Week 2 Artist Date: My Ex’s Doppelganger

My mother called a few weeks ago after she saw the movie Lincoln.

“Do you know that your ex-husband looks exactly like Daniel Day-Lewis?”

Over the years many people had called Day-Lewis Lee’s doppelganger.  (Mine, Jamie Lee Curtis.)  Sometimes I could see it.  More often, I didn’t.

Strolling to the Davis Theatre for a matinee the day after Christmas – my Week 2 Artist’s Date –  I wasn’t thinking much about it. Until he appeared on screen.

He was nodding, listening to two black soldiers.  It was Lee – with a beard.  Something I’d often asked him to grow but he refused.  “Too scruffy.”

The smiling creases around his eyes.  Weathered skin (Lee’s from too many hours outdoors without sunscreen.).  Aquiline nose.  Gentle demeanor. 

Tears streamed down my face.  I wasn’t sure if it was the movie or the man.

I’d made it through Christmas — my first without Lee.

He called the day before, telling me how hard it hit him that we weren’t together.  That he went to a movie on Christmas Eve (also Lincoln), and remembered that was what we had done most Christmas Days in our 15 years together.

I told him I remembered too.

And that I remembered all the years I gathered strays on Christmas Eve and made risotto – making sure we wouldn’t be alone.  The habit grew out of our first Christmas together, his first away from the East Coast.  As a Jew, I didn’t celebrate Christmas and he thought that he would be ok with that.  Turns out, he wasn’t exactly.  So we learned to create traditions among our community in San Francisco, and later in Chicago.  Risotto on Christmas  Eve.  A movie on Christmas Day.

I told him I had been at Starbucks that morning and one of the baristas was wearing a Santa hat.  That it reminded me of the year we spent Christmas in Spain, hanging out with the “Christmas Chicas” who donned Santa hats and pulled espressos at a coffee shop in Barcelona.  We sat at the bar and ate tuna with oil and vinegar on baguettes and watched on as others played chess.  The night before we wandered into a church and watched as congregants purchased and lit red votive candles – neither of us quite sure why.

I told him I remembered the years it was 65-plus degrees in San Francisco and we secured our bikes to the roof rack and headed to Marin County.  Screaming down hills into Sausalito.  Looking out at Alcatraz and the TransAmerica Pyramid.  Pedaling through exclusiveTiburon.  Sometimes we’d see a vulture in the trees.

Until now, I had forgotten about the years we went to Yosemite.  That we slept in bunk beds at the Yosemite Bug.  Shared sake on the porch with our new friends Arpi and Heather – never mind that alcohol was explicitly prohibited in the hostel kitchen.  That the three of them attempted to but chains on the tires of our Honda Civic hatch on the way up to Badger Pass.  And that I begged them to pay $20 to the guy on the side of the road whose job it was to do such things.  That they finally relented and watched as he cut the chains to fit the tires, taking mental notes so they could repeat his mastery.

And they did.  The next day we drove to the Yosemite Valley floor for cocktails at the Ahwahnee Hotel and to watch the snow fall.  We chained up on our way out of the park, watching as photographers set up box cameras, shooting trees heavy with quick-falling wet snow.  Images made famous by Ansel Adams.  We spent more time driving than we did at the Ahwahnee.  It was perfect.

I had forgotten about the year we went to visit his parents and Lee holed up with his father in the back bedroom tinkering with the computer, leaving me to “visit” with his mother for hours.  The heat blasting through their New England home.  Me threatening if he ever left me alone with his mother for that long again…

I had forgotten all the years we watched my favorite holiday movie, Olive the Other Reindeer.  Drew Barrymore as the voice of Olive, a dog on a mission to help Santa make his run.  Her sidekick, a shyster penguin named Martini.  REM’s Michael Stipe as the voice of a leather-clad, angry reindeer that didn’t make Santa’s team.

And then I remembered.  All of it.

