Archive | Love

The Reiki-Chihuahua Five Precepts

Over 43 million dogs live in homes around the United States. I personally own three of those. Kathleen Prasad, Reiki master and owner of Animal Reiki Source, calls pets our animal teachers, but I had my doubts. My less-than-impressive chihuahuas did not seem likely candidates for imparting wisdom. Then, one day, I found myself explaining the five Reiki precepts to a friend by using Chaim, Nati and Percy as an example. Turns out, they have a lot to teach, and I have a lot to learn.

1. For Today Only, Do Not Anger
I never get really angry, or rather, I should say I rarely realize that I am angry. I fear anger, and so I often bury it deep beneath the surface where, unrecognized and mishandled, it turns into hopelessness and despair.

During our walks, the puppies get mad at every passing dog. They  turn into a raging whirlwind of blood-thirsty canine storm. I drag them forward, ashamed of my inability to control them, and just like that, with the other dog left behind, they are little angels again. They never hold a grudge. They never stay angry for more than a second.  They are experts at living in the moment and letting go.

2. For Today Only, Do Not Worry
Worry lines crease my forehead permanently now. I constantly worry about the children’s well being. I worry about the future, and I worry about the past. Even telling myself, “Just for today, do not worry,” does not quite do the job.

The puppies get worried too. You should see Chaim’s little face whenever he sees me pack a bag. He knows that I am about to go away, and his eyes follow me as I move about the room, seeming to ask: “Must you go?” Sometimes he stays sad for a little bit after I leave, but he is a cheerful little creature, like the other two, and he soon lets go his worries in his other responsibilities as a dog: keeping the house safe from passers-by and UPS deliverymen.

3. For Today Only, Be Humble
Every time I dread meeting someone or am afraid of what my performance will be like, I can feel my ego stretching to take control. Perhaps I ought to retreat back into my turtle shell, it suggests. But I remind myself: Be Humble. Be ever ready to embarrass myself.

For the puppies, humility comdogs sunninges naturally. They beg for food. They lie on their backs, exposing their bellies in hopes of a petting. They do not imagine that they are a lion (except when they meet a bigger dog) or that they can defeat the world. They have no ego about success or failure. They simply know they are who they are, and it’s ok.

4. For Today Only, Be Honest in Your Work
Every morning I groan with the thought of the chores awaiting me. I need to put away the dishes, clean the chicken coop, make dinner. If only I had a Mary Poppins magical umbrella, or better yet, a wand! Sometimes I finish everything that needs to be done, and sometimes I’m just too tired, lazy or distracted, and those chores are left for another day.

The puppies, in contrast, are always honest in their work. You will never hear them say, “I already got up twice today to bark at people walking down the street. Now it’s your turn.” They are never too tired or busy to come to the door when I arrive. Chaim jumps up and down, Nati dances the hula on his back legs, and Percy runs around in circles. Every. Single. Time.

5. For Today Only, Be Compassionate to Yourself and Others
I love this precept. I’ve engraved it on my heart and try to live by it. But being compassionate, especially to myself, does not come naturally to me. At first reaction, I am often critical, judgmental, or simply not in the mood to be understanding, and sometimes even after I remind myself to be compassionate, I just cannot.

Compassion truly defines what it means to be a dog. Unlike us humans, dogs are always compassionate to themselves. They live by their needs and inner motivators: “I need, therefore I am.” They are ever compassionate to us too. Even when I least like myself, my dogs still love me. They love me happy, and they love me sad. They even love me when I’m mad at them. They simply are a compassionate body, mind and heart.

A children’s poem titled “Loyalty,” by an unknown poet, reads:

You can’t buy loyalty, they say,
I bought it, though, the other day.
You can’t buy friendships, tried and true,
Well just the same, I bought that too.
I made my bid and on the spot
Bought love and faith and a whole job lot
Of happiness, so all in all
The purchase price was pretty small.
I bought a single trusting heart,
that gave devotion from the start.
If you think these things are not for sale,
Buy a brown-eyed puppy with a wagging tail.

