is a word that does not land well for me. By which I mean I don’t like how the word lives in the world. Or how I see it playing out in the slogans of self-help motivational speakers standing on stages with microphones clipped to their freshly ironed J. Crew shirts, screaming you are resilient! You are limitless in your power!

I don’t know…these you can do it talks always seem so thoughtless. Like, how do you really know what someone is going through? How can you possibly know the pain one is experiencing?

But that’s not the word’s fault. Actually, dictionary definitions use words like elasticity and ability to bounce back to explain its meaning. And, said on its own, resilience slides off the tongue, the way French does. Rather than being a brash punch to the gut by a drill sergeant,  it feels more like Tai Chi, moving softly through the air.

That’s my resilience.

My resilience is soft. Gentle. It’s a combination of what Kristin Neff calls fierce compassion (that loving voice that gets you out of bed when you’re depressed and want to spend the next several months not getting out of bed and having pints of ice cream delivered to your front door) and that kind mother/friend voice, the non-judgmental voice that reminds you that you are strong and courageous and drop-dead gorgeous and intelligent and fun and the voice that says trust yourself—you know what you need.

It’s that last one that is often ignored when we think of resilience. Because it often looks very non-typically-resilient. Since when did calling in sick or asking for an extension on that college paper or saying no to that oblivious needy friend ever look like resilience? Well, it does to me…

As it did to the artist who drew this…this perfect pearl of wisdom placed on a flag pole which I pass every day but saw two days ago on my morning walk. And I needed to see it on that day. Because I’d had a rough start to the day. And because all too often when I have a rough start to the day, the immediate response is mean self-talk, something like, oh come on…deal!

But this perfect message reminded me that resilience is love. It reminded me that loving looks different from one day to the next. Sometimes it’s climbing mountains and sometimes it’s curled up in bed. It reminded me that it’s all good. It’s all ok. And I’m good. I’m ok. It reminded me to be here, right now in this moment—which sometimes confuses, sometimes excites, sometimes pains and always inspires.

All the Myriads

I wandered into a paper shop a few days ago. Actually it was more like a gallery of paper art. Actually, it was a little gem of sanity.

And everything was black or white.

I asked the saleswoman if this was her art. Because it was art. And she said no, putting her hand to her chest and bowing in admiration to the invisible artist, whose vision had created journals and notepads and sketchpads on display. I just work here part-time.

She went on to explain that she had just graduated from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and had recently begun teaching art in school, to 7–10-year-olds. And she loved it. Their creativity is limitless!

In response I asked, They say all children are creative. But not all adults. When do we lose this? And why?

Ahhhh, she sighed, I studied this. The height of creativity is at 10-years-old. But really it starts to change in the teenage years. When reason enters. When children want answers. When their world becomes black and white.

Like your shop? I asked.

She smiled, seeing the irony. I told her I was a poet and she showed me a wall of journals all with different titles: Poetry, Writing, Inspiration. I picked up the one that read Poetry and it felt inviting, just waiting for words to be written.

We chatted a bit more and I bought a gift for a friend and as I walked out, back into the horn-honking city streets, I found myself reflecting on the question of children and creativity. On comfort with mystery. On living in the world of make-believe. On living with bewilderment.

In her essay “Bewilderment”, writer Fanny Howe defines bewilderment as an enchantment that follows a complete collapse of reference and reconcilability…it cracks open the dialectic and sees myriads all at once.

Bewilderment says, life greet me with your inconsistencies, complexities, mysteries. And may I find beauty in sitting with the conversations that arise.

Maybe we need to channel our inner child, our pre-10-year-old child. Our wonder. Poet and Marie Howe teaches her poetry students to observe ten things throughout the day and write them down. Simple things—blue chipped cup on kitchen counter, Golden Retriever puppy digging in the dirt, trash on the street that didn’t make it into the overflowing trash can, the washing machine abandoned on the sidewalk.

Just start noticing.

And maybe today it’s the puppy and the trash. And maybe tomorrow the sun shining through the rainstorm. Or the father yelling at his daughter in public. Or the way you want to cry when you are sitting at the café down the street, the café where you go every day, and today Lauryn Hill’s Zion comes on, and you remember playing that song non-stop when you found out you were pregnant with a boy. A boy they said before he was born might not be born. A boy who is now 21. And you sway back and forth singing under your breath,

…Unsure of what the balance held

I touched my belly overwhelmed

By what I had been chosen to perform

But then an angel came one day

Told me to kneel down and pray

For unto me a man child would be born

Woe this crazy circumstance

I knew his life deserved a chance

But everybody told me to be smart

‘Look at your career,’ they said

‘Lauryn, baby use your head’

But instead I chose to use my heart

Now the joy of my world is in Zion…

Zion, the name of Lauryn Hill’s first child. Zion, referring to the city of Jerusalem as well as the land of Israel. Zion, the name of a street I’ll walk down later today on my way to Hebrew class.

