Posted by: colloquiallyspeaking | June 8, 2015

Broken Grief

This feeling…this sad feeling…covers me like a blanket…suffocating me slowly.

It is not a new feeling…it is an anticipated one.

Do not project…they told me…do not lose faith in humanity…you can never know the outcome…you can never know for sure.

So I tried not to project…not to expect to be hurt…

But I am not entirely foolish…and I let that part of me that knows better live next to the part of me that pretends risks are worth taking.

I knew.  I always knew…that I would be sitting in this puddle of pain…this dirty pool of sorrow…and there would be no one to pick me up.

This is Grief…this is all the damn stages…when you lose something you loved…or thought you loved…

At first…I kept a quiet Denial.  I was alone and afraid but if I didn’t say a word…it was as if it wasn’t there.

Then I yelled…screamed out the Anger that was consuming me…turning on the world…on myself.

Then I Bargained…for love…for attention…for validation.

And now…I’m sad…it is a different kind of Depression…not one born in my Denial…one that is like taking a deep…long breath…and holding it in for just a second more…

Because I’m ready for Acceptance.

I am ready to calmly walk away from my dying past…calmly acknowledge that I will not have what I deserve…and learn to love all my broken pieces…without the ones I’ve lost.

I am still sitting here…in my sadness…looking for a helping hand.

What I can see though…are all the Broken People…and they are reaching out with hands as filthy as mine…and we are singing our song again…irritating the Unbroken…as we bombard them with the truth of our shattered selves.

The Unbroken will ignore us for as long as they can…because the Unbroken do not like the smell…they do not want to deal with our puddles of shallow shit…they do not want to acknowledge the broken-hearted…they would rather turn us inside out…hang us outside the camp…and pretend they cannot see as we shrivel up and die.

So Broken People…let us become our own Broken Family…let us Accept together…let us finish mourning all the Unbroken who walked out on us…who left us buried in the sand…and let us move on without them.

But you Unbroken People…you don’t know what I know…you don’t know that being Unbroken…just makes you…Breakable.

When you’re sitting under your blankets of pain…I will be there…and I will reach out with a strong…reinforced…and loving hand.

Posted by: colloquiallyspeaking | May 19, 2015

Dear Asshole

(trigger warning – please don’t read if you are not in a safe place)

Dear Asshole,

I wonder, when you kiss your wife, if you remember what it felt like to shove your tongue into my mouth…your teeth hitting mine as you demanded I open my lips more..

I remember.

I can still taste your saliva…I sometimes feel as though my tongue is swelling…as it betrays me when I seal my lips and refuse any entry…even to love.

But you told me you don’t recall…so I imagine you kiss your wife without guilt or shame…

I wonder, when you look at her…if you remember when you stood with me and looked…and looked and looked…while I squeezed my eyes shut and held my breath.

I wonder this as I hide under my blanket at night…and shut out any light…as I press my hand against my eyes even if there is no one looking at me.

You remember that one…you told me so…except you told me it was normal and, for a teeny-tiny second, I believed you.

But it’s not normal…for me to hide my body from intimacy…for me to look in the mirror and shudder…no matter how many layers I have on.

So I imagine you feel comfortable in your own skin…after all, you’ve moved on.

I wonder…when your wife touches you…if you remember what you made me do to you…

I remember.

I still smell you.  I can’t get rid of the images of me kneeling at your feet…I can’t stop feeling your breath…I can’t stop all my senses from experiencing what was for you, a minor event…

My senses do not allow me to feel pleasure without fear.

Do you know what it is like to be overcome by fear with any expression of pleasure?

No, you wouldn’t know.

I imagine you let yourself experience pleasure because you think you deserve it.

I really wonder though…if you remember how I turned you down…and how you didn’t seem to care…

I wonder…if I had known it was because you no longer needed me…because there were others who could take my place…if I would have been so quick to stand up for myself.

Because now I feel guilty.