I did not buy my puppies. All three are rescues. The loyalty, friendship and love came built-in their little bodies. Usui Mikao called the Reiki ideals the secret to health and happiness, and I have my three canine teachers to show me the way.

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Gift of Love

In elementary school, I was a social outcast. I was not alone, of course. I was the bespectacled, nose-dripping outcast, but there were also the fat outcast, the too-tall outcast, the too-short outcast, and a boy and a girl who were outcasts apparently only because of their race. My class was extremely hierarchical, with three class queens and three kings, and we stayed the same group for five years, with the same kings and queens and the same outcasts.

A few days ago I was listening to Tara Brach’s True Refuge. The author was telling the story of Amy, who had a difficult childhood with a mother who neglected and rejected her. In her sessions with Tara, Amy managed to experience the anger which she had kept in check for years and to express the fears beneath: of never finding love, of not being worthy of love, of being alone in the world. Tara called it experiencing soul sadness.

In that moment, for a split second, I saw myself as a bleeding, mucusy, open wound, a whole-body sore. And I realized: This is how I walk around. This is what I am hiding. In my mind’s eye, I instantly knew when it started. Elementary school.

We switched seats that day, and the teacher partnered me with Matat, one of the class queens. In front of the class, Matat said: “I don’t want to sit next to her.”  But the teacher insisted, and as Matat slid into the seat next to mine, she whispered: “Stop sneezing and wiping your nose like that.”

Other than that split-second knowledge that I was a trembling, bleeding, mucusy, open wound, I had not been able to feel any emotion about this event. It was as though I had no feelings about it at all. I knew I needed to heal the wounded body and clear the hurt from my heart by forgiving Matat, but I could feel no real hurt and no compassion for her, and without any emotions, I didn’t know if it was possible to forgive at all.

I decided to try a forgiveness meditation (also from Tara Brach’s book). I settled myself into my cushion and slipped into my body thirty years ago: thick glasses covering half of my face, light brown hair twisted into two long but messy braids, a drippy, red nose, and a skinny body. And there was Matat, refusing to sit next to me, and a heaviness choked my throat.

All I wanted was to be loved, to be appreciated. Scooting down in the chair, I held the sneezes back and tried hard not to wipe my nose before absolutely necessary. There was no room for me to exist. I could feel the weight on my back (ah, said a voice in my grown-up head, that’s when you became a turtle), in my throat, in my heart.

Holding that little girl with compassion, sending her love, I began to murmur a lovingkindness meditation. May you be happy, may you be well, may you be filled with lovingkindness and joy. Then, realizing turtlethat she is me, I started anew: may I be happy, may I be well; may I be filled with compassion for myself and others.

Matat means gift in Hebrew. As I went through the meditation, I realized that by forgiving her, I am giving myself a gift. A gift of love.

I hug to my heart the wounded little girl I was thirty years ago and begin to let go of rejection and shame. As space clears in my heart, and I allow myself to expand into it, healing all hurt. I hold myself as a child and whisper: I am here; I love you; I appreciate your wisdom and originality, your quirky sense of humor, the doodles on your notebook, and the used tissues thrown about everywhere.

Then, I am ready:

I feel the harm that has been caused, Matat, and to the extent that I am able, I forgive you.

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The Egotistic, Egomanic, Egophobic Ego

Lately, I’ve been contemplating my relationship with my ego. “You must work to minimize your ego,” one of my teachers told me. I interpreted his words to mean that I think too much of how I look to others. My overlarge, overactive ego was preventing me from doing anything that might make me look ridiculous or foolish. I realized that the size of my ego was keeping me from trying new things and having fun. I saw myself like a huge hot air balloon that must pop in order for me to become who I really am.

I watched other people, who were able to be ridiculous, tell jokes, make faces, fool around, and decided they did not have an ego. How freeing, not to have an ego! How I wished I could get rid of mine.

