Saturday, December 30, 2017

Favorite quotes from some of the books I read in 2017

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett
~History always repeats itself until we honestly and searchingly know ourselves. ~
~My work has shown me that spiritual geniuses of the everyday are everywhere. They are in the margins and do not have publicists. They are below the radar, which is broken. The discourse of our common life inclines towards despair. ~
~We create transformative, resilient new realities by becoming transformed, resilient people.~
~Everything is no longer political, as the old saying goes, but nearly everything now holds civic importance.~
~I can disagree with your opinion, it turns out, but I can’t disagree with your experience. And once I have a sense of your experience, you and I are in relationship, acknowledging the complexity in each other’s position, listening less guardedly. The difference in our opinions will probably remain intact, but it no longer defines what is possible between us. ~
~The world is made up of stories; it’s not made up of facts. ~
~Listening is an everyday social art, but it’s an art we have neglected and must learn anew.~
~My only measure of the strength of a question now is in the honesty and eloquence it elicits.~
~People ask me about the common denominators of the wisest people I’ve encountered. Alongside all the virtues that accompany and anchor wisdom, there is a characteristic physical presence that Jean Vanier epitomizes with others I’ve met like Desmond Tutu, Wangari Maathai, Thích Nhât Hanh. Here’s what it feels like, what I can report: an embodied capacity to hold power and tenderness in a surprising, creative interplay. This way of being is palpable, and refreshing, and in its way jarring, hard to figure out. Among other things, it transmutes my sense of what power feels like and is there for. This is the closest I can come to describing the sense I have, at this point, of wisdom incarnate, and it is an experience of physical presence as much as consciousness and spirit. ~
~Wisdom, of the everyday sort, is about how we reckon with the surprises and mysteries that make life life as opposed to stasis. Mystery lands in us as a humbling fullness of reality we cannot sum up or pin down. ~
~I grow if anything more richly rooted in one of the most inexplicable things he taught me: God is love. ~

Small Great Things: A Novel by Jodi Picoult
~Marie has no idea how often I have to just take a deep breath, and move on. White people don’t mean half the offensive things that come out of their mouths, and so I try not to let myself get rubbed the wrong way. ~
~Corinne is one of those people for whom life is just the space between crises. ~
~And then it hits me with the force of a blow: they don’t have a problem with what I’ve done. Just with who I am. ~
~Anger, it turns out, is a renewable source of fuel. ~
~When I was a child my mother’s intuition was so uncanny it took me many years to realize she wasn’t psychic. She didn’t know the future; she just knew me.~
~On the day before classes were supposed to start, Mama took me out to dinner. “You’re destined to do small great things,” she told me. “Just like Dr. King said.” She was referring to one of her favorite quotes: If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way. ~
~If the first freedom you lose in prison is privacy, the second is dignity.~
~Now I know: adulthood is a line drawn in the sand. At some point, your child will be standing on the other side.~
~Pride is an evil dragon; it sleeps underneath your heart and then roars when you need silence.~
~It is amazing how you can look in a mirror your whole life and think you are seeing yourself clearly. And then one day, you peel off a filmy gray layer of hypocrisy, and you realize you’ve never truly seen yourself at all.~
~It is a strange thing, being suddenly motherless. It’s like losing a rudder that was keeping me on course, one that I never paid much mind to before now. Who will teach me how to parent, how to deal with the unkindness of strangers, how to be humble? ~
~She brought me into this world. I will help her leave it. ~
~We all do it, you know. Distract ourselves from noticing how time’s passing. We throw ourselves into our jobs. We focus on keeping the blight off our tomato plants. We fill up our gas tanks and top off our Metro cards and do the grocery shopping so that the weeks look the same on the surface. And then one day, you turn around, and your baby is a man. One day, you look in the mirror, and see gray hair. One day, you realize there is less of your life left than what you’ve already lived. And you think, How did this happen so fast? It was only yesterday when I was having my first legal drink, when I was diapering him, when I was young. When this realization hits, you start doing the math. How much time do I have left? How much can I fit into that small space? Some of us let this realization guide us, I guess. We book trips to Tibet, we learn how to sculpt, we skydive. We try to pretend it’s not almost over. But some of us just fill up our gas tanks and top off our Metro cards and do the grocery shopping, because if you only see the path that’s right ahead of you, you don’t obsess over when the cliff might drop off. Some of us never learn. And some of us learn earlier than others. ~
~All mothers worry, but Black mothers, we have to worry a little bit more.~
~What if the puzzle of the world was a shape you didn’t fit into? And the only way to survive was to mutilate yourself, carve away your corners, sand yourself down, modify yourself to fit?~
~Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.”~
~But even if we took every white supremacist on the planet and shipped them off to Mars, there would still be racism. That’s because racism isn’t just about hate. We all have biases, even if we don’t think we do. It’s because racism is also about who has power…and who has access to it.~
~Freedom is the fragile neck of a daffodil, after the longest of winters. It’s the sound of your voice, without anyone drowning you out. It’s having the grace to say yes, and more important, the right to say no. At the heart of freedom, hope beats: a pulse of possibility. I am the same woman I was five minutes ago. I’m rooted to the same chair. My hands are flattened on the same scarred table.~

