Posted in Dating, Quotes

It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single

Over the weekend I read “It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single” by Sara Eckel. And throughout the entire book, all I could think was “YES, YES, YES…This is what happened to me too!!” I want to tell everyone who is dating, who is searching, and all those who are trying to set people up – they should all read this book! Everyone should learn ways to not internalize the stupid things that people say. I mean, more importantly, one should learn not to say stupid things – but being that we can only control ourselves, I figured I would start with not internalizing.

It didn’t try to tell me to be happy with being single. It didn’t try to tell me that I am perfect. It didn’t try to tell me that if I would change just this one thing, THEN, I would be able to find the man of my dreams.

It was so true. Yes, there are some great things that can happen when one isn’t tied down in a relationship. I recognize that I have been able to travel the world because I didn’t have a husband. Yes, I am still able to go out at night, because I don’t have children at home. Yes, I have learned to be my own support because, sometimes there is no one to come home to, and I still need to get through the bad day and get onto the next. Yes, I have been able to make my own name, please know me for me. Yes,  I am a strong, independent, intelligent woman. But at the same time – I’m also sad and lonely. I want to have a partner. I want to have someone to come home to. I want to snuggle with someone. It hurts when my father calls me to tell me that a random person from shul, many years younger than me, just had a child- and I’m barely getting a date. I do internalize the idea that because I am not getting asked out that there is something wrong with me, that I am not loveable. I crave that connection. I do look around me, and it seems like everyone else is able to find partnership so easily, so there must be something wrong with me.

And so being single and 32, with a very boring dating life (not because I am not trying) has both it’s ups and downs. And this was the first book, that I have read, that really showed that. (So go out and read it!!!)

So here are my 27 reflections on her chapters.