I feel guilty that I didn’t protect others…that I didn’t tell.  That I let you go on…

And that guilt makes me that crazy, obsessed person who can’t stop talking now.

I’m practically screaming it from the rooftops…twenty goddamn years later…when it can no longer do anything to stop the fucked up life I was forced to lead.

Oh I know you think I am crazy…I know you think I shouldn’t hold on to this…

I know you think you couldn’t possibly have screwed up everything for me.

But you’re wrong, Asshole.

You’re wrong about everything.

See, I lost my childhood because of you.

I lost my ability to trust.

I lost my ability to connect.

I lost my ability to live free.

I continue to suffer…every fucking day.

The worst part is that you took them away from me…

You made them have to choose a side…and they did choose…you.

So damn you, Asshole.

And damn the wife you never told.

Because I have nothing left to lose.

You do.

And if I sign this letter…the way I should sign it…

You will.

Posted by: colloquiallyspeaking | May 7, 2015

Skin Deep

“Imma,” she says in her ‘I’m going to tell you something incredibly insightful now so you better stop what you’re doing and focus and make sure your phone is on hand to record this’ voice, so naturally, I turn.

“I know you’re not going to believe this, so I’m telling you now you have to trust me that it’s true.”

I nod and put the phone down.  I’m pretty sure this is going to be one of those ‘let me tell you what happened on the way home from school’ stories, maybe a bit Mulberry Street-isque, but nothing I can’t breeze through on this typical, absolutely ordinary day.

“My friend told me white people are better than black people.”

Woah.

Stop.

I know she’s looking at me, expecting some sort of response…and I know she thinks this an important conversation based on how she prefaced it…but I am stuck with her words swarming through my mind because for some reason…I AM NOT PREPARED.

*

My first clear understanding of how white people who aren’t racist can sometimes get stuck staring down the barrel of racism came from an incident involving my little sister, my mother and the neighbor one lovely afternoon on our front stoop.

The neighborly conversation was interrupted by my sister’s investigative reporting on the color of skin.

“Mommy,” she said in all her innocent glory as she scrutinized the neighbor, “Why is her skin brown?”

My mother froze.

There was only a slight pause before the neighbor very gently squeezed my mother’s hand and took over.

She said something or other about the color of blood and how it’s all the same on the inside.

I don’t really remember that.

But I can still feel that pause.

And here I am in that same damn pause.

*

I must have gasped because she’s assuring me that she knows…but like, really knows, that this girl is wrong.

She knows that people are people and we are all part of the human race.

She knows that what makes you better are your actions and what makes you above are your reactions.

She was really asking me why people are racists…more importantly, why a fellow second grader who is her friend, is a racist, and I have so many answers and all of them are sort of my fault because I have not done enough to fight it.

I am not a racist, yet I hear racist conversation in the park and don’t respond loudly enough.

I am not a racist, yet I live in a community where the ethnic diversity is mind-boggling nonexistent.

I am not a racist, yet my city segregates residents and calls it ‘absorption’.

I am not a racist, yet I say nothing when my son’s ganennet mixes up the names of the children of Ethiopian descent and laughs it off because she “can’t tell them apart”.

Oh, I cringe.

I cringe when I hear complaints that “Ethiopians” are hanging out in the park and breaking ‘our’ public benches.

I cringe when my son asks if the street cleaner who greets us every morning lives where all the brown people live.

I cringe when my daughter and her friends refer to children born in Israeli hospitals to immigrant parents, (just as she was), as Ethiopians.

And I cringe when I find myself pausing that long, uncomfortable pause.

I don’t want to cringe.

I want to shout.

For some reason, I haven’t had the urgent need to shout because I somehow thought this was not my problem because I am not a racist.

I have the ‘right’ color skin so I never really felt racism.

I never had to fight for the right to be treated as just another human being.

I need to start fighting and it needs to start with that pause.

Because what I remember most about that day when my neighbor stood up for herself was that it felt like she was defending something.

