Be Brave

What if people in train stations broke into song and dance more often? I love the incredulous expressions on people’s faces as they try to make sense of what is happening.

Is that really what it’s come to? Posting other people’s youtube videos? It’s as if the shifts happening in my life and work these days are beyond the blog; I haven’t yet decided what to write about, what to share, what I want to find my way into. It is in the very nature of blogging, I suppose, this changing relationship over time, with it, with myself in its context, with readers and a sense of audience as opposed to writing purely for myself.

I want to write about how Pearl, whose third birthday is one week from today, is a “big boy.” How she calls herself Eric. How she loves cars and trucks. How she is so easily set off, and just as easily consoled when she’s ready. How this morning, after she spilled something and I cleaned up, she kept saying, “Sorry, Mama. Sorry.” I want to write about all the things that have been going through my mind for months now about not projecting, just loving her and letting her become who she is, as fully and happily and unconditionally as possible.

I want to write about my fears, fears that I am relating to Aviva from a point of opposition so much of the time. How I don’t want that to become the default for us, not now, not ever. Who knows about ever. At least not now. I want to do everything right and yet I know better, so much better, than to fall into that rabbit-hole that there is a “right” way to be her mama. I want to love her enough and empower and support`her without being afraid to create boundaries and structure, without being afraid of my own authority. And then there’s fear there too, of not giving her enough opportunity to be independent. Oy. You can see that this is something that takes up probably way more headspace that it should, to worry so much about this, about anything actually. Worry begets worry. Fear is a closed loop. And what does Aviva want? My attention. My love. My time. To roll her eyes at me and know I’ll still love her. To play for hours and hours on end her “secret games” with her best girlfriend up the street. To throw herself over me at night, the ultimate comfort, knowing my body is still hers some of the time, no matter how much she might reject me by day.

I want to write about the budget. The spreadsheets. The numbers I have become so intimately familiar with over the past six months, you could blindfold me and spin me in a circle until I didn’t know what direction I was facing and ask me any line, any category, and I could spout out the average monthly expense, whether it’s discretionary or not, and whether it’s something we’ve adjusted or axed. Netflix? Downgraded to two a month, and even that may be on the chopping block in May. Groceries? Average is $700 a month, but I’m trying to get it down to $600. Gas, trash, DSL, violin, preschool… The reason I am sharing this at all is that I get the feeling you, like me, might be hungry for the numbers. How the hell is everyone else doing and how are they doing it? For once, I want to know not from the perspective of comparing how we are richer or poorer than the neighbors on the left and the neighbors on the right, but from the vantage point of sharing resources, strategies, decision-making processes. Money management. It is, I am learning, an essential part of the way I am wired to think about this stuff. And every now and then – not often, and usually when I’m feeling extra brave – I ask a friend, how much is YOUR grocery bill? And usually a torrent comes pouring out of her mouth, and then mine, until we are both feeling more supported in our respective efforts and intentions.


I have also been wanting to write about marriage. And how it is so. much. work. And how communicating is the absolute, number one thing (ok, and sex, but please – do you really feel like having sex when you haven’t exchanged more than six non-kid-related words all week?) that greases the skids and makes things go, and just how do YOU communicate when you both have 156 emails in your inbox and lunches to make and presentations to prepare and runs to trade off? We go to Ken’s Pub on Church Street; it has been our date night place for nine years now, and there is no comfort like slouching in a booth there and finding our way into a conversation that lifts up above the fray where our eyes meet over Switchbacks with lemon…

And I want to write about how I printed 92 pages of poems this week when a client didn’t show and I had an unexpected hour. How there is now officially a year’s worth of yoga poems from my gig with Evolution, and I don’t quite know what to do next. Send a query letter to Shambhala Press? Submit them to The Sun or Yoga Journal? OK, friends and angels: Help! Send information, advice, and instructions. I am ready.

I want to write, but not really, about the vicious cycle with food and overeating at night that I have been looped up in for so many years, on and off, with long stretches of each. How sometimes I can’t believe it, that I am still struggling with such old residual habits. How is it possible to understand something, identify and articulate it with the intellect and reason, then repeat it over and over like a madwoman? And how this is a source of shame, which is exactly why I am bringing it up. Oh, the things we don’t share. The things we don’t talk about. We hide them, fear them, and objectify each other. And so much is lost that would be helpful, comforting, useful, even inspiring, to each other. Tell me your stories, your struggles, your shame, and I will tell you mine.

