This is one of the most magnificent pieces my sister has written. It is a must read.
This is one of the most magnificent pieces my sister has written. It is a must read.
My teacher in the 4th grade was Mrs. Wheeler. A small petite woman with white hair and a raspy voice. She wore skirts that came to her knees and I always remember her fondness for plaid. One afternoon she came up and whispered in my ear that she wanted to talk with me privately. She had assembled a list of students whom she had created a special program for, it was a creative writing program. I was so honored. I couldn’t believe it. Every day at lunch while all the other children ate their Bologne sandwiches, we went to the library and wrote stories. I still loved reading and writing then, it still brought me joy.
When I entered middle school my love of learning started to fade. I replaced it with boys, cigarettes and pot. Once I found a new love my books and poems just got old and collected dust. My grades began to fall, and school was just a meeting place, it wasn’t a place of adventure anymore. I felt tinges of sadness when my poor english class grades came in, I felt ashamed because I loved to read and write, but it was quickly replaced with my latest crush, or the next party.
I dropped out of high school in the middle of my junior year. This is a very touchy subject in my family. I don’t have any regrets but there is always a wonder. I was to enroll in community college and get my GED, nothing ever works out as planned. Instead I went to work got a job managing a big health food store, I got life lessons. I always convinced myself they were more valuable than any book could give me. Truth be told, I wanted those books, I wanted the words swirling around in my head, I wanted to have a vernacular that would make people’s heads spin.
So my story got stuck there in the middle of my junior year. My “I AM NOT SMART ENOUGH. I AM NOT SMART ENOUGH TO BE A WRITER.” I got stuck there. I was like Robin Wright Penn in “The Princess Bride,” I was in the quicksand, but I didn’t have a prince to pull me out. So there my story stayed, for years it pulled me down.
I finally got my GED went to college, of course left a year shy of getting my BA. New story takes in. I CAN NEVER FINISH ANYTHING, AND I AM NOT SMART ENOUGH. They are perfect for each other, they go well together. Like a good wine pairing.
Over the years I dabbled in finding my love of books again, finding my love of words and writing. Nothing ever truly stuck with me. 35 years old now and I have that flutter in my soul again. I am giddy with excitement again over a good book. I am stealing away moments to fill myself with words on pages that I run my fingers through, scenes where I pretend I am there, lines I wish I had written. My sister reminded me lately, “If you want to write you have to read, and read all the time.” I listened intently to those words, I took them to heart, I sewed them inside my chest where I think my heart would be. So I read, and I read. I read essay’s, books, magazines, just anything I can.
I am time traveling. I am traveling back to the early 80’s in California. I am just 5 or 6 years old. I am a great reader, I am one of the best in my 1st grade class. I love reading and I see a bright future for myself. I think privately, “I am smart. I AM SMART.”
After reading my sister’s latest essay about the turns we take in life, the left turns and right turns, I thought about my life. Who would I be if I had taken a different turn? Would I have been a scholar? A history teacher (my major in college), An author? The owner of a multi million dollar company? Maybe, Maybe not. Maybe all the turns I took are exactly the right turns. Maybe instead of right turns I took left turns, that sounds like me, I never listen to what people tell me anyway. Maybe those left turns are the ones that will make my new-found love of writing more interesting. I most definitely lived some wild and crazy moments, maybe those are the left turns I needed to have. It never really is possible to know what, if any, of the choices we make are right or wrong, they just are.
I see the bookcase in my room in 1985 California. It is pine, completely filled to the rim with every category of book, mostly books on marine biology, another early love of mine. I sit and remember what those books smelled like and how they made my insides swirl with excitement. Here I stand now that same girl, filled with the same desire and joy to fill my soul with words and knowledge.
Here I am ready to change the story, to make a right turn.
“I AM SMART. I DO FINISH THINGS. I AM A LOVER OF ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL.”
