This Decade in Shira

An attempt to put into a few paragraphs the significant events of my life from 2000 to 2009.

Top ten significant events this decade that impacted my life (in order of impact from smallest to largest, not date):

10. Moving out of New York State (2009)

For those of you who read my Dear-John style letter, Farewell Letter to New York, you can see that I have an emotional attachment to the Empire State.  After all my Jersey Girl years of dreaming about living in New York, I finally made it there (and now I can make it anywhere) to the famed City and its mother state.  You can read the letter here and then you’ll understand why moving from New York is on this top ten list.

9. Getting hired at the job of my dreams (2004)

I never really had any deep rem-sleep dreams about working for Dress for Success Worldwide before I was hired there.  But in my non-profit nature of fulfilling my own needs by fulfilling others’, Dress for Success seemed like the perfect fit (pun slightly intended).  This event is significant in that I challenged myself like I’d never challenged myself before.  I was on a mission to become the person who I imagined – a director of development with a lot of responsibility doing work that inspired me (the position was not initially a director’s position, but it became one later on).  On the day I discovered DFSW was hiring in development I was all over it and quickly updated my resume and sent it out attached to a messenger pigeon.  Just kidding about the pigeon – I used the Internets.  Long story short, I got the job, met amazing people, learned more than I ever imagined, and became the person I wanted to become: successful and fulfilled.

8. Quitting the job of my dreams (2007)

Alongside thrill and achievement, life wouldn’t be life if it were devoid of stumbling blocks and curveballs, failures and tragedies.  My life turned sour – turned upside down – when my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  The unremorseful, unremitting disease not only consumed my mother’s body, it consumed my family’s spirit and our lives in a way that cannot be explained in words.  All of my concentration went to trying to heal – and then just to be with – my mother.  Everything else began slipping away.  My relationship, my job, my mental health.  It got to a point where at least one of these things had to give (though with depression setting in, all three were on shaky ground).  Almost a year after my mother passed away, I was still reeling from the loss.  I was getting by on an empty soul.  Work became, well, work.  I handed in my resignation.  Goodbye Dress for Success.  I loved you.  You served me well and I hope I made some sort of difference there.

7. The adoption of my cats (2000)

Following a long overdue break-up just before the turn of Y2K (remember that?), I felt I was missing something in my life.  And I knew it wasn’t a man.  Little did I know, however, that it would be a cat.  A cute, cuddly, teeny, tiny kitten – not even six months old – hanging out on a mailbox on the corner of Lexington and Second.  I looked at her, and she at me.  I picked her up and she whispered to me the one thing that sealed the deal: “mew.”  With that, I whisked (whiskered?) her away to my teeny, tiny one bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side.  She gave me the gifts of comfort, warmth, purring, and poop.  She accepted me unconditionally, unlike any human.  I had gotten my wish.  Wish.

Six months later just before Halloween, Wish asked for a cat of her own.  I went to Petco during adoption week.  There was the cutest little all-black kitten, fuzzy and inquisitive with an awkward, hairy rattail.  I picked her up, and she took her nose and nudged mine with it.  A greeting I couldn’t resist.  After all these years of having grown up Jewish, I finally felt like The Chosen One.  Welcome home, Samhain.

The cats have been along side me every step of the way, never making judgments and always giving me the time of day.  Wish and Samhain are now entering their senior years with grace and hairballs.  Allie calls them my “fans.”

6. Watching my friend give birth (2005)

Before Allie and I moved from New Rochelle, we were sorting through all the junk we had in the basement.  I found some old water color paintings I had done years earlier: scenes of women giving birth, abstract paintings with faintly vaginal patterns, and fetal blobs attached to umbilical cords waiting to be unleashed into the world.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I painted these, but noticing a pattern after time had passed I realized that I was interested in, if not obsessed with, the birthing process.

So when Nicole allowed me to attend the birth of her first child, I jumped at the chance at being present at the grand entrance of a human being into this world.  The power, the passion, the energy, the strength and the love it took for the mom-to-be to push this tiny human out of her body was absolutely breathtaking.  Moses may have parted the Red Sea, Jesus may have walked on water, but the birth of Mia was truly a miracle as Nicole was transformed into Mother-Goddess through the creation of life.

