I love you, and therefore…

When I discovered that a company for which I frequently work would be moving its headquarters from Midtown Manhattan to “the Financial District”—in this case, right next to Ground Zero—I felt a gut-punch of dread. I can face a lot, in New York and in life. I’ve learned how to navigate. But I could not imagine how to handle going to this spot on a regular basis, for work.

I could go there to pay respects; I could go there to volunteer; I could go there to meditate on hopes for a better world. But it’s tragic ground, sacred ground. No way would I be willing to coast routinely past the site where the Twin Towers had stood, thinking of deadlines or coffee, new shoes or when an expected check would arrive.

Still, the company would be going there; and so, for the time being at least, would I. Since treating the location like any other space was not an option for me, I had to figure out what else to do.

“I love you, and therefore…” is what works for me.

Each time I approach the site, I take whatever is on my mind at that moment (in my personal life, in politics, related to work, etc.), and distill it into a message of love for the people who died in the attacks. How am I honoring them? How does my life reflect the gift of being alive?

“I love you, and therefore I speak my mind.”

“I love you, and therefore I listen.”

“I love you, and therefore I see my family.”

“I love you, and therefore I keep my word.”

“I love you, and therefore I celebrate birthdays.”

I know that the people who died that day would certainly not agree with each other on all issues, nor with me. I try to send messages that are universal, even if we’d differ on the specifics.

“I love you, and therefore I ask questions.”

“I love you, and therefore I seek the truth.”

It’s not easy, walking past the site. It’s not going to be easy, and I don’t want it to be easy. But I have to do it, so I do it, in accordance with my heart. “I love you, and therefore I find a way.”

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At my table

So, it’s Mother’s Day.

My Facebook feed is full of everything from present-day photos of friends with their moms and/or children; to old photos of beloved moms who have died; to photos of Mother Earth; to a video of a mother duck waiting anxiously for humans to help her by rescuing her ducklings from a big drain (and they are rescued, every one of them). Some friends are remembering moms with whom they were not close and thinking about what that means to them.

For me to say “I miss my mother” is certainly a huge understatement. Her loss, and the fallout from it, is the hardest thing I have had to face in life.

But when we lost her—amid the grief, amid the devastation, something began to grow, and it became amazing. It never took away the sadness, of course, and it won’t, and that’s life. But it addressed the sadness and, from that sadness, built something truly good.

I wrote about it here—about women who’ve stepped into my life in such vital and beloved ways over the years:

http://www.damemagazine.com/2014/05/08/praise-surrogate-mothers

Yesterday, a friend of mine who has tried to have children but does not have them, yet,   wrote about how she will spend this day with a young step-relative who lost his mother in a tragic way. Neither of them mentioned Mother’s Day when making the plan. They just made it. Writing this to her, I realized it is one of my most deeply held beliefs:

“Some of the most ideal situations are reclamations from the terrible—not letting the terrible win. It’s easy to be happy and satisfied when things go right—why not? The big huge thing in life is to pick up the pieces of what went wrong and build something great from them. What you are doing. I am truly happy for you and for him.”

Really. We can’t avoid the difficult, the painful, the went-wrong and the went-really-wrong. If we say we’re avoiding these, I think maybe what we’re avoiding is the truth. But it is what we do with them, what we make from them, that can really define our lives. I am very proud of my friend for her plans; and proud of all of us as we do this kind of work, personally, globally—building great from terrible.

Last night I had extremely strange and unsettling dreams. I guess that even as I try to handle this day well, my subconscious struggled, trying to process the last few years that of course have so interfered with life (and motherhood) the way I might have envisioned it. I dreamt that I was called into emergency appointments with doctors, but when I rushed through the door, they were on the phone and did not want to talk to me. I dreamt that I was wandering through a supermarket, unable to find anything I needed. Finally, I dreamt that some kind of “universal force” told me that if (when?) I have a child, I should name the child “Table.”

I said “Table? Seriously? Is this because I’m finally sort of learning how to cook??”

And the force said, “It is because you will have a child at your table.”

And I thought, Huh. Could be a middle name. Could be a nickname. Tab for a boy. Tabby for a girl. And then it was morning.

Thank you for being at my table and for having me at yours.

Thinking of you on Mother’s Day, in all the things it means in your life.

“Buying Bernie”

I heard a story on the radio this morning about how polls say that Hillary Clinton would beat Trump in a general election but would lose to Cruz or Kasich.

Hmm. I thought about watching Trump in a general election against Clinton. I thought of all that he might say and do, in his bellicose Trump fashion. Maybe she’d win, but he’d fight from down in the mud; and she’d have to either take nasty assaults while somehow keeping her cool or get down into that mud with him.

I have no interest in seeing either of these things. On the other hand, President Cruz is not an outcome I can willingly accept.

