Since my dad died in 2013, I have been going to the memorial service on Yom Kippur. It seems every year it gets more crowded, parking gets more elusive, as more and more of our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles leave us. It feels like an assembly line. We move along, freshly manufactured little ones joining the line as the elders fall off at the end, packaged, sealed and shipped off to whatever comes next. And sometimes, there is a hitch in the system, and we fall off long before our time. Alcoholism, cancer, suicide, heart disease. I have always been convinced that as the world will cease to exist after I am gone, I will never die. And if I do, I will be 120 and I’m taking you all with me. I admit that this is completely childish and self-absorbed. Don’t care. Neener neener. A very dear friend of the family lost her long fight with breast cancer recently. I was shocked at how heartbroken I was. More so than when I lost my dad. How could that be? I came to understand that my dad was 85, had rarely been sick a day in his life, and had a heart attack while reaching for a slice of pizza. Could there be a better way to go? A greater gift to his family? I miss him everyday, but it was his time. Those who leave us young, especially after fighting so hard to live, those are the endings that break our hearts. That crush our spirit. Make us question our faith and the rightness of the world. Interestingly enough, this friend of ours, at least outwardly, never lost faith, never let her spirit get trampled, never let the world hear her cursing G-d, never asked why me? Oh, I’m sure she did all of that and more in private, but through it all, she fought and kept smiling. She cherished the life she had, even when she was tired and in pain. Does it take a crisis to appreciate our lives? We bitch and moan and whine about our jobs, our money, our bad hair days. Long commutes, short weekends, numerous obligations. We’re too fat, too thin, hate our noses. In Mexico they celebrate Días de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. They set up shrines to loved ones with marigolds and sweets and their favorite food and drink. They take food and drink and music to the cemetery and spend whole days there, celebrating the lives of the departed. It’s beautiful and fun and colorful and spectacular. But wouldn’t it be nice if we celebrated our lives while we were still alive instead of waiting for someone else to do it when we aren’t. Every day the conveyor belt moves closer to whatever awaits us. Celebrate. Smile. Laugh. Eat the cake. Dance. Create. Work hard. Play hard. Love hard. Spend whole days with your loved ones, eating their favorite food and drink while they are still here. Because tomorrow? Who knows?Dia de Los Muertos
I am a whistler. A hummer. A mumbler. A grumbler. A natterer. A chatterer. A twitterer. A chitterer. A babbler. A gabbler. A warbler. A gabber. A jabber-jaw. A gabbler. A gibberer. A jabberer. A twaddler. A twiddler. A gasbag. A windbag. A yakker. A wise-cracker. A bigmouth. I am never silent. If you looked over at me right now, all you’d see is someone quietly tapping on her phone. Inside my head? Blah blah blah-ing at breakneck speed. I cannot stop. At work? Humming. Commenting. Complaining. Blabbing. Mind you, I’m usually the only one listening. I can’t be certain, but I think anyone who has known me for more than 5 minutes tends to tune me out. Cause I’m not talking to them. I’m muttering. Mumbling. Holding the same conversations with myself until I get them just the way I like them. Yipping and yapping and telling off any one who’s ever hurt me in verbal rampages looping endlessly in my head. Holding imaginary conversations during which all my dreams come true. What is waiting beneath the constant noise? What would happen if I was completely still. If I just was, for a little while. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
We are never silent. We are sad and hurt and scared and angry. We are bitter and regretful and sorry. We are helpless and hopeful and hilarious. We are curious and creative. We are planning and scheming, constant day-dreaming. We are lucky and unlucky. We are loving and loved. We speak volumes without saying a word. And I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s LOUD up in here.
