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The Perspective of the Giraffe (and Other Animals)

These days, it seems we are like ants overwhelmed by an elephant perspective. We read the newspaper and shiver at the pessimistic prognostications, the harried and worried discussions, and the doomsday divinations that are taking place. (The Israeli newsletter dubbed the results of the elections a “Trumpocalypse,” which I thought especially creative). But is our myrmecological perspective of the elephant in the room something we can trust? Is it the truth?

There is a Buddhist story about five blind men who encounter an elephant. One touches the side of the elephant and calls out: “This elephant is like a wall!” Another touches the leg and says: “It’s like a pillar!” A third handles the ear and remarks: “An elephant is like a fan!” A fourth holds onto the tail and insists, “An elephant is like a rope!” And the last holds onto the trunk and contradicts all the rest, “It’s like a tree branch!” Of course they are all right, and yet an elephant is greater, more complex and interesting than any of these parts.

In order to see the elephant, we need to move back enough so our eyes (or touch) can encompass the whole of it. And in fact, even then it would not be enough. An elephant is so much more than its shape. It is the historic path it takes in the jungle, its knowledge of water holes, its place within the biotic community, the food it prefers, its history of being hunted, the parasites which live on it, its bathing habits, and the list could go on and on. Why then do we think we have the perfect perspective of this so-called elephant (or Trumpocalypse, if you prefer to insist on that version) when we’re barely holding onto even one little toe?

What we need is the perspective of the giraffe.

In his wonderful collection of poems and stories, The Sixteenth Ram, Yehonatan Geffen writes (translation, and pronouns, mine):

The giraffe has a tall neck
She can see a bus before it leaves the station
And the sun before it rises

Everything we see, the giraffe sees before us
She has a kind of expression on her face:
How lovely it is to be a tall animal

The giraffe has a tall neck
She sees clouds at the end of the world
And announces

Friends, in two months it will rain here
From the height of a giraffe we all seem small
And our greatest problems
Are mere dots for the giraffe.

Living from the perspective atop the tall neck of the giraffe does not mean that we are blind to the future. We stay vigilant. We see trends (the bus) before they become established (it leaves the station). We see trouble (the rain) by recognizing the clouds at the end of the world. We prepare, and we still fight for what we believe in, but we do it by having the perspective, the ability to recognize that most of our worries and anxieties and predictions are mere dots (most might even be mere shadows) on the map of life.

At this moment in time we are all of us blind men and women hanging on to various parts of an elephant, insisting that our vision of it is the right one. What we need are tools with which to feel effective, ways to increase our feeling of safety and confidence in the world. But how can that be done? The troubles we see coming — global warming, political unrest, religious extremism, and more — seem insurmountable. How can one blind person (in my case, a very near-sighted contact-wearing short woman) succeed in overcoming so much?

Fortunately, we don’t have to overcome all of it alone. As an exercise, I typed in the search “non-profit organizations in Palo Alto” on the web. The results: 799,000 hits. “Social justice organizations in California” generates 2.3 million hits. “Environmental organizations in the world” generates 142 million hits. To me, the results of my experiment are clear: there are many of us here who want to see a change for good. There are many of us who care about the world and all the beings and creations in it.

A month ago, I attended a women’s retreat at Spirit Rock led by Joanna Macy and several other wonderful women teachers. There were a hundred of us at the retreat, women of many sizes, shapes, and ages, but we all had one thing in common: we came to the retreat because we care about the earth. There was an older woman, ferocious looking despite her white hair and short stature, who told us she marches for gay rights. Another woman, curly-haired and grey said she holds signs in front of the police station to protest mass incarceration. A third, tall and regal-looking, worked with women kidnapped and sold to sex slavery in Africa. A fourth was concerned with the stress women live with in the Bay Area. Me? I was there because my heart beats for the natural world. All of us there cared about the environment, diversity, safety, freedom. We cared about the survival of the human race alongside the survival of all other species. We didn’t insist on any one part of the elephant. Instead, we put together all of our little dots to make a spacious and accepting mosaic of life.