Firefly Lane: A Novel by Kristin Hannah
~“We’ll be best friends forever,” Kate said earnestly. “Okay?” “You mean you’ll always be there for me?” “Always,” Kate answered. “No matter what.” Tully felt an emotion open up inside her like some exotic flower. She could practically smell its honeyed scent in the air. ~
~Thoughts—even fears—were airy things, formless until you made them solid with your voice, and once given that weight, they could crush you.~
~That was what a best friend did: hold up a mirror and show you your heart. ~
~That was the thing about best friends. Like sisters and mothers, they could piss you off and make you cry and break your heart, but in the end, when the chips were down, they were there, making you laugh even in your darkest hours.~
~Success had only made long days longer.~
~Friendships were like marriages in that way. Routines and patterns were poured early and hardened like cement.~

The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follet
~Bogge never objected to making people send him copies for the file: it enabled him to poke his finger into things without taking any responsibility.~
~One man could not win the war, but one man could lose it.~
~Neither of them had ever come close to marrying, for they were too fond of themselves to love another person. What brought them together was not love, not even affection, but shared lusts. The most important thing in life, for both of them, was the indulgence of their appetites.~
~There were brutes everywhere, and sometimes they got into power, and then you had to fight them.~
~The walls you build to protect you also close you in.~

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink
~Knowledge workers and their thinking style have indeed shaped the character, leadership, and social profile of the modern age. ~
~They’ve created an SAT-ocracy—a regime in which access to the good life depends on the ability to reason logically, sequentially, and speedily. ~
~For most of history, our lives were defined by scarcity. Today, the defining feature of social, economic, and cultural life in much of the world is abundance. ~
~ For businesses, it’s no longer enough to create a product that’s reasonably priced and adequately functional. It must also be beautiful, unique, and meaningful, abiding what author Virginia Postrel calls “the aesthetic imperative.” ~
~High concept involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into a novel invention. High touch involves the ability to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian, in pursuit of purpose and meaning.~
~Hollywood, Bollywood, and other entertainment centers revere story. But the rest of society, to the extent anyone even thinks about it, considers it fact’s less dependable younger sibling. Stories amuse; facts illuminate. Stories divert; facts reveal.~
~“Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.” —ROGER C. SCHANK, cognitive scientist~
~Stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context, and emotion.~
~How did you and your spouse meet? What was your first job? When was the first time you were away from home overnight? Who was the worst teacher you ever had? What was the happiest day of your life? The saddest? The most terrifying? What was the best decision you ever made? You’ll be amazed at the stories that pour out—and you’ll be thrilled to have them recorded~
~Symphony, as I call this aptitude, is the ability to put together the pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize rather than to analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than to deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair. Symphony is also an attribute of the brain’s right hemisphere in the literal, as well as the metaphorical, sense.~