In Week 2 of The Artist’s Way, the week titled “Recovering A Sense of Identity,” Julia Cameron writes “Survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention…The reward for attention is always healing.”

I had paid attention all those Christmases.  And perhaps, now I was beginning to heal.

 

 

 

 

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Artist’s Date 1: It’s More Fun When It’s Gift Wrapped

I’m looking at a semi, see-through bag sitting on my red-leather dining chair.  Inside are three books.  All of them gift wrapped.  They are for me.  A take away from my Artist’s Date last Friday – a core practice from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.

It’s my second time around, doing this self-led 12-week course guiding me toward greater creativity. 

I struggled mightily with the Artist’s Date – a two or so hour time block, alone, with the express purpose of filling your senses in any way you please – when I first took on The Artist’s Way in early 2012.  I had a hard time making time “just for play…just because.”

I decided to stay close to home for my first date, exploring my own neighborhood and the independent shops on Lincoln Avenue that I say I’ll stop in “sometime.”

Last Friday was “sometime.”

I began at Gene’s Sausages  — a terribly, clunky and not-very-fitting name for a terribly upscale food store.  A large cow beckons from over the entryway.  And from the second floor window you can look down on it.

Inside I fingered cucumber sodas, ginger gelatos and chocolates from around the world.  I watched customers pull paper numbers and order lamb, chicken, beef, potato pancakes and, of course, sausage.  I saw slices of Sacher torte, tiramisu and mini macaroons being tucked into tiny cardboard containers.  Upstairs I photographed a bottle of cassis syrup and sent it to my ex-husband.  His favorite.  It was once a staple in our Oakland apartment for making snakebites with black.  Seems a lifetime ago.

I felt conspicuous.  Like I was trying too hard to “be” on this date.  Like trying to make conversation on a blind date with someone you feel no connection to.  I looked at my watch – 30 minutes.  How would I ever fill two hours?  I felt defeated, but moved on – assuming it takes a little while to get to know and feel comfortable with one’s inner artist, just as it does to know a new partner.

I was sucked in by the Staff Picks at the Book Cellar.  I love independent bookstores because they lay books on tables and in displays and not just lined up in cases to maximize space.  I can be drawn in by something I didn’t come for.  I picked up A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson and read the back cover.  It spoke to me.  I thought, “A nice date might buy me a book at the bookstore.”  So I carried it with me to purchase for myself.

I told my friend Nithin about this a few days later.  He couldn’t imagine buying someone a book on a date.  I told him I was pretty sure my ex-husband did early on in our courtship, in San Francisco at City Lights Books.  Or maybe we just shopped and bought our own.   Regardless, this date now involved presents and it was starting to look up.

Towards the back of the store, a large Annie Leibowitz coffee table book met me at eye level, a sticker on it reading “For the Photographer.”  That used to be me.

I began my college career majoring in fine arts with an emphasis in photography.  I graduated with a journalism degree, having been prodded into a more practical direction by my parents who were footing the bill.  Lately I find myself wondering if I have “punished” myself for the decision that 18-year-old girl/woman made.  Putting down my camera.  My paintbrush.  My pastels.  Insisting I must not have been that serious about it if I were so easily swayed.  That my school had a mediocre art department.  And I wasn’t “that good” anyway.

I plucked the tomb from its plastic display stand and brought it to a chair tucked in the corner, parking myself.  Next to me, a worker unpacked boxes and checked in new items, stopping only when interrupted by someone looking for Cheryl Strange’s Wild or books about Chicago.

I pulled out my reading glasses and read my own forgotten hero’s words.  She wrote about her family.  Her mother’s creative expression – dancing and swimming.  How her favorite photograph of her mother is the one her mother likes least – because she looked her age.  She wrote about her partner Susan Sontag.  Their travels.  Their apartment in Paris and its perfect light.  The home in New York state that accommodates their entire family.  Her cancer treatment and her death.  Choosing what she would be buried in.  Photographing her in life and in death.

