Sunday, March 28, 2021

Redemption and Resurrection in 2021

Every year, I write a blog during the Passover/Easter week about redemption and resurrection. This year, in particular, I feel like I myself need to reflect on it more than ever. 

 

On Passover, we celebrate going from slavery to redemption as a people, but in order to do that, at least biblically speaking, we had to accept God in such a way that we would agree to be obedient to His set of rules.

 

Frankly, if the Ten Commandments were all there was, I’d be fine with it. I think the world would be pretty good if people just adhered to even two of the ten – don’t kill anyone and quit taking what isn’t yours. (I’m paraphrasing a little.) 

 

But the world doesn’t really adhere to any of the commandments, as I see it, and so we seem to be in a bit of a pickle, and I haven’t even gotten to Christianity yet. 

 

We’ve become enslaved to so many things – to our fear, to our needs, to our politics, to money, to the idea of what we consider the true God or religion to be, to seeking vengeance and retribution, to wanting more, to settling for less. We are slaves to the constant barrage of headlines and sound bites, to MSNBC and Fox. We are slaves to our negative thoughts and stunning lack of faith in the one thing, the embodiment of which would solve all our troubles – love. 

 

We have put ourselves in shackles and said, “That’s just the way the world is.” We are holding ourselves captive, and I don’t mean by quarantining during the pandemic. 

 

Speaking of which, I don’t want to burst your bubble, but it’s not over. And for those of you who want it to go back to the way things were before the pandemic, I’m sorry to break it to you, but it can’t and we won’t.

 

Loss changes us. I will never be who I was a year ago, nor would I want to be. Stunning and staggering pain doesn’t just impact us negatively. If we let it, it can be the bridge to our transformation into something better. It can be the road to our redemption. 

 

I know so many people who have felt like caged animals for a year, pacing, gnawing, seething, trying to break free. But freedom, much like happiness, is an inside job. We will never be freer than we are in our minds, souls, and hearts. Until we master the thoughts we are slaves to, no amount of running around will suffice to satisfy that longing deep within. 

 

What we’re longing for is resurrection, which is the perfect segue to talking about Jesus. I know, my family gets a little nervous when I start talking about Jesus and resurrection, but I have known since early childhood that He was sent to be the human embodiment of what love is supposed to look like. Shocking that we couldn’t figure it out for ourselves, but no, evidently we couldn’t. 

 

I remember asking an orthodox rabbi in Hebrew school when I was young, if Jews believed in resurrection. For those keeping score, we do. We just can’t seem to agree on who the Messiah is and when we’ll all be resurrected. 

 

Anyway, my point is that it is time to resurrect our lives and this world, in such a way that there is no doubt what love looks like and in whose hands the responsibility for it lies. 

 

As I envision a post-pandemic life, I try to see my future self simply as happy. Ecstatic, in fact. It occurred to this goal-driven writer, that historically speaking, I have always thought my happiness would be found in achieving certain goals. And if there is one enslaved way of thinking I choose to release right now, it’s that. And if there’s one thing I’d like to resurrect, it’s the idea that happiness is, in and of itself, the goal, the journey, and the place I choose to reside. 

 

Are there things I want to do? Yes. But if I can’t find happiness every step along the way, then I won’t find it when I get there, either. 

 

I want to release my enslavement to things having to look a certain way, and resurrect the idea of flow and ease. Wow, that seems foreign to me, even as I say it. 

 

I think we have lost our way. I think we have forgotten our own divinity, not to mention God’s. I think we need to think bigger, be bolder in our declaration of what we want, and take a leap of faith in the direction of a world that works for everyone, where nothing happens to us, but it all happens for us. 


I think we need to resurrect the vision of peace, of people loving one another, of no one life being worth more than another. I think we need to revisit and embrace forgiveness. I think we need to resurrect seeing the God in everyone. 

 

The stories of Easter and Passover are not about slavery and crucifixion. They are about redemption and resurrection. In the worst moments are found the greatest potential for miracles. I think that is the takeaway. 

 

So wherever you find yourself this moment, I hope you can pause long enough to see God in yourself, to practice being love, and to know that at any given moment, we are poised for the miraculous to take place, if we would but trust it. 

 

Peace and blessings to you all…

 

Ilene





Thursday, March 11, 2021

Happy Anniversary...

There are some events that are indelibly etched in my mind – blizzards, blackouts, 9/11, the insurrection…and March 12th of last year. 

 

I remember details of such events, like which day of the week they were on, what I was doing, how I felt, if it was hot or cold, if I was scared. 

 

I wasn’t scared.

 

March 12th, 2020 was a Thursday and I was going to see the new Broadway musical about Princess Diana that night. 