It was, I confess, a frightening, overwhelming, and yet hopeful picture. And still it is not the complete picture. Still there are farther perspectives from which our life here on earth at this time can be seen. We, as a moment in history, will probably never know these perspectives, but we can know now that there are many people who care, who work tirelessly to make things better each in their own little piece of the mosaic. This knowledge, that we are not alone in our efforts, can give us the freedom to act. All we need do as an individual is choose a piece of the mosaic that speaks to us and participate in this one meaningful and manageable way.

At the end of the retreat, we all took Joanna Macy’s Vows for Active Hope:

I vow to myself and each of you

To commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings.

I vow to myself and each of you

To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products and energy I consume.

I vow to myself and each of you

To draw strength and guidance from the living Earth, the ancestors, the future beings, and my brothers and sisters of all species.

I vow to myself and each of you

To support each other in our work for the world and to ask for help when I feel the need.

I vow to myself and each of you

To pursue a daily practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart and supports me in observing these vows.

We live, as the Chinese blessing goes, in interesting times. We don’t know what will happen, what the future holds. But as Joanna Macy said at the retreat, not knowing allows us to be creative, to have hope, to think of new solutions and possibilities. It allows us to avoid repeating history and instead to soar to new places. It allows us to use Hillary’s election slogan in a way which she may or may not have meant, because truly, in this way, with each of us a part of the mosaic of hope and love, we are stronger together.

In order to be present to the sorrows and difficulties of our world, Joanna says we must first develop love and gratitude for it. As a start, here is the song by Jennifer Berezan, “Praises for the World.”

May our combined force for good be the tipping point for the survival of all beings.

Off Of Facebook

Some of you may have noticed that I am no longer on Facebook. A few of my friends have grumbled their dissatisfaction already — grumbles which I took as a compliment. It is nice to know that you care, that you want to follow my adventures and stay in touch in this easily available way. And Facebook really is an easy way to stay in touch.

One of my friends once told me he enjoys Facebook because it is a way to connect with friends without needing to leave the house after he returns tired from work. He can read status updates, comment on them and chat with people online, even play games, and all of it from the comfort of his home with his own homemade dinner and glass of wine. How perfect is that?

I am not setting out to change the world. Not yet, anyway. For me, I suppose I’ve decided that reading status updates, commenting and chatting online isn’t enough. I would like to go back to face-to-face meetings or at least to hearing a friend’s voice on the phone. In the simulated connection in the virtual world, I find I am neglecting the heart-to-heart relating that happens when I meet a friend for tea or a walk. I am spending too much time pretending to connect with my friends online, and not enough time in enjoying their company in the real world.

me at montereyIn short, friends, while I love seeing your smiling faces on the screen, reading your stories, and looking at your photos, I’d rather see you in person or talk with you on the phone. I want to make time to hear the whole story of your birthday party or trip or any other good or bad experience from your own mouth, in your own voice, with all the nuances that come with it. And while the fear that I’d be missing out on some stories does exist, I hope that you will be glad to make some time in your busy life to come outside, without a screen or a device, and just be together.

For those of you who may not have the time or the inclination, I still love you. I hope to write more consistently in my blog, too, and post here stories about my adventures. If you’d like to follow the blog and have it be sent to your email directly, there is a place at the bottom of the page where you can sign up for it.

Lots of love to all of you. Give me a call sometime and let’s go for a hike or a cup of hot tea/coffee together.

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?

The Princess in the Tower

High in the tower, Rapunzel sits, combing her long hair. She reclines by the window, in her luxuriously decorated room, surrounded by her books, her canopied bed, and perhaps, if she is anything like Princess Fiona from Shrek, her kung fu tapes. One day soon her prince will come on his white horse. He will call, and Rapunzel will let down her hair so he can climb up.

Once rescued from the tower, Rapunzel will ride behind the prince through the never-before-viewed countryside, into the dark forest, and over the blue ocean (they’ve exchanged the horse with a white sailboat, of course). The prince is taking her to his castle, and once they get there, Rapunzel might discover that she has traded one room in a tower with another room in a castle. Both lovely, and both, ultimately, the same.

