originally published: 2012-02-27
You can’t always get what you want,
You can’t always get what you want,
You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes, well you just might find,
You get what you need.
I feel stretched. My body is stretched, my mind is stretched, my soul is stretched, my heart is stretched, and my intellect is stretched. I have been stretched this weekend inside and out, and I feel I have grown along new pathways of feeling and thinking, and developed deeper connections and relationships with my family, my friends, and G-d. As with every good stretch – I feel slightly sore, tingly all over, and exceptionally calm and relaxed. This is the true Intention of Shabbat: Rest. Relax. Rejuvenate. Renew. Grow.Fri. Feb. 27th
Graham arrived, and I did the Shabbat blessings over the candles. We spent the evening talking about his travels in India in ’89, and my ideas for my novel, and some of my notes on Problem of Pain. We ate Robin’s excellent curry, and had Horstings Farm blueberry pie for dessert.
All too soon, it was time for bed. Tracey had graciously vacuumed her level of the house, and I made up the futon for Graham to sleep on. He doesn’t sleep with a pillow!
Sat. Feb. 28th
Just as we were getting ready to leave, Dave woke up. I talked to him, and verified that he would ensure Robin got up. They would meet us at the shul later.
Graham and I left the house, and walked down to shul. It was cold and quite windy, and still a bit overcast. Graham seemed to be puffing a bit with the weight of the food bag.
I made us stop for a rest at the half-way point, on some benches. While sitting, I told him more about the healing aliyah, and he said that he would like that experience as a special opportunity to pray for his mother, Claire. I told him that I had previously decided that if he wanted to go up, I would go up with him. I hadn’t stood in the healing aliyah since Amanda’s death.
We continued our walk, and made it to shul ahead of Judy, the caretaker. We had time for us to walk around the building, and for me to point out some features of the grounds, before she arrived.
We went in, I showed him the sanctuary, we took off our outer gear in the foyer, and I busied myself setting up where we would sit while he was in the bathroom.
We took the food downstairs to the kitchen, and then I gave him a tour of the rest of former church. Graham particularly liked the library in the former choir balcony cum study and crying room.
We went back to the sanctuary, and I stripped down to my slip and tights and lead Graham through my morning warm-up stretches, and light yoga routine. It amuses me how inflexible he is. I have always prided myself on being as flexible physically, as I am mentally. After we were mostly done, I showed off a bit, and then Bet showed up with a few visitors. She did seem slightly annoyed that we were stretching, but didn’t really want to outright prevent us. We were basically done.
I put my clothes back on, and Graham and I looked through the siddur together a little bit. I settled him on my left side. I’m not sure why, but the last few weeks I have envisioned Graham sitting on my left. Dave showed up, rather abruptly to my mind, and sat to my right. Robin was not with him – I’d forgotten Dave had said he would have to go back downtown for his dress pants.
Robin showed up, looking even more harried than Dave. Robin sat on the far right of Dave, I think he wanted to separate himself from me as much as possible.
We started a bit late – we had to wait for Reb. Laura, Charles, and their son to show up. Charles started things off, while Reb. Laura went around to say hi to people. She spotted me with my party, and I briefly introduced everyone to her.
The services went pretty well, although there was one song I had hoped they would do, but did a different one instead. I was quite proud of how well Graham muddled his way through the transliteration of the Hebrew – even if he did get, “wall-eyed,” trying to read the English translation at the same time. He did ask a lot of questions through the service, which was sort of odd, because I had told him we’d be moving through too fast for me to answer questions, and had recommended that he write his thoughts in his notebook to go over later. (A method I in fact employed during his Mass later)
The ark was opened, and we did the Torah section. We went through a few other aliyahs, for some of the other people who were co-hosting the Kiddush, and then it was time for the healing aliyah. I waited until Reb. Laura was finished announcing it, and let some of the other congregants rise before I led Graham to the front. To my disappointment, no one offered to shelter us in their tallit, but we made do by side-hugging each other.
I prayed silently while the Hebrew Torah portion was read, very conscious of Graham’s comforting presence beside me, and equally conscious of the fact that I was comforting him, since it was his mother we prayed for. Again, I was worried I would turn it into a sexualized experience, and again I was surprised that I did not, that it remained pure to its Intention. I thanked Him for that, also, that I was being given the gift of this weekend in clarity and purity, a complete relief from my burdens of the previous month.