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business by Patrick M. Lencioni
~There is simply no substitute for a good meeting—a dynamic, passionate, and focused engagement—when it comes to extracting the collective wisdom of a team. The hard truth is, bad meetings almost always lead to bad decisions, which is the best recipe for mediocrity.~            
~Lethargic. Unfocused . Passionless. Those were the most common words that visitors used to describe what they witnessed after attending even part of an executive staff meeting.~
~But the point is, consensus is usually not achievable. The likelihood of six intelligent people coming to a sincere and complete agreement on a complex and important topic is very low.” “So what do you do?” Michelle wondered. “You have a passionate, unfiltered, messy, provocative discussion that ends when the leader of the team decides all the information has been aired.~         
~ “The biggest problem with our meetings, and with meetings in general,” he paused for effect, “is structure.”~
~Meetings are a puzzling paradox. On one hand, they are critical. Meetings are the activity at the center of every organization. On the other hand, they are painful. Frustratingly long and seemingly pointless. The good news is that there is nothing inherent about meetings that makes them bad, and so it is entirely possible to transform them into compelling, productive, and fun activities. The bad news is that in order to do this, we will have to fundamentally rethink much of the way we perceive and manage meetings.~
~That means we cannot keep hating them. And we must abandon our search for technological solutions that will somehow free us from having to sit down face to face. And we have to stop focusing on agendas and minutes and rules, and accept the fact that bad meetings start with the attitudes and approaches of the people who lead and take part in them.~
~To make meetings less boring, leaders must look for legitimate reasons to provoke and uncover relevant, constructive ideological conflict.~           
~While it is true that much of the time we currently spend in meetings is largely wasted, the solution is not to stop having meetings, but rather to make them better. Because when properly utilized, meetings are actually time savers. That’s right. Good meetings provide opportunities to improve execution by accelerating decision making and eliminating the need to revisit issues again and again.~

A Religion of One's Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World by Thomas Moore
~To be religious even in a personal way, you have to wake up and find your own portals to wonder and transcendence.~
~ Georgia O’Keeffe didn’t paint Madonnas; she painted flowers and skulls, but she portrayed them with such vibrancy and symbolic innuendo that their sacredness is inescapable. ~
~God is in the space between sentences. God is the unspoken and unwritten. God is who is summoned but not seen.~
~Spiritual traditions around the world, large and small, have two major gifts to offer: wisdom and beauty.~

Saturday, December 16, 2017

About words

As I watch in disbelief how our human race  seemingly completely willingly marches towards the abyss, I think about words, how much they matter, how they can and do shape our thoughts and reality. And, at times, I feel completely hopeless (like today). And then I remember, I have a blog, which amplifies my small voice and I can use my voice for something good. 

For instance, just yesterday, as if to prove this point, it was reported that the current United States administration literally banned certain words from use in the official CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) documents. Those were good, real words such as “fetus," "transgender," "diversity”...  

And while good words are being banned, there are so many terrible, gut-wrenching words out there in our collective consciousness. Words such as “pedophile," "rape," "pervert," "treason," "genocide," "terror” and others are now part of our AND our children’s daily lexicon.  “Fake news” was named the “word of the year” by Collins Dictionary. 

In his book, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell, wrote: “[...] if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. [...] This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases […] can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them.” These awful words pound my psyche with such furiousness that being “on guard” requires every ounce of my being. 

Elif Shafak, in her TED talk “The revolutionary power of diverse thought” says that words not only have an immense power to shape thoughts, but that words can have color and taste.

So this is the punch line of today's poorly written blog post: as an antidote to all this awfulness and darkness, I would like to remind myself and anyone who comes across this blog of all the good, sturdy, positive and inspiring words.

I invite all of you to a feast of some lovely words, some my favorite words in English language. I invite you to taste them together with me, say them out loud, guard them, paint the world with their beauty, and share them with others. Let these words go deep into the soul of our universal consciousness and grow in the most unexpected and wonderful directions from there.

Here we go!

         Handling it

Sunday, October 8, 2017

About fear

Me: Let me ask you a question - what would you do if you weren't afraid?
Coaching client: [Silence]
Me: Don't rush answering it, I will wait. 
Coaching client: Hmmm [barely audible] What do you mean? In what context?
Me: In whichever context that's most relevant in your life - professionally, personally, spiritually. What would you do if you weren’t afraid of [_____________] fill in the blank: failing, looking foolish, being yourself…
Coaching client: [Silence]
Me:  You need time to think it over... Sure. I understand.

“What would you do if you were not afraid?”

As a coach, I get to ask people difficult to answer questions. One of my favorite questions is “what would you do if you were not afraid?” Why? Because from my own experience, and from the experience of working with many people, I am convinced that underneath a lot of camouflage, it is some fear that’s holding us back. Especially, in our dangerous and unpredictable world, being fearful has its own very un-pretty significance. But this blog post isn't about the state of the World. It's about the state of our own internal world. 

“What would you do if you were not afraid?”

When I ask this question I get a whole wide range of responses. Anything from pregnant silence, to tears, to more specific action steps such as "I would join the circus." In one instance, after grueling 6 months engagement with a client to help her "integrate better" into her "dream job," the answer was "I would walk out the door right now and open my own business. The job is mine but the dream wasn't really mine. It was my parents’ dream. I have a totally different dream." 

