Finding our Way

But if something did happen, it happened. Whether it’s right or wrong. I accept everything that happens…says a character in Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore”.

Accepting the truth of the past, of the present is not always easy. We can hold on to resentment for things done to us, and we can hold on to frustration, guilt, or self-loathing for decisions we regret and perhaps ways we have hurt others. We can hold on to old and irrelevant relationship patterns (like taking responsibility for your adult children—a particular favorite of mine! not!) or old relationships. Or, another favorite of mine—taking responsibility for the stories others tell themselves about me.

And yet, some stuff is really hard to accept—whether it’s old trauma, new trauma, recent grief or sadness or chronic depression.

I think there’s got to be a balance there. An acceptance of what happened or even what is happening now and of one’s pain and struggles and of one’s desire to heal and sometimes not knowing how. Accepting the truth of what happened does not ask us to gloss over its significance; it simply reminds us that wishing for a different outcome does not help the healing. And it doesn’t help us find effective solutions.

So, yes, it’s a balance—seeing things as they are/as they were and with love and compassion finding our way to healthy and loving present.


I’ve been watching the Netflix series “Ginny and Georgia” with my youngest daughter. Its off-beat humor has been a fun distraction…until the most recent episode when one of the characters (I don’t think this is a spoiler) explores his depression. In detail. The camera angle is from above; you see him plop into bed, describe his bed as being a sort of prison, but also the only place that feels safe. He talks about the darkness and his fear that it will never go away. He says that he loves his girlfriend but doesn’t have anything to give her. And—and this is the part that got me—he comments that it takes too much energy not only to give love but also receive love.


My daughter and I talked about this. To bring someone into your darkness is threatening. You hate how you feel. You are ashamed of your despair. Your terror. You don’t want to be a burden. To anyone, especially to the ones you love. So you hide yourself away.

Many of us have had periods of depression.

Many of us have loved someone through their periods of depression.

And it is painful. It can feel like a dark forest with no clear direction.

Just recently I read a book called “Mind Whispering” by Tara Bennett-Goleman, about how to talk to ourselves when our minds are overwhelmed with negative intrusive thoughts. For Bennett-Goleman, the starting point is having a secure base—an outer secure base of supportive friends, family, and/or a therapist and an inner secure base where we take responsibility for nurturing our positive qualities—like clarity and warm-heartedness, and being less swayed by outer circumstance.

But finding security in a tormented mind can feel impossible! Which is why, going back to the Netflix show, it’s important that remember the isolating nature of depression, that one of the worst things depression does is separate us—from the better part of ourselves and from our loved ones.

And which is why it is important, if we struggle with depression, to share our pain with our loved ones, normalize the darkness with our safe people. And, if we have people in our lives who are struggling with depression, we do our best to let them know we are there. Without taking it on—not easy. There are so many struggling right now, and we all need support and we all can offer support. How? I have no idea…with the best intentions, we do the best version of loving we can. And perhaps whenever we remember, we ask ourselves, what am I whispering into my ear right now? And, what am I whispering into the ears of my loved ones?


Recently, I find myself turning to the Japanese poetic form zuithitsu. It’s hard to define zuithitsu; some say it is comparable to the lyric essay, others a list poem, and others call it chaotic, fragmented, un-definable.

Which is exactly why it resonates with me right now. I find myself more at home in fragmentation than a moment of clarity. Zuithitsu provides a soft landing, where I one can mourn the loss of one’s mother and contemplate what to buy for dinner. Zuithitsu says, this is what happened; this is what is happening—all of it.

And—which is exactly what I haven’t done. I have not made space for past and present, joy and sorrow. I have wanted to erase past trauma and only feel and think love, forgiveness, joy. We all know that didn’t work! How does that saying go? What you resist, persists? Yep…

But neither is it healthy to stay stuck in the past…

How do we hold all these contradictions? The past and present? The joy and sorrow? The terror and the faith? By making space for all of it. By opening up lines of communication with ourselves, and listening, and offering ourselves wise council and love and lots of compassion. By understanding that life is chaotic and fragmented, unfair at times, confusing, and also full of beauty and laughter and moments of bliss.

Poet Ching-In Chen writes in their zuihitsu poem, “Queer Poetry: a zuithsu, I have never met anyone who looked like me,” I am obsessed with the zuihitsu…because it is messy, chaotic, contradictory, it is a form I frequently return to, especially when I do not always know what and how to say. It is a form which maps and contains my fear.

The more space I give myself in my writing and thinking, in my relationships and on the yoga mat to explore with compassion all that is—however mundane or profound, dark or joyful—I lessen the fear or hopelessness. I become more curious and gentle. I become more accepting of life’s ups and downs and my own internal ups and downs.