She wrote about assignments for Conde Naste and Rolling Stone.  Photographing the war in Bosnia and how she was greeted by others in the field.  She wrote about her pregnancies and her children.  And how this book honors all of those experiences.  All of those images.

I read all of it.  Every word.  Lovingly fingering each page of photographs.  Some familiar, most of them not.  I felt excited and inspired and filled.  I remembered my aspirations of being a fashion photographer and felt my heart grow hot.  In high school, shooting my friend Michelle, sitting side-saddle, all in black on a stark white backdrop and knowing that it was good.

And when I finished, I brought the book back to its plastic stand.  Across from it a display of the America’s Best series.  I picked up America’s Best Essays and thought it might serve as useful fodder for the work I’ve been doing.  I tucked it under my arm, along with the Bryson book, and headed towards the register.

Paying, I reminded the clerk of a sign reading “Ask about a bonus book when you buy a Staff Pick.”  She handed me a book wrapped in brown butcher paper.  A surprise.  She asked if I needed a gift receipt.  I didn’t.  But eyeing the table to my right, told her I did need gift wrap.

The wrapper cut sheets of the same brown butcher paper and lengths of green and red sparkly ribbon.  I confessed that the books were for me, and told her this story:

When I was 10, my Aunt Ellie stole me away from the flurry of my brother’s Bar Mitzvah and took me shopping at Jacobsons in downtown Birmingham.   My family did not regularly shop at Jacobsons – or anywhere in downtown Birmingham.  It was too expensive.  But she insisted I needed new duds to be ready for middle school.

I still remember what I picked.  Navy trousers.  A navy and cream popcorn knit sweater. And a yellow bag shaped like a roller skate with red plastic wheels on the bottom.  After she paid, she guided me to the gift wrap counter and asked that each item be wrapped in a silver box with J’s stamped on it, and tied in white ribbon.

“It’s a present,” she said.

“But I know what I’m getting.  I picked it out,” I replied.

“I know.  But it’s more fun when it’s gift wrapped,” she answered.

And it was.  Back home, my brother was tearing open envelopes, checks falling onto the kitchen table, while I opened my J boxes.

 I smiled, feeling lucky to have an aunt who made me feel ok and worthy when I felt anything but – a pudgy, 10-year-old Jewish girl with a bad Dorothy Hamill haircut and no waist.

I walked out of the book store feeling smug.  Like I had a secret.  Like I as wearing crotch-less panties to church.  I crossed the street to Paciugo Gelato.  It was 29 degrees outside.  It didn’t matter.  Ice cream is the perfect date food.  It’s portable – you can walk and talk while you eat it.  It’s not-too-serious.  And you can share it – it encourages intimacy.

I ordered a waffle cone with gingerbread, sea-salt caramel, and banana Health-bar crunch.  Pulled up the faux-fur hood of my down coat, rolled on my grey and black leopard gloves and grabbed my cone. 

I thought about humid summer nights strolling with my ex-husband to the Tastee-Freez in Humboldt Park, the heavy air lit up by lightning bugs, and ordering a small twist.  Climbing the hills of Queen Anne up to Molly Moon’s for scoops of Honey Lavender and Earl Grey.  More recently, sharing frozen yogurt with wet walnuts on a steamy sidewalk in Charleston, talking to a handsome stranger I’d just met into the wee hours of the morning.

I walked home and put the bag of books on the chair – saving them, savoring them, to open…perhaps on Christmas?  I didn’t have to wait for someone to buy me a gift.  I bought my own.  And, my Aunt Ellie is right.  It IS more fun when it’s gift wrapped.

The Lie

I had a clairvoyant reading with my friend and colleague, Debbie.

We’ve been talking about it for weeks, but I couldn’t seem to put it on my calendar.  She wasn’t surprised.  (Why would she be?  She’s clairvoyant.)  She said I wasn’t ready to look at things yet.  In fact, she wasn’t even sure I was going to get there this day.  But I did.

