scarlettina: (Jewish: Star)
Tonight is Kol Nidre, the holiest night in the Jewish calendar, the night that begins Yom Kippur--the Day of Atonement. I am not at synagogue tonight and won't be tomorrow because I didn't plan properly. I had dinner around sunset; technically my fast has begun. And so I'm thinking hard about trespasses and forgiveness. And other stuff.

I recently had a devastating falling out with someone I love. The trespass was his; it's been hard for me to get over it, more so as I learned of its magnitude. I'm mourning what we had, what I lost. He keeps apologizing. I've been thinking hard about those apologies and what I've come to is that there's apologizing, and there's asking for forgiveness, and they're two very different things.

An apology is an expression of regret: I'm sorry I did thing X. I have acknowledged the apologies. I understand that he regrets what he did.

There has been no request for forgiveness. I looked up the word in the dictionary to be sure I understood its technical meaning. Merriam-Webster's says that to forgive means:

to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone) : to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong) : to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed).

I'm still angry. I still feel betrayed. I still hurt so much. Mostly what I am, though, is sad. Disappointed. Bewildered. Exhausted. Every time I think about the trespasses committed, I get upset all over again. He hasn't asked for forgiveness; perhaps he believes that my response is justified. I certainly do. I don't know how to let it go, perhaps because I know that some of the circumstances that precipitated the trespasses haven't changed and most likely won't. I don't know what to trust anymore. I miss him terribly. But I know that I'll never be comfortable with the new state of affairs he has created. I don't need another source of pain.

On Yom Kippur, we are supposed to admit our trespasses and ask for forgiveness: of G-d, of ourselves, and of others. We are supposed to make a clean start to the new year. Make a clean slate.

I have been vain. I have been selfish and inconsiderate. I have been covetous and jealous. I've been impatient and unkind. I have been angry and hostile. I admit all these things and I do regret them. I ask G-d and the people I love to forgive me of those things.

Am I worthy of forgiveness if I can't find it in my heart to forgive someone else? I don't know. I'm not perfect; I don't expect others to be. I suspect that G-d doesn't expect me to be perfect either. But there are some things I do know: I deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. I hope that those I love will give what they've received in turn. I deserve to be a priority -- someday, I hope, someone's first priority, though I know that such particular prayers sometimes just never get answered. Sometimes the answer is "no."

When I was a little girl, a Hebrew school teacher told me that she'd seen her father cry in synagogue every year on Yom Kippur. She said that he stood in fear of G-d as he asked forgiveness. As an adult, I've stood in synagogue on Yom Kippur and wept, mostly in regret for things I've done. The first time it happened, it surprised the hell out of me, but I couldn't stop, and didn't, for more than an hour. I asked for forgiveness. I promised to strive to do better. At the time, I didn't know if I was promising G-d or myself. In retrospect, I think I was promising myself by way of G-d. One way or another, it was cathartic, and I suspect that Yom Kippur, in part, is intended to be a catharsis. It's sacred time set aside for reflection and resolution.

So tonight I reflect. Perhaps resolution will come tomorrow. Maybe forgiveness will come. For myself, I hope. But if I am to hope for forgiveness for myself, it's only just to try to find my way to forgiveness for him. I don't know when or how that will happen. Or even if it will. If nothing else, I need to find my way there for myself, because carrying all this anger and resentment can only be self-destructive. Maybe it's just too soon. I'm still so raw; I feel like I'm just one big gaping wound. Forgiveness doesn't just happen and it can't be forced. So if I ask tonight for forgiveness for myself, then perhaps I'm also asking for the time and strength and healing to find it for another. Some day.

The press of time

Wed, Feb. 3rd, 2016 08:58 am
scarlettina: (Truth shall make you fret)
I joined Facebook long after it became a Thing, and only after being shamed into it by a coworker. Within the space of 24 hours, I had over 300 friends. Said coworker was blown away and asked how it had happened, given my reluctance to join. "Life," I said. "A long career," I said. "Lots of friends," I said. With time and the peculiarities of the internets, that figure has settled at around 950. I'd say that I know in person--or at least am personally acquainted with--at least 90% of those people. The other 10% are friends of friends whom I've gotten to know online. Though that number is high, I'm actually pretty careful about who I accept as "friends" on Facebook, and I do occasionally cull the list when it becomes clear that someone either isn't really very friendly or asked me to be friends for some reason that turned out not to be genuine or appropriate or disappointing.

One of the weirdnesses of Facebook--some would say it's a blessing, but given my experience, it's just been weird--is reconnecting with people from as far back as elementary school. My earliest best friend--from the low single digits--turned up, and she's as sweet as I could have hoped for: smart and funny and someone I'm glad to call friend again. Someone who was nothing but mean to me in high school turned up asking to be friends--and I decided I was going to be so nice to him that he was going to regret his behavior . . . and he did! He very seriously apologized to me, and now I'm "hon" and we joke pretty regularly.

Among the people with whom I've reconnected are friends from high school that I knew marginally well, with whom I shared membership in drama club and that kind of thing. I got together with a small group of them when I visited Long Island in 2011, like a mini-high school reunion. Among them was SSK who, as it turned out, had become a family doctor and something of a local rock star as a result. She was lovely, bubbly, funny. And we kept in touch afterwards, mostly in the casual way one does on Facebook. At the time, I didn't know it, but she'd just been diagnosed with cancer. Pictures of her with a scarf around her head started showing up online. More recently, her local friends ran a campaign to get Paul McCartney to sing happy birthday to her. The campaign failed, but a number of us stepped up to do it instead (including me). News came about a week ago that she'd gone into hospice.

This morning word came that she died at 3 AM. :: sigh ::

I'm glad that we'd reconnected, even in the way one does on Facebook, caring just enough to check in online, but maybe not enough to make a phone call given the casual nature of the connection. It was OK; it was OK with both of us. I'm glad I made the birthday video for her; she knew I was thinking of her. This is what we can do, at minimum. I know I couldn't have done more at such a physical and emotional remove. I even know that it might not have been appropriate to do more, all things considered. But I think about it.

In a conversation on Monday evening, I mentioned to a friend that I was feeling the press of time. It's always at times like this that said pressure becomes more intense. We ask ourselves questions about what we're doing with our lives, are we making a difference, have we been good family members, good friends. The answer is that we do the best we can do. And if we don't feel like our best is good enough we strive to do better--or whatever it is we think is better.