And I work to find healthy ways to make space for all of it. Gratitude. Loving relationships. Nourishing food and long walks. And zuihitsu. Check out the work of Tina Chang and Kimiko Hahn and Chin-In Chen. And maybe try writing some zuihitsu yourself…


Happy 2023. May it be a blessed year for us all!

May it also be a year of honesty. Starting with ourselves. Starting with asking ourselves, how are you really? And I mean really.  Whatever you are feeling. I mean whatever.

Because that is where the suffering/struggle starts…that first flicker of a feeling that feels bad and we go straight to judgment. Oh come on…stop being negative, think of all your blessings, others have it worse…blah blah blah…While some of this may be true, it doesn’t really matter. Because it doesn’t address the felt experience. All it does is communicate, you don’t have a right to your experience.

And that’s what I’m sitting with this New Year. So, even though the whole beginning of the calendar year write a list of resolutions feels contrived, I find myself wanting to make a shift. Wanting to change the way I’ve been relating to myself. Wanting to find a way to hold the totality of my felt experience and honor the whole shebang—past and present—all the pain, all the questions, all the beauty, all the blessings and bliss and gratitude…all of it. To make space for it. Not to rush to answers. Or even peace and fluffy-bunny-joy. I’m talking about keeping it real.

Which doesn’t mean being negative.

It means being real. It means real joy. Real sorrow. Real confusion and fear and despair. And real connection. And real moments of such happiness that you don’t think your heart can hold it all.

In her poetry collection “Hybrida”, Tina Chang explores through hybrid poetic forms the hybrid nature of life. The hybrid nature of her feelings. She writes, Hybrida is the change of properties. Long ago the earth plates shifted, came together in new permutations. New land. New World. It permits a space to be wounded, sutured, broken again, and untied to float to a beyond.

And that is what we are; we are earth shifting, coming together in new permutations. And it would serve us to give ourselves space to be wounded, and then healed and then wounded again. Such is the nature of life…not all sorrow, not all joy…moments of everything.

And that is what we are here to do…live all of it. In all its hybrida.

Hella Bougie

Let’s be honest…it’s not only at this time of year and family togetherness when some of us struggle with people pleasing. And it’s not only with family; we can struggle with our boss, old friends, new acquaintances. Damn—even the nasty checker at the grocery store if we’re having a particularly challenging day.


One of the sources of the incessant need to please is fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of judgment. And, depending on just how big this fear is, we can suppress a lot!

But at the end of the day, does it ever feel good to sublimate one’s needs or personality or goals for the sake of another? Short-term maybe, like really really short-term, but long-term definitely not at all.

In her song “Energy Budget”, Toni Jones sings, I’m done with people pleasing and attachment to making everyone happy with me. When I first heard those words, it was like being zapped. With a light sabre. By Obi-Wan. Simple, right? If only…

One way into this fear is not necessarily to attack the fear with a sledgehammer and replace it with false bravado, but rather to fill our lives with loving people who see us. Loving, generous, non-narcistic-non-selfish people who both share their own vulnerability and encourage us to share, who don’t tell us all the reasons we shouldn’t be upset or how they have it much worse or how they can fix us They just say—hey friend, you’re hurting. I’m here.

So that means it’s up to us to surround ourselves only by others that feel like honey, Jones sings.

What does that look like? Probably different for everyone, but basically, it looks like an inner barometer that tells us who feels right. It looks like not collecting well-wishers like we collected Girl-Scout badges. It looks like calling our energy back to us and sharing. Very. Sparingly. Very. It looks like not needing to solve others’ inability to take care of themselves. It looks like stopping inner-violent talk.

It’s work. It’s hard at times. Because some people are seriously not worth your time. But hey, we’re worth is. And to close, I share the closing lines’ of Jones’ song, I love people, but my energy tolerance budget? It’s hella bougie.

The Dimmest of Stars

The end of the calendar year is like the opening lines of Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities”, the best of times, the worst of times.

For many who gather together to celebrate the winter holidays and festivals of light it can be a time of warm nights by the fire, reminiscing over egg nog and mulled wine, card games and board games, buying just that perfect gift, and spending time with your favorite people. For others, it can be a time of forced togetherness with your least favorite people, a reminder of past traumatic holiday experiences, and loneliness.

And we can be fine every other day of the year, and the end of the year rolls around and suddenly we feel miserable! Because—we are told we should be happy, and we compare ourselves to Netflix Christmas movies and happy families we see at the mall.

