In October, 2008, about two months before my coma, I wrote this letter to my old friend.
I looked at your photos… you look so happy! Your eyes are on fire. It brought me back to the time you took me to dinner in Boston for my birthday and we spoke about me becoming a Rabbi (and you my Rebbezen) – do you remember? I had never seen you so animated.
So, I didn’t become a Rabbi (thank God). But I did learn to lead services, chant Haftorah, tell mystical Torah stories to children and give mystical [stories] to adults.
[My wife] and I became very involved in Conservative Judaism, but after 15 years, we realize that it’s not our home.
We left the movement and are seeking far and wide for a synthesis of traditions, teachings, callings that will allow us to grow and become bigger.
We lived in L.A. for 8 years. During that time I “forgot” about my dear heart-friends, the people like you who had really touched me and allowed me to touch them. I concentrated on “making it big”, supporting my family and learning how to tell stories. I paid the bills writing kids movies, an erotic series for Cinemax, sold screenplays that never got made into movies… in 2001, right after 9/11, I sold a screenplay to Miramax. I thought I had finally arrived. I never made another penny in Hollywood.
Feeling crushed by it all, I spent more and more time working on [my wife’s] business. We toured the country setting up a network of affiliates and looking for a place to live. We settled on Asheville. The business paid the bills, restored my confidence in myself and gave me breathing room (and time) to begin writing novels.
It hasn’t been easy because I am working through some blocks I have about success and fears about moving forces/having power (the main reason I didn’t take you up on your Rabbi idea is because I have always feared what I would become if I had too much power over people. Otherwise, it sounded like a sweet life.)
We have three daughters:
S- (8), the thinker, verbalizer, dreamer, writer. She co-writes and edits my children’s novels with me. Has been since she was four. Phenomenal memory for details. She rides horses, does tap and jazz dancing, is brilliant at math and language and reads 300+ page novels. Also very social. Lately, she tells me that my expectations for her are too high and that I need to back off. She’s not afraid to chastise me and demand better behavior.
B- (4), the charmer, dancer, force of nature, empath. She is like a whirlwind of kinetic energy. She knows the names of everyone at school, their siblings, the teachers. She feels people’s energy on a deep level. She is an incredible dancer, physical comedian and jokester. She is tiny little girl who wishes she could move huge forces. Sometimes this makes her go ballistic.
J- (1.5), sweetness incarnate, rooted, sure in her movements, delicious. J- had a rough start (her umbilical cord tore from the placenta and she almost bled to death at birth.) She was born as white as a sheet of paper. Now she is this huge, robust, joyous child. She melts me.
We live a busy life in a big arts&crafts house from the 20s that we’ve been slowly restoring. There is a lot of noise, activity, work, mess.
[My wife] and I are trying to find ways to separate ourselves from the entanglement of each other so that we can grow again (we both feel stifled by our business, marriage, parenting.)
[My wife] began a journey about the time she became pregnant with [our youngest daughter]. I was unwilling to go along. I felt trapped, suffocated by the safe/boring life I had constructed. My only joys were my children and my writing/storytelling. I stopped seeing [my wife] long ago. Somehow our hearts got lost in L.A., in childrearing.
About six weeks ago, I was driving my kids home and a woman (with the same birthday as mine – thank you God for the subtle hint) slammed into my car. We were all safe, but one of my Selves began whispering, “You didn’t protect your family. You didn’t protect your family.”
I pulled everything together, got the car taken care of, packed our other car for a camping trip and went to the woods with my family. On the trip, I was attentive, fun, loving. But something was going wrong inside me. When we got home, I shut down. Not depressed. Just went into a place of deadness.
Is this freaking you out? Don’t worry. It gets good now.
[My wife] tried to pull me out, like she always does, like Orpheus leading Eurydice back from the underworld. And like Orpheus, she failed. One morning, I sat down at breakfast and a part of me was present enough to notice that [my wife] was somewhere else. When I asked what was wrong, she said, essentially, that she was done with me. She needed out.
We talked during the day – it was painful – she was so honest with me. How her unhappiness went back for years. I admitted that mine did too. I went to sleep and when I woke up at 6 a.m., a voice spoke to me, “You have post traumatic stress disorder.”
I typed in my “symptoms” into google and like in a movie, page after page of PTSD sites came up. I still get shivers thinking about that moment. When I read about other people, it was like reading about myself.
I finally admitted that I had never really dealt with the neglect and abuse that I suffered as a child and teenager.
Thus began my spiritual journey.
For the past month I have been reconnecting with my family, my friends, my selves and with God. I have been meditating, making myself vulnerable, feeling remorse, being honest, opening my heart. On Yom Kippur, I demanded that God come and hold me. “Adoni ha’melech! I can’t hold all this suffering any more! I demand that you hold me! I demand it!” God has been sending me so many blessings, insights, support, love. It is an oftentimes scary and humbling journey, but soooo much better than the place I was in.
I am alive.
I haven’t written any of this to anyone else, but I know that you will understand.
[My friend], I never stopped loving you or thinking about you. I still have all the letters you sent me. I am so happy for you, with your beautiful man and your beautiful son. I have prayed many times over the years to God to grant you a good life. (But honestly, who takes a baby to a volcano??)
I was nervous that you would not respond to my email. That you had written me off.
I hope we can talk on the phone soon. I’d love to hear your voice & someday meet your lovely family.