Yesteryear

Yesterday seemed so sweet. The world was simpler and my decisions were made easier. While I fidgeted with a camera, snapping shots of memories frozen, I dallied with the idea that I could turn back time.

The calendar pages blew softly in the winds of my mind, carrying me back to the year before, and then the year before that. The puzzle pieces were not so small then, and the picture seemed that much clearer. You didn’t exist, and moving further back, neither did he. My heart had not yet been broken and those friendships I lack now were sturdy as trees.

But then I thought back further, searching for the memories I ran to when yesteryear was today. I longed even then for the past, clutching to my chest the poems that defined my youth. What did I think of then, to pull me through the turbulent seas?

The sad truth struck me, jolting me back to here and now. Forever we spend our lives looking back. How do we treasure each moment, when the one before it seems so much sweeter? Who will I be the next time I visit today? With each step forward, I catch myself stealing one glance behind.

I raised the lens to my eye and pressed the click. Best to savor the now, I thought, for on the morrow, it will become the yesterday.

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Instinctual

I didn’t have a plan. From the very start, I followed the wind to bring me to new places. I was tickled by the dandelions and graced by the sunflowers. Dancing barefoot under the cloudless sky, I’ve never felt so alive.

I didn’t have a clue, and until the very end, I don’t believe I ever will. Every step in stride leads me closer to perfection and further from the chaotic magnitude of your sullen devices. This too shall pass, and so I too must carry on.

I never asked for much. My needs are as they’ve always been; a place to call my own; a locale just for me. I’m much too large to be kept in here, confined by each suffocated note blaring from your old school radio.

I never followed the rules. Or the path. I wandered off course and questioned every lesson the great Book taught. If it condemns me, so be it. I’d rather embrace all that’s meant to be endured with my own version of truth. Your light simply wasn’t bright enough for me.

I always knew I’d make it to the edge and back again. What was offered on silver platters spoiled my appetite and churned the bile. I make my own way. I govern my own indoctrinations. This life is mine, and when I began it, I left the rulebook and the maps behind.

Own It

She told me to own it.

Own it? I asked.

Yes. Own it.

You’re angry, and you have a right to be. How many times have you been hurt in the past? How often have you been betrayed? Those you love and care about have taken your trust and used it to suit their own needs. They won’t budge. They will never apologize. They don’t even realize they’ve done you wrong.

What is the definition of family? I bet you don’t even know. What is the definition of love, or trust? You have yet to find out. You’ve endured a lifetime of broken promises and vacant lies, held in place by those you call your friends. It’s time to go and find new ones.

Stop asking for so much, if you know you’ll only be disappointed. Lower your expectations. No one can provide your happiness but you. This is your life, and you need to take charge of it. This pain that you feel- this is your story. It’s a part of who you are. It makes you, you. Use it to your advantage and turn it into something good. Make it your strength. Make it worth your while. You need to own it.

But, I told her, I already have.

Well then, she replied, what’s the problem?

After The Storm

You came into my life like a hurricane, stirring things inside me and making my head spin. Thoughts of you flooded my mind until I drowned beneath the waves that spelled out your name. What was left when you’d finally gone was only debri. I’m still picking up the pieces of my broken heart.

You entered my world like a tornado. You were fast and strong, whirling violently and tossing me around. I trusted you, so I forsook my shelter and stayed above ground. With kind words of encouragement, you battered against my windows and brought the trees down around me. All that remained after you’d gone was the evidence that you’d been there. I stood in your wake and watched you go.

You swooped into my life like a blizzard, with soft flurries that weighed me down and changed the way I viewed the world. You iced over my hopes and dreams with promises of a winter paradise and warm cocoa. I stood outside, tongue to the sky, looking to catch a flake or two, before freezing over completely. I still wait, in your absence, for the spring to help me thaw.

You rocked my world like an earthquake, shaking the foundations and tearing down my walls. I bared my soul to you, and instead you split it in two. My pre-existing fractures grew deeper by your subtle movements. The glasses shattered, and all my finery was laid to waste. I may never trust you again.

And after you’ve gone, what’s left of me is bare. I have nothing to show from my time spent with you. A single vision remains; a picture that’s been weathered and worn, and a memory that only I hold dear. You’ve forgotten me already, like all your other lovers. But as is true with every great storm, I could never, ever forget the likes of you.

