Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sticking With One's Nature

The French Open is on and not only is it one of my favorite events of the year, not only is my favorite player healthy and in attendance, but I am fully reminded of an aspect of myself which is coming back to life.  And that is beautiful.
There are so many ways a person can begin to disappear, and move far away from her true nature.  That was beginning to happen to me again and I have been working very hard, step by step, to call my soul back in order to make sure that I would not disappear.
As I sat in the theatre last week in New York, and heard the main character in Jon Robin Baitz’ latest play shout these words, 
“Most people don’t have to make a step by step decision to stay alive!”  
I felt pain for the character and the sheer agony she was in, and the magnitude of compassion that I felt for myself was unspeakable.  It was my birthday.  And I understood that statement far too well.
When I was 22 years old, I moved 3000 miles away from home in order to literally save my life.  It sounds dramatic, but I had been an anorexic as a 13 year-old girl and at 22, with memories of abuse suddenly arising and death surrounding me left and right, and a mother’s unbearable dependency, which I knew could not be sated, I knew that I was about to relapse and that the only way I could help myself was to go.  To go and help others and to therefore, save myself.  And that was what I did.
What I also realized at the time was that some of what had created the configuration of becoming anorexic and the lingering nature of the beliefs held around the need to be “less” came from the family system I was in.  I was continually being asked if I could just adjust myself and not be who I was and I needed to go and live 3000 miles away to learn and uncover who that self wanted and needed and longed to be.
She longs to be buoyant and she longs to be expressive and creative and she loves to laugh.
She is fiercely honest and pushy.  And when she once described herself to someone’s machataynim (mother-in-law) as a Pushy Jew from New York, the response was, “isn’t that redundant?”  
I read recently that Pema Chodron said that “honesty without kindness, humor and goodheartedness can just be mean.”  Now, what right do I have to argue with Pema, really?  But I do take issue with this quite a bit.  For many reasons.
There is a Meisner technique which actors learn in order to free themselves up in order to get TO THE TRUTH... It requires that they respond from their very first impulse.  In my opinion, this is why we BELIEVE some of the GREATS are not “acting.”  Because what is happening in front of our eyes is actually a “truth” being revealed in front of us.  But try behaving like this in real life and you will quickly hurt a lot of feelings.  I had read about the Meisner technique in my 20s and then decided to apply it for a few weeks.   And lo and behold, I did hurt a lot of feelings simply by saying what for me, was the truth.  Things as simple and as straightforward as, “you’re holding me back.” 
Then I learned greater skills.  You know, the kind of skills like, “when you do such and such, I notice that I recoil and feel hurt and then I don’t want to be around you.”  Still blunt, but more skillful.  
Back to Pema.  What if my true nature is that I am a Pushy Jew from New York?  And I simply want to cut to the chase and not dance around issues?  I know that is not ALL that I am.  I spent 13 days with my grandfather while he was in a coma, I barely ever left his side except to occasionally sleep and go to the bathroom.  I ushered him through every phase of loss as he approached that coma during the last year of his life.  The same with my father.  And the list of such occurrences is long.  
But back to Pema.  There is a person who has known me most of my life.  She is like family to me.  She will often say, “Jill, you’re not going to like what I have to say...” but I expect that from her.  It is ALWAYS difficult to for me to hear.  And I would not put it in the category of “nice,” but I WOULD put it in the category of LOVE.  
My shrink: the things she says to me are not “nice.”  If they were, I would be a fool to stay with her.  
But I think the point is in how we treat each other.  
What happened inside of me, inside of my family caused me to feel small.  And caused me to think that I needed to be and become a little “less” of who I was in order to be a part of that family.  And nothing about that is okay.
I had a teacher who said something similar to me once (she actually said, “if you could just be a little less YOU...”) and I remember going home, sitting with it, and then a hearing voice rise up inside of me and knowing so strongly, “NO!!!  THAT IS NOT RIGHT!”  
She told me that less of me would be better?  And what I realized was that in this evolution of me, with the right skill-set, and yes, with compassion and with kindness, (those who know me, know that I am all of those things, in fact, remember?  I was named a PARALYZED SENSITIVE???) the truth of me, MORE OF ME, is what is going to be better, NOT LESS.  MORE OF ME, is going to be the victory!
May we each find our way to our very own proud victories.  
Mine will surely be a loud cry of “VAAAAAAAAMOSSSS!!!!” as Rafa takes the Grandstand and an unstoppable laugh the next time I see my beloved teacher.
I hope that each of us will keep finding our way back to our true nature if somewhere along the way we have strayed.  I hope that we can honor one another in our victories, begin to learn more and more about each other, step by step, without peril and without fear.  And I sincerely hope we can keep finding ways to support each other in becoming MORE.
May your next victory make you proud.  
Jill Bacharach

