No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody or something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.
“Every encounter with
forgiveness requires defeating the ego over and over again.”
Two nights ago at dinner, my
granddaughter bore down on me in anger. I don’t remember her words, but I see
her face, eyes cold, lips pursed and spitting words. Shouting as if I were her
thirteen year old adversary instead of her seventy-three year old grandmother,
she was relentless. Mean. Melting inside, I sat tall, found what I hoped was a
soft but firm voice and said, “N., go to your room.” She
pushed back her chair, rose silently, and walked from the dining room. A day passed without our speaking or seeing one another, although we lived in the same house. This morning before leaving
for an early morning yoga class, I offered a ride to the bus stop. She accepted.
I asked about yesterday’s cross-country ski meet, her dance lesson, each
question a slick of ice covering the deep pool of our discontent. This was not
the time to address her disrespect, her tone of voice. This was a time for both
of us to take a breath and to reflect, consciously or not. My grand daughter talked
openly and energetically about the meet—she fell down three times, but that
didn’t matter. She had fun. In her dance class, she was learning a routine.
“You start down on the floor,” she said, then reciting each move, she explained
how each dancer rose to her feet.
the bus stop, I shifted the car into park. We sat in silence, but not uncomfortably. “I’m sorry, Grammy,” my grand daughter said, her voice soft and contrite.
don’t remember what else she said. Perhaps, I didn’t need to hear more. Turning to face her, my
voice grew thick. “We love each other very much, don’t we?”
I’m preparing for my Bat Mitzvah, I’m
thinking deeply about moments like this one. What are the values I want to pass
on? Atonement? Yes. Forgiveness? Yes. But how do you forgive when your ego
won’t let go, insisting instead of holding onto hurt? Anger’s doppelganger is
fear. Afraid to reveal vulnerability, we hide inside of anger’s hard shell. We
need to stick out necks, but hiding feels safer. It’s not. Anger leaves a path
strewn with destruction. Stepping out of anger and ego, we step into a place of
humility and of harmony. Love springs forth as it did for Nina and me. So what
do I want our family to value now and after I’m gone? That extra breath where
the ego gives way and we draw forgiveness into our lungs.
a writer who beats herself up. Most of us do. So I want to thank Erika Dreifus
for her adaptation of Lisa Romeo’s post, Looking Back, Looking Ahead, No
Regrets please (http://lisaromeo.blogspot.com/). These past few months, the rejections have come in, plunging me down into that place where writers go when they're despondent. It's rather dark in there. So I'm climbing out to write my "I DId It List" for 2012 as Lisa suggests.
a trip to France in 2011, I completed four essays on material I gathered there,
researching and interviewing, beginning a series of essays related to Jews in
France during the Second World War, one about Germaine Poliakov is published in
to France this past fall, I interviewed Germaine Poliakov for a second time.
Germaine is ninety-four, vibrant and sharp. I drafted an essay about her life
in Paris after the Second World War. Then, traveling and conducting three more interviews, I
drafted three more essays.
essay, “The Groves,” won second prize in the Press 53 Open Awards Contest, and
is published in the Press 53 Anthology, 2012. That same essay is upcoming in
essay was named a finalist in the Maine Literary Awards, short nonfiction
category for 2012.
I have taken Steve Almond’s (http://stevealmondjoy.com) seminar “How to
Create an Irresistible Narrator” at Grub Street in Boston.
the help of one of my sons and daughters in law, I have updated my blog to
include links and I have committed to publishing more often.
continue to work with my wonderful writing group, driving to Brookline ten times each
semester to sit at the table with nine wonderful women.
after I publish this blog, I will think of more that I could have added to this
list, but this is enough to keep me looking ahead without regrets, as Lisa
Romeo suggests. I'm so happy to have discovered her website.
Not a bad idea to make a similar list for other aspects of my