When I was 16 years old I left home. My sister was away at college and my mom was in a rough spot in her life. I was in a rough spot in my life. When you are 16 the bad times feel like hell has come home to live where your heart once was.I will leave high school and enroll in community college in Philadelphia. I will get my GED in college and then keep on going. I had it all planned out. I would live in a super fab apartment in Center CIty, have my fab great pro skateboarder friends and I would be living the life.
It didn’t go quite as I planned.
I did have the most ridiculous apartment overlooking the Philadelphia city scape. It was awe-inspiring. We lived on the third floor and had huge bay windows that made you feel that you could see till the end of the earth. I didn’t get my GED, instead I got a job managing a health food store. I went to work at 5 am every morning, snow sleet or hail. I was there, always there. I had all the amazing friends and I lived life to the fullest. Every hour was filled with memories to be made. The nights went on forever and every morning was a new day full of mishaps and adventures to be had.
If you ever visited Philadelphia you know the city has an interesting layout. Posh fancy apartments just one block away from crack row. I could have cared less. I was 16 years old and I was a bad ass to the core. My boyfriend lived on one of the most dangerous streets in Center City, I laughed at that. I would walk down that street by myself, all 5’2 inches of me at 3am and I dare anybody mess with me. I was ten feet tall and ready to rumble.
Where did she go?
I nearly threw up in my seat the first time I had to fly with my kids. I have been flying since I was 5 years old. Back then I could fly by myself, even sit in first class. I had no fears, no worries of the plane crashing, no fearful thoughts that came in and took over.
When you get older decisions become more difficult, more complicated, more powerful. This is at my definition of aging.
I can close my eyes and squeeze my eyelids tight. I can time travel back in time to 1985. I can feel the sand under my feet as we walked along our favorite beach, El Matador in Malibu, California. I can hear my sisters laughter as we discovered the hidden caves and their priceless treasures inside. Pieces of colored glass that were polished down and smooth as silk. Our stepfather Carl used to tell us they were precious gems that came from the Far East. I believed every word. I always believed every word said to me as a child.I would run and jump and play in the blue ocean waters. I would let the waves carry me out as I got tangled up in massive beds of seaweed. I would feel little animals brush past my legs, I would giggle.
30 years later I am in Florida with my kids and I can barely put my feet in the water. I can’t go in, there are sharks there, they will eat me. I see fish swimming around me, the sharks must be close. I have to get my kids out of the water. My fear so great that I momentary become dizzy. I finally get in the water, I swim out pretty far. The whole time I am talking to myself, “It’s okay, you are fine, you don’t want your kids to grow up with fear. You have to do this. You have to at least appear to have courage.”
I heard Oprah interview an immensely popular author, he said the number one thing preventing us from living our fullest lives is fear. At first you think, yeah that’s just some airy fairy stuff, but once I dug deeper I realized not so hippy dippy after all.
I am consumed by fear most days, engulfed in it, wrapped up in it like a newborn baby being swaddled by his mother. Why, Why, Why? I am paralyzed at times by my fear. It follows me around like a shadow creeping around the corner in a dark alley. It isn’t my friend, it tries to tell me its my friend and that it’s here to protect me, but that is bullish-t! I get so enraged at myself for feeling like I am stuck in quicksand, so maddened by my immobilization.
I don’t live well with the unknown. I try to tell myself that all will be ok. I make others tell me the same. Tell me what I want to hear. Tell me that it’s fine and will work out just magnificently in the end. Lie to me so that I feel safe. The minute I know my safety is threatened my fear comes calling my name.
In the spirit of authenticity I will share out loud and with integrity.
I am scared. I am scared of change. I am scared of what will be. I am scared that I am not enough. I am scared that I don’t have the will to overcome the fear.
Are you with me? Are you scared? Do you find yourself strolling down the street in your fear wheelchair to afraid to get up and walk on your own two feet?
It was so cold today. The sun was shining but the wind and the air were bitter. My fatigue had set in deeply. My bones felt weak and the cold air felt as if my body was thrust into an ice bath. The burning that comes before your body parts eventually go numb. I drove home from teaching tonight with my seat warmer on and the heat on full blast. I had no need for music as I drove home. I was craving complete silence. I could only hear the wind as it rushed past my windows on the outside of my car.
