Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Days of Awe

As I approach these Days of Awe, I sit in contemplation about my primary relationships.
There is a quote by Samuel Beckett that comes to mind:
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
I have failed many times.
I can sit back and say it was not for the sake of not trying. But as I approach these Days of Awe, I recognize that I wasn’t ready.

I had a habit of sending my partner back again and again to address the work that was her own to do (which is something I will always maintain), but what I see more than ever is that I needed time to heal a part of myself that had been harmed and hurt.
My partners wanted and needed me in ways that interrupted this healing and until this healing happened, I couldn’t possibly be ready for love.
15 years ago, on this holiday, my biological family chose to part ways with me. The details are messy.
For the next 10 years, I was lost. And I can finally admit, part of me was broken in a way that tried to heal and move on knowing my loved ones still lived and breathed in spite of me.

To say it was hard, is an understatement beyond understatements.

At year 10, after a lot of hard work, we reconciled. The reconciliation took time and care and a lot of love and it was something I never imagined would happen.
But, my family chose to part ways again. That was 5 years ago.

As I sit now, approaching these days, I feel deep compassion.

Compassion for myself. Because I recognize that this has been a lot to have lived through. And because I recognize it showed up in all of my subsequent relationships. The last one being the one which I experienced during the absence, the reconciliation followed by the departure again.
During the previous relationships, however, I now see that I was defended against being loved and defended against being ALL IN because I needed to save myself.
I needed to save myself from being left.
From being manipulated.
From being with someone who needed too much from me.
From someone who might hurt me in the ways my family had hurt me.
After having lived through the second leaving, however, I no longer feel this way. Something became inviolate in me and it was both soft and strong at once.

However, I recognize more about myself in relationship than ever. On the outside, it felt and looked like I was making only healthy choices:
sending my partner back to herself to do work that was hers to do, asking her not to put me in the position of doing it for her.
But on the inside, what I now recognize is that it was IN the sending her back where I was defended.
Until I had dealt with the ghosts of my family.
Until I fully faced the loss the second time.
As much as I loved hard, my heart was defended against being loved.
THAT was my ghost. And although I don’t have the answers as to what lies ahead, I know my heart feels steady even amidst the moments of pain or uncertainty or loss or anniversaries like this one. Which means to me that the ghost and I have become old friends and she has nothing to hide.

Have I been in a relationship since? No. But that probably has more to do with the last breakup than with my family. Or maybe it has to do with both.
But I learned a lot from stepping back in and I will never regret that experience.
I was no longer lost.
I was wholly accountable.
I listened harder than I ever imagined possible. As a result, words were spoken to me that were so painful, so unbearably painful, and… I was able to take them in and most importantly, I was able to forgive them.
I was able to do that because I had already experienced what life without them was like and the truth (as well as life experience) afforded me more clarity, more wisdom, and more love.

When they ultimately chose a divide at first I didn’t think I would know how to survive it. But then, I recognized that I had only shown up fully. That I was only there to love them. And that had been my only aim. I hadn’t been defended against being loved either. I had been all in. And although it failed. I hadn’t.

As these Days of Awe approach, I feel compassion for myself.
I can hold the truth now that I was defended against being loved. I feel the rumble inside of me when a cherished person is kind to me. The way it washes over me like gentle soul medicine. And I know that all is right with the world.
I also know that I have chosen challenging relationships in an attempt to heal the part of me that had been lost .
I feel compassion for those whom I was defended against. Yes, they sure had their work to do. Yes, we loved each other. But there was no way that our love was going to make it until I was left alone (which was something they each had a difficult time with) and which was so deeply critical and necessary for my healing.

I feel compassion for my family. I don’t know what they struggle with. But I know they are not immune to pain.

I feel compassion for all of us not immune to pain.

Most of this situation is in a place where love lives. It’s no longer dark. It’s not hidden. And it doesn’t shrink me.

As the New Year approaches, and as my heart expands, as this is the 15thanniversary of when this all began, I send love to all those who have loved me. I no longer feel defended against receiving it. I know now, more than ever, that love (most specifically the love that lives in me) never dies. And I send it right back.
L’Shana Tova.

Jill Bacharach

Sunday, April 29, 2018


She was Magic.

And that was what I called her.

She was pure. 

Just like works of art are pure. 

She used her words sparingly and it was such a relief because there was never any charge. The meaning was the meaning. You didn’t have to search for it. She pared down to their essence. And had mastery with words.

She was an artist. 

And because she was an artist, she saw you with a view like no other. 

This was her mastery. 

Her joy sat in deep crevices and was unleashed in the same way she loved the color white. It had no limits.

We had a shorthand. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. But it was extremely precise. Because precision was her language.