After posting my blog about the dolphin rescue, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wondered: if there were only women on that beach when the dolphins were stranded, would they still have stood back and just watched, or would they have jumped in for the rescue? It occurred to me that the answer to this question is an obvious, resounding “Jumped!” Of course women would have saved the dolphins. But somehow, because there were men around, they did not. They stood back and allowed the men to be heroic.

I doubt I would have jumped in to save the dolphins either in the midst of these men. “I’m too weak,” I would have thought probably. “What if I can’t grab hold of the dolphin’s tail, or the dolphin starts twisting and turning in my grip? What if I fail? What if the men tell me to go away?”

At the beginning of the first Shrek movie, Fiona surprises Shrek with her impressive kung fu skill and beats up Robin Hood and his Merry Men. At the end of the film, however, Farquaad’s soldiers pull her back, and Fiona is suddenly helpless, allowing Shrek to rescue her. If Fiona can’t beat up two guards when her man is around, no wonder the rest of us can’t jump into the ocean to pull some dolphin tails back into the sea.

Is it that whenever men are watching, we women immediately become weak and powerless? Do we voluntarily (and perhaps involuntarily) give up our personal power, our own initiatives and allow the men to lead?

To us Rapunzels everywhere, I suggest we cut our own braids, tie them to the windowsill, and then let ourselves down. Why would we ever consider letting the prince climb up by holding on to our hair! It’s uncomfortable and painful and just plain dumb. I suggest we start changing our own lightbulbs and opening our own jars. The only tower I can see is the one we’ve built in order to keep ourselves inside — and surely there’s no reason to avoid the beautiful, open, green outdoors just to please a guy?

Dolphin Rescue and the Weaker Sex

This morning I watched a clip which showed a pod of dolphins stranded on a beach. Spectators on the beach approached, uncertain at first what to do, then waded in to help. A few tried to pick up the dolphins and found them too heavy. Finally someone figured out to rescue the stranded animals by pulling them into deeper water by the tail.

Many beach goers waded in to help. An inspiring sight. Humans helping dolphins. But then, who can avoid helping these beautiful, intelligent animals? Who would not, without hesitation, jump right in to help? You might be surprised, then, to know that not one woman was among the courageous rescuers. No woman? My heart rebelled and cried out: Why not? Why did the women present remain on the beach, watching and not participating in this grand rescue?

A corresponding question immediately rose in my mind: are we women really the weaker sex? Some, I know, might have a quick response to this question: Yes, in general women are weaker than men. The statistics speak for themselves. The fastest woman ran a marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds. The fastest man’s marathon record is 2 hours 3 minutes and 38 seconds. The heaviest a woman weighing 69kg weight lifted was 128kg. For a man in the same weight category, the record is 165kg. And the list, I am sure, goes on and on.

Without bothering with statistics, however, there are quite a few first woman and person achievements that show that women are as capable as men. Lynn Hill, an American climber, was the first to climb El Capitan’s route “The Nose” without aid. Amelia Earhart holds a number of first flights: the first to fly from California to Hawaii, from LA to Mexico City, from Mexico City to Newark, and from the Red Sea to India. In a google search I found mention of a Sherpa woman named Chhurrim who climbed Mount Everest twice in one week. She is the only person to have done so. And women have intellectual achievements as well: Marie Curie, for example, is the only scientist to receive two Nobel prizes.

These firsts make me wonder. Is “the weaker sex” only in our heads? Do we women stand back and allow men to rescue dolphins because we perceive ourselves, not incapable exactly, but maybe less capable than them? And, a niggling question remains, would I have jumped in? And what would have happened if I did?

My daughter, watching the movie this afternoon, immediately voiced the same sentiment. “Why did no woman help?” She asked. My heart swelled with pride. Clearly I have taught her well. She and I, I told her, will make a commitment to each other right now. We will jump in together if ever dolphins are stranded on a beach before our eyes.

