Do you ever think about the masks you wear? We show to others what we hope they will perceive as our best sides – all shiny and polished.  We fool ourselves and think we keep the damaged parts hidden. They’re not.

If it makes you feel any better, many of our scars originated from our childhoods – something that wasn’t our responsibility then – but letting the damage foment today, is.  How many times does something happen, we get triggered, act on automatic pilot, and spend our time apologizing and trying to clean up our mess?

For our temple’s women’s retreat this year, the theme was The Masks We Wear. Some members attended a land lover’s version, and the rest of us continued for the third year enjoying the sea, on a Carnival cruise to Ensenada.

Both long-time friends and new, enthusiastic members, contributed their rainbow of flowers to our bouquet. Of course there was some typical cruising merriment including eating too much, comedy (on stage and off), and dancing to great tunes.

I enjoyed my personal tradition of cruise star gazing with a new member of our female tribe.  It always amazes me to see the brilliant twinkling of billions of solar systems in the sky. Is someone out there? I also squeezed in a private meditation by the water, and a mahjong game with friends and our compassionate Mahjong teacher extraordinaire : ) There’s always lots to do.

As in years past, the main event was spending time with our sisters in community.  This year I’m not sure why – there was an even deeper feeling to the weekend. Sporting our teal pashminas, the Shabbat services, workshops and fun, were palpable connections strung together in a necklace of our hearts.

We started by helping each other make plaster masks of our faces before we left home. This project was led by our cantor’s mom – an artist who teaches from her heart. For me it was a unique opportunity as an adult. It reminded me of my tender reaction every time I see my son’s kindergarten hand impressions. Now I’m on the opposite side of the life cycle. Not that I’m planning on going anywhere any time soon, but the end is approaching sooner than I’d like to admit. It gave me comfort that one day when I’m only a memory, my son can touch the mask and he can feel the actual impression of my face – maybe have a tender moment of his own.

Falafel Comida Israeli

Falafel Comida Israeli

We stopped again this year for lunch at Falafel Comida Israeli. In the middle of Ensenada, is a delicious falafel and schnitzel shop owned by a young enterprising Israeli woman. We were pleased to hear, things were going well, and she had recently opened her second shop : )

The highlight for me always is visiting Casa Albergue Temporal para Ninos  – an orphanage for abused and abandoned children. This time besides the older children ranging in age from toddlers to almost tweens, there were newborns delivered from drug addicted moms.  The kids stay here from three to six months. We brought with us – toys, games, positive energy playing with the kids, a substantial donation, and love.

Casa Albergue Temporal

Casa Albergue Temporal

The experience hit close to home. What I know, is that I spent time when I was a baby, at a foster home — at Mrs. Woods’ house. She lived on the next block.  How long was I there? Despite the two weeks I was told, my only baby picture is amongst a few other bassinettes dated October – I was born in January. I know drugs weren’t an issue for my family — but I’ll never really know all the true answers of my beginnings in this world.

Why do I mention it? Because it colors my existence.  I ask you – what emotional scar affects you even though we’re all grown up? Everyone has something they struggle with – it’s important to be conscious of yours.

Although we usually think of the negative impacts caused by imperfect starts, there can be positive effects as well. For me one positive effect is that I jump in with both feet trying my best in everything I pursue. Another is — I know with every breath I take, there’s never been a day in my son’s life, when he didn’t know he was loved.

As for my parents, I accept Maya Angelou’s famous quote, “If people knew better, they’d do better.”

It gave me great joy to hold these innocent babies – safe in my arms. Trying to give them at least a little sense of security for the road they will travel ahead. These sweethearts – one almost bald and one with a full head of spiky black hair, born already with a job – to get healthy. As has been my experience – interactions with children always is a two-way street.  As much as I wanted to provide them with protection, they helped heal me just a bit more. May the gentle armor they found in this temporary refuge, strengthen them for their journey.

Our workshops were put together by an energetic, thoughtful committee and were creative, unique and purposeful. Woven throughout our activities was the appreciation for women’s emotional awareness and companionship.

The Beauty Behind the Mask exercise had us divide a piece of paper into three sections. We were given a list of characteristics though you could add your own.  We were asked to write down personality traits describing ourselves. In the next third, we gave our paper to a friend, and they wrote down words describing us from their point of view. Finally, we were encouraged to speak with someone we didn’t know previously from our temple for a few minutes and they wrote down their impressions of us. A rare opportunity for profound feedback. You could look at how kind, or not, you were to yourself, and how others perceived you.

