Letting Go, Mindfulness, Philosophy, Relationships

Do you trust me?

My one son has the memory of an elephant.

He can remember the details of events that happened when he was three, trips we took when he was four.

My other son — not so much.

He hardly remembers his best friends from America, and what he does remember is from stories we’ve told him and pictures we’ve shown.

We’ve fabricated most of his memories by sharing our own.

What I mean by that is, my son now claims to remember things I’m not sure he does.

He’s recounting stories of stories. Not stories about actual events in his memory.

Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist, claims that this is not unusual. That our memories are easily-manipulated.

Unintentionally, and intentionally.

In her recent Ted talk, she offers a firsthand account of working on a crime case gone horribly wrong.

A man was wrongly identified by his supposed victim and convicted of rape — purely on the testimony of a woman who claimed she remembered him doing it.

I’m conflicted by this.

On the one hand, I’m extremely uncomfortable that a person may be put in jail for a crime he didn’t commit simply because one or more people remembered seeing him at the crime — which apparently happens a lot (less so now that we can use DNA evidence). On the other hand,

I desperately want to be believed.

If it were me — If I remembered this man as the perpetrator of the crime against me — I’d better well be believed!

I want raped women to be believed.

I want children to be believed.

And, even when a crime hasn’t been committed against me, even when I have not been wronged, I want to believe in my memory.

I want to know that what I remember seeing and doing and feeling and hearing actually happened.

I am emotionally attached to my memory.

My memory serves me.

Most of the time.

And yet, intellectually I understand that my memory is nothing more than an ever-changing interpretation of an event or an experience.

I think about memory a lot — as a parent, as a child, as a wife, as a writer.

I am very conscious of making my children’s memories, for instance.

I am very conscious that no matter how hard I work to make them good, they might remember them bad.

It’s in these conscious moments that I have great compassion for my own parents.

It’s in these conscious moments that I feel frustrated, too — knowing that there is very little I can do to control or manipulate another person’s memory of me.

As a writer, I acknowledge that my memory is faulty, even though I happen to have one that’s particularly strong and sensitive to detail.

And yet, I honor my memory when I write. I let it lead me down dark hallways, and up vanilla-scented stairwells.

I let my memory pierce that outer wall of my heart so that I may feel love not just in the past but in the present.

We put ourselves at great risk by ascribing so much power to memory – -this is true — especially in situations where memory may put an innocent man in jail;

But if we don’t give so much power to memory; what then?

If we laugh at it; belittle it; if we judge it; doubt it; forget it …

What happens then?

Who are we without our memory?

Community, Family, Food, Kibbutz, Living in Community, Mindfulness, Parenting, Relationships

Smells of Shabbat

One day in the future
My son will need some air.
He’ll leave home
Seeking solace
If only for a minute or two.

On his journey toward temporary peace
He will come upon
The smell of roasted potatoes with rosemary
Two minutes to go til burning
The scent will float beneath his nostrils
And he will remember tonight…

Walking with me
Up and down emptying streets
Through quieting paths
Around quickly passing cars
Parking on the other side of the gate.

A walk
A gasp for air
A last chance to let go of all that was
And open to
what will be
This week

Uncategorized

Today is 9/11/13

On this day, when many of us remember a September 11th that felt out-of-order
(to say the least), we may find some comfort in… order.

9   11  13

is a sequence of consecutive odd numbers.

You may remember this from first grade, or from watching Cyberchase with your preschooler.

Or, it may have come to you quite accidentally while you were eating a chunk light tuna and cucumber unsandwich (aka tuna and cucumber on a plate.)

There you are, crunching away, and you think to yourself:

I wish I had time today to read or write a personal essay about the events of 9/11/01.

Then, out of nowhere, from where thoughts often arise, you see numbers scroll in your head.

9/11/13

Ahhh…that’s a nice pattern, you think. I wonder if there’s some gematria value or significance.

You add the numbers together in your head, 9 + 11 + 13 = 33.

Ah, you sigh again, 33. A double digit with repeating numbers. Nice.