Like a Band-Aid

We could have been something, you and I. We were the perfect blend of light and dark, uninhibited and raw. We passionately offered tiny pieces of our lives and I wanted to share all of mine with you. It felt so good in your arms. My name felt right on your lips. I came alive to your touch; fingers trailing down my spine, caressing my cheek, your gaze sinking into mine…

It’s been longer for me than it has for you – since I was last loved, wanted, or cherished. I kept hoping you’d be the one I’d support, and I, in turn, could lean on you. I was only still learning your secrets, and I couldn’t wait to turn the page again.

But you knew all of mine. You had all the answers. Without meaning to, I asked you choose for me, and you saw fit to let me go. You picked honesty over lies, and I understood no explanation would be given. Your silence I deserved. Your truth I deserved, but not your integrity. You left the memories sitting in my open palms while they waited for more. You left me feeling like a fool.

It came all at once, like a band-aid. The sharp pain of rejection and the taste again of freedom. The time was right, and against my preconceived notions, I think I already knew better. We had too much at stake. We never would have lasted, you and I. Like two dragons locked in a spiral, we would have fallen together until one of us decided to let go.

I told you in less words that it had to be you.

Something Other Than You

I’m all wrapped up in a twisted game of fate and “keep it to yourself.” I can remember your smile and the way it lit up the room, filling the corners where the smoke collected. Trouble rested neatly on your brow, shadowing the thoughts you’d never share aloud. Not that I blame you; I am but a stranger, gently prodding for the key to unlock your mysteries.

But I’m all caught up in your arms, your sheets, and the telephone wires humming lazily outside your window. The methodic rhythm of your breath slows to a steady stream, widening and winding through the valley. I’d need a raft just to get across. You’re safe there, for now, balanced carefully on the edge. I’m simply too far to be reached, with your fingers laced tightly behind your spine.

And so I am trapped in the weight of your gaze and the pressure of the moment. The current moves me, carrying me away when all I asked for was a nudge. Validation seems unreasonable. Now I can’t decide what’s right and what’s wrong. Did I move forward, or have you taken a step back? You laugh and I smile. You breathe and I choke. The air thickens and swells; does no one feel it but me?

I’m engulfed in a spaced called the “unknown.” With colored strands of light and dark, this woven blanket tunnels my vision and suffocates my mind. The clouds keep changing so the weather won’t stay still. I ask questions and find no answers. This is a bitter pill I’m being forced to swallow.

But I know this game all too well. You give and take, and I’ll wait patiently for the tide to ebb. Every movement of the earth rocks beneath my feet. A breeze moves across the prairie and I wonder if you’re thinking of me. So I’ll give, and you’ll take once again. The cycle repeats until at last I step away. All I hear is white noise as I slowly turn the dial. An attention once rapt focuses on something different. It narrows my sights and tunes me out, until finally, I am wrapped up in something other than you.

The Cadet

If I could pick one thing I’d want you to know, it would be of my incredible strength. I carry the weight of my world and am unburdened by it. The pressure is no stranger to me. It swells inside, tumultuous and raw, seeping slowly from my pores. Keeping it together is how I get my kicks.

It comes from the feeling of being lost. I kept it all in, having nowhere to turn, and it solidified inside me. It became my purpose, and so I raised my head a little higher. Shoulders squared, I’ll keep moving forward.

I show no weakness – soldiers never do. We march onward with our backs straight and our throats closed. You’ll bear no witness to my tears. And my scars; I wear them proudly. They make me who I am.

But if I could tell you one thing, it would be of my steel backbone. I’d try to convey that I’m near impossible to break. My fortitude is unshakable. Ready your bows and find your marks; I’ll be here, primed and ready. I couldn’t possibly yield. To give in would mean my demise, and I love life too much for that.

I am not immobile. I can be moved. My lips curve a smile as the sun touches my skin. I still tingle when the waves rush past my ankles and my feet slip deeper into the sand. Your smile makes me weak at the knees and to see you cry brings me to tears.

I can be strong for both of us. I’ll lend a hand to anyone who needs my courage. I am a mercenary and my sword is for hire. Worry not about me, kind soul, I can lick my own wounds and piece myself back together.

Because if there’s one thing you should know, it would be that I can handle anything. A world of hardship is never too much for me. I rise above it all and blaze a trail for the next victory. There are no purples hearts, badges or honors. I wouldn’t want them anyway.

