Ritual Waters Run Deep

I ran out of the apartment complex with my scarf dragging on the ground and my coat unzipped. 

No, I wasn’t running away from a boyfriend who mistreated me.

And no, I wasn’t running from a mugger.

I was running to perform the ritual of dunking in the mikvah (ritual bath).

According to halacha (Jewish law), after a married woman gets her period, she is to dunk in a ritual bath before she can have sex with her husband, and according to rabbinic stringencies, she has to wait 7 additional days before going to the mikvah.

This ritual is meant to be meaningful and holy, but it brings out the worst in me.

I mean, I thought I was rude when rushing to catch a subway, but in comparison to mikvah, I am apparently an angel.

Picture this: A young woman comes home from a busy day of work—tired and starving. But before she makes dinner—let alone eats it—she has to remove her nail polish, cut her nails (fingers and toes!), take a shower, and then walk several blocks to the local mikvah where she must dunk in the water so she can have sex with her husband.

I spent months before my wedding learning about all the nitty gritty rules surrounding mikvah. 

You would think, now that I am married I don’t have to be ashamed whatsoever for being sexually active. But somehow, the laws of mikvah come around to remind me that sexuality in marriage, while beautiful, is also riddled with horribly neurotic intricacies.

Yes, the stronger restrictions are rabbinic law, and the strictly biblical ways of mikvah are less strict. And yes, I could choose to just throw away this whole ritual altogether. But, I don’t have the guts to do that, nor does my husband. We believe there is great significance to this ritual and we want to keep it. But G-d help me, it can be such a nuisance.

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How Highlighting My Hair Highlighted My Insecurities and How I Coped

Yesterday, I got my hair-highlighted. Woohoo! Standing ovation for Gila. Seriously, though, what’s the big deal?

On the one hand, I always valued my natural color and having a natural look and I only started highlighting my hair as a form of rebellion in my twenties (my teens were quite lame!).

That first time, I actually got lowlights — a reddish tint. That was fun!

But my real dream had always been to have blond hair. Maybe it was because I related a lot to Phoebe on Friends — while I was a very good student, I embraced my ditzy side, and I wanted my classmates to as well instead of just seeing me as a serious student and nothing else. Plus, blondes are hot, and they really can have more fun! I wanted to have that look!

When I did get blond highlights for the first time, I was so happy each time I glanced at my hair and saw blond strands. I was living the dream!

Fast forward four years later, and I am sitting in the hair salon getting my hair highlighted for the 4th time. I had taken a break from highlighting my hair when I grew it out for the up-do that I wore at my wedding. Here I was, two years after my last highlighting job, excited to feel the rush and embrace the enlightening change once again!

I advised the hair dresser to make the highlights more gold than blond. I really did want gold highlights. But when the process was complete and I looked at my hair, while I was super happy with how the gold highlights looked, there was a part of me that yearned for blond highlights as well.

I guess, I should have expressed that to the hair dresser. Yet, if I hadn’t expressed it, perhaps I really did want only gold all along. Maybe I was simply nostalgic for blond hair, but knew it wasn’t the look I was going for.

The point is, while I could have perhaps gotten more of a mix of gold and blond, in reality I cannot have two things simultaneously. I cannot have beautiful, warm, gold highlights, and also have a more platinum blond look – they are just not compatible. And I know from the past, my complexion looks much better with warmer, golder tones, than blond ones. Heck, growing up my grandmother always reveled that I had natural gold highlights — and I always loved that so much!

I have a tendency of wanting to keep all the doors open, to be able to hold as real all the dreams that I have in life.

As an adult, I have learned that we have to pick what we want, commit to it, and then channel our energy towards supporting it. Continuing to long for blond streaks is not healthy, and it makes me feel very distant and unhappy with myself.

In the end, I found greater peace with my current new look, when I posted my before and after photo on Instagram. By playing with the filters and brightness level, I was able to highlight my highlights. This made me feel very self-assured, since my self-esteem has been slashed down by a society ruled by Photoshop and the marketing of “real” images of celebrities and “reality” TV (C’mon, that is anything but real). Maybe, I didn’t get the most perfect highlights that I ever imagined –but I got something better – the invitation to, within normal limits, tweak and edit my image before presenting it to others. I reinforced the lesson that I have been learning more and more as an adult: that nothing is really as perfect as it seems and what we see in life, is not the full picture; it’s not the raw footage. Growing up, I judged myself so harshly for not living up to standards that were impossible to meet, because they weren’t real. If I am ever going to survive in this world, it is with the understanding that I can allow myself to invite play into my life, and not take everything so literally.

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Why Disney Princesses Suck! Harness YOUR Own Inner Glow

Yesterday, I spoke with an old friend about the significance to me of getting off of birth control. I told her how it reminded me of the first time I was introduced to birth control, and all the sexual encounters I had prior to and after I started it. I told her I thought it was weird that I made so much meaning out of it – since no one seems to have made a big deal – but to me it really is a monumental moment.

