Bedtime Stories

A friend who is recovering from back surgery noted her thanks to her helpful friends, and that it had been a time for reflection and renewal. I was thinking the same last night — what can I learn from my back injury, how can I grow spiritually?

I mean, clearly, this agony and incapacitation is demanding my attention. I learned years ago that according to kabbalah, when we pass, our souls are scrubbed clean and that is extremely painful — that’s why supposedly we are given opportunities for tikkun (fixing, repairing) in this life — as a sort of pre-empt. That’s what back pain feels like to me — the pain is so intense, it’s a form of spiritual cleansing. And it renders us dependent on others, like a newborn. Definitely requires reflection and renewal.

In general, I really am living through a personal tragedy, one that is impossible to fully internalize. It’s no wonder my back gave out because it’s unsupportable and unbearable on a deep level. The physical pain has a way of blowing away the cobwebs, the fuzziness. I’m realizing not only how important it is to acknowledge emotional reactions, but to use them as a catalyst to move forward into solution. This is distinctly a feminist method — it fully honors one’s feelings, but provides a gateway to empowerment.

Life is rarely what you think it’s going to be. One day, you’re ambling along, and bam, pow, you are facing a huge change, perhaps unimaginable. How do we deal with this? It’s quicksand, it’s the undertow, it’s threatening to pull you down and under. Resisting seems futile. But not if you have a vision of where you want to go, who you want to be, how you are going to save yourself and your children.

Our country was in just this place. Technological changes and progress rendered many skills irrelevant. And because Americans have always valued what you do over who you are, your essence — which is the patriarchal play book, incidentally — they chose to remain stuck, floundering. America had insufficient vision. They chose a false prophet, anything, even blatantly empty promises and deceit, rather than personal change. Our country experienced an existential crisis — and failed to live up to the challenge.

Our new president-to-be reminds me of Shabbatai Tzvi. This phenomenon was one of the few times in Jewish history where so many believed in a false messiah. Jews after all, are the quintessential immigrants, the eternal wandering people. Immediately after Genesis, creation, comes Exodus, moving away, leaving, changing. Goodness, this is foretold in Genesis, where change becomes imperative.

So, what’s the secret sauce? How did the Jews, the essential prototype of the American immigrant, thrive and adapt in every country they fled to? They had vision. They didn’t merely leave — they saw the mountain they were looking to arrive at. Tremendous personal transformation was the only way forward — from slavery to freedom. There is a precept that the Jews are the  chosen people. But I also learned this is only true in that we, of all the nations, chose God.

In electing Trump, America chose to stay stuck. They didn’t vote for change, they voted against change. They chose to remain weak, rather than  enlightened. It’s painful when you are eager to run forward, but the body electric wants to stay still.

When you pull away the Comey effect, the emails, the relentless misogyny, I’m left wondering if Hillary Clinton wasn’t poetic enough…resonant. Because in order for each of us personally, and for America to embrace change, we need our leaders to sing to us. And years of working with songwriters has taught me just how elusive a great hook really is. However, take heart. We are close.

I see my little family has taken a detour. Accepting we are in process brings calm. But I also see the end goal — to effect change, inspiration, solace to others, to offer a hand up and out. In doing so we will find and create community. We have to facilitate authentic conversations, quiet listening. And we must envision the mountain, the spiritual vista ahead.

P.S. Heartfelt and delighted thanks to Times of Israel for creating a Tag for Feminism! You see, we really are getting closer!

About the Author
Dana is a Jewish feminist, writer and poet. She is passionate about her daughter, love, kindness, spirituality, the artist's voice, and speaking out for the vulnerable. She lives in Music City, Nashville, TN.
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