All the myriads all at once. The song. The memory. The land and street name. The son. The lady who interrupted my reverie to ask me to plug her phone in. All the myriads all at once; I think that’s where the beauty is.

The Heart Asks Pleasure First

It’s hard to fight the impulse that something is wrong—with the day, a situation, me. Life. And that better is just around the bend.

And, while I’m all about goals and lists and discipline, I am coming to an understanding of just how toxic this can be—this conditional acceptance of things. Because it sort of stops us from…being.

As Maria Popova explains in a recent edition of “The Marginalian”, The wanting starts out innocently…we are awaiting the big break, the great love, the day we finally find ourselves—awaiting something or someone to deliver us from the tedium of life-as-it-is into some other and more dazzling realm of life-as-it-could-be.

And whether we sit and wait for that glorious Shangri-la to drop from the heavens or embark upon a succession of perfectionist endeavors to arrive at the dazzling realm of life-as-it-could-be we are failing to be. Now.

Which is all there really is…

But now is messy. And complicated. And confusing. And I’ll be honest—very often the last place I want to be! But, as Mary Oliver reminds us, I know, you never intended to be in this world. But you’re in it all the same. So why not get started immediately. I mean belonging to it.”

Belonging to all of it. To the birds chirping and planes flying overhead. To the angry lady at the grocery store who yells at you because she asked if you wanted plastic bags and you thought she asked how you were going to pay. And the hummus-seller-man who chatted with you for 10 minutes, about how to store hummus, why he opened his hummus restaurant and how he lost 50 pounds just from eating hummus. Belonging to the loneliness. And new friendships. To the confusion, the doubt. And humility, kindness, gentleness.

To missing my daughters, on the other side of the Atlantic, and the gift, which I had this morning, of listening to my son play The Heart Asks Pleasure First on his guitar, while I made him scrambled eggs.

So maybe, the pleasure is in being present and belonging in the whole catastrophe that is life.


I was speaking with a fellow-writer friend yesterday about motherhood, coming to an acceptance of our non-perfection, and reflecting on what we good we had done, which—if we were honest with ourselves—had little to do with material success and had mostly to do with the quality of their relationships. And how did we assess the quality of these relationships? That they were generous.

And I’ve been sitting with that word—generous.

In a recent interview, writer George Saunders reflects on what he learned most from his writing teachers Tobias Wolff and Douglas Unger; The main thing those two teacher were, was generous. Similarly, in an effort to encourage more generosity and combat the self-obsession of social media, writer Maria Popova encouraged her fellow-writers to promote the work of other writers, rather than their own.


Generosity requires a baseline of security in oneself, a belief in a bigger picture or faith that it will all be ok somehow. And humility. Generosity recognizes that you and I can both flourish at the same time. I am not diminishing my chances at a fulfilling life by congratulating you on the joys and successes of yours.

Let’s be honest for a second…we can all smell lack of generosity from a mile away. And usually—it’s funny how it works this way—the least generous (meaning most insecure) often appear the most secure. The most confident. The most on their game. They just want to drop into the conversation all these amazing things about themselves, and when you have something to share, they somehow diminish it…

Why???? Not why are they the way they are, because that’s not our job to fix other people, but why do we hang out with people like this?

Sometimes—it’s not our choice; we share DNA, we share a workplace, or they are the nasty spouse of a colleague. But, whether it is or isn’t our choice, we can choose how and how often we interact with these people.

Goethe is known to have said, Tell me with whom you associate and I will tell you who you are.

I’m going to push back a little Goethe, because I think inviting un-generous people into one’s life is not a reflection of who you are, but who you think you are.

Big difference.

Either you think you are that diminished self OR maybe…ok follow me here, going down a Jungian rabbit hole…maybe these meannies are a kind of shadow -self. Maybe they represent who you think you are, or who you think you should be.  

Just an idea…

But either way—not good. Ask yourself—does it feel good to be around someone who doesn’t wish you well? We need to surround ourselves not with sycophants, but with people who will be honest and kind, who will rejoice in our joy and build us up.  And…important to be that way with ourselves (no martyrs here!) and also with our friends and children and parents and partners.