Full disclosure…that’s me. I have a Ph.D. in wanting everyone to be happy. And this time, end of year family togetherness time can often be the worst of my times. Because in the midst of the darkness, as I am trying only to be happy and generous and easy going, I shove away my more challenging sides and treat them like unruly untrained unwanted animals.

And as the darker feelings get bigger, I fear them even more.

I am coming to terms with the fact that I have always struggled with depression. Situational? Acute? Chronic? I don’t know…I’ve had big-T and small-T trauma in my life…who knows…I just know that sometimes are harder than others. And sometimes I get really dark. And it’s hard. And thankfully, I have good friends and a very supportive mother and loving husband who hold my hand during these times.

And many of these really bad times are when the family gathers. Often not because of anything that happens but because of what I fear may happen. Because I fear failure. Rejection by my children (hello…like isn’t that just part of being a parent???), getting it wrong, whatever it is and whatever wrong is…But this is exhausting.

So I’ve started taking Pema Chodron’s advice and just doing something different. Like, instead of fearing the fear, shoving away the fear, I welcome it, give it space, invite it in for tea and cake. Have a conversation with it. Ask it what it wants to say. And usually it just wants some love. A hug. To be heard and told it will be ok. To be reminded that darkness and light are both necessary, both part of the whole human experiment. To be reminded that it is actually in the darkest of dark night skies that we see the most stars. As Rebeca Elson writes in “Let There Always be Light (Searching for Dark Matter)”, For this we go out dark nights, searching for the dimmest stars, for signs of unseen things.

I wish you all a beautiful holiday season, and mostly a season of welcoming the dimmest of stars.


I was recently introduced to the poetry of Diamond Forde. She writes about the female body. The black female body. Birth and death and periods and sex. She writes about pain. And healing.

And, while I do not presume to understand the experience being a black American woman, I can say that I know pain. In the soul. In the body. I can say that I struggle with forgiveness and knowing how to move on.  How to find that balance between acknowledging the past but not getting stuck there. Moving on, yet not glossing over the truth of what happened.

In a recent interview, Forde explained that both truth-telling and joy were essential in her healing journey: When I choose joy, when I live within joy, I am also making a decision for my future and my past…the harm happened. There is no way of erasing that harm…but I can change the way that that harm impacts my future. With joy.  

What does that mean? And how do I do it?

From what I understand, Forde’s understanding of joy does not advocate forgiving and forgetting. She advocates knowing. Documenting. And, as the title of her poem Rememory shows us, remembering (perhaps re-membering the body?) through the lens of joy. Not idiot-joy. Not oh well it wasn’t that bad joy. Or let’s just pretend it didn’t happen and sit around and smoke the peace pipe and let stupid people in my life who gaslight me-joy.

Forde’s joy is honest joy. Honest about the past, and honest about the responsibility one has now to create a better today and a better tomorrow.

And let’s be honest, I think there’s some stuff in the past we never completely get over. Really. It stays in the bones like that arthritic knee or broken wrist the doctors never set right that gets all achy when it rains.  But I don’t have to let my achy bones and nighttime terrors make me bitter. Or mean. I don’t have to let them ruin my future.

As Forde writes in “Rememory”, …and the past haunts, but what’s the word for when it feeds on future, birds plucking days like muscats from the vine, and Alice knew the stories, black folks torn apart like fruit, but that was there, and here, each day she patched her wounds, pretends home whistles through her chest like a blade of wind.

All of it

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at an outdoor café across from Tel Aviv Art Museum. I was meeting a friend and had arrived early and was enjoying the late morning autumn sunshine. To my left I heard Russian. To my right I heard French. And in front and behind—Hebrew.

All of these sounds kept time with the music in my earphones. I closed my eyes, sat back to feel the sun on my face and put Spotify on shuffle.

And wouldn’t you know it—the first song that arrived in my ears was Little Big Town’s Boondocks. The first lines hooked me, grabbed me, took me back a few dozen years: I feel no shame, I’m proud of where I came from; I was born and raised in the boondocks.

I wasn’t raised in the boondocks, but I spent a good chunk of my formative years there. With my first cousins. And aunts and uncles. And Gramma and Grampa when he wasn’t in jail. And I spent much of my early years trying to leave the boondocks. Trying to erase the stain of the boondocks. Trying to be something else.

And I did.

I opened my eyes, and saw the museum and the Israeli palm trees and heard all the languages, some of which I somewhat understood. Yet, in my desire to erase the stain, more accurately the shame, of the boondocks, I cut out a huge part of who I am. On a visceral level. The level of sensory perception. The level of taste and sound.

