Monday, January 4, 2016

An Unspoken Invitation

I listen for
an unspoken invitation.
An opening or a need
that I can fill.
Arms or warmth,
or a twitch at the corners of your mouth.

I am always surprised
when you reveal that
you thought of me
when we were apart.
I warm to know
you thought of a question
you wanted to ask me,
even though you can't remember it now.

Sometimes I report having
thought of someone else in her absence -
or I simply call her or send an email.
This takes faith
that I'm not intruding,
faith that I offer something of value.
Faith that I can bring attention
and kindness to you,
and such wisdom as I've painfully won,
or at least the perspective
that comes from not being beset
by your problems.
Having this perspective
brings me relief from my own funk
at the same time as it is a gift.
I have faith in this
else I wouldn't dare try.

I have proven toxic in the past,
but I have reformed
sometimes.
Sometimes I can realize how I appear
self-centered and uncaring.
And sometimes I can be kind and caring.
No one I know is all of a piece,
although we try to stay in our best selves.
We slip and fall,
and get up, and stumble,
and each time we get up again
we grow stronger,
better,
kinder,
more whole,
more peaceful,
more ourselves,
and more quick to recover from our lapses.
We journey with hope,
always arriving.

Finding a Kindred Spirit

Once I came up to a couple who belonged to my church, and announced that they were my kind of people. They lit up, and we became friends. Years later, they told me that my statement had drawn them to me. What I hadn't said at the time was that what I had actually noticed about them was that they were, like me, quite short. This shared trait was enough for me to create some fellow feeling. They had, however, taken my comment as referring to their character or interests or spirituality, at any rate, as something deeper than their actual height.

I have found that a similarity in height is helpful in a romantic situation, but it can't be the only thing we share. I tried that once or twice, and it doesn't work.

For a good relationship of any kind, one needs a kindred spirit. We must share some values and some interests. Complete identity of these characteristics isn't required, but some overlap is needed to make a relationship work.

When I was trying to be straight, I somehow acquired an extremely tall boyfriend who belonged to my church. We shared a belief in God and the commandments, so unmarried sex was not an option. Our intellectual interests were quite different, and our musical tastes intersected only at the Carpenters. But we kissed and cuddled, and suited each other well enough until I moved away for law school.

Then I sought friends among classmates and fellow congregants, and started to come out as a lesbian. But did I ever find a kindred spirit, a soul mate? I kept thinking I had found someone who was kin enough, but sooner or later it fell apart. Sarah lasted the longest.

I may not have the gift of having or being a kindred spirit. So nowadays I cultivate whatever kind of relationship develops with my friends. If I ask of no one what she doesn't have to give, maybe she won't ask me for what I don't have to give, and we can enjoy each other for who we are.

Leaving Something Behind

Sarah left me behind when she retired. Her Oakland home had been where we were together, where we shared a double bed, where we played early music with our friends. Restaurants on Claremont Avenue were our playground. Fifteen years my senior, she retired when I was 50, but the earliest I could imagine retiring was at age 55. I did retire at 57, but that's another story.

As she later told me, she was then in survival mode. Still recovering from a knee injury, she had to find a home that she could afford, one that had no stairs and was convenient to public transportation (she doesn't drive).

She found herself a condo in Berkeley, but it was a studio with a twin bed instead of her spacious one-bedroom flat. So I couldn't spend the night at her place, although the early music group continued to meet in a public room in the building.

When she refused to visit me in San Francisco, I began to understand that our relationship had changed. I finally got the nerve to ask her how she characterized our relationship, and she said, friends - which confirmed my impression. It seems we had gradually, silently broken up.

I swallowed the bleak anger and hurt I felt in the interest of keeping her as a friend, and began to look around for a new lover. My next choice wasn't as good, but that's also another story.

Why didn't it occur to me to ask her what was happening at the time it was happening? Maybe because I hate arguments and raised voices. Maybe because I'd been presented with a lot of changes that were beyond my control when I was growing up. Objecting wasn't an option then, and it often seems beyond me now.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

More Editing

I just spent the last hour or so retyping sermons I had written, typed on a typewriter, and delivered at Cong. Sha'ar Zahav in the 1980's. Quite a blast from the past.

But the sky is gray and so is my mood. My solar-powered emotions need more sunlight than I have been getting the past few days. And rain is in the weather forecast.

Must be time for some pick-me-ups: a good movie? dealing with paperwork? doing my stretches and/or some Tai Chi? sugar and caffeine?

I've a massage scheduled for tomorrow to look forward to. And maybe a community Chanukah candle-lighting and sufganyot (jelly donut) eating ceremony that evening in the Castro, weather permitting.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Again, Still, Less Writing and More Editing

I've pulled together a group of my blog pieces that focus on spirituality, and contracted with Xlibris to self-publish them as a small book, paperback and online. That decision frightened me so much that I promptly put the materials away for about a month. I've been dipping back into them in small chunks, every couple of days. I tinker with them until indecisiveness or feelings of unworthiness require me to step away and regain perspective.

But little bits of progress are being made. The pieces are starting to fall into groups and to suggest their proper order, and I'm even writing a few new words to fill gaps. Fortunately, there's no particular deadline, but that means that mine is the responsibility both to keep working on it and to decide when it's done.

There has been a hiatus in the sessions where I sit with friends and write to prompts, but they will soon return. I hope that such new writing sessions will replenish my creative juices and support my editing.

Now is the darkest and coldest (relatively speaking, in temperate San Fran) time of the year. I'm torn between huddling under a warm comforter and getting out into the brisk sun to recharge my energy and emotions. Striking a healthy balance between these occupations is a major goal this season.

May all beings find a happy balance between doing and being, warmth and cold, peace and hope.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

My Hair

I've always been rather fond of my hair. It's ruler-straight, fine in texture, and profuse in amount.

It seems to be Teflon-coated. All hair-holders slip right out except for rubber bands.

As to its color, the terms mouse brown, light brown, and dishwater blonde have been used. I used to wonder what would happen as it grayed, and now I know in part -- it's shot through with silver. I call it "salt and honey."

Pleasure Faire Tale

I had attended the Southern California version of the Faire while studying music at UCLA, dressed in a musician's robe and carrying a wooden recorder flute in a pouch at my waist. While there, I came upon four madrigal singers who were asking the crowd if it contained a singer who knew the second soprano part to The Silver Swan. As I was and I did, I came up and joined them for that and several other five-part selections.

While attending law school in San Francisco, I learned of the Northern California Faire, and went with a friend on a day when we could enter for free by bringing banners for a contest. I assembled one showing the scales of justice, anachronistically using fabric glue instead of sewing it.

There were two rounds of judging. While the judges were conferring after the first, the crowd was entertained by a man playing a pipe and tabor. He was absent after the second round, and the mistress of ceremonies asked the audience if anyone would provide entertainment by dancing or singing. So I got up and sang Dona, Dona, also quite anachronistic. But at the end of the song, the audience astonished me by throwing coins on the stage. I picked them up and removed myself.

Later, as I was headed towards the exit, the mistress of ceremonies stopped me. She told me that Phyllis (the head honcha) had enjoyed my singing and wanted me to come back to the Faire as a pass-the-hat artist. hey would admit me for free, costume me appropriately, and give me a license to keep any tributes that arose from my performance. I accepted enthusiastically.

I went back to the Faire, was crammed into Renaissance garb, instructed in basic Faire English, and given my license. However, any money I saved on my entrance fee or acquired for my songs was spent on food, a book of Renaissance songs, and perhaps one or two other remembrances. But it sure was fun.