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Letting bygones be bygones

standard June 1, 2010 1 response

It was the place that welcomed me when I was lost with no idea what to do with my life. They gave me a job, a place in their community, their hearts, their space.

I worked hard for six years, spending day in and day out in that place. I cried there many, many times, laughed there equally often, and learned more about myself and human nature than I ever expected to learn in a 9-5 administrative assistant position.

I met the most amazing people, some of whom will be my friends for life. I also met some who defy explanation and understanding so complex are their issues and personalities – in a not good way. (Still boggles the mind years later.)

That place was my home away from home for so long that it took me way too long to realize that the dream had become a nightmare, and that I needed to get out.

I stayed on long after realization finally dawned, sticking it out because it was right for my family if not for me. Everything that had been promised, everything I had been led to hope for had long ago been ripped away and all that was left was a stack of shattered dreams, my destroyed self-esteem, and the community that still supported and carried me.

Smiling faces and kind words made it possible to endure the less savory moments of the last couple years. It was tolerable as long as I knew I was connecting with these people, possibly making a difference in their lives. I never stopped believing that these people cared for me, that they’d be happy for me if I ever found a way to leave, that they would remain my community, my extended family.

Friday night I returned to that place after a two year absence, dreading the moment I would be spotted. What would they say, these people who never reached out? Not an email, not a call, and barely a nod in my direction when we’d cross paths in town. Would they act delighted? Would they hug me? Ask me how things were? Or would they still ignore me? Reject me for having turned my back on their place of worship?

I snuck in late, Little L on my hip, wearing her as a disguise, as a shield – look at the blond curls! not at me! Eyes widened as they looked beyond her cuteness and saw me, recognized me. Smiles blossomed, then slight confusion crossed their faces.

I thought I would be hurt either way. I thought I would be sad if they were happy, wondering where they’d been the last two years, but the hurt and anger thawed in my chest as their smiles grew and people nodded silent hellos. The thaw spread as the familiar music washed over me.

My heart was broken there long ago, but it was also filled there at one time. It’s a place of love that was disrupted by some unfortunate people. Voices rose in prayer around me and I sent my own prayer up to the sky.

“Help me be strong enough to forgive. Help me have the wisdom to let bygones be bygones. Help me not spread the blame to the wrong people. Help me find the strength to come home.”

I’m not home yet, but I have my hand on the door and I’m not as scared to push it open as I was last week. It’s a start at least.

Apples and honey for a sweet new year

standard September 21, 2009 5 responses

The waitress brought the desert menu and we glanced at the lavish offerings. She came back a few minutes later to take our order, expecting us to order a chocolate mousse, an apple pie, or any of the other sweets that we had enjoyed on the first few nights of our honeymoon cruise.

“We really just want a couple of apples and some honey, please. We know it’s not on the menu, but maybe you could pull a few strings for us?” I beamed up at her.
“Apples? And honey?” She gestured towards the menu. “Really? Nothing else? Was it not good last night?”
“No! No! It was wonderful! Delicious! That pie… that mousse… mmm. But it’s Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. Apples and honey are a traditional part of it. We eat them to symbolize the sweetness of the year to come.”
“Oh!” Relief crossed her face. “That’s just lovely! I like that! I’ll bring some out. And for you newlyweds I’ll also bring some pie and some chocolate mouse. For some extra sweetness.” She winked.
This time relief crossed M’s face and I laughed. She smiled at us brightly and bustled off towards the kitchen.

True to her word she brought our apples, honey, and a few extra deserts. As she put everything on the table she told us that she and the rest of the staff were also going to have some apples and honey that night, so they could all have some sweetness in their year.

We dipped our slices of apples in the honey and toasted what lay ahead: a sweet new year and a sweet new life together.

Happy New Year to all who are celebrating the new year this weekend. May your year be sweet and wonderful. And to everyone else, may your year be equally sweet and wonderful. No reason we can’t all have some of that.

Missing my people, my community

standard December 16, 2008 5 responses

When you’re in school you have your people, your group of friends, your homeys, the ones you always sit with in class, in the cafeteria, or even in the courtyard or wherever it is you hang out. They’re your crowd, the ones who make you feel at home at school despite the fact that you may or may not know them all that well.

When you leave school and start working if you’re lucky you meet another group of people, a new crowd. They could be your coworkers, they could be your neighbors, they could be that guy you always run into at the store and the pizza parlor. It doesn’t matter where they come from, they’re your friends, your community.

When M and I moved to California I left my crowd behind. I said goodbye to my best friends and all the other people I hung out with all the time. We had a standing meeting place (the McDonald’s on the Champs Elysee’s) and we would congregate there on the weekends to argue about what movie to go see. We had our favorite restaurants and our preferred haunts. I taught them about Halloween and they taught me everything else. They were my pose and it was hard to leave them behind.

I was lucky, when we got here we joined the synagogue and I met new friends. I started working there and met even more. Within months I felt myself buoyed by my new friendships, by my new village. They made me want to be myself, to be better than myself. They pushed me out of my comfort zone and held my hand when I flailed. They were there for the ups and the downs and all the laughs in between. It made the distance keeping me from my old community bearable.

We went to the synagogue for services every Friday night and I loved being surrounded by people who knew me and loved me. I found it very settling to look around the crowded room and see so many familiar faces, people I could count on in an emergency or even just to grab a cup of coffee. Being part of such a warm community made me feel at home, and there’s just no describing the way my soul swelled when our voices rose in harmony as we sang the Shabbat blessings.

But the Bay Area is not an easy place to live and one by one my close friends have migrated to cheaper pastures. I had a baby and going to services became more challenging. Work at the synagogue became a bit unpleasant and I stopped spending extra time there. And all of a sudden I realized that I wasn’t part of the community any more, I was on the outskirts of it, and it didn’t feel like home any more.

For a long while that was OK. For a long while I was too busy to really notice. Between kids and a job that was pretty much sucking the life out of me, I wasn’t exactly overly concerned with the loss of my community. I was more preoccupied with surviving the days, let alone the weeks. I had new close friends and my peeps inside the computer to keep me afloat, it was enough.

Now that I’m doing something that is fulfilling me in ways my past job didn’t, the part of me that craves community seems to be stirring. Maybe it’s because I’m no longer working with people. Maybe it’s because I’m doing so much running around from work spot to work spot. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spending so much time alone. Or maybe it’s because my soul is waking up, but for the first time in months, if not years, I’m craving that feeling of being surrounded by a loving community.

Whether I want a new community or to reconnect with the old one is a whole other question, one that might take a while to answer.