional or real time for resentment, envy, negativity, self-pity. But they seem to keep creeping back.

So what is the path to releasing those things that no longer serve me? Letting go of dreams that will never come true and allowing new ones to take their place. What is the way to allow love and happiness to be the guiding principle of my life? I think just keep talking to the people that understand, letting people love me despite myself and accepting that my life is so much better than it could have been or be. Keep writing, keep making music, keep cooking, keep reading.

I am resolved that I will not have another ghost year. I will make memories. With any luck, some dreams will come true. I will love the people in my life. With a little luck, maybe I will travel again. I will try to face every day with gratitude and a little bit of resolve to do better than the day before.

Here’s to 2022.

Squirrel Trafficking and Lost Notes

I had many notes in my phone and in small pads scattered about my life. These are notes of music I want to remember, quotes I liked and the odd things I see. I often wonder if those things are as odd to others as they seem to me.

Here is one:  a headline on the news “Squirrel Trafficking Ring Busted.” What? I said. What? you are probably saying.

Does it really matter what the actual content of the article was? I don’t think so. The idea that there might have actually been people trafficking squirrels seemed  totally bizarre to me. Why? Is the first question that comes to mind. The next was why is this newsworthy? Why do we care?

I don’t really have answers for these and many other questions that crop up in my mind as I go about my life. The seminal question is: Why do we care?My energy, my mental data banks, are full of caring about the larger things. Climate change, living an affordable life, homelessness, hunger, poverty and the imminence of civil war. My loved ones living with terminal or horribly chronic illness. Okay, that’s off my chest.

But really? Squirrel trafficking? This and many other equally mysterious notes were stored in an app on my phone. I recently got a new phone with the assurance that nothing would be lost. Of course all my notes of the last 3 years are gone. As is all the music I was working on with my guitar player/collaborator. As are all the phone messages from my now deceased mother and my now grown nephew when he was just little.

I found myself devastated with the loss of these things, so carefully preserved and stored. All the ideas for writing about the observed oddities of this country. All the music in progress. The sound of my mother’s voice. So, have I learned my lesson? Store things elsewhere? Not yet. I welcome suggestions. It has to be an app on my phone as that is the tool I carry with me. So much to learn so little time.

Save the squirrels.

 

Dreaming

It has been a long while since I wrote about a Torah portion but…here you are.

This week’s Torah portion is about many things. Most of which I will not address. Joseph, one of Jacob’s many sons is central to the beginning and end of this parshah. Joseph’s brothers call him a dreamer, even as they prepare to murder him. Joseph, throughout all the travails he encounters – being thrown into a pit, sold to the Ishmaelites, sold to an Egyptian and finally falsely imprisoned – never gives up his dreams.

Rabbi Shefa Gold posits that Joseph knows that his troubles are sent by God and that the blessings come disguised. That somehow Joseph knows of his own radiance, that he is special and loved and has a destiny to fulfill.

This interpretation resonated with me. How many of us have troubles in our lives, failures, disappointments, tragedies? All of us. Some are larger than others, but we all have them and our feelings are much the same. We ask “why me?” “Why them?” “Why?”

And how often have we told our children that you learn more from failure than success? We all wish success. But how often do we look at our failures, our tragedies, our disappointments, and find the blessing? Rarely I think. How do we measure success? By the money or accolades earned, or the lessons learned?

A dear friend of mine was recently told her marriage was over, it was heartbreaking and sorrowful. But in this event I see her finding her own wings, her own self, maybe the fulfillment of her dreams – perhaps ones she didn’t know she had. So the blessing is wrapped up in the sorrow. But you have to look for it.

In the long months leading up to my mother’s death, we were faced with a looming necessity to place her outside of her home. Maybe she knew it was coming, I don’t know. I do know that her dream was to die in the beautiful home that she spent a lifetime creating, filled with books and art and writing. And at our moment of decision, she did. She passed peacefully in her own bed with flowers around her and music playing and her son holding her hand. So the blessing was in the sorrow and in the fulfillment of her dream. It took a minute for me to find it.

