Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Friday, April 7, 2017

Stay Soft

I had a teacher years ago who told me to try to stop seeking, even as it came quite naturally to me to do so. I knew what she meant, actually. She was one of my yoga teachers and she always saw some part of me that was seeing the aim, the regret, the things I hoped to repair, the things in me I wanted so much to tear apart and renovate. In me, she saw the hope of these things. In me, she saw that it would happen by seeking out a new way of being.

Back then, I prayed that I would find a way to be soft. I didn’t know how to soften in my poses. I was always going at them like a ferocious bull. I was acknowledged for being strong, but I wondered what it would feel like to be soft.


Five surgeries and many life experiences later, my inner landscape has instructed me well.

I booked a 7- hour flight yesterday and made sure that the ticket was refundable, should I change my mind. Well, change my mind, I did. What happened for me was something deeply unexpected.

It wasn’t like a bride ripping off a wedding dress screaming, “Get me out of this!” No. But it was dramatic.

I experienced a torrential storm of grief. Purchasing that ticket was not a ticket to saying "yes" to something. It was the deepest reminder that I wouldn’t be leaving my most beloved companion ever again.

I wouldn’t have to leave him with anyone. I wouldn’t be flying away from him. And I wouldn’t be coming back to him.

I knew that when I booked the flight, the irony was that there was this very freedom: I didn’t have to worry about my boy. I didn’t have to worry about him worrying about his mama. Missing me. Wondering if I would ever return home again. Waiting by every window in the house. Feeling into his own loss of who he had to try to be without me. I knew that.

But this was something else.

The tears just came. And they didn’t stop. Who I am on the other side of this loss is rather monumental. And I have to move with it.

Slower. Softer.

Pieces of me have been re-emerging from what Alfie opened in me. They come quietly and they are offered from tenderness both outward and back in.

I am kinder to myself. And more patient. I am more spacious with others.

But I still wasn’t ready to sail away.

I face it every day. And it’s hard. But there is something about this particular claim of freedom in the world that is just heartbreaking. The dismantling of this “us” that must deepen in real terms even as it can never be severed.

And as the inevitabilities of life come, I, like so many, face each “first” in its raw uncertainty without any idea who I will be on the other side of it.  And finding your way means you’ve done so without him. But…

I think more and more, it is beginning to mean the opposite. That’s how it feels inside. Where my inside now looks more like my outside.


Monday night will be Passover. A time when we symbolically free ourselves from any enslavement. I feel enslaved when I veer off track from listening to myself. So that is what I chose. I canceled the flight. I’m going to listen to what comes next. And when I am ready to fly away from him, I will.


There’s something else. Psalm’s death really hit me hard. It stirred not only the deep loss of what we all lost in losing her, and feeling into all of the nuances of that, but it stirred places in me that I see clearer. I see how my own history of experiencing abuse created a pattern of continued violence, a pattern of being violated, a pattern of loss.

And I see all of the strength and tenderness it takes to break free.

I didn’t need to get on a plane to correct for any of this.

Sometimes the hardest and most important thing of all is to sit right where you are. And see what comes.

So this is me… finding a new way. And by the grace of life, it’s a softer one.

Jill Bacharach

Friday, March 31, 2017

First Do No Harm

I always stood first in line when it came to size order. I was called every name under the sun about my size but the world through my view was keen. 

There was always change in my grandfather’s pockets. CERTS in my step- father’s. I could only see the sky through the crowd when we went to the Feast of San Gennaro. But the best of all, I stood as high as Dr. J’s knees when I met him and I was so proud to shake his hand, standing “tall.”

My step- mother was someone who was entirely unpredictable and though I was a considered a “runt,” I vowed to protect myself at an early age. 

What I didn’t understand then, was that she was the one who needed protecting.

She threatened to kill herself regularly. And in so doing, she tried to kill little pieces of my young self through her language and her lashings. 

She waged a war inside my family. One that had begun 40 years earlier in my father’s motherland. It was a wound that I alone was determined to repair no matter the cost.
As a child I could not comprehend the violence. The drugs. The alcohol. The assaults. But when my father crossed over, something opened in me so unbearably deep.

This woman had been my father’s consigliere for over 25 years and was the last person to hear him breathe. They were both suffering. They held something sacred that I knew nothing of. And the truth is, she was lost. 

Love was the higher law. 

I became her lifeline for 3 months and then she took her own life.

Today I was shopping for groceries and on one of the shelves there was an open box cutter. I placed it on one of my canvas re-usable bags and brought it to customer service. I told them where I had found it and said I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. “First do no harm is a rule I live by.” I said.