Which reminds me of the beautiful lines from Ross Gay’s “Book of Delights”, Our life on this planet is about getting to pure love.

And I think pure love is pretty damn generous.


There are moments, sometimes they are glimpses, when we have a sense of our best self. Future self. Our rise above the situation self. Those moments when we are able to step back and disconnect from the small “s” self and see the bigger picture.

Those moments are the closest I get to any understanding of peace. Or equanimity.  

But trying to capture those moments and sustain them for all time is like trying to capture air. Impossible.

Yet, somehow, I still tried. And every time I was pierced to the core by life, I felt as if I had let myself down. And let others down. But, what I am beginning to understand is that this is the whole catastrophe that Jon Kabat-Zinn writes about. This—this life of ups and downs and beautiful sensations and aches and pains and joy and loss—this is life. And being alive means being awake in all the moments of our lives.

Not just the perfect past or some dream of a perfect future self.

Which is why, when I read the poem Patience by Tina Chang a few days ago, I had to read over and over and over again the following lines: I come from that, the flailing struggle, my afterlife waiting for me. The poem reads like an origin story…this is how I got here. And yet, where is here? Is here the future? The past? Right now?

To me, these magical words remind me that I am all ages at all times. I inherited a family, I experienced a childhood, I am getting older, and I have a sense of what I am becoming. But there is no attaining. No leaving behind the child. No forgetting. There is only inhabiting.

Every moment. Now. The afterlife is now. The former life is now.

And I find, when I can sit with all of my selves, I can sit more easily with others.



Things often come in threes. Or maybe I’m just slow on the uptake.  Or maybe some of these are lifetime lessons and we learn and go deeper and learn and go deeper.

I think it’s that last one.

And, so I revisit the issue of boundaries. Which is not unrelated to my previous post about Abraham Maslow.

And which is very much related to intention. And voice. To trusting that you know what you need and trusting your ability to figure out how to get that need met. It starts with trusting that inner voice. The loving inner voice. The I got your back voice. The it’s ok sweetheart voice. The it’s ok to say no voice.

So I texted my daughter—my Tel Aviv morning, her NY night—and asked if she could draw me “NO”? And the above text—a period—was her response. Which, was the best response. No explanation, no need for all those slippery, self-effacing, apologetic explainations.

No, the answer is no. Full stop. Why? You ask why? Because. As Susan Gregg writes, No is a complete sentence and so often we forget that. When we don’t want to do something we can simply smile and say no. We don’t have to explain ourselves, we can just say no.

But, recalling Maslow, if we are motivated by the need for safety, we often silence the no voiceand convince ourselves that suppressing our needs is in our best interests. But this not in our best interests! This is self-harm.

It’s up to us to know what and who are the Yes’s and No’s. Sit down with pen and paper and make a list. Or make a mental list. Keep a journal, talk to a friend or therapist, whatever works. Dig deep and ask questions. As a good friend reminds me, we are 100% responsible for our lives. Which is freeing. We can take off the victim shackles and make our lists.

And lovingly choose no.

Love Hunger

Abraham Maslow, whom most of us know from his Hierarchy of Needs, believed that we have two basic drives in life—a drive to feel safe and a drive to grow, and we can only foster that drive to grow if we have a baseline of safety. Physical and emotional safety.

And, if we do not have this baseline of safety, we have what Maslow calls love hunger—an ache to feel safe and to belong that will control us. 

I do somewhat take issue with his argument; one need only peruse the shelves of the Memoir section of any bookstore to find stories of those who managed to overcome nearly insurmountable odds, to be convinced that it is possible to grow even if one had a very unsafe start in life.

But, it’s harder, definitely. And, love hunger can linger and can affect our relationships, our careers, the kinds of risks we take, and how we see ourselves. We can look very functional on the outside and secretly suffer.

…I say, raising my little hand. I’m one of those who had a rough start, who was unsafe—physically and emotionally, who was told she’d never amount to anything. And while I did amount to something, I carry wounds. As do many of us.

So then it becomes our responsibility as adults to address our love hunger, to find safety outside of ourselves—in loving and respectful relationships, in healthy work environments, in restful and rejuvenating living spaces, and inside ourselves—in loving self-talk, in how we eat and sleep and care for our bodies.

It’s a combination of self-care and being cared for.