One day at a time.
scarlettina: (wtf?)
I spent a good portion of the day on the couch, feeling rather low energy, and so had the TV turned on to something mindless, in this case the TV series "Ancient Aliens." I remember my mother having a copy of "Chariots of the Gods" in the house. The idea (in case you're unfamiliar with it) is that aliens visited Earth thousands of years ago and are responsible for many human technological wonders and advances, including amazing architecture, gargantuan statuary and so on. Erich Van Daniken's basic premise includes the idea that evidence of alien presence in ancient times is all over Mayan bas relief, Egyptian pyramids and so on. The episodes I watched this afternoon credited everything from bible stories to Nikola Tesla's personal brilliance to either the direct influence or the indirect guidance of extraterrestrials.

While all this is entertaining stuff, I find it remarkably limited in its vision. In short, if you believe that ancient aliens are responsible for things like the creation of Rapa Nui's moai, the building of the pyramids, and Tesla's amazing intellect, you discredit humanity entirely, our potential, our vision, our creativity. We are nothing in the grand scheme, worthy or capable of no genius, no inspiration, no vital spark unless it comes from elsewhere.

Now, it's true that Tesla believed in the possibility of life on other planets and even wrote about communicating with the inhabitants of Mars if they in fact exist. So do I, for that matter. But he roundly disagreed with the idea that he himself was anything special or otherworldly, as was hinted at during his lifetime. So to see these TV shows theorizing on that idea is not only kind of silly but in direct contradiction to his own convictions.

Van Daniken appeared in a couple of these episodes, bound and determined to be heard, completely convinced of his premise. He kept saying that his job was to make people think and question conventional approaches to archeology and history. And all I could think was that all of his premises were based on surmise and interpretation, not research, evidence and careful validation. As a result, he gives humanity no credit at all for its accomplishments, its growth and development, its own progress and brilliance. It is, frankly, insulting to the rest of us. (It's actually a rather neo-Republican perspective, as I think about it.)

Personally, I'd rather believe that we are the products of our own evolution and development, that we produced the masterworks of our world. The concrete evidence supports it. I won't say that I don't look forward to the day I can shake hands with extraterrestrials; I do, with great enthusiasm. But I won't give them credit for our accomplishments. Absolutely not.
scarlettina: (Angel)
I don't typically think of myself as "rich." Comparatively speaking, financially, I'd say I'm comfortably middle class, if such a thing still exists in these United States. Every now and then--such as my trips to Kenya or Europe--I am reminded that my self-perception isn't wholly accurate in the context of the larger world, that I have resources others don't partly because I'm single, partly because I attempt to be careful with money, partly because I work in high tech, and partly because I go without some things so I can have other things. And partly because, well, I'm white, American, well-educated, and was born into a family that valued me, that valued education, and that valued finer things even if we couldn't always afford them. I know that compared to many places in the world, I live like a princess in my spacious condo with more clothes than anyone really needs, my own car, clean water, ample food, and loving friends and family.

I had two encounters recently that made me extremely aware of my privilege, though, and they got me squirming a little bit, and trying to figure out how to be more aware.

Examining my privilege )

I'm not sorry for or ashamed of the things I have, the place I live, or my advantages. There's no question I started in a privileged place in life. At the same time, I've struggled getting to where I am now, I've overcome some pretty tough stuff over the years, and I've achieved a lot of it on my own. But encounters like this are good, if uncomfortable, reminders that I do need to be more aware. I need to maintain some perspective. Maybe I need to come up with a roster of neutral conversational topics so I don't inadvertently flaunt my advantages. I don't know. What I come away with from all this is that I need to be more aware. I guess I'll just keep figuring it out as I go along.
scarlettina: (Daffy frustration)
So . . . we all gathered at the Six Arms today, ostensibly in honor of Jay. A lot of folks were there. I knew all of them. We greeted each other, hugged. We ordered food. We talked a little about Jay. We talked about a lot of other things. And then [ profile] ebourne and I left. We went and had ice cream. And . . . that was it.

I have been dreading today. The closer we got to it, the less I wanted to go. E and I went together to stave off that reluctance, and I think it was the right thing to do for both of us. In the end, though, it was all rather anti-climactic and, for someone like me who values ritual, it ultimately left me feeling at loose ends. I still don't know what it is I am to do with . . . whatever it is I'm feeling. It's not like I'm a stranger to death or mourning; I don't need to be told what to do or how to handle this. It's just . . . everything is weird and reversed and I'm kind of frustrated and angry with it, and today only exacerbated that feeling.

When it was decided that there would be a JayWake--that pre-mortem party thrown so that Jay himself could attend his own wake, as I noted at the time, my inner response was, "My mourning is my own business. Get out of my process." I attended--I wrote about my feelings in that link; you can go read it if you like. I thought I was OK with it all. Tonight, I wonder if I wasn't dancing around things a bit.

Wakes, funerals, memorials, life celebrations, generally are for those left behind. But ultimately, JayWake was all about Jay, not those in attendance--which, I understand now, did in fact f*ck with the social construct and purpose of a wake. It was more of a roast than a wake, one more JayCelebration for Jay rather than rite of passage and healing for those to be left behind--great for Jay, not so great for the rest of us.

With a private memorial that so few were invited to attend, a lot of us were just sort of cast off to deal with stuff on our own. Today's gathering was thrown together quickly, with no formal structure of any kind--which I'm told is what a lot of people wanted, no structure, just an amorphous gathering. Well, it didn't do much for me. As I said at the beginning here, I'm left frustrated and angry. I feel like our mourning process--well, I shouldn't speak for anyone else--I feel like my mourning process has been circumvented, devalued, as if my need for ritual had to be subsumed in what Jay would have wanted: nothing formal, no, no, can't be a downer, let's all party!

Except, God dammit, Jay isn't here and I'm f*cking tired of doing it the way he would have wanted. He is gone. I am here. We are here. In doing nothing formal, we're not talking about the thing we all need to talk about most. We are being very American, oh so 21st century, very atheist, and very Seattle: passive aggressively pretending that nothing was wrong because it's too hard to cry together, to mourn together, to publicly, explicitly acknowledge in each other's company that we hurt so that we can hurt--together--and start to heal.

I am not done with this. I want to find a way to ritualize a farewell. If anyone wants to have a more formal farewell than we've had, well, we should talk about it. The hell with what Jay would have wanted. He's gone. We're here. How we feel counts. And today? Today felt like one more exercise in creative denial.