I thought about all of those I knew who had taken their own lives. All who had tried. All who could have stolen that sharp blade in a moment of desperation. All who don’t have someone to call or run to in such a moment. 

I bowed to the losses. I bowed to the love. I cried to and for the grieving. I sang for the living. 

Years ago, a colleague of mine wrote something that I have carried with me since my father crossed over. How poignant that it was about death. Today, I find it more powerful and relevant than ever:

“You asked me in your last letter, ‘Is there ever an end to mourning? Are we ever finished with our grief?’

Lately I’ve come to think there is. It happens in a moment of recognition, we find something of the lost person in ourselves and suddenly we feel stronger, wiser, more human.

There is still much silence in me but I am no longer frightened by it.
We must continue to write about life, not death, and, in the weeks and months to come, God willing, there will be much to tell.” Maureen Carey

This is for all of us. For anyone you know who may be in struggle. 

Let love be the sacred law.


Jill Bacharach

Sunday, March 19, 2017

My Home

I'm not an electrician. But I give everything my all. I have at least 5 tape measures, some good hammers and I have 3 leveling devices in my tool box. 

Here's what happened:

I spent a few hours in the kitchen with my boy after hanging his photos. Organizing, decluttering, making more space for him, cooking, and standing beside him which felt deeply nourishing. He now stands above the sacred territory where he used to eat and drink. 

About an hour later, one of my outlets short-circuited and sparked. It affected the outlet on the opposite wall as well. I reset the outlet. I reset my circuit breakers, (I even overdid the resets with the circuit breakers, just in case). Then I opened the outlet with a Flat-head screwdriver (not a Phillips-head, as I know the difference) and reset it again. Nothing helped. Just sparks. 

A few hours later, I started this process again. At that point, I realized that what was "causing" the short-circuiting was my Italian espresso machine's three pronged plug. It made no sense to me since I've had it for about 10 years and it was in working order this morning. But very "suddenly," the plug was causing the outlet to short-circuit. I was thinking, the machine is for home use, but the plug looked like it was commercial grade. Those clever Italians... 

I decided I probably needed to call an electrician or buy a new Francis Francis. I unplugged the machine and then swooned for another moment of bathing in my beautiful boy. I poured myself some seltzer, turned the lights out, and decided to call it a day.

My heart felt steady. Then I realized something. Maybe my boy caused a mini explosion (maybe he even broke the espresso machine) to let me know that he is standing with me. Because that is what it feels like now. 

It feels like he is home. 

I felt an overwhelming gratitude being transmitted into me as I was standing where he stood, where I nourished him and where he nourished me deeply in that loving exchange. I felt my body become heavier as if it were landing more fully inside its own vessel. 

Maybe I wasn't able to land until now because I was misguided in my search for him. Sometimes I think that the deepest part of grief is an internalized betrayal we feel in letting the one we love go. Go on to their next place. Releasing them from this one. It's hard for us. Who are we without that definition of that very intimate US? 

But maybe... maybe the landing has not been so much in the grace it took to release him from the form I knew and treasured, but... to let him... to let him in. In whatever way he and I are going stand beside each other with impeccable ease. Maybe that comes not on the exhale, but on the inhale. 

Maybe that explosion was not just another thing that broke down after losing him and had to shift in my life, but a recognition of shift. Maybe. Just maybe, my little heart warrior, working from the other side, was ushering me just as I ushered him, to know without a doubt, that we are still in this great exchange with each other. 

Sparks. Short-circuitry. An explosion by any other name, leading me back to myself. Bringing my boy home. 

I have been forever changed by this boy. And this love. This love? Very simply, this love is my home. 


Jill Bacharach

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Many Ways to Love (lose) a Mother

Today a new friend asked me about qualities I had inherited from you and I responded by saying that we would have to have this conversation at another time.

I felt a well of emotion rise up inside of me and as I drove home, I drove passed my namesake: the Iris gardens.

No. I did not curse you. All I felt was love.

It is a love cradled in the comfort of loss. But knowing that you have been birthed from that cradle and will one day reunite. (Knowing well that reunions come in many forms.)

There are many ways to lose a person.

I chose not to speak of it because of my love for you. But it has squandered a part of my heart and kept me small.

Recently, I read a woman’s account of how she is slowly losing her mother through the devastation of Alzheimer’s. My heart ached through most of what she wrote. (The family vernacular alone: a mystery for more than ¼ of my life.) At the end, she posted lyrics which you used to sing to me and it was truly something to feel into. All of that love. And all of that loss. Cradled and birthed in mystery. All of these 48 plus years. 