We shifted and drew apart as the Torah section drew to a close, and we stood shoulder to shoulder whispering the names of those we prayed for with the group around us. I was surprised to hear Graham whisper, “…the other Knights of Columbus, and their families,” I think more for the fact that I could hear it (someone should explain to him the difference between a whisper, and a stage whisper) than for the prayer itself. Although I guess I also partly feared him “outing,” himself in a group of davening Jews. The moment puzzled me, and caused a bit of a separation while I tried to pinpoint what was bothering me. Is it not all prayer? Is it not all healing Intentions to Him? Are we not all asking for the same thing from the same G-d? And, moreover, is this congregation itself not made from people from all four corners of theism?
Ultimately, of course, the seemingly outward thought was not about Graham, but about myself, my own understanding, convictions, and strength. I am comfortable with the fact of prayer; I am comfortable with the act of praying; but I am not yet comfortable with the fact that I pray.
It is a self-consciousness, and I don’t experience self-consciousness very often. It is like improv, or role playing, or a few other things I could mention. It’s like the act itself makes complete sense, and feels right and natural and intuitive (and has gotten more so once I was able to incorporate Graham’s advice of “approaching it like talking to a friend,”) until I start thinking about what I’m actually doing, and then I spin off into circles and can no longer act.
It is perhaps envy of Graham that motivated the thought – here is Graham, standing at the heart of a group of Jews, and he can just pray. He can be comfortable since he is among people of Faith, and fellow theists. Whereas I am only partly integrated – there is still a part of me going, “Wow – do you know what we’re doing? We’re praying to G-d! There’s actually like this deity thing – and we’re actually, like, praying to Him!” (and, of course, then what if we get an Answer?)
We shuffled off the stage with the other congregants, and Reb. Laura shook his hand and thanked him. She sort of half-thanked me, but didn’t shake my hand.
Shortly after, the prayers were concluded, and it was time for lunch. Dave had a massive headache by this point, so he walked home to nap. I hugged him, thanked him for being with us, and sent him on his way. I set up some of my food, and we did the Kiddush prayers. I showed Graham how everyone holds everyone else’s shoulder when we do the song for the challah.
We ate, and Gaylan (who is now becoming Leah) talked with us. At one point, Robin said in an aside to me, “I’ll kill you later.” Such is a code in our family for promise of later reprisal for some sort of error or slight done in public. I was shocked and angry when he said it, because I could think of nothing I had done wrong. I asked him, “What the Hell did I ever do to you?” which is a direct quote from my mother. He waved me away, but I continued. Robin and I had discussed our expectations for each other for the day – and I had told him exactly how I would introduce him, which is what I had done. Robin’s biggest concern was that I not refer to him as my, “goy toy.” I had respected his wishes, and had done nothing else that I could see.
When Robin was out of earshot, I explained this to Graham. I told him the only thing I could possibly see that could have caused offense was hugging Graham during the healing aliyah, but I couldn’t conceive of that being the problem. Graham told me to go talk to him, to, “communicate,” which was not really a reminder I needed. Robin and my communication is usually quite good. I told him I would – once we were home.
Robin took the dishes, and left to drive home. Graham and I stayed talking to Leah for quite a while, and then Reb. Laura joined us for a bit. Graham did most of the talking. I told Reb. Laura that I did have a lot of questions, but I knew that once I started talking, I’d stop listening, so I was going to continue to listen for a bit. As she left, I reminded her to follow up with me about the Exploration to Judaism course dates next fall.
Graham and I packed up, used the washroom again, and headed out. We walked home. We talked a bit about services on the way home.
I tried to explain something to Graham, but I don’t think he understood my point. I told him that never, ever in my life have I shown someone my writing at as raw a state as I have shown him my ideas for my novel. Not my parents, not my partners, not even my closest friends. Because of my learning disability, because of my handwriting, because of a lot of different things, I am exceedingly vulnerable about my writing, and it has been heightened by Robin’s inability to comprehend me at an empathic and somewhat symbolic level. Graham, I think, took this to be the same as the warning I’d give him the night before, “This is all very preliminary,” but that wasn’t my point at all. My point was about trust, intimacy, and mutual comprehension. It’s also about developing greater strength in myself, and confidence as a writer. Graham is the only person I have entrusted my hesitant starts at this level to; he’s the only person I’ve ever felt the confidence around that his ideas will not overwrite, change or block my own
When we got home, we found Tracey and Susan in my kitchen discussing Karen and Daniel who had just departed (we didn’t know they were coming). Susan was investigating what was hers out of my dishware. Robin came in, and I asked him what he was upset about. I told him I suspected he thought that my congregants were weird hippies, his same problem with the SCA. Robin said it was some of that, but it was also the two mentally disadvantaged people who he felt had singled him out. Both Susan and I thought that was weird – they were doing what they do. Robin also claimed that I must have told a lot of people my, “goy toy,” joke because he thought people were looking at him. I told him he was paranoid, and they were looking because they were curious. Robin said they were smirking; I said they were smiling. I have told maybe two or three people the, “goy toy,” joke, and most of them weren’t even at shul that day.