Friday, May 11, 2012

Grief and Gratitude

As a yogi, you become extraordinarily sensitive to the languages of the body.  
Grief has a very distinct and particular language.
There is a look of grief you see on the face of someone who as experienced catastrophic loss.  This look is seemingly inconsolable and it pervades the entire gestalt of the body.  Grief is a language recognized and known deeply by those of us who have been faced with it. 
As I stood at my friend’s funeral yesterday and witnessed his pain, I stood and prayed for his heart.  A heart which was completely dismantled and lost and could not find comfort in anything in that moment.  
Less than one week ago his parents were alive, and yesterday, he was in a church standing before their two caskets.  
After I left the church, I was in a car accident.  
We don’t know what each moment holds.  One moment we are making a turn, seeing clearly and in the next moment, uncertainty arises.
Life changes in an instant.
I was hurt and I knew I didn’t feel well, but I walked away alive.
In the evening, I was to meet a woman I had never met before.  Someone who had her own stories of pain and perseverance, which amazed me in the ways she had written about them.  And I found myself inspired by the ways in which she had been healing, learning, and thriving from her experiences.  I knew it was very important to me to meet her and thank her for her offerings.  And so some months earlier, I “saw” this meeting as real.  
In thanking her for the article, she revealed to me that she had received very little response to it.
I was astonished.
I thought immediately of Matthew Sanford, “can you sit in the presence of suffering (and know your own story) without trying to fix it?  Can you be in the presence of another person’s pain and just hear it?  Just be with it- without trying to fix it or deny it or shape it into something else?  Can you tolerate brokenness?”
I heard Matthew’s questions in my head as my friend’s words continued to astound me.  
I breathed.  
But I didn’t mention Matthew (not until much later and in an entirely different context).  
What I said was that I was sorry.  And then I offered that I truly believe that people do not know how to respond to grief unless they have dealt with their own grief in a very real and sincere way.  That the way most people deal with grief is by finding ways to tell you how to NOT feel the pain you are feeling.  
“It will get better.”  “Keep a chin up!”  “It’s time to move on.”  A whole litany of responses which pull you out of your own feelings and demonstrate that the person speaking to you is truly uncomfortable and that there is no active listening happening at all.
Maybe that is why I immediately thought of Matthew’s questions.  Because I truly believe that loving humanity requires active and compassionate LISTENING.  And listening for what is called for may mean simply sitting with a person in her pain, sitting with your friend in her confusion or in her hurt for as long as needed.  Looking into her hurt eyes and acknowledging what is there.  
But there are those who do not know how to look into this very look.  Or respond to the sheer truth of it.  In real time or on the written page.
I needed to show up and say “thank you” for this offering.  The universe thanks you and thanks your courage, EVEN IF you have not felt that reflection back.  IT IS SO.  And I believe that the universe rewards the courageous who risk such exquisite heart endeavors.
The universe may have even been rewarding me.
I have been sorting through my heart these last years and trying very hard to heal it.  I have experienced catastrophic losses which I know I have allowed to begin to DEFINE ME.  By definition, I was becoming a person who experienced unimaginable loss, was in terrible pain and was doing all that she could to try to heal, but was not healing. 
Yes.  The truth is, I have been hurting.  But that needn’t be my story.
What I want is for the truth to be that I AM healed.
To KNOW that my heart is continually opening.
To know that that no matter how bad anything feels, that I will ALWAYS find my way.
The truth is, I AM all of these things.
The truth is I WANT to sustain them.
What a miracle it is to open to anyone no matter what happens.  We each meet as strangers and it is a gift to become close to another soul and to stand with them and honor them and hold them up through anything.  But to see them.  To just be able to see them.  
My new friend described me as unabashedly bold and direct.  
And anyone who knows me, a self-described, “pushy Jew from New York” knows how accurate this is.  And to know that even as I have been stripped down and felt terribly beaten up by life these last months, to see that an essential part of me came through in a way that was received “well” is a testimony to moving in the right direction.  
I was at Physical Therapy today getting help because the accident yesterday caused further injury to my already seriously injured neck.  
Somehow the discussion of the film “MILK” came up.  My eyes filled with tears and I began to tell the assistant how it is an absolute MUST SEE for everyone.  That it should be played in schools.  I went on and on.  She said flat out, “I WILL NEVER SEE IT.  I hate Seane Penn.”  This woman is a lesbian.  I asked her if she had any understanding or any gratitude for Harvey Milk, “the man” and his contributions to the gay and lesbian world? 
My point here is around gratitude.
My first spiritual teacher, Sylvia Boorstein, said something that has always stayed with me:  “The ultimate prayer, the prayer that comes from deepest wisdom is ‘Thank you.’”
Thank you, all of the time.  
Thank you for the car accident yesterday?  Hmmm... Yes. “thank you” that I walked away alive from it.  So yes, “thank you.”
Thank you, all of the time.
Catastrophic illness, the loss of a child, the loss of loved ones... I am not saying run and say “thank you.”  Let’s put that aside for now.  My point is to FIND gratitude. 
I am not sure what it is that I am meant to be doing right now.  I really wish that were not the case.  But the truth is, I DO KNOW my heart and I know my heart well.  And if I keep that place open and clear and keep trusting from the places inside of me that are steady and strong, then eventually the “doing” will come into the “knowing.”
Find gratitude.
Offer it.  Even if it is hard.  Because you never know what a difference it can make in another person’s life.   
Life changes in an instant.
And you don’t know what anyone else is facing or what can happen once you say goodbye.
Don’t wait.
Thank you, to everyone who has ever poured love in my direction.  Even if for an instant.  It has mattered.  It has changed me.  
Thank you.
Jill Bacharach