I’m not walking around guarded or angry. I’m not feeling self-righteous or owed.

But there is something I am walking around doing.

Protecting you.

I have been protecting you.

I don’t tell people about this 14- year silence. About the tikkun made 4- years ago which lasted barely a year and the decision you made to move on again in your life without me as a part of it.

Mostly, I have remained silent. I have touched upon this a bit, here, in this forum and recoiled from doing so more and more and more and more. That is on me.

I am innately driven towards protecting you (and my sister). I am driven towards protecting your choices in every possible way. 
Announcements are made about executive orders and I am still protecting you. The you from 45 years ago. The you who may potentially live another 25 years.

This is my own covenant without you.

I am a family of one.

It may not be the natural order of things, but somehow, this is what remains from what was given.

So does my love. And so does my forgiveness.

For years and years, I used to think that the world lied about families. About the ways families were meant to be yours forever.

But I no longer believe the world is lying. I had just been hurting each time I saw a film or a commercial or an intact family beside me at a restaurant that embodied that breathtaking quality of love. But then I taught myself something brave: to keep loving my way through every holiday, birthday, anniversary and even every surgery. 

I knew how to love others. And, as a family of one, this was what there was to do now.

Here is what I believe now: I believe we ALWAYS have what is ours. My heart has been through Olympic Trials many times.

You are my family even though you do not choose me. I may not be yours as you do not choose me.

For I am a family of one who loves many. 

I don’t define myself by loss or by what has been lost. I define myself by what keeps giving back to the source of the heart that beats love. And I am always going to want to be intimate with what those things are.

I am a family of one who loves many.

I am a family of one who loves many.

I am a family of one. 

And I will never stop 


Jill Bacharach 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Nothing causes me to feel more vulnerable than feeling like I am having a setback due to my neck injury.

The pain in my palms, the numbness in my fingers, the tingling down my arms. Even in the arches of my feet.

I was in an accident. I was riding my bicycle on a bright and beautiful day. I was wearing a whistle, and a bright neon yellow cycling jacket. The man who hit me with his large SUV told the police officer, “I didn’t see her. I was just in a hurry.”

I’m one of the lucky ones. But my life was radically changed the moment I couldn’t pedal fast enough to get out of the way, knowing exactly what was coming. 

The cervical spine was one of the final injuries to manifest. It is the one that causes me to feel the most vulnerable. It causes me to feel the most grief. And it shakes me into unknown territories.

Trauma was opened. And it has been held. The country is now stirring. My body is now revisiting these frozen places.

One of the first most heinous insults to come my way after my collar came off, upon seeing the gash across my neck, was being asked the following:
“Were you slashed by Muslims?”

My response was this: “I won’t even dignify that with a response. Enjoy your day.”

To my Muslim sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, children, and grandparents,


I am your neighbor. We are the same. I grieve for how you are hurting now.

I write this for ALL of us who hurt now. I don’t know the resolution for my body’s pain and distress in all of its new reorganizing manifestations. But I do feel afraid. This particular part of the body causes me to feel extremely vulnerable. Anyone who has injury here may understand.

I cannot help but wonder if the fear-driven administration’s tactics are working.

I can turn this post in that direction, but instead, what I want to do is say this: I am hurting and I know I am not the only one. What I know I want to do is to keep finding ways to help each other. No matter what.

Everything that happens to you happens to me and I won’t sit idly by and allow that.

For today and every day, THIS JEW IS MUSLIM TOO. #IAMMUSLIMTOO


#IAmMuslimToo #resist #resistance #NotOneMore #NoMuslimBan #HereToStay #WeThePeople #thisiswhatdemocracylookslike


Jill Bacharach

Thursday, December 29, 2016


During Alfie’s life, he came first before making any decisions. He was my priority. Always.

I wanted him to have a truly comfortable life. 



My most faithful companion. We were more alike than different. He would awaken during the night and I would know it. He’d lift his head, searching for me, and I would kiss the bridge of nose to assure him I was there. Down his head would go and all was well. This was just one of our many silent dances.

Alfie and I simply belonged to each other and aside from my beloved grandmother, he was the only other being who solidified a rock solid belief in destiny within my soul.

We chose each other. Plain and simple.


Two days ago, I could not stop crying all day. I even cried myself until I was so exhausted, the exhaustion must have finally offered me respite. Well, it turns out that that was the day my boy was ready to return to me. The Vet’s office said they left me a message, but I had no voice mail on my cell or landline. Their office was closed the following day and today was the day I learned I could bring him home.