My Cup Runneth Off at the Mouth
So you all know I went to my 40th High School reunion two weeks ago. And as my 6 loyal followers also know I was a little ambiguous. And ya know what? I had a great time. There were a lot of people I knew, and although we either grew apart by high school, or weren’t that close, we enjoyed the hell out of seeing each other and catching up. A woman I went all the way from kindergarten through high school was among the first to greet me. She told me that she always thought my name was Crayon. See, her name is Karen and her little 5 year old self couldn’t understand how we could have the same name but spell it differently. And she felt bad for me. Being named Crayon and all. We all spent a lot of time staring at each other’s chests where our name tags and yearbook pictures lived. I was stunned at how many times I heard, “You look exactly the same!!” People who I thought didn’t even know I existed. I realized how many people knew who I was even if we never said a word to each other in high school. And how enjoyable it was getting to know them a little better now. Don’t get me wrong. There was still the Uber-cool kids, now the uber-cool adults who didn’t really mingle. They stayed in their tight little group and let the tier 2 cool but slightly less cool kids come to them. Although I’m still awed and intimidated, and they were either still gorgeous, or had so much plastic surgery they could’ve been anyone of a certain age, I really didn’t care that much. I spent time with a lot of people that I wouldn’t have in high school. We were all older, chubbier, balder. We didn’t really give a #%^* how cool or uncool we were back then. We were happy to be alive and well for this milestone. So many of our classmates aren’t. Age is the great leveler. It’s one thing to lose a parent, to see how close mortality is. It’s another thing all together when contemporaries start dropping. Classmates. Ex-husbands. Friends. Having borne no children of my own, I never felt quite like a grown up. Still don’t. And being as self-absorbed as I am, I cannot wrap my head around a world that I am no longer in. It just doesn’t make sense. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. I feel young. Inside. Maybe that will keep the outside young for just a little longer. Maybe I’ll still dance and laugh and cause eye-rolling mortification in my neices. Maybe at my 50th high school reunion, I will still hear, “OMG, you look exactly the same!” One can only hopeWoman Praying
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I have a ticket to my high school reunion on Saturday. My 40th high school reunion. And 5 days before, I’m still undecided about actually going….Fast forward. It is now the day of the reunion and I’m still undecided about going. The question is why. On the flip side, the question is why did I get a ticket in the first place? There is something compelling about seeing old friends 40 years later when we are actually, well, old. Or older. The thing is, out of a class of 731, I was close to about 10 of them. As far as I know, none of them will be there. And if the Facebook posts for the last year are to be believed, the 100 or so who will be there are all close and so looking forward to seeing each other, and this is going to be the best reunion, ever!! There are a few Facebook friends who will be there, and it will be nice to see them in person, but for the most part, I have no idea who these people are! How is that possible? Did I make myself so invisible, that even I couldn’t see myself? Did I really believe that it would be better to not be remembered at all then to be remembered as nerdy, unpopular, funny-looking, the girl who peed her pants in 7th grade math class, because Mrs. McGirt wouldn’t let her out of class? And 40 some odd years later, why is it only now, that I can look at that kid, and see that she was no better or worse than any one else. Why did it take me 40 years to realize that I don’t know most of my classmates because I chose that path. That I was as popular and well-liked as I believed myself to be. Self-esteem is a tricky thing. Where it comes from, how one has it, or doesn’t, whether it can be learned, or you have to be born with it. I don’t have the answers…yet. I hope it can be learned because my adult life is colored by the girl I perceived my self to be. The shy, invisible, not quite pretty-enough girl who can’t remember the faces of her classmates because she was always looking down. So, I guess I’ll go to the reunion. And I’ll smile and greet people I know and meet people I don’t. And maybe it will be the best reunion, ever!
My ex-husband died. How weird is that? I mean certainly it happens. People die. We get old. We get sick. We get hit by lightening. We get eaten by tigers. But….My ex-husband died. We had been out of touch for years. I never regretted our divorce. He drank too much. He was unbelievably moody. He found a bay leaf I accidentally left in a lasagna and didn’t talk to me for 3 days. I spent 11 years tiptoeing around his bad days, making excuses for him, waiting for the first sign of an upswing like a dog for a bone, thrilling when he finally felt better and spoke to me again. I knew it wasn’t about me. It was never about me. And when he was happy, everyone was happy. But I left our marriage some time before we actually separated, and when I finally realized, with a lot of love and a place to crash from my friend, Jenny and her then husband, Brett, that I didn’t have to let the fear of being alone keep me in a bad relationship, we divorced. It was infinitely easier on me than on him. I was free! I barely looked back. Oh, I’d check out his Facebook page periodically, secretly a little smug that I was aging so much better than him and a lot relieved when he lost his job at 60 because his hands were no longer steady enough, thanking the powers-that-be that I was well out of that mess. But…My ex-husband died. And now, I find myself obsessively looking at pictures of him and reading his posts, thinking, how did I not see that he didn’t look well. Perhaps he hadn’t been well in a while. And I want to know everything, how he thought, what his life had been like, what his last days were like, was he happy, did he suffer? A friend of his saw him in February and said he talked about me. He remembered me fondly. I found myself leaping on that crumb and wanting more. Why? Why, now after so many years with barely a backward glance, do I want to know what was going on in this man’s life, his head, his heart. Because he’s gone. Because if there were answers to be had, they are gone with him. This man I slept with, lived with, loved, hated, hurt and got hurt by, my ex-husband died.