Mother's Day

Sun, May. 11th, 2014 11:49 am
scarlettina: (Creating yourself)
So . . . it's Mother's Day in the US. For those of us who lost their mothers young, it's always a tough day. I miss my mom. I was angry at her for years -- when she got sick, when she died. I was angry at her for how she dealt with my father's death, but that's mainly because at 11 years old, I didn't truly understand what she was mourning, and I was busy mourning, too. When I lived back east, Mothers' Day was the day I went to the cemetery. Fathers' Day, too. I had a lot of residual anger at my mom that I've worked my whole adult life to process and, somewhere around 10 years ago or so, it seems to have just evaporated. I'm sure that this was the result of a lot of years of therapy but, more importantly, I'm sure it was also the result of just getting older, accumulating more experience, thinking and processing everything that happened, and then letting go of the things I had no control over back then and things I'll never be able to change. This is part of the process of growing up, maturing -- in one fashion or another. I can love her for who she was and all that she brought with her. I can love her for what she tried to do and for what she succeeded in doing. I can love her for making me and my brother. I can love her.

I always wanted to be a mother. I very much wanted to have children. I think I've written about this here before: that I wanted to have a family, but I didn't want to do it alone. I considered single motherhood. I wrote up a list of the friends I thought I'd ask about donating sperm, though I never floated the suggestion with any of them. (My list today would be significantly different than it was back then, with one key exception.) But in the end, doing it with a partner was key, and I never quite managed to find that partner. (Not saying it won't happen, but the childbearing aspect is pretty much a non-starter at this point.) And so there are no children. It still makes me sad. And I still find myself thinking things like, "When I have a daughter . . ." I can't seem to break the habit.

On Facebook today, I've seen people saying things like:
  • "And for all women who chose not to be moms: you made a valid choice that was right for you."

  • "My deepest love and respect to any who have accepted that extraordinary challenge; to all who seek to do so; and to all who made the equally righteous choice to leave motherhood to others for one reason or another."

  • "So, happy Mothers' Day to all you women out there; chances are that, even if you haven't mothered a human child, you've mothered a cat or a puppy or a friend in need. Cheers, all of you, all of us."

I find these posts enormously comforting. I made my choice for the right reasons, even though they were hard reasons. But they were the right ones; of this I am certain. It's a balm to me to see acknowledgment of those choices as valid and worthy.

And you know, if that last quote has any bearing at all, then for Flatbush, Merlin, Spanky, Sophie and Ezekiel, I've been a mother -- mother enough at any rate. And if it's not too self-aggrandizing to say so, I think maybe I've been a mother to a friend every now and then.

I'll take that, for what it's worth.
scarlettina: (Creating yourself)
As I start this journal entry, it has no title because I'm not sure of all the ground I'm going to cover; I know it will be wide and deep. Perhaps the entry will have a title before I'm done.

About 6 weeks or so ago, a friendly acquaintance sent me a letter via Facebook, telling me that I'd helped make his life over the last few years well worth living, that he appreciated my friendship. I was delighted, if a little surprised, at this outpouring. I knew that he was getting ready to deploy overseas--he's in the military, with the Army Corps of Engineers--and would be gone for a year. We see each other annually at Norwescon, as we did this year, though we didn't get to spend much in the way of quality time; we didn't have a real visit for any number of reasons. We don't know each other very well, but well enough to have fostered a certain friendly affection--we each give good cocktail party talk, flirtationally (it's a word now) we each give as good as we get, and have learned a little about each other's lives over the last couple of years. He lives, I have learned, in a very different world than I do; I want to learn about that world because, in some senses, my friendship with him is a kind of experience of the Other that is rare. My primary reason to spend time and keep in touch with him, though, is that we like each other and have much in common. We've just experienced it in very different ways. I thanked him for the note, expressed my surprise, and he said that I shouldn't be surprised; he meant every word of it. A couple of days back, he texted me a picture of himself in camo, saying he was about to head out--he'd see me in a year. I told him to be safe and to come back in one piece and asked for an address where I could write. He promised one when he discovered where he would end up. I just received his Skype address. And suddenly his friendship is that much more precious to me.

I have friends who are veterans, but with one or two exceptions, their friendship came in the wake of their service, not during same. It has been said that convention friendships are years long and weekends deep; in this case, that is absolutely true. The convention space fosters strange, intense connections because of the kinship created by shared enthusiasms and shared energy. And so as this friend departs for parts distant and dangerous, I am worried, I am hopeful, and I am watching his Facebook page and email/texts to see whatever news may come.

As I temper my concern, I am put in mind of another friend who has decided that the best course for his life is to engage in life-threatening behavior as a recreational activity. There is nothing about what he is doing that is harmless. It is behavior in which he engages with complete awareness, provides momentary pleasure and comfort, and could kill him. I was ferociously angry when I learned about it, and terrified for him, and I find that I'm angry, still. I have compassion for him, I love him, and I understand why he does it, but none of that matters to my anger (or maybe the love does; maybe that's why I am so angry).

So here I have a friend who goes willingly into life-threatening danger for a cause larger than himself, and another who thrusts himself toward danger for the comfort and the thrill. I have friends who fight for their lives every single day as a result of illness over which they have no control. And I consider the idea of taking one's life into one's own hands.

It's a strangely vivid phrase, as if life were a tool--a knife, a plow, a wrench, a brush, or a pen. I think about the ways in which I have taken my life into my own hands: my travel, my weight loss, dating, editing and writing. Deliberate choices, all. They are such different ways of doing this thing that they could almost be said to be entirely different from the things I talked about above, and yet they are not. All of these choices are about behavior, about control--about, well, living. Sometimes, even when we think we've got control or we do things that guide this wild horse we ride every day, it's beyond us. That's what my dating life--what little there is--feels like sometimes. No effort at finding a permanent partner has ever panned out; it preys on me, lately, quite a bit. My travel has resulted in enormous rewards for me; I suspect it will continue to do so. True of my creative life, too, for the most part. My work life has always felt like a mixed bag, so much of it out of my hands. We control what we will, what we feel like we can.

I suspect--no, I know that there's a point beyond which we have control over nothing. That places greater weight on the choices we make that we can control. Which means we might want to be thoughtful about those choices. If we have one life to get it right, then we ought to make those choices mindfully. I don't suggest that there should be no spontaneity or serendipity; they are vital and necessary to a life well-lived. The unexpected opportunity, the magnificent discovery are what makes it all worth it. But we have to be present for those things, present physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually.

I'm not sure where all this thought is leading to. I know I want more direction than I have. I feel like, at my age, there ought to be more than there is. I look at these friends who have made choices to do these dangerous things, and part of me feels like, well, at least they made a choice, whether or not I agree with it. I look at friends who are monstrously ill and see them making choices about how they live, about how they'll die, choosing directions, taking their lives into their own hands.