Another reflective opportunity – Planting the Seeds of Authentic Beauty had us concentrate on our gifts seed paper for the community and something we wanted to grow in our lives.  Seed paper – a parchment with actual seeds as part of its composition was distributed. We were instructed to write on it something we wanted to grow or expand in our lives. When we returned back to the temple, we were given pots, to plant our entreaties and watch them mature – hopefully not only in our pots, but in our lives.

As a community we were walked through a peaceful meditation.  Afterward, we were given stones to write a word describing our strength. These stones would be taken back home, to be placed in our temple’s meditation garden.

Our writing activities made me smile. We had two different outlets for written creativity. At the outset of our cruise, we were provided with note cards. As thoughts arose about our compadres throughout our weekend, each member had an envelope to fill with our love notes. This was an entertaining, heart-felt reminder to let friends know they were on your mind.

Each kind note I received filled my heart – yet one brought tears to my eyes. It was from my dear roommate and friend for almost 16 years. We met in Mommy & Me at temple and now our kids were looking at colleges. Her family was with us in Israel, although I can tell you each of us experienced our trip from our own perceptions. To have her tell me she admired my passionate pursuit of writing – well, it’s a note I’ll always treasure.

In another activity we were given writing ques to choose from. Opportunities to talk about the impacts of pivotal moments and transitions, relationships, or difficulties faced when growing up. I couldn’t resist writing about the impact of our trip to Israel in July 2014…

I never thought I’d be in a war – let alone while on a family vacation.  The tour itinerary and travel brochure didn’t mention bomb shelters, or hint we’d be cowering in them. Too late to demand a refund. The missiles exploded just near enough – to blow apart my world as I knew it.  Yet being a human target, surprisingly triggered THE most positive changes of my life.

Three weeks before our trip, Hamas had kidnapped the three teenagers.  Two days before we left, they found them dead. Palestinians began peppering Israel with missiles. The tour guide endlessly echoed the Israeli touring mantra, “Don’t worry we’ll always keep you out of harm’s way.” And he did, until he didn’t.

Family, friends, and people on our tour re-acted in their own unique way. Familiar patterns. I was the Chicken Little of the group – except shit WAS falling from the sky.  My feelings were intense. I’ve come to realize, everything happens for a reason.

What was the impact? At first, I wanted to retaliate – you’re sending rockets after a Jewish mother’s son – are you crazy?  But what good would that do? Neither side could bring back their loved ones by more violence. I realized this has to STOP! My reaction to what would turn out to be amazing touring experiences, braided with cowering in bomb shelters, created a passion to work on Peace.

Back at home, like a magician’s trick, my previous life disappeared – poof! My days are filled with joy and wonder. I’m writing my book Blasted from Complacency, have a blog, and founded a writing group.

I’m meeting and researching Peace activists for volume two of my journey. From my most terrifying experience, I discovered my life’s purpose – SHALOM.

For our final gathering back home, snippets of our personal narratives had been lovingly and gently sewn together in a beautiful tapestry of our sisters’ stories, and combined with the musical talents of our cantor and women from our group. They were delivered with feeling and respect, as each of the volunteers portrayed the characters they were presenting. It was a safe place to share our intimate experiences.

Mask

Mask

The final activity was painting and decorating our masks. I wanted to decorate it with symbolism that mattered — showing important aspects of myself. Purple I’m told is “my color.” There was no premade purple and I thought it was appropriate I would have to blend it myself : )

The butterfly is the eternal symbol of change. Nature takes the caterpillar, turns it into mush and changes it into something new and beautiful. A perfect metaphor for my life. The Peace symbol represents the Peace I’m trying to achieve for myself and using my capabilities to impact the world. Placing it on my forehead is an acknowledgement that I will have to use my mind and creativity to do my part – but I know the lead in this endeavor will be from my heart. Finally, the sparkly glitter represents bringing beauty from within to the outside –  a shimmering, shining light in the world.

Since my mother-in-law’s passing, I’ve spoken in other blogs, of  how when I find turtles on our vacations, I feel like it’s Lucille saying hello. I saw a number of ceramic turtles while shopping : ) However, my sister-in-law, feels her mom is present, when she sees rainbows — so I’m always on the lookout for them as well.  Throughout the cruise, I looked, but none appeared.

As I listened to the words of the song True Colors, during our Voices presentation, I was captivated by their meaning. What a perfect way to capture acceptance of everyone’s authentic selves…

I see your true colors

And that’s why I love you

So don’t be afraid to let them show

Your true colors

True colors are beautiful

Like a rainbow.

That was what I was looking for. Now I was comfortable saying so long, for now. Thanks to my sisters who shared their true colors with us throughout our time together. Thanks Lucille for your nod hello. Now ladies, go share your true colors with the World – we need you…

As always, I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…

 

 

 

 

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