And even after we stood at Sinai and received that moment of clarity, we still fell back into the habits of busy mind and cluttered heart. And so God says to us, “Make for Me a holy place so that I can dwell inside you. Yes, it is possible to stay connected with me at all times in all places, even as you engage in the life of the world.”
—Rabbi Shefa Gold
On Thursday afternoon, I spent the better part of the workday thinking about stories, not just the Purim story I heard during my first celebration at OZ, but the story I’m telling here, about coming out, and the bigger story—the one we’re all trying to tell. The one about how we are going to fit in to this world, and love, and be loved.
I started writing my Ghost Ranch Story in portions because I thought it would be an easier and more interesting way to tell it. I thought it would feel more natural from a storyteller’s point of view. I began my coming out story because a co-worker recently asked about how I “came out,” a phrase that still makes me smile and cringe at the same time.
“It’s not really a story,” I told her as I raised the noodle-laden chopsticks to my lips, pausing to add, “I mean, unless you consider it a story of waking up one day and finally telling the truth instead of just recognizing it.”
I had never really thought of that summer at Ghost Ranch as a story that I would tell one day. Nor had I considered it a catalyst for coming out as a lesbian. It was something more. Something inexplicable and sacred. Something I had inscribed onto dozens of handwritten poems that would never be published, not because of their lack of clarity or quality, but because of my own understanding that I didn’t need external validation to understand who I really was, even at the age of 23.
Emily Dickinson without the white dress.
But nothing can exist without a creation story. Everything we do as humans is nothing but an epic tale, even as we “engage in the life of the world,” even as we relish in the commonplace or any of the five basic senses. Only when we tell our story can we learn to see it as a gift.
That same Thursday, I logged on to Pandora and put on my headphones to mute another co-worker’s call to a client, just as I had done so many times as a child to drown out the excess noise surrounding me, and I heard these lyrics:
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Too in love to let it go, but if you never try you’ll never know just what you‘re worth
When you lose something you cannot replace…
Stuck in reverse
And I imagined Ryan’s car, stuck in reverse in some desert ditch, and suddenly I was turning the car around, and traveling back over those miles and miles he and I did not cover, but that would surely lead me home again.
Terumah means “gift,” and ultimately the only gift we can give is ourselves, our full and available presence in each and every moment of our lives…Here is the blessing of Terumah: When the heart is willing and there is a commitment to the work, then the Divine Spirit will show us the pattern, the blueprint, the plan, the inspiration that births beauty into the world. And that beauty is designed to send us back to the Source of its inspiration.
My heart is willing, so please, G-d, come talk to me.