I was utterly relieved to hear that she too had memories of how and when she started taking birth control, when she herself decided to go off the pill so she and her husband could have children.

She said, that it makes sense why this moment is so significant to me. Women take birth control pills (at the same time!) every day – and beyond that – it is so much more than just a daily routine – it is emotional. Birth control represents femininity, womanhood, motherhood, sexuality, etc.

I was so happy that my old buddy was on my wavelength about this, and I went on to tell her that it was for this very reason that I invited my girlfriends over for an event this coming Saturday night – the last day I would be taking an active pill before going off birth control and letting my body do its thing – i.e. allowing myself to get pregnant (with my husband’s help, of course). They say that it is harder for the father to feel bonded to the child as compared to the mother in whom the child grows and is nourished and nurtured for 9 months. But really this is not when the unevenness begins.

Even without bearing a child – a woman has the internal infrastructure in her body to bear life.

Let me say that again –

A woman can grow another human being inside of her.

Therefore, even without yet getting pregnant, a woman has a relationship with her POTENTIAL to bear children.

That is what birth control represents. That is why I cannot simply go off the pill as if I was stopping an antacid. That is why every day at 12 noon, I will be pausing and reflecting on my having taken the pill each and every day for the past 4 years.

But it goes further. Getting off birth control I am reminded of what I did while I was on birth control. While I think about these experiences often enough already, now the images and memories are sharpening in my mind. Memories of what was going through my mind and heart pulsing through my veins.

While I will not share these exact memories with you, what I will share are the thoughts and feelings that they bring up in me this morning – a culmination of thoughts that I have been having over the past decade.

Why Disney Princesses Suck!

The glorification of one’s first kiss and finding one’s prince charming has got to stop. While I am not the first one to note this, here I offer my own synthesis of personal experiences and books I have read.

The number one thing celebrated in a girl’s life needs to be her interests, passions, hobbies and talents, as well as what unique things she can contribute to the world – self-actualization, self-fulfillment, a part of something greater, a mission, a sense of connection to a greater purpose, a sense of being connected with the universe and the people around her. It can take a damn long time to find one’s other half – and during this process, we can’t simply be pining away.  I mean we could – but think of all the good things we could create, the good feelings we could engender in ourselves and others. Think of all the things we could do with the energy and time we spend fantasizing about our “future husband.”

And sometimes it’s way more than just a distraction – this fantasy actually becomes self-destructive when it blinds us and we spend time with guys who don’t respect us, or we make our dating relationships all about getting, pleasing, and keeping a guy.  We leave these relationships feeling much worse about ourselves emotionally. We did it for a high, a feeling of love and connection, a feeling of hope, and when that disappears we end up lower than where we started. And it takes a while for us to climb out of it – and a helluva lot of self-work.  We may never fully heal. Sometimes these emotional scars are accompanied by physical ones in the form of STDs, or perhaps abortions. In that case, the emotional healing is further blocked by the constant physical reminder that we treated ourselves with less-than care and put ourselves at risk.  The road to self-forgiveness and self-acceptance can be a very long one indeed.  And I know for myself, I am still on that road. I honestly think I always will be.

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Grieving over What Once Was

Over the weekend, I went to a conscious dance session for people who are grieving over the loss of a loved one, or dealing with other hardship in their lives.

I have gone to several healing dance events such as this in the past, and I wanted to give it another go. Also, I was going to meet with the coordinators afterward to discuss how I could contribute with my book to a future session. Maybe I said those reasons in ascending order 😉

During the session, I accessed feelings of grief and loss, but not quite the ones I was expecting to. Well, for one, I was frustrated with my lack of flexibility. I recalled the years I was training to teach Pilates and yoga and how agile and fit I was. It wasn’t the first time that I felt the heart wrenching feeling of betrayal from my body. I longed for the days when I freely and skillfully moved and stretched; it was so effortless back then.
And while I have periods where I can work to bring my flexibility back up, it is much more effort, and it’s never quite the same.

And the second emotion that I encountered, perhaps the strongest one, in fact, was not a form of grief at all. It was an intense feeling of self-consciousness and social comparison. “No one is looking at you,” the instructor said repeatedly.

Well, that’s not my issue- my problem is that I am looking at myself, and I am looking at others—and their skills and liberated dance moves are intimidating the crap out of me.

I have always found group activities threatening. I prefer to do my own thing, in my own space. If there are 15 other people in a room, I, by definition cannot “own the space.” I notice the others too much and I don’t feel comfortable or free. And yes, I do think others are looking at me.

Maybe that’s why I love writing. I am with myself and no one else. I can clearly hear my voice and connect to it, and I can soar into my own unique thoughts and image of the world around me.

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