Friday, September 19, 2008

My Shape

This week marks the second anniversary of this blog and the first anniversary of the death of my father. My stepmother, Aliki came to the office for lunch. She brought a college portrait of my dad and set it up next to an enormous strawberry shortcake from B&L Bakery, his favorite. My father would be hurt to know how infrequently we talk on the phone and that I have only seen her a handful of times since his death. Too friggin’ sad for both of us. I still haven’t touched my dad’s office although Richard has appropriated the desk and spread it with unpaid bills, all the more reason for me to approach it as readily as a Skinner box. I loved my dad. I miss him. Richard listened to me on the phone negotiating with a customer and called me little Albertina. I learned many lessons from the old man. One year out though I also note that a new cycle in my life began with his death and as much as I miss him, there is a certain independence that feels frightening but exhilarating too.

I read my blog entry about my father’s death, one year ago and remember that bitter raw sad dead feeling and also reflect on the different incarnations of feelings there have been since. A year ago we also fired our contractor, after eight months of living in filthy debris and eating take-out it became apparent the job would never be finished to our satisfaction. It took an excruciatingly long time to find a contractor willing to undo the mess but now we are 99% there and I lay on my yoga mat and drank in the progress of the year and the beauty of the space that I created and I had, er…a moment.

I have been in and out of therapy and am “out” now but will be “in” again inevitably. To designate an hour, plus transit time, to talk about me is self indulgent. In the scheme of things, bootcamp and therapy and yoga are luxuries. A kitchen that is thrilling for me to cook in is a luxury but it adds a value to our house that is commensurate to the expense incurred by its creation. There are certain luxuries that are not only satisfying but equity building as well. I have a tacit agreement to keep myself physically fit and mentally nimble and to be of good cheer for Himself and two children and a staff of employees.

Therapy, while comforting and enlightening, is also enormously hard work. We all mythologize ourselves. We tell ourselves that obfuscations and omissions from our personal mythologies are insignificant but it is usually these lies and revisions and the shame that they conceal that are most salient. I still believe a lot of bullshit things about myself and unwittingly exaggerate or create spin. Therapy though has honed my bullshit detector and my time with Leslie has increased my self awareness and sharpened the distinction between what is harmless and what is harmful. I lie to myself less frequently now and have learned that my darkest secrets are just not that shameful because, even though I was often ineffectual, or worse, I have lived my life in search of love. The weight of my secrets makes me less loveable and through therapy I am less frightened to embrace the light of truth. I will add that my therapy and my life has been made easier because I end each day in the arms of one who so loves me for who I am. Through therapy I am better equipped to nurture this and so many other precious gifts. And, it is easier to cast away wrong or useless notions that I cling to out of fear and habit.

I sent a note to Harry asking about the Dispensationalist wing of Christian evangelicals’ spin on the rapture, as pertinent to the Jews, to bolster my indictment of Jews like Joe Lieberman who court their dollars. I naively used the word “evangelical” when I should have used “Dispensationalist” because, as Harry reminded me, there are many Christians who spread the good word of the gospel with spirits raised towards making life richer and more just in the present and with little focus on endtimes scenarios.

Haredi Jews keep themselves isolated and believe all manner of crackpot things. Dispensationalist Christians pour money into Israel and encourage Israeli aggression as their ticket to heaven. I know embarrassingly little about Islamic practice and belief except I noticed two girls in headscarves in the fifteen year old’s classroom and Himself dissed his Muslim officemate for eating during Ramadan. But I know that religious extremists of all persuasions, who take scriptural metaphor literally and are determined that theirs is the only path to salvation, do harm. I would fervently oppose any restriction of religious freedom even though we cannot offer this freedom to only those who partake of it mildly and inclusively. Perhaps some sort of participation in interfaith dialogue should be a prerequisite for the enormous tax exemption the U.S. provides religious organizations. Planetwide religious tolerance is too daunting for me to take on, but my instincts say that the Internet, schools, feeding hungry folks and a lot of psychotherapy will somehow be a catalyst and anything else I could proffer towards world peace would be like Sarah Palin opining on the Bush Doctrine.

That will be my last reference to Sarah Palin. She is a novelty. She is Disco Duck. She is Pet Rock. She will fade back into obscurity and be but the tiniest of footnotes. But, I did send some money to Planned Parenthood yesterday. The site enables you to make a designation honoring anyone you like. I made a tribute to Bristol Palin and had the acknowledgement mailed to Sarah, c/o.
McCain for President 1235 S. Clark Street 1st Floor Arlington, VA 22202

My parents thought organized religion was greenhorn and backward and primitive and pricey but their hard work provided me with an education which helped me give voice to the inarticulate spiritual yearnings of my childhood. My parents were both baffled at my synagogue affiliation. I was actually on the board of directors of two different synagogues, an officer at the local Jewish community center and I wrote a column for the Jewish Journal but my mother was the most proud that I’d bettered myself by snagging a Catholic husband and had kids who didn’t look Jewish. My father was also proud that I’d managed to sucker someone into marrying me and most of all that I lost weight and “had a shape.”

Neither parent ever knew how much I’d spent on therapy. Himself and a small cadre of old (not just in terms of duration of friendship but chronologically old too now) friends pretty much get the “it” of me, irritatingly, often better than I get it myself. But I took my parents’ gifts and sacrifices and ran with them to a place, which even at their most alive and fit, they could never fathom. Before the onset of dementia my mother barked at me for the millionth time how I was to proceed in the event of her death. I told her not to waste her breath because that would be the first time in my life she wouldn’t be able to tell me what to do. I took my parents gifts and bettered myself and now have the audacity to breathe a sigh of relief at having to answer to them now only in my head.

1 comment:

FionnchĂș said...

And I appreciate, I admit in this public forum, your herculean (better than sisyphean) efforts towards self-renewal. I guess being suckered into the marriage wasn't so bad, although the combination of remodeling and parental collapse, as often predicted by those who have survived such trauma, did nearly do us in! But, for the sake of the pets, if not our boys, we hang in there, baby! Stay proud. xxx me