Inspiring Women First link
Best women in sports link

A Petal of Happiness

My grandmother is 96 years old. An almost incomprehensible age. She has eleven great grandchildren, the youngest of whom, at one year old, is 95 years younger than her. She might be older than almost everything around me, including the house I live in and probably most of the trees in my yard, but she’s still, as they say, all there, smart, funny, and often tactless.

On this visit to Israel I soaked up on my Safta’s love and wisdom, feeling stronger than ever how lucky I am to have someone like her in my life. “At my age,” Safta said, “you learn to find happiness in the little things: the song of birds, the fact that the sun rose yet another morning, the blooming cyclamen.” At 96, Safta seems to have stopped worrying about earning money, self realization, or the melting of the arctic ice cap. Like an ancient olive tree on a terraced hillside, my Safta just is.

Gorgeous clouds

I often think that, involved in the pursuit of future happiness, we miss the happiness that is right in front of our eyes. I remember, when I was still single, thinking that my writing would, for sure, flow better once I’m in a relationship. Sadly, no such luck. I continually look forward to the times when the kids are with me as times of future happiness, but when the kids come, happiness is as elusive as ever. I’m sure I’ll be really happy if I moved to live in Hawaii. Or Yosemite. Or if my cousins lived nearer to me. Or if I had a King Charles Spaniel to follow me around.

In the pursuit of happiness, we rarely recognize happiness when we feel it, and often confuse our lack of recognition with our ambition to stretch farther the limits of our world. It is easier to pause and smell the roses when I am not rushing to meet friends or thinking about where my next meal is coming from. Embroiled in the struggles of life, a rose seems trivial, a thorn in the way. But just think of the added quality of life that comes from that pause, the lowering of the nose to the open petals, the deep breath that fills the entire body with a perfumed lungful of oxygen and fresh start.

Lonely Seagull

My mother says that even in the ugliest yard there is a splash of beauty. In a busy street in Tel Aviv, the pavement dark with the exhaust fumes of buses, birds sing in the trees, just as in the postcard-view of palms on a sandy Hawaii beach. Similarly, my Safta, in between enjoying the pink buds of the cyclamen, still worries that my 27 year-old cousin is not eating enough. Us humans love to improve, to change, to grow, and though we create much that is dark, we also bring to life much that is wonderful.

Juice at end of the walk

This morning, before I set out for my walk on the promenade of Tel Aviv, I am setting the intention to notice the little happinesses in life. I wish you the joy of smelling the roses today and noticing the birds singing on every branch. In the midst of every storm, if you can find the sunshine, a rainbow spans. And you know where that leads, right? To where the blue birds fly.

Jerusalem Air and the Need for Hugs

Morning view of the Jerusalem Hills

On Saturday I went for a walk with my aunt in a little suburb of Jerusalem called Ein Kerem. We visited churches and monasteries, walked through beautiful gardens and weathered stone buildings, looked at mosaics and wall paintings, and enjoyed a fabulous, fabulous view of the Jerusalem mountains stretching almost as far as the eye can see.

We stopped by one Russian Orthodox monastery which sits high atop the mountain. The view from up there took my breath away. Around the golden-domed church, many houses nestled, embraced by oak, pine, fig and olive trees and early cyclamen bending their pink heads to the ground. Stone staircases wound up and down the steep hill. My aunt and I longed to peek inside the houses, to see how the nuns live. We saw one nun, in a house dress, sweeping the stairs below her house. Near another house a long white shirt hung on a line, the wind floating it back and forth like a ghostly swing. Peace reigned, and quiet.

Gate near Stairs of Eden, Ein Kerem

Living in such surrounding must be uplifting, blissful, I thought, and yet how do the nuns deal with depriving themselves of the comfort of love? They choose to live without a family, without a partner, an intimate witness to their hopes and dreams, their mistakes and successes, and without children to brighten (and sometimes make crazy) their days. How do they do it without loneliness taking hold and shriveling them inside?

