I learned the distinction between Coping and Living from my mother Miri Muszkal (may her memory be a blessing). Someone in our weekly Club Memory poetry group (now done on the phone) said to me: “Hedy, you are so positive.” And I said: “I am thanking my mother for it. She taught me to live instead of cope.”
Miri, with her boundless creativity, organized a fashion show with the tattered clothing the Red Cross delivered to the transit camp where she was interned, making the space between the beds the runway.
And so I am dedicating today’s blog post to my mother Miri and her indomitable spirit, a woman who was ardently committed to living, no matter what, no matter where. And so you cannot call her a survivor of the Holocaust, but rather someone who came out of the experience with a vibrant spirit and as a thriver!
Today I want to share with you thoughts and stories, journal entries, poems and video clips, all of them showing me how to “live” in these new times.
Creating Beautiful Rituals
I made the decision to ritualize everything that we are doing these days. Muriel Barberry says:
“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else are doomed to die, or in small things, that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment.”
For me ritualizing our current life means the distinction between coping with the situation, or living fully in the now. And so we now have the ritual of getting up and having breakfast, the ritual of drinking our Vitamin C preparation, the ritual of exercising, the ritual of drinking a hot cup of lemon honey water while watching a special on TV, the ritual of dinner time. The week has had a unique charm with all these rituals.
Here is Yumi during our taking-a-moment-in-the-sun ritual.
A poem by Joyce Bartlett inspired this ritualizing. It is called A Blessing for Staying Inside:
May you find happiness in the small
spaces. Joy in the staying put. No
highways. No office buildings. No
May you find peace in your own kitchen.
May your four walls feel like a
sanctuary. A haven from a noisy world.
May you take pleasure in a bad pun, a
bowl of popcorn. Laughing with the people closest to you. Patting
the grateful dog. The clever cat.
May you discover the delight of writing
letters on paper. In baking cookies. In
the birds visiting your early spring
May you find yourself fully in the
present moment. Where all of life is
happening right now. And worries about
the future don’t exist.
May you invent ways to help people who
need you. Because times like this were
made to remind us that we are all the
Even as you wrap yourself in a blanket
of solitude, may you discover the secrets
of the universe from your spot on the
And … may you be so well-loved
that others will rejoice when you are
finally able to run into their arms again.
A Journal Entry
I decided to sit down and put down in words what I live now, my thinking and being.
First of all, I find myself facing a strange emptiness. What is the new structure of my day? What do I do now? I don’t have a hobby like knitting, an art like painting, a regular prayer time like reading Psalms daily. How do I organize myself in this new time?
Secondly, the little Dushka lost her lap. I used to go to Yumi when this little girl got frightened. I would look into his reassuring eyes, and listen to the strength in his voice, and the ALL is WELL music of his being. And little Dushka would sense a new level of calm. My new Yumi does not have this available lap.
Thirdly, even though I look at inspiring videos, read energizing poems, and talk with wonderful loving friends, the not-knowingness is of a new caliber. We always did not know. But not to know, the way we do not know now … we have never not known.
Fourthly, I am noticing a very slight dimming of presence in my precious man. He will suddenly stop and look into the distance with a blank look on his face. And even though I fill our togetherness with a multitude of tender moments, I am realizing that my beloved is very slowly leaving, one tiny step at a time.
Fifthly, when I look outside I see Spring emerging. Buds and flowers and greenery. For a moment I am in awe. And then I feel the losses. In Israel the first person died of the Coronavirus, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor. He died alone because his family could not visit him.
Sixthly, I am thinking about the next generation. Our beloved granddaughter Tobele is due to give birth on April 7. Our new little great-granddaughter will be welcomed into a topsy-turvy world, where leaders who are supposed to inspire us with their integrity and dignity, lie and distort about the very nature of our reality.
Seventhly, I look around our beautiful nest, with its stupendous view. I feel the comfort and the joy of its aesthetic. Our children shop and cook for us. And in my mind, I go to the homeless, who are all around us in this city. And what was painful before, is unbearable now.
Eighthly … I don’t know yet. Being with what “IS” seems even more important now than ever before. And what “IS” is a powerful mixture of future possibility and current horror.
A New Neighborhood
After three days of grey skies, rain and fog, I woke up and found myself in the neighborhood of “I-HAVE-HAD-IT!” with a special street called IT SUCKS and the alley called HOW-LONG-MORE? I did not expect to find myself there, but I decided to enjoy it.
Dr. Vivek H. Murphy, who is the former surgeon general of the United States, wrote a book he calls “Together: the Healing Power of Human Connection in a sometimes Lonely World.”
The students of the Thelma Yellin High School in Israel decided to stay connected with each other, and keep playing their music together, even though each one is in their own room. Dr. Murphy reports that the impact of social isolation and loneliness on longevity equals that of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and exceeds the risks associated with obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and lack of exercise. And so Dr. Murphy’s credo is: “People First … Relationships are what makes our lives worth living.”
Let’s all make sure we follow the credo: “People First!”