Setting Boundaries and Claiming your Life

If you knew you had 2 hours left to live, what you would do with those 2 hours?  I know what I’d do with mine.  I’d hot foot it to the piano, where everything about who I am and what I am makes sense right at the core of me; my body feels comfortable, my mind is at peace and I’m at one with myself and God.  It’s physically wildly pleasurable, and the energy that’s generated in my body feels atomic.  Life has prospect and meaning, and I have vision of it.  I’m working hard all the time while I’m playing, but it doesn’t feel like work.

I got up today, switched on my computer, had breakfast, read some of the script of Chinatown.  Planned my day.  It didn’t include piano.  I thought about what I have to do.  My heart sank.  I looked at the piano.  My heart sang.  Piano and heart singing won the day.  Three hours later I sat looking at the place I’d gone to while playing and thought about what the ideal life for me would be, how I can achieve it, and whether what I’m doing now is getting in the way or moving me towards it.

People always say you have to know what you want before you can have it.  I think it’s true but what gets in the way?  All the crap in your head that tells you you should be this you should be that, this will make you important, that will make you lovable and a valuable member of society.  While those messages are playing out, it can seem as if you really want what they’re promising.

A lot of it is about what other people believe you should want, or what they believe you have to do.  Often they haven’t thought it through at all, or they might have lived it out and actually it hasn’t worked for them.  Don’t pay attention to yourself, you have to be practical, not everybody can have what they want, everybody has to do things they don’t like doing, if you don’t have money you haven’t got any options, beggars can’t be choosers.

Mind your own business? It’s a dirty phrase when it means be real and true to yourself and don’t meddle in other people’s reactions to you, don’t rescue them.  You need something? Don’t ask  because it’s good to give, but it’s shameful to have to receive.  The messages all seem to have one core element: don’t put your boundaries down, you’re not allowed to, for one reason or another.  It’s harmful to society, or to your community or your relationships, or your honor, whatever.

It isn’t though.   What it’s harmful to is your capacity to identify what you want out of your life.  And it’s true that if you can’t identify it, you can’t claim it, so you can’t work towards it.   If you won’t claim it because it’s too hard to put boundaries down, life won’t rescue you.   Lately I’ve experienced myself putting them down without apology, leaving no room for debate.  This is what freedom is. I’m in charge.  I get to say “this is okay” and “this isn’t”.  I have absolutely nothing to lose.

And everything to gain.  The more I do it, the clearer my vision becomes for my life.  I know what I want.  I want a life where I have time and energy to play as much piano as I want.  Where I have one writing project at a time, and an income from my writing that allows me to have choice of where I live in the world and mobility.  That much I’m real clear about.  I’m even clear about how to achieve it.  For the first time ever.  What’s the title of this blog?  That’s right, Stepping out of History.


Alina Treiger and Regina Jonas – Women who are Stepping out of History

5 days ago, I read about two amazing women, Alina Treiger and Regina Jonas, whose stories will surely be the subject of at least a book or a film, if not both.  Alina Treiger was recently ordained as Germany’s second female rabbi.  She follows in footsteps of Regina Jonas who was ordained as Germany’s first female rabbi in Berlin before the Second World War.

Jonas was born in 1902.  She first chose teaching as her career, but enrolled at the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies in Berlin, where her thesis was on the subject of whether Jewish religious law prohibited women from becoming rabbis.  Her conclusion was that it did not.

Ironically, Germany was the birthplace of liberal Judaism, but it took Jonas five years to find a rabbi who would ordain her.   Her victory was bittersweet, though, as she could not find a community who would embrace her and let her preach, so she was forced to continue teaching.

Rejected by her own, she was shoved into forced labour by the Nazis before being arrested and sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto camp in 1942.  There she met psychologist Victor Frankl, and worked with him counseling prisoners until she was sent to Auschwitz in 1944.  She died in the gas chambers at the age of 42, a courageous woman way ahead of her time who remained largely forgotten until Alina Treiger came on the scene.

Treiger was born in the Ukraine in 1979 to a father who was forced to do factory work and was prohibited by the communist authorities from studying because he was a Jew.  Treiger grew up passionate about her religion and at the end of the cold war she founded a Jewish youth club.