 

I took my father to his cardiologist appointment that morning. It was the last time we would go anywhere without a mask, but I didn’t know that then.

 

We ate lunch at our local diner on our way home, like we typically did. It was the last time we would do that, too.

 

We saw our friends and fellow diner regulars. We hugged, kissed, and shook hands, without hesitation or forethought. Maybe if I had known it would be the last time, I would have lingered longer. 

 

By the time we got home and settled in, I was getting ready to go back into the city for the Princess Di show that evening. Before 5 p.m., my friend Anthony called to say Broadway had shut down. 

 

Life as I knew it ended that day. Silently. Stealthily. Abruptly. 

 

The next morning, I got up early and bought enough groceries for a month. 

 

And then I waited. Hunkered down. Watching the news. Eyeing the ever-increasing number of human casualties from a strange new virus we had no way to treat, or to stop, or to prevent. 

 

I was in the first stage of grief – denial. 

 

I told myself that this would last maybe a few weeks, at most. Surely, this strange illness would pass or we’d figure out a solution. We’re crafty like that. Besides, even after 9/11, Broadway was only dark for 48 hours. The show must go on. 

 

But it didn’t.

 

Like anything new, there’s novelty to it. I’m an introvert, working from home and now I had an excuse never to leave. It wouldn’t be hard for me, I told myself. And if I’m being honest, staying home hasn’t been. That was the least of it. 

 

True to form, I started to ascribe a deeper spiritual meaning to the global time-out. The planet needed to heal from man’s abuse of it. Humanity needed to be sent to its collective room to think about what we’d done. The incessant hurrying needed to stop. We all needed to take a deep breath, to reflect, to regroup, and reset. 

 

That would have been a life-transforming accomplishment. Unfortunately, most seem to have used their time to binge watch every cockamamie show ever streamed. So not so much on the whole “think about what you’ve done” thing. 

 

Me, I didn’t binge watch until at least eight months into it. I didn’t watch anything other than news for a long time. 

 

I thought it would be the perfect quiet time to write and get a lot done. I wrote nothing. I was just glad that my father and I were well. He was in really good shape for a 91 year old when this pandemic started.

 

I began doing concerts from my living room. It was a way to connect and still make music. The first time was the strangest. Performing to dead silence, but knowing there are people out there listening. After a while, I made it a regular thing – the first Tuesday of every month at 8 o’clock you could find me on StageIt. If it did nothing else, it gave me the only thing I had on a schedule. It was something in a time filled with nothing.

 

Runs for necessities were all consuming. Lines for hours to get inside the store, and an eerie quiet once there. There was none of the usual frenetic energy of people out and about. Everyone looked like a trauma victim, and what we most feared was each other. To ignore the peril was increasingly difficult. Though the elderly were targeted, this virus was claiming younger people in enough numbers for no one to be safe.

 

It wasn’t long before I knew someone who died from Covid-19. Then parents of friends and friends battling it, some at home, some in hospitals fighting for their lives. 

 

The economy was in a free-fall. And I was praying daily for our frontline workers, which now included the people stocking the store shelves and picking up the garbage on my street. 

 

The president was clearly in over his orange head and lacked not only empathy, compassion, and the ability to tell the truth, but the one thing we desperately needed – a plan to get us out of this mess. I was beyond pissed off.

 

Anger – the second stage of grief.

 

By July, my father’s health took a turn for the worse, though it was not Covid-related. That’s when I got to experience, firsthand, the hellish nightmare we were in, in a different way. 

 

It was summer, and my only saving grace was that the virus spread had slowed down enough for me to at least be allowed into the hospital for 3 hours a day to be with my father. I was there, waiting when visiting was permitted, and I only left when security made their rounds and told me I had to leave. It was excruciating. The staff was sparse and overworked and the care suffered for it.

 

My cell phone was my only lifeline in July, August, and September, when my father was in and out of hospitals. Relatives and friends could support me by phone, but no one could be there in person, for him or me. 

 

I prayed for more things than I can articulate – strength, wisdom, protection as I navigated hospitals and my own potential exposure to the virus. I would have traded anything to secure a positive outcome. 

 

Bargaining, - the third stage of grief.

 

Autumn saw my father home, finally, but not nearly the same as he had been or will ever be again. What once was designated for old age now became the pervasive thought in my mind – the inevitability of death…and the utter fragility of life. 

 

Everything was meaningless and meaningful, excruciating and beautiful at the same time. Nothing mattered and everything did. The fact that we even got up in the morning was a fucking miracle. And this has yet to leave me. I still feel that way. 

 

Depression – the fourth stage of grief.

