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Now that I'm done complaining...

I'm so excited to say that TANTOR TOOK ME BACK!! Even though I up and left them, they took me back! As I said a million times before, it's the perfect job for me and the nitpicking introverted book fiend word obsessed nerd that I am. I'm so glad I took the chance and asked for my job back. It took a while for an opening to pop up (one of the other proofers is moving to VA), but as soon as it did, they called me and welcomed me back. I guess that's what happens when you have an impeccable work record (I excelled at that job and it has not been forgotten) and you leave on good terms.

I'm so thrilled the universe is giving me a second chance!! I've been agonizing over leaving too soon for over a year now. Stupid mistake fixed!


OMG I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE HIGH HOLIDAYS TO BE OVER! Why did I take on so much this year? I have a speech to give on September 30th as part of our synagogue's Elul series, I have 3 solos on Rosh Hashanah day 1,
I'm chanting the Haftarah for RH day 2 and then I have another round of solos for Yom Kippur. I'm rehearsing twice a week with the choir (which means I have to be at shul Tuesday, Wednesday (for Hebrew School), Thursday & Sunday (more Hebrew School)...and my gas bill is double what it usually is (my own fault for picking a shul so far away)...

And I know this is nothing compared to what rabbis and cantors have to do to prepare. I don't know how they pull it off!

I just want a night where I'm not falling asleep over my machzor trying to cram more Hebrew into my head.


Dear Universe,

I will forgive all the hell you put me through over the past year and a half if you just let me have my job at Tantor back. They finally contacted me saying they have an opening and they want me to come in Wednesday to talk. I'm freaking out. I hope they remember all the things that made me an outstanding employee and they will give me a second chance. I was so stupid to walk away from that job. I loved it and I was good at it. I keep telling myself they wouldn't have stayed in touch with me if they didn't really want me back. Please please please let things go well. I'm so paranoid that they'll end up deciding not to take me back because they'll be afraid I'll leave again. Everything I'm writing sounds like I'm talking about trying to get back together with my ex...ex-employer anyway.

Oh my nerves!!!

Praying and hoping!!!

Lightning strikes every time she moves

Can't sleep.
Can't write.
Can't think.
Can't breathe.

Or it's more like I can breathe but I'd rather not. This air is forced on me by lungs too stupid to stop expanding. Heart pounding out its dull rhythm like the dumbfounded machine it is. There is nothing left to do but receive each day as it comes, let it roll over me as I hide under blankets, held hostage by the blood coursing ignorantly through my veins. Warm quivering flesh in a puddle on the sheets. I pour myself onto the floor, half expecting the carpet pile to absorb me. Nope, somehow I manage to stand--but gravity is relentless, every cell in my body weighs a pound, every movement takes infinite amounts of energy. I am exhausted. I am nothing. I am tired of feeling this way. I am tired of feeling. Of worrying if quivering flesh is all I'll ever be. Half this lifetime has gone away. Half this lifetime spent on surviving nightmares and pulling the rug out from under myself over and over again. Go back to school but barely graduate. Leave college with professors proclaiming they'll be proud to teach the books I write, but I've barely scratched pen to paper in over 12 years. Land awesome internships and jobs but fail to show up for them. Give birth to beautiful children with absolutely no ability to give them what they need. Marry a man and slowly poison his love for me, make him so desperate to be rid of me that he's willing to send me off with a few thousand dollars and a wave, because it's the amicable thing to do. Because I do nothing but drag him down. Drag the kids down. Drag me down--it's the one thing I'm good at: ruining things.

I have so many memoirs inside of me

I wish I knew how to get them out...

I guess the secret is to just write and not give a fuck what it sounds like, not every word is going to be pretty or brilliant or full of anything but desperation. I don't know how to write for the sake of writing. I only know how to write to keep from dying. I cannot work at it. Cannot revise. Cannot place a single deliberate letter--how it comes out is how it stays. But I have so many stories to tell. I've survived so much. I remember when I read Bastard Out of Carolina and it was this revelation--I can take this pain and make it into something more--if I could only figure out how to spell it out. But here I am nearly 2 decades later and no closer to it. I want the world to know how extraordinary it is that I'm still breathing--not because I want any kind of glory, but because I know from experience that literature like I want to write can save lives--it can take hold of a sad sorry broken little girl and prove to her there is life beyond her pain.

It's not like my story is not interesting--I think I'd have to tell it from a place of hope--maybe frame it with my conversion to Judaism--this act of defiance, to snatch what I can from the wreckage of my past and make it mine, excavating the very source of my pain--like the universe is saying to me "this is how you make peace with what was done to you" because I can't disconnect it--I know what shoved me through the doors of a synagogue was finding Jewish names in my lineage. And while I'm standing on the bimah, my arms cradling Torah scrolls, reciting the V'ahavta while my rabbi affirms my place in the tribe, my father is online praying for the destruction of the very people I'm coming back home to. Because he hates his mother, so of course he hates what she comes from. While I'm reclaiming what I believe should have always been mine, my father seethes with holocaust denial & theories that paint Israel as a terrorist state bent on world domination. He fantasizes about my demise without even realizing it. Not that he wasn't always hellbent on my demise, but this is certainly a way to hurt me that not even he could have imagined.