I tried to pay attention to when my ego was speaking to me, to recognize its evil, hampering voice. But the more I pushed my ego away, the more present it became. I pushed, and it pushed back at me.

Here is something I learned in the last few years: Pushing does not work. Resistance is futile. The only force strong enough to wreak change is love. But could this be true? Could the only way to minimize the ego turn out to be love? And if I love my ego, would I still want it to go away?
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Tara Brach, in her book True Refuge, tells a story about the metamorphosing power of love: The Buddha’s disciples once went on retreat to a forest that was haunted with tree spirits. The tree spirits, angry that their home was invaded, taunted the monks with terrifying visions and finally scared them away. The monks returned to the Buddha, but to their surprise, he told them they must return to the forest. Before sending them back, he gave them a powerful tool for their protection: a lovingkindness meditation. The monks returned to the forest, armed with goodwill and love, and soon their love penetrated every nook and cranny of the forest, turning the angry spirits into kind and loving ones.

But how do I give love to the egotistic, egomanic ego? I started to notice the wonderful things the ego does for me. Not only is it always on guard, protecting me from looking like an idiot, but it also has, of everyone around me, the highest opinion of my self worth. My ego, quite literally, adores me!

Perhaps not surprisingly, googling “How to love my ego” brings about 43 million results. I guess I’m not the only one with this question. Some are titled “Kill Your Ego,” or, “Don’t Let Your Ego Interfere With Your Relationship.” But others speak about accepting all aspects of ourselves, whether we like them or not, or about how loving our ego teaches us to love our whole being. They remind us that fearing the ego — the egophobic ego — comes from the ego itself.

I wonder if we could change our perspective of this vulnerable, child-like aspect of ourselves. Instead of saying selfishness, we could say: Self Worth. Instead of saying self centeredness, say: Self Care. Instead of squashing the ego, we could love it. We don’t have to follow its advice, but listening to it is free, freeing and fulfilling, allowing for a surer step on our path.

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The Shoemaker’s Shoes

shoesWe have a saying in Israel: “The shoemaker goes barefoot.” As a child, I found this saying curious. Why, I wondered, does the shoemaker go barefoot? Does he (let’s assume for a moment he is a man) have no time to make himself shoes? Or perhaps not enough materials? Or is he so poor that he cannot afford to have even the barest pair of shoes? I imagined the shoemaker in his dark den, bent over chicken-skin shoes with cardboard soles, his feet bare and curled beneath him. He could never leave his den — I knew this with certainty — because where would he go without shoes?

The shoeless shoemaker comes to remind us to use our expertise on ourselves, to care for ourselves. Think, for example, how easy it is to see solutions for our friends’ problems, but not so easy when those problems are our own! How much easier to point out their faults and the way they could fix them, but not so easy when it is we who have to do the fixing.

When I was divorced eight years ago, a friend told me that I needed to spend an hour each day doing something for myself. A joke, surely. With a two-year old and a five-year old, no mother in the world has time to do something for herself for five minutes! The seed, however, was received into the fertile earth of my mind. I began to notice how much I was neglecting myself. I was a barefoot shoemaker giving a lot of love to the children and none to myself.

I realized, over time, not only that my energy reserves were gone, but that I had no tools for refilling them. Slowly I began to build a plan for making myself shoes — fur-lined (faux, of course) and with a sturdy sole that would mold to my foot. Here are some of my favorite shoemaking tools:

  1. Giving myself a hug. It might feel weird at the beginning, but hey, the kids love my hugs, so why could not I enjoy my hug abundance as well?
  2. Waking up early in the morning, before the kids get up, and making myself a sumptuous breakfast and eating it while reading a romance.
  3. Giving myself Reiki and the self-care Maya abdominal massage.
  4. Taking fifteen minutes in the middle of the day to nap or to lie on the sofa and read.
  5. Watering my plants outside (my mother always says that watering the plants is a great way to cheer yourself up).
  6. Taking a bath (I like to put epsom salts in it and bring along my book and a glass of water).
  7. Cleaning the chickens coop (watching those peaceful being as they peck calmly around their pen just makes me happy).
  8. Getting a manicure-pedicure — how fun is that! Or a massage.
  9. Having a cup of tea, especially with milk (I take almond milk, but still).
  10.  Getting together with a friend. Even lone wolves like me need some social time.

