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.