calamity's child

your transmission and your live wire

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on teshuvah, and forgiveness

This is a post that i wrote for The Prayerful Queer, a multi-religious queer blog my friend R and her friend W started. I’m super super super excited about the blog, and also quite excited about this post. It gave me an opportunity to work out some things I’ve been percolating on for a long time now, especially the question: What if I can’t forgive?

The post was written to start off a series at The Prayerful Queer, and R and W both wrote their own responses to my question. You can see their responses here and here. I really, really recommend them. It is a well-nuanced conversation on the boundaries of forgiveness.

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ten things i’ve learned about grief this week:

  1. having a gratitude practice during grieving does not make the grieving go away, but it does make it much easier to go to sleep (my practice, started from some facebook meme, is just to list 3 things i’m grateful for each day).
  2. if you’ve managed to get through the week mostly having done all your work and keeping your shit together, it’s ok to spend shabbat sleeping until 10:30, not changing out of your pajamas, and watching endless episodes of wolfblood.
  3. sometimes “keeping your shit together” includes sobbing all over your chevruta during lifecycle beit midrash. this is ok because it means that the feelings are moving out of you. it is ok if your friends who were in beit midrash with you ask you later if you’re ok later or if you want a hug, because it means they were paying attention and they care, not that you are weak.
  4. you earn a prize for getting through the week. that prize is shabbat. you can spend it how you like. but on sunday you have to go back to work.
  5. using your friend’s made-up language with her will make you laugh and it will make you feel light and for the briefest of moments everything will be ok again. you will remember what it’s like for things to be ok.
  6. phones will be too much. having to guess at what people are feeling and match people’s feelings will be too much. it is ok to construct your environments so that you don’t have to do these things so much.
  7. you can hate everything if you want to. it’s ok.
  8. you can also love everything that you’ve worked so hard for at the same time. it won’t go away.
  9. it’s not fair. it will never be fair. be pissed as fuck about it. maybe now is the time to go shout at gd about how gddamn unfair it is?
  10. the 2 songs you’ve listened to on repeat this week are prayers. use them as prayers. sing them over and over. let them get in your skin. notice the lines that rise up each time you sing them. they will be different sometimes. it will help you keep track of how you are feeling, what stands out as most important. shouting at gd is still too scary: sing these songs as loud as you can in the car instead.


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lightening the load: an elul reflection

I was listening the other day to a Youtube video of Cheryl Strayed talk about and read from Wild to the North Cascades Institute in my homestate, Washington, in 2012. In it, she talks about having been asked by a reader:

Why didn’t you lighten your load, like, right off the bat? Those first couple weeks, you didn’t take anything out of your pack.

And she responds:

I didn’t know. I literally didn’t know. I just thought: maybe this is just how it is.

Maybe this is just how it is.

In my own time, in my own life, I have been processing grief and rage well stored up since 1988. That’s a lot of years. I’ve had times when I’ve thought about what it means to let go of the particular hard things I’ve experienced before, but I’ve processed (finally) through enough of the grief to be able to see the love and abundance that really exists around me. And now I’m hearing this question differently. I’ve been carrying around the metaphysical equivalent of a very heavy pack for 26 years. Much heavier than I need to have, because I didn’t learn how to pack my load from anyone, and I wasn’t particularly able to receive guidance from anyone until now. I just thought: maybe this is just how it is. I really didn’t know any better.

It is Elul. A period of reflection. Of equalizing. Of repairing relationships. Of lightening the load. The metaphysical scales in my life are not tipping yet. This will not be the Elul in which I work things out. It is, though, the Elul in which I can ask myself that first question: Why don’t you lighten your load?

We read Psalm 27 during Elul as we move through towards the Days of Awe. The last line reads:

:קַוֵּה, אֶל-יי:    חֲזַק, וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ; וְקַוֵּה, אֶל-יי.

Wait for Hashem. Be strong, let your heart be bold, and wait for Hashem.

I know I will take time to answer this question, why don’t you lighten your load? And that the next step after that question if I answer, ok, is: what will I let out of my pack? In the meantime, it is probably the best Elul practice I can manage to take these words of the Psalmist to heart. Be strong, let your heart be bold, and wait for Hashem.

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the things

1. i live in philly now, in a home firmly ensconced in trees. enough so that it is like living in a treehouse. i haven’t unpacked anything really – only the kitchen and my cookbooks and i put up my bed. that gives you a pretty firm sense of my priorities.

2. i started rabbinical school. technically only ulpan, an intensive immersion program in modern hebrew, to prepare me for the mekhinah (preparation) year at reconstructionist rabbinical college. mekhinah is like rabbinical kindergarten. which makes ulpan like rabbinical pre-school. i’m enjoying it very much.

3. the trajectory: i worked for four years in a fairly intense job as a case manager at a clinic in new york, working only with trans* folks. i didn’t have a break between that job and moving to philly and starting ulpan, and so this weekend i’m taking the best approximation of a vacation i can: staying in bed and watching All Of The Television.

4. suddenly, everything has changed.

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Kicked Out, a cross-post

I reviewed the Kicked Out anthology, edited by Sassafras Lowrey, this week, over at State of Formation where I am a sometimes-blogger. It’s a great blog, and awesome to get to review a book that has so much import in my personal and current professional life (as a case manager, as opposed to the professional life that is starting in three weeks as a rabbinic student) for a blog of religious leaders. Here it is, in two parts:

Kicked Out, A Review: Part One

Kicked Out, A Review: Part Two

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read this, immediately

I grew up with her music, with Mary telling it like it is–but gently, at nice, uncomplicated dinner parties, the kind with pasta and unintentionally mismatched placemats. I’m going to go ahead and argue that everything that went wrong in our lives can be traced back to that foolish moment where we decided we were too cool for adult contemporary country music.

Therefore, I submit: there is no moment in your life so painful that it cannot be made more bearable by a Mary Chapin Carpenter song.

A Woman For All Seasons: Mary Chapin Carpenter




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