Bikram Kol Nidre

O man, was it hot in services tonight. We had an erev (eve) Yom Kippur dinner here and then R, P2 and I went to the little congregation that meets in a church. There were two ceiling fans and one rotating fan. I wanted to go stand by the rotating fan but didn't want to hog the air. I have been a very sweaty Cancer Bitch it seems like forever. Partly it's because I stopped taking black cohosh because it interferes with one of my Pills to Combat Melancholy. Partly it's from being zapped from peri-menopause into full-blown menopause by the chemo. Partly, according to X, my acupuncturist, it's because I'm still getting rid of the toxins. When I get warm, I stay very very warm. And get sweaty. When I have a slightly unpleasant thought or think of a time when I was embarrassed or irritated, I get sweaty. I get a clammy peach-fuzz head and then sweat streams and streams around my face. And then too when I'm just sitting around or standing or walking, calm and minding my own business, a flash starts. Sometimes I feel my ears get red first. I don't mind the heat, it's the *sweat.* I can't take soy for the flashes because I had the kind of breast cancer that feeds on soy, because it's estrogen-like. In other words, the cancer (the cancer that is no longer with us, the cancer that was cut out with wide margins, the cancer that was sliced and diced and put in parrafin) feeds on estrogen and estrogen-like substances, such as soy and pesticides and bovine growth hormones. Which means I'm supposed to eat organic as much as possible, and soy as little as possible. Which brings us to this musical question: If the oncology nutritionist said to have more protein, and to take it in the form of whey powder, should I still eat it even though I can't find organic? How do I know that this concentrated powder isn't full of contrated hormones? Next time I'm in Whole Foods, I'll ask at the courtesy desk about ordering the organic. Or I could even ask the nutritionist directly, God forbid.

But services. Erev Yom Kippur services are called Kol Nidre after the first prayer*, which is chanted three times. My father always said, Kol Nidre can make or break a cantor. I thought that was funny. Our family tradition was to wise-crack during services. Tonight we got to services late, after the Kol Nidre. I think the real reason it is repeated is so that latecomers will get to hear it. Forgive me, I missed the Kol Nidre at the Kol Nidre service.

The confessions on behalf of the community: We have done this, we have done that. But our prayers, repentance and charity will help us be forgiven. Every year we say we are sorry. And then we go out and sin some more. We are supposed to ask forgiveness of people we have sinned against. But I am stubborn. I am unchanging. I had a best friend. I don't have her any more. It has been more than 10 years. I tell people: We brought out the worst in each other. I should ask forgiveness for hurting her. Did I hurt her? I still feel competitive with her. Is that a sin? Yes. A sin against her, against me, against the universe. If I am competitive, it means there is not enough. It means that I am paying too much attention to what she has. I am looking to the side when I should look ahead. Or inside. I do rejoice when other friends rejoice. I am not always ungenerous. I should ask forgiveness for the times I provoked her. For being late. For staying annoyed. For holding a grudge. We have held grudges, we have bribed, we have betrayed, we have cheated, we have stolen. Forgive us, all of us. We are sorry. By tradition, we beat our chests while we confess, but the modern thing is to massage our hearts--after all, we are of the generation that believes in "not beating yourself up. " Just as we no longer give one another 39 (light, according to tradition) lashes. Massage your heart until it produces regret. Massage your heart until it is soft, and warmth radiates from it, settling on all the bits and pieces and the big large things in the universe. Massage your heart until it opens. It is a hard heart. It is a frightened heart. It is afraid that if it opens like a locket and takes in the universe, it will disappear. It is afraid that it will then become the universe's heart. It will no longer be the heart of the one, the only Cancer Bitch. It will be just like anybody else's. But it already looks like anybody else's. It pumps blood. It does all the things a heart does. Its blood is type O+, which is the most common type, the type that billions of other humans have and had and will have. Its blood can be given and taken. Its blood can be shared. Its blood can be sorted and separated and centrifuged and spread between clear glass plates. It can be spilled. ("If you prick us, do we not bleed?")

One story about Eden, said the rabbi, is that Adam and Eve were pure light. And then when they were exiled from the garden they were given skins. To contain them, to separate them from every other thing in the world that they had not been separate from. Another story is that everything in the world was made of light. Then the light became fragmented and we are trying in this life to collect and connect all the light, to restore and repair the world. The way to heal, I think, and I mean heal the soul, is to train yourself to see the light everywhere. Until you know without looking. Until you feel it without pointing it out to yourself, mouthing the words. It's just there. Like it's been all along.

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A few hours after I wrote this I realized: I wanted too much from her. I wanted too much and didn't tell her and then the resentment started. And when I told her, the resentment had already taken root. For all that I am sorry.
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*(The Internet tells me that Kol Nidre is really a declaration, not a prayer.)

1 comment:

Garry said...

Very nice piece, CB. Moi. I decided to skip services and have a spiritual experience instead. Services always seem to be a combination of obsessive-compulsiveness (it's a thin line between ritual and obsessive-compulsiveness), falseness (how can an agnostic at the atheist end of the spectrum deal with all the god passages without feeling hypocritical), canned penance and artificially flavored atonement. Went down to the lake instead, meditated for an hour (I usually have trouble getting to 15 minutes), sat another hour, then did a walking meditation back to my car. Didn't get to atonement--I do guilt and atonement on a daily basis and don't need a Yom Kippur booster--but surprised myself by getting to a place of such deep gratitude that I cried. On the drive back home, an SUV with its bass blasting cut me off and I just smiled. I am cleansed.