This is what she told me:

There was a white, murky energy at my throat.  It was heavy and had the consistency of curdled milk.  It was the energy of a lie.  And it obscured everything.

I was sure I knew what it was.  Who it was.  I asked her about it.

“He’s not telling you something.  He’s married. Or has a girlfriend,” she said.  “He’s not sober.”

“Physically or emotionally?”

She evaded the question, replying, “He’s not sober.  But this isn’t about him.  This is about your marriage. But it’s not a lie.  It’s lie energy.”

I didn’t understand.  I was fixated on the lie.

“It’s not that Lee lied to you.  Maybe the marriage was a lie. Or it became one.  Or he couldn’t lie to himself anymore or something like that.   But it’s not A LIE.

“Oh, and the other one….he’s really cute.  He’s not telling you something.  And in fact, that might be perfectly appropriate.”

She moved on, telling me things about myself that she couldn’t have known.  Things that resonated deeply and made me teary.  And she told me about what was possible.

She spoke of a primary wounding when I was 3.  That my father pushed me away because my female energy was “too much.”   “He couldn’t have it,” she said.  I have no recollection of this, but it made sense to me.  I asked if she was referring to my adoptive or my birth father.  She was uncertain.

She said I am beginning to “clear” that, to love and accept that part of me.  And in doing so, I will find myself surrounded by others who can not only “have” my powerful female energy, but embrace it.

She said that I could have more.  So much more. Financially.  And in every aspect of my life.

I want to believe her.  But I don’t – yet.  I hold onto things, experiences, people  – like a pit bull.  Because I cannot yet trust that there is more, better.

Thinking about the cute one who isn’t telling me something, I had the following conversation with myself.  Out loud.  Driving:

“You seem to believe he is the only sober artist you will find attractive, who finds you attractive. ”

And then, “I don’t want a sober artist.  I want to be the sober artist!  I want to fall in love with myself.  With my big, sexy, gorgeous life.”

I felt excited by this idea. Untrusting. But excited.

The next morning, I told my friend Lynn about this conversation.  I told her about Debbie and the “lie energy.”  About Lee and the artist.

“Maybe the lie isn’t about either of them.  Maybe it’s about you.  That you are the artist.  You told yourself that you weren’t, but you are.  That is the lie.  That is what is obscured,” she said.

It’s what Julia Cameron calls “the shadow artist” in her book, The Artist’s Way. An individual attracted to those who do what they only dream of doing.

I’ve dated symphony conductors. Pianists.  Sculptors.   Shadow artist.

More recently, I fancied myself a shadow Rabbi.  I had thought Rabbinical school was my path.  And it was not lost on me that I had slept with a Rabbinical student in my 20s and had a crush on a Rabbi in my 40s.

Me as the shadow artist – that is the lie.

Debbie said the milky white started to clear toward the end of our session and a fluffy pink energy flowed into its place.  Like cotton candy.

Taking On A Companion

About six weeks after my ex-husband and I decided to divorce, I got a call from my friend Michael.  I remember it vividly.   

I had just gotten back from a workshop with Rabbi Rami Shapiro.  Lee and I were fighting, loudly.  When the phone rang, I took it as a sign to stop.

 “So….can you tell me about this divorce thing….,” Michael said.

I was shocked.  And then I wasn’t.  Their marriage mirrored ours in so many ways.   This is what I told him:

“Divorce is highly inconvenient.  The only thing that makes sense is walking.  The Artist’s Way has been my constant companion through it all.”  And, “I love you.”

It was funny telling him all I had learned in six weeks.  It was like being six weeks sober and telling someone who just put down a drink everything you know about not picking it back up.  There’s so much to say, but not a whole lot of experience behind it.  And yet….

