Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘Holocaust’

Jamming My World

blog67

My forty-year-old Swingline stapler is jammed. I’ve stabbed myself in the thumb with a pair of tweezers, a pen, and now a knife trying to get it working again. I understand the urgency of my righting the stapler has more to do with the state of the world and my fear for the global future than the need to attach pieces of paper. But the world is an ugly place right now. Right now, it is really ugly.

I’ve tried to keep out of social media for the last two months. That world is another chaotic and mean venue. Real mean. One word and everyone descends to feed on your bones. Kind of appropriate for last week’s Halloween but I don’t want any part of it.

I’m not chicken shit, but life is tough, and I feel myself pulling away in response. As I get older, I wanted to get a little sweeter, a little nicer (that might be a stretch), and a little more thoughtful about where I put my fiery energy, but I’m not becoming any of those things.

In massage school and then again in yoga teacher training, come to think of it, even in graduate school, I have always been the fireball. The one who is not afraid to say what I’m thinking and usually a few others too, the one who will stand against what is wrong. This stance is necessary and right (and self-righteous).

I am pitta; I am Aries, I am the consequence of a history of inflicted wrongs, one who wants justice. I pick up my sword to fight but in the darkest hour of the night, when I am honest with myself, the question – do I like the Adrenalin high – pings around inside my head. What if I am addicted to fighting for the sake of fighting, basically self-mutilating to get that feeling of being on the side of justice?

And it is getting in my way of allocating my energy in useful ways – ways that are beneficial to myself and humankind?

My graduate school advisor, the thoughtful and wonderful Dr. Norm Thies-Sprinthall, told me to “Pick my battles.” My therapist, a kindly soul, told me to “Be careful with your judgmental stance.” My friends tell me to “Use your power for good not evil.”

So, I’m trying to use their words as my mantra and good grief, it’s hard work. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, I cannot look away. I could not live with myself if I negated the millions of lives demolished then, now, and into the future. I don’t want to dwell, hyperfocus, obsess because PTSD is an ugly and incapacitating result.

I need to find balance. I’m working on it. Paying attention to the world but placing parameters about the amount of time I watch TV or listen to NPR, spending more time with friends not talking or picking apart the latest terror, and guarding my sleep. Those 3 am panic attacks suck. I am so over them.

In the meantime, I am asking you to pick up the sword, pay attention to the world, while I get my own house in order. My father’s death and the repercussions hit hard. The move to Texas continues to be tiring. Coming back to jobs where I have been replaced while looking after my father and family was hurtful.

I stare at the stapler. Work dammit.

(My image – you can use it.)

Blow and Suck

pineapple

“Blow and suck!”
“What?” I said, red in the face and dripping sweat from exertion.
“I said, blow and suck.” She wasn’t red in the face. She wasn’t breaking a sweat. Things were happening on her end.
“Are you sure?” I asked as I caught my breath.
“Yes.” She said demonstrating easily. No panting. No dripping. No wasted effort. Calm face like the Madonna.
“Okay,” and I did exactly as she said.
“Aren’t you glad you followed my directions?” she asked.
I nodded with my mouth full. She looked on with pride, a small smile on her lips.

Those were my friend’s instructions for enjoying a pineapple milkshake through a straw. Despite the mostly creamy goodness, little chunks of pineapple would get stuck halfway up the straw. Blow and suck. Doesn’t it make sense now?

Her words sound vulgar out of context but I love the precision and brevity. Clear, pithy directions are few and far between. They are difficult to write. But when I screw up the courage to face what I honestly need or want or desire, the words come easily.

This is how I feel about writing. I can be all red-faced and stumbling, wasting time with trying to make it pretty or I can put myself out there. Concisely. With chunks of acute vulnerability. Sometimes my writing blows or sucks (depending on your generation) but I keep trying for clarity, for the honest words that could be off-putting but are true and direct.

At my writing group of many years, I read a story around the repercussions of my mother’s adolescence during the Holocaust. It’s not a pretty story. Neither my mother nor I look loving or smart or kind in the narrative. After reading the last sentence, I looked up from the page – into silence. Within a minute, one member rushed to the bathroom to throw up. More silence.

I put the piece away for a year but the value of the story kept pulling me back to it. I submitted the piece to an anthology for children of Holocaust survivors. The editor loved it but the anthology folded. He said that his authors had difficulty being brutally honest about their families’ histories. I submitted the story to other anthologies and publications. A flurry of rejections arrived.

Two years later, I tightened up the story and submitted it again. I believe in the story – a good story but dead of night dark, scalpel sharp, and so honest, my teeth ache, scraped raw. Waiting for a reply, I am gobbling down pineapple milkshakes. The calcium can’t hurt, it might be a long time before it is published, but mainly to remind myself about the need for and value of honesty, directness, and clarity in my writing (and life).

Now go out there and practice on your pineapple milkshake. Once you have that, risk honest words on paper. Blow and suck.

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