But she was stifled by her orthodox community, and at age 22 she chose to return to the country where her predecessor had experienced such gruesome challenges, first being rejected by her own community and then being viciously and senselessly destroyed by the Nazis.

Treiger made her way to Germany, even though she didn’t speak the language, intent on finding religious freedom.  She arrived with nothing, but was embraced by a Jewish community, and began studying to become a rabbi.   Life for Jewish people has changed considerably since the war.  After 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, 200,000 Russian Jews immigrated to Germany.  According to the rector of Germany’s seminary for training rabbis, Rabbi Walter Hommulka, they have been treated well.

Like her predecessor, Alina Treiger’s 5-year journey hasn’t been easy, as there is still a lot of resistance to female rabbis – both from male rabbis and people in general.  But she has the same rights and responsibilities as male rabbis, and has found a liberal community of about 300 (mostly Russian) people in western Germany which is willing to embrace her as their rabbi.

Treiger’s victory has focused attention also on Regina Jonas, who is now taking her rightful place in history.   It’s one giant step for Jewish women, and that Treiger has overcome such powerful resistance in such a traditionally male-dominated community is a giant step for women in general.   I’m in awe of her courage and willingness to face and do battle with that resistance as well as confronting a painful history that must still be so alive in many ways, so that she could pursue her dream.

Key to Success: trying and failing and saying “I’ll Do It My Way”

Of all the people who have written about success, I’ve never come across one who said “I’ve failed more often than I’ve succeeded”.  Until yesterday.   I read an article by Bruce Horst, founder – with his wife Jean – of SearchWarp.  I and some others asked him to write the story of his success with and where he’s got to from where he started.  So he’s writing it in parts.  Part one is “Secrets of My Success: Failure is Not an Option.  (It is Mandatory!)”

I was so inspired by it, still am.  It’s honest, gutsy, and down to earth.  Full of real-life wisdom. I reminded me of what’s real in life.  And it took a load off my shoulders.  It woke me up to the reality that success means failing, quite a lot of times, doubting yourself, experiencing the darkest of times.

But never giving up.

We don’t just have one chance, one opportunity and we don’t have to be perfect

I went on a script-writing course this past weekend, in Johannesburg.  It was put on by the NFVF, a government sponsored organization which funds TV, film and documentary development.  I’ve submitted 4 different script ideas to them and they’ve rejected them all.   Basically they said I didn’t have a clue.   But they did offer for me to go on this course.  The first time I said go to hell, because I wasn’t looking for a course, I wanted money to survive on so I could write. Or that’s what I told myself…

Second time they offered, ditto.  I thought they were biased and prejudiced against women, just couldn’t admit to myself I was scared I wouldn’t understand what they were teaching and that I’d fail.  I was so defensive, and always interpreted any kind of input as a personal attack.  Afraid of finding out I was really a loser.

Third time round I still I resisted.  So trapped inside my own fear of everything – the course, the fellow attendees, even flying…  But the part of me that didn’t want to risk finding out I was really a loser and was terrified I’d be betrayed as I was in bankruptcy and wouldn’t be able to hold myself together – that part lost the battle this time.  The part that wanted life was stronger.  If you don’t risk finding out the worst you can’t find out the best, you can’t realize you’ve changed and that the past is over.

I had the most exceptionally wonderful weekend!  My flight was paid for, and we all stayed in fabulous B & B’s.  Gorgeous décor, big bed, big bath!   We were driven to where the course happened.  Looked after.  Defensiveness and fear?  Gone.  The course was exciting, stimulating.  The facilitators were knowledgeable, human and considerate.  And those of us taking the course were all in the same boat. I felt so safe there, held by people, life and by God / the Universe.

I have a lot to learn and I’m excited about it. The course happens over the next five months, one weekend a month, with loads of work in between.  What amazes me about this, and makes me truly grateful, is that this door which has swung wide open into a world with a lot of light and opportunity, has been open for quite a while.  But it didn’t close when I wasn’t ready to walk through.  It stayed open, even when I tried to shut it!

That tells me you don’t have to be perfect, and that there isn’t just one chance, one opportunity.   I’m beginning to wonder if there aren’t open doors all over the place, swinging gently on well-oiled hinges, just waiting for our readiness to walk through. Waiting patiently for us to be able to see them.