Sometimes I am desperately afraid of that. Sometimes I desperately want to do it and don't know how. Sometimes I think what I don't need are hands to take control, but gills, fins and a tail to just keep swimming, as if movement itself were a kind of control--as long as I'm moving, I'm making decisions and taking control without overthinking the process. Maybe that's the key: to not overthink it. (Um, to the person writing this, I say, "Have you met me?")

If life is a tool that we take into our hands, the question becomes the greater one: what do we do with it? I want to create: love, art, family. I want to build. I want to make rhythm, rhyme, vision and thought. I want to foster experience--my own and others'. And I do want to move in some direction. I still haven't figured out which one yet.
scarlettina: (Truth shall make you fret)
I was going to make a "Five Things..." post this morning. But one of those five things was provoked by Trish Sullivan's post about sexism in SF and the Rod Rees debacle, which I still haven't been able to find anything about online; my Google-fu has failed me. But the Google brought up the Resnick/Malzberg genderfail, and it quickly overcame the other four things I was going to post about. So here's a post about the Resnick/Malzberg thing along with related ideas, and I'll post about the other stuff a little later.

I haven't weighed in on the whole Resnick/Malzberg SFWA genderfail mainly because so many others have been so much more eloquent about it than I think I can be (with thanks to [ profile] jimhines for the awesome round-up). What I see as I read through the original Resnick/Malzberg dialogues and all the response they've provoked is a couple of men clearly out of touch with the social dialog on sexism and completely unaware that, generationally speaking, they're oblivious, outgunned, uninformed, and were completely unprepared for what hit them. No argument they've marshalled in their own defense addresses the complaints lodged against them because they don't understand the complaints or the history and perspective behind them. They don't get it.

And that obliviousness is something I've had to wrestle with myself a bit as I get older. Case in point: Several months ago, a writer of whom I'm enormously fond both personally and as an author posted a portrait of herself online. She's lost weight and has been working out like a queen bitch; she looks awesome. But I found myself channeling my mother when I said, "Great pic--look at those cheekbones--but smile!" and found myself scolded for telling a woman to smile. I was a little blindsided by the scolding. I had missed an entire social dialog that centered around the idea that it's not OK to tell a woman to smile because it communicates that we are worth nothing unless we are, first and foremost, decorative. The picture reflected the success of her efforts whether or not she smiled. I Got Skooled. And the people who schooled me were right to do so. And I understood why. The incident created an important awareness for me and provoked a lot of thought.

I understood why because the discussion has been taking place since my formative years and I've been a part of it. The fact that I've missed more recent discussion alarmed me enough to go and get myself more grounding. It's something of a generational discussion and the fact that I missed it freaked me out more than a little.

So there's a piece of me that understands the Resnick/Malzberg dismay and umbrage at the response to their dialogs. There's a cultural futureshock going on for these guys. Part of the trouble is that they've never been part of this particular social dialog--or at least they haven't been recently. Their injured dignity arises from this idea that they were (See how progressive we were? See how the ladies around us never objected to us?)--and even if they were, they're not now and haven't been for so long that their defenses, though apparently relevant to themselves, aren't relevant or effectively presented to those they're arguing with. Moreover, the arguments they've marshaled in their defense reflect a generational and social divide so profound that I'm not sure it will ever be effectively bridged; I'm not sure it can be. There's an element of "you young whippersnappers" about their response that undermines a lot of what they're trying to say (separate from the fact that what they're saying doesn't address the legitimate complaints lodged against them). They present a lot of their defense in the frame of, "Why, in my day..." as if their forward-thinking behavior 35 years ago makes them social paragons to be respected today.

Except it jest ain't so. Perspective that doesn't remain informed and evolve as the dialog develops is perspective that has ossified. And the fact that these gentlemen can't see that is another symptom of that ossification. Plus, the fact that they appear to have responded in a knee-jerk fashion rather than in a thoughtful way with a little reflection and research about why people objected to their perspective just made it worse.

Look: we all believe in ourselves and the righteousness of our positions. But without stretching those positions, testing them, we become stiff and movement becomes difficult. I think that one of the lessons to come out of the Resnick/Malzberg genderfail is that we must remain aware and elastic in our learning and our perspective. We must question our assumptions. We must learn from our mistakes, yea, even into our 70s and 80s. Otherwise we might end up telling the wrong person to smile. ;-)
scarlettina: (Furious)
8/25/13: ETA I wrote this after having decided not to write about it. I filtered it tightly. Then I privacy-locked it. At this moment (two months later), I'm unlocking and unfiltering it because I have things to say to which it pertains, and it's time.

I spoke with [ profile] davidlevine about this last night because I was so upset, but I woke up this morning, still upset, and decided that if talking it out didn't help as much as I'd hoped, maybe writing would.

I have a friend whom I have learned regularly engages in risky behavior, as in life-threatening risky behavior. When said behavior was confessed to me, I flashed on all the friends I have lost in the last two years to illnesses or conditions that they didn't ask for and couldn't control; I thought of the friends who are fighting the battles of their lives ([ profile] bedii, [ profile] jaylake, and a couple of others not on LJ) and something in me just seized up. I found myself with tears in my eyes, angry and hurt, and I begged this friend to please stop this behavior, that it could hurt him in permanent and almost certainly fatal ways. I saw a future without him in it and it scared the hell out of me. He had a portfolio of rational--and, he admitted, not rational--reasons for doing what he's doing and continuing to do it; nothing I said penetrated. I have been angry and upset about this ever since.

The great Jewish sage Hillel said, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to others." (And by the way, he said it a good hundred years or more before that rabbi in Judea said something similar and, frankly, less rigorous--but that's a subject for another time.) I bring this up because of the understanding that I came to as a result of the above-described conversation and about some decisions I have made recently with regard to dating.

Let's start with the dating thing, and you'll see where I'm going. There's a man in the writing community in whom I am interested. He is funny and sweet; he is a writer; we clearly have much in common, and there is a certain attraction. He is also large. And I mean large. He also has two kids from a former marriage. As result of my difficult personal history, I've decided that I can't involve myself with someone who won't take care of himself. I'm not here to argue fat politics. My experience is that some of the people of size whom I have loved have died terribly and far younger than they ought to have, all for reasons related to being overweight, starting with my father, who died when I was 11. Given all the loss I've experienced over the last two years, I simply will not invest myself in an intimate relationship with someone of size again; I cannot do it. But more than that, I can't do it in this case because there are children involved. It's not that I don't like kids; I do, very much. But if a man can't bring himself to take care of himself for his children, to ensure his presence and long life for his children, then I can't rely on him to take care of himself to be present for me. I'm not looking for a model body; I'm merely hoping for someone with enough sense of self-worth and responsibility not to be 200 pounds overweight.