The color of skin is not something we need to defend.

The answer to a little girl’s question should not have so much weighing on it.

And I will start right now.

For Baltimore.

For Tel-Aviv.

For the world we all share.

Posted by: colloquiallyspeaking | March 25, 2015

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Please continue with your daily lives, you wrote and I don’t know what you meant by that.

Was it your cheeky “I don’t want to hear you squeal so I’m acting all normal-like” attitude you sometimes revealed in our communication?

Was it your desire to remain waiting in the shadows where I think you have been lurking as you work on figuring out what your expression looks like now?

Was it that you felt this was an interruption of some sort?

Because my daily life isn’t exactly the same.

Now I think about you as I go about this daily life you speak of, and I wonder.

About you…about the life you are creating…about all the things that made you into this person I no longer know..

And I think about all the lost souls out there…who never thought they could write the words you wrote…all of them…and I wish I could stand on top of world and broadcast all the wonderful things you have accomplished…and signal to all the downtrodden – the neglected…the abused…the pained, wretched bodies trudging through this wilderness – a beam of hope…that could maybe draw them in just close enough…so that they can see what redemption looks like.

We cease to be beholden to our past…when the future shines its brilliant hues of love.

Posted by: colloquiallyspeaking | March 4, 2015

For You

I could do what you asked and write you a letter with all the things I’ve ever said to help you on your journey…but then it would just be another time I told you so…and I don’t want to tell you so anymore.

Instead, I’m going to put this out here…where it might not get to you right away…where you might have to think to look for it…and I’ll tell you what I really think.

I think you’re afraid.  Not of the past…not of the demons you cuddle with at night…but of the future…the future where you need to dispose of the past and acknowledge who you are and what you’ve done.

I think you are less fragile than what you want others to think of you.

I think your strength is the one thing you have tried to throw away so that you wouldn’t have to move mountains.

I think you have a massive heart that beats to an extraordinary rhythm you have not yet learned to sync with the brain you sometimes pretend is deficient.

I think you know how to love but hate how it feels.

I think you despise the word potential because it means those using it don’t really understand what you already posses.

I think you think you know all of this…and maybe you do…but I know you never let yourself feel any of it.

And so this is the only piece of advice I can give you.

Feel.

Feel it all.

The hurt

the pleasure

the shame

the pride

the guilt

the joy

the anger

the love

the betrayal

the loyalty

the loneliness

the fear

and the hope.

Feel it all.

And then come home to me, and tell me you told me so.

Posted by: colloquiallyspeaking | February 12, 2015

If I Could

If I could…I would tell you.

I would tell you how hard it is for me to watch you drown.

I would tell you how hard it is for me to keep my distance.

I would tell you how hard it is for me to know this might not be it.

If I could…I would show you.

I would show you how to break those bonds.

I would show you how to commit for real.

I would show you how to give in.

If I could…I would yell at you.

I would yell “DANGER!” as you open that bottle.

I would yell “LIAR!” as you spin another web.

I would yell “PLEASE!” as you turn away.

If I could…I would hold you.

I would hold you as the nightmares rage.

I would hold you as your body fights.

I would hold you as your soul caves.

If I could…I would whisper in your ear.

I would whisper words of love.

I would whisper words of encouragement.

I would whisper words of hope.

And if you could…I know…you would listen.

Posted by: colloquiallyspeaking | January 19, 2015

On Equality in a Kindergarten

She wants to make the gan Reform,” she says to her assistant.

I feel my cheeks burn and I almost turn away.

But…I can’t leave my son this way…in a room where he is taught subtle discrimination and stereotypes.

So I speak up because this is where it starts…in this room with 3 and 4 year olds running around an incompetent teacher who doesn’t understand me.

That was not my intention,” I say loud enough to assert myself and so that my son can hear.

I just don’t think the boys should always be the chazan [prayer leader].  There is nothing wrong with a chazanit.”