My thoughts are heavy tonight, shackles weighing me down. I keep thinking I love what I do. I love teaching yoga. I love being a mom. I love writing my blog. I love so many things, but… I feel like I haven’t found my dharma yet. Is there some magical feeling that takes over when you know you have found your dharma? Is there a true physical feeling that comes over your body when you know you are doing the right thing in your life?
I couldn’t stop thinking I am 35 and I still haven’t found my calling, I don’t think. Is it supposed to look a certain way? Oh I wish for the answers. I had this conversation running around inside my head driving home t through the black cold night.
I needed to clear my head so I picked up one of my new favorite books. “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed. An amazing book, written in question and answer. The questions are written to Dear Sugar( she is sort of like Dear Abby, but more fascinating). A truly brilliant read. I opened up a page and couldn’t believe what I was reading. A 26-year-old girl, a writer, had written her Dear Sugar letter about exactly what I am going through. A feeling of despair, a feeling of why hasn’t this happened yet, a feeling of did I make the right choices in my life? There are no accidents, I opened this book up right when I meant to. I opened the book up right to that page. It was clearly calling me.
Sugar responded to this young and despondent 26-year-old writer with beautiful prose. My soul understood exactly what she was saying, even though she wasn’t saying it to me. Sugar writes, although she herself had grandiose plans that hadn’t come to fruition at a young age. Sugar writes, it took a plethora of things to take place before her first major piece of work. Things had to happen before it was to come out of her soul. She had a life to live, relationships to have, sentences to write that would go absolutely now where, and so on and so on.
Is this where I am now? Working on sentences that are going nowhere. Am I working on relationships that are just the building blocks for what is to be my grandiose final calling in life?
At the yoga retreat in Boston my sister asked a question to the room full of 35 people. She asked, “what is possible for you?” I was assisting that weekend so I chose not to partake in the excercise. Now I want to answer.
It is possible for me to stay consistent. It is possible for me start something and finish it. It is possible for me to find my calling and know it in my soul.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the lives around you. The lives of your friends, your family, your neighbors. They can easily seem to have so much, to have a sense of love and contentment in their lives, something that you easily feel is missing. It is much harder to just send those people love and turn that attention on your own soul.
I want to find my dharma and sit with it. I want my dharma to feel like a bean bag chair. I want to sit in that bean bag chair with the feeling that you can’t or don’t want to get up.
The boat ride leaving the yoga retreat in Mexico lasted a lifetime. I watched as the palapa’s in the mountain became smaller and more difficult to make out. The tops of the mountains began to disappear into the clouds. I felt the wind whipping across my face and into my eyes as they grew heavy with sadness. It was a life changing experience for me. It felt like my own tiny piece of heaven, I wasn’t ready to come back down to earth yet. I left with two temporary tattoos on my arm, one of them read: COURAGE.
My sticky note from Mexico reads:
I came back home and that tattoo stayed on my inner arm for almost a week. When the letters started to fade, when they started to peel off my skin, I felt a sense of loss. What was the next thing I needed to do? What could I do to get them back? The only obvious choice for me was to get the real thing done. I called up my tattoo artist and said I am coming back in, I just been in a few months earlier for a large piece on my shoulder. I had a beautiful cherry blossom and the jewish symbol CHAI placed on my right shoulder. Symbolizing for me new beginnings and embracing all the best that my life has to offer. I wanted the word COURAGE tattooed on my right wrist. I wanted it facing me. I want to see those words blaring at me when ever I use my hand. I want a constant reminder of what is possible for me. Oh and by the way put a heart and a dove with it. Let’ s add some love and hope with that courage.
A year has passed since that tattoo needle pierced my skin and forever imprinted my courage. I found my courage in a myriad of places in the past 365 days. I found most times when I never even thought it was there. A year has passed, another long year. Another year full of opportunity to rise up with my courage.