And let me be clear: I speak as an overweight woman. I know I can do better, which is one of the reasons I've made a point to work at it the last couple of years. I've faltered. I'll succeed again; I know it. I haven't stopped trying.

What the process of making this decision has done for me is make me understand that part of love is a responsibility to those whom one loves to maintain oneself, to preserve oneself. Perfection isn't necessary or even desirable; there are plenty of perfection Nazis who, frankly, aren't terribly lovable. My point is that if you love someone and they love you, your best gift to them is to keep yourself aware and healthy, to not do things that could jeopardize your presence in the world. It is an act of supreme selfishness to risk one's own life given the presence of loved ones.*

Now, I am a reasonable person. Some of us love a good adrenalin rush. I can't begrudge an adrenalin junkie his adrenalin. But I don't have to like the choice to throw oneself out of a plane, either, even if there's a parachute involved.

In the case of my friend, where this whole post started, there's no parachute, metaphorically speaking. He has deliberately chosen not to wear one. He has facts and figures and reasons for this choice, all very rational and reasonable. Some of them are emotional. Some of them he couldn't articulate. I told him that gravity has no respect for facts and figures and reasons; it will still kill him if he doesn't wear a parachute and choose his landing target well. But, by God, he's going to continue to jump out of planes without a gravity-mitigation device no matter what I or anyone else has to say. And it makes me so angry that, two days after I learned about it, I'm still angry--really angry--about it. Because it means that he doesn't care about the people he loves enough to stop it. And he doesn't love himself enough to stop it either. That which is hateful to him--hurting others--he is doing without restraint or consideration.

I understand that some of this behavior comes out of pain. He is not the sort to seek help; he has a million rational reasons for not seeking it. He wouldn't take it from me.

There's nothing I can do about it. It's clear, based on our conversation, that he has no intention of stopping what he's doing. I'm sure he doesn't see it this way, that his behavior means he just doesn't really give a damn about the people who love him. But it does, just as surely as if he were putting a gun to his head to play Russian roulette. Someday, there's going to be a bullet in that chamber. He'll pull the trigger, and it'll hit before he even sees it coming.

God damn it.

* An exception here, of course, are emergency workers, law enforcement and the military. In each of these cases, the work is a matter of social good and safety precautions in the face of deadly circumstance are requirements of the job, not just good ideas. One goes into such work with thought, care, training, support, and safety gear. It is, at its most elemental level, different than what I'm talking about.
scarlettina: (Trouble get behind me)
In my last post, I mentioned that this past weekend I'd received news of a death. The death in question was that of my brother's best friend's wife. While this may seem like a distant connection, it's closer than you may think for reasons that will become clear.Cut for flist mercy and for cancer and triggery stuff )

I've been thinking about changing my reading habits in the morning. I read LJ at the start of each day, but I'm beginning to think that the things I'm reading in the morning are opening up wounds that never really heal for me and it's beginning to feel like I'm slicing myself to pieces bit by bit. I once had a therapist tell me that I have all the symptoms of PTSD when I talk about my mother's death; I never took it seriously until I was treated for PTSD, a treatment that I have had to acknowledge hasn't stuck mainly due to repeated exposure to new trauma. About the Boston marathon bombing news, [ profile] suricattus posted on Twitter, "Reminder: if you're feeling echoes of past Bad Stuff, reading the news out of Boston, it's ok to look away. You're not letting anyone down." I'm feeling echoes of Bad Stuff. I may look away for a while. It's not a lack of love or strength. It's a matter of self-preservation.

PS--I don't want condolences upon Nancy's death; I'm serious about this. While her loss is painful, I didn't know her well. I'm mourning more for what her husband and family, and my brother are experiencing because I'm empathetic to their experience. And I'm dealing with the cascade of stuff that's been triggered by her death, especially in the context I've described above. I wrote about all this mainly because it's a way to start addressing it. We deal with things one day, and one word, at a time.
scarlettina: (Rainy Day)
On the road again
Wednesday was a travel day. Bags packed, Elizabeth and I left the apartment early in the day to get to the airport. I had a flight out at 8 AM going to Vilnius, Lithuania with a connection Frankfurt; hers to Seattle was later, but it was easier on us both to travel to the airport together.

My flights and connection were pleasant and uneventful. It gave me plenty of time to reflect on the trip a bit, about how my great grandfather left Vilnius more than 100 years ago to find a new life, and here I am going back to at least get a taste of the place he forsook. I also thought about the enormous privilege I'm enjoying: an American woman of some means hip-hopping across Europe on vacation. I'm very much aware, especially in current economic conditions, of what a special thing it is I'm able to do because of my nationality, my income, my position in the world. As I sat in Frankfurt Airport, I also found myself considering the fact that I was surrounded by people who speak other languages more fluently than they do English, whereas I speak native English and a smattering of French. I was truly aware that, in this situation, I'm the foreigner.

Wheels down in Lithuania
I arrived in Lithuania at 1:55 PM and found my way from the airport to the train station. I had to stop to get Lithuanian money because Lithuania, while it is a member of the EU, is not a member of the Eurozone. At the cash machine I withdrew some litae, glanced at it quickly (I still haven't really had time to study it and see what I'm handling), and headed out. I had to take a train from Vilnius to Kaunas, where [ profile] skidspoppe lives. I caught the 2:45 departure, an old Soviet train, blocky and basic with big windows and hard, vinyl-covered benches. It was, as Skids described it, the slow train. In the end, it was the right train because it meant I got to see a lot of territory at a leisurely pace, and what I saw was lovely.

I was surprised by how lush the landscape is. Once you leave Vilnius, the landscape turns rural almost immediately. Autumn has arrived. While most of the trees surrounding the lakes that dot the shallow valleys are still green, there are patches of red and gold that would satisfy the most dedicated leaf-peeper and make it all look a little like a painting. The farms we pass look like something out of a storybook, each with one strategically placed black-and-white cow lounging in a pasture, the picture of pastoral serenity. The villages we pass include small, old houses that have clearly seen better days but, in the aggregate they too, look like illustrations out of children's books. The transitions from rural to industrial and from industrial to rural are immediate--not fleeting, but dramatic. By the time I arrived in Kaunas, I'd gotten an interesting overview of this southern central part of Lithuania.

