Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I Know the Heart of a Stranger

I know the heart of the stranger.
It beats
And bleeds
And breaks.
I know this heart;
It is my own.

But this I do not know -
this hatred,
this tearing
and rending.
I do not know this
this strangled
heart of

The stench from
this sacrifice is not pleasing.
it is a desolation.
There is no delight in this,
only death and a heart of stone.

I do not know that heart.

Will you bring a rain
of scarlet hyssop petals
to flutter and fall
against the broken bodies
piled against altars
slick with blood?

I would know You, God!
I would know the heart of a stranger.
I would sing of Your glory
and teach Your ways with joy.

But this heart -
this heart of death
and desecration -
I cannot know this heart.
I will not know this heart.

If I knew that heart
I fear it would be mine.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Omer. Day 41 (give or take)

This is my favorite question: what do you carry with you, and what do you leave behind? Sometimes I change up the verbs, just a little, to bringing and taking away, respectively. A subtle shift, to be sure, but all part of the grand scheme just who the hell am I,  and just who the hell to I want to become?

I am the sum of all my baggage - carried, dragged, dropped. left behind and taken back.

Sometimes the weight of it all is crushing. And sometimes, when the wind is just right, and the scent of green is in the air, and I am feeling brave and grateful daring and fierce and bold (or any combination thereof; you get the point), there's no weight at all. I freely offer much of my baggage, all the weighted measures of stuff and ideas and hurts and pains; lost loves and lost jobs, missed opportunities and failed connections - all of the stuff that binds me, tethers me to a present I can only see through the funhouse mirror of my past (so not really a present at all) - and I let it all go, leaving it lie in a muddled heap.

This is my altar. I'm pretty sure, when I drop it all in that heap, and I set it on fire, it makes a pleasing odor to God. I'm just as sure, when it's time to move on, every single thing that went up in smoke, that released me from the bondage of my self, and my past, it's all there, ready for me to pick up again, just as bright and shiny and unscathed as it was before my metaphorical sacrifice.

It's mine, to carry it all again until the next holy bonfire.

Of course, there's a whole bunch of other stuff I can choose to pick up and carry away - things like faith, or courage, or joy. And yes, there are infinite variations of despair and anger and sundry slings and arrows of cruel misfortune that can be distracting and enticing. And yes, I have gone that route more often than I care to admit. There are times I swear I didn't do the picking, that these nasty little packages leaped up and stuck themselves to me of their own accord, really they did.

If I'm honest - and now's a good time to cop to honesty - I did the picking and the plucking and the sticking, all by myself. Ugh.

Still, there are times I go against type, and I choose the weightlessness of joy!

Things is - this carrying and leaving and taking away - this is a thing I can do every single day. It knows no season. It is unbounded by time. In every moment, I can choose, again and again and again. These days, the counting-of-the-omer days, it is a mindful trudge, a careful inspection and collection of the junk I lug around with me. I am grateful for the mindfulness. Messy as I am, I like frames, and this is a particularly good one.

So. What is it that I carry with me? What will I leave behind? What will I carry with me as I walk to the next altar, the next mountain? Today - just for this moment, this breath, I will sit for a moment, my treasures laid out before me, a sky of pewter and pearl above me, casting dull shadows on the lot. I will sit, and rest, and hope - hope that when I move on from here, I remember to let slip the boxes of pain and fear, so that I have room for a bit of joy, a bit of beauty, a bit of grace.

PS - I've written a couple of poems in the past, that relate to this post. You may want to check them out here:

What I Brought: https://staceyzrobinson.blogspot.com/2013/05/what-i-brought_13.html
And Fly:L https://staceyzrobinson.blogspot.com/2015/04/and-fly.html
To This Momenthttps://staceyzrobinson.blogspot.com/2015/03/to-this-moment.html

Friday, May 19, 2017

Omer. Staring at 40 from the land of the 30s

This is a week of abundance and lying fallow,  of blessings and curses.

Here's my confession,  realized just now: I rarely know the difference between these seeming opposites. There are times I cling to the things I *know* are abundant blessings, only to find, somewhere down a twisting road, they are the very things that hold me in place, that drain me,  leave me barren.

And there are times that I run from what I know are curses and find out just how wrong my suppositions (and actions based on those) are.