You are also somewhat relieved that the numbers didn’t add up to 66.

You chuckle to yourself because you are superstitious.

And because you are suddenly present in that moment to how robot-like we human beings can be.

How quick we are to search for order as a way to make sense of madness.

But then, what else is there to do on 9/11, but search for ways to make sense out of madness?

Letting Go, Love, Mindfulness, Uncategorized

Joy ride

I almost got stuck in a worry this morning.

I was in my car, driving to an appointment for a medical test.

I started imagining doom and gloom.

But about five seconds into the worry, I shook my head. Literally shook it.

And forced myself to get stuck in something else.

Something joyful.

I quickly looked around for a prompt.

Once, not too long ago, the winding hills of the Galilee would have been enough to move me. The goats and shepherd along the road. The fields lined with greens ready to be picked.

But not today. The scenery didn’t do it for me.

Like a Freudian free association exercise, I quickly reminded myself how happy I was only three weeks ago to be driving at all.

Feel it! I told myself. Feel the gratitude just to be driving with a real, certified driver’s license.

Nope. Didn’t feel it.

Next, taking a page out of my friend Andra’s “First Times” series of blog posts, I tried to turn my attention to more than two decades ago when I first got my American driver’s license and when I finally had a car of my own. Tried to imagine myself 17, alone, on the open road, without a grownup.

Surely memories of my youth would move something inside of me, I thought.

And, indeed, something started to stir.

The worry moved aside for a minute. But the “something” wasn’t quite strong enough to overpower the worry.

Then in an instant, in the mysterious way memory works, I remembered a “first time” that would move me from worry to joy.

I was 23.

I had just moved to New York City from Washington, D.C. where I had studied.

I was living, at the time, with a bunch of girls in a dorm room at NYU to take part in the university’s Summer Publishing Institute.

That day — the one my memory drifted to this morning– was a typical stifling hot summer day in NYC in 1997. Extra stifling in the subway system.

There’s a long underground hallway at Times Square/Port Authority that takes you from what was then the 1-2-3 line to the A-C-E. The walls were peppered with advertisements, of course. But hanging from the ceiling was a series of signs…an art installation geared towards the walking commuters. It apparently still hangs today.

The series starts with one word:

OVERSLEPT

And continues:

SO TIRED

IF LATE

GET FIRED.

One in a series of subway signs at Times Square. Photo by Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

I remember being 23 and noticing those signs and having an out of body experience a la Steve Martin in LA Story.

“Are those signs talking to me?” I wondered.

I paused and considered what the signs were saying. Who they were speaking to.

And in my head, to the imaginary voice or to myself, I answered.

Not me.

“I’m not tired at, all. In fact, I feel more alive than ever!” I thought.

Those signs were clearly speaking to some very sad and sorry grownups — not me! — who were already tired from life.

I laughed out loud.

Grownups.

It suddenly occurred to me that I was a grownup!

“I can’t believe I am a grown up,” I thought. “This is IT. I am officially a grownup.”

My self-talk continued:

“Here I am.  In this subway station. Underground. Alone. On my own. Nobody here knows me. I can do or be anything I want. No one can tell me who to be or what to do anymore. I am an adult.”

I remember this as the exact moment I felt adult.

I remember a combination of terror and joy.

But mostly joy.

I wanted to dance around the room.

I was free!

Free to live my life!

Instead dancing, I just smiled.

I smiled at the strangers. The tired ones. The ones wondering, “Why bother?”

I felt sorry for their malaise, but I walked underground between 7th and 8th Avenues with a lighter step and a huge smile on my face.

“I am a grownup!” My smile said. “Just try and tell me what to do!”

The fragments of that smile remain today, sitting in the back of my throat, waiting for worry.

And I accessed that smile today and the emotions behind it.

Alone (!)

On my own (!)

I can do or be anything I want!!!

I laughed at myself, then

and at life.

At how funny life is.

At how funny humans are.

Fragments of a smile became a true smile of joy as I realized I was free.