Mostly, I try to notice when I make myself shoes or are given shoes by others. Sometimes those are flip-flops, like a peck on the cheek from my daughter before she disappears in her room, or the excitement of the dogs when I come home. Sometimes those are excellent, sturdy, long-lasting shoes, as when I go on vacation to Hawaii or Yosemite or backpacking in the woods. I use that love, those shoes, to fill up my reserves. To love and to cherish, we say in the wedding ceremony, and I think perhaps cherishing the love is what “a shoemaker with shoes” really means.

What tools do you use to give yourself love?

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Passing the Two/Three/Four Fingers Test

“How many fingers am I holding up?” Asked the optometrist. She was standing about seven feet away, holding up her hand. All I could see was a lot of skin-colored fuzz.

“Three?” I guessed.

She took a large step forward. “How about now?”

“Two?”

Another step. “And now?”

The fingers looked slightly less hazy, and I hazarded an educated guess. “Four, I think. Did I get any of them right?”

She shook her head. “Only the last one.”

The truth hit me like a tornado, and I was blown away by the realization of my near sightedness. My body is flawed. My eyes are defective. I cannot see well, and I will never see well without corrective lenses. I am not, nor will I ever be, wholly perfect.

I got my first pair of glasses when I was ten years old. I remember the narrow corridor at the entrance to the eye doctor’s office in Ra’anana, the town in which I lived as a child. A man came out with his new glasses. He had a prescription of eleven, he said, and I stared, stupefied, at his thick lenses. “Please, God,” I prayed in my heart, “let me never have his thick lenses.”

I have been near sighted for most84xxxx Sigal a of my life, and yet it seems, ironically, that today I first realized just how near sighted I am. Till today, and despite boasting my own prescription of over eleven, I pegged my near sightedness an esthetic problem. Up to age eighteen, with an over-large pair of spectacles perched on my nose, I was the ugly duckling. I became more of a swan at eighteen after I was fitted with contact lenses. Today, however, struck with the lightning realization that my eyes are flawed, I understood for the first time that my poor vision is not just about beauty, but a body blot.

How often do you pause during the day to appreciate the perfect working of your body? The impeccable way it releases waste, the unassuming way in which it draws breath, the smooth movement of limbs, the effortlessness of a smile, the perfect support given you by your spine? I appreciate my body, and yet I rarely pause to notice how wonderfully it works until sickness or pain strikes. Then I appreciate my body, my immune system, the flawless mechanics every organ and part of the body has.

I got scared this afternoon, face to face with the imperfections of my body, face to face with its finiteness. Slowly but surely it is degenerating until one day it will cease working, and no matter how much I believe in reincarnations or the eternity of the spirit, no matter how weak or limited my body is, I am still attached.

As I write this to you, I remind myself of Thick Nhat Hanh’s words which Tara Brach relates in her book True Refuge: I am going to die, you are going to die, and we have only these few moments together. I remind myself to live and love now, and I feel grateful for my eyes (and the optometrist) which the universe has kindly granted me to remind me of my flaws so that I can see just how lucky I am.

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Oh, How Flaky! Poodles, Kids’ TV, and Reiki!

Giving Reiki to my chihuahua Percy

Giving Reiki to my chihuahua Percy

Many years ago, I first heard of Reiki through an article in an Israeli for-women magazine. It was one of those articles revealing juicy details about a celebrity, in this case, a newly popular kids’ television starlet, a woman younger than I.