Life Gives You What You Need

For an explanation of this donate button, click here.

When I first heard life doesn’t give you what you want, it gives you what you need, it drove me crazy.   What was I supposed to do with what I wanted, then?  Oh, right, get all spiritual and abjure it.  You know, give it up, like chocolate or sugar in your coffee during lent.  I was never v. good at that.

What was the point of wanting, then, and of the ferocity of desire?  What’s the point of the emotions I feel when I can’t access what I want?  What if I want food, an education or love?  What if I want an MG sports car or Armani perfume, am I just superficial and materialistic?  Is Life Teaching Me a Lesson that I’m Bad for wanting the Wrong Things?

It sounded like Catholicism: your desire is evil and will land you in hell.   It will pester and tempt you your whole life, make you miserable, full of fear and self-loathing because you’re such a bad, unholy person.   Never mind, though.   You might get to heaven when you die.   V. qualified might.

Being irreverent here, but at the heart of it is my problem with this idea.  We have capacities to desire, to dream, to feel, but we mustn’t honor or even use them?   We exist in a physical realm but that part which responds to the physical is bad?

Didn’t buy it when I was a kid, and I don’t buy it now.   However, I can’t deny that I pretty much couldn’t have anything I ever longed for!   I had crisis after crisis.  I’d get up on my feet and think okay now I’ve figured it out, it’s over at last.  Bam!  Crash!   Then the hurricane of all hurricanes.  At that point, everything I desired seemed the furthest away.  My life in pieces.

But from that place of absolute denial of all my desires, I began to be able to correct what was causing the crisis-craziness.  So was life teaching me I was wanting the wrong things?  No.  Life was showing me that I very positively believed I was bad and worthless.

If you want something, you have to believe you’re allowed to have it.  I know it can sound gooky, but wait till you want something really badly and you can’t have it.  Then listen hard to yourself.  You’ll see it.  Bloody hell, I don’t believe I’m good enough.

I think beliefs about deservability are caused by v. early childhood relationships with parent figure/s.  Every second of the day you’re getting overt and covert signals.   By the time you’re 6 you got the message.  You grow up acting it out, entrenching it.  That’s a lot of experience time with those messages coursing through your brain.  Hard-wiring.

Changing my beliefs had to happen over time in a relationship with a new parent figure, my therapist, who could show me that I deserve, and teach me a philosophy about life that made sense to me.  I had to rewire my whole system!

I think our world tells us the truth about our beliefs.  Eventually one day you realize, my world is changing.  Well it’s true for me.   Still a work in progress.   And yes, as I experience the rewards of love, friendship, having fun and being real, my longing for the material stuff doesn’t have the same edge.   I still desire the material to express my creativity with, but I don’t need it to fill the abyss.

Don’t have any abyss any more.   I don’t think Life Teaches you the Big Lesson about the wrongness of desire.   I think desire leads you to the reality of your entitlement and self esteem – so that you can correct them, and experience a more rewarding life at all levels.    For me there’s a grounded connection between the spiritual part of us and the material.   I like them both, and I’m going to do my best not to sacrifice one for the other.

Dishwashing liquid, rubber gloves and dark chocolate

Went shopping this morning, for items that have become luxuries: dishwashing liquid!  washing powder!  new dishwashing sponges! rubber gloves!!! deodorant!   Aaaaahhhh.   V. digusting washing dishes for a month with no dishwashing liquid and old smelly sponge.    Same goes for sheets.   Well, didn’t try to wash them with smelly sponge, just couldn’t wash them.   Eugh.

That’s the good news.   The bad news is that money worries aren’t over, as there isn’t enough work with this job I got to even sustain me.    Gaaahhh.    Just enough for basic food, nothing for rent and everything I need for dream enablement.   Doom and gloom trying to hover.   I banish them.   Out damned spots!

In the supermarket today oh boy did I long to buy food that I couldn’t afford.   Oooh my word.   Probably just the marketing, though.   Well, I let myself buy a v. small bar of Lindt dark intense chocolate with orange for $1.   Hah!   And also let myself spend $10 on two pieces of fake leather to make 2 handbags so I don’t walk around like a bag lady.   Oh, bought toilet paper too.   V. indulgent day.