I have been struggling with who I am without him. And I realize that in a tangible way, I struggled so deeply with the separation in this final reconciliation, wanting to have him here. When he was hospitalized, he did too. He only started eating again after they allowed me to see him. He wanted to come home to me. Not having him with me did not feel right, and my soul must have known he was close the other day as it has been yearning to bring him home.

I have been Alfie’s mom for 14 years and right now, I don’t know who I am without that role.

He was always acting like a sprite little pup, until changes began within this last year. Like he began to show me he didn’t want to do stairs anymore. And he couldn’t make it up onto the bed on his own.

When he became ill, I did anything I could for him and everything to keep him steady and calm. Like during hurricane Sandy. All I remember about Sandy was making sure that Alfie was warm, fed, and never felt afraid. I carried him up and down the stairs using a well-lit torch lamp, and I made certain that he never saw fear in my face or felt it in my body. It was the same during his illness.

What I struggle with now is all those nights. I don’t want to share what happened because caring for this exquisite being was tender and so intimate and breaks his momma’s heart into millions of pieces. But my boy stayed so safely locked into my eyes and never turned his gaze unless he was resting. He was so brave and would awaken with so much light and grace and a love I have never known before.

He let me feed him by syringe every two hours, this little man of mine. Day after day after day, until the days became weeks. His body completely at ease, taking a resting pose and even anchoring his paw around the side of the bed as I had the many syringes lined up for each feeding. And I didn’t know why. Until I did. Because he didn’t want to be without me. And he didn’t want me to be without him. He was preparing me.

Years ago, when a girlfriend of mine broke up with me, Alfie socked her in the eye the instant she said the words.

My heart warrior. That love.

When my hand was shaking last week upon signing his cremation papers after being asked if he had ever bitten anyone, that memory came right to mind. “Does a sock to the eye count?”


He was there when I lost my family. He was there when I bought my home. He was there through 3 hip surgeries, one spinal surgery, one shoulder manipulation, lots and lots of rehab, lots of yoga and even more rest.

He made me smile and laugh every single day.

He was the recipient of countless kisses.

He was my one and only.

He belonged to my tribe. And I belonged to his.

And all I know right now is that even though I am completely lost, I am so grateful he is home. With me.

Jill Bacharach 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Our America

True wisdom instructs us to do more listening than speaking.

I have been heeding this advice this week as much as possible. Perhaps to a saturation point, even.

What I see over and over is that people are panic-stricken and our children are terrified. This candidate ran a fear-driven campaign and he has subsequently, swept the nation with fear. I know of several parents who are taking their children to psychiatrists ranging from concerns to very grave, utterly heartbreaking concerns. I know of adults who are finding it hard to get out of bed. There are kids who are afraid to walk home from school, or even walk the halls inside their schools.

In Our America. The land of the free.


25 years ago, I was holding hands with a woman in Santa Monica and a large pick-up truck drove by in an attempt to try to hit us. I pushed my beloved to the side so she would not get hurt and watched as the maniacal crew drove away screaming horrible epithets.

5 years ago, just one week before the Marriage Equality Act was passed in New York, I was literally asked to leave a church in New York City for sitting quietly just because I was holding hands with the woman I loved. 4 years later, the Supreme Court made Same-Sex a Marriage Right nationwide.

We cannot afford to lose our rights. This is Our America. Land of the free.


I have been listening. And here is what I have noticed: I have felt the deep collective heartache of so many. It cannot be ignored. I woke up today and I can barely move. I have a titanium plate in my neck due to having undergone spinal surgery. I noticed today that I could barely move my neck. No, I didn’t fall. No, I didn’t lift anything too heavy. Here is what I believe happened…

The fear tactic worked.

My body is responding to the bully and feeling a significant boundary violation. He violated the boundaries of many of my sisters and brothers. He never held himself accountable for it. And our voices are still crying out collectively to be heard. We are somewhat frozen. But we cannot allow ourselves to be.

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I hear you. I believe you. I value you. I stand with you. I will not abandon you or this fight. I will defend you. I will try to help you. I love you. I am you.

We have enough momentum now to lean into each other. To validate each other’s voices. To keep moving forward. To listen. To hear each other. To see ourselves in each other and know that we need each other now more than ever. That we ARE stronger together. That we have risen.


This is Our America. And we will rise.

This IS OUR America. We have to keep naming it. Claiming it. Taking a stand for ourselves. Stand in our voices. Stand in our power and in our solidarity. We have to keep reminding each other who we are. We have to keep finding the best in ourselves and in each other. And we have to keep going. We have to keep going. We have to. 

This is Our America.


Jill Bacharach