When my father struggled with dementia and had to come and live with me, I asked a friend what lesson I was supposed to learn. It was a very difficult time. Her answer was “patience”. The blessing was in the giving back. We had a very un-parental relationship. He was not a good father but an interesting, artistic and talented man who taught me many things about the world. I was not a good daughter, running off at 16 to live an eclectic life. I often dreamed of a “normal” family, it was never to be. But in the end, my service to him gave us a new and valuable relationship, an unexpected fulfillment of my dream and a blessing. But I had to look for it.

When my marriage ended there was a great deal of pain. But through that experience, I have a much better understanding of my self, my spirit, and an acceptance of the wonder of the life I have. In the sorrow and pain, there was a great blessing, but I had to look for it.

I have had many losses and many failures in my life. But like Joseph, I remain a dreamer. I am not sure that I know, as Rabbi Gold would say, my own radiance. I do know that, as she puts it, it is my mission to unmask the blessings.

Each loss has taught me how to be graceful with the loss others experience. They have taught me to listen to others’ sorrow without judgment. Each failure has taught me to be more merciful when others fail. To reach out a hand not a criticism. Each failure has taught me some lesson, has given me some tool to use for the next. In every experience of life there is some fulfillment of a dream. God often fulfills our dreams in unexpected and challenging ways. Often the blessing is hard to see, but it is there – you just have to look for it.

Joseph in this parshah goes through enormous hardships, attempted murder, slavery, prison. And yet, he never stops dreaming and never stops being kind to those he encounters. He has a natural goodness – he has his radiance and his knowledge of God’s love for him no matter what.

So may we all, like Joseph, never give up our dreams, never stop acting with kindness, see our own radiance and always unmask the blessings. You never know what comes next.

Everything New Is Old Again

I walked the streets of my childhood last week. I didn’t intend it. I was downtown and had a destination about a mile and a half away. When you are in the City that seems a reasonable walk.

But the walk found me on those very familiar streets. Where I walked home from school, where I walked to my first job, where I walked to whatever mischief I could find. And everything is changed, busier, more modern, different. Almost all the storefronts have changed but a few of the old timers remain, relics of a more peaceful time in what used to be a neighborhood.

No matter the changes, my feet found the way so very familiar. As if nothing really had changed at all. I stood in front of the first home I remember, a small apartment on West 8th street, and I could see the businesses that were on that street. There was the drugstore on the corner where my impetuous brother gashed open his eyebrow on the square metal post out front. There was the very first Orange Julius. There was Fred Braun next door and an amazing bookstore right across the street.

These are all gone but that changed street, so much remade, was once again the place of my childhood.

Then I walked past the block where we lived next and the building is gone, it appears to be the home of new condos. But the Minetta Lane theatre and the Village Vanguard are still in evidence, still holding down the fort of the old neighborhood. The White Horse Tavern and the Stonewall are still there, and a few more.

And so as new as everything is, it is still where I grew up. Walking those streets felt as familiar as they ever were. Everything new is old again, at least in my eyes and in my feet.

With a Snap of the Fingers

It is like a small miracle, you are ice and snowbound and you wake up one morning and the white is gone. It is as if God snapped her fingers and it is spring. It may be forty five degrees but nevertheless it is spring.

The bears are coming out of hibernation, the deer can find at least the dead grass to feed on, dormant insects are alive and the birds are chirping. The silent landscape of winter is now stirring, awakening, stretching. And with it’s sounds is letting us know it is time for us as well to sit up, to look around, to be aware of the waking world.

Where I live normally, the emergence of spring is a bit less obvious, the grass just barely begins to green, you start to sneeze because new leaves are starting, the flowers of summer are just beginning to form their buds. Soon the frog choir will begin as the rains come. And then in a moment it is full summer.

But here in New England, the nascent signs of spring are more obvious and at the same time more subtle. The march from winter to summer is a longer and slower process. But because it is slow it allows time for observation and consciousness of each baby step along the way.

What will be the first thing to bloom? The crocus – they usually come through the snow. The daffodils with their supremely cheerful yellow reminding us of the happy months to come? The lawn will slowly green as each flower presents itself for our admiration. Finally the star magnolia under which our pets are buried will burst into full bloom, a magnificent orb of white.

Indeed the progression of the seasons is something I miss living in the south. I don’t miss the cold and snow except in passing moments but this lovely unfolding of the reawakening of the earth is a visceral reminder of the passage of time. Each trip around the sun is something to be savored, observed, remarked, written about and remembered. And then you move on.

And with a snap of God’s fingers it is spring.