  1. You Have Issues
    • Yes! How many times have I been told to read books or to talk to someone or the general comment of “You’re not going to find anyone until you get right with yourself”. Really? Are you going to tell me that every person in a relationship is 100% with themselves and was the day they met their significant other.  And, yes – I do read the books. And I have spoken to a therapist. And I do try to do cool and different things. I try to explore and learn and grow. But, y’know it doesn’t always do anything. As Sara writes “I had a lot of fun, made many friends, traveled to foreign countries – the whole happy-single-woman shebang. But my love life, when it existed at all, was a random assortment of tepid dates, weird make-out sessions, and two-month what-the-hell-was-thats.  Meanwhile, people all around me fell in love like there was nothing to it. They moved in together, got married, had babies – often without the benefit of a single yoga class! I didn’t get it. was the one reading all the books. was the one confronting my issues.” (pg. 4-5)
    • This is not to say that I am perfect or I don’t have my issues – of course I do. But at the same time, I do see myself as a fairly successful, independent adult woman.
    • “What if your only “issue” is the belief that you have them and that they’re keeping you from a relationship? What if you stopped defining yourself as someone who is afraid of intimacy or attracted to the wrong kind of man? What if you instead saw yourself as a flawed but basically lovable human being? What if the only reason you’re alone is you just haven’t met your partner yet?” (pg. 7)
  2. You Have Low Self-Esteem
    • Really?! Well, yes, there are times where my self esteem is low. And as she write, self esteem (as opposed to self compassion) many times is actually based on another person. So if you are constantly being showed that you “aren’t good enough…pretty enough…enough”, then no matter how many pep talks you are getting, it’s not really going to change anything. I have actually said this to close friends of mine – usually who are straight women – and said, yes, I do think that I am pretty, smart, interesting, etc , but it kinda means nothing when it’s not coming from those who I am desiring to attract. Women and old people can tell me these things till they turn blue, but at the end end of the day, I do want it to be a guy in my relative age bracket, who I am not repulsed by – so I can actually feel like there is truth.
    • This is not to say that I don’t have self-esteem. In my professional life (and I do get noticed for these things) I am actually really good at stuff. I am praised and acknowledged for my intellect, my compassion, my creativity – and so it feels great. When I start a new job or a new project, I do need to gather it in from my own being – but soon, there are new logs to the fire that help it burn. When it comes to relationships for myself, it is just my own pep talk after my own pep talk – and it makes me question if maybe, there is just something wrong with me, and I am trying to talk myself up to something that is false.
    • She write that self compassion is about seeing these things, noticing them, but then still finding love and compassion for yourself. “Instead of assigning blame, you simply take a moment and acknowledge the painful disappointment you’re feeling. You don’t try to talk yourself out of feeling bad – since feeling bad is a completly natural response to rejection. Instead, you channel that good friend: ‘Wow, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I know it must be hard and confusing. I wish there was more I could do to make you feel better, but you know this feeling will pass. We all get rejected sometimes. No matter what happened with this guy, you deserve a great relationship.’ With self compassion, you don’t need to bolster yourself up or tear anyone else down. You don’t have to waste energy on the pep talk because you already know you’re just fine, regardless of what this or that dude thinks.” (pg. 14)
  3. You’re Too Negative
    • “Most of us have done the thought experiment where you’re instructed not to think of pink elephants, and then of course discover that trying to banish anything from your mind makes it more prevalent – trying not to think of pink elephants wildly ratchets up your awareness of pink elephants. This is why instructions to “think positively” don’t work. ‘A person who has resolved to ‘think positive’ must constantly scan his or her mind for negative thoughts – there’s no other way the mind could ever gauge its success at the operation – yet that scanning will draw attention to the presence of negative thought,’ wrote Burkeman.” (pg. 18)
    • In addition, sometimes there is what to be negative about. Again, if I am not seeing results no matter what I am doing, it is really hard to become positive again, and again…
  4. You’re Too Liberated
    • Really? And yes, I have heard this one. The fact that I want a job or that I am successful at what I do, makes it seem like I don’t want a man in my life. Or that people make the assumption (yup, they don’t even talk to me about it) that I am just too busy to date. Right now for example, I am a hospital chaplain. When people see me they say “oh wow, you are so busy”. NO I’M NOT – my job, most days of the week are just 9-5. Ok, I have class sometimes, but usually, I don’t bring work home with me. That means from 5pm through the next day, I am free!
    • Also, if I am not working (and yes there were times I had more than one job), who the heck is going to pay my bills? My parents aren’t. So yes, I do need to work, and sometimes more than one job, but so I can live. Single people have expenses too.
  5. You’re Too Inimidating
    • OH MY GOD, YES!! I hear this one ALL the time. I really don’t get it. There was a time that I would never ask for help for anything, and I have learned to do that. I have learned to reach out, when I need it. I have learned to let others in. But I WILL NOT play dumb or needy, just to play. That is stupid. If anyone has a problem with that, really, I don’t want to date you, because honestly, I don’t know how long I would be able to pull it off. I am not able to have a needy alter ego nor do I think I should need to have one. I pray that whoever my partner is, they will not be intimidated by me, and I will not feel like I need to dumb myself down just to appease their ego, I hope that we would be able to work together and fill in the places that need to be filled in for one another.
  6. You’re Too Desperate
    • Right, you are either not trying enough or you are trying too hard. Where is the that middle ground?!
    • “Marriage and family are eternally celebrated as one of the most important and cherished parts of life – for those who have it. But the single woman who says, ‘Yes, I’d like that too,’ is immediately dismissed as silly and sad. The fact that you want love is taken as evidence that you’re not ready for it.” (pg. 35)
    • Yes, there is a “shidduch crisis” and all the married people can talk about how people need to get married. Every so often there are articles about single women standing up in front of the shul begging people to think of her, and that is how she finds a match. But that woman is seen as sad and pathetic – she is begging in front of the entire congregation. I’m fairly certain that woman asked her friends and her friend’s friends to the think of her. She probably went on some of the websites, went to the Shabbat dinners, speed dating, singles events – you name it. It was done in an act of desperation, because only then will she be heard. But no one really wants to hear that I am single and looking for someone. If I say it, it sounds sad. They start to feel bad for me. They start to tell me that there is so much more in life than a husband. But yet there is a sidduch crisis, but I shouldn’t want it too much.
  7. You Need to Be Happy Alone
    • “…women from across the county wrote me confessing their secret shame: Although they told friends and family they loved their solo life, in truth they were lonely. It’s curious: People talk openly about their alcoholism, depression, eating disorders, and sex addictions. But who besides widows of long and happy marriages admits to being lonely? It’s the ultimate shame.” (pg. 42)
    • Being alone hurts. It is hard to see everyone else together. Yes, I am capable of doing things on my own, and many times I have a great time. But at the same time, it would be so nice to have someone else there. Someone that will go to a weird Irish thing, and at least you have someone to laugh with when it is an event for small children. Someone to sit and have Shabbat dinner with when you can’t find an invitation or people to invite. Someone to wipe away your tears. Someone to sit with you at a dinner party, just so you are not the odd one out. Yes, I can do all these things on my own, I am totally capable, but it doesn’t make it any less lonely.
  8. You’re Too Picky
    • Another topic I have written about. Sara writes that when we are vague we are told we “don’t know what we are looking for” and then if we give them the list, then we are “too picky”. So true. I also think that I deserve to be attracted to someone. If I find him gross to look at or I am just bored for the entire time I am sitting with him or he just doesn’t seem right – I should be allowed to say no. Remember, I am not supposed to be desperate…
  9. You’re Too Available
    • Again with the double standard. You are supposed to not be too busy, but you are also not supposed to be too free. Wanting to love someone, being willing to date, being willing to actually (maybe) fall in love – well, you can’t show that you are “too” into it, that is also scary.
  10. You Don’t Know How to Play the Game
    • This one might be true, I don’t know how to play the game – but I don’t want to play a game. I want to go on a date. I want to be honest and clear with the person. I shouldn’t have to think if texting him when I want to, will sound “weird”. I don’t want to be kept guessing if he wants to go out again or not. It isn’t fun.
  11. You Need to Grow Up
    • Right… so what does this mean? Does it mean that I need to know how to call handy people to fix broken things? Pay my taxes? Fill out governmental forms? But appliances? Have a job? Be financially independent?Cook? Clean? Do the grocery shopping?  I mean if that is the case, then how the hell am I not “grown up”? It’s not like I have someone else in my life that is doing all these things for me. Am I still going out at night? Well, yes, because I can. I take care of my responsibilities, and so I am able to go out at night, go to a bar, go dancing. I’m not staying up at all hours of the night, because, well I’m just tired, but that doesn’t mean I need to just stay at home and knit.
  12. You’re Too Selfish
    • Who do you think takes on extra shifts? Or is expected to go to an event? According to this book, it is actually single people that volunteer most often. It is also single people that go out most often – ie. helping the economy. Do I need to take care of myself, alone? Sure. Does that make me selfish? I really hope not (I mean, if I don’t who will…) But because I don’t have kids, I will go over to a friends house when they are sick and bring them what they need; or watch my friend’s kids so they can rest or go out; or make phone calls checking up on people.
  13. You Need to Put it Out In the Universe
    • While obviously not being too desperate…
  14. You Need an Action Plan
    • “…the classic Buddhist definition of suffering: craving something you can’t have…. You’re looking outside of yourself for happiness. You’re not okay with the present reality. The path out of suffering is to accept things as they are and to allow whatever pain those circumstances cause you – loneliness, frustration, even self-loathing – to simply be there without judging them. When you start to see these feelings as simple sensations, sensations that will pass, you realize they’re manageable. It’s the thoughts around them that get us in trouble: What am I doing in this place where no one looks old enough to drive? Where did I go wrong? That’s the salt that we invariably put in the wound.” (pg. 86)
    • Sara continues to write that you just have to do the things you are doing, and do them without shame or disgust. So swipe away, go on lots of coffee dates, go have fun dancing. If somethings happens great. If something doesn’t happen also great. Just notice the feelings, accept them, and go on (yes, that is totally easier said than done, I am SO not there yet).
  15. You’re Too Fabulous to Settle Down
    • People don’t want to hear that I am sad and lonely. They want to hear the cool adventures that I get to go on. They want to live vicariously though me – how awesome it is that I can just pick up and go somewhere. They don’t want to hear about how hard it is to find friends. Or that going into public spaces scare me, and I just have to suck it up and pray for the best, because the other option is to stay home alone. Dating on TV looks like fun…dating in real life- eh. And just because I am single doesn’t mean I have a disposable income, if anything it means I have less – whatever I make is all that there is. Nothing else. And I think about that too, the money thing. When I look at singles events in NY (at least in the Jewish community) they each cost at least $36, but usually more. As a single person we are just expected to spend lots of money, but where do they think all this money is coming from…
  16. You’re Too Sad
    • Well, from what I am learning, sad is an emotion. And well, as a human, there are times I am sad. There are times that being alone makes me feel sad. There are times that seeing the world the way it is makes me feel sad. But again, there are times that I am happy and excited and angry and overwhelmed. Mostly because I am human…
  17. You Are the Constant
    • Well, you are the one that keeps on not being asked out, so obviously there must be something wrong with you. “Gradually, you paste together all these snapshots and start to create a story. Depending on your mood, the story can be good or bad. There’s the one about how brae and independent you are, how unlike some wimps you could mention you refuse to settle – go you! Except that you want to find someone and, truth be told, actually hate being alone, so then the story becomes about why you’re repulsive to prospective partners. Even if you don’t diagnose yourself with any of the aforementioned pathologies, it’s the story of something lacking. Other people must have that special something, some secret skill, some dog whistle that makes a substantial portion of the dating pool perk up their ears to her siren song.” (pg. 102).
    • Yea, it sucks. Yes, I am the first to say that there is something wrong with me. But then again – that then leads to sadness and desperation. And no one wants to hear that.
  18. You Have to Keep Trying
    • Sometimes I feel like I do give up. And then there are times that I feel like I am doing everything. I’m on different sites. I am going to all the singles events. I tell people I want to be set up. I say yes to EVERYONE, no matter if I find them interesting/attractive or not. I go to non singles events, just to have fun. I become fun, I’m not just sitting at home reading or watching TV…but then still nothing…
    • “This isn’t about giving up. It’s about lightening up. By all means, continue to make your life as rich and interesting as possible. Learn to speak Mandarin, become a Big Sister, take that solo trip to Peru. But do them for their own sake, not as a means of polishing your life resume or reassuring yourself or the world of your worthiness. You’re already worthy. There’s nothing to prove.” (pg. 110) [Now, how do I etch that into my heart…]
  19. You’re Stuck
    • Ruminating is bad…ie. over thinking is bad…ie. the think I do the most often. And honestly, I know that. Honestly, that is why I write. I try to get it out of my head, hoping that it won’t take over my being. Hoping that if I write it, I will work it out. Hoping that sharing, I will find someone, somewhere who will just make me feel heard, and help me not judge myself.
  20. You Should Have Married That Guy
    • Of course there are people from my past that I think about, well what if we dated or I just stayed in the relationship. In my head, it might seem like a bad idea that we ever broke up. But every time I have thought this and then seen the guy again, I am reminded why it would never have worked out. I did make the right choice. I did not settle just to have a man by my side. My intuition is not totally off.
  21. You Don’t Really Want a Relationship
    • Because obviously relationships are a goal, and if you do x and y, then z will follow….haha. I do want a relationship, but relationships have two people. I need to find someone who wants to be in a relationship with ME, and the real me, not some fake me that I put out thinking that I will attract more people that way.
  22. You Need Practice
    • Dating is not what allows you to learn how to live with the person – living with the person does. Or living with roommates does. I know what it means to share a living space. And split the bills. And be considerate to others. And handle rejection. And hold myself when I have a bad day. Ok, so maybe I need to get used to having someone there all the time. Or get used to touch and touching. Or living with a man. But all the basics, that I know how to do pretty well.
  23. You’re Too Old
    • Well, yes, if you say one can marry old. Will my age effect the way I can receive and give love? I really hope not. Will age effect my ability to have children? Quite possibly. And yes, I do think about it. But I can’t really imagine having a child alone and I don’t have the money to freeze my eggs. And so it is just something that I am going to have to deal with. That there is a reality that I might never have children. But I don’t think that marriage is just about baby making.
  24. You Don’t Know Love
    • Yup, those who were closer to marriage (or even married before) know love more than me. They had the thing that is at the end of the tunnel, and so if someone was able to love them once then they should be able to find love again. It is a proven fact. The love that I might show (and receive) to my friends, my family, my coworkers, somehow that is fake.
  25. You Suck
    • It is really easy to be angry and mean to others when you are angry and sad and jealous. The mean things just come out so easily, because maybe if they feel bad I won’t feel as bad. But usually that is wrong. I know usually for myself, I just feel guilty after (yay more negative emotions). It isn’t easy to show love to everyone at all times. But I agree with Sara, that we should try – it will make the world a much better place.
  26. You Need to Figure out “Why”
    • “No one ever asks ‘Why are you married?’ even though the question is just as valid as ‘Why are you single?’ After all, people marry for many reasons other than pure love – fear of being alone, a desire for biological children, economic security, social status, health insurance.” (pg. 158)
    • I hate this question. I usually answer in a joking way, just to make it light. But really I want to say, I HAVE NO IDEA, F#($ You! DON’T YOU THINK IF I KNEW THEN I’D DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. But instead, I smile and joke…
  27. You’ll Spend the Rest of Your Life Alone
    • And that is my greatest fear.
    • “One of the most challenging things about being a single childless adult is that time seems more fluid and undelineated – months, years, and even decades can bleed into one another. There is less a sense of a road with distinct mileage markers – it’s more wide-open field. In this untethered state, it’s easy to feel as if you might float away if you don’t at least get some two-hundred-dollar frying pans in the cupboard.” (pg. 165)
    • This is also the most true chapter. I need to just live my life for right now. There might not be a time that I am married. If I want professional success I need to do that. If I want to live somewhere I need to go do that too. I don’t (and never have wanted) to just sit around waiting, putting my life on hold, for something that might or might not happen. It doesn’t make me happy to be single. It doesn’t make me feel less sad, hurt, or alone. But at the least, there are parts of my life that do bring me great joy. I know that I have accomplished quite a bit, and I am proud of those accomplishments. And I hope to be able to continue to accomplish and to grow (and to find a partner).
Posted in Quotes

