The Thirty-Second, Red Light Vow

December 25, 2017


Within two blocks I drove myself from a self-proclaimed twelve year old to a seventeen year old.  No, I am not desperately clutching youth.  (For the record, if I would be aiming for recapturing my younger experiences, seventeen would not be my year of choice).  Recovering from years of personal trauma and numbing self-doubt has been a harvesting of bits and pieces of psyche, flung and scattered through a woodchipper.  I am not fooling myself.  I will never be a tree again.

With Christmas carols blaring, my off-key singing and admitted split attention between road conditions and holiday decorations – I remembered holidays past.  I remembered the winter of 2014, the November in which I slept in the camper until the weather got below zero.  It was the Advent which I now like to refer to as my advent, my beginning, a gift of light in which I saw people’s behavior as I had never seen before.  Out of that turmoil I now realized, three years later, came a gift for which I will always be grateful: a bed, for now I know what it is like to not have a safe bed to sleep upon and the gift of true friendship for now I know more of human behavior.

In this past month I stayed away from anything which reminded me of that time.  I no longer needed to destroy myself nor did I need to allow anyone in my life who did or who would like to hold that knife.  Nope. I still wrestle at times, with the notion that somehow life grows people who do actually breed upon the misfortune of others. A confusing odd and what I find, a waste of energy.

I felt joy.  I remembered what it was like to feel happiness, that twelve year old happiness in which fresh bubbly soda tickles your nose and fresh apples crunch between your teeth and you cry at movies you have seen at least half a dozen times.  You forget to be embarrassed about any of it in an irreverence to your own limitations.

In those two blocks I began to remember it was Advent and sort of an anniversary of when it all happened.  I imagined what it must have been like for them to choose what they did to me and to choose to do it during the holiest of seasons.  As I braked at the intersection, the seventeen year old me looked at the vibrancy of purple red neon lights against the blackness of night.

I did not cry.  Without choking back tears I remembered the events and I remembered the feelings.  I remembered celebrating with them at a local bar, with my friend, my boss, who had held meetings just the night before.   I remembered not knowing what they did until years later.  In half a minute at these red lights, I thanked G~d for my ignorance.  For the first time I realized what a gift it had been.  I had no clue what they were doing.  At the time they met, for some reason, G~d and events kept me swimming with their children during the Christmas party as they met to fire me.

Thank you, G~d.  Surpasses all understanding, indeed.


Part of my vow at the red lit thirty seconds, I decided to give myself Christmas.  Beside the Advent of 2014, I have, in my years, known a disproportionate number of people who are monsters at Christmas.  Nope, I was going to give myself Christmas.

I have worked to manifest the vow itself in quite a few different ways.  One is at my renovation project.  During one of my daily checks at the building, I stopped at these southern exposure second floor windows.  Early in the process when I was not quite sure where my life was headed I imagined living spaces in that upper floor.  I had chuckled to myself with the memory but as I did so, I flung my leg on the concrete sill.  It was a perfect height for a ballet barre. And I stretched.

I decided to change my studio office space.  I had planned on the first floor southern space because it has been the spot for my first work area.  But the first floor is commercial / retail – every square foot must ‘price out’.  I had imagined my office to be in the second floor space above main street, where an office should be.  But where I really want my office is here, looking south, by just one of those windows which catch the morning and had caught me so long ago.  I had imagined artist studios there but what I really wanted was my studio.  Such an odd way to make a decision, in the stretch of ones leg upon the concrete sill.

 My studio office space

In that pink red magenta Christmas magic all its own, an equally dangerous thought came to mind, a radical idea of release from the convenient bondage of suffering, from a self-imposed desire to remain within that prison.  I decided to embrace that seventeen year old spirit.

Funny thing though, that seventeen to me never meant wildness or irresponsible behavior.  Very few times in my life have I ever been irresponsible and those times never really coincided with the norms of female development.  I was a tad bit irresponsible in my late twenties.  And a bit rash in 2015.  But as a seventeen year old?  No.

I smiled at the thought of seventeen year old me – focused, smart and with no clue exactly how powerful she was and was supposed to be.  And, the blessed fun she could choose.  Yep, in thirty seconds of not crying I returned my smile.  Some of seventeen year old me are gone but there are no rules to what I choose to try.  Not now.  And why not?

img_9900 And I decided I wanted my office, I wanted my building, I wanted my life.  It was a gift to me – pieces of my experience for my lifetime.  And I jumped in, ready to fail, ready to try, ready to study and wanting to learn.

Ventilation systems, machinery, the guts ~ the history of the building I love.  
Christmas and Hanukkah.

I found,however, that I cannot stop the tears whenever I lit the Hanukkah candles.  I really did not attend to the candles as I had other years, missing some evenings due to weather.  At home we only lit one night of the menorah.  Still, the nine candles were lit to mark the conclusion.  My mother could see them as she drove by each evening to visit my father’s grave.  She will never admit it, but I know she checks.  I cried each evening as I added a candle.  Through the holiday season I began to feel my old, obnoxious self, the over the top Christmas / winter / snow / lights / decorations spirit.  I felt happy.  Even when I remembered the Advent of years ago, I became happier at the passage of time and the distance my life has traveled.

But when I lit those candles I remembered my own sin.  I should have stood up for myself and my heritage as they made fun, mocking.  I should have stood up.  But I did not.  I sat there holding my Star of David charm in my fingers.  I thought of the secrets of generations before me.  A grandmother not ever telling me of our heritage until she was dying.

img_9841   img_9905

I half expected Es to tell me she needed to walk the rest of her path alone but she did not.  Brushing the dirt off herself – halfheartedly – she smiled and kept walking.  I’m not sure why she even bothered dusting herself.  I knew she could care less about how dirty she was and there would be no one else on this path, this we both knew.  She never asked if I would be going along.  We both just knew.

As we began again, the stones seemed to rise up to guide our feet along.  Easily and steadily.  

Es smiled again.  I could not tell her she had dirt on her face and in her hair- she had missed cleaning off the dust.

She smiled, stepping, wearing the dust of her path as the wind again kissed her cheeks and brushed the hair from her eyes. 


I had not sawed at the building for years.  I grabbed the saber saw I used in 2015 to cut lat boards when I was building wood blocks for window openings before that winter.  I had left lots of my tools lying there.  Again, as I had vowed in that thirty second red light stop, I gave myself Christmas.

I grabbed my saw.  I cut a board.  I cut a board!

Merry Christmas!  Give yourself Christmas.  Make a thirty second red light vow.  To you.

And, given the chance, kiss the Wind.

Love.  Lots and Loads of Love,


(I apologize.  Not my best writing, but another piece of my vow. Write it.  I’ll never be a Hemingway without doing the work.)

#writing #christmas #red light #thirtysecond


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