Category Archives: moral of the story

All You Got

I was first introduced to the Marcus Brothers approximately ten years ago. It was before they recorded professionally, before they had become an official band. They had written a few songs and recorded them. Someone got hold of the songs and copied them onto a CD. Someone got a hold of that someone and made their own CD. That someone passed it on to a few someones who passed it on to a few more people until it reached my sister. By extension, it reached me as well.

From the very first time I heard their music it sparked something within me. It kindled my imagination. It resonated.

Over the years they’ve become a band called 8th Day and put our professionally recorded albums. On my recent trip to New York I discovered that the Marcus Brothers had put out a new album. I immediately bought it and on my bus ride home listened to it. The bus is dark and silent. The baby is, thankfully, sleeping in the seat beside me. I put in the ear buds and begin listening. This song. Wow.

This is my favorite song. The truth hit me hard, smacked me in the face, took my breath away, made me marvel. I need to internalize this message. I’ve got to give it all I got.

 

All You Got

after one hundred and twenty-five years

you go up to heaven you climb all those stairs

they won’t ask you were you wise like Solomon

they won’t ask you were you strong like Samson

they’ll ask just one question

and you’ll give just one answer

it’s the end of the game

and only one thing matters

they’ll say did you give it all you got

 

because in this life you only have what you got

so give it all you got

 

in this world we only have what we got

so give it all you got

Such a clever play on words. We only have what we’ve got, but we’ve got exactly what we need to give it our all. That is the only thing that is expected from us; that’s what we’re capable of doing.

 

if you say it’s easy I’ll say it’s not

you gotta give it all you got

if you say it’s not for you I’ll say it’s your lot

you gotta give it all you got

if you say you’re tired I’ll say tick tock

you gotta give it all you got

you could put my album on the shelf to rot

just give it all you got.

No excuses. This is your lot whether you like it or not, it’s what you’ve got, so give it your best shot. (Put my album on the shelf to rot – I love their self-deprecating humor.)

 

after working so hard and wiping those tears

you look in the mirror you face all your fears

don’t be a fool trying to be wise like Solomon

only the weak try to be strong like Samson

I love those last two lines. Don’t be a fool trying to be wise like Solomon and only the weak try to be strong like Samson. True wisdom and strength is to be myself and not try to be like anybody else.

 

I did what I said

I got no one to blame

only one thing matters

at the end of the game

they’ll say did you give it all you got

This is a question I should ask myself every day, during every challenging moment of every day. Am I giving it all I got? Because at the end of the game, when I climb all those stairs, I want to be able to answer: Yes, I gave it all I got.

Stuck in a Rut

I was stuck in a rut. I knew I was stuck. I thought that knowing I was stuck would help me get out of the rut. But it didn’t. I watched as busy people, people with meaningful lives, hurried past me, busy with their meaningfulness. All the while I was stuck with my head poking out of the ground, hopelessly watching their retreating backs.

Stuck-in-a-Rut (1)

I was stuck in a rut. I was doing the bare minimum; enough that my life looked alright but I invested the least amount of energy possible. I was stuck in my rut and I didn’t know how to get out.

So I hauled myself and my baby off to NY on an overnight bus ride.  I was looking for change, for motivation, for an escape from the tediousness of routine.

Friday morning I went to the Ohel.  I had with me a letter I had written to the Rebbe four years previously and somehow had never had the opportunity to hand it in. Standing at the Ohel, balancing the car seat  with a sleeping baby inside on the ledge, I read the old letter. 

Four years ago was a confusing time for me. I doubted everything. I questioned everything. I challenged the foundations of everything I had been raised with. I rebelled. The rebellion hurt, though. I wanted answers, I just didn’t know where to find them. So I wrote to the Rebbe. Because that’s what I was taught to do. Because even at the height of all the pain and confusion I still wanted to believe.

For years later I can look back with the clarity of hindsight an realize that all my questions have been answered. Whatever I had asked for in my personal life had been fulfilled. The Rebbe had answered my letter. Granted, it took time, but I got them. The Rebbe answered all of my questions.

My rut was shrinking. I was beginning to see more than just people’s ankles.

On Sunday I met up with a friend for lunch. She drank coffee, I ate a bagel. She asked me about my creative life. I smiled bashfully; my creative life had ceased to exist. I immediately had to defend myself and explain that while I was hanging out in my rut I had come to the conclusion that it was imperative that I continue writing. I had made an ambitious declaration that I would write a blog post once a week. It didn’t matter what I wrote about and it didn’t have to be perfect, it just had to be written.

My friend wisely reminded me that it’s about letting go of my inhibitions, freeing myself  of worrying about what others think. It doesn’t matter what they think. They don’t make me who I am, I cannot let them control me. I can only succeed if I’m not afraid to express myself, to be vulnerable  to be uninhibited. 

A breath of fresh air. I now had one foot out of my rut. It was time to say goodbye to it.