Time makes things dwindle. Too much time can suck the inspiration out of you. With each day passing your courage can get eaten by its evil twins fear and doubt. At times I am playing hide and seek with my courage. It’s mine, I am frustrated that I can’t find it. Where did you go? Why do you allude me, why when I need you most?
Here is a quote from Brene Brown. When I read her words it hit me like the slap in my face from my mother when I was 15. I had pushed her to the limit, there was anywhere left for her to go. It was eye-opening and life altering. I had to make a shift. I had to weave my courage into every thing that I was.
The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage literally had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has actually changed, and today, courage is synonymous with being heroic or performing brave deeds
I have fallen of course just slightly. I had temporarily lost my courage. It takes practice for me to keep it so close to my heart. I struggle with consistency like that. My courage is calling me. I believe in the motto ‘Fake it till you make it’ but, I don’t want to fake it anymore. I desire the freedom that comes with speaking ones mind and telling ones heart. I long for that full and total expression of joy that comes with owning up to who you are and what you stand for.
I am peeking over the edge now. Lately I have noticed hints of that courage popping up in my life. I want to turn those hints into full-blown courage attacks.
Attacks of massive courage that take complete control over my soul.
Are you ready for your courage attack?
I woke up at 5am today, drenched in sweat. So much water fell off of my body and my bed that I was actually cold, despite the heat being set to 73 degrees.
I woke up and realized I was having another Jewish Deli Nightmare. I know this sounds completely crazy, but it is most definitely true. Bizarre, but true.
In another life I worked as a waitress and manager of a very successful and amazing Jewish Deli. I don’t want to state the city or name of the successful and amazing Jewish Deli. In another life I was really skinny, irrational, wild, lots of fun with a fair amount of drama mixed in for good measure.
That was almost a decade ago. Sometimes it feels like it was an hour ago.
I spent the last weekend on another magical yoga retreat with my sister at Kripalu in Massachusetts. To say that it was amazing would be an understatement. I sat and watched 33 women and 1 man go through some phenomenal transformations, revelations, and life changing shifts.
I looked around the room on Sunday, as the last moments of the retreat were upon us, and I was inspired to get busy writing again. I really need to write is all I could think about. I really need to write about what I know, about what is true for me, about where I live in my heart. I kept thinking that if I was honest, really raw honest, that I could accomplish big things in my life. I could help other people accomplish big things in their lives.
The nightmares began upon returning home. It was my calling to write about something that still haunts me. It was my time to start writing from that place that I keep hidden and reserved for only me.
The Jewish Deli was more than just work for me, it was my family, it was my calling, it proved to the world that I was young but throughly capable of handling such a big job. I always knew, even as a young woman, that I could handle the biggest of jobs and that there was no task I couldn’t or wouldn’t take on. I was so proud of myself when I worked there, so proud of what that job represented to the world. I was something. I was respected. I was smart. I was capable.
Self fulfilling prophecy, I knew I would find a way to sabotage my position.
The staff at said successful and widely popular deli was like family. We were all so close, although I was told to stay away as the manager, of course I never listened. We were such a fun bunch. I was so fond of all the people I worked with. There was no division in the staff, the waiters and busboy and dishwashers and managers all partied together. We were a gang, a click, a force to be reckoned with.
There was one thing that separated me from the rest of the gang. I was the addict. I was the user. I was the unstable one. It hurt that the same people who used drugs with me found it so easy to throw me under the bus. It hurt that the same people who partied till the wee hours of the night were so easy to single me out as “bad” and “different from everybody else.
That played right into my insecurities, my worst fears. I never wanted to be disliked, wrong, or incompetent.
A fool I am not. I knew what all my so-called friends said about me when I wasn’t around. I knew what was said when I turned my back. I have never said it out loud before, not publicly, it hurt really bad. It was an extremely low point in my life. I was sad and desperate with a broken heart.