In the article, the starlet described her poodle’s last days. The dog had been sick with cancer, I think, and the starlet had sat with it throughout the night, giving it Reiki. The description was heart-rending, but I scoffed as I read. I had never had a high opinion of this woman and thought the programming she was involved in was shallow and silly. Poodles, whether dead or alive, I considered a silly breed. And this Reiki thing, which I had never heard of before, seemed to me even sillier.

That this woman would think that putting her hands on her dog could cure it of cancer! Hands are just hands, flesh, bones and blood — I knew this for certain. Nothing was coming out of them, and most definitely not some flaky Reiki which this flaky TV star imagined could somehow cure her poodle.

I judged, and harshly, and the universe watched and laughed. Water passed under the bridge of my life, smoothing down rocks, while the wind blew through the cliffs of my beliefs, carving out new formations in the hard rock. And now, here I am, a Reiki Master who believes, who knows what Reiki does firsthand.

Flaky Reiki. How could mere touch do anything so grand as to change our physical condition? The idea that energy could come out of our hands, that we could heal with it, seems preposterous! It suggests we might be something more than just body, and surely that can’t be right. Or can it?

Some years after reading the article, divorced and depressed, I allowed a friend to give me Reiki. She wanted to, and though I did not believe in it at all, I figured it probably would do no harm. I slept well for the first time in a long time. Unable to resist the lure of a good night’s sleep, I decided to learn how to do Reiki for myself, but though I opened my mind to the possibility that Reiki could help me sleep, I turned up my nose when my teacher claimed that Reiki could recharge, if only for a little while, an empty battery. Recharge a battery! I scoffed, but the universe, once again, softly laughed.

The world is filled with mysterious things: black holes, atomic bombs, fancy high-heeled designer shoes, penguins, mustachioed men. In California’s Silicon Valley, the daughter of a successful electronics engineer now believes she can recharge batteries with the touch of a hand. One day I judged flaky Reiki and flaky TV star, and the next here I am, giving Reiki to batteries, to my dogs, friends and strangers, no longer scoffing, fully believing that I’m sending out to the world healing, gratitude, compassion, and love.

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The Blessing of Love

The first time I remember listening to the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” and really hearing the words was when I watched the movie Love Actually. Perhaps the movie had something to do with it, or the song, or books I have read, but for many years now I have been a one-solution woman. For every situation, from raising chickens to potty training the dogs to the academic progress of my kids my solution has always been love.

I believe in the power of love. With my dog Percy, I watched as he softened, calmed, settled into our home. I experience the same effect with my children, family and friends. Love works, but not always dramatically. Sometimes, I thought, love is not enough.

Love was not enough when I realized that instead of respect I receive complaints, anger, and frustration from my children. I know they express negative emotion at home because they know they are loved. I, however, end up feeling under-appreciated. I needed help, and I found it with Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.

Mogel divided her book into nine blessings: acceptance, someone to look up to, skinned knee, gratitude, work, food, self control, time, and faith. She supports each blessing with teachings from the bible, showing how the three principles of Jewish living, moderation, celebration and sanctification, help in parenting.

While reading, I identified some of my parenting mistakes and potential ways to correct them — in moderation, of course. In the Blessing of Acceptance and the Blessing of Self Control, I learned about accepting my child’s temperament and reframing their most annoying trait as their strength. Mogel gives the same warning about perfection that I hear from friends and other experts: stop pressuring myself, forget perfection, enjoy ordinary moments.

In the Blessing of Having Someone to Look Up To and the Blessing of Work, I found how important it is that I be the head of the house and that I assign the kids chores. I had a hard time assigning chores to the kids because they move from house to house and because I felt that policing them into doing the chores was harder than doing the chores myself. It did not occur to me that for my children chores are a blessing indeed, a way to feel more grounded and settled at home when they return from their father’s house. Mogel emphasizes making little changes, not sitting the kids down and announcing that things are going to change from now on. I’ve been implementing changes slowly, encouraging the children to help me with cooking, setting the table, feeding the dogs, and looking after themselves (which Mogel says is a mitzvah — a good deed).