Since arriving in Israel, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. After all, coming here meant that I left people I love, the kids, Dar and my parents, far away — half way around the world — in order to see other people I love, my aunt, grandma, cousins and friends. Despite being surrounded here by love, I miss Eden’s soft cheek as she presses it against mine, Uri’s giggles when I try to steal a kiss from him, and the feeling of safety and warmth in Dar’s hugs. I am here, but my heart, divided, is also there.

Sometimes I wonder if perhaps I am too dependent on the kids and Dar. Do I worry about them too much? Has my happiness become too entwined in their presence? Am I too attached? I feel as though I could be more independent, give myself and them our freedom to be.

“Letting go of attachment does not preclude love,” my aunt, who is also a Yogi and Sanskrit scholar, told me. Like the Buddhist monks who, by letting go of the boundaries between people, love the whole world. The idea of attachment is that, in the end, we cannot take anything or anyone with us.

Stairs of Eden, Ein Kerem

I am unlikely to be a Buddhist monk in this lifetime. While I know I can’t take hugs with me to the grave, I do know that I would not like to live without them. I guess when I’m not feeling contrary, I know that hugs are not attachment, unless perhaps I refuse to let go. I could argue that holding on to the memory of the hug is attachment. But philosophizing about that, perhaps, should be left for another post. For now, I remember the lofty feeling of openness in the Jerusalem pine-infused air, and though it is hard, I call my heart here. In a few days I fly back, and I will see the kids and Dar and feel their hugs and taste their kisses. But today, I am here.

Love Our Children

Some news is impossible to ignore. Some news leaks into even the most safely locked bubble. Plastered all over facebook, in emails, in headlines — it is everywhere. And so even an ostrich such as myself, with my head deep in the sand, cannot avoid hearing about twenty kids and six teachers killed on Friday.

Friday night we went to dinner at my parents’ home. It was the seventh night of Hanukkah, the festival of lights, of miracles. We lit the candles, sung songs, the children’s innocent, open faces illuminated by the flickering light of the candles. We had homemade food, lovingly prepared by my mother, and home-baked challah, her specialty. I sat, surrounded by the love of my family, and thought: Here we are, safe and secure, and somewhere across the United States are twenty-six families, probably more, whose darkness cannot be lightened tonight. Somewhere across the United States twenty little bodies and six bigger ones are lying in a morgue instead of having dinner at home.

News people: instead of telling me about the killer, his parents, his situation, here is what I want: I want to hear about the day each of the twenty six was born. I want to hear about their first breath, what kind of a baby each was. About the first time they rolled over and how they took their first step. I want to hear about the foods they loved and hated, their favorite color and animal, what made each of them unique. I want to know what they had for breakfast on Friday and what was the last thing they said before they left their home. I want to hear about the last hug and kiss they gave.

The twenty six are the important ones. They are who should be at the top of the news. They ought to be the pictures we carry engraved in our hearts so that we know, we just know that this can never ever happen again.

Perhaps if we gave them the attention, those who rode to school on their bikes with their parents on Friday morning, or walked with a friend, or rode in the car, or had a fight with their brother or sister, or forgot to brush their teeth, or were rude to their mom, perhaps if we gave them the attention instead of the killer, it would be not just a lessening of a reason to kill but a deterrent. Yes, we need better and more accessible mental health care. Yes, we need better gun control. But what we really need is an end to sensationalism. An end to publicizing the perpetrators of these horrid events. Instead, we can praise the teacher who saved sixteen kids, the children who were able to hide quietly, those who helped others, who supported each other, who gave their lives.

I believe love can travel around the globe if need be, and so I ask you, for just a moment, to let go of your outrage and direct your love toward the families hurt by this tragedy. Just close your eyes and send them love. It is love that will save the world.

Forgetting the Why

Friday night, I watched The Avengers with Dar. While watching the movie, I noticed that I was more interested in why I am not carried away by the action than by the action itself. In many films, I find myself either captivated by the concept of the movie or skeptical of the details of the plot. Movies based on comics often require a huge leap of faith, one that I am not always willing to make. How did the hero gain his or her superpowers? Where did the villain come from, and how is he (or she) strong enough to challenge the hero? And how did the creators then raise the stakes high enough so that I desperately want the hero to win?