 

Birthdays came and went quietly, and holidays approached with no possibility of gathering. I made the best of the masked drop-offs of gifts and the elbow bumps that replaced hugs. I tried to find humor in it somewhere, but nothing about it was funny, except the potential it had for being behind us one day.

 

The hardest thing, by far, was missing funerals. From the time the pandemic started until now, I lost four friends, an aunt, uncle, and three cousins. Though only two were due to Covid, the enormity of the loss would have been unfathomable even during normal circumstances. And these were not normal circumstances. 

 

For as hard as a funeral is, it is the start of the healing process. Absent that, there is a piece missing, a step skipped. And you can’t skip crucial steps when it comes to processing grief. 

 

The New Year carried with it the promise of a new president, a vaccination, and the chance to at least hope for a better future. Me, I was skeptical by now, and January 6th didn’t help matters.

 

Not only is life too damn fragile, but also, it turns out our democracy is only one successful insurrection away from toppling like a house of cards. 

 

That was it for me. I started learning the Canadian national anthem, brushing up on my French, and googling the path to citizenry. 

 

Fortunately, Biden took office and got busy trying to help us out of this mess. And I started to look at life with an ever-so-slight glimmer of hope. If the pandemic continued, I would survive lockdown. If it vanished, I would face the new world with everyone else. 

 

Acceptance – the last stage of grief.

 

Friends started talking about post-pandemic life. One said not to underestimate people’s capacity to forget. 

 

I don’t think we can go back. At least, I hope we can’t. I am not the same person I was at the start of this a year ago. I could never be that person again. The only value there is in any experience is who and what we become because of it. 

 

What would you tell your year-younger self? 

 

I’ve been giving this some thought, as this anniversary approached. I think I would tell her that, no matter what happened, she was enough to handle it, that no matter how isolated she ever felt, she was never truly alone, and that Schitt’s Creak is really worth the binge watch.

 

Wherever this anniversary finds you, I hope it’s on a path to healing. I hope that as we re-enter the world, we do so a little bit kinder to ourselves, the planet, and each other. 

 

Happy Anniversary, dear readers. 

 

xo

Ilene



Sunday, February 7, 2021

My Annual Super Bowl Blog!!


It’s time for my annual Super Bowl blog, the day when I traditionally run through the roster of football players’ names I actually know, which used to be limited to those contestants on Dancing with the Stars, a miscellaneous Manning brother, the guy who crosses himself, and Joe Namath. 

 

Unfortunately, I stopped watching Dancing with the Stars when they started dancing around barefoot. WTF with that?! It’s not ballroom. Put on a sparkly dress, a spray tan, some heels, and tango, dammit. 

 

Anyway, all that to say, I don’t know too many football players these days. Oooh, wait - Tom Brady. But I think he’s a Trump supporter, so clearly traumatic brain injury has already set in. Bless his heart.

 

As if the pandemic wasn’t enough to make it clear that the world is irreparably different, there will be poetry at the opening of the Super Bowl. 

 

Poetry. At. The. Super. Bowl. 

 

Complex rhyme schemes spoken live in front of a bunch of millionaire-oversized men, paid to jump on each other. Did I mention the traumatic brain injury thing? 

 

You can bet I’ll be tuning in for Amanda Gorman’s riveting words, and I really appreciate the heads up about it being at the beginning, so I don’t have to, you know, watch the game. Me, I actually AM a poetry lover. 

 

And if someone would be kind enough to let me know when it ends, so I can tune in for The Equalizer with Queen Latifah, that would be awesome. 

 

Before we go any further, let’s talk about snacks. Just because I don’t like football doesn’t mean I can’t get onboard with snacks. Chips, wings, and Lipitor for everyone, that’s what I say. 

 

I was supposed to be doing a virtual chili cook-off on zoom today, but I’ve had a migraine for close to a week, so I decided my time would be better spent on the couch here with you…and binge-watching the last few episodes of Schitt’s Creek. 

 

Oh, don’t get me started on how much I love Schitt’s Creek. I’ve been sipping the seasons like a fine wine, savoring each delicious moment with the Roses. I do not want it to end. But alas, I know it will…tonight…while everyone else is watching the Super Bowl. 

 

Now is the time I would normally impress you with my knowledge of the competing teams, but frankly, who cares.?!! I got no skin in the game. And seriously, you should be impressed with my usage of that phrase right there. I believe I bandied it about correctly in this instance. 

 

Well, it’s time for me to go do physical therapy with my father. If you really want to see something impressive, it’s not a touchdown by professional athletes. It’s watching a 92 year-old man summon the strength he really doesn’t have, so he can stay mobile and living at home. 

 

I hope that whatever your Super Bowl plans are, you stay safe and well and have a good time. 

 

Go Titans!! …or whoever’s playing.