Monthly Archives: January 2010

Observations

Things I’ve noticed since being SA (single again)…

I pay attention to when parents have different last names from their children
I notice when I order a meal for one to go, and the person on the other end says, “will that be all?” Are they judging me?
I take a mental attendance when I’m in a group… am I the only one who’s divorced/single?
I look for wedding rings on other people

It’s like when you’re pregnant and it seems that every other woman is, too.

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Filed under Reflections

The table

My friend Sue used to volunteer at a prison in Michigan City, Indiana. She led worship services and celebrated holidays with the Jewish prisoners. They even had a name for their community: Beit Heirut, House of Freedom.

Now, this is an unusual name for a group of men in a prison, and, when asked, they would tell you all about how there were certain freedoms for them that they attained through their worship and camaraderie. Their name aside, there were, of course, many restrictions put on Beit Heirut – the House of Freedom – because they were in such an unusual setting. One Hanukkah, for instance, the volunteers wanted to bring in home-baked goods (a real no-no in prisons and, well, schools I guess) like potato pancakes (latkes). For many Jews, Hanukkah just isn’t the same without latkes, those delicious, greasy symbols of the miracle oil that burned for eight days when it should have run out after one. The volunteers were told that they couldn’t bring in latkes from home, so that year the men in Beit Heirut – the House of Freedom – celebrated Hanukkah with McDonald’s hash browns (which, ironically, are probably healthier anyway).

The members of Beit Heirut – the House of Freedom – worshipped like we do for the holidays. They prayed from the same prayerbooks that many Jews “on the outside” use; they sang the songs we sing and they told sermons about topics that are difficult for all of us – things like teshuvah, or repentance; forgiveness and finding the holy in everyday life. There is nothing like hearing a man who is serving a life sentence for murder talk about forgiveness to make you stop and think, that’s for sure.

One thing that the men did not have was a Torah – the holy scripture. Torahs are expensive, and, while old prayerbooks can be found in used book stores and in forgotten storage places in overcrowded synagogues, one is unlikely to find an unused Torah hanging around. Physically, they’re heavy, big, awe-inspiring things: two heavy wooden posts with yards and yards of parchment wrapped around them. The production of a Torah takes hours and hours, and, well, you just don’t find them lying around.

We Jews revere the Torah. We have a special place to put it when it’s not being read. We stand when it is presented to the congregation. It is an honor to bless it, carry it, dress it and certainly to read from it. Torahs are checked regularly to make sure that they remain intact and are not pasul – unfit for public reading. Sadly, when a Torah becomes torn or otherwise unreadable it is retired from public use and destined to be buried – mourned forever by the community it leaves.

It was such a Torah that my friend Sue managed to find and acquire as a donation to the men of Beit Heirut – the House of Freedom. Pasul – yes – and unfit for the general community – it was almost fitting that this dejected Torah spend the last of its days in this unusual brotherhood of Jews.

The men of Beit Heirut – the House of Freedom – were elated. To have their own Torah from which to read, to honor, with which to dance – this was a true cause for celebration. They didn’t care whether or not it was pasul – they just cared that they be able to embrace this wonderful gift and treat it as it deserved to be treated.

When one is not reading a Torah, it’s not like you put it on a shelf in the office or stick it in a drawer. It sits in a very special place – the Aron Kodesh, or holy Ark. When you enter a synagogue sanctuary, the Aron Kodesh is often at the front of the room. They are likely to be majestic structures, ornate and decorative. Magnificent even. They have words on them like holy, community, and Torah.

What were the men of Beit Heirut – the House of Freedom – to do? They didn’t have the means to purchase an Aron Kodesh, and it surely would be impossible to get one donated to this ragtag group of Jews.

The members of Beit Heirut approached the warden of the prison. Did he have any ideas? Was there any wood that they could acquire to build an Aron Kodesh? They had skills, and the prison had a woodshop. All they needed was the material from which to build the holy Ark.

The warden had a solution. There was an old wooden table that the prison was no longer using. The men could use the table to build their Ark.

This would work. The men could use the table and repurpose it to house their Torah. Not only would they have this wonderful Torah to have as their own, they would be able to honor it as it required, with its own home.

The table was taken out of storage, the men got to work, and the Aron Kodesh was built. The men of Beit Heirut – the House of Freedom – were happy. Their community felt sacred.

Why am I telling you this story in a blog about healing from divorce?

You didn’t ask me what the table used to be used for.

Go ahead. I’ll wait. Ask.

You’ve seen prison movies, right? You know prison lore, don’t you? What’s one of the last things that happens before a condemned prisoner is put to death?

He or she gets that last meal. You know – their last chance to eat that great steak (extra cholesterol, please), fatty fries and super-creamy chocolate pie. With a triple ice-cream milk shake, too. No calorie counting.

Where do you think they used to eat that last meal in the prison in Michigan City?

Uh-huh. On that table. The table that now houses the Torah, the sacred scroll of the community of Beit Heirut – the House of Freedom.