Talking science fiction
A friend of Skids' met me at the train in the pouring-down rain (apparently "Lithuania" means "the place where it rains"), presented me with an umbrella, and then took me by bus to the university where he teaches; he had class, which is why he couldn't meet me. It's a class on film, and this session in particular focused on science fiction. He'd asked me if I had a particular favorite, because he screens a movie after each class for the students if they choose to stick around. I nominated "Forbidden Planet," which he acquired. He asked me to speak about the movie a little bit, so I introduced it and, after the film, got up to talk about it and its context in culture and in science fiction. After that, Skids, his friend, a couple of his students, and I went out for a late dinner and some chatter. When we finally got back to the apartment--in the pouring-down rain--we talked a little and then I just passed out.

That Conversation

Fri, Sep. 7th, 2012 08:16 am
scarlettina: (Spirits)
It's been a helluva year. With death and serious illness in my social circle, and my striking a half century in age, it seemed like it was time for me to do something enormously adult and, frankly, quite sobering: get my affairs in order. That's the euphemism many of us use for writing a will and thinking about The End. I was scheduled to have a meeting with an attorney about it last night. That meant that I had to call my brother yesterday and Have the Conversation.

Which conversation? The one about who will be the executor of the will. The one about who will oversee my health care wishes. The one about what to do with my body once I vacate the premises.

So I got on the phone with him. For reasons I won't get into here, I had to have this conversation during the day, which meant calling from work--from my shared office. So the woman with whom I share an office got to overhear this conversation. I didn't care, honestly. What we discussed didn't feel especially private to me--but then, as my brother said to me, he and I have been living with an awareness of mortality since I was 11 and he was 9. We are conversant in the vocabulary of end-of-life matters and pretty comfortable with it. (For me, the hardest stuff is what comes before if illness is involved, but that's another post for another time.) He was barbecuing chicken while we talked; somehow, that struck me as enormously funny.

It was an interesting conversation. My brother, it turned out, had made the same assumptions I had: that because it was just him and me, he'd be my executor and I'd be his. We discussed other elements, like what to do with my body once I was done with it, and who would be my health care proxy if I couldn't make my own choices. He was funny about the body issue; he said, "Jan, if you want your body dragged around town behind six white horses, I'll make sure it happens; it's your decision." While that hadn't been my first thought, I admit to having given it consideration once he suggested it! It has a certain je ne sais quoi that appeals to me.

What was also interesting about the conversation were the things he'd assumed about me that weren't, in the end, correct. Some of my own decisions surprised me, but from a practical standpoint they make the most sense for me. (I'm not going to share them here; while I'm comfortable talking about all of this in general, I do not wish to post the details of my decisions publicly.) Such conversations require thought, but they provoke thought as well. (This distinction is important; one thought leads to another, and often those thoughts are unexpected and unwelcome.) Things one might not consider with a cursory glance become clear and more complex upon deeper study. I should note that some of that study may reveal uncomfortable truths about one's life--who will be left behind, who will or won't visit a grave if one is buried, and so forth. Also, who will take care of my kitty.

Most important of all is that I made a point to discuss all those assumptions with him. One of the most difficult lessons I learned in the wake of my mother's death is that Felix Unger was right: When you assume, you make an ass of you and me. My mother assumed that my aunt and uncle would be the executors of her will, but she never asked them. She just named them, and when they found out that they were named, they were unhappy and clearly put out at the imposition. And they let 19-year-old me know. I vowed at that point that I'd never assume anything about this stuff. It's too sensitive and too important.

So we talked, he and I. And then he went and ate his chicken, and I hung up and went back to work. Or tried to. My coworker said to me, "It's so funny: as soon as you got on the phone your New York accent came back . . . but, ew, you were talking about death!" And I said to her, "Yep, it happens to us all." She said she hadn't known what to do; should she put on her headphones or something? I apologized if she felt uncomfortable but at that point, I didn't feel like it was especially private, and to please not worry. And I apologized again for any discomfort. She was fine with it.

The truth is, when death comes, we all learn about the decisions our family and friends have made anyway. We are meat; we are dust. But wills are contracts that take care of business. And the conversations that surround their creation help to set expectations so that people have an idea of what's coming and what to do in the event. These conversations are important, and ultimately, they're a kindness. They let your loved ones know that you've got a handle on things; they provide if not the reality then at least the illusion of some control. But they also are a way of telling your loved ones that when they feel their most vulnerable, you've made some accommodation; they won't be alone. You're still there, wrapping things up, even if it's only your will (literally and figuratively) and not you.


The Met Life web site provides an excellent, basic explanation of the elements of a will and the considerations to think about when you're preparing to put one together.

The Mayo Clinic site provides a basic explanation of living wills and advance health directives, something else to think about carefully (and something I need to discuss with my lawyer).
scarlettina: (Happy birthday cupcake!)
Tomorrow (that is, Tuesday) at 3 PM, I will be 50 years old. Tonight and until then, I'm still 49. Seems like one ought to step back and take stock on such an evening.

In those 50 years I have:

--Been the daughter of two very special parents whom I couldn't love more even in, or perhaps especially because of, their absence
--Been the sister of a truly awesome younger brother of whom I couldn't be more proud and whom I'll love forever
--Become sister-in-law to a smart, funny, and generous woman, and aunt to her lovely daughter
--Survived being orphaned
--Lived with and loved four fabulous cats
--Paid for my own college education
--Kept my brother and I in our parents' house until we were ready to leave
--Created not one but two successful careers
--Worked for some of the coolest companies in the country
--Worked with some of the most gifted writers in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror business
--Learned from some of the most knowledgeable (and in one case truly historic) publishing types on the planet
--Published several short stories and poems (I know that in the rarified circles in which I am privileged to travel this is not a big deal, but out in the larger world, it's still a major accomplishment, and I continue to be astonished that I've published anything at all)
--Acquired and created a really nice home for myself
--Traveled to the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia
--Accumulated and loved the most remarkable circle of friends and associates that anyone could possibly ask for--yes, that means you.

I have been enormously privileged and I remind myself of this fact often, over and over again. Even when things have been at their worst, I know that life has bestowed upon me a kind of wealth that you can't earn at any job or purchase for any amount of money.