The band called 8th Day helped me pull my second foot free. The stood me up and sent me running forward to live my life. Perhaps next week I will explain in a post titled All You Got.

My King is in the Field

The king is in the field.

Thank you to fifty percent of my Facebook friends for reminding me. Should I actually click on the link to chabad.org and read the article?

Maybe.

What does it mean?

The king is in the field?

If I put a question mark at the end it turns it into an incredulous tone. Can it really be that the king is in the field?

It’s obviously a metaphor.

A field is a wide open space, it doesn’t belong to anyone in particular. It’s emptiness, vastness, freedom.

The king who is normally cloistered in his palace is now in the field, open to visitors. He’s accessible, approachable.

All I have to do is close my eyes and imagine.

The field stretches, seemingly endlessly. The grass is browning and crunching under my feet. The sky is blue, scattered with clouds and rays of sun. I can feel the kings presence. I hesitate. Do I have the audacity to approach the king with my sob story? with my excuses? with my bumbling effort at a fresh start?

His presence is so palpable and surprisingly not intimidating. He smiles, invitingly waiting for me to  step forward and address him. Trembling, I lurch towards him and speak.

Dear King,

I’ve come because you are here, I’ve come because I can, because I’ve been waiting all year for this opportunity to speak with you.

There is so much I can say, I should say yet it is so difficult to express myself. There is so much that I’m afraid to say, to admit.

Dear King, I’ve screwed up, many times. You’ve told me not to do certain things and I’ve gone ahead and done them anyway. Please, don’t take it the wrong way; I didn’t do it to make you angry or to purposely defy you. It’s just that… I did it. I knew I shouldn’t, I sort of hoped that I had enough strength of character not to do it, but I screwed up. It’s so lame. I don’t even have any proper excuses.

I’m sorry. Really, I am. I can’t even say that I didn’t mean to do it because I did. I did it knowingly. Yet it’s written that a person doesn’t sin unless a spirit of folly enters them. Right?

My spirit’s been pretty folly-full. I know that. And I know that you know that too.

I want to change. I want to be a better person. I want to have a better relationship with you. I don’t want to have to rely on this once a year arrangement where I can cry, beat my chest, say I’m sorry, and wipe my slate clean.

I pause; my thoughts swirling, I’m trying to pick up on one stream of thought. Trying to express that feeling, that movement  in my heart

And yet with all the things I’ve done wrong you’ve come out here, onto my turf, into this g-d forsaken earth.  You’ve given me a chance.

So really what I’m trying to say is this:

When you go back to the palace, I’m coming with you. I’m coming back with you onto your turf. Because I love you. Because you love me. Because we both know that we’re meant to be together. We’re in this relationship together and I’m committed to our relationship.

I Have Come to My Bridal Chamber; באתי לגני

I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride… (Song of Songs)

I stared at the page in front of me, at the little black letters lined up neatly in organized rows. It seemed daunting to me. It was just individual letters, not words and sentences that convey a message. I sighed as I pulled the book closer to me. I’d give it another shot. See, my problem wasn’t with actual comprehension. I could understand it if I really wanted to. What bothered me was: What does all this mean to me? Do these letters, words, lines, paragraphs, pages – do they hold any meaning for me? Personally? In my life?

I peered into the book, at the open page. Basi Legani… I have come to my garden, to my bridal chamber. Bridal chamber. Those words caught my attention. Maybe this was talking to me.

This world was God’s home, where He felt comfortable, where He could kick his shoes off and put His feet up on the couch. And then He was forced to leave. He wants to come back and that’s our job. We are meant to bring Him back here to this physical world, to His home.

My thoughts veered off sharply into the realm of fantasy. The idea of a home had my imagination running off into the near future. Did I care what color the towels would be? Do the towels have to match the linen? I’d love a black leather couch. Where can I find a cookbook that has tasty but easy to follow recipes? Do they have Cooking for Dummies?

I reigned in my thoughts, trying to refocus on the Ma’amer. So how do I bring God back here together with my leather couch? I continued on in the Ma’amer and the Rebbe answers the question. The way we can bring it back is through subduing the evil and to transform it to good. In the words in the Ma’amer it is called Etkafiah and Et’hapcha respectively. This is how we enable God to feel comfortable here once more.

It’s kind of the same thing with my home, I realized, feeling excitement spreading within me. This Ma’amer really is talking to me. Etkafiah and Et’hapcha really are necessary ingredients in building a home. I want to subdue outside influences so that they don’t enter and disturb the sanctity of my home. I also want to be able to transform my home into a warm place, a place of goodness, light, happiness, positivity and Godliness. A home isn’t just the walls and the furniture within. A home is the atmosphere and I have the power to form and transform it to be something positive and great.

I sat back, thoughtful. This is what the Ma’amer was telling me. The best part is that through me subduing and transforming my home that’s how I bring God into it in a way that He can be comfortable and call it His home as well.