In the Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Mogel reminded me to stop overprotecting the kids, let them make mistakes and learn from them. I am one of those parents who will rush to retrieve a forgotten lunch, book or backpack. Mogel says: let them discover the consequence of their actions so that they learn.

Mogel points out in the Blessing of Time and the Blessing of Longing the importance of finding time to connect with the kids and appreciating little moments. Hand in Hand Parenting calls it special time. Gratitude, Mogel says, must be cultivated. It is so easy to slip from expressing appreciation to thinking about what I don’t yet have or what I fear. In the Blessing of Faith, Mogel talks about the first time she saw a double rainbow with her daughter. The two held hands and recited the Shehecheyanu, the prayer for special moments. I loved how in one instant, Mogel and her daughter experienced three blessings: gratitude, being in the moment, and a connection to God.

Wendy Mogel’s book added many tools to my parenting toolkit, and what I love most about it is that none of them ended up being heavy. By emphasizing moderation, Mogel makes each and every one of her recommendation accessible to all of us. By advocating celebrating our children, ourselves, ordinary moments, and the holidays, she opens up a world of enjoyment in parenting. In the overarching umbrella of sanctification, she tells us not to forget the preciousness of it.

Kill Them With Love!

One day, three years ago, Eden and I saw a notice on a message board with a picture of a white chihuahua. We stopped for a look, certain that this poor animal had been lost. Instead, we discovered that one of the neighbors was giving it away. By the next day, Zippy had moved into our home. The neighbor, who had brought him from a shelter in LA with the intention of finding him a home, told us he was a friendly guy, eager to sit in any free lap and fond of chewing shoes. We found out the shoe chewing thing was right: at least one of Bridgey’s tennis shoes (not a terrible loss, since she prefers heels), two of Eden’s flip-flops (one of each of her two pairs), the pet sitter’s shoes, and at least one of mine.

But Percy, as we renamed him, was not a friendly guy. He growled at us, not afraid to use his teeth (small and useless-looking though they appeared) to good purpose if we crossed him. His grumpiness did not prevent us from appreciating his endearing side. Percy looked cute and sweet, no matter how much he worked to prove the opposite. And so we lavished him with love, attention, petting, and food.

I still think twice before giving Percy access to the air space close to my nose. No, he does not stink, but he bit me in the nostril once, and though he did not draw blood, it hurt. These days, however, Percy doesn’t growl quite as much as he did when we first brought him home. He exposes his belly, closing his eyes in sheer happiness when I walk nearby, inviting me to pet him. When I sit on the floor, he settles in my lap, lifting one paw after the other as though testing how stable my legs are. Of all my dogs, he is the one who gives me the most affection. When he licks my hand, I know it is out of true love.

You might ask, why am I telling you about Percy? Well, my friends, I believe this story is a lesson well-learned. Where I give love, love grows back. Where I open my heart, a heart opens back.

A friend told me about the basketball player Derek Sharp whose divorce from his wife was unpleasant and anger-ridden. Today, you might be surprised to hear, he has good relations with her. When asked how he achieved this feat, Sharp replied (and I’m retranslating from the Hebrew): “I tried to kill her with good nature. That’s the way my mind works. You’re nice to people. You always treat them well, and they don’t have a choice. In the end you reach them. It takes time, but it is always a success.”

I killed Percy’s grumpiness with love. I want to remember that next time someone growls at me. Just give them love. That’s all.

Who in your life would you like to kill with good nature or love?

For Love of a Dog

During break time at obedience school, one dog said to the other:  “The thing I hate about obedience school is you learn ALL this stuff you will never use in the real world.”

Chaim, Nati and Percy sharing a pillow

My three chihuahuas failed obedience school. My mother claims I have a special talent for picking out stupid dogs. Chaim, Percy and Nati are cute and loving, but they will never bring me my slippers or learn how to use the doggie door. I’ve given up trying to potty train them. I just make sure they go out often. My preferred method is to keep the door open at all times. I know if I’m not diligent about it, they’ll just go where it’s most convenient, which sadly most often is the living room.