I am relatively healthy for a woman of my age and I intend to do whatever I can to stay that way. Having already lived longer than my father, I plan to live longer than my mother as well. I have far too much to live for, and far too much to do before I'm done.
scarlettina: (Happy birthday cupcake!)
And so here it is: At 3 PM EDT today (that's 11 AM PDT), I'll officially be 47 years old. As [ profile] juliabata, also a July 10 baby, points out, I share my birthday with Nikola Tesla, Marcel Proust, David Brinkley, Fred Gwynne, Arthur Ashe, Ron Glass, and Arlo Guthrie among others. Plus also [ profile] markbourne, my twin brother of another mother (you know, my blond-haired, blue-eyed twin brother) and Spanky who is 15 years old today. Looks like it's going to be a beautiful day here in the great Pacific Northwest: sunshine, 80-degree temps.

Lots else going on today: Mark's surgery and [ profile] matociquala's Clarion West party, to name a couple. In theory, I'll be attending both. Well, I won't actually be attending Mark's surgery, but I will be at the hospital for [ profile] e_bourne's moral support. I think of today's as Mark's double birthday: new year, new heart valve. Here's hoping it's the start of many good, new things.

As previously mentioned, my dad died at 47 in 1973. I was 11. It didn't occur to me until just recently that I've been approaching this birthday with a certain amount of trepidation. I guess I feel like if I get through this coming year, I'm clear until at least 56, which was the age my mom was when she died. I've been saying all my life that I hope longevity skips generations; naturally, I still feel that way.

I'm hoping the coming year will hold some goodness; 46 certainly did. It's the first time in a long time that I have very little idea what's coming up for me. Work is fluid, I have no nailed-down travel plans (though there's been some discussion of my attending my 30th high school reunion, on which more anon), writing has been difficult lately as has been jeweling (if it's not a word, it is one now!). So it's a year of mystery for me.

At least I'm still here and that, undeniably, is a goodness.
scarlettina: (To Boldly Go)
Coupla days back, my friend Brian helped me bring some boxes up from my storage unit, the idea being that I'd figure out what was in them, then do one of three things: rearchive the contents, dispose of the contents, bring the contents back into the rotation of daily living.

As previously mentioned, one of the boxes contained my junior high school and high school yearbooks. This same box, it turns out, contained a number of offset-print, perfect- or comb-bound Star Trek and Starsky & Hutch fanzines printed in the mid-to-late 1980s.

When I moved from New York to Seattle, I made choices about what was going into storage, including the 'zines. I kept out the 'zines in which I had stories or art. I packed away 'zines I wanted to keep for one reason or another that didn't have my work in them. So for the first time in about 15 years, my issues of 'zines like "Vault of Tomorrow," "Guardian," "Nome" and "Mind Meld" are seeing the light of day. I also have copies of then-classic novel-length stories including "Legend's End," "Courts of Honor," "The Thousandth Man," and more. There are also the notorious, then-controversial "Sun & Shadow" and "Broken Images," the contents of which probably look tame now in comparison to some of the explicit fanfic being published on the web. These are thick books printed on 8.5 x 11 paper, all richly (if more often than not, inexpertly) illustrated.

I never thought these things would become the fossils they clearly are. I was most definitely a post-K/S-emergence fan (I was 16 by the time the first fall-off in slash fan-ac began), but the tradition, obviously, has continued to this day, although in a considerably broader and more mainstream way.

These relics have personal relevance for me in the friendships they recall and represent, and a particular period in my life. It was a time when a female support structure was a safe haven for me, when I was learning basic social skills I'd missed growing up. I am profoundly grateful to that community of women. I also remember the day I was done with it. It was a clear and fairly clean break. It was, for me, a kind of graduation day.

Perhaps storing the 'zines and the yearbooks in the same box represents an equivalency, different kinds of mementos accrued and then bundled together for what they all represent: learning, growth and moving on.
scarlettina: (Reality Check)
I am not comfortable being the new kid or a beginner. I'm just not. In such situations, my perfectionist tendencies and my own insecurities turn me into a tense, detail-oriented little stress bunny. All this considered, it's good that I learn new things quickly and develop my skills pretty fast. In new situations, I find my niche soon enough. But for that brief period at the start, I am always a little freaked out, at least on the inside.

Tonight in my Photoshop class, I felt like the beginner I am. With help, I used the new tools we learned about, and I practiced in the time we had to try to cement the knowledge. But at the end of the class, when I sat back from the computer, I realized that I'd been hunched over, my neck and shoulders bunched tight. I'd barely breathed as I peered at the screen, pushing pixels and transforming shapes. When I rolled my head to loosen up my neck, the snap-crackle-pop was audible. It took me most of the drive home to destress--and I'm not done yet. I can still feel the stress seeping away. There will be wine before bed.

My instructor said something interesting at the end of class when I said that I hadn't realized how anxious the process was making me. She said, "Don't be anxious. Be curious."

And I had to ask myself why I was anxious. After all, taking the class was my choice, and I look forward to it each week. I've been sitting next to a woman who had a foundation in Photoshop before she came to class. Tonight she picked up the tools far more quickly than I did. Upon consideration, I realized that I had been worried that I missed some crucial part of the lesson because I wasn't picking it up as quickly. But it wasn't me; she was just more familiar with the tool.

My instructor is right: I need to approach this process with curiosity and joy. Usually, for me, it's fear and arrogance, kinda like playing baseball: Never let'em see you sweat and always look like you know more than anyone else in the room. When you wonder what I learned in the corporate halls of Manhattan, that was Lesson Number One. Or maybe I learned that from watching Bull Durham. Anyway, the point is, I need to unlearn that lesson. (Okay, that's Yoda, I'm certain.) And relax. And enjoy the process. It always works better that way.

Generation Jones

Wed, Nov. 12th, 2008 01:45 pm
scarlettina: (Circle of Life)
I've heard a lot of talk this week about how Barack Obama will be the first post-Baby-Boomer president and that post-Boomers made his election happen. I think this is really interesting, as I've given a whole lot of thought over the years about where I fit into the generational brackets the media and sociologists so love to define. I don't know why I've given it so much thought, but I have -- and I think it's mainly because I never felt like a Boomer and sort of resented being put into that box.

According to the Source of All Knowledge (a.k.a. Wikipedia), a Baby Boomer is "a person who was born during the Post-World War II baby boom between 1946 and 1964." At 47, Barack Obama fits solidly into this category, as do I, if at its tail end. I have always felt some identification with Boomers. My parents raised my brother and I on their World War II experiences, and I have vague memories of the '60s: my cousin Paul being off in Vietnam; dresses with bright, psychedelic patterns; the Beatles; men wearing their hair long (and how revolutionary it was at the time); bell bottoms; and so on.