We drank water, and I had a second mug of tea, and then Graham and I moved to the couch. Once on the couch, I started to crash a bit emotionally. I was suddenly feeling very vulnerable and small. I found myself really wishing I could snuggle up to Graham. I recognized the impulse as inappropriate, even though I was pretty sure my motivations were still pure. I told Graham I wanted to hug him, but was scared of my motivations because I was starting to crash, and would thus remain on my side of couch. Graham made noises in agreement.
Robin came back in, and Graham told him that his wife needed a hug. Robin looked at me, and asked why I needed a cuddle. I told him I was crashing a bit. He came and squeezed himself onto the couch (pushing me into Graham) and held me. After a few moments, Graham realized this was an excellent time to go to the bathroom.
My alarm went off for a quarter to four, and I went upstairs to wake up Dave. He said he still wanted to attend the Mass, and to give him 15 minutes to get ready. I went back downstairs, and did the Havdalah ceremony, then Graham and I both got ready for the Mass.
Dave got ready, and I headed outside. Graham was saying something about a book, and walking backwards deeper into the house. I left him and went to the car. Eventually Graham figured out what had happened, and joined us.
Just as he was seated, his phone rang, and we waited for him to finish his call, and put on his seatbelt. It was someone asking for directions to the restaurant for dinner.
We drove to his church – I managed to remind Dave that we weren’t going to Graham’s house, or the Anglican church.
At Graham’s church, Holy Cross, Caitrin and her daughter Sarah joined us, and eventually Tamsyn and her daughter did, also. Dave sat to my right, and Graham sat to his right, on the isle. As Graham was, of course, the most familiar with the form of the Mass, I felt quite apart from it and from him. As Dave knew all the prayers, I also felt alone from him.
The Mass was a bit uncomfortable for me, and I’ve been trying to pinpoint why. When we started, I realized that a lot of the prayers and hymns talked about Jesus. I realized that though I had been the only Jew among the three men I had brought to shul that morning, there was nothing in the Jewish program that was inherently contradictory to the Christians. The reverse was not the case. Everything was contradictory. Here I was, the only Jew in a vast room of Catholics and other Christians. I felt very alone. I don’t think I have felt quite so alone since I was in high school, and the only Jewish student there, also.
However, I didn’t want to disappoint Graham. He had so valiantly attempted the Hebrew transliterations of my service’s prayers, that it seemed ungracious not to reciprocate. So, I muddled along, but it felt awkward and wrong. It felt disingenuine. It felt blasphemous.
I eventually came to the conclusion that I understand perfectly how the fact of Jesus’ divinity is vital to the Christian numinous experience, but that it is neither a requirement nor a component of my own, or of Judaism’s.
At the conclusion of the Torah section in my services, we always sing the following:
“She is a tree of life,
more precious than gold.
Hold her in your heart,
and you will understand,
Her roots are deep and wise,
her branches filled with light,
and all her pathways are peace.
“She,” in that context is Torah. The way “Shekhinah” (the presence or manifestation of God which has descended to “dwell” among humanity) is placed in the song, it is both an indication of to Whom we dedicate the prayer, but also the idea that to understand Torah, is to understand G-d. Jews absorb their understanding of G-d by sinking their roots into Torah. Obviously, Catholics learn from the Gospels, but the Book is not a living artefact in the same way. They ingest their numinous experience through the sacrament.
I wanted to find a way to say that which neither negates the fact of Jesus’ Divinity, nor insults Graham’s core doctrine. Both absorption and ingestion are valid ways of gaining nutrients. To me it is not an issue whether Jesus is Messiah or not, whether his Divinity is Truth or not. It’s a non-issue. It’s a moot point. It is not my question. It is not my numinous experience; it is not where you will find my roots.