The people I worked for were two of the most interesting and difficult people. They are both brilliant, creative, smart and dedicated business people. I admired them and feared them in the same breath. I knew they were on to me. The disappointment I felt towards myself as I let them down day after day grew too heavy to bear. It was like wearing head to toe full iron body armor. I couldn’t bear it anymore. At one point I gave up trying to hide. I had nowhere left to run.
I would watch from a distance as those who were my friends all laughed and had a great time, so pleasant to my face, but distant. I felt it. Every day that I went to work, which was almost everyday, I felt the sting. It was a massive paper cut across my heart, open and burning. It was as if they were pouring lemon juice right down the middle of this cut that refused to heal. I just wanted to be loved and liked in this world, for me it is always about that.
As the days grew closer for my departure from that job, that city, that life, I came to terms with a few things. I knew I had to forgive myself for who I was ‘at that time in my life’ and secondly I realized that some of those who chastised me had demons of their own to hide. As long as it was my demons on display theirs could stay hidden away in their giant walk in closets.
I got in my car and drove away that January day and I never went back again. I still have not returned to said deli or city. Almost a decade of still carrying the hurt of that time inside my body. I assumed when I moved away and became the woman I am now that I would be forgiven, that I would be seen for who I am, or at least accepted for who I am now. I assumed that distance and time would erase the past.
I am still that girl from 7 years ago to some of those people, those who poured the lemon juice in my paper cut. That is their idea of who I am, that is always going to be their idea of who I am. I will always be the skinny, irrational, fun spirited, wild and drama filled girl. I will always be an addict. I will always be the Rachel that I was at 25 or 26 or whenever it was they decided I would always be that girl.
The dreams come often. I dream that I am back at said deli and I walk in and nobody will talk to me. I bring my children with me and all the same people work there and I am still the same old Rachel, I just have kids now. I have that same stinging feeling, it is so strong that it wakes me up from my sleep.
How can I still be dealing with this? How can I still be having nightmares of a jewish deli?
I am working hard on forgiveness in my life now. Forgiving other people is easy, forgiving myself, not so much. There is where the work needs to happen.
I sit and think over and over about the idea of forgiving myself and what stops me. It finally hit me like a hammer on the head. I can’t forgive myself because I have spent my entire life asking for permission. Permission to take a step forward, permission to take a step back, and permission to forgive myself. I realized that if only those people would forgive me, then I could move on in my own forgiveness. If only those people would tell me that it’s okay, I am not bad, I am still meaningful in this world, if that would happen then I could FORGIVE myself.
It is never going to happen. They are never going to do that. I am never going to get that reassurance that I crave.
Pretty earth shattering to finally get the bottom of those jewish deli nightmares. Pretty scary to admit out loud the reason that they still haunt me. Pretty breathtaking to finally realize that it is time I stop asking for permission in my life.
What else is on hold in my life, because I am waiting for the OK from somebody out in the world? Where else am I playing it safe or small because I need somebody else to take my hand and lead the way?
I looked around this weekend at Kripalu, at the faces of people who have lived through things I couldn’t imagine surviving and realized it was time to stop waiting. I don’t want to wait until, I am diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, or a loved one dies, or I lose it all, before I realize the only one leading the way in my life is me.
Where in your life are you holding back while you wait for somebody to tell you it’s okay?
I would love to hear all of your answers.
What will people think? What will people say? What will I look like to the world?
It was laid out right in front of me. My worst fears come to haunt me and I was staring at them as if I was staring down the barrel of a sawed off double barrel shotgun.
It was a beautiful day today in Georgia. The weather was brisk, but sunny outside. My little guy had asked me to ride bikes with him around our property. I had received a beautiful mountain bike from my husband for Christmas. It has just sat in the garage since the day I received it. I had absolutely no energy to ride it, just looking at it made me tired. After almost 8 weeks of feeling as if I am living an out-of-body experience I decided to dust it off and give it a try. I will admit, I was a bit scared. I haven’t rode a bike in a million and a half years. I got going and it was fun. My son looked so ecstatic to see me outside and playing with him, I felt that feeling of warm satisfaction come over me. The warmth reminded me of something that my sister said in her workshop this past weekend. What are the 5 most beautiful things around you.