Braving the Wilderness

This week’s book is “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone” By Brene Brown. It is a book about how to aloneness – something that I feel often. This idea that even though I might be with other people, I am by myself. That no matter what I do, I find that my brain makes me want to do something slightly different – and many times it is what I do. The truth is (and she says this often in the book) those are the times that I find that I am happiest – those times that I am doing what I feel is just right and what is needed. Usually it is not something SO crazy (she brings a time she wore jeans to speak a conference) – it is how I wanted to do theatre with students and seniors; or that I wanted to volunteer in a nursing home; or that I wanted to play a bit with my audience when I directed plays; or that I wanted to run a ball with people who can’t move on their own; or that I was willing to fight to study Torah at a high level.

She talks about how sometimes going “into the wilderness”, those places that can be scary, those places we know we will be on our own, is the place that we also with thrive. It is taking that step (which could feel like a giant leap) that will allow us to flourish, accomplish more, and create change. I know that I used to feel pretty ok doing so, but lately (ok, over the past 4 years), I am more wary. Over the weekend I kept on thinking what would it be like if I actually shared my story, my anger, my frustration at things happening in the world – especially in the world of Orthodox female rabbis- where it is the most personal? What if I wasn’t afraid of what the personal push back would be? What if I was willing to put myself on the line? Part of me feels like I would actually be less angry. I would feel like I have a voice that I can share, not a voice that I constantly feel like I need to keep hidden and quiet. I would be able to maybe be a more authentic me…

I also thought about, as a start, what if I started to share this blog with my friends and family? For those who don’t know, I don’t share this blog anywhere. The only one’s I know who are reading it and complete strangers. I guess there might be people reading it that I know, but they don’t know it is me writing. What if I started to tell you more about myself? That I would not be some anonymous woman writing things. I am thinking about starting with sharing this…maybe only to a few people and see what happens. But I do think that it is a start to something.

One issue I have, and I have been noticing it in a lot of these books, especially the one’s that talk about feeling powerful being “alone” in doing “your thing”- is that each author talks about their spouse, and the support they receive from that person. I am aware that I am fully capable of doing things on my own, but it would be really nice to have someone in my corner. Someone to come home to. Someone that supports me and encourages me, even when it feels like the world around me is against me. I just wish that one of these authors was writing about being “alone” and actually was alone (ok, maybe that might be my cue…but then speaking about that experience is being vulnerable…which I guess is the whole point, blah, blah, blah). But still, I do think that it is important to note.

This book actually fits in well to something I was thinking about earlier this week, with regards to my work. I was talking to my supervisor about long term vs. short term patients. For the most part, the floors I am assigned to, people are short term – every so often there are people there for a long time or people who are in and out a bunch. But mostly I will see people once, maybe twice. I was reflecting on the differences I felt with the family I was with for a whole month, really being fully in their lives. (Comes to think of it now, there was also more consistency as I was in the hospital five days a week). I enjoy working in places or situations that I feel part of it. I want to belong or feel part of something, I want to be needed. And when I am working with longer term patients, I have the place of belonging and connection, in some ways I become part of the family or be part of the community- something I find that I am greatly missing.

I don’t have a community. I am not really sure where I am meant to be or where I actually belong. And the truth is, it is quite lonely to be alone. In my professional life, I don’t care if people don’t want me – it is fine with me when a patient says, “no, I’m not interested in talking” or “I don’t need a chaplain”, it is not really about me. But in my personal life, rejection hurts, and I feel like all I have is rejection – which is just hard to be in that state. So then, when I have to say goodbye to someone or a situation that I feel part of it is hard. It is hard to say goodbye to feeling somewhat comfortable. To say goodbye to a situation where I wasn’t constantly introducing myself, but I was actually able to just be myself.

I know that the future is coming, and in reality I need to start thinking about it. But being forced to think about the future brings to the forefront that I have still yet to find a place that I belong and soon, once again I will need to start over and make a place for myself.

I know that I am capable, but I am just tired of doing so. I wish I felt compelled to be somewhere or do something or just to know what the path I’m supposed to pursue.

Where will I feel settled or whole or part of something?

Maybe it is why I connect so much with people that are alone or on the “outside”. I want people to talk to me, to notice me. So then I go make sure to notice them (which might be similar to an article I read about non place and the noticing the unnoticed, being there for someone who doe not have someone else to listen or care — which maybe is why I’ve always been drawn to geriatrics).

