Stillness Between Breaths

Yesterday I began reflecting on some recent challenges in my relationship with Harel, and it’s a topic I’d like to return to. I feel it’s worth mentioning that although I can’t describe exactly what’s going on without breaching Harel’s trust and confidence in me (he has not said if I may share what’s going on), the general motion is that the circumstances within which our lives are suspended have shifted, and despite no change in our love for each other, it’s unclear if a long-distance relationship can be sustained in the way these new situations would require.

It is, ultimately, an ongoing process we’re both trying to figure out.

So while this post won’t, and can’t, address the details of what we’re going through (and ultimately, I’m not sure I’ll discuss those details publicly, even with Harel’s consent), what I wish to return to is a discussion the strategies I’m using to get through it all.

Because after two years of being engaged, news like this isn’t easy to digest.

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Reflections on Rippling Water

Chaos is not disorder. Chaos is order so precise and sensitive that the slightest misstep at the start sends us far from where we intended to be.

Water is, as it tumbles over rocks and flows between our fingers, a creature of chaos. And so is life.

We drift along, pulled between rapids and brief moments of pause, seconds of tranquility that split time into austere fractions that enclose us and confine us. Solutions (and the problems they supposedly solve) seem suddenly clear, and then the water draws us away, and once more we are left without recourse and direction.

This is, I am afraid, one of those times.

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TBT: A Marriage in Heaven

Lately I’ve been using Thursdays as a way to remember special moments with my fiance in our journey together toward marriage and the relationship we’ll be able to build on the other side of our immigration journey.

But tonight there’s another couple I want to remember.

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Three Winners

Sometimes the weather says it all: cold and bitter, turbulent, frustrated and uncertain–should it rain? Turn to ice? Remain indecisive, unfulfilled, until it blows aside?

Earlier this week three Muslim students at the blue school up the road (UNC Chapel Hill) were shot and killed over an alleged parking dispute, but in my heart, in my gut, I believe it truly was a hate crime. The small-town feel of our campuses was shaken, shattered.

The students, filled with fear, tragic loss. The weather said it all. A good friend, when I crossed her path yesterday, said it better: “They were our age, Darren. Our age.”

Since Wednesday I’ve heard nothing but the inspiring and heartwarming stories of these three students, their compassion, their faith, their service toward building bridges of understanding and commonness between diverse groups. And I can’t even bring myself to say their names, or write them, because to do so brings them too close, closer than I can handle. I didn’t know them, but I feel now as though I do, and it’s a loss I cannot bear.

I’ve thought all day, repeatedly for days, that hatred against anyone is hatred against everyone; violence against one is violence against all. And the oppression of Islam and Muslims in a Christan-dominated society recalls the same oppressions once faced by Judaism and Jews, and still often experienced if not at the same explicit and violent level as that experience by my Muslim sisters and brothers. I recall, as long as I can remember, the police officers guarding my synagogue’s doors, but what must they go through daily?

It’s rather atrocious, to think of it, that anyone should need security outside a house of worship, but that’s the virulent symptoms of a one-minded, belligerent society.

That’s not what I was trying to say. What I was trying to say is that today they were Muslim, but they could’ve been Jewish. They could’ve been gay. They could’ve been me.

Our age, my friend said. I think too often of death, but death is abstract, and in my mind I run through my obituaries, hopes and dreams of what my life should be: …survived by his husband and their children… well-known for his books of poetry and fiction series… They don’t stop at 25. They stop at 70 or 80 or 90. My greatest achievements are not serving in student leadership roles or working as a tutor–in these obituaries I’m praised for inspiring a hundred mathematicians, for being senator or governor or even president.

They don’t end at today. They certainly don’t end at the end of a gun.

It’s tragic, but that’s the wrong word. It’s sickening. Vile. Evil.

The Sages once asked, “Why was the Temple destroyed?” And their answer was sinat chinam, senseless hatred–and I believe that it is this same senseless hatred that has shook our community and every day still threatens to topple our entire world.

God, however, has provided an alternative: Chesed, compassion and loving-kindness, the lifeblood of these three students and the service that defines their all-too-short lives. Binah, understanding, the open-minded willingness to accept and learn. And gevurah, courage, strength, the candle flame flickering in the wind that holds on, burns brighter, stays alight.

I pray. I cry. What else can I do? I keep breathing, living, believing.

Don’t Pray for Me

The first time it happened I was standing in a shack raising money for the homeless. The two walked up to me–a man and a woman, maybe my age, smiling, too exuberant–and with their eyes attached longingly to mine, they introduced themselves and asked, “Can we pray for you?”

I’ll admit: I was taken aback. All my life the idea of “praying for others” was an insult to their identity and an affirmation of the prayer-maker’s superiority: “You’re Jewish? I’ll pray for you. You’re gay? I’ll pray for you. You’re a sinner. I’ll pray for you.”

And here were two and all they wanted to do

(an unnecessary line break for poetic emphasis)

was pray for me.

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Hope in Evolution

I’ve been reading through my archives in preparation for relaunching my blog next month, and paging through my personal history has been both trying and inspiring. At its most basic, it feels insurmountable, and with posts averaging about 1200 words each and over 350 posts, that’s a wall of 0.4 million words to read through, all while balancing committee duties, education, and personal wellness goals.

However, it’s been amazing to watch the evolution of my writing quality from month to month, which has given me hope my blog will continue to improve as time moves on–especially after it’s been visually and thematically remastered in the coming weeks. It has also reminded me of some often forgotten ideas that could continue to bring light into my life if I take my own words, said so long ago, to heart now.

Most amazing of all is how, given time, my words of yesterday have grown into blossoming trees today.

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When the Pawn Takes the Queen

Have you ever had a moment when suddenly everything became clear? I’m made to think of days when you look out the window and you can count every leaf on every tree because, for some way you can’t discern, the sun has decided to shine on every one of them–and you don’t know why, but you count those leaves, each and every one of them, and for days, nothing is the same. You know these leaves intimately, you know these trees. And then the clouds roll in, dawn turns to dusk, and somehow all that clarity is clouded curiosity.

Alas, the epiphany. It comes. It goes.

In writing, there’s a trend–so my textbook would insist–for new writers to rely too heavily on epiphanies to develop characters and move plots along. I’m almost certain I’ve fallen for this at times, but I can’t seem to recall any concrete examples in some of my stories. I’m generally opposed to sudden changes in anything, and epiphanies seem too easy sometimes for me to even want to use them much.

No matter, this exercise was all about them.

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Bring Out the Bling

There’s something ironic to everything, and I think one of ironies of my life is that everything I say I’m not, I become. For example, I’ve never considered myself one for jewelry, and yet I find I wear more now than I ever had before–period. The funny part is, when I forget to put on my watch, or when I lost my Equality Ring in the car, I felt a part of my identity had slipped away. It was like missing a breath and knowing your lungs aren’t as full as they should be–but that breath is already gone and you can never bring it back.

So, although I’m sure it’s an odd thing to say (especially coming from one such as myself, who frequently must refer to dictionaries to divine the meanings of slang), today I’m thankful for bling.

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A Sojourn of Self and Soul

The Saturday before last was the youth Shabbat at my synagogue. In other words, the majority of the service was led by youth from our congregation, mostly middle- and high-school-aged students, with a few college kids and some of the teachers at our synagogue’s congregational school mixed in. It got me thinking. About a lot of things.

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