Watching 70s horror on Criterion with Grace, drinking ginger tea, wearing a velvet robe, smiling. Because today one neighbor in my building lent me a wonderful book, another installed a new paper towel dispenser in my kitchen, and I helped a third fetch groceries. Which is to say: I feel bathed in care. There have been so many terrible things about 2020, but one wonderful thing is that for the first time in my 27 years as a New Yorker, I have let down my guard and connected to people who live in close proximity to me. Trust me: This is a major shift for this proud domestic isolationist. What happened was this: when the pandemic got real, the annoying millennials in my building left and ones I hadn’t known were lovely stayed and more lovely people moved in, and at first we all acted like a team out of necessity and now we’re just friends with our own text message thread even. I’m sure I’ll be the scary cat lady again at some point when they’re loud and I’m sleeping but for now I have traded the luxury of NYC anonymity for something warmer and cozier, and I am safer and a little more happily seen as a result. This seems like a metaphor for something not bad, it really does. And in a year of so much pain and so much loss and so many cold hearts, all mitzvahs deserve mention and anything not bad must be embraced. That got simpler, anyway.
I suppose this is why I’ve not been posting more personal essays. So much of what I’m feeling is abject grief, and who needs more of that? Except: Are we really allowing ourselves to experience said grief? Or are we ranting then checking out then ranting some more? It’s hard to grieve, really grieve, for a quality of life—a standard of decency—that we took for granted only nine months ago. Because to do so makes this present more real, and who wants that?
It reminds me of the prayer I started uttering as a child when I realized I had no allies.
Dear God please don’t let me stop feeling. Continue Reading →
Today is Yom Kippur. It is a day of reckoning, which is the most demanding form of love. This ceremony of atonement sprang from a time when the ancestors felt so abandoned by Gd that they began to worship false idols out of desperation. Thus a mystical ritual evolved in which sins of faithlessness—which at heart are all sins—were purified through repentance and fasting so that divine light might return.
Typically I avoid fasting, but this biblical practice seemed right for these biblical times. Thirsty and hungry, I spent the afternoon by the river praying and meditating. Atoning for how, over these last months of upheaval and unrest, I’ve abandoned myself and others—have shut down and obfuscated due to overwhelm.
By her banks I reflected on how, throughout history, my line–many lines–have survived times far harder than these by staying present and toiling hard. By keeping the faith. And so I asked the river to teach me to model her love—steadfast, strong, eternally flowing, beautifully boundaried. Tonight, after breaking fast, I will revisit her beneath the nearly full moon to wash away my remaining fear and faithlessness. To return my tears.
I do not expect to feel instantly saved. But I do expect to feel lighter. And I invite you to join me in the release of true reckoning in whatever way works for you. Because as long as we are still gifted with life, we are also gifted with divine light and love, and must meet it halfway. There is nothing more hopeful than that. G’mar chatima tova.
Art: Marc Chagall