“What would you do if you were not afraid?”

In some way a question like this contains something very raw and primal in its core. It’s not dressed up in niceties – it’s all naked. Truth be told - we are all afraid. Fear drives so many major life’s decisions for so many of us (present company included). Answering this question requires us to lift the hood of our rusty, complicated consciousness and look inside. This act itself demands courage. It taunts us. It buzzes like a bee on the flower blossom, anxious and impatient: are you ready to look your deepest fear straight in the eye? Yikes!

“What would you do if you were not afraid?”

And the biggest proverbial slap in the face comes when we realized that once we say it, once we make the answer known, once we give it form, even just in our own minds, it will forever be out there, in the land of things known and realized. We won’t be able to shove it back into the unconscious, under the hood. And therefore, we will never be able to "un-know” it anymore. What then? Will it haunt us? And will it -- gasp -- demand action? 

“What would you do if you were not afraid?”

Since most of us don't want to peel the onion or look inside the infernos of our souls, understandably so,  timidness and denial set in. They take different forms: stalling, "extreme case of busy-ness," forgetfulness to respond to an email or text. Then anger may join the party. Sometimes that anger could be directed at the loved ones or at the coach (‘how dare you make me look in the face of my fear?”) And yet sometimes real breakthroughs happen…These breakthroughs are not fast, not easy, and may take decades to bring to reality.
But at one point or another in our lives, we could and should take the plunge. We are compelled to answer the call of destiny and verbalize that which our soul had known all along. And then we can say to ourselves “heck yes!”

Think about it. Fear was designed for us to protect ourselves, but I think we overdeveloped it. And it's now protecting us from living our best, fullest lives. Maybe the questions isn’t “what would you do if you were not afraid,” but rather

“What would you do in spite of fear?”

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Because nothing matters anymore?

In the current political and cultural climate, a new chilling phrase has been making the rounds. When something unthinkable, unprecedented, unreal, unbelievable, unpredictable happens, I often hear people say or read a headline that says "because nothing matters anymore."
"Nothing matters anymore..." This is one of the most terrifying phrases I heard in years, maybe ever.  It is the equivalent of "the patient is no longer responding to treatment. There is nothing else we can do." It sounds like "all bets are off" or "the situation is hopeless." When psychologists refer to a state of mind, a state of being when "nothing matters anymore" that's the classic sign of a deep depression. 

Wow... is this true!? Does nothing really matter anymore? Nothing at all? Not love? Not compassion? Not empathy? Basic human dignity? Not history? Truth? Freedom? Decency?  Goodness?  Wisdom? Nothing? If it's true, than it's devastating. 

Well, I am willing myself to not buy it. Everything matters. You matter. Life matters. And while we are digging ourselves out of the rut, this dark place, I will keep re-reading this wonderful quote by L.R. Knost and following her sage advice:

"Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you."

Onward, with love, light and intention! 

Friday, February 17, 2017

About Hate

My mom got called to the principal's office only once. It happened when I was 12. I recall that it was in April. I also remember that on the way back from school, holding her hand, I was grateful for the pouring rain because it hid tears that were running down my cheeks. 

I wasn't brilliant but I was a good student. In fact, I was good enough to have many of my classmates wanting to copy my homework and test answers, nearly daily. It actually went on for years. In America, that's called cheating and is frowned upon and highly discouraged (to say the least.) In the former Soviet Union cheating was not just expected, it was a kind of right of passage for every kid who "knew how to live well." I remember I was so angry. It was so unfair. I worked hard (as I said, I am no genius. Everything took work for me - from math to Russian grammar.) And then to see all my work to be copied in a matter of minutes by my classmates made my stomach turn. 

I bet you wonder why I kept giving them the answers then. Well, when I was 12 years old I couldn't explain why I was passively giving in. I didn't know how to put it into words. But now I do and the answer is simple and scary at the same time. I was giving in because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t, because I was bullied. I was bullied. All. Of. My. School. Life. Every single day. Not that there needs to be any special reason, but you might also wonder - why would anyone bully me? This answer is also pretty simple and scary at the same time. I was different. I was one of two Jewish kids in my school. And I was known as Жидовка - a Russian derogatory word for a woman or a girl of Jewish descent - whose only claim to this world, in the eyes of my classmates, was to provide homework and test answers to the Ukrainian and Russian children in the class. Bullying and torment took many forms and I won't write about that now because I don't want to dilute my key point and, also, because it hurts, a lot. 