Which…really speaks to some of the themes of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, which begins tonight and commemorates the 40 years the Jews spent in the desert. It is a time of rejoicing in the bounty of the harvest, in the gathering of friends and family, and also a time of vulnerability, of caring for others and recognizing our need to be cared for.

We are born with love hunger!

Our needs for love and companionship and belonging are not deficiencies. We need each other. We need a balance of self-care and being cared for. We need a balance of caring for others and caring for ourselves. We need to create inner safety and find those places and people—those safe places of refuge—where we can wait out the storms of life, where we can be held when we struggle to hold ourselves.

Life can be really hard. The storms will come and go. We can’t control those storms. But, hopefully, I think most of us can make healthy and safe choices. We can ask ourselves—is this relationship safe? Or toxic? Is my work environment detrimental to my health? Am I being pushed into choices that run contrary to my value system? Or am I being challenged to grow in ways I know I can manage?

It starts with a good dose of self-love. Self-inquiry. Self-permission to listen to yourself. And loving fellow-kindred spirits to walk through this life with us…

Beginning Space

Every year at Yom Kippur (for a while now…maybe ten years?) I write a letter to my children—three children three letters. And it’s usually a variation on the similar theme of please forgive me for anything I have done knowingly or unknowingly to cause harm.

I didn’t want to be one of those harm-causing oblivious moms!

But over the years, my letters became a bit of a meme, the kids responding with some version of, ya ya ya mom…I know, you love us, think we’re great, and you’re sorry. Blah blah blah…

This year, as Yom Kippur was approaching, and I was thinking about what I would write, I began to ask myself, what exactly am I sorry for? For not being perfect? For not providing my children with a sorrow-less life? For moving so many times? For being emotional? Falling asleep without fail halfway through every movie we watch? For being a vegan and giving them DNA that predisposed them to way too many addictions? For not always controlling my anger? Or anxiety?

My letters, I realized, were written from a place of shame, a place of I am bad as opposed to I did a bad thing. And by writing them, I was trying to absolve myself of some internal stain of self I couldn’t even locate. A metaphorical Lady Macbeth, out out damn spot!

That is a very painful way to live. And totally unnecessary.

Over the past few weeks, I have been devouring the poetry of Sandra Cisneros and Ama Codjoe and Alice Notley and Lucille Clifton and Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks, and their courageous and vulnerable and honest words encouraged me to rethink the story I’d been telling myself.

The poet Alice Notley calls her poetry as a beginning space; I decided I needed a beginning space. A reset.

And I started to sketch out this vision. Internally, initially. And then it made its way to the page…random words that felt right, that felt loving, that felt me. And they all started with W—woman, writer, welcoming, wonder, wander…

And I still wrote my letters this year. But they were different. They were letters of support, encouragement, letters of gratitude, and of course letters asking forgiveness, acknowledging wrongdoing, but also acknowledging importance of vulnerability, the imperfection of this human experience, the ability to be resilient and pick oneself up after a set-back.

We’re here to grow. To learn. Not be perfect. Not be driven by shame. We are here to dance with life, to transform negative internal chatter into loving melodies. We are here to bring light into our constantly evolving beginning space. Here is my W, drawn by my daughter Eva.

What letter defines your beginning space?

Nothing is Strange…

This past weekend, I did a three-hour Yin/Yang yoga class with the amazing Daniela. On her rooftop, surrounded by plants and herbs, with a view of other Tel Aviv rooftops. Ok, so to clarify, it wasn’t a three-hour class per se; it was two classes—one and a half hours of Yang Yoga—an active practice that builds strength and stamina and includes standing poses and balance poses and powerful breath work; and Yin Yoga—a more passive practice where poses are held for long periods of time, usually while seated or prone and often with the eyes closed.

And in between the two classes—dates and soothing herbal tea made from herbs growing on Daniela’s rooftop.

And, full disclosure, I walked into the class feeling down. Feeling like it’s so hard to start over when you’re 52. Like, I am tired of so much new-ness. Granted, I’m not completely starting over, I’m blessed to be here doing this immigration thing with my amazing supportive husband. But still…it’s hard to be faced around every corner with yet another one of your inadequacies…

It can play with the mind. Find its way into the body…no matter how many positive affirmation mantras you do. Some days are just hard. Some days I am looking for the refresh button on my own personal keyboard.

The refresh I got was a lot of wisdom coming from Daniela. As we stood in our yang poses, muscles working, breath expanding, she told us that these strong working muscles remind us that we are strong. It’s right there in the tissues. As if the body is saying, gorgeous creature, I know you feel so weak and tired, but you are strong, you got this, look at how you are holding up your body!

