Jewish folks have two birthdays; our Hebrew one, linked to the sun and moon cycles as well as in alignment with our Holy Days and then the Gregorian calendar one. I was born in Paris, France fifty years ago on September 4, 1964, this is my Gregorian birthday. My Hebrew Birthday is always the 27th of Elul, two days, before the Jewish New Year. My birthday is always connected to Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). The piece of Torah being read the week of my birth, which is MY piece of Torah is Parshat Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20)
This September 4th, as I turned fifty, I was alone in a cabin that belongs to some friends. I cannot take off yet for my extended solitary Jubilee retreat. I still have one more bird to launch out of this nest of mine. I do still want and need to set the tone though for space and time by myself. On August 31st, I am getting away and spending several days by myself with the river, the solitude, the creatures and whatever prayers, practices and angels are present with me.
Several folks have asked about what I am doing or if there will be some big bash. Many folks want to celebrate my fiftieth. I appreciate all of the love and care, and the only thing I really want is time alone. This makes it very hard for others to gift wrap. I am not trying to be difficult on purpose. What I want and need right now is just not the “usual.”
In order to navigate the territory of others wanting a celebration and my own desire to gift others, I will provide a luncheon for those who attend Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year services at Temple Beth El, this year. It will be the only “party” I intend to have. My friend Lauren Sarabia from Comfort of Home catering will make my birthday luncheon. The menu is Salade Nicoise, chocolate mousse and Key-Lime mousse. I will make the dressing and provide the champagne. This luncheon is sort of my final big hurrah for others. A very obvious and clear offering when and where I can announce my intentions for time off, time-out and time away while gifting folks with great food and bubbly.
The metaphor that I am using that works the best for me right now is of the shape of an hour-glass. My hands, body, being and energy have all been extending outwards and up, like the top half with all the sand in it, but as I draw near to this birthday, my energy, willingness and direction are all getting narrower and smaller and moving into the thin corridor at the exact middle point of the hour-glass. This is a hundred year “hour” glass. I hope I live to be one hundred, and there is good precedent for this in my family. Several ancestors have lived to be a hundred or older on both sides of my family.
I don’t know if I will be extending out or doing something completely different from what I have done on the other side of this narrow passage and time away. The next fifty years, on the other side of my Jubilee retreat, are mysterious unknowns. I have to go into this contracted physical space away from people and things first. As a woman who has given birth, and you don’t need to give birth to get this, contraction is a prerequisite for expansion.
Breathing in allows you to breathe out. My process of self-reflection, self-enclosure and self-return is an in-breath. Implicit in all these “selfies,” and underlying them is the need and desire to figure out how I am best supposed to serve the Divine and all of creation for the second half of my life.
I will no longer be actively parenting, I am no longer interested in working jobs that are not a reflection of my soul. If I can find a way to join my heart, skills, mind and ability to earn an income, that is the ideal. The terrain I will be navigating is going to be radically different. I want to consciously choose where and how I sail these sands. I do not believe that if I choose correctly or figure things out perfectly all money and goodness will flow my way. This is an overly simplistic and flawed view of how the universe works. Horrible stuff happens to great people, who are not doing anything wrong in any way and good stuff happens to jerks and cruel greedy folks. I do believe that my attitude and how I direct myself have impact on my present and future experiences and certainly they color how I experience what is happening in my life.
So, I am setting sail in a new direction. I am endeavoring to make this as easy as I can for those around me, those dependent on me and those who are used to having me around. I created a website for this purpose that really is an electronic version of me. The colors, the feel, the content are all me, it is a true Nicole zone and reflects my Open Heart, Open Hands policy. Even my sister, who was sure that this was impossible and resisted visiting my website initially, has agreed that it feels like me. So, while I am away, starting next summer, folks who really need a hit of me can go to www.ohohands.com or www.open-heart-open-hands.com and find me. You can go there now if you want as well. If you are reading this, online, instead of in the paper, you have already found me.
I’ve uploaded most of my cookbook with more recipes going up every week, a great deal of my past writings, from The Arcata Eye and the Mad River Union, older works, newer works and ongoing works. It’s been very exciting and truly feels like a wonderful new adventure. I have no idea where any of this will lead. I really am going “over the hill” and I have no idea what the other side looks like. I’ll still be sharing about that here. The next thing on my writing agenda will be a break in this series about my Jubilee Retreat and an exploration of the Jewish New Year and its attendant qualities that can help us during this very fraught time.
© by Nicole Barchilon Frank. This piece was originally published in the Mad River Union on September 3, 2014. It has been slightly altered and adjusted here.