The men took that table – a symbol of the desperation of a person about to lose his life, the failings of a society that has no choice but to put such people to death, the sadness of a grieving family who wonders if “an eye for an eye” will ease their pain – and made it into one of the holiest symbols of the Jewish people.

Out of pain, suffering, and a last resort we can create a sacred space. This we learn from the story of the Aron Kodesh and the men of Beit Heirut – the House of Freedom.

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Filed under Moving on

Hello, house

It occurred to me recently that I don’t hate the house any more. I don’t exactly loooove it, but we’ve come to a good place, house and I. I feel better about living here – being stuck here – and I think I actually use most of the rooms. Well, I don’t use youngest’s room – that’s hers (and, um, kind of messy), and I use the office only to retrieve documents from the printer. I actually do sit in the living room and watch TV in the living room.

This time last year I used, well, the kitchen (for the obvious) and my bedroom. I even ate a lot of meals in the bedroom. I’ve come a long way, I think.

Part of why I like it now is because most of Mr. Ex’s things are finally gone. There are still a few vestiges of stuff (and we won’t even talk about the shed in the back, or the chemicals in the garage), but he’s pretty much gone from the house. That feels good. It didn’t help to be tripping over his things and trying to figure out how to maneuver the demise of a 30-year marriage.

I’ve also done a teensy bit of redecorating to suit me. A new kitchen table, new towels, some funky new platters. An old chair in a new place. A new use for an old bassinet.

It’s starting to feel more like my house and less like the house that used to be ours.

I still plan to put it on the market, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to sell it, so I’m happier knowing that we’ve come to an understanding, house and me.

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Filed under Haven for one

Guest blogger: Donna F. Ferber

When Mr. Ex and I separated, I responded with my usual trip to Amazon.com to locate resources. One of the books I purchased was From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce by Donna F. Ferber. I mention it in my “on my nightstand” bar on the right.

Imagine my surprise – and delight – when she commented on my blog! And my further delight when she offered to guest post.

Let’s hear it for the blogosphere!

Women and Divorce -The Lore of the Rings

As we make our way through the arduous and challenging transition from married to single, we are bombarded by a myriad of changes and adjustments. Some of those are private and practical changes, such as getting comfortable sleeping in the middle of the bed. Others are more public and symbolic.

Perhaps there is no symbol more laden with meaning for women than their wedding ring. Inevitably, when a divorce is imminent, the question arises – when is it appropriate to remove my ring?

The time to remove your wedding ring varies from woman to woman. Women who experience betrayal often feel the marriage ended at the moment of discovery. They may feel that to continue to wear the ring is hypocritical. Other women entertain taking it off when divorce papers are filed or served.

Still others feel married until the divorce is legally finalized. Others continue to wear their ring long after the divorce, especially if they did not want the divorce or if they feel that, for religious reasons, the divorce is invalid. Women in the work place sometimes continue to wear it as a way to avoid questions at the office. It provides them with a sense of security and it wards off unwanted suitors! Still other women continue to wear their ring, but transfer it to the other hand or wear it on a chain around their neck.

The point is that there is no “right” time to take it off. If the ring is an important symbol for you, then the act of removing it should mean something as well. Do this mindfully, not in anger. Do it when there is acceptance and inner understanding. Do it when you feel ready. Do it as an affirmation of your single status. It doesn’t have to just mark the end of the marriage; it can symbolize the beginning of your commitment to yourself, “to love, honor and cherish” yourself.

Today’s Thought: I will consider what my ring means to me. That will help me know when it is appropriate to take it off. I will acknowledge the removal of my ring reflects the end of something, but that it also can symbolize my new single status. I will work just as hard to be a good companion to myself as I worked to be a good companion to my spouse. I know more about life now and I have more to offer myself than ever before. All the things I learned about myself through both my marriage and divorce will now provide clues and insight on how to “be” with myself.

©2009. From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce by psychotherapist by Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC, won an Honorable Mention Award by the Independent Publishers Association. The book is now a classic in the field and has been a constant companion and support to thousands of women as they struggle with the demise of their marriage. The author is a licensed psychotherapist in Connecticut. Her newest book, Profileactics: A Guide for the Prevention of Ill-Conceived Personal Ads is available at bookstores and at Amazon.com. To read more about the author and her work, please visit http://www.donnaferber.com.

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Filed under Read this

It’s Complicated

Saw the movie It’s Complicated with my divorce support group over break. Great movie to see with a bunch of divorced people…

Can I just say that I want to be Meryl Streep? In general, but for sure in that movie. There she was, the self-assured, confident, successful ex-wife. At the beginning of the movie there’s a scene where she’s with a group of people, including some friends, her ex-husband (sleazily played by sleazy Alec Baldwin) and his trophy bitch wife. And, as she leaves the group – alone – you don’t feel sorry for her, you feel like she’s just fine with it.

And can I say I would also like her bakery, the house, and Steve Martin. Just sayin’

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Filed under Art imitates life