Monday, May 7, 2012

What Will You Do Differently?

When all is said and done, are you able to say what matters most to you?  And if so, would you stand for it no matter what?  Would you stand alone for it even if those you love do not support you?
Life is so fragile.  So unpredictable.  Do you know what you stand for and can you 
claim it fully?  Can you claim it without wavering?  Or are there things you have not addressed that you could lose the chance at addressing tomorrow and therefore, regret?
A friend of mine lost both of his parents two months ago within a day of each other.  Yesterday, I learned that an old friend lost both of his parents in a car accident just two days ago.  It was his mother’s 78th birthday.  
Mother’s day is coming up in six days.  Both of these men will face their very first Mother’s days without their mothers.  Both will have to attempt to explain to their children where Grandma is for the first time without having a history behind them to fall back on of knowing what it is like to live into such a day.
I worked with a life coach recently and she told me that I was addicted to narcissists.  I laughed and cried and laughed some more.  This was far from a surprise to me.  As abhorrent as I find narcissistic behavior to be, as difficult, as challenging, as much as I want to keep that textbook personality an ocean away from me and my psyche, clearly I still am trying to heal the wounding inside of me from all of the abandonment I felt having been raised by a textbook, classic Narcissist.  
You cannot heal a pattern by continually drawing the same personality towards you.  Not only have I continually recapitulated loss and abandonment by doing so, but this is also what is called INSANE behavior.  We all know this.  If we don’t, a quick tutorial: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is one of the classic definitions of INSANITY.
I consider myself to be a sane woman.  However, I do recognize that this particular vicissitude of mine could be characterized undoubtedly, as “insane.” 
I want to heal.  I want to heal.  I want to heal.  I want to heal.
One of the ways I have attempted to try to heal has been through tireless compassion and understanding of others with this same narcissistic quality.  But it does not work this way.  I always end up in the same place: exhausted, abandoned and hurt.
If from the inception, I was never supported, then the inner dialogue became “I cannot have the support I need in my life.”  

But nearing my 44th birthday, I no longer wish to believe this.  This is a core belief that I know is untrue, taught to me by a textbook narcissist who could not see past her own needs.
I look over the many failed friendships I have endured.  And as painful as it has been for me to watch my friends decide to walk away, I am fully culpable for the caretaking and the codependence I participated in.  I took care of big and loud personalities.  Famous people, not so famous people.  People whose needs were immense and exhaustive at the expense of my own.  And I have only myself to blame because I was still trying to heal a wounding in me.  “If I get this, I know will be okay.”
I am okay.
I am okay alone.
I am more than okay.  
I can be loved in spite of what or how much I give.
And if I just sit here.  With or without giving.  I may even be loved anyway.  I know I can be, will be loved.  And yes, I may even be abandoned.  For some entirely separate reason.  It’s all part of the risk of loving.  But not without some great learning along the way.
When I think about my friends and what they have recently lost, I know they are not debating whether or not their parents were narcissists.  But this is a critical time for us to show our humanity.  Not get wrapped up in minutiae.  It isn’t time to tell your spouse that they cannot go to the Wake because you don’t like someone who will be there: the sister-in-law or the cousin.  It is time to put yourself aside and think of the person in need.  
Decide what you stand for.  Offer that up in the most beautiful way imaginable.  Tell someone what they mean to you.  Give without expectation of anything in return.
Life changes in an instant.
What will you do differently today?
As for me, 
I am giving up my addiction to Narcissists.
Expressing my love LOUD and CLEAR. 
And having conversations with god.
With love.
Jill Bacharach