5 most beautiful things in that moment: 1: the sun is shining, 2: my son was laughing, 3: I had the wind in my hair as I sailed through the yard on my bike, 4: I was well enough to enjoy time playing with my little guy, 5: The sky was unbelievably blue without a cloud for a hundred miles.
I rode the bike for a few minutes, I ran down a hill that was bigger than I thought. I giggled as I slid my feet on the ground to balance and protect myself from crashing into a tree. I was rather amused at how silly I must look. I had one of those moments where you are laughing and your heart is racing, your body doesn’t know if you should be scared or yell yippee at the tops of your lungs.The energy was short-lived, the overwhelming fatigue I have settled in.I decided to go back inside and sit down.
I took the last 9 days as a break from the endless doctor appointments I have been through. I felt so defeated as I sat in the doctor’s office last Tuesday, my birthday, as the doctor said my MRI was normal. It wasn’t the MRI my regular doctor even wanted. So I walked away having given a small fortune to one doctor only to discover that I would need to seek a new Neurologist and start all over again.
The last week has given me a plenitude of time to think about my life, my body, and what it is that has taken over my physical self. I really want an answer. I really want to know what it is that isn’t working inside my skeleton. I really want to know why I don’t feel the way I think I ‘should’. That being said I also really want to not have anything wrong with me, especially things that could potentially rob me of the life I desire to have.
A few months back I was on Facebook and I came across the profile of a mom that I know from a moms group. She came up in my news feed. She was posting pictures of herself, she was bald in all of them. The next week she posted references to her surgery. I knew of course she had breast cancer. She is so young, she is my age, she just had a baby for crying out loud. It hits home for you when you see people who represent you, people in the same stage of life that you are, getting sick. I can’t handle the thought of all of this.
I am in limbo with my health. I have days of normalcy and days where I feel like a person who is very ill, not a pleasant feeling. I have no diagnosis. I have no explanation. I have no proof of illness. I have nothing except for the ever-growing lists of symptoms that have overtaken my body. When you don’t know what is ‘wrong’ with you it is scary, definitely scary. I don’t think the glitch in my body is fatal, but you get scared in your private moments
I am scared! What this mystery ‘thing’ is inside of me
When my son Blaise was 2 years old we saw every doctor under the sun. As he got heavier and heavier I knew something more was wrong with him, it was more than just low muscle tone. We saw cardiologists, pulmonologist, G.I. and so on. Finally at the rheumatologist office, a well respected man with horrible bed side manner, did we start to get closer to finding the root of it all. As this tall man with his white hair and hardened face looked at me, I felt small and uncomfortable, I wanted to shrink and disappear. He said to me, there was nothing wrong with my son, I fed him too much simply put he was JUST fat. I knew this wasn’t the case and I said no,no, no. After going back and forth we finally agreed my son hadn’t received the right genetic test for PWS. I told him order it, I forced him to order it and so he did. Twenty one days later I got the news that Blaise indeed had PWS. Had I just taken that doctor for his word that Blaise was just fat he would still be undiagnosed today. This is where I stand. I KNOW THAT SOMETHING IS NOT WORKING INSIDE MY BODY. I know I have to be an advocate for myself. I will find the right doctor, I will take all the tests I need, and I will make sure that I am not slipping through the cracks.
I am traveling to Kripalu to assist my sister next week for another retreat. I worry that I will have an attack while I am away. I worry that I won’t have the energy I need to be a support for her. I worry that I won’t experience this wonderful place the way I would have before I got sick. All that being said I am still going. I am taking a leap of faith. I have faith that I will not be sick while I am there, I will find the energy I need, and I will meditate and find some peace while on this trip.
At this stage all I can do is have faith. I have always been a firm believer that the Universe has big plans for me. I know that this is all just a roadblock for me. I promise to keep everybody informed of any new news on my health. Thanks to you all for sticking by me through all of this.