The Avengers was a huge box office success. It made a record 207 million dollars in its first weekend in theaters and by now has earned over 1.5 billion dollars worldwide. For comparison, it is listed as the third highest grossing movie, after Avatar and Titanic. But the film wasn’t just a box office success. Critics as well as viewers loved it, and it got high ratings everywhere. I had heard good reviews about this film myself from many of my friends

There’s a lot of action in The Avengers: a universe-leaping cube, guns of various sizes and shapes, a guy who shoots arrows that always hit the mark, Norse gods whose personal vendettas affect our world, an invasion from outer space of aliens riding space tricycles and Godzilla-like metallic monsters. Where did the aliens come from? Why is this invasion army working with Loki, the villain? I did not quite know. Some weapons stopped or slowed down Loki, but some didn’t. Why? I didn’t know. Sometimes Loki just touched people with his wand to make them obedient to him, and sometimes he chatted with them instead. Why? Perhaps because he’s the super villain and can do whatever he wants. Super villains love chatting about their plans, you know.

I suppose in a way I wish that, just like when I was a child, I could still become whole-heartedly engaged by the plot, living for the superhero, believing in him (or her). Today, a cynic, I sit there and think: are those Godzilla-like metallic things supposed to be alien monsters or some sort of vehicle, and I am not scared. I do not worry about the safety of the heroes, because the danger facing them seems somewhat ridiculous to me. And when Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk, saying that he can suddenly control himself because he is “always angry,” I am happy that he’s going to help the good guys, but inside I scoff.

Usually I love these kind of movies, about superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman, Batman, The Fantastic Four. I enjoyed this movie too, the action, the characters. It was only the added value of getting completely sucked into the plot that was just not there. I wish it was. I wish I could have forgotten the why and fallen into the flow of the movie, but for this particular one, I could not.

Getting a Mental Break

“How would you go about giving yourself a mental break?” My cousin Iris, who is a life coach, asked me after I told her about the anxiety and feeling of impending doom which have been following me since August. Would a vacation be a mental break? I asked her. “From what I know of you,” my cousin replied, “your anxieties and stress follow you to the vacation.”

How then does one go about taking a mental break? And what is a mental break anyways? “Just letting yourself be,” my cousin said, “without needing to do anything or achieve anything or finish anything. Just be.” She thought for a moment, then added, “Maybe it would be better to start with an hour. Or even five minutes. Or thirty seconds. Of just being.”

I went to take a shower. Before going in, I told my anxieties to wait for me outside. I asked the critic if he wouldn’t mind to let me go to the shower by myself, just this once. It occurred to me that I rarely shower without my critic leaning over my shoulder and commenting on how long I’m taking, how much water I’m wasting, and the general scarcity of water in the world. Let me enjoy my shower as a mental break today, I told him. Please wait outside.

It is much harder than I imagined, to get even thirty seconds of mental break. It seems my stresses and anxieties are standing by, ever ready to take advantage of any opening to come into my mind. I think to myself: all is well in my world at this moment in time in this place. And somewhere a whisper pesters: “But you don’t actually know that. The kids are not under your eye. Your parents are not here. Even Dar is in the other room and something could happen to him before you can hear.”

A friend told me the other day that the first step in the twelve step program is to admit powerlessness. I am, as yet, far from being able to admit that. Powerlessness scares me. My first thought in response to the whispering voice is that I should tell Dar to stay near me at all times. Can you imagine me actually doing that? And the critic, as though adding wood to the fire, laughs in my ear: “You’re a control freak,” he says, satisfied.

Oh dear. All these parts of me talking and commenting and judging. And where had the mental break gone? And yet, I think perhaps for a few seconds, maybe not for a whole thirty, maybe for only ten seconds or five, my mind rested in the moment of peace of the hot water washing the day off my back. Five seconds today, and maybe five seconds tomorrow, and maybe eventually they will start adding up, and I can rest in the moment, and let that mental break happen wherever I am.

Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109