A think happened in class the other day, that was both joyful and terrifying. (Which she writes is something many people do, we are afraid to feel joy…) I wrote a theological reflection that I really like (I had a lot of fun writing it). And my supervisor asked me, why am I stopping myself from my ministry. It seemed that I knew what I thought this person should do, but I did not push them to do it. I backed away. I allowed myself to be cut off. There was something in that interaction that made me gasp, and when I was praying I was a bit in shock, almost how I felt when I found out that I got in. That maybe there is something real in what I am doing. Maybe I am doing my own thing, but that is why I am doing it so well.

Maybe this is the place that I will find I belong?

Well, here are some quotes:

pg. 5

…Dr. Angelou said:

You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.

pg. 34

Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.

pg. 40

True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.

pg. 54

…Hunger is a warning that our blood sugar is low and we need to eat. Thirst warns us that we need to drink to avoid dehydration. Pain alerts us to potential tissue damage. And loneliness tells us that we need social connection – something as critical to our well-being as food and water. He explains, “Denying you feel lonely makes no more sense than denying you feel hunger.”

Yet we deny our loneliness…We feel shame around being lonely- as if feeling lonely means there’s something wrong with us. We feel shame when our loneliness is caused by grief, loss or heartbreak….We used to define loneliness as a “gnawing, chronic disease without redeeming features.”…

Cacioppo explains that loneliness is not just a “sad” condition – it is a dangerous one. The brains of social species have evolved to respond to the feeling of being pushed to the social perimeter -being on the outside- by going into self-preservation mode. when we feel isolated, disconnected, and lonely, we try to protect ourselves. In that mode, we want to connect, but our brain is attempting to override connection with self-protection. That means less empathy, more defensiveness, more numbing, and less sleeping.

pg. 144

The foundation of courage is vulnerability – the ability to navigate uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It takes courage to open ourselves up to joy. In fact,…I believe joy is probably the most vulnerable emotion we experience. We’re afraid that if we allow ourselves to feel it, we’ll get blindsided by disaster or disappointment. That’s why in moments of real joy, many of us dress-rehearse tragedy…We try to beat vulnerability to the punch by imagining the worst or by feeling nothing in hopes that the “other show won’t drop.

pg. 145

Pain is also a vulnerable emotion. It takes real courage to allow ourselves to feel pain. When we’re suffering, many of us are better at causing pain than feeling it. We spread hurt rather than let it inside.

pg. 148

Dr. Halifax…I’ll never forget what she said to me. “Tonight we will exhale and teach. Now it’s time to inhale. There is the in-breath and the out-breath, and it’s easy to believe that we must exhale all the time, without ever inhaling. But the inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale.


A powerful example of a strong back comes from my friend Jen Hatmaker…I asked her about what that wilderness looked and felt like to her. Here’s what she wrote:

I won’t sugarcoat this: Standing on the precipice of the wilderness is bone-chilling. Because belonging is so primal, so necessary, the threat of losing your tribe or going alone feels so terrifying as to keep most of us distanced from the wilderness our whole lives. Human approval is one of our most treasured idols, and the offering we must lay at its hungry feet is keeping others comfortable. I;m convinced that discomfort is the great deterrent of our generation. Protecting the status quo against our internal convictions is obviously a luxury of the privileged, because the underdogs and outliers and marginalized have no choice but to experience the daily wilderness. But choosing the wily outpost over the security of the city gates takes a true act of courage. The first step will take your breath away.

Speaking against power structures that keep some inside and others outside has a cost, and the currency most often drafted from my account is belonging. Consequently, the wilderness sometimes feels very lonely and punishing, which is a powerful disincentive. But I’ve discovered something beautiful; the loneliest steps are the ones between the city walls and the heart of the wilderness, where safety is in the rear view mirror, new territory remains to be seen, and the path out to the unknown seems empty. But put on foot in front of the other enough times, stay the course long enough to actually tunnel into the wilderness, and you’ll be shocked how many people already live out there — thriving, dancing, creating, celebrating, belonging. It is not a barren wasteland. It is not unprotected territory. It is not void of human flourishing. The wilderness is where all the creatives and prophets and system-bunkers and risk-takers have always lived, and it is stunningly vibrant. The walk out there is hard, but the authenticity out there is life.

I suspect the wilderness is a permanent home for me, which is both happy and hard. A dear friend sent me a text during those harsh first steps out… There is this wonderful and strange story in Genesis 32 about Jacob physically wrestling with God all night in the literal wilderness, and upon realizing that Jacob was positively not giving up and in fact hollered, “I will not go unless you bless me!,”  he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of socket, a permanent reminder of the struggle of a determined, stubborn, dogged man with God; an absurd and ballsy move, as outrageous as it was impressive. My friend texted me: “You are like Jacob. You refused to let go of God until He blessed you in his space. And He will. You will indeed find new land. But you’ll always walk with a limp.” So I’ve chosen the wilderness, because it is where I can tell the truth and lead with the most courage and gather with my fellow outsiders, but this limp will remind me of the cost, what lies behind me, what will always feel a little sad and a little bruised. Was it worth it? Unquestionably. And I hope the limp shows my fellow wilderness dwellers that I’m acquainted with pain and didn’t make it out here unscathed either. Outliers, I suspect it won’t hinder our wilderness dance party in the slightest.



Posted in Quotes

The Wisdom of Not Knowing

So in my books about feelings list, I just read “The Wisdom of Not Knowing” by Estelle Frankel.

I did enjoy reading this book. The author goes through different theories of what is in the unknown and why it is so scary to many people. She brings in not only cases from her own psychology practice, but also some religious texts, mostly from Judaism. I really appreciated her use of text to bring about the ideas. Something that we have to do in CPE is a theological reflection, and I think that the way she integrates theology into her experience is so seamless, and I think is what we are meant to be doing in our own reflections.

The book also made me think. She writes about accepting the unknown and being willing to jump into the unknown. I think though about what if all I see is the unknown, and in general I am ok with being in the world of the unknown, if not excited about the prospects, but what if I want something that is known? What if for a change I just want to know what is going to happen? What if I am tired of every year starting new and having to take that leap?

Yes, I realize that if it is not one thing it is another. And almost everyone is making decisions of the unknown all the time, just at times they are bigger unknowns than others. I find that being in the place of almost constant large unknowns, it is just exhausting. There is a lot of energy that goes into embracing the unknown, and I don’t think she speaks enough about it (really I don’t think anyone does).

She also talks about embracing the silence. Well, many people speak about the beauty of silence and nothingness. And I question this too. What about if life just feels like it is only silent and alone? That is not a place to learn about creativity, that is a place of emptiness. A place of pain and perhaps even suffering. I was talking to a friend today, and he said that he was bored. And he found it strange because in general he likes doing nothing. I said, that there is a difference between doing nothing and being bored, in the same way that there is a difference to being alone and being lonely. There is a difference in how you are feeling in this time of quiet, nothingness, aloneness; I think that the biggest thing that creates the change is the choice (although this too is not always true): am I choosing to be in the quiet and not with people or is it that everything around me is quiet and there is no one to go to or no one that wants to be with me.

Some quotes that I really enjoyed:

pg. 28

As an archetypal symbol, the “stranger” represents not just someone in need of kindness but also the transmitter of new and unknown ideas and possibilities. To open the door to the stranger is a means of inviting in the unknown. It requires a willingness to be shaped and altered by new ideas and experiences. Sometimes a single encounter with a stranger can open up doors to unknown possibilities that forever change our lives. Xenophobia, in contrast, is an expression of fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar….

