Friday, February 1, 2008

Playing with fire

It is almost Shabbos and I am feeling anxious and disconnected.

I have finally identified the feeling I was trying so hard to name in my post, Seeking. I don't know if it has a name, but it has a description. It is the feeling of being completely, totally vulnerable and knowing, trusting without reservation, that you are loved. No dark secrets, no white lies, no closet skeletons.

It is a type of intimacy but having nothing to do with sex. It is someone seeing every part of me, every secret I want to keep hidden, every action of which I am ashamed, and that someone still loving me, valuing me, unconditionally.

Perhaps that is part of the very nature of our relationship with G-d.

Once I identified this, I had to call D, who thought that this also ought to be the essence of a parent-child relationship and a marriage, though too often it isn't.

I told D that sometimes I have these intense feelings like what I describe above and then there are other times that it is so very hard to feel connected. I said that it is sometimes like a smoldering--I can't bring myself to think that the light ever goes out--and sometimes like a bonfire. When the light is buried, how can I reignite it? And when it consumes me, how do I tame it?

D suggested I go light a fire and see for myself. A fire, I asked? A real fire? D laughed and said I was the one who started the fire analogy in the first place. So I did (outside) and then I called D back with the results.

Paper burns quickly but not for long. Cardboard takes longer to catch but burns longer and each of the layers pulls away from each other. Wood takes the longest to catch but burns the longest. A smoldering requires paper, not wood. A bonfire is tamed by spreading out the wood so it isn't so concentrated.

D said very nice, now finish the analogy. I said paper is only a single layer, cardboard is a few layers, and wood is many layers, very dense. When I'm feeling the smoldering and I want more ignition, I have to add to my life things with only one or a few layers. I can't expect to take on something very layered and dense and have it reignite that fire. And when I'm feeling overwhelmed, too much feeling, too much fire, I have to spread it out, do fewer things, take it slowly, allow more air (oxygen) to tame the burning.

D liked my answer and then asked, what is the paper in your life? What is the cardboard? What is the wood?

Fixing Shabbos dinner for family plus guests is wood, for me. Going to shul and hoping for intense is wood. But the little things, maybe they are paper. Taking a relaxing bath. Using some nice moisturizer on my hands. The little self-care things that are in my anti-anxiety kit. I'm not sure what else.

Cardboard might be listening to music that I can sing and dance along with. Going for a long walk. Getting together with a friend, or a small group of friends.

I will have to think about this more, identify the things that help me feel more connected and happier and less anxious, and figure out which ones are paper and cardboard and wood. Because if I am trying to restart a smoldering ember with a piece of wood, that would explain a lot. And if I am expecting paper to keep the fire going for days or weeks or months, that would explain a lot too.

And I cannot help but wonder if this is the right analogy after all, because if it is, what does it mean in real life, then, to get burned?

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