And I want to write about the pressures I feel as any major Jewish holiday approaches. How Passover begins in less than a week, and so much is triggered for me. Do I clean all the chametz out of the house? What about Pearl’s birthday cake? How do I reconnect with the meaning of the holiday, and disconnect from the sense of obligation or pressure that surrounds it (which, ironically, is at least in some way related to why my grandmother left Judaism for Christian Science)? How Aviva recently said, “But we’re not really, really, really, really Jewish.” That girl sure knows which buttons to push. How sometimes I think Judaism is not an easy tradition to find one’s way into, and I get why so many American Jews become Buddhists and Unitarians. And like so many things, this topic could be a source of shame, stress, and fear, when why should it be? What I crave is more self-acceptance, I think, about the choices we are making and why they are okay, they are enough.

And so it all began with The Sound of Music in a Belgian train station, taking passersby by surprise, stopping them in their tracks, in their trajectories from A to B, their reverie or stress, wherever they might have been it was impossible not to stop, to look in wonder, maybe to tap a foot or smile a little or take a picture with a camera phone so as to tell their kids later, Guess what happened in the train station today? An impromptu show, a song and dance I didn’t even need tickets to, you would’ve loved it.

Share something, share it here, share it in public or share it in private, share it with your best girlfriend up the street or your husband on the date night you so, so need, or share it with me in an email or share it with yourself in the notebook you bought for yourself but haven’t written in for months.

Be brave.

13 thoughts on “Be Brave

  1. Cassy Gardner says:

    Jena. It’s interesting you posted that. because someone recently said about you that you and Greg were “the perfects” and they just couldn’t relate to you because of that. I said I could, somehow. Because of you bringing me to tears so often with your bullseye. Although true, your life appears more like Buddhism for Mothers and mine like Operating Instructions from a public perspective. It’s refreshing to hear your mention of the grocery bill. I find myself speaking my impatient little doubting mind to anyone who sticks around to listen. But in my private moments, I find myself as equally positive, even provocatively grateful for myself. even BRAVE. I often think that I am brave, and I am real, and that my struggle to be a good person and a good mom and to be beautiful and grateful has been an inspiration to all those who have encountered it. At church last weekend Stephen Rainville said that during his divorce someone gave him a card that said “receiving was giving.” That made me feel great. Really? I thought. Because for the last 4 years there has not been a day that has gone by that I have not asked “how do other people do it?” From cleaning the house, to working, to being married, to parenting. And I ask people. Contantly. But somehow, if i was to stand next to you on a stage and look out into the audience of our mutual friends and community members, I would bow to your lead. Instinctively. Why? Have you given me more? Have I done less for the community, or have I simply communicated less? Or has the topic of my communication been so pedestrian, that even I have a tendency to look it over with honor. I don’t know. How can you learn how to do it better if you don’t ask? and how can you break the myth that we are perfects striving to be perfect, if we don’t share the details of our struggle? Well, if recieving is giving, then I can tell you I have received you many times over. but I can also tell you this: I overeat sometimes… I drink cold coffee too. I eat cake for breakfast some times and I have often yelled at my kids. I love Ken’s Pizza with switchback or Irish carbomb. I do believe that there is something magical and powerful about me and my children. And the ways that I have created obstacles for them are so much smaller than the gifts I have offered them. I have wanted to be a writer for the last 10 years. I want to write a book about my life and call it A Real Life.. which is the title of an old magazine that inspired me to recognize I have one. And thank god so do you.


  2. Jane_hates_Dick says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. For reasons I can’t quite figure out, I got brave and emailed you the thing I needed to share.


  3. Karen Maezen Miller says:

    Call me today. I am home after 9 a.m. Pacific. You know the number and if not be brave and ask. You know how. I’m going to cup your face in my hands.