And yes, before you ask, the teachers knew it. And, no, they didn't do anything. And, no, I could not complain to anyone except my parents and grandparents at home. But I rarely did that. It was just a part of life. It was part of my life as a girl growing up in a place where I was the unwanted member of society. And, upon reflection now, I think I may have believed that I could "win them over" one day. That one day they, my cheating bullies, will wake up and realize how wrong they had been. How terribly unfair they treated me. How interesting really was as a person. After all, I read cool books, I wrote poems, I drew in pencil and was pretty good at it, I could tell funny stories. And perhaps, I thought that, eventually, they will notice! And maybe they will even like me - just the way I am... what a silly little fool I had been.

But then one day it happened. All the rage that was building up for years, exploded. The kid's name was Vasya (Vasily) and we had been in the same class since we were both six years old (Soviet schools were the equivalent of K-12). He had a round face, small squinty eyes and the laugh of the Satan, or at least that’s how it sounded in my terrified 12-year-old mind. It would have been just another day. As usual, Vasya snapped his fat little fingers to signal that he was ready to copy my homework answers. But it wasn't an ordinary day. It was the day that something snapped in me and instead of giving him my papers with my neat handwriting, I said "no!" Except, I didn't just say it, I screamed "NO" with the primal fierceness of a caged animal. Vasya came closer to my desk and laughed his evil laugh, which attracted others to join in on the action. And then he looked me in the eye and said "Жидовка, дай по хорошему" (“you, Kike, better give it the easy way or else.") 

I repeated "No" but now in a quieter voice. 

He came closer. 

And then I grabbed my enormous school bag (important note about my bag: I was so worried that I would need some book unexpectedly that I carried all my books, for all my classes, making my bag weighing about a ton.) All the rage and indignation I felt, made my otherwise untrained muscles tingle with strength. 

I lifted my bag into the air, and smashed it into Vasya's still laughing face.

After that, everything moved really fast. Someone screamed. Someone else called the teacher. There was a commotion all around me. My mom's work was called and she was ordered to "report immediately to the principal's office." 

I broke Vasya's nose, either with my enormous bag or with the sheer force of my pent-up rage. Just in case you are wondering, physically he was fine. He had been in enough fights in his life before his face met my heavy bag. 

What happened next? Since I was otherwise a well-behaved (at least up until that moment) and good student, and because it was the Soviet Union, I got reprimanded by the principal and sent home.

My mom and I walked home in silence. The rain was beating down on us. I was crying. But these tears were not due to the despair I felt for getting in trouble... no, these tears were much worse - they were the symptom of the bottomless hopelessness and realization that there is no escape from this treatment. I cried because I knew that that I will always be Жидовка (kike, a dirty Jew). I cried because, as unfairly as I had been treated, as unfairly and harshly as Jews in the Soviet Union had been treated, it seemed impossible to change it. And I couldn't and wouldn't be able to fight every Vasya I would encounter with my bag.

It's been decades since that day. I rarely, if ever, talk about being bullied. So, why do these memories of daily torment and Antisemitism come to my mind now and I am compelled to share them on the World Wide Web? Because hate, including Antisemitism, is all around us…around me, more so than I ever felt it in years, in decades.  

Here are just a few latest examples:

Please don't misunderstand: this isn't only about me being bullied as a child in the former Soviet Union, while that, within itself is a sad and painful story. I beg you - do not overlook the bigger picture and message. It's a story about what happens when hate and active discrimination is just what's expected, when it becomes part of every day, when it's NORMAL. Bullying was just the process through which hate was systematically delivered to my soul, to diminish me, to use me and then eliminate me as a human being. 

I worry for our nation, our world and most of all for our children. Why do I worry? Because hate, including and specifically Antisemitism, seems to have new hope and is raising its horrible ugly head. What is giving hate the renewed hope and latitude it craves? I don’t know exactly. I have a few theories…

People will never be perfect, I get that. But we, the people of reason, can't watch hate organize itself and get institutionalized and normalized. It can NOT happen. So, this blog is an S.O.S. We must stop it now!

That rainy April afternoon, decades ago, as we approached our building, my mom hugged me and I saw so much love and pain in her eyes. She simply hugged me tight and said: "it's going to be alright.” And, now as a mom, I realize that the real message in her eyes was: "I am so sorry I can't protect you from this." 