Chaim and Nati on a walk

I love my dogs. I know I’ve repeatedly claimed to hate them and have offered them numerous time for sale with the added bonus of a free food bag. Altogether, in the grand scheme of things, I am very fond of my dogs. I think they’re atrociously cute. And there are actually long periods of time in which they do not pee or poo in the house, and wonderfully delicious nights when they sleep quietly all the way till morning without requiring that I get up to let them out. So most of the time I tend to have warm fuzzy feelings for my dogs.

There are many reasons why I love my dogs. They are cute and pathetic-looking. My heart melts when they stare at me with those lovelorn eyes and beg to be petted or fed. I feel good about having taken them from the shelter — I’m their rescuer, and they certainly treat me like that. Aldous Huxley said: “To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.” And that is true for women as well. I’m the pack leader of three chihuahuas, and that makes me feel like a duchess, a queen, the goddess of their world.

Sunning themselves

When I divorced nearly seven years ago, having two dogs in the house was a comfort. I felt safe knowing that they would bark and scare away unwanted visitors. The house felt less empty when the kids were away with their dad, but the dogs were always there, ready to welcome me home with licks and barks and tail wags. Dogs are nice to talk to. I can tell them anything, and they will still love me. As Christopher Morley said: “No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.” And my dogs look at me when I speak to them as though I’m the incarnation of Cicero, Winston Churchill, or Charles de Gaulle.

I cannot end better than with the words of Edith Wharton who said: My little dog — a heartbeat at my feet.” My chihuahuas and their beady adoring eyes — what can I say, I’m a sucker for anyone who looks so sweet.

I found the doggie quotes and jokes at these two sites. Dog proverbs and Fun Dog Quotes.

Losing Control for True Love

Yesterday I finished reading The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae by Stephanie Laurens. The finely-wrought romance, set in 1820 England and Scotland, is full of rich descriptions of people, dress, scenery and customs, but I had a hard time relating to any of the characters. In other words, I didn’t fall in love.

Angelica, the female lead, lives in her head even in matters of the heart. Wearing an heirloom necklace which allows her to recognize her true love, she sets out to make the chosen man, Dominic Earl of Glencrae, fall in love with her. Dominic fully intends to marry Angelica. He needs her in order to get back another heirloom, the coronation cup which he must hand over to bankers by a certain date. As far as he’s concerned, love need not come into it.

Angelica agrees to help Dominic but refuses to give him an answer about their marriage. Her plan: to make him fall in love with her before she accepts him. Slowly she leads Dominic through the intricacies of falling in love. She shows him that she can manage a household and a skittering horse and that she’s interested in learning about Scotland, but each of her actions smacks just a little too much of over-thinking for me.

For Angelica, love is a carefully-planned campaign, the purpose of which is to bring Dominic to admit his love for her. For Dominic love equals a loss of control, a potentially life-long insanity. I’m not surprised that it takes the two of them over four hundred pages to fall in love. And even then I was not convinced that Angelica learned to love Dominic apart from the necklace which proclaimed him her hero.

In so many novels I find characters struggling with the fear of falling in love, afraid of losing control over their life. Yet I remember how much I wanted to fall in love as a young girl, the longing to feel the butterflies, the excitement. I fell in love with the idea of love, the sensations of love.

For a while I loved Haggai, then Avi, then Mitchell and Topaz. I remember being head over heels in love with Oron in seventh grade and later with Ze’ev, who I never realized liked me back. A first boyfriend, Tamir, when I was in tenth grade. And in the U.S. there was a red-haired teenager who I mooned over. And Yoni, the first boy I kisses. He was young!

I don’t think I ever resisted love or was afraid that it will disrupt life somehow. Over the years, my one most sincere, innermost and most often expressed wish was to be in love, to love, to be loved back. What is life without love but a desert of sorts? I always wanted to live it up a little. Fall in love. Sing and dance in the pouring rain.

And today, lucky me! I’m in love.

Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109