After 5 or 6 surgeries, my body hurt. My body was a body that held a lot of trauma. Beginning to walk, beginning to practice again took courage, even though once upon a time, I had been an athlete on my mat.

I trusted her. I always had. I met her a long time ago and I knew she was the one to go to when I decided to practice again and had both enough trust in myself and in the process of discovering with great care, who I was going to become. 

She is the woman I did privates with in her home studio... when I was truly beginning to recover. It was the beginning of things I still can’t even speak about because they land in ways that are simply sacred. Pure. They live in boundless precision. They live in a covenant I built inside of me with my struggling body, (and my ability to hear its call) and my tender yet, eager heart. 

Lisa and I had a shorthand. Because far too many things caused my poor body very very deep pain. And we both knew I listened to my body. 

I had the extraordinary experience of trusting her very deeply. She would be teaching a large and robust group, and all I would have to do was shake my head in an almost imperceptible way... and that was it. She would continue to instruct the class, and set me up in an entirely different organization. It was usually extremely involved. And it inevitably made me weep. Sometimes on the inside, sometimes quietly on the outside. But what happened IN me was extraordinary: it always healed a deep part of me like nothing else ever had in my body nor in my life prior to that moment of concrete organization. 

It was a profound generosity met with trust, silence, understanding, mastery, contained in a shorthand and held with kindness, reverence, compassion, and exquisite attention. 

Lisa always made me laugh and I have a big loud laugh which is not common or not often welcomed in the Iyengar community. But I never held back. I was just too happy to experience the spaciousness of her Magic. It filled me with medicine. Soul medicine.


We had it in our homes as well. 

We shared some things that we would chat about that made my spirit soar so high and it was pure joy to share with her and impossible to contain. 

Eventually I couldn’t come to class and that was when she could no longer teach publicly. While we were out at the same time, it was for distinctly different reasons and Lisa was so honest and brave about why she was sitting things out. She had always been profoundly compassionate towards me about my own physical pain and then her compassion obviously took on a new meaning. During this period, she shared deep deep truths with me which will never leave me. They are truths I can’t get over.

I’m bereft that her life was taken.

Lisa was Magic.

For me, she was always Magic. I’m so grateful that she knew I felt that way but I’m just so utterly heartbroken.

Given her life of service, I find it so fitting that the way she lived teaches me something every day. 

I see her and I hear her. And I just miss her. And that is the tragic part of living and loving deeply. The wanting to gaze into her eyes. The wanting to share those special things we loved. The wanting to hug her. To have the ones you love be with you forever, which is selfish and just not possible. 

I love her. I am always going to love her. 

She handed me a shorthand maybe because I trusted myself enough to know I could listen to her through the struggle.

Having a shorthand like this when you have struggled with so much physical trauma, trusting yourself in the presence of another... is extraordinarily rare... and it came with impeccable sweetness and kindness and humor and love and with a pristine gaze that is emblazoned inside of me.

The words Lisa spoke to me softened my ears. Softened my tissues. They changed me. They were consistently some of the kindest words I have ever received. 

Her precision was something I couldn’t close my ears or eyes to. 

I hope I can hear it in some magical way for the rest of my days. 
I hope we all can. 

I hope. 

I hope I can... 




Jill Bacharach

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The One Who Stayed

Today is the day Alfie breathed his final breaths.

He fought like a warrior to stay. Alfie gave new meaning to that word and subsequently healed a part of me that never quite knew that word could be a trustworthy one.

He even stayed for his 14th birthday. He didn’t want to leave. I know now that he stayed as long as he did against all odds, because he felt safe and held... in arms of love. 

A love he gave back exponentially. 

A love that filled me with joy for no reason at all which gave more meaning to its eruption. 

We were quite a team, he and I. 

This year without him has been something I cannot even put into words. Alfie stepped into my heart just a few months before my family walked away. And through our connection, grief turned into daily gratitude, tenderness, fortitude and something I can’t quite name. It’s the way you know a resilience in yourself in your capacity to be with all circumstances. Hard circumstances. Unexpected circumstances. Life’s full catastrophe. 

(The universe is miraculous in its great mystery.) 

From that point on, the bond we forged was ferocious, and also exceedingly quiet. Almost telepathic. 

Ferocious, resilient, telepathic love. 

Thinking of him in the past tense has been challenging and unnatural to me. 

Love breathed through him in a way that was pure and true. It was the highest form of sincerity and it humbled me and still deepens every day. 

He taught me every single day how to dig deeper. And from him I felt my compassion, my humility, patience, honor, and the grace of giving, giving because it comes from instinct. Giving that you never question because it is just that pure. 

He was and will always be the warrior of my ferocious heart.

Sweet Warrior of my heart, you have been the greatest gift of my life. 

Thank you for teaching me...

what it’s all about.



Jill Bacharach

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