And sometimes, when stuff needs to get done, we need to channel that strength. When the babies are sick and the house is a mess, when the friends are all busy and the bills need to get paid, we channel that strength. And we remind ourselves that we are strong. What an amazing reminder!

And after our tea break, we took our bolsters and softened into a very embryonic 90 minutes of yin. In fact, Daniela said that yin yoga is like curling up in that safe space of the womb, that liminal warm place where we are held in love. As I lay in one of the poses, Daniela reminded us that, while sometimes we need to channel our yang energy, we also must not forget our yin…the energy that needs to soften, put aside the aggression and even solitude, and feel the comfort of being held.

And as she said these words, she came over and put something under my head; I hadn’t even realized I was stretching my neck in a very uncomfortable way. (We get so used to pushing away the pain, don’t we?) But with the support she gave me, I could soften. And the softening gave me permission to cry. Which I did, silently.

And I just lay it all down. I realized I didn’t have to carry it all. As we so often do.

Daniela’s teaching reminded that I am both—yin and yang. I am strong. And I am soft. I can carry so much. And sometimes I need to be carried. And sometimes I am not feeling what is required at that moment. And that’s ok too. Because, actually it’s all ok. Really, it’s all ok.

So let us remind ourselves (because we will forget!) that we have the strength and we have the resources and we have the permission to lay it all down and be held—by our loved ones, by a mesmerizing sunset, a walk in the woods, prayer, and by art and words and music.

I close by bringing your attention to the cover art, which is a collage done by my daughter Eva for one of her art classes, and with the beautiful words of the Ecuadorian poet, Alicia Yanez Cossio:


La paz del campo se metió en el alma

nada tiene de raro

que llegue el último ocaso

mientras se muerde una guayaba.


The peace of the field got into the soul

nothing is strange

let the last sunset come

while biting into a guava.


I’ll admit it; I have a slight obsession with Sandra Cisneros. It started about four years ago, when I went to visit my eldest daughter, who was then a Sophomore in college. And one thing we did on that visit, which ended up becoming a bit of a ritual, was have brunch at Zoe’s Cafe, where the pancake portions were huge, the blueberry syrup overflowing, and the coffee hot and neverending. And not that bad burnt diner kind of coffee…

It was three of us that morning…my daughter, one of her best friends (who was studying poetry) and I. And since books are my love language, I brought books for these two lovely ladies, books I thought—as one who has struggled to find her voice, would be trusted companions on this journey.

I’d heard an interview with Sandra Cisneros a few weeks before the visit, and it was love at first hearing. Her voice exuded an owning of the self…and I started reading everything by her I could get my hands on. Well, actually listening…I loved hearing Cisneros tell her own stories.

So I brought The House on Mango Street and A House of My Own: Stories from my life to that first female power summit at Zoe’s. What do I know? I reflected, to my daughter and her friend, but I’ve simply lived a bit longer, and I know how easy it is to lose your voice, to let it get coopted by other stronger voices, how good it can feel to be a caretaker, so much so that we forget, but it never feels good in the bones.

And now I’m devouring Cisneros’ most recent book of poetry, Woman Without Shame, where she writes in the collection’s first entry,

It was easy to be half naked

at a gay beach. Men

didn’t bother to look.

I was in training to be

a woman without shame.

…Was practicing for

my Minoan days ahead.

Medusa hair and breasts

spectacular as Nike of Samothrace

welcoming the salty wind.

Yes, I was a lovely thing then.

I can say this with impunity.

At twenty-eight, she was a woman

unrelated to me. I could

tell stories. Have so many stories to tell

and none to tell them to

except the page.

My faithful confessor.

And upon reading those lines, I was reminded of just why I love Cisneros. Because her stories are real reflections of an inner journey. Because she speaks the truth unapologetically (shall we say shamelessly?) and in so doing, encourages her readers to do the same. And she reminds me just why I love poetry, because poetry, Cisneros says in a recent interview, is more my journal than my journalIt’s only when I write poetry that I explore. In a craft essay on poetry, she writes, That’s why I write poetry, it’s the one room in the house of the spirit where I am allowed to think anything want…Poetry is a refuge from the mundane, an invitation to the sacred.

Why else are we here, but to accept the invitation to the sacred? To raise ourselves above all that stifles our spirit, the autopilot, brain-numbing seduction of social media, the coaxing of the collective, and speak with our own particular still small voice? And sprinkle some seeds of sweetness along the way…