One true sentence

December 17th, 2007

I’m half Jewish, half Buddhist and half Christian – Georgia Miller

Only the sublime logic of a child can sort through messes like the one I have. “I wish our street was called Miller Street so our whole family would live here!” she offered up one day, seeing through ideological distance with the wide eyes of a sage. Everything she says is so wholly true, it breaks open my heart, and much later, it might even lift my eyelids.

Lately I’ve been overcome by the oneness of it all: called by name, caught and dragged out onto the street to see how completely alike we are. The woman last week trapped in the deep recess of depression calling for a way out: I know that place. The friend who recently confided the tawdry abasement of a romance gone wrong: that was me too. And then this morning the email from a self-described gay curmudgeon who recovered in my memoir the stunning certainty of his own mother’s unfailing love. We are children, all. We are mothers and fathers, too. We are the mothers and fathers of our own true lives. Can we see it?

If you read nothing else today, I want you to read what this remarkable man wrote on his own blog, because he writes so perfectly to and for us all. This fellow said something else to me many years ago that he won’t remember but that I’ll never forget. He said, “You have written one true sentence.” What writer wouldn’t be gratified by that, but he gave me the only encouragement I’d yet been given to keep writing, and to keep making it true.

And now I’m called to live it true too.

My husband is Jewish. I am what I am. My daughter insists that she can be everything. And she can! Can I?

The problem, I tell myself, is not me. It is my husband’s family, more precisely, his brother, who has elected to live a most extraordinary Orthodox Jewish life in Israel. Of course, he objected to our wedding. He ultimately came but did not enter the ecumenical sanctuary for the Reform Jewish service. He cannot, by his law, touch me to shake my hand. He says next to nothing to me. I feel awkward and excluded in the midst of this family, and I imagine they feel it too.

That’s what imagination does: create boundaries that we then project out onto the street, the street that is not named Miller Street. Onto the family that does not love us nearly enough.

Recently my cousin recounted some family lore of my own. She said that my aunt, my mother’s sister, surmised that my mom must have been outraged when I became a Buddhist. But she wasn’t. What my mother said to me at the time was, “Now I don’t have to worry about you anymore.” She was a true Christian.

Can I be as true? As transcendent? By what calculus do I define my limits, my parameters? My share, my heart, my home?

Last week my Zen teacher, who knows too well my tired saga of religious persecution, called me by name. “Maezen,” he said, which always gets my attention. “When are you going to Israel?”

“It will be good for you,” he said. With a mother’s love. A father’s love. True love.

I told my husband and daughter that we will go to Israel next summer for sure. Everyone is thrilled. Like Georgia, I want to be half of everything. Like my friends everywhere, I want to be whole.

I want this one sentence to be true.

“God bless us, every one!”

13 Comments »

  1. Half, whole. Thank you for this post, especially this time of year. This year, Aviva (who is five) for the first time said she’s happy she doesn’t celebrate Christmas because “they only had enough oil for one day.” My husband is not Jewish but is raising Jewish daughters. I am Jewish but was raised celebrating Christmas. Our lives are filled with Buddhist writers and friends as we create a Jewish childhood for our kids that neither of us had – and a life that transcends affiliations, boxes, parameters set by others, by institutions. We are inventing a new Way. All of us, together. I have fought and wrestled and am finally at peace with my own path being what it is.

    By the way, a really beautiful book about exactly this is called “In God’s Name” by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso.

    Thank you.

    xo Jena

    Comment by Jena Strong — December 17, 2007 @ 8:47 pm

  2. P.S. I linked to your last post in my writing today – wanted you to know!

    Comment by Jena Strong — December 17, 2007 @ 8:48 pm

  3. Georgia is my teacher today. Ok, she always is. πŸ™‚
    May your Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, a little of everything and all together on Miller Street, have a happy holiday.
    Peace to you.

    Comment by bella — December 17, 2007 @ 11:42 pm

  4. Well said. I am lucky that my husband’s Jewish family welcomes me, but around this time of year especially, the inner conflict continues. Partly because I hear from my husband how oppressive Christmas can be. That is in his mind. In my mind I create my own divisions, worrying about what everyone else will think. Like Jena, I wish to be at peace with my own path. May you find peace and blessings on yours.

    Comment by RocketMom — December 18, 2007 @ 12:44 am

  5. So much of religion seems to be about keeping others out, and at the same it seems like a reason to exclude ourselves. I don’t even want to say I’m a this or I’m a that. I’m just me.

    Comment by marta — December 18, 2007 @ 3:42 am

  6. “I drew a circle that took them in…”

    ;^)

    Comment by donna — December 18, 2007 @ 5:38 am

  7. This post is sublime. Pure poetry. Thank you for this beautiful piece.
    My son Max and I are on a similar journey. I was raised Christian. My son wishes he were Jewish like so many of our friends. We celebrate all the holidays and I find myself tumbling into the gentle teachings Buddha. How beautiful to be able to encompass it all. Your Georgia is one wise little girl.

    Comment by Meg — December 18, 2007 @ 6:28 am

  8. I want to be whole, too. Thank you for this posting and for the link to your friend’s posting about his mother. It reminded me of my parents love, the love they gave me when I was too young to see.

    I’m glad you helped the woman in depression, by the way. Whatever you did, it was good.

    Comment by Moanna — December 18, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  9. I just found your blog, and this post warms my heart. I have dealt with family issues like this, though on a smaller scale. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    Comment by Shelli — December 18, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

  10. Wow, Blue Dog was right. As a mother I see how every mother has no choice but to love their child, it is programmed in us.

    We have the same confusion in our home. Anise has a Jewish mother who is Atheist, with the occasional holiday thrown in, and a non-practicing, but more believer Christian father, and will maybe one day have a Buddhist mother? Although no one here seems confused but me.

    Comment by Mika — December 18, 2007 @ 5:33 pm

  11. Disapproval or judgement from your spouse’s family is so hurtful and so awkward. It’s incredibly difficult not to retreat into your own little fortress of judgements. But, someone has to start first, if you know what I mean.

    Comment by Mama Zen — December 18, 2007 @ 6:52 pm

  12. Came to this post via SeekingSerenity and BlueDog all of you touching parts of me. Finding our true path in this world is difficult enough without friends and family throwing stones onto out paths. Luckily, there is usually someone to help us push those stones aside. You seem to have done that for others and it is good that in return you find that there are a couple of helping hands rolling thoses stones off your path.

    Best to you and be strong.

    O.

    Comment by ONEDIA — December 18, 2007 @ 11:10 pm

  13. I wish I could offer more halves to my daughters. Our halves are rather boring. Perennialism, isn’t that what it’s called? is the only way I know to make it more exciting.

    I’m sorry things are so awkward … it will be that way at our table this year, too, simply because my SIL is allergic — sneezy, watery eyes — allergic to dogs. We have a dog. We might as well be going to hell for it, too. She hasn’t visited our house once. Only sees the girls at major family functions once or twice a year.

    But, I’m not bitter.

    Comment by Shawn — December 19, 2007 @ 11:46 pm

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