I didn’t grow up Jewish. I didn’t grow up singing Jewish songs or eating latkas or cholent or the yummy sufganiyot—jelly donut Hannukah sweets. I grew up with Gramma and Grampa and all their drunk friends having jam sessions with banjos and mandolins and harmonizing and yodeling and remembering the good ol’ days of touring with Hank Williams and performing at the Grand Ol’ Opry. I grew up eating mashed potatoes with more milk and butter and flour than potatoes, Cool Whip out of the container, meat loaf and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Hmmm…even my now-vegan taste buds can remember the smell of that freshly cracked open paper container of KFC, the salty gravy smell, the buttery biscuit smell.

Honestly, it wasn’t all bad.

And just like the old Donny and Marie Show theme song, I’m a little bit country. Actually, I’m a lot country. Not southern. Country. The banjo runs through my veins. And the old country gospel tunes. The simplicity of life and the lack of pretense. The not needing to say how much money you have or where you travel or how many degrees you have. The not needing to size someone up and think…what can this person do for me?

I’m not romanticizing country; I’m not romanticizing my childhood. Because there was plenty that was, well, let’s just say that Dorothy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina was pretty close to home…

 But, it wasn’t all bad.

And I think it’s time to honor those parts that weren’t all bad. And I think it’s time to honor those parts of me that are country. And be all of it—the new and the old. Be the jelly donuts and the buttermilk biscuits. Be the traditional Jewish melodies and Gramma’s yodeling. Be the girl who grew up poor, ran barefoot in the woods, spent too much time going to AA meetings with her stepdad and was told education was stupid. Who loved Christmas and Easter and read the Brontes by flashlight. Who became Jewish and married an amazing man and got that stupid education and raised three wonderful kids. And still reads a lot—but now by candlelight, in the wee hours of the morning. Before doing yoga.

I thought all of this before my friend arrived. And moments later, she and I were sitting in the sun, discussing books and our kids and the art at the museum and life and getting older and marriage and the new ice cream machine at the café. All of it.

Ya, I’m all of it. I’m proud of where I came from. And I’m proud of where I’ve come. All of it.

To Agree or Not to Agree

As I get older, I have less patience for an agreeability that requires a silencing. A semi-pretending.

Yet, agreeability is important; it is key to our survival.

So, how do we keep our agreeability and not lose our voice? How, in a sea of TikTok videos and social media influencers and strong parents and bossy friends, do we even know what our voice is?

For poet e.e. Cummings, the answer is found in feeling. He writes, Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

So the instruction is clear: feel your feelings. Guard them. Honor them. Journal them. Sing them. Paint them. Run or dance them. They are yours and they need to be felt and heard. Let them teach you who you are.

You are here to be nobody-but-yourself.  Not a carbon copy. Not a people pleaser. Not agreeable to the point of losing oneself. You are here to realize your unique and Divine potential.

Which sometimes will agree and sometimes not.

A Different Kind of Knowing

My daughter sent this to me today; it was taken somewhere in the underbelly of the NY Subway.

I don’t know what it means.

I don’t think I’m unique in my desire to know what things mean. To be unsettled by uncertainty.  Flux. Confusion. The in-between. Children who confound us. Complicated relationships. Ourselves and our reactions. Complicated subway posters.

I want answers!

And I’m always looking for them. Why…are they like that? Am I like this? Did this or that happen?

And as a writer, I often search in words—quotes, wise sayings, themes of great books or a poetic metaphor that will reveal my own personal mysteries.

Yet, these ah-ha moments are short-lived. Something else inevitably happens. And causes me to question previously held certainties.

In a recent episode of Poetry Unbound, host Padrig O’Tauma reflected,  Anytime I find myself loving a word, thinking, oh this is the word for the moment, these days I find myself looking for some the edges of it, thinking, well is this word so good for everybody and how can I find a way to explore it?

The question then is, can I exist in the in-between? The not knowing? The waiting and mining the heart for richness of meaning? Can I sit in this moment and be content with what is?

As I get older, I realize that sitting with confusion is far more satisfying than the quick-fix of pithy answers. I’m drawn to novels that are ambiguous. Short stories that leave you hanging. Relationships enriching and also challenging.

I find myself saying, like the iconic Tevya in “Fiddler on the Roof”, well on the one hand…but on the other hand…

I don’t know a lot. And I’m getting more comfortable with not knowing. What I seem to seek now is a rich understanding. An experience of authenticity. A recognition of complexity and confusion.

It might be frustrating at times, but it’s real. And in this realness, there is a patience, a quiet restfulness. Or so I tell myself…