I closed the book in satisfaction and stood up. I walked away, grinning; laughing at myself that I couldn’t help but think that green would be a good color for towels.

Dwelling in the Obstacle

She awoke to a cloudless morning, the sky was the sharpest, clearest blue; more blue than she had ever seen. The sun glowed, glinting off the marbled façade of the mountains. All around her, copper-toned mountains rose majestically against the brilliant blue sky.

She breathed deeply, inhaling the fresh scent of pine trees. A slight breeze blew, rustling the leaves, fluttering her hair. The morning was perfect and that gave her a burst of motivation. She stared up at the peak she intended to climb and inhaled once more. She repositioned the pack on her back, re-knotted the laces on her hiking boots, and took a sip of cool water from her canteen.

Then she was off.

A few hours later a break was forced upon her.

A wall-like rock confronted her, stopping her in her tracks. She sucked in a breath, stunned. It loomed in front of her, menacing, obstructing her path. She reckoned it approximated the height of her three story apartment building back home. She estimated that from right to left the boulder was fifty feet. She couldn’t fathom climbing that.

She walked towards the left side of the boulder and then gaped. Nothing was there. The mountain broke off, dropping thousands of feet into oblivion. If she took another step she would be hurtling through the endless abyss. She stumbled back to her starting point somewhere in the middle, gazing upward in fascinated horror. Its utter immensity frightened her.

She moved to her right only to be impeded by the rocky face of the mountain rising upwards in its eternal journey to the sky, giving her no leeway. She walked back to the center; she stepped back and took in the rock formation. Perfectly rounded like a salad bowl, it was a small hill, tiny in comparison to the mountains surrounding it. Yet it taunted her, sneered at her. It intoned: can you overcome me?

It was just a rock, really. She approached it until she was directly in front of it; put her hands up against it, felt the grainy rock against her palm. She looked up and her heart dropped; she couldn’t even see the top of it. She clenched her fists and returned to the towering mountain on the right, leaned against it, scratched her head. Then she walked across the stretch of ground until she stood once more at the cliff, staring down into the void. It terrified her. She hurried back to her starting point.

The mental image of a cage entered her mind.

She sat down on a small outcropping to catch her breath. The sky, still the most dazzling sapphire blue, contrasted against the mountains which jutted out proudly. The sun, bright and strong, warmed the stones. The rise and fall of hill and valley, the radiant sky, the fiery sun filled the entire spectrum of her sight. The beauty of it was lost on her.

The gentle morning breeze dissipated and the sun glared fiercely. She swallowed a mouthful of water and then frowned; the water was warm and had not refreshed her at all. The sweat dripped from her face; she wiped her sleeve across her forehead but to no avail. The beads of sweat rolled on, unconcerned with her discomfort.

She breathed, trying to recapture the morning calm. Despite her desperate attempts her heart rate began to accelerate

Breathe! Calm down!

She couldn’t. She stood up. This wasn’t a break. This was the end. The monstrous boulder leered at her, cutting off any progress. She paced back and forth along the length of the boulder, from the mountain to the cliff and back again, although careful not to come too close to the precipice.

The image of a cage returned, only this time it seemed to have shrunk in size.

The sun beat down, unrelenting, apparently unaware of her predicament. She paused midstride, crouched down, slung her pack off her back, tied a scarf on her head and reapplied sunscreen, and then continued her pacing.

Now what?

Stop wasting time and deal with the issue! Internal Voice One commanded.

And do what exactly? Internal Voice Two countered. There is no way to scale this boulder, the sides aren’t viable options. What do you want me to do?

No response.

A helpless rage tore through her. She marched over to the mammoth boulder, kicked it angrily and then howled in pain. She sank to the ground, tugged off her boot, and clutched her throbbing toe as darts of agony shot through it. She moaned, rocking back and forth, eyes glittering with tears.

She stood up, hopping on one booted foot. She sagged awkwardly against the boulder, and the full extent of her predicament hit.

The two voices inside of her joined, welled up, and burst out,

“I AM STUCK!”

The sound rebounded off the mountains, reverberating.

“Stuck… stuck… stuck…”

She held her head in her hands.

“Stuck… stuck… stuck…” the echo continued to ricochet off the mountains.

Utter silence followed. Awestruck by the absence of sound, she froze.

And then realization struck.

I am stuck,” she murmured. “I’ve been dwelling in the obstacle. I need to zoom out.”

This gargantuan boulder would not thwart her. Maybe she needed to climb down, maybe she needed to call for help, or maybe she was on the wrong mountain to begin with. Either way, she would overcome the challenge.

She began stepping back and then laughed self-consciously even though no one was around. She bent down, pulled her boot back on, and continued.

She turned back from whence she had come. She stared at the path snaking its way down the mountain. Breathing deeply, she could almost smell the fresh scent of the morning pine trees. She repositioned the pack on her back, re-knotted the laces on her hiking boots, and took a sip of water from her canteen.

Then she was off down the mountainside.