Open-mindedness and curiosity make room for the imagination to flourish. Just as the unknown stranger is welcomed through the opening of the tent, the unknowable divine mystery enters our consciousness as we open up the gates of our imagination.

pg. 34-35

But do we really know anything? Truthfully, each moment of our lives is a miracle unfolding, unlike any other moment. When we awaken to this truth, any experience can be an epiphany. The twentieth-century mystic and philosopher Rav Kook compares such moments of heighten awareness to the miracle of creation: “An epiphany enables you to sense creation not as something completed, but as constantly becoming, evolving, ascending. This transports you from a place where there is nothing new to a place where there is nothing old; where everything renews itself, where heaven and earth rejoice as the moment of Creation.”

pg. 49

When we use our curiosity to probe the internal significance of things, we enter into a more intimate dialogue and relationship with the world. To not ask questions leaves us as passive spectators and observers of reality rather than participants. As Rilke says in his Letters to a Young Poet, questions have the power to open up previously locked doors, to reveal the inner meaning of things. Until we ask the right questions, the way forward cannot be revealed.

pg. 77

Reality is always

Soft clay,

ever shifting and changing

its shape.

Fire it

into form, and at the very moment you are

hailing it as final truth

it will break in your hands. – Dororthy Walters, “No Matter What You Know”

pg. 105

Words reveal that which can be known, while silence guards the gates of the unknown. At the same time that words and language provide an essential tool for self-awareness, over reliance on them can snuff out the mystery of the white fire – that aspect of our being that can only be approached in silence.


If we live long enough, we all may encounter events and experiences in life that simply do not make ordinary sense and do not lend themselves to rational inquiry. In many instances, the only dignified response to human suffering and tragedy is silence and the suspension of thought. In the face of incomprehensible events, silence may be the only true expression of faith. In silence we admit the limitations of human comprehension. In Jewish law, one who visits the bereaved is instructed to be silent – to not speak unless spoken to. Holding the sacred space of silence for mourners makes it possible for them to be present in their grief. In silence, we do not run the risk of trivializing the mourner’s experience with our well-intended but often awkward words.

pg. 116

The “Song of the Sea” made its way into the daily liturgy as a reminder that reality is not fixed but continually being created anew each moment. Gazing into the white spaces of the parchment surrounding the words of this song, we are invited to enter the white fire of our lives – to see the primordial light that shines within the dark edges of our finite existence, to hear the song that emerges from the silence and see the miraculous possibilities that are hidden inside the ordinary stuff of our lives.

pg. 183

Courage is the quality that enables us to overcome our fear as we venture into the unknown. It is a capacity we develop over the course of our lives by continually confronting, rather than avoiding, the challenges that life presents. People often mistakenly equate courage with fearlessness when, in fact, it is simply the willingness to act or persist in one’s purpose despite the presence of fear, danger, or resistance. Courage is not he same as impulsive risk taking, which stems from a need to show off or generate adrenaline. Instead, courageous deeds tend to be powerful – to benefit others or help us grow. Each time we take a risk by stepping into the unknown, we build our courage reserves. Sometimes the risk is to our sense of physical safety; other times, to our self-image or self-esteem. By stepping our of our comfort zone and facing our fears rather than avoiding them, we discover our courageous hearts. And each successive step we take into the unknown builds upon that acquired strength of heart.

pg. 184-185

The Hebrew expression for courage, ometz lev, suggests that courage involves “strength of heart.” In scriptures the word ometz, “strength,” sometimes appears as a noun, other times as a verb (ametz), suggesting that courage is a capacity that we develop through practice. We build our courage muscle by intentionally strengthening our hearts – the seat of our courage. This strength training involves learning to bear difficult emotions like fear.

pg. 189-190

…In an interview with the activist-journalist Maria Shriver, Laura offered readers the following tips:

Don’t underestimate yourself. You can probobly do much more than you think you can. If you find an endeavor you feel passionate about, take one step at a time, and soon you will have created a path. Solving small problems can help you build the capacity to meet far greater challenges.

Don’t let anxiety stop you. It’s fine to notice when you’ve left your comfort zone, but don’t let that dissuade you from pursuing something meaningful. Your anxiety most likely means that you are on the edge of an important learning curve.

Be open to an unpredictable future. I thought I would spend my professional career as an obstetrician.When health problems interfered with that plan, I had to let go and see where life was taking me. As it turned out, I stumbled upon and area in public health that had been neglected – solar electricity for health care- and in the process found my passion.

Be willing to be a consummate learner. Although I knew nothing about solar electricity when I started my organization, I was willing to learn. And now, when I travel the world teaching midwives and doctors about solar electricity for their health center, I can say, “If I could learn this…so can you!”

And finally, be persistent. It hasn’t been easy to start an organization and raise money for projects in Africa, Haiti, and Asia. Something I think my greatest attribute is my stubborn nature.

If you believe in your mission – don’t give up!

pg. 193-194

The poet Ruth Gendler sums worry up as follows:

Worry has written the definitive work on nervous habits. She etches lines on people’s foreheads when they are not paying attention. She makes lists of everything that could go wrong while she is waiting for the train. She is sure she left the stove on, and the house is going to explode in her absence. When she makes love, her mind is on the failure rates and health hazards of various methods of birth control. The drug companies want Worry to test their new tranquilizers but they don’t understand what she knows too well: there is no drug that can ease her pain. She is terrified of the unknown.

pg. 195

Fear, of course is not all bad. IT serves the important evolutionary purpose of keeping us alive and safe. There are many dangers and risks worth avoiding. Having courage does not mean being foolish or taking unnecessary risks. But, all too often, our fears exaggerate the actual dangers we face. And when we allow our anxieties to control our decision making, we often end up unnecessarily restricting our lives. Each time we allow fear to paralyze us it take a bite out of the quality and scope of our life. Courage, on the other hand, enlarges us and expands the playing field upon which our lives unfold.

pg. 197

…as the Indian philosopher and compiler of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali, writes:

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.





Posted in Quotes

The Remarkable Ordinary

In my continuing quest for finding answers for life, the next book that I just finished in “The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life” by Frederick Buechner.

How amazing it would be if we were really able to stop and see the remarkable in the everyday. Why is it that we are constantly looking for good or God in just the amazing things, but forget about the every day things? What would the world look like if we were actually able to see Godliness in the mundane – which might make it no longer mundane? How amazing will the world look if we look at it and experienced it in the same way we look or experience art?

I do wish that I was able to “stop, look and listen to life.” As the year is progressing I really do need to start thinking about what is next, and I still feel totally lost. I don’t want to try and stay just because it is easier than starting over again. And I don’t want to just move back to Israel because that is where I think I have friends, but it is extremely unclear if I will be able to give anything to society. I don’t want to try and stay working in a hospital because I know that it would be easier than dealing with the politics of the Orthodox world. And I don’t want to go into pulpit work just because it is the thing that is going to make the news or help the “political fight”.

I really just don’t know.

I know that I am good at what I do. I know that I still don’t feel like I have a community in NY. I know that I enjoy what I am doing at the hospital. I know that in some ways I miss working with older adults. I know that I miss talking about halacha and teaching, but maybe I can find ways to do that in other situations. No matter what I need to give something up, the question is what….

As usual, some quotes that I really liked.

pg. 27

Listen to the gandeur of time, listen to the stateliness of time…

But each of these composers is saying, Pay attention to the quality of time. The Kairos-ness of time. And in a way I think of the phrase keep time. You can think of keeping time in the normal sense as keeping to the meter of music, but music in a way, is saying keep time in another way – keep it, keep in touch with it, keep your hands  on it somehow. Keep in touch with the sadness of your own time, with the joy of time, with the marvelousness of time, with the terror of time, with the emptiness of time, with the fullness of time.

