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Gratefulness

If the angel
deigns to come
it will be because
you have convinced
her, not by tears
but by your humble
resolve to be always
beginning: to be
a beginner.
–Rainer Maria Rilke

Jules and Olivia are in their fifties, and even though their children are grown, they love to celebrate Shabbos. Every Friday night, before the Sabbath meal, they draw a warm bath and, together, take off their clothes and bathe. This is their ritual cleansing, part of their marriage covenant, preparation to receive the Sabbath bride. But more than this, it is also a time for intimacies, and confession.

Each unclothed and open to receive the other, they each put a hand to the other’s heart, and ask if there is anything they need to say, any confession, something lingering in the heart that, left unsaid, would hinder a full and joyful Sabbath. On some nights, there is little to say. On other nights, words must be spoken aloud that have lived in secret. Who can imagine what lovers must share, when seeking a pure heart and an honest Sabbath? For thirty years, such honesty comes to this: two beings, warm and close, bathed in love.
–From Wayne Muller’s Sabbath

Turning Over
by Cindy Pollock

A month before you were born
you got ready, your father and I
luxuriating in a last weekend away
alone as childless lovers
lying amid a soft tumble of blankets
in a tiny loft room perched over a field
filled with wildflowers
fading furiously, a sea of muted yellow, red, orange, brown.

(All spring I watched as nature unfolded,
you and I in sync with the rhythm of the season.)

That evening, an hour after drinking a rare, sudden half glass of Chardonnay
we watched with wonder, our hands over my
tight round abdomen, as the skin bulged, a trace of you there and there
as you turned
stretching, kicking
against me
the way a swimmer propels against the wall of a pool,
your knobby heels knocking to us from inside.

All night you kept me awake with your persistent motion
maneuvering slowly, carefully in your cramped quarters,
until early morning when I fell into sleep
letting the sheer force of your will take me over.

And when I awoke, I could breathe more freely and had to pee.
The round hardness of your head
locked into my pelvis.
Your all-nighter through,
you were still,
exhausted probably
asleep upside down.

Individuality

Cannot we let people be themselves, and enjoy life in their own way?
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Desire

You are always going to have desires, yearnings, cravings, wants, but you need to remember that you don’t ¬†always need to listen to them or give in to them: if you do, that’s okay. Enjoy them but know that they won’t last, as they come from within your own mind. Lasting happiness comes from a deep peace of mind.

When a desire is unfulfilled, too often we ask ourselves: what happened? Why didn’t I get what I wanted? We focus on the story rather than the feeling.

We will always feel a little nagging, a ‘what if?’ What if I got that new job? What if we moved to a new house? What if I ¬†. . . .? That yearning for something different, something new, something other than what we have: wanting is natural to the human condition.

Too often, I try to deny my desires or I become elated when I get what I want or despair when I don’t. The challenge is learning how to recognize and accept when I’m feeling that need, that wanting, that deep yearning. There is an excitement and passion and power that comes with intense yearning and if you do obtain your desire: hurrah! But that success then involves a whole other rush of emotions, and if you don’t get what you desire . . . . Either situation leads to intense feelings: you go up or you go down.

But if we can learn to name our desires: “I so want this new job or this new house or this new girlfriend, boyfriend. . . .” and if we can come to recognize that such desires come and go (no matter what their outcome), our emotional ups and downs will level out. Because no matter how old we get and no matter how much we have, we will always yearn and we will always suffer when we do not get what we want. This yearning and this suffering are natural but they are also only constructs of our own mind.

After the physical pain of grief has become, with time, a permanent wound in the soul, a sorrow that will last as long as the body does, after the horrors become nightmares and sudden daylight memories, then comes the transcendent and common bond of human suffering, and with that comes forgiveness, and with forgiveness comes love . . . “
–Andre Dubus