My wish is to see the world where no child or a parent should ever experience this torment – emotional or physical. And my intent is to do what is in my power to support this vision of the world and to not let hate - in all its horrible forms - plant its ugly roots. 

#resist #spreadlove #notonmywatch #nohate

Friday, January 20, 2017

Still I Rise

I am the dream and the hope of immigrants...I am an immigrant....I am an American....I am a woman....

Still I Rise! 

Maya Angelou, 1928 - 2014

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

About the proverbial "other"

Have you ever felt like "the other?" You know what I mean, right? Have you ever felt like "those" people who are "not like the rest,” those who are not “normal?" Not completely accepted? 

C’mon, think hard. Think back to that moment in your life when you felt like an outsider. Yes... remember that metallic taste in your mouth? No? 

Well, let me try a few examples to refresh your memory.

Were you the only Italian kid on an all Irish block?
Were you the only kid who had freckles?
Were you the only person in the room who didn't know that salad fork goes on the left side of the plate?
How about the only one who didn't have both parents?
The only one from the “East side?”
That CNN reporter in the lobby of the Trump Tower?
The only one with a pierced nose?
The only one with a tattoo of a dragon on your chests or the only one without the tattoo?
The only one with braces?
The only "newbie" with no skills and no experience?
An unloved stepchild?
How about, the only one of a different ("the other") race?
Sexual orientation? 

Yes, I know. It hurts to remember, doesn't it? I guess, if we all dig deep enough, at one point or another, we have all been in that dark place of being "the other." 

Hopefully, for all of you that dark place and time were brief and nearly impossible to recall. But if you are truly honest with yourself, has it left a mark? And, if it did, for what purpose? 

Being the “other” means that you don't ever belong, and a sense of belonging is one of the most critical conditions for a fulfilling life (smart research tells us). Being the "other" means knowing that if you are on your best behavior you have a hope of being tolerated... and, if you don't conform, you could enter a real danger zone of various extremes and varieties.

I have been "the other" all of my life. Let me repeat it so that you don’t for a moment think that this statement found its way into this blog post by accident.  Drum roll please…I have been "the other" all of my life.  And now, I can say that it is a heartbreaking and a character (soul?) building, as well as a humbling experience. 

When I was a little girl I was "the other" because I was the only Jewish girl in my class and one of two Jewish kids in my school, and a hated minority in my country of birth. Later in life I was the other because I am "a Russian immigrant." Later still I was the "other" while trying “to find my religion” in a Brooklyn reform temple; then - because I have an accent in English and in Russian (my native language), then as the only woman on a business trip... And so on...

But at some point, probably over a course of many years, I have embraced my "otherness" AND, this is most critical, I realized that there are many of us. And together - we are ONE. Remember? …One nation under god indivisible with liberty and justice for all.I am different just like you are different and that makes us the same. I own it now. The "otherness" in me has transformed itself into "oneness" with all of YOU. I carry it – this spirit – as a unique badge of honor and a source of pride. 

What helped me get there, you ask? I am convinced that it was the spirit of America built by those who were the "others" someplace else, who came here to build a better life, to create a world where they could belong. 

So what's my point? I have two: one – to share the depth of profound despair, fear and hopelessness I am experiencing recently, watching what's going in this beautiful country of ours and around the world. And to also pose some questions so that we can step into the pool of light of our collective hearts, that endless pool of our collective humanity and perhaps reshape the dialogue...and maybe even our future?

My dear friends - I ask you... are we losing that sense of "oneness” as a nation? How about the sense of humanness in us? Have we already lost it? Have we ever truly had it?  
I can tell you that I feel that I am losing it, that feeling of belonging here in America is escaping me. My scars of the “otherness” started to hurt when it rains. I think people's empathy and humanness have begun to atrophy and disappear. I think that amnesia is setting in and history is repeating... and I am terrified.

What’s the core of this discourse? I believe it is the proverbial (and at times very real!) contempt-filled finger-pointing at the proverbial (and at times very real!) “others.”

So, I ask you, now that you have recalled what it felt like to be the "other," why would you ever, through your direct and indirect actions, inflict it on anyone else? 

This blog is about my life as I know it... as I know it in any given moment of writing a post. In this moment, on this ridiculously warm January evening, I ask you to think about these things I bring to your attention and to act in accordance with the depth of which your soul is capable of... because we are ONE. There are no “others.” It’s just us,  on one small blue planet.