It is also saying, Listen to the sounds, listen to the music of your own life. Listen to the voices of the people you live with, listen to the songs that they sing. I don’t mean the song they sing – tra-la-la — but I mean listen to the music of their voices. Listen to the slamming of the screen door. Listen to the patter of feet walking back up the path. Listen to the turning of a tap in the tub, because that is a very profound and touching way the music of your life. It is the song out of time that sings to you. Keep in touch with time, not just a rush and tumble.

pg. 28

And ballet… And I realize this art is working in both time and space. It’s both music and it’s spacial on the stage, and it’s saying listen to this time, right now, and look, look at what you’re looking at, look at the language the body speaks, the language the face speaks, the language the hands speak, these wonderful things the young, supple, beautiful bodies are doing up there on the stage to the music. These are the kind of things we all of us do less young-ly, less supple-y, less beautifully, but with our hands, with our bodies – pay attention to that. So generally – and this is not a complicated point, God knows – the arts frame our life for us so that we will experience it. Pay attention to it.

pg. 39

To love your neighbor is to see your neighbor. To see somebody, really to see somebody, you have to love somebody. You have to see people the way Rembrandt saw the old lady, not just a face that comes at you the way a dry leaf blows at you down the path like all other dry leaves, but in a way that you realize the face is something the likes of which you have never seen before and will never see again. To love somebody we must see that person’s face, and once in a while we do. Usually it is because something jolts us into seeing it.

pg. 44

The deepest mystery of all, I think, is the one to which biblical faith points, which is the idea that we are made not only of matter that comes from the earth and stars, but we are made in the image of God. Whatever that means. I don’t know what that means altogether, but I think it means that we bear his mark upon us. Deep within us…The world adds all sorts fo things that the holy self that God made, but it still is there, and though we lose track of it in a million way, I think it remains, if we are lucky at all, as a source of goodness, of flashes of insight, good dreams, good prayers that somehow pray themselves, of healing.

I think that is the place from which all true art comes, and by true art I mean art that doesn’t just entertain – perfectly all right to do that – but true art that nourishes the spirit, that illuminates the mind, that deepens the understanding, that deepens our humanity. I think that what true art, and true religion, does at its best is to put each one of us in touch with that holy part of ourselves, with that source from which art and love comes, and from which all good, wise things come, so that we – by virtue of this painting, this poem, this ballet, this piece of music, this Scripture – become finally, truly, human at last.


Posted in Quotes

Toward a Meaningful Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about my spiritual life (ok, CPE is making me think about it and I am actually do it).

So I am starting to get a bunch of books out of the library. Just last week I read a book I really liked, “Loveable” By Kelly Flanagan. As much as I enjoyed it and thought that it really did speak “to me”, there were a number of places that were very Christian. Now, I don’t think that there is actually a problem reading such a book, but I started thinking what would a Jewish book sound like?

This week I read “Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson” by Simon Jacobson. There were parts that I thought were really great, but so much of the book just fell flat for me. The ideas that he discussed felt so watered down or felt like they were missing the point.

I am wondering if there are Jewish books that speak about the spirit, pain, suffering, loneliness, love – all is a way that actually acknowledges those feelings, and doesn’t tell someone to just find the good. If you know of any that you think I should read, please let me know. I’m always looking for good book suggestions.

Some quotes that I liked:

pg. 11

It is not enough to encourage the soul and educate it, you must actualize the soul by partnering it with your body. To help a neighbor in need, to listen to a stranger in distress, to help provide food or clothing to someone who cannot afford it. These become more than simple good deeds, they become vital nourishment for your soul and a means of putting your physical body to appropriate spiritual use. When the soul is nurtured with awareness, warmheartedness, and refined behavior, it fully emerges in our lives with the heat and intensity of an actual flame, lifting the body with it.

pg. 33

Without love, education is at best incomplete and at worst destructive. Love means sensitivity- not to your ideas and your standards, but to your student’s and, most important, to God’s…

The true educator is not one who simply teaches facts, but one who teaches a child to think for himself — to find answers to his own questions based on principles he was taught, and not to be solely dependent on a teacher or a parent to solve a dilemma… This is consistent with why God created the universe: not so puppets could play out a predetermined script, but so that each individual would have the desire, the freedom, to act honestly and virtuously.

pg. 60

So love is much more than treating another person with compassion. It goes beyond exchanging feelings of warmth. It is much more than doing to others only as you would do unto yourself. Love is a Godly act, the purest way to feel another person’s soul as well as your own.

The deepest love is not merely human. It is a love infused with Godliness, whereby a mortal kiss is transformed into a immortal one. True love is one soul greeting another.

pg. 62

Love, therefore, is the foundation on which our entire world is built. All our laws, all our attitudes, all our interactions stem from the same principle. Love is the root of all civility and morality. Without love, it would be impossible to live in peace with one another, to respect one another’s needs, and to treat everyone with the same compassion that we would like to be given ourselves.

pg. 63

To achieve selfless love, you must first learn to love yourself, to create harmony between your own body and soul. This means understanding who you really are and what you have been put on this earth to accomplish. It means being comfortable with your calling and not looking for distractions. If you are in conflict with yourself, how can you expect to reach a comfortable love with another person?

pg. 76

A true home must be the center of your life or it will inevitably become a liability and a burden…

It is important to remember: Your work may be important and necessary for survival, but the workplace is not your home. Neither is the restaurant where you eat, the museum you visit, or the foreign city you travel to. Many people today have replaced their homes with their careers or hobbies…

But why should your home be the center of your life when there are so many exciting things to do and learn outside the home? Because, in order to fully enjoy anything in life, you must feel entirely comfortable with yourself, and you learn to be this way at home, a place free from the distractions and struggles of the outside world.

What does it mean to be comfortable with yourself? IT means being comfortable with your soul, the Godliness within you. It means that the outer you, the part that deals with the material world, is at peace with your inner you, the real you. And that makes you a comfortable place for God to dwell in. When you radiate from within, you warm the entire home, filling it with a peace and gentleness that will be felt by all those who enter.

pg. 133

A teacher who was close to the Rebbe once came to him for advice. His deep emotional pain as a Holocaust survivor was preventing him from fulfilling his teaching responsibilities. “There are no words to console you” the Rebbe said, “but you cannot allow the Holocaust to continue in your life.” He counseled the man with words he had learned from his father-in-law, the previous Rebbe: “We are day workers, and our task is to shed light. We need not expend our energies in battling darkness. We need only create day, and night will fade away.”

pg. 200

A woman who suffered a great tragedy came to see her Rabbi. The Rabbi said to her: I have no answers for you, but I can cry with you. 

Posted in Quotes


As I just wrote, things have been a bit on the down side for me over the past couple of the weeks. On Friday, I went to the library, something I do weekly, and I saw this book “Loveable: Embracing What is Truest About You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life”, by Kelly Flanagan. It immediately caught my eye, because well, something I have been thinking about a lot is “not being enough” and how lonely I am, and I guess really questioning my being loveable. I debated a bit about taking it out – is it going to be super cheesy? Does it mean that I am really sad or desperate that I need to read such a book? But I decided that I would take it out, and see what happens.

The truth is, this book, although at times a bit cheesy – was exactly what I was feeling. At times that was scary to read a page that I so completely identify with. There were things that I noticed in the book that we were speaking about in CPE – both in process group and in supervision. Maybe I am in a different head space so I am understanding it better or maybe it was just explained in a way that I connected with more. Although it doesn’t make it any easy to trust and change.

For the most part I do agree with the author. The one thing I do have an issue with, is that he talks a lot about finding it within one’s self how loveable they are. I want to say back to him (and maybe I will actually write an email) is that is all well and good, but if you don’t at times feel like you are loveable to others, it is really hard to keep up.