The assistant smiles.

You know my sister-in-law was a gannenet in a Reform gan.  I know what you’re talking about.”

I breathe deep and try to control the feelings rising up within me.

No.  You don’t understand.  My son told me that only boys can be the chazan.  And when I said a girl can be a chazanit, he laughed.  This is not about religion.  This is not even about prayer.  This is about my son believing that girls can’t be a chazanit.  This is about my son believing there are things girls cannot do just because they are girls.

Oh…I see.  You know you really are a unique mother that you think about this.

I almost lose it.

“I want you to know that if he were a girl…this conversation would have happened the first week of gan.  I want you to know that I am angry at myself it took so long for me to speak to you about this.  I want you to know that I believe in equality.  I want you to know that as much as I aim to empower my daughter, I aim to teach my son what it means to be equal in a world that sees him as something more because of his gender.  And it starts here.

She smiles.

“You know, I heard a segment on the radio about discrimination in the workplace.  They said that people are discriminated against for a sorts of things.  The color of their skin…where they come from…their religion.  If I hadn’t heard that I wouldn’t understand you!

“Yes, but here is where you start!  Here is where you educate the children about equality!  In this room!”

She has this blank look on her face and I know that she thinks I’m some sort of crazy feminist burning bras and damning the man.

I look around the room.

The boys and girls are all mixed up together…and they come from different parts of the world…and in so many shades of skin-color…and they speak different languages at home…and they pray differently…and they love like equals…and they fight like equals…and they feel like equals.

I tell my son there will be a chazanit because everyone can lead a prayer to a God Who sees them as equal.  I say it loud enough to ensure that the gannenet and her assistant can hear me…and I walk out of the room, wondering who I was begging to be educated.

Posted by: colloquiallyspeaking | December 10, 2014

Grown-up

I guess I’m a grown-up now, I think, as I sit here translating her words in my head, then translating my words before I stumble them out of my mouth and into the air where they embarrass me by screaming out “FOREIGNER” in this big room that can’t possibly hold the emotions she so casually throws at me with each word I am poorly translating in my overwhelmed brain.

I guess I’m a grown-up now.

Grown-ups sit in chairs built for little girls and stare across a giant desk and listen politely as big things are said.

Grown-ups can handle acronyms with A’s and D’s and H’s Boggled together with the shake of a wrist.

Grown-ups don’t think anything is wrong or that it’s anyone’s fault.

Grown-ups can be parents first and people wracked by guilt second.

Grown-ups can accept.

Grown-ups can get up and walk home briskly, make pizza for their children, reach out to another grown-up for help, and use the entire World Wide Web to understand exactly what it all means.

So here I am.

A Grown-up.

A gut-wrenching, soul-ripping, broken-hearted Grown-up.

Here lies a Grown-up…curled up on the couch…surrounded by crumpled tissues and words like psycho-didactic and evaluation and letters like MOXO and ADHD…

Here lies a Grown-up…feeling defeated by a system…mocked by fate…winded by the constant curveballs she always seems to miss…

Here lies a Grown-up…wishing with all her might that her not-yet-grown little vulnerable girl…could have been handed the card that this grown-up never knew…the one that didn’t make things difficult…the one that paves the path with rainbows and unicorns and never gets so dark and so scary that she hesitates…

Here lies a Grown-up…trying to breathe…to get the air she needs…so that she can open the door with a smile…and greet her wonderful, beautiful baby girl…with all the grown-up things…that will turn her into…the best kind of grown-up…any grown-up can be.

Posted by: colloquiallyspeaking | November 20, 2014

Intifada: Take Three

Today, I was on a bus.  And I had my headphones on because I like to listen to music on the bus.

But the driver…

He was in a bad mood…and I couldn’t tell why.

I didn’t know if it was because he had a fight with his wife…forgot his lunch at home…had to go through a checkpoint to get to work…was pissed off because I am a Jew…was frustrated that no matter what he does he is judged terribly…or because he is a radical Islamist who wants to kill Jews so he can be a martyr.