I had one powerful moment in the middle of the Mass, though, when I realized that the Bible section for the day was the story of Noah. My first parshat, five months ago, on the first of Heshvan, was also Noah. Circles within circles – getting to experience the gift of Shabbat with Yitzchak to start me on my path, and then the gift of Shabbat with Graham as sort of a check-point. I thanked Him for that, also, and I understood that it meant that this was good, also. At home, later, Robin joked that I was not allowed to start regularly attending Mass. I agreed – but that’s not what the Noah portion meant. It was more the spiritual equivalent of having an absent friend suddenly show up, slug you playfully on the shoulder and say, “Hey, just in case you weren’t sure – I’m still around, and hey, I’ve been Watching you and you’re doing just fine. Keep going. Hang in there, kiddo.” Déjà vu, in our reality, is not an indication of a glitch, but a glimpse of the Script, a gentle nod from the Director that you’re still on book.
The priest started talking, and I found myself tuning out. I realized that he was not talking to me. (Graham points out that he literally wasn’t) But more than that, I realized that he couldn’t address me.
This got me started on a complicated tangent that involves Judaism being innate through the female line, and that though Christianity is loosely patriarchal, it is in no way as direct. If I were to convert to, say, Catholicism, and raise my kids Catholic, even in adulthood, at any point, one of my kids could say, “My mother was born Jewish,” and he would be accepted as a Jew. (Much as Lewis’ stepson did, when he became an Orthodox Jew). Whereas Christians confirm themselves, usually in their parents’ faith, but if they leave, they’ve left. Their kids become whatever they become. They can come back – but they have to convert back. Their kids can revert to their grandparents’ denomination, but they also have to convert. Jews don’t even convert within the denominations. If I want to become an Orthodox Jew, I just start doing more of the things that that entails. As a Jewish female, if I leave, I can always come back simply by saying, “My mother was a Jew.” It is because of this, that both Conversion and Evangelizing are foreign and inimical concepts to me. I believe that, beyond Jesus’ edict to “Share the good news,” evangelizing has grown into a recruitment competition between the various Christian denominations, as it must with everyone converting back and forth.
I think that Divorce, Abortion, and Conversion are akin in some ways in my mind. In all three cases, I believe that the option should exist. That we should have the opportunity to undo our mistakes, or the consequences of another’s mistake. If, during the great Sorting Hat ceremony at one’ conception, one finds oneself put into Griffindor, and then later realizing that one is having a Slythern numinous Revelation, one should have the option of conversion, but in all three cases, it is not an option I can ever see myself utilizing. (Yet, I like the option for in case of Extreme Emergency).
It is complicated – for in all three cases partaking of the option in part would mean that you are forsaking what the Maker intended for you personally, that the Sorting Hat could be wrong. Yet, of course this is tempered with Free Will, which includes the ability to misinterpret Intention, and also to make mistakes.
Judaism is innate; this I know. This is not so much a crisis of faith, or trying to talk myself into or out of anything, as it is an acknowledgement of the next phase of my relationship with Graham. At some point, in every relationship, one must say, “Hey, you’re shiny and neat, and we have all this stuff in common, and that’s really great – but you are not me; I am not you. Your innate qualities are not my innate qualities, your choices are not my choices, and beyond that, your choices would not even work for me as fulfillment of Covenant and Intention.”
When Graham and I revealed our true relationship to each other, I was very young, and I was very weak, and very vulnerable and I was very unsure of myself.
Each acorn experiences the Revelation that it is to become an oak tree, and an oak tree it becomes. It is also true that an oak tree is inevitably the only thing it could become. But some acorns getting eaten by squirrels before they become oak trees, and some acorns never experience the Revelation of oak tree numinous experience at all, and remain dud acorns.
Graham and I were acorns together, and when our true relationship was revealed, I saw that he was already an oak tree, and strong and sure in himself. It prompted my own desire to become stronger, and triggered my own revelation of the oak tree. Now, I’m somewhere around a young sapling, and I am much stronger, and yet still flexible. But the only parts of me that are still vulnerable to the deer is the new growth, before it has had the opportunity to be properly integrated and solidified into my greater self.
(I do not know why deer are the adversary in my analogy, except that we understand that if Evil were not to come in as many pleasing forms as it does hateful ones, it would not be nearly so temptive)
I might have remained a dud acorn forever; and Graham might have remained [to me] this weird alchemist friend I occasionally saw at events, but we were given the gift of the revelation of our true relationship, and the opportunity of its development.
(When Graham heard the rough cut of this, he thought perhaps that this was a Private Revelation, something that would only make sense to me, and not to anyone else. I agree with the concept of Private Revelation, but my job as writer is to make any internal experience comprehensible and meaningful to people beyond myself. Elsewise I am not honing my craft.)