But I would say all in all, it was a really beautiful and meaningful book (yes, he does talk about Jesus and Grace – and I just took it as part of his theology, and wondered how this would read as a Jewish book). Here are some quotes that I really related to, spoke to me or just liked.

pg. 58 [Talking about anger and what anger has to do with our being – something my supervisor likes to talk about a lot. I know for myself, most of the time I just push away my mad, I wonder what would happen if I actually used it. I do find that when I am mad or angry, people have less patience to listen to me, and so I am less comfortable being angry, if I want people I can’t also be angry…]

Whether we tend to suppress anger or give it free rein, it has devastating consequences. Yet the worst consequence is not what we do ourselves when we bury it, or what we do to others when we don’t; it’s what we don’t allow it to do for us. When we deny or indulge our anger, we don’t give it a chance to be a breadcrumb. We don’t let it lead us back home through the wilderness of our shame and to the warm hearth of our worthiness. So the real question is not “Do you get mad?” The real question, in the words of the beloved Mister Rogers, is this: “What do you do with the mad that you feel?”

Pg. 68 [Breath and just be – that is all you need to do. Oh if only it felt that easy…]

…We don’t need a ladder to construct who we are supposed to be; we need an oxygen mask to resuscitate who we’ve always been. We don’t need to build; we simply need to breathe.

Our breath, it turns out, is one of the best tools we have.

When you breathe, you are not building a breathtaking life; you are simply taking the breath that gives you life. You are not moving up; you are settling down. You are not trying to win a trophy; you are simply being you.

Can you sense what a great act of faith this is? To stop all, of your doing and to simply breathe, even for ten minutes, when you still believe your doing is what makes you worthy? To quit performing while you’re still wondering if your performance has been acceptable? There’s no to-do list for this kind of moment, because there is literally nothing to do. In fact, the task is to slowly settle into doing nothing so you can experience being something, even while that something remains a mystery to you. And it requires only one thing: you have to dare to believe the something you are is alight with worthiness.

pg. 83 [Love vs. Shame…how can I not listen to the voice of shame….]

Maybe, just maybe, the spark of God at the center of you doesn’t just glow; it also speaks. Unceasingly. Of your worthiness. Maybe the spark of the God-who-is-love is always telling you about the lovely soul you are. To hear this voice of grace is to be loved and to know the name of the character you are in the story you are living. It’s the name you were given before all other names.

You are Loveable.

The problem is, somewhere along the way, we stopped listening to this voice of grace. Or rather, we began listening, instead, to the voice of shame. It’s the choice we made before we knew there was a choice to make. We chose to quit listening to the voice telling us we’re lovely and started listening instead to the voice telling us we’re a loser. That;s how we forget who we are. But it is also how we remember who we are – we don’t have to try more strenuously; we simply need to listen more closely…

pg. 86-87 [Hearing the “voice of the spark” is not easy at all…]

When you first hear the voice of the spark within you, you probably won’t unwrap it and receive it like a gift you’ve given yourself. Instead, you may pull back a piece of wrapping paper, glimpse the gift inside, and drop the love-package in shock because it is too surprising. Too much. Too good to be true. When you choose to listen to the whisper of worthiness, your first impulse may not be accept it. A vast ocean of love will open up inside of you, and it might seem like a mirage.

You may cling, at first, to the desert of your shame.

You may look at your darkness and decide it’s too black for there to be any light underneath it. You may look at your mes and believe you are too broken to be beloved. Or on the other hand, it’s possible it will feel so good that you will feel guilty – it might feel wrong to feel so worthy. You might think yourself cocky and arrogant.

…Just receive. The great theologian Paul Tillich described this experience as well as anyone when he wrote: “A wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, ‘You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.’ If that happens to us, we experience grace.”

pg. 105 [In order to connect with others we need to find that place that is common – many times that is the brokenness – but that place can also be holy]

As our incident unfolds and grace becomes the eye with which we see the world, as well as ourselves, comparison gives way to communion. Our minds give way to our hearts. The mind is complicated, but the heart is not. When our minds crack, they fall apart, but when our hearts break, they break open. And when our hearts break open, they get flooded by commonality. 

When we allow our inner voice to become our inner eye, we begin to trust-fall from a psychology of competition into a spirituality of commonality. It is a spirituality of fallibility, of broken ground, which is always common good and, thus, holy ground. Our  mutual fallibility and fragility become the bread and wine of our communion. We trust-fall into our common ground and, when we land, we discover we’ve fallen right into the arms of our worthiness, and the worthiness of everyone around us.

Pg. 113

All I ever wanted was to belong, to wear that hat of belonging – Anne Lamott

Pg. 119 [Finding a place to belong to is the scariest thing. There is the risk of rejection. Not trying can hurt less then being rejected out right – at least I can then blame myself. But connecting is so important. Oh how this is the thing I am missing…]

…Now that we can hear the voice of grace and have a steady, sneaking suspicion we might actually we worthy, a part of us will want to remain there, to simply enjoy our enough-ness, and set up camp in act one. It’s safe. Secure. There is no risk.

Except there is.

It’s the risk of not finding the people to whom you belong.

You’re wired to belong, to enter into community, to join and be joined, to be one with something bigger than yourself. You’re wired for relationship. The second act of life is when you find your people and begin to truly enjoy them. But like the good second act of any story, it won’t be easy – you face danger, the action rises, the stakes get higher, the subplots get complicated, and the tension ratchets up.

In act two, you find true belonging by learning how to hold on to your worthiness while venturing out into a world that seems to be doing its best to take it from you.

Pg. 122-123 [I’m learning slowly that the ways that I have protected myself from bad, is also what has kept me from good. But it is hard to not trust that it might not be so horrible.]

The ego is like a castle with three parts: walls, cannons, and thrones.

Walls. When our tender hearts first experience rejection and shame, we build walls around our souls to keep people out and to keep ourselves safe – walls that look like silence and avoidance, or pretending and people-pleasing and public personas, or giving in and fitting in instead of standing up and standing out. Typically our ego walls develop sometimes in elementary school, right around the time we become aware other people can judge us and critique us and belittle us with a single word, or even a simple look.

Cannons. The walls of our ego are a good defense, but the best defense is a good offense, so we eventually add ego cannons to our ego walls. For some of us, ego cannons are violent – lots of fists and fury. But for most of us, ego cannons take on more socially acceptable guises: blame, condemnation, resentment, retaliation, and gossip to name a few…

Thrones. When our ego cannons inevitably backfire, leaving us lonelier than ever, we try a different tactic. We build ego thrones on which to sit, and we fancy ourselves royalty. We construct our thrones out of power, possession, and prestige. We find something to win or someone to dominate…

And it is also among the most common causes of suffering in the world. The self-protective ego keeps us isolated and alone, deprived of the authentic belonging we all desperately want and need. It creates division and leads to violence of one kind or another…It keeps us from knowing who we are who our people are, and what we’re here to do.

pg. 125 [YES! I’m learning this one too. It is up to me to allow people in…it’s just working out the rusty chains to let the drawbridge down…]

In a castle, the drawbridge is a point of vulnerability, a passageway through which the castle inhabitants  have contact with the outside world, and one that permits the outside world to enter the castle. However, a drawbridge is always controlled from the inside. No one can force us to lower our defense and step out of our ego. It’s up to us to let down our drawbridge so our soul can roam freely.

pg. 165 [I miss the people who make me feel like way, and I hope that I can find others who do the same.]