So where do I start? Which piece of insanity do I address first?

it's the picture

of me in the red dress, puffy sleeves, and in between
a shy smile. I remember
the red shoes that went clickity clack like grown up shoes
I remember
the tights with the tiny hearts on them
the tights that covered bruises
the legs that ached.
Because before the photographer posed me,
he pushed me apart
and ripped his way in, as I curl around the pain
biting into the pillow
with milk teeth, until one of them
dislodged and blood soaked
into the sheets in 2 places
that night.
My mother squealed to see the gap the next day.
She put the tooth in her velvet-lined jewelry box and gave me a quarter,
didn't even bother with the toothfairy story,
no make believe except her pretending
the tooth was the only thing I lost that night.
I put away the pills and did my homework. This is the tightrope I walk.


i go from counting pills to checking add/drop deadlines
from assessing a blade's sharpness to making reading lists
from planning parties to contemplating my funeral
i remember when we studied Plath in my American Women Poets class and the prof claimed she didn't think Sylvia meant to kill herself because her planner was so full and she had so many projects underway
for me, there is no surer indication of suicide...

because you agonize over living before you make the decision to die
because you don't really want to die but it's either death or pain
inescapable invisible incomprehensible intolerable indefatigable mental anguish
i've been doing this for 35 years
i'm tired of psyching myself up
maybe tomorrow will be better
but the better never comes
and i'm a zombie dragging from one day to the next
all i can do is curl up in bed with my eyes closed and despise the dark inside my lids
i will never write the way i should
i will never love the way i should
i will never work the way i should
i will never sing the way i should
i will never mother the way i should
i will never be the way i should
because so much of me is consumed by THIS

and it's true: the only reason I'm alive right now is because I'm too much of a coward to try again. it's not because of my kids or my husband or my ambitions or my anything. i'm afraid of trying and failing again. because life doesn't give up easy. the body is sturdier than you think. if i could will my heart to stop, i would. if i could put a bullet in my brain i would. if i had access to some no fail method to take myself out, i'd do it. it took fistfuls of pills to knock me out nearly 12 years ago and even that wasn't fast enough, they still snatched me back. so here i am still plagued--only with 3 more lives suffering because i can't get my shit straight. no doubt they will miss me. no doubt my death will leave holes in their hearts but would those holes be bigger than the ones left if i stay alive and continue to fail them? i'm not there for them either way...

so do i swallow all the pills i have dumped out on the counter? every time i get my prescription filled i think--is this enough? should i hoard pills and wait like i did in 2004? but i don't have access to the amounts of drugs i had then because then i stole all my mother's left over medication--every pill they tried her on to treat her depression and deemed ineffective--every last one went into my little box. i took them out of their bottles so i would forget what they were--so they were nothing but yellow and green and peach and white circles and ovals--candy colored and harmless-looking. right now all i have are the drugs i get prescribed and the doc is smart enough to prescribe just enough to get me to my next appointment. i don't have opportunity to amass because if i don't take the pills i'm prescribed, i go through withdrawal. so all i have is the hope that the freshly filled prescriptions will be enough.

i have 2 full bottles at my disposal right now.

Apr. 12th, 2016

I haven't written anything extracurricular in so long. Words feel stiff as my knuckles. Maybe it's best to just let the thoughts fossilize...I have so much that's gone undocumented--new jobs, new breakdowns, roles played (who ELSE should play Queen Vashti than the woman who named her bird after the character), and most recently, chanted verses. It's about the only good thing that's come out of the past few months, with yad chain rattling, I sang my way through verses 51-54 of Tazria and nobody believed it was my first time in front of an open Torah scroll. Didn't stumble, didn't lose my place, stayed perfectly on key, didn't mispronounce a single word. The woman standing next to me as I read said she was amazed at how clear and strong my voice was because she could see how badly I was shaking. I admit, this does not mean I understand anything more about trope. I just listened to a recording until each syllable was burned into my brain & tracked the words with Scroll Scraper. One day I'll truly learn how to read trope. It's required of me, after all, as a student pursuing cantorial soloist certification. I admit I like the title--I like the credential, because it's not enough for me to just do this, I want a piece of paper with my name on it that says I know what I'm doing--that I've worked and studied and gotten as close to cantorial ordination as the rules will allow. And oh how I hope those rules will change while I'm still young enough to take advantage of it.

the trope of the returning Jew

This is springing directly out of a comment I left on the entry before the music one...

I bet you anything there's no scholarship on this subject: the psychological machinations of those of lost Jewish descent who discover that descent and decide to convert. I've talked to enough "Who knew? Jews" (that's what I call us) to know my own fanciful descriptions of my journey are not unique:

We all say we always "felt" Jewish.
We all talk about being inexplicably drawn to all things Jewish even at a young age.
We all had a tendency, even before we knew who we were related to, to prefer and keep the company of Jews.
We all describe a lightbulb going on once we uncover our Jewish genealogical connection.
...and then we go searching for a rabbi and talk about things like reclamation and returning and being in possession of a Jewish soul that desperately wants to go back to where it belongs.

Julius Lester is probably the most well-known example of the "converting to return Jew." His was one of the very first books I read when I started my conversion process. Little did I know that my comments on Tablet and Kveller and Jewish Daily Forward and pretty much any Jewish media outlet that publishes any article about conversion would lead to me finding so many more people just like me--enough to prove that I'm not alone and certainly not unique.

And now, of course, I'm obsessed with writing about the pattern--and that's going to take a lot of digging for more stories & interviews--lots of primary research. I know I've yet to see any piece of scholarly writing devoted to this particular subject--and we're worth studying! We're a fascinating bunch...belief in blood memory is alive and well with us. I credit it for my ability to absorb both prayer and Hebrew so quickly even while fully admitting how absurd such a notion is--it's just another way I try to legitimize my "recovered" Jewishness. We're preoccupied with legitimacy, us returners, even more so than other converts...because when you're trying to "get back what you lost," the last thing you want to hear is it was never yours to begin with.