The fancy food can wait.   At least this way I don’t get fat, and don’t have to do gym.    Don’t really care too much about food anyway.    So I tell myself.    Of course it’s absolute BS.    Lots of fruit, salmon, vegetables, fish, couscous, brown rice, even tofu why not, cheese – aahhh, brie! – alright, alright, enough of that now.   Not today, honey, but some day, yes.

At least earning some money, and have proper bank account.   Yes, things are working, shall let myself believe that.   Nobody and nothing can stop me singing, playing piano and writing.   In case you’re listening, though, God or Universe,  it’s not enough.

Well,  I bought airtime, so can call the recording studio fellow on Monday, and start costing things.    Piano tuning, demo cd, backing track cd, music sessions with Michelle Maxwell if possible, stage dancing lessons, dvd’s of performers, cd’s that I need to buy so I can listen.    Paper and printer cartridge, sending script to Charlize Theron et al.

Time to work now.    Then sing and play piano.   Script can wait ‘til tomorrow.   Spent too much time doing the washing and the dishes.   Love those rubber gloves, though. Pretty soon I’ll have tea and 4 squares of intense dark orange chocolate.   Yes, life is good, life is okay.   Things will work out.   Don’t have to be spiritual, don’t have to be perfect.

Having hard time visualizing people saying “I’d love to help you”.    Get images instead of “who do you think you are?” and being alone and abandoned.    Oh.    Have to work on that.   I really need some help here to turn things around.

If you are reading my blogs, or just reading this one, and feel you’d like to contribute to helping me fulfill my dreams, I’ll be truly grateful.   Click here to read more.   Any amount, no matter how small, will be wonderful.  Click on the Donate button  at the beginning of this blog and follow instructions.   BTW I don’t get to see any of your banking details.

Armani Mania and the Sunny Side of the Street

Woke up early this morning planning to go to the city.  Took the train, excited at  prospect of city life!  Cosmopolitan whatever!  Fashionable clothes!  Alas, yes, I am a superficial woman.   Oh it was bliss.   Not the train ride, that was pretty revolting, but being in the city.   Lots of foreigners, lots of 2010 excitement.   Sunny day, not a cloud in the sky.

Enjoying my non apology inner culture.  I stepped out smartly, with not a care.  This is my life, yes it is.   I treated myself to coffee and decadent croissant with jam and butter in a bookshop café and made a mess of the table in true Italian style.  Then glutted on Vogue magazines, read about New York culture and Robert de Niro’s Tribeca film festival.  Hi Bob!  Looking forward to meeting you.

OMG, all those beautiful clothes.  I have to add something to my list of what I need – a  dressmaker’s dummy.  If I can’t buy Armani, I can at least make stylish clothes until…  However, I can’t make my own perfume.  How many years have I not had any?  I’d say about 8.  I swanned into a perfumery and there it was right before my eyes, Armani Mania.  Oh blissful heaven.  I sprayed some on me, ignored the nosy salesperson and swanned out; so this is what it’s like to feel like a woman.  I felt beautiful and not in the least bit poor in any way.

Grab your coat and get your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep.  Just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street… That’s a song, by the way.   I used to walk in the shade, with my blues on parade.  But I’m not afraid!  This rover crossed over.

If I never have a cent I’ll be rich as Rockefeller, gold dust at my feet on the sunny side of the street – hold your horses!   Not going to make that deal!   Nothing can get in the way of me enjoying my life, but I’m going to wear those beautiful clothes, that gorgeous perfume, I’m going to let myself be and feel like a woman, and I’ll sing on that stage.  Oh, and I need something else.  To record songs that I can put on my blog.

Life is very different when you stop apologizing and when you have a plan.  Action!

Right.  See that “Donate”  button?  Yesterday I was able to finally say “I need help to fulfill my dreams.”  If you are reading my blogs, or just reading this one, and feel you’d like to contribute to keeping me alive while I work on the fulfillment of my dreams, I’ll be more grateful than I know how to tell you.   Yesterday’s blog tells you what my plan is.  Blogs before that tell you how I got here.   Any amount, no matter how small, will be wonderful.  If you want to do it, click on the Donate button and follow the instructions.  BTW I don’t get to see any of your banking details.