All I desire is a connection. I yearn for a root to anchor me and be called my home. Even a lone warrior needs a place to rest her head. And yet, by reaching out for your hand, I leave myself vulnerable to the most devious of plans. Cradled carefully inside, under a tight lock and key, is the hope that one day I can lay down my arms.

And that maybe I can fall down into yours.

I Belong Here

FREE WRITE

This is where I belong. Above blades of emeralds, crisp and cool, I lay at the bottom of the world, thinking solely of you. I’ve been here forever, staring into infinity and asking the question why over, and over, and over again.

The stars have been blinking for hours and when I looked, I found them in your eyes. Your hands were silk. Through your fingers slipped the sands of time and so here I lay, counting the pieces left behind.

But this is where I belong. Buried to my knees in warm grains, watching the waves foam. We’re on the edge of the something so grand there is little room for error. I’ve traced the ripples in your eyes, and I know what song you sing; a whispered hymn, echoing politely in the darkness.

This is my home – the vast open space – the void, tucked away secretly. I belong to the canopies, balanced on the branches. It’s been only me. They could never understand the strength of it all. From under here, I’ve watched the world fall. But you… you are my eagle, soaring proud and free.

It’s a pity, really, that it’s taken me so long. I’ve wandered across the sky, muttering frozen clichés and holding myself for comfort. It has no end, because there was never a beginning. Wrapped together in a coating so clear I can finally see through the fog: It’s been only me, sitting on blades of emerald crisp and cool. I’ve been here forever, thinking solely of you.

Thoughts from a Jewish Atheist

Lately, I’ve been feeling very connected to my Jewish heritage. Which is odd, because I can’t say I’ve ever felt this way before.

I was raised in a Jewish household and attended a Jewish day school for most of my childhood. My education came complete with a Bat Mitzvah and an all-expenses paid trip to Israel.

But even then, in the Promised Land, I didn’t feel this connection. It is imperative, now, before you read any further, that you understand that my connection has very little to do with faith.

You see, I am Jewish, but I am also an atheist. I do not believe in God. I battled for years with my faith and finally settled on the unwavering decision that an all-powerful creator just isn’t for me. I’m much happier without Him.

So how is it, then, that I can feel Jewish? What could Judaism possibly hold for me if God has no place in it?

First, I’m in love with the tradition. I couldn’t care less about the meanings behind them, but I’ve come to cherish the bond I feel with my fellow Jews when we carry out a tradition. Judah Macabee who? Just pass me the matchbook – Chanukah is here and it’s time to light the candles. At B’nai Mitzvahs, I love dancing the Hora and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fully intend to dance it at my own wedding. And please don’t get me started on my Nana’s brisket and Matzo ball soup. It’s to die for!

When I am with a fellow Jew, I recognize the common thread between us. We share similar milestones and hold the same values. We believe the same thing – or at least we’re supposed to. But the amazing thing about the Jewish religion is that it’s okay to wrestle with your faith. I’ve struggled with mine and came to my own decisions, and my comrade has struggled with his/hers and came to another decision. And that is completely okay. We’re both still Jewish!

Lastly, I’m not fishing for pity points here, but let’s talk about the Holocaust. I was born to a Jewish woman and I was Bat Mitzvah-ed. If I had been a Jew in Europe during World War II, I’d be in serious trouble, despite how little “faith” I possess. How can I not feel the loss of six million lives at the hand of one sadistic bastard? And it was all because of our heritage – our family tree.

Which bring me back to point. I have no Jewish faith. What I have is a Jewish heritage. We have a rich history, regardless of how “far back” you choose to believe.

My feelings of connectivity also stems from working my third season at the same school I attended as a child. Suddenly, Shabbat is back in life, even if it is only when I bring my students to in-school temple services. I’m saying prayers before and after meals again, and I interact with our rabbis on a daily basis. I’m busy fulfilling one of Judaism’s most highly regarded philosophies: L’dor v’ dor. From generation to generation. Regardless of how much or little I believe, it’s a beautiful thing.

(Dipping briefly into current events, I had my own personal reaction to the recent attacks at the Gaza Strip. This past summer, I felt a deep sense of pride when Olympic gymnast, Aly Raisman performed her floor routine to Hava Nagila.)

I don’t keep kosher. I refuse to fast on Yom Kippur, and I could honestly give three shits about marrying inside the religion. But I do want my children to have Jewish names. I will want them to understand why they are being forced to sit through a three-hour temple service. We can celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas, as long as they understand the differences between them and why they are significant.