My divorce was highly inconvenient.  And I remember the miles and miles I logged in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood.  No special shoes.  No special clothes.  Just out the door, usually in my brown suede boots, up the hill and around “the crown” – a mostly circular loop designated by brown, instead of green, street signs.  It boasts wonderful views of downtown, West Seattle and on clear days, the Cascades, the Olympics and Mount Rainier.

I would often talk to Michael, literally for hours, on these walks, coming home just as the first stars made themselves known.   In many ways he was my divorce companion during those weeks between his first call and my summer sojourn to Rwanda.

Going to bed in the spare room wasn’t quite so lonely knowing we would talk or text into the wee hours, until exhaustion gave way to sleep.  He gave solid counsel when we met with our mediator.  “Get a good night’s sleep.  Draw up a fair agreement.  Don’t fight.”  We assured one another that we would not be alone, that we would both find companions again.  One day.

I sent Michael a copy of The Artist’s Way, thinking it might bring him comfort, direction and a sense of creative purpose as it had me.  I don’t know if it did.  I never asked.

Sometimes I forget that it was my first divorce companion.  Before Michael.

Sitting at my friend Rainey’s breakfast table in California, writing my “morning pages” – three handwritten pages written straight out of bed, stream of conscious.  Definitely not art.  One of two core practices from The Artist’s Way.  

She and her partner John were away in Hawaii, but they had offered me their home to stay in while I tended to some business in San Francisco.  Each morning, looking out into the green hills of Marin County, I wrote the same thing. 

“I think I am alone, because I am getting ready to be alone.”  And, “I am not scared.”

When Lee arrived at the end of the week to join me, and asked for a divorce, I wasn’t entirely surprised.  The universe, my spirit guides, my higher self, already knew.   I had already spoken it.  Written it. 

It happened during week 4 of the 12-week Artist’s Way program.  The week titled “Recovering a Sense of Integrity.”

Returning to Seattle, I continued my weekly Artist’s Way work.  I read.  I wrote daily.  I collected stones on hikes and shells at the beach.  Went to museums and fabric stores.  Took a week-long break from media – including Facebook.  Wrote letters to myself from my 80-year-old self.  And about imaginary lives I might lead.  Sent postcards to friends.  Listened to music.  Bought myself really good socks.

And when the 12 weeks were up, I put the book on the shelf.  And later in a box, bound for Chicago.  Even though its author, Julia Cameron, suggests beginning again when the cycle is complete.

It’s been about six months since then.  Michael and I no longer talk every night before bed.  We haven’t for a long time.  But we still support one another in this “inconvenient” process.  I know if I need anything he is there, as I am for him.  But he is not my divorce companion.

Nor is Mark, a man I knew in Seattle who was also going through a divorce when I was.  I thought he might be a different kind of divorce companion.  And he was.  But just once.

My divorce was final three months ago.  I am without a companion, or the prospect of one.   It seems right.  But I don’t necessarily like it.

There’s been a date.  The suggestion of a date, but no follow through.  A make-out session in a parking lot.  A letter from a friend in Seattle disclosing his feelings for me.  But no companion.

Earlier this week I discovered that in updating software on my phone, a voicemail I had been saving was deleted.  Gone.   It was sweet and a little bit sexy and reminded me how it felt to connect in a profound way.  I cried.  Really.  I felt so silly.  I knew my reaction wasn’t congruent to what had happened.  But I couldn’t help myself.  I felt like one more thing had been taken from me.

My friend Lisa told me I didn’t need it anymore.  She reminded me that this is my time to learn to be alone.  To be less people dependent and more G-d dependent.  It was not what I wanted to hear.  It never is. 

And then I heard my own words, followed by my friend Slade’s.  I had told him about The Artist’s Way being my constant companion in divorce.  And how I had offered it to Michael as well.  “Pretty great companion,” he said.

And I knew he was right.

Yesterday morning I pulled my copy of The Artist’s Way from the shelf.   Today we begin our courtship – our companionship – starting at the beginning, with Week 1.