I thought about Bernie Sanders, whom I support. He polls pretty well, last I heard, against all the Republican candidates. He has done very well in recent primaries. Could it be that though the word has been, for months, that Clinton is far more “electable,” Sanders could be as much so, at the least?

I brought these thoughts to Facebook (as we do), and a friend noted that “the combo of the DNC and the media still aren’t buying or willing to sell Bernie’s message.” Hmm. I am the media, and I “buy” Bernie, in part because he’s actually shown he cannot be bought.

But had I written about him? No. So I immediately contacted one of my editors—this one, as it happens, at a Judaism-focussed outlet.

“I know there have been several ‘Why I’m a feminist supporting Sanders’ pieces,” I wrote. “I don’t want to regurgitate them, but—can we put a new spin on it? Maybe something about how Sanders, who happens to be Jewish, reflects my Jewish (and feministic) values? I don’t even know if he’s a practicing Jew (probably not very; nor am I very observant); but he reflects my values as a Jew, a woman, and a caring human.”

She responded promptly (which is a fantastic quality in an editor, I must say). Unfortunately, the news was not good for my piece: “I think interest in Bernie is on the wane, sadly,” she said, “and the moment for that kind of post has passed.”

I like this editor very much. She is smart, communicative, and helpful. I got the clear sense from her response that it wasn’t that she did not agree with what I said but that she did not think it was timely or would attract attention.

But let’s revisit: My friend said the media’s not on board with Bernie. My editor said people aren’t reading about Bernie anymore. As Bernie himself might say, oy vey. This is a circle I’m not sure know how to break.

But there’s one thing I can do right now. As luck has it, I recently took the advice my Cousin Alan had been giving me for years and started a blog (though I still don’t know how to enable comments…working on it).

And so I am here to say: I am a feminist, and I support Bernie. I am a Jew, and I support Bernie (not because he is also a Jew but because what he proposes seems to me the most humane and ethical  platform of any of the candidates, by far). I am not a Millenial, and I support Bernie (I’m Gen X and proud of it). I am not looking for boys. I am not failing to support women (in my activism as a breast cancer survivor and patient advocate, as well as in my life at large, damn straight I support women—and Bernie Sanders’ goals for healthcare). I am not a kid unaware of the ways of the world. I am all too aware of the ways of the world, and I want to make a bunch of them a lot more bearable for a lot more people. Therefore, I support Bernie.

I’m sorry that I’m not writing this for a huge media outlet. (If you are an editor at a huge media outlet and you would like me to write for you about Bernie, I will do so immediately and with enormous thanks for the opportunity.) I can’t force “big media” to write about Bernie, but I can do this. I can make my support known and encourage others to do the same. I can speak from my heart and state my views clearly, hoping to change the “business as usual” routines that are hurting so many of us—which is exactly what I’ve seen Senator Bernie Sanders doing for the many years of his career.

Joining the Army of Lovers

I can understand disliking Valentine’s Day. If you believe it’s supposed to be some perfect celebration of romantic love, it can easily become loaded with disappointment—whether you’re single or in a couple. But I don’t look at it that way. I see it as a celebration of love, overall—however and to whomever anyone wants to express it.

And so, when I heard about Brooklynite Erika Anderson’s Army of Lovers project, I knew it was for me. In 2013, Erika decided to meet Valentine’s Day head-on by making a bunch of Valentines—and giving them to strangers on the NYC streets. Since then, her project has spread to 25 cities, 8 countries, and 4 continents, with more than 300 people participating in Valentine-making.

Last Saturday night, I became one of them. I arrived at the studio space where “the Army” was preparing, climbed several flights of stairs (there were encouraging notes on each landing, to ease the climb), and finally reached a large room filled with people (60 or so) and craft supplies (a huge array). There were even home-made cookies, laid out with care.

I figured out which person was Erika, thanked her for having me to this lovely event, found a seat at one of the tables, and got to work.

I had come alone, and it seemed that most people had. We settled into our task while chatting with each other about work, apartments, the subway delays we’d encountered in getting to the space, and other standard topics of NYC.

Given the job at hand, I guess it’s not surprising that there was some good-natured flirting at my table; or that I registered that the quiet young guy sitting next to me was someone I might have crushed on had I met him in my 20s. But mostly we chatted warmly as a group and praised each other’s cards—getting up occasionally to get another cookie (I know I did that several times).

After a few hours and stacks of cards made, we started to head out. The gregarious painter and his friend went on to another party. The guy next to me left with hardly a word to anyone (ah, definitely the kind I would have crushed on, who in turn would have confused the hell out of me). I hugged Erika goodbye and left with the Valentines I’d made—and on Valentine’s Day, I will go out by myself and offer each one to a stranger.

I have, of course, no idea how this will go. Will they be refused? Will people think I’m nuts? Will I get yelled at? Will I, just maybe, make someone’s day?

Armed with my cards, I’m prepared to hit the street to find out.