  4. The Other Laura says:

    Jena, I see my life reflected in so much of this post. Coming home from a less than pleasant writers guild meeting last night (that I had such high hopes for) I practically wailed to my husband, I need to find my tribe! I need a friend! I need to dance! I’m lost in all these things I need to find, and sometimes I feel myself giving up hope.

    I’ll share this. Several nights this week I’ve had a second glass of wine that I didn’t really want but I just wanted to go to sleep without the litany of worry bouncing around in my head.

    I will be brave too.


  5. Rowena says:

    Not sure what to say. I loved the video. I imagine being there and witnessing it.

    As for life, man, it is hard.

    And I’m tired of feeling like I need to work all the time. Maybe I feel like I’m not good enough if I am not working all the time. And still not good enough if I am working all the time.

    I think I want to just be.

    I have been painting a lot, and that feels nice to turn off the anxiety. And I am trying to write a poem every day this month, after how many years of not writing? I don’t know how that feels. I have to find my voice again.

    I guess we just keep stumbling along, sometimes blindly, sometimes steadily. I’m looking for the joyful eyes, though.


  6. Nerdy Renegade says:

    Great post! Thank you for your honesty and transparency. I feel much of what you’ve expressed. And I’m sending you hugs of the kindred-spirit-knowing-understanding-venting-hugging-laughing-crying type :-)

    What I’m sharing lately is my TRUTH. Listening to my own inner wisdom and speaking what needs to said or following where it leads. This is new territory for me, what with my long history of placating, repressing, people pleasing, 2nd guessing, etc.

    It’s scary, and also quite liberating. And, truthfully, I’m loving it :-)


  7. jena strong says:

    Rowena – just being, through joyful eyes. I love this.

    And my friends, my readers, my teachers, every one of you. Enough.


  8. Anonymous says:

    W.O.W. Your post is speaking directly to me and insisting that I share, share, share. This has been a vulnerable week for me. The baby that I miscarried would have born in April and I’m sailing through a torrent of emotions. Tears unexpectedly shared with a librarian, ranting at a friend of 30 plus years, feeling so very isolated and alone. Okay many moments. A mosaic of many emotions: grief, sad, perplexing, isolated, angry, you get the picture. I’m hestitant to share or to blog for the judgment of others. Your words beckon me and insist that I do share and share now. My favorite saying is: ‘Leap and the Net Will Appear’. So I am leaping and I hope that the net that appears will be kind, enveloping one. Kudos to you for speaking to my closet truth and nudging my writer self to speak the silent words my tongue will not. I found you through my sweet friend, Meg. You’re a gift.

    Patricia Dolan


  9. Shawn says:

    First, hugs.

    Second, call Maezen.

    Third, send those poems off to EVERYWHERE. I can definitely see Yoga Poems bound. Small, portable enough to fit in a yoga bag.

    Fourth, you’re right about all of it. You always are. We are all faking our way through, aren’t we? Life is a stage. We are always between acts.

    And, last, marriage. is. so. hard. I wish I knew how to make it easier.


  10. Lil says:

    damn jena, for not writing a post about anything, this packed a passionate punch. it’s comforting to know you write about the real stuff…

    bravery right now for me is packing and moving…i’m freaking out on the inside, but it’s coming out as bursts of energy and then crashing after wee one is in bed. still trying to be tenacious through it all ’cause apparently it’s one of my virtues ~ sheesh. and more bravery needed to face wee one’s first cavity, my own dental fears, new LARGE bills to be paid somehow, and reading parenting books about first days of school and positive re-enforcement and no-yelling discipline while trying not to feel shame and guilt.

    eating lots of good-for-the-soul-but-not-your-body comfort food…it gets us through, even if they are old, ugly habits.

    write more jena…



  11. Vicki says:

    The healing of the planet starts with one perfect note.

    A willing to participate in life.

    The courage to change someones day or their life by taking a chance and showing up in your own life at 100%.

    I cried and I cried and I am crying. I don’t write, I don’t blog and I am private beyond words.

    Something otherworldly grabs hold of me and keeps me it’s prisoner throughout Holy Week. A catholic girl who doesn’t practice, but is defined by this one week of powerful transformation.

    And here is this silly little song, in a quaint train station and I am on my knees. I don’t care why, the raw emotion is heaven.

    Thank You Jena.



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