LIFE, A Bracelet in 6 Acts
I’ve always admired people who are genuinely happy. I know that everyone has bad days but there are people like my dear friend, Brigette, who are just happy. I’ve met many people who just know in their hearts that every day is a blessing and all of what life hands you is a gift. I am in awe of this phenomenon! I just don’t get it! No, really. WTF?!? I have spent so much of my life cranky that even when I smile, my mom is like , “Stop frowning!” There isn’t enough Botox in the world to get rid of the lines between my eyes and if I don’t have something to worry, whine or complain about, my day is ruined. I started to think about the people whose lives I envy the most and guess what?! It’s the same f#^*ing people!!!! Stay with me, now. The common thread in those lives I wish I had is that they appreciate every day, every person who touches their lives. They are the ones every one wants to be around, not because of what they have, what they do, or what they give you, but because they possess a faith in the rightness and the joy of life. And when they smile, and they smile a lot, they mean it. And the universe cannot help but smile back. So the trick to living our best life is not to amass the most money, the most impressive career, the prettiest hair, or the best toys. It is to believe that the best life is the one we are living right now.
Behind the Curtain
When I did Bye Bye Birdie for the Community Synagogue Theatre Company last year, I got some unexpected gifts. Of course, there was the chance to be on stage after 20 years, the applause, the swelled head. All of that was fun as hell. But the unexpected was the gift of community. It is not unusual in any production to become a family of sorts, but this family was different. This experience was different. And I wanted to be a part of it on a more permanent basis. So I joined the Synagogue. A little backstory. I grew up in an orthodox synagogue, though not in an orthodox home. My synagogue experience was dry, somber, inaccessible. I did not love it. So I had my bas mitzvah and got the %^* outta there, never looking back. When my nieces were little, I started to go to Community Synagogue on the High Holidays and was moved by the music, the sermons, the accessibility. But it wasn’t until last year when I decided. I want a piece of this! So as of July I will be a member. But not just a member. Several weeks ago I get a call from one of the board members of the Sisterhood, asking if I would be interested in being Co-VP of the Social Action Committee on the board of the Sisterhood. My first reaction was, “I’m so busy, blah, blah, blah.” Than I thought, why not? Why not walk the walk for a change? So in the past week, I have been to three meetings and the Shabbat service installing the new board of the Sisterhood. Everyone is warm, welcoming, lovely. And I feel just a bit like an impostor. As I read my portion of the service, I’m thinking, what am I doing here? As I stood on the bima in a circle of women I barely knew, our arms around each other receiving a beautiful blessing from the Rabbi, I feel that I haven’t earned this. These women have earned this. I haven’t. They are so Jewish! I remember nothing from Hebrew School. I eat matzo on Passover only when I’ve run out of English Muffins. They all have children, I don’t. But at some point, I realized that everyone starts at the beginning. Maybe they’re here for all the wrong reasons. Maybe they’re giving back to feel like they belong. To feel important. To feel good about themselves. Guess what? It doesn’t matter about our motivations. What matters is that we are here. I have been given an opportunity to be of service. Does it matter that my motives may not be as altruistic as others? Not really. I have also been given a second chance to understand what it means to me to be a Jewish woman. To me. Will I start lighting candles on the Shabbat? Keeping a Kosher home? Nope. Probably not. But who knows? If you had told me a year ago that I would be on the board of the Sisterhood, I would have laughed in your face.
Woman Praying. A portion of the proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. #BCRF #carynjune