5. September 11, 2001

Everyone has their own memories of how 9/11 played out in their lives.  For the first time in my life I was thankful that I didn’t live downtown.  Terrorists blew up my back yard and killed 3,000 of my neighbors.  It felt like war and chaos.  I tried to call my parents in New Jersey and couldn’t get through.  I called the operator for assistance and realized that I was the one that first told him that someone flew into the Twin Towers.  My then-boss Karen called me and told me not to come into work.  Gillion, who lived around the corner, came over crying.  We wanted to do something.  We wanted to help.  We ran to the blood bank to give blood, but the line of people was around the block.  We went to the front of the line and asked the doctors how we could help; they said they had run out of juice for the blood donors, so we sprinted across the street to the Rite Aid and got the manager to donate about 10 gallons of apple juice.  We carted it over to the blood bank with my red laundry cart.  Little did we know that there would be no survivors to be matched up with all that donated blood.

Days after, the air was still thick with smoke and debris, even all the way up on 71st street.  It smelled like burnt plastic; gray debris passed with the wind as people scurried down the sidewalk.  I could taste it in the back of my throat – melted plastic, asbestos snow, unfinished lives.  The sadness and emptiness that I felt was astounding.  It was at that moment that I decided that I wanted out of New York City.  I wanted to feel safe and be far, far away.  I wanted a suburban house with a white picket fence.  I wanted a family of my own.

4. My wedding to Allie (2003)

Magic can happen anywhere, anytime – in a sacred circle, in a forest grove, on top of a mountain, in bed with your lover.  But when your magical ritual demands a theatrical audience, that ritual will most likely be your wedding.

Allie and I had one such wedding.  Our wedding included a beautiful handfasting ceremony, inspired by us with handwritten vows and performed by Lady Chandara, HPS, of Circle of the Crescent Moon.  We were enveloped by a sacred circle as we called on the elements of air, fire, water, earth and Spirit.  Allie and I blessed one another with each element – I felt the magic of our union coursing through my veins. Our hands were literally joined together using a consecrated cord, signifying our bond – which is where the term handfasting gets its name.  And when all was said and done, I felt married.  No one authority, no priest, no rabbi, could ever tell us that one tradition is the only tradition.  The most meaningful rituals are the ones we create ourselves.

We are one of the few couples that literally “tied the knot” during our wedding, although the handfasting ceremony is gaining momentum.  I was so inspired by our ceremony that I created a website dedicated to handfastings soon after our wedding: Handfastings.org.  Now more than five years later, I find myself helping other couples find wedding officiants who are familiar with the ancient magical rite of handfasting.  I’ve managed to network with more than 80 officiants from around the globe and have assisted couples in finding the celebrant that is right for them.  I’m a Pagan Yenta!

3. The death of my mother (2006)

My mother Cheryl was the single most influential person in my life.  I believe that her passion, her values and her basic principles made me what I am today.  While we were very different in many aspects – on how we came to conclusions, how we dealt with stress, our motivations for our actions and even our systems of belief – we remained the same on basic matters of the heart and spirit.

Mommy taught me that health, education and family are number one.  In that order.  Which would actually make education and family two and three.  But I digress.  Without your health, what do you have?

My mother never smoked or drank.  Okay, I did see Mommy drink a Pina Colada once, and a glass of Maneshewitz on the holidays.  But she walked up three flights of stairs every day several times a day for 18 years.  My mother was overweight, but she maintained her health.  When my mother learned she had type 2 diabetes, she followed her regimen.

My mother was beautiful.  As a little girl I would watch Mommy put on her “face” everyday, go to the hairdressers once a week, and get her nails done.  I would watch her carefully plan outfits for various occasions.  She taught me to take great pride in my appearance.  If you look good, you feel good.

But Mommy was also an unapologetic feminist.  She was Rosie the Riveter and Sojourner Truth.  She was a women’s and civil rights activist, read Ms. Magazine, was a member of Hadassah, and supported La Leche League.  Mommy was an incest survivor and courageous warrior for the human spirit.

Mommy was a teacher.  Or as she liked to say, a “schoolteacher.”  She profoundly enjoyed working with inner city kids and would never hesitate to advocate for them on their behalf.  She lived her lessons and incorporated them into everyday life, using her own person as a canvas for instruction.  She would spend money out of her own pocket to get her kids the books and tools that they needed to succeed in the classroom.  I think deep down inside, she saw herself as one of her students: struggling, hopeful, childlike.