I couldn’t tell.

So I kept taking my headphones off and checking his face and his body language…and he was driving fast and I was waiting for him to crash into a bus or a truck or a tree and there were only old women and young girls on the bus and we didn’t have a gun and then I thought maybe I’d be the one to knock him out and grab the wheel but I wasn’t sure I could even turn the thing or reach the brake…and then Goodbye Yellow Brick Road came on so I put the headphones back on and cranked up the volume and thought it was a good song to die to.

On the way home the driver was a nice Ethiopian man and I smiled widely and thanked him profusely and wasn’t in the mood to listen to music anymore.

Because when there is an intifada…you do as you feel.  And you try to stay alive.

Posted by: colloquiallyspeaking | July 29, 2014

Brave

They are so frigging brave.

She never wants to go to school when she knows there will be a siren.  Yom HaShoa…Yom Hazikaron…and the days when it’s a drill.

Why do we have to practice?

So we’ll know what to do…in case it’s real one day.

She cries and we tell her to be brave and she comes home and says she clung to her teacher and covered her ears and that next time she’s not going to school.

The first time…we grab her and her brother out of bed.  We are on autopilot.  We don’t even remember how we know what to do.  We put them on the bed in the secure room and we shut the door and the window and we see that she’s sitting up and she’s sort of confused.

Did you know?

We look at each other…we choose truth because there is no lie to explain this…

No…we didn’t know.

So it’s real?

Yes…it’s real sweetie.

Oh.

She lays down and pulls the cover up under her chin.  We make the beds in the room and they sleep there.  They sleep there every night now.

We go to a carnival.  We have fun…we try to be normal…we smile and laugh and play…

We are on the way out when the sirens wail.  We turn around and run into the building…down the stairs…on the floor…it’s ok..it’s ok…it’s ok…

Hey guys…you ok?

My voice is not mine…it is calm and cool but it is not mine.

She whimpers for a minute…then she smiles.

I’m ok.

He grins.

I’m ok.

I am not.

It is night…they have already been tucked in.  We run in and close the door…and the window.

He jumps up and starts dancing on the bed.

Get down…get down…we have to stay down.

He laughs.

Everyone is in our room.

It’s so normal.

It is so damn normal.

She asks what we should do if there’s a siren on our way back from our long walk…we walked for half an hour…played at a park for a bit…walked back…and only when she sees our building from the path does she voice her concern…

We’re outside…where should we hide if there’s a siren?

We tell her.  The bushes…next to the wall…we have to lie down and cover our heads.

She nods and clutches my hand a little bit tighter.  And we keep walking.

He is in the kiddie pool on the porch.  I grab him and a towel at the same time and try to pretend it is ok.  We close the door and the window and we sit with the man who was working on our air conditioner and had been about to leave.  He babbles about the siren and the war and the soldiers.  I smile and hold him close…my clothes absorbing the water I pulled him from…and when it is over and we call his father…he tells him it was scary and then builds an Iron Dome out of clics.

She wonders if a siren sounds in middle of dinner…whether we should take our food.

He says he’ll be in the army when he’s a big boy and he’ll go in a tank.  He makes tanks out of chairs and boxes and brooms…and he shoots the bad guys and tells his sister he’ll make sure not to die.

They hide their disappointment when I say we can’t go to the beach.

It’s ok…it’s because there are no bomb shelters near the water…right?

No…but there are missiles floating in the water.

And I don’t want to be on a bus…or a train…or out in the open…because I am afraid.

But they were born in this land…and so they have breathed in her air…they have dug her earth up with their hands…they have covered their toes with her white sand…they have splashed in the waves of her blue sea…they have felt her sun warm their bodies…the clouds cover her sky and bring them bountiful rain…they have eaten her fruits…and have grown roots firmly in her soil.

So of course they are brave.

They are so frigging brave.

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