And sometimes, I happen to be right at all - blessings are blessings, curses are curses, all's right with the world.

It's a crap shoot.

And here, on this leg of the journey, nearing the end, so close you can almost taste it, almost kiss it, it is Shabbat again.

And maybe,  just maybe, everything I *know* about that holy, sacred place - is wrong. Maybe what I bring to it, because of what I know, changes it, makes it something it's not. And maybe,  if I let it be, let it come and wash over me as it will, rather than grasping for it, pulling it close,  holding it in motionless place -

I have no idea how to finish that, except perhaps to give thanks for the blessing of not knowing and letting be.

Shabbat shalom to all I love and hold dear xo

#counting the omer

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Humility is a Blue Flame - for the counting of the Omer

Humility is a blue flame,
dipping into indigo
and edged in black,
It is cool water
that flows in small
ripples and puddles
at my feet.
It is balm
for a weary soul,
and a heart that
cannot find its
rhythm, that is
lost a bit,
that is chipped
a bit.

It is blue flame,

And when I stand
too close to that flame,
and the waters rise
like a torrent,
and I am battered
and beaten
in the wake of
my weakness,
compassion comes,
a grace of blessing,
lifting me from
my humiliation
to stand

near the blue flames
and cool waters;
the balm of humility,
the breath of compassion,

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Omer. Day 25, Shabbat

I am watching Shabbat fill my window. It's beautiful, watching the sky go from pale blue grey to a deep and deliberate indigo. There's a string of street lights horizonward. I would prefer stars.

The view is quite unfamiliar. The situation is quite unfamiliar. It is completely out of my choosing. My comfort zone is a million miles away. Any pretense of control I have is with the comfort zone -long ago and far away.

I'm not comfortable, being without a net. I like my illusion of control - especially when I can fool even myself and pretend that I've given it up, my sense of control. I am very brave, very sage in those moments. I can close my eyes then,  and whirl like a dervish on s tight rope, because I know, in my secret heart, I cannot fall because there is no rope.

I forget, in those mad and twirling moments,  it's not rope that is the danger; it's the ground.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Omer. Day 24

I write a lot about breath.I am made breathless, I say. Breathe, I remind myself. I am a creature of metaphor, I guess.

And this - not sure if it's partial metaphor or maybe mostly concrete, but I was taught, along about the time I started writing about breath, that that very breath that moves me and lifts me and separates me (even as it connects me) from (to) you, is, in fact, the truest pronunciation of the name of God.

I like to think that every breath I take is a prayer, a hymn made up of God's very name.

Truth be told, I love that idea.

So you will understand how odd it is that I sit here in the hospital, breathing with no small amount of difficulty. I have asthma. It's not the wheezy kind; I cough. Not just a delicate, puffed "ahem," but a full-on,scare the little kiddies (and myself), hacking, gasping, will-she-make-it kind of cough.

I wonder, if my breath is the name of God, when I struggle to take the next one, when I can't take the next one, have I lost God in that moment? Is that the physical manifestation of my struggle with God, a counterpoint to my metaphoric wrestling match with the Divine? Maybe.

But you know, when I can finally take in the breath that has eluded me, a great, gawping whoosh of air - oh, there is benediction in that, truer and more pure than any prayer I have ever offered.

And with that one great breath, I am filled.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Omer. Day 23 (and a few toes, maybe an ankle's worth into Day 24)

I found an old Facebook post, written a couple years ago, a reflection for the Omer, Day 26. I love to see the drift of days and counts over the years, that odd dance the Jewish and American calendars do. For this day alone, Facebook tells me I've written on Days 19 and 39. Today I'm contemplating Day 23 (which is all to quickly slipping into Day 24).

The post started with a phone call from a friend. For the life of me, I cannot remember which. How horrible, to have been so moved by connection with a friend that I felt compelled to write about it, and now, just a couple of years later - nothing. I have guesses, but they are hopefully imaginary at best (so wishing to know, I can almost see a face through that fog, grasping at anything that feels reasonable, knowing full well I'm provable wrong).