We suddenly found ourselves unraveling with devastation at Mommy’s diagnosis of liver cancer.  Little did we know that five short months later she would be robbed of her earthly body and ripped from our lives.

Three and a half years later, not a day goes by when I don’t think of my mother.  As a mother myself now, my heart sinks at the thought of not being here for Cyrus at any point in his life.  I still cry a couple of times a week, especially after having had my son.  Now that I am a mother, I see everything with a new perspective.  I have flashbacks of childhood when I look into my son’s eyes and I see the lessons that my mother taught me as they play out in my own choices and actions.

2. Meeting Allie (2001)

George and Gracie.  Abbot and Costello.  Sifl and Olly.  During this fateful time, I didn’t know that I was on my way to meet my mate for life.  Before I met Allie, I never wanted to get married.  Or at least I never thought I wanted to get married.  But that all changed the day we met at Arlene’s Grocery on April 17th.  No, we didn’t meet in the meat department – it was a live music venue where his cousin’s band was playing.  Allie and I actually “met” earlier than this – online through Match.com.  But this was the day we locked eyes.  And so it was done.

The weeks preceding our meeting, I kept asking my friends if any of them wanted to go out to Arlene’s Grocery.  I had an itch to go see some live music at a fun place, and Arlene’s Grocery was the place.  I was sure of it.  So when I was on the phone with Allie before we met in person, he asked me out on our first date, suggesting that we go somewhere with lots of people and live music.  Out of all the places in New York City, he suggested Arlene’s Grocery.

I could go on about how on our second date Allie gave me a bouquet of chocolates and a box of flowers.  I’ll wait while you re-read that.  I could talk about how shortly after 9/11 Allie casually mentioned that if we get married I can use his health plan for new prescription glasses.  I could point out the rainy day when Allie accidentally in-the-moment said “I love you” to me for the first time; I was so taken by surprise that I didn’t say “I love you” back until a week later when I finally said to him, “I love you too,” out of the blue.  I was sure of it.

But the significance of this entry is our meeting – and nothing else.  Even psychics and statisticians can’t know the future for sure; break down a variable and there are more variables.  A premonition is only as good as its actions proceeding it. The world is filled with an endless possible number of consequences.  But Allie was mine.

1. The birth of my son (2009)

I made a person.  With Allie’s help, of course.  But I carried and nurtured this being for nine long months (that I thought would never end).  I fainted twice, ending up with a concussion the second time, and I developed gestational diabetes.  I was nauseous for the first four months and only queasy for the last five.  I had terrible heartburn throughout the entire pregnancy – I thought it would burn a whole clear through my esophagus.   All of this plus the emotional-hormonal shift placed me in an otherworldly mindset fit for a mythical character.

Everything I ever learned from age 1 to 37 flew out the window during labor.  Instincts took over during birth.  I was transfixed on getting the baby out of my body.  I became the transformative link between life and death.  I was living and dying at the same time.  I could have strapped a jet liner to my back and pulled it around the earth a hundred times with the same force and passion I used to birth my son. I was about to bring a life into the world – not even magic can explain where this being was before he was created.  All you science geeks and religious freaks can kiss my —BLEEEP—

And then – Cyrus Abraham.

No earthly language could ever help me express the love I feel for my son.  My heart swells with joy whenever I see Cyrus smile and breaks when I see him cry.  His birthday is nearing the corner and I simply cannot believe that it’s been almost a year since Cyrus made me a mommy.

For Cyrus I will go to the ends of the earth, I will stretch my limitations, I will make the impossible possible.  I have shed my maiden exterior to reveal a matronly underpinning of nurturer and caregiver.  Some days I can’t believe I’m a mother.  What on earth am I supposed to do with this thing?  Did I do the right thing?  Other days it feels as though it was my destiny to create this one particular human being.  Being a mother has, so far, been at once the most stressful and rewarding job I’ve ever had.  I get paid in love; I am a very rich woman, and Cyrus is my treasure.

Honorable mentions (these events didn’t make the top ten list but are worth noting):

Miscarriage, proposal, initiation

Okay tens, I’m ready.  Hit me.

Happy New Year!

Advertisements

December 26, 2009. Uncategorized.

Leave a Comment

Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: