Everything Goes

When Cole Porter wrote “Anything Goes” it was 1934 and the sentiment of the song complemented the mood of the times. People were tired of selling apples on corners, of moving instead of paying the rent, of making sacrifices with no end in sight. They wanted security, opportunity, and a different set of rules (or no rules at all) to play by. Today, “Anything Goes” isn’t good enough. Now Everything Goes! For everyone, everywhere, all the time.

From scooting across busy avenues and down city streets by the age of three, to sexting  by the time you’re twelve. Everything Goes!

From Bloomberg’s billionaire credo that bigger is better as he cemented over the smallest plot of city green to make room for more parking spaces to serve the high rises filled with thousands who gladly supported his short sighted, greedy and toxic  expansion. Everything Goes!

From Ted Cruz’s crusade to lead a party divided as they followed him in vengeful celebration on the path to oblivion while shutting down the government for 16 days and seeking to deprive millions, including themselves and their staffers, of affordable healthcare in order to destroy this president who has frustrated their will to power by being smarter, classier, and far more resolute than they have the capacity to imagine or acknowledge. Everything Goes!

From technology replacing table talk (just note all those phones being scanned and scrolled in restaurants, coffee shops, homes and banquet halls) as the march toward dehumanized communication moves irrevocably onward. Everything Goes!

From being too busy to speak to, or truly look at our children, then wondering why they refuse to speak to, or look at us. Everything Goes!

From seeking salvation in relationships via the “object” of our affection instead of through our connection with spirit and with ourselves. And when those relationships are no longer what we want or need, complaining that they didn’t “work out,” when, indeed, they did, just not in the way we preferred. Everything Goes!

The New York Society Library, a  bastion of civility on the upper East Side of Manhattan, remains my saving grace. Peace and quiet reign. An elegant reading room with light pouring through French casement windows gives solace in the midst of a hectic city. The librarians know my name.  (It’s about time that I knew theirs’). One day it too may go, along with everything else, but for now it remains, and all is not lost.

Despite a desire to hold on to a way of life, an ideal, a gentility, civility, or to the comforts and people we know and love, it all goes and goes and goes. But we may as well hang in there and see what happens. As Rebbe Nachman so wisely advised: “Never despair. Never ! It’s forbidden to give up hope.”

For now I’ll stick with the Rebbe. It’s a lot better than the alternatives.

The following exercise provides a way to practice letting go of everything and anything, especially your fear and resentment of what lies ahead or gets left behind.

Go With The Flow

Close your eyes and breathe out one time. See yourself standing before a body of water and diving into a strong current. Know that by doing this you are letting go of all constraints and fears. Sense and live how by going with the flow, instead of struggling against it, you are carried to new places unheard of in your ordinary life.

Notice how you look and feel. Then breathe out and open your eyes.

Practical Magic: Honor Your Weakness

During a recent dinner with family, my goddaughter’s boyfriend asked me if I do this often. “Do what?” I said. “Have dinner with a group,” he said.

The fact is that I don’t. I rarely have meals with more than two people. This was an exception. But family dinners and going out to eat with groups of friends is, indeed, a part of many people’s lives, as it once was of mine. To him this must seem strange, while to me it’s “normal.”  Not strange at all. A choice that I honor and respect.

I admit I’m a bit of a hermit; an extroverted introvert, somewhat shy, with a preference for more time to myself that not.  With the passing of years, I’ve  decided this is fine, that I’m okay with me the way I am. That If I don’t like big parties I don’t need to attend. If having dinner with eight or ten people feels overbearing, I don’t have to do it.  If I go to a gathering and find no common ground with others, I don’t bother to work the room, I sit by myself and relax. Or I leave. Some might call this behavior antisocial.  Let them. It’s no one’s business but my own.

A woman I know who shares this trait of shyness has been trying to get rid of it for years. When we last met I suggested that instead of resisting and renouncing her shyness she honor it. Give it some space. And make this honoring a daily practice. Quite the reverse of judgmental self improvement. She liked the idea. We’ll see how it goes.

In “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” author/ psychologist, Wendy Mogel says,”Your child’s weakness can become his greatest strength.” That the quality that embarrasses, annoys, or angers us in our children, that we try to constrain, hide, damp down, eliminate, can be the source of their becoming unique, and resilient human beings. What’s so wonderful about Mogel’s theory, is that the same goes for us as adults.

People are different. What’s fine for one of us may be anathema to another. We forget that we each bring the meaning to whatever goes on in our lives. We mistake this for that by making up stories about the way we should be so we can fit inside the box, conform to the profile,  be what others propose is okay. But is it really?

What if it’s time to stop, take a breath, and make our leap from the false voice of our shoulds and oughts, to that other realm of peace, freedom, and ownership of who we truly are, and what we came here to be and do. I believe it’s not just possible, it’s something we owe ourselves.  An option we can’t afford to ignore.

Here’s something you can do each day to further this possibility in yourself and in your life:

The Honoring Process

1.  Observe your weakness without thinking about it.

2.  Say “Yes” to it, and make no judgment.

3. Ask what you can learn from it. Or what it has come to teach you.

4. Let it go and move on.

Practice this for 21 days and see what happens.

A Tale of Two Harriets: On Friendship, loyalty and love

I once knew two Harriet’s. The first was my sister, beautiful, kind, and beloved by all. But beyond being my sister, she was my Sister-friend. To her, I was the baby. The one whose accomplishments she praised to all who would listen, even to those who would not. I was the brat who followed her around and sat between her and her fiancée on the green damask couch. Both were super tolerant until they’d had enough of me. Then they were not. Our sister-friendship stayed close and true until the day she died a little over a year ago. It continues, even now, but in a different form, one that leaves me at a loss, wanting to hear her voice on the phone saying my name, or at least to meet up with her in a dream.

I met the second Harriet in college. She was the friend whose favor others sought, the person you felt honored to be with. She gave her attention begrudgingly, as though your desire for her company might encroach upon her soul. Despite her stand-offishness, or because of it, we became friends when we worked together on a musical competition called “Hunter Sing.” I was Sing Leader. She was the accompanist. Aligned in our inflated view of ourselves and our gifts, we quickly formed a winning team. With a friendship, nurtured by common interests, we shared the same intention to be heard, appreciated and known, while bound together by a genteel poverty and our determination to leave both the Bronx and Hunter College behind.

The second Harriet sent out warning signals early on: Danger Ahead. But I preferred not to notice. They included little head tosses that indicated her displeasure. Remarks like paper cuts of pain (e.g, her classic, You’re getting on my nerves). And shock and horror when you screwed up, as I once did when I placed the milchig (milk) dishes in the same sink as the fleishig (meat) dishes. After a shattering scream of “Oh No!” I knew not to do this again. God was watching and forgiveness was not his strong suit. But it seemed like regular stuff. Nothing devastating. The devastation she reserved for her “best pal, Pam.

Pam was everybody’s friend. No need to curry her favor. No worries about getting on her nerves. Never tossed her head even once. Someone you could depend on to fill any role. Someone you enjoyed having around, with whom you knew where you stood, who filled in the gaps.

Through our freshman, sophomore and junior years, Pam and Harriet were like glue, together during the week, on weekends, and on holidays. Then, early in senior year, Harriet announced it was over. Done. Kaput. One day, yes. The next, no. One day going everywhere together. The next a no fault divorce. No one saw it coming. And even though the breakup had happened to Pam, we all felt betrayed and lost. It was never the same. The second Harriet couldn’t be trusted. Any one of us could be next on her hit list.

Some friendships last for decades. Some peter out, others self-destruct. Whether through, choice or circumstance, they come and go, sometimes gracefully other times not. This was an example of “not.”

When I was six my friend, Audrey Friedlander, whispered about grand gatherings of family and friends to which I was never invited, though my parents made sure to include her in ours. By the time we were in sixth grade, I was head attendance monitor and I’d had enough of her. So I took my chances and sent a school post card to Audrey’s mother, saying that Audrey had been absent for a day with no written excuse. When I got caught and appeared to be unmoved by my transgression, the principal told me this was a federal offense and threatened prosecution by the government (which was still operating without incident back then) for defrauding the U.S. Mail. Due to my unblemished record he gave me a pass. And though I was immediately stripped of head-monitor status, I remained the teacher’s pet. She was a Republican and seemed to admire my anti-establishment moxie.

Since then there have been a series of friendships going forward, including one with Maurice Katz, a schoolmate who lobbied to have me impeached as president of my fifth grade class for staying too long at the fair (My term should have ended in February; I was still reporting talkers at the end of March, and Maurice lost patience the same day he discovered his name was on my list). Eventually we became friends again, but not close. It was for the best.