The gift is still true, still real and powerful. It feels both heavy and light at the sane time. I am bowed, not bent, with the grace of it, still. And so I offer it again, a reminder to me to pay attention to the gift of kindness and love,

Last night ended with a phone call. An old friend. We've drifted, and our relationship has morphed pretty significantly over the past decade or so. Still, we are connected in ways that are profound and forever. I am amazed that I am in a place to be able to name it thus.
His question, when you translate it into its base components, was "Who am I? Have I always been this, or have I changed?" He told me, after asking his question in a little more PG-rated version than I've written here "This is hard. I'm asking for honesty. I trust you."
I cannot imagine a more important question. It is the heart, I think of everything I seek, every word I've ever written: who the hell am I? And then the cascade, all flowing from that single point, reflected and refracted to infinity, each one catching the light and bursting with hope (and desire, and fear). Have I changed? Where do I fit? Do you love me? Am I ok? What will happen? What will be? How can I-- ? When will I-- ? What if I-- ?
I cannot imagine a more treasured gift. "I trust you." There was a time not many would have (could have) said that to me with any real honesty. But here was this person saying "I give you the power to hurt me; I trust that you will be gentle and kind."
I bowed under the weight of that. Was silent for a moment, to honor that gift and give thanks for it. Someone asked me once to define "love." I cannot think of anything more true than "I give you the power to hurt me, and trust that you will not."

This is the gift, the truth, the weight and the grace of it. I am so very grateful for this drift of time and ritual that has reminded me of it once again.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Omer. Days 11 through 22

I have not forgotten the count.

I swear I have not (or, as my mother would always say when making a sacred promise or needed to emphasize the truth she was about to utter, "Shma.")

Every day, from Day 11 through today, Day 22, I have stopped for a minute or two to be mindful of the day. I have counted it: Today is Day (whatever), which is X weeks and y days of the Omer. Not exactly what the rabbis (and maybe even God) had in mind, but I counted every one of them.

The writing, on the other hand, that's a different story of over-laden plates and procrastination and stubborn perfectionism and even more stubborn paralysis. It's a progression. It's annoying, mostly because I can feel it coming on: first the running of the wheel like a hamster, faster and faster, getting nowhere except winded and slightly sweaty, then on to the horsehair shirt of shame and should, and going full on to staring at the train racing for me as I stand immobile on the tracks, waiting for the crash and juggling all the metaphors with inevitability and aplomb

What's most annoying is that I know this progression. I have been through enough therapy, sat through a one too many AA meetings to be able to identify the exact moment that I get onto the wheel. No. Correction: I can identify with pinpoint accuracy the exact moment that I drag the wheel into place and give it a test spin or three, dust it off and shine it up. Yay me.

And like Scheherazade, I have a thousand and one stories of just why I can't seem to get out of the way of that frikkin train. Some even seem quite reasonable. And, I'd say that 98% of them are even true. But in this stupid drama of mine, truth really isn't the issue.

What is at issue is my fear. Sure, there's a huge dash of perfectionism that goes into it. My use of the delete key and backspace are testament to that. It's not just the essay. It's not just the poem. It's not the paragraph or verse or sentence or grammatical stop. My perfectionism boils down to the word. Every word must be perfect, in look, in sound (out loud and in my head), and the feel of it as I roll it around on my tongue, and taste it on my breath. Which, of course, means that there are a thousand million things that never get written.

And all of this masks the real fear of what if I write something bad? As if I haven't! Trust me, Whatever critique or criticism any of you (whomever you are, and thank you for reading!) may have of my work, trust me: I have ripped every word, and all the spaces between all the words, to shreds, several times over. Every. Single. Piece. Even the ones I secretly really love. They are all grist for the mill of my perfectionism.

And so I don't write (or I write and delete and write and delete in some kind of insane two-step). and the days pile up, and the writing becomes a weight of a thousand years, and the more I don't write, the harder it is to get back to it, and the easier it is to play in the mud of my shame. And at some point, I wait, with no small shred of gratitude, for the train to come.

At least there will be movement then.

Ugh. I am so tired of this little dance. And I know better, that's the stupid thing! I know that it doesn't have to be like this, I know that I can choose another path. I know that I can just sit down and write and let the voices in my head have at it while I play with the pixels. And yet, I choose, again and again, way more often than I care to admit, to trudge that weary path of perfectionism, procrastination and paralysis.

So maybe, as I both trudge that tired old path, and make my way to Sinai, maybe this boulder that I have so willingly and lovingly carried with me all this weary way, perhaps I can leave it by the roadside, so that I come to Sinai lighter and freer and ready.