… because home is the place of belonging where someone loves you enough to fan the flames of the spark that has always been alight at the center of you.

pg. 169

Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart. – Rumi

Pg. 180-181 [I remember having a conversation in college about how does one choose what good to do in the world. It makes me think about the things that I am looking into for next year. I do like being in the hospital, I feel mostly light. People tell me that when I talk about old people it’s when I light up, and it is most definitely something that has been sticking to me for as long as I can remember. Maybe this is what I should be pursuing…but that idea really scares me, because it might mean building something from nothing alone or moving to somewhere that I don’t really want to be living… and it is definitely not being in the spot light of communal change…]

The voice of shame says our passions, if they are going to matter, must be earth-shattering or world-changing. It subtly substitutes performance for passion and then pawns it of as the real deal…

This is what passion is not…

Passion is not about saving the world. In the words of author Anne Lamott, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Passion is about simply letting the light within you shine in the things you do. Our passions are not necessarily epic. They are not always big world-changing things. They’re just things that won’t go away, things that won’t leave us alone…

Passion is not about inspiring anyone else…our passions don’t have to inspire anyone else; they just need to breathe new life into us. 

Passion is not necessarily a career. …Fundamentally, your passion is not about making a living; it’s about living with the eyes of your soul wide open.

Passion is not the sole possession of privileged people. 

pg. 183

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

pg. 198 [I feel like when I was younger I had the courage to just do. I saw something and created. I did things that my heart lead me to. But then, I don’t know, maybe I felt like it was too much, or I was too alone, or it just became too hard, but I do it less. I haven’t started something from nothing in over two years. I haven’t created any theatre or art in that time either. Maybe doing all this processing will give me the courage to try again… or maybe (hopefully) I will learn what my passion is, and be able to go in that direction]

To have courage is simply to be who you are at your core and to follow your passion. It’s not a character trait; it’s a direction. People aren’t born with courage; people are born with passions – things we’re here to do. Courage is simply the decision to move toward them. So, true courage, to the observer, might look quite mundane, because it’s ordinary people doing the ordinary things they are here to do.

pg. 217

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal body love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things. – Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”



Posted in Quotes

Jane Eyre: A Heartbreaking Tale

For some reason I took out “Jane Eyre” from the library. I remember having read it in high school, but I don’t remember much else. I remembered there was a fire, I remembered that the guy that Jane wanted to marry was married to a crazy woman, and I remembered Jane being pretty plain and homely.

I did not remember how heartbreaking her life was. How she went from an abusive family to an abusive school. And although she was happy at the Rochester’s house, he was cruel to her, even in her love. She thought that love could only come in cruelty, and she could not see that someone could love her for herself.

I know that she is praised for being a strong independent woman, but the truth is that she just did what she was told and tried to follow the rules. Yes, she did it all on her own. Yes, she did a lot without having love in her life. But all she did was say yes and become quiet, so as not to bring anger upon herself.

Unfortunately I relate quite a bit with Jane. Thankfully, my childhood was not abusive int he way hers was, so not so much in that regard. But I do feel like she was every searching for her place and for love, and was not going to find it. She had to be someone else to find love. She had to choose love of her work over love of a human (as St. John told her, she is not going to receive human love, so she should put it out of her mind). She had to fight for herself. She had to comfort herself, because there was no one else to do so – even when she was among other people.

I wanted to cry out for Jane. Cry for the way that people spoke to her. Cry for the physical pain that she had to endure. Cry for the pain of desiring a man who just played games, which made love hurt, but it was the only way she knew. Cried for the times that she was spoken down to. Cried that when she finally found love, she was unable to attain it, and her lover could not understand what this meant for her. Cried that no one would take her in once again. Cried when they finally did, and her cousin tried to convince her that she should not care about love of humans, but she should just strive in the love of her work. Cried that she did find her lover, but in doing so she was meant to never live with her dream of opening and running a school.

There was just so much loneliness, unrequited love and hurt. I can see why it is a classic – even though it was written in 1847, I found it easy to relate to even in 2017.

Some quotes that stuck with me:

This from Mr. Brocklehurst. How could he be in charge of school? How was nothing done to stop him? What makes him think that anyone can or should learn under such conditions?  This reminded me so much of the book “Holy Anorexia”, how is that women are evil unless they are made to feel worthless?! Would he ever take his own advice? Even after this speech his wife and daughters greatly made up enter, would he ever tell them this? I think about in our world, how the greatest leaders with the most money, just tell those of less means to just “suck it up” – how is this the world we exist in?!

Madam, allow me an instant. — You are aware that my plan in bring up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying. Should any little accidental disappointment of the appetite occur, such as the spoiling of a meal, the under or the over dressing of a dish, the incident out not to be neutralized by replacing with something more delicate the comfort lost, thus pampering the body and obviating the aim of this institution; it ought to be improved to the spiritual edification of the pupils, by encouraging them to evince fortitude under the temporary privation. A brief address on those occasions would not be mistimed, wherein a judicious instructor would take the opportunity of referring to the sufferings of the primitive Christians; to the torments of martyrs; to the exhortations of our blessed Lord himself, calling upon his disciples to take up their cross and follow him; to his warnings that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God; to his divine consolations, ‘if ye suffer hunger or thirst for my sake, happy are ye.’ Oh, madam, when you put bread and cheese, instead of burnt porridge into these children’s mouths, you may indeed feel their vile bodies, but you little think how you starve their immortal souls! ( Chapter 7, pg. 76-77)

The first(?) of speeches telling Jane that she should not worry about the love of people, as she will not find it. This time by her friend Helen.

Hush, Jane! you think too much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive, too vehement: the sovereign hand that created your frame, and put life into it, has provided you with other resources than your feeble self, or than creatures feeble as you. Besides this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits: that world is round us, for it is everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned to guard us; and if we were dying in pain and shame, if scorn smote us on all sides, and hatred crushed us, angels see our tortures, recognise our innocence (if innocent we be: as I know you are this charge which Mr. Brocklehurst has weakly and pompously repeated at second hand from Mrs Reed; for I read a sincere nature in your ardent eyes and on your clear front), and God waits only the separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward. Why, then, should we ever sink overwhelmed with distress, when life is so soon over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness – to glory? (Chapter 8, pg. 85)

When Mr. Rochester pretends to be the fortune teller, and Jane’s response back – of why she has to be the way she is. And the passage about the brow and forehead are the places I see myself most like Ms. Eyre.

The flame flickers in the eye; the eye shines like dew; it looks soft and full of feeling; it smiles at my jargon: it is susceptible; impression follows impression through its clear sphere; where it ceases to smile, it is sad; an unconscious lassitude weighs on the lid: that signifies melancholy resulting from loneliness. It turns from me; it will not suffer farther scrutiny; it seems to deny, by mocking glance, the truth of the discoveries I have already made, –to disown the charge both of sensibility and chagrin: its pride and reserve only confirm me in my opinions. The eye is favourable.

As to the mouth, its delights at time in laughter: it is disposed to impart all that the brain conceives; though I dare say it would be silent on much the heart experiences. Mobile and flexible, it was never intended to be compressed in the eternal silence of solitude: it is a mouth which should speak much and smile often, and have human affection for its interlocutor. That feature too is propitious.

I see no enemy to a fortunate issue but in the brow; and the brow professes to say, – ‘I can live alone, if self-respect and circumstances require me to so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure, born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld; or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.’ The forehead declares, ‘Reason sits firm and holds the reins, and she will not let the feelings burst away and hurry her to wild chasms. The passions may range furiously, like true heathens, as they are; and the desires may imagine all sorts of vain things: but judgement shall still have the last word in every argument, and the casting vote in every decision. Strong wind, earthquake-shock, and fire may pass by: but I shall follow the guiding of that still small voice which interprets the dictates of conscience.’ (Chapter 19, pg. 259-260)

The most true sentence:

‘Pity!’ he said, and sighed and paused. ‘It is always the way of events in this life,’ he continued presently: ‘no sooner have you got settled in a pleasant resting-place, than a voice calls out to you to rise and move on, for the house of repose is expired.’ (Chapter 23, pg. 13)