 

  

ThunderShirt

The first time I met my old landlord Sarah, she was getting ready to drive from Seattle to San Francisco.  Her dog was wearing a compression harness called a Thunder Shirt.  “It’s for anxiety,” she explained.

I’ve been wearing my own Thunder Shirt nearly every day for more than two years.   It is the residue of a surgery.  In the spring of 2010 I had a breast reduction.

I’ve never written those words publicly.  And I speak of it only on occasion.  Only to a small, trusted circle of friends.   As transparent as I am, I have been remarkably private about this.  I believe that is shame.

Shame for altering my “body on loan” – a term used in Judaism, referring to prohibitions surrounding tattooing and piercing.  I’ve come to embrace this concept as a way of honoring my physical self.  And I wasn’t sure that I had done that.

Shame because my work as a bodysherpa is to help people “fall in love with their bodies, take care of their bodies, and do things they never imagined possible.”  It says so, right on my website. I made that promise.  And I wasn’t sure I had done that either.

Shame because I wasn’t sure whose rules I was following.  Who I did this for.  Me or my mother?  Shame because I wasn’t happy after the surgery.  I was confused, depressed, scared and uncertain.  And I felt I couldn’t speak of it.  No one, It seemed, understood.  And when I did talk about what I was experiencing, I was met mostly with blank stares.

Besides, I had chosen this.  I had “brought this upon myself.”  And as a result, I inflicted a mostly “silent suffering” upon myself.

I had questioned the surgery up until the moment I was transferred from gurney to operating table.  I remember waking up in the recovery room – crying.  The nurse asked me why I was crying.  “I don’t know,” I said, and fell back asleep.

I cried when I woke again.   But the nurses were tending to another patient.

Intellectually I knew that this was likely the result of anesthesia.  I had had a tough time with it before.  The doctors knew this and did what they could to temper its effects.  But my recovery was difficult anyway.  I didn’t leave the hospital until 7:30 p.m. that night.  I was just too nauseated to stand.

I lied on the bathroom floor pulling on my clothes so that we could go home.  My then-husband walked in.   “What are you doing?” he said.  “I’m trying to get my pants on.  And the cool floor feels good.”

He didn’t ask any questions.

The days that followed are still hazy. A single yogurt lasted several meals.  I couldn’t eat.  I lied on my back in our darkened bedroom, whimpering.  Friends called.  First question: “Do you love your new boobs?”  Only tears.  I don’t recall the rest of the conversation.

My surgeon was visibly surprised by my reaction.  One of his nurses said she had heard of this on occasion.   I found a single website that affirmed my experience.  I was grateful because it meant that I wasn’t crazy.   I wasn’t entirely alone in my thoughts

But mostly, I was.  Alone with my shame, guilt and remorse.

I couldn’t look at myself for weeks.  Not because of the scarring or bruising – even though I looked like I had been run over by a truck.  But because I wondered if I had betrayed myself.  Betrayed G-d.

Worst of all, I didn’t think my breasts were small enough.  So even when I was cleared to wear a “regular bra,” I continued to wear a compression, sports variety – my ThunderShirt – nearly all the time.

I grew to love my new breasts.  To have a new relationship with them, my body and myself.   I felt more in alignment.  In proportion.  More congruent.  I felt like Dr. Galliano had done a pretty great job.  That he was, in fact, an artist.  But I was still wearing my Thunder Shirt most of the time.  Until it was all I wore.  And I felt uncomfortable, naked and insecure without it.

Until last Thursday.

I bought a new dress.  It has a diamond-shaped piece of fabric cut out at the top.  My ThunderShirt pokes through it, so I can’t wear it.  I looked at the bras I had bought, hopefully, after the surgery.  Small.  Lacy.  Pretty.  Pricey.  Woefully under worn.  I slipped into one and put on my dress.

I called my friend Pam.  She tells me, only half-joking, that I’m never going to get laid if I don’t stop wearing the ThunderShirt.  “No one knows,” I say.  “Trust me, they know.”