But I never felt like I owned that heritage. I always felt, for better or worse, like I was much more a child of the late '70s and early '80s. That's when I came of age: Starsky and Hutch, disco and prog rock, pocket calculators and the Walkman, Jaws and Rocky Horror. And there were the Reagan years, unlike anything at all that the older portion of Baby Boomers experienced.

Back I went to the Source of All Knowledge to discover that a new category for us late-born Boomers has been created. They're calling us Generation Jones, born 1954-1965:

...first labeled by U.S. social commentator Jonathan Pontell, [Generation Jones] is the younger portion of the Baby Boomers. Their early life experiences hold more in common with Generation X than with the Boomers. The name connotes a large, anonymous generation, and derives from the slang term “jonesing”, referring to Pontell's claim that this generation feels "unrequited cravings and unfulfilled expectations."

Here's Pontell's own site on the subject of GenJones. Regrettably, it's not very deep and seems to be more about press coverage than anything else.

When I started doing some Googling on the term, I discovered that amongst those who pay attention to demographic slicing and dicing, there's been much discussion of GenJones as a political force, and that there's even a Web site devoted to following such discussion. I found another, deeper definition of GenJones here amidst a discussion of Obama as the first president of this generation, and why and how he won.

In short, I seem to have discovered the generation to which I -- and our President-elect -- belong demographically, and it makes a whole lot more sense to me. As the bar graph on Pontell's site indicates, I was never alone in feeling that I wasn't a Boomer. I always identified more -- but not completely -- with the Gen Xers. But I really fit somewhere in between.

And I think it's a big reason why I identify so strongly with Obama politically and socially. Though it's a certainty that most of his formative experiences were vastly different than mine, we grew up in the same era, subject to many of the same current events and resulting social forces and trends. Being lumped into the same demographic category as George W. Bush never made sense to me; beyond our extreme political differences, he and so many others in his age group always felt like part of a slightly different culture.

Does any of this really matter in day to day life? Mostly it matters to sociologists, demographers, marketers and politicians. What I find myself wondering is, now that Pontell's made a point of defining us and there's been so much media coverage about it (most of which I missed completely until I did my Web search), will marketers and politicians re-target some of their work toward GenJonesers? I doubt it, based on what I know about marketing. Will we see any sort of shifts or changes given that a GenJoneser is in the White House? I think it's a certainty.
scarlettina: (Jewish: Seder plate)
[ profile] wanton_heat_jet teaches church school (read "Sunday school") at a local Unitarian church of which he's a member. He's a staunch atheist, but has a deep interest in history and spiritual traditions and is very well read on the subject. He recently asked me to come to his class and speak about Passover; today was the class. The whole experience has been interesting, and has gotten me thinking. (The following includes subheads in bold and italics so you can skip the stuff that might not interest you.)

Very long account of how I prepped, what we did, and what I think afterwards )

Conclusions? I'm not sure I've come to any beyond the above, except that it's important for me to keep challenging my own assumptions, to keep exploring how other people live and what they believe. I know that sometimes my own beliefs will be confirmed by such exploration and sometimes they may evolve as a result. One way or another, the exercise is always worth it.
scarlettina: (Writing)
I was going through my hard drive today trying to find a particular essay that I'd mentioned to a friend this weekend. It was something I'd written in response to a conversation I had with [ profile] dochyel more than 10 years ago about Adam and Eve and God's reaction to their eating the apple. I couldn't find it; my suspicion is that it's lost to old technology and the dim mists of time. I may try to reconstruct it at some point.

In the meanwhile, however, I found a light thing I wrote when I got rid of my old TV set and purchased the one I have now. It entertained me then and was something of a comfort (because I'm an odd duck) so, since I can't find the thing I was looking for, I'll post this instead. Hail RCA, hail mono sound, hail rabbit ears... )
scarlettina: (Jewish: Seder plate)
Last night was the first night of Passover. I've always loved Passover, the ritual, the storytelling, the communal experience. I've talked here before about the nature of my faith, that it's a continuum—I will often go from being an atheist to an agnostic to a believer and back in a very short amount of time. I am, I think, more often than not an agnostic (which, in its way, is a very authentic way to be Jewish). My dialog with God is regularly pretty stormy (and has been so especially lately). On Passover, though, it seems I'm pretty consistently a believer.

[ profile] dochyel used to say that Passover was a guided meditation on the journey to freedom, the idea being that it could be a much more mystical experience than simply a storytelling exercise. I've always loved that idea, especially as it relates to what I want to discuss here now. A couple of years back, I griped about the story of the four sons that is told on these nights, and I took it apart a bit. This year, rather than griping, I want to talk about one of my favorite parts of the Seder.

After the meal is over, the second part of the Seder includes a moment when we open the door to allow the spirit of the prophet Elijah to come into the home.* Elijah's return, it is believed, will herald the return of the Messiah. As part of the Seder, this act of opening the door is intended to remind us that there is always hope for peace, freedom, and goodness in humanity. We hope that the spirit of Elijah will enter us all with the goal of helping to heal the world. We are reminded that we should welcome those less fortunate than ourselves to the table, and we should offer them whatever we may have.

For me, this is always a moment of magic, specifically the moment before we open the door. I've done it; I've been the one to stand by the door, hand hovering above the door knob, wondering if someone will literally be there when I open it. In that one moment, it's possible: maybe, just maybe, Elijah will be there. In that moment, anything is possible. The anticipation is thrilling. And if you're of a spiritual bent, the opening of the door does create a change in the atmosphere of the room (more than just the chilly breeze that invariably blows in during April). Opening the door reminds us that there's a world beyond our own walls of which we're a part, regardless of whatever our struggles or troubles may be. There's the possibility that God is really out there, that God's sent Elijah at last. In that moment, right before the door opens, a leap of faith is possible. I always feel like Indiana Jones standing at the edge of the abyss, hand on his chest, suddenly believing that, despite the evidence of his eyes, he can walk across the void to find the Holy Grail.

And that, my friends, is pretty cool.

* Historically, this door-opening ritual has a much darker origin. Some say it originated during the Middle Ages to assuage Christian fears that Jews weren't doing anything unseemly behind closed doors, like sacrificing Christian children. Others say it was a way to ensure Christian neighbors weren't eavesdropping on the Seder. One way or another, it was a ritual about safety and protection. I prefer our more modern interpretation. It is still, after all, a sort of protection ritual, a ritual aimed toward protecting the world.


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