God doesn’t exist for me. I’ve redefined Judaism to suit my own needs. This weekend, when I shake Aly Raisman’s hand, I’ll thank her for choosing Hava Nagila. In March, when I bid my students, my school, and my community goodbye, I’ll recognize what I am leaving behind. This winter, as I light the Chanukah candles with my friends and family, I’ll cherish the connection I feel with them. And next year, when I light my candles alone, I’ll still be Jewish.

Daily Prompt

Dear Fourteen Year Old Me

Prompt: Write a letter to your 14 year-old self.

Dear 14 y/o me,

It’s going to be alright. Right now, it feels like creepy things lurk behind every corner, waiting for you to let your guard down so they can attack. But you’re a teenager; that’s how you’re supposed to feel.

Of course, it doesn’t help that when you come home, you feel even more trapped than you did to begin with. You’re bundled in your own misery, and everyone else is bundled up in theirs. Just turn up the music and block it out. That always seems to help.

So do walks, by the way. You’ll learn to love your long walks where you can breathe and finally find some quiet in which to think. Organizing your thoughts will soon become something that is very important to you.

You will soon also find your niche. It’s been right here, in front of your nose the whole time. Open your journal and read your work. You’re a natural at this. Soon you’ll realize you want to make writing a career.

Your friends are going to come and go. The ones you recently decided to let go of was for the better. You’re about to meet a whole set of new ones. Some of them are going to hurt you as well, but others you will keep in your life for as long as you decide you want them there. Just try to make sure that you don’t feel one way, while your friend feels the other. There is one in particular who is really going to bite you in the ass eight years from now. Of course, I won’t tell you who he is. You need to experience that heartbreak.

You will never stop learning things the hard way.

In just four days, you’re going to meet your high school sweetheart. He’ll be that shoulder you’ve craved. His home will be a warm one, reminding you that the grass is in fact greener on the other side. He’s going to help you break out of your shell. Don’t fight him on this. Growing up is inevitable.

Let your creativity shine. You’re more artistic than you think. At the moment, everything is shaded in black and gray, but in a few short years, you’ll slowly begin adding color back into your life. I think, however, it’s safe to say you’ll always despise yellow. It’s too bright of a color for someone like us.

Don’t worry about your parents. These precious years belong to you, and it’s time to focus on yourself. They are hopeless. Even their divorce wont stop them from tearing each other apart. Just understand that it’s time for you to back off. You’re getting caught up in their crossfire, and you’ve got your own battles to fight.

I’m serious. The road to recovery is long one, but you’re a dedicated individual who knows what it is to work hard. You don’t realize it yet, but you do possess that trait. In time, you’re going to learn how to forgive, and you’re going to learn how to love.

And as for this terrible thing that just happened to you; it’s going to be okay. Seven years from now, you’re going to wake up and decide that you don’t want to be the victim anymore. And just like that, you’re going to let it go.

Just remember that everything in life is fluid. Nothing ever stays the same. Nothing.

Learn how to roll with the punches. Stop trying to make it all go your way. You are just a small composition of atoms in a giant universe. If you remember that, you’ll come into your own. You’ll relinquish some beliefs, and you’ll gain new ones. Be true to yourself, and you’ll make the right choices.

March to the beat of your drum. You’ve been doing it already for fourteen years, but don’t stop now. You’ll cherish your individuality when the rest of the world follows the crowd. They can’t think for themselves, but you can. Just try not to hate them for it. It’s not their fault.

I know more than anyone the way you hate taking people’s advice. But please, there are ten years of growth between us; who else could offer such a guiding hand than me? I am you, but ten years older.

You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to break ties with old friends and you’re going to forge new ones. Soon, there wont be anything to hold you back. You’ll do what your heart desires, and you’ll achieve all you set out to accomplish. Right now, you’re a force to be reckoned with. This will still be true in ten years, but your power right now is spread out in all directions. Channel it. Make it yours. In ten years, you’ll have direction and it will help you blaze your path.

There’s a heavy fog right now. You’re constantly feeling your way through the dark. You need to go through the motions. Right now, you are at your lowest point. From here on, everything is uphill. Just remember the climb isn’t always easy.

I promise you, April, everything is going to be alright.

Yours truly,
24 y/o me