Archive for the 'hosts & guests' Category

From another’s point of view

September 17, 2012

Yesterday my neighbors invited me (Jordan was out with friends) to a Rosh Hashanah dinner at their house.  I hadn’t assumed they’re Jewish; I do know they’re Russian.

They were hoping I could teach them lots of traditions for such a dinner, and unfortunately I have in common with them, although for different reasons, an interruption in the transmission of these traditions.  My parents basically refused to do those things, although they always stayed home on the High Holidays.

For my dad it was about rejecting a lot of religion because of the failings of the clergy (rabbis) to guide their people and keep them safe — in other words, why didn’t the rabbis see what was coming in Europe in the 1930s?  For my mother, World War II and the Holocaust were also traumatizing, even though she grew up in the U.S. — I think a lot of American Jews of her generation reacted as she did.

I brought challah cover, kiddush cup, and Manischewitz wine with me to my neighbors’ house.  I brought a prayer book, too, but I ended up singing a blessing over the wine from memory.  (Willy and I had joined a synagogue for a few years, that’s where I learned it.)  So it was a little like the very poorly sighted leading the blind.

But it worked out fine, the dinner did, not because all the traditional details were there (some were), but because of the good food and the sharing and the fellowship.

What struck me beyond those things were two almost extraneous experiences: sitting among people primarily communicating in a language I don’t speak (Russian) and seeing my house through their kitchen window or from their front porch.

With regard to the language issue, I guess it’s a little like my neighbors’ experience coming to this country.  And I could follow some empathetically and the woman who invited me translated back and forth, too.

The perspective-on-my-house thing was kind of more disconcerting.  Made me realize that I don’t look at my house from their property in evaluating how it looks and determining what to do about it.

That’s where I think there’s a lesson: how I don’t realize completely how I come across to others.  I get feedback from time to time that I’m not seeing it, when somebody tells me I’m intimidating or short or clearly from New Jersey.  I also know I have distortions in how I see myself due to peculiar feedback I have gotten from members of my family of origin (that I’m stupid is one, that I have the same issues as my sister is another).

How to see myself from the outside more accurately?  I’m not altogether sure at this point, maybe I need to put that out there to the universe for some guidance on the subject.

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Teddy bear picnic

September 15, 2012

At some point some years ago I sewed a teddy bear from a kit.  It felt as if I was sewing it for someone who had always wanted one, maybe even been promised one, and I did it despite my discomfort — my sewing skills don’t always meet my standards and I struggle not to become a perfectionist about it and to try to relax into the process.

Today I saw an ad that included a view of small low table set with a tea set and a statue of the Buddha.  There were cushions on the floor, one on each of the four sides of the table.  The Buddha was seated, and the way the photo was taken, it looked as if the Buddha were seated at the table as a guest, as if it was a tea party such as a child might have with her teddy bears but with the Buddha instead.

Yesterday I came across a teddy bear kit in the 5 & 10 while I was shopping there for something else.

I think maybe we’re like children in our efforts to relate to the divine within us.  We stitch a teddy bear form to embody our notion of the divine, in order to relate more easily to it, and then we make a tea party for it.  We could put real tea in the pot, water, or just imagine the cups as full.  But inviting in the divine to join us and being a hostess to it, that emotional process I think is key.

I think such a tea party on our part is a reflection of how the divine has invited us to a tea party itself.

Welcoming a stranger

November 10, 2011

I wrote something last night, in a comment to the David Brooks-Gail Collins “The Conversation” piece in the NYTimes on the Penn State scandal, about the apparent lack of ability of the personnel to put the children’s needs ahead of their own.  I said something about learning to do things we don’t want to for people we don’t know with consequences we can’t foresee.

This morning that thought turned into recollecting how someone came to me for healing, about eleven years ago.  He said he knew me, but I didn’t remember him.  People I talked to advised me to send him on his way, to professionals, if need be, but I didn’t.  I’m not sure I didn’t take their advice for any particularly admirable reason, but I didn’t take their advice.

Actually, that was not the first time he had come to me.  He had come to me at least three previous times, but this other time was the first time I was ready and he had presented himself in a way that didn’t profoundly scare me.

If he had told me of the consequences of my accepting him, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to engage.  On the other hand, I don’t regret having done it, difficult consequences and all.

What I do struggle with now is how to play the roles in reverse, given the lack of symmetry.  I know that the universe with its various resources can provide me with what I need in other ways, but I need to make sure I am oriented towards where those resources actually are, regardless of where or how I want them to be or where others say they are.  I realize I am as capable of pushing away a gift I don’t recognize as such, of doing the equivalent of not welcoming the stranger in need by not accepting the offer of a host who is offering help to me, as I am of wishful thinking.  I think that until I can figure out what’s what, I will just have to sit tight and temporize.