When I got to high school I had a great bunch of friends, two of whom I see, speak with, and hold dear to this day. The rest fell away, one through death, the others through the natural erosion of time, space, and lack of effort.

In my second year of college my friend, Myrna, pointed out a cute boy with a serious look on his face. “He’s the one for you,” she told me. It turned out she was right. A few years later he became my husband, then the father of my children, and despite our eventual parting, he continues to be my friend. He had also dated Harriet #2. Not surprisingly it didn’t work out. Or perhaps it did.

While I lived in Vermont, I met a woman whose gifts and determination set her apart. She crafted jewelry out of copper screening and sold straw hats in the field of wildflowers below my house. Whatever it took. Years later, after we both returned to New York, I journeyed with her to the depths of Brooklyn where we attended the Polish Orthodox funeral of her Aunt Nya Nya in a church that was so icy cold I wore my coat, hat, and gloves throughout the service, then watched her father pass by with not even a nod. To this day she marvels that I bothered to come. But how could I not?

This year, after Yom Kippur services, I opened my iPad and looked up an old friend of my son’s. I had heard she was now a rabbi, and I wondered what this child I had been so fond of looked like and had become in adulthood. I found a photo of her, and forty years later I saw the same lovely person smiling back at me from the screen, this time with a Tallis wrapped around her shoulders. I forwarded it to my son.

Friends. For better or worse they embody the history of our lives. Here’s some imagery to use regarding friends and friendship, lost and found, in need of attention and healing, or ready to be released.

House of the Heart

Close your eyes, exhale one time, and go inside to the house of your heart, where you find the room of friendship. Once you are inside, see what is there. Explore the room completely, and find what is broken. Caringly, put this back together in any way you choose. Then cover it and let it be, trusting that the repair is taking place. Now clean, rearrange, or transform this room in any way you choose. You may add to what already exists, or throw away whatever you do not want to keep. See what happens and how you feel. Then breathe out, and return.

Moonrise Over Norway: What More Do You Need to Know? Part 2

In 1960 the computer at the North American Air Defense Command warned with almost complete certainty that the Soviets had launched an all-out missile attack against North America.The warheads would land within minutes. But Krushchev was at the U.N. in New York, and we soon knew it was a false alarm. The “experts” discovered that the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System in Greenland had mistaken the moon rising over Norway for a missile attack from Siberia. It turned out not to be the end of the world. We had misinterpreted, mis-messaged, jumped to a conclusion and created a false emergency.

Most of us tend to lean negative and think the worst. Journalists fall into this trap all the time. It sells newspapers, makes for higher ratings, gets people excited. This disaster syndrome is reflected by our dreams ─ like the one where we’re back in high school with no program card, running around in a state of panic because we haven’t studied for an important exam, can’t find our classroom, and haven’t been there since the beginning of the term.

In my own version of this dream, when I’m just about to despair, lucidity takes over and I realize I’ve already graduated from college. Who cares what happened in the 12th grade. That’s my “Moonrise” moment, when I wake up inside my dream, the threat of disaster disappears, and life returns to normal.

This week’s missile attack is “Obama Care” and the Government Shutdown. Soon it will be the Debt Ceiling. A few weeks back it was Syria. The threat of war. No solution in sight. But that’s done. Disappeared. At least for now.

Recently, Channel 13′s movie night showed “Fiddler On The Roof.” I watched it twice. I needed to hear its message: That despite how awful things get, the world keeps going. People love, marry, work, have children, and when their worlds get smashed to pieces, snatched away, they pack up, move on, choose life, and survive.

I find it unreasonable and unwise to natter on about life as if we know what will happen. We don’t. Those things in the sky are not missiles. It’s the moon rising over Norway. a sunset in Seattle, a new day dawning in Japan.

So what might happen if we dared to step back and leave it be? If we spent a day, a week, a month, without drawing conclusions. If we stopped creating false emergencies, and let life show us the way instead of enslaving ourselves to the darkness.

As an imagery practice try the following and see what happens:

Think of (Imagine) one difficult thing going on in your life right now. Large or small.

Place it inside a golden bubble and Label it (i.e., job loss, test failure, breakup, health problem, etc).

Now send it to the moon. Shrink it out of existence. See sense and know how it is to create freedom and joy in this very moment.

And let that be enough. Then breathe out and return, knowing that all is well.