Robin and my relationship is also innate, as is my relationship with Dave. They were both revealed to me as spouse. The first time I met Robin, at the bus stop at Metrotown, we were revealed to each other as spouses. There was only ever one type of relationship that could exist between the two of us: marriage. (Which is also why I find divorce inimical – our true spouses are Chosen for us). When I met Dave at my first Clinton, we had been casual friends for a while at that point, but that evening he was revealed to me also, as spouse. True, I was open to the possibility – but I believe that there is a lot of misery between some monogamous couples that are Intended to have multiple spouses, but do not know of the option.
However, there was much pain in the beginning of my relationship with Dave – because we both knew we were spouses, but Dave was desperately conscious of not offending Tracey, of not betraying his wife, of not threatening his original union. He was equally afraid that I would forsake Robin for him. Eventually he got a chance to talk with Tracey, and she gave him her blessing.
I cannot answer if the pursuit and formation of my relationship with Dave was inherently sinful or unnatural, but I know its product and outcome is Good. I know that it was elevated by being formalized and sanctified through marriage. I know that it was Intended to be a marriage from the first. And, if that was not enough, it was a union that was also blessed by Amanda. Amanda, I believe, was an Agent of Good, and if she saw only Good in my relationship with Dave, than there could be no Sin there. This, too, I know.
(When Graham heard the draft of this, he tried to be evasive by questioning how much Amanda knew the Truth of my House – I found it a bit insulting. To me, and also to Amanda. She knew. I know Graham, also, must be True to his own doctrine, but he must move past his own unease if he is going to remain helpful. We have much in common; we are different people.)
Nothing in particular happened at Warrior Dash, but that evening I got the sign that I was to listen more to Graham, and then Graham and I were revealed to each other at Sergeants. I think I originally mislabelled the relationship because, only child that I am, I have had little experience with true, intimate, platonic relationships. I have parents, but those were not relationships I am conscious of forming out of the clay – they’ve always existed in their roles. Vanessa is the closest, and I am ashamed to say that as I am also bisexual, there was confusion there at first as well.
The Revelation experience with Graham felt quite similar to the Revelation experiences with Robin and with Dave, close enough that I was unable to spot the differences, because I was not attuned to look for them. I suppose, quite literally, I wouldn’t know what an intimate platonic relationship looked like if it accosted me in the posterior.
I then had to back track and figure out what one calls this thing that I had found. Graham, I suspect, knew the answer much sooner than I did, as he was both drawn to, and actively and naturally gravitating into his role of g-dfather. I do appreciate that he let me come to it on my own.
But, correctly identified, I can see that the g-dparent/child relationship is also innate, is also the only relationship that could possibly exist between Graham-soul, and Marissa-soul. As marriage is the only possible union between Robin-soul, and Marissa-soul; and Marissa-soul and Dave-soul (and Dave-soul and Tracey-soul, also).
I watched the preparations for the sacrament, and Graham take communion. I can’t exactly remember the order of things. Mass concluded, we filed outside, thanked the priest, and headed to dinner.
Graham had reserved a table at a small hole-in-the-wall Chinese place called Paul’s. Dave sat across from me, and Graham wound up sitting beside me. We order the meal for six people, and all of us wound up with leftovers. Graham proposed a toast to Amanda, and then a few of us spoke about her. I wanted to tell the story of her blessing my union with Dave, but I couldn’t get it started right. I can’t remember specifically what she said to us – I just remember her Intention, and what it meant to us.
Many of my SCAdian friends seemed surprised to learn that I was Jewish, and I got to tell my story of returning to Or Shalom, and of the G-d Weekend.
At the end of dinner, we got someone to take a picture of the group, then Dave snuck off and paid for everyone. I realized what he was doing, and when he returned to the table I said, “Did you just go do something silly?” and he said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But question and response were house code for asking if he’d paid, and him answering, “Yes.” I’m going to reimburse him when I pay him the next monthly chunk for the car and storage locker.
We dropped Graham at his house, and went home ourselves. I didn’t see Dave for the rest of the night.
What does it mean to relax? For me, I need to have and be surrounded by good food, fine friends, supportive family, and social, intellectual, spiritual and emotional engagement. I have been starved for all of that for the entire Month of Saturdays. Shabbat is the sacred pause between one secular week and the next. I am truly blessed to be able to share this one with my husbands, and with my g-dfather Graham.
“Adonai, though our Joys may sometimes seem scarce and far between, yet they must sustain us for the dark days ahead. Amein.
– M is for Mastery of the Self