I left her a message.  “I’m wearing a regular bra…..”

Something shifted.  I knew in that moment it was time to “out myself.”  To drop my ego and share my story, so that perhaps one day someone else who has this experience might know.  To let go of the remnants of my shame.  For it was apparent I no longer needed it.

I’m not done with the ThunderShirts.  They still feel safe, comfortable.  And I like how I look in them.  But now I know I have options.

Fingers crossed on the getting laid part.

How Do You Explain? What I Got from my Get.

My Jewish divorce, my Get, my spiritual separation was complete last Wednesday.  I’ve been wanting to write about it since that afternoon, when I smiled and cried and walked in silence in the cold sunshine along Lake Michigan.  And yet, I couldn’t seem to find the words.

 I could talk about it.  But I couldn’t write it.  Perhaps it was so precious, so tender, I was afraid I wouldn’t do it justice.  That I wouldn’t “write it right.”  That it, or I, might be misunderstood.

How do you explain what it is to know that your status is changed?  That you are changed.  That the state of Washington gave you a piece of paper dissolving your marital union.  But that your Rabbi, your Cantor and your friend, Mary Jo – your Beit Din – gave you peace.  And that you don’t know whether to scream it from the rooftops or to hold it closely, protectively to yourself?

 How do you say what it is to be witnessed at your most vulnerable, ripped up, rawest state?  To read the letter you wrote to your husband the night before, telling him how you are different and better for knowing him?

How do you explain what it is to utter these words: “Thus, do I release you from any religious marital obligation to me, in order that you may be completely free to follow your own path. As our marriage was consecrated according to a sacred covenant, so this shall be for you from me a bill of divorcement, a letter of release, and a document of freedom in accordance with the customs of the people Israel.”

To do this through heaving, snotty sobs.  To reach into your bag to retrieve a blue and white checked hanky – a remnant from another failed relationship.  To smile and know that he is with you.

How do you say what it is to tear a piece of fabric as Jews do when one has died?  That piece of fabric being a piece of your wedding canopy, embroidered by a friend with the words “honey grace.”  Except that the “grace” is gone because you gave it to your friend April in South Carolina.  But that you held onto the “honey” – this man who literally picked you up off of your feet when you met him and made you believe in romance, kissing and holding hands.  Who reminded you that maybe, just maybe, you are a desirable creature in the world and that one day you will find love again.  One day.  To have your Rabbi insist that he is Elijah the Prophet in drag.  And to know no matter who he is that he is with you in this moment.  Right here in this room.  At this Get.  As is April.  As is Rainey, the artist who stitched the words “honey grace.”

How do you explain what it is to cut a tear into the green, embroidered fabric and then rip with intention – being directed to think of what you are separating from?  And to then be instructed to walk away, and to think about what you are walking to.  And to hear the words, and know that the answer is simply and only, “Greater Love.”

How do you tell what it is to have your friend greet you outside of the synagogue and place a red thread wrapped in silver around your wrist?  For her to remind you that in Kabbalah a red thread signifies protection.  And that by placing it on your left wrist, the pathway from the main artery to the heart, that you might remember that you are protected.  And of what you are moving toward.  That it resides in you already, in your heart.  That “Greater Love.”  And to notice that she is wearing a twin version of the bracelet on her left wrist.

 How do you give words to what it is to walk into the ritual bath and take photographs of yourself in the mirror before and after your prayers and immersion, wondering if you look different?  Because you feel different.  To wonder if you should paste the blue bindi back on your forehead – for truly, now you are no longer married.  And to decide that you aren’t quite ready to let this shiny, sparkly piece of face jewelry go yet.  To know that it has come to be your calling card as much as your shaved head.

How do explain what it is to have your Cantor tell you he stands in awe of how present you are for your life?  Your terribly romantic, emotional, overly sensitive life.  And to know you wouldn’t have it any other way.

 I guess I just did.