Just a love contest
And I never
Now you have another good reason
To spend more time
Many people ask me how I started, where I started, when I started, and why I started The School of Womanly Arts. When something is truly a calling, it has many beginning points in your life, as I am sure that many of you have seen inside your own lives.
For me, one of the early points when I began to hear the call was when I was 14, and my parents took me and my brothers to Israel for a couple of months. I was miserable and I had nothing to do. I could not speak the language. So, I volunteered at the WIZO baby home for orphans and foster children. There, I found a language I could speak. I knew the language of babies.
I remember this feeling that slid all over me, as I walked into that ward, where the children who were under two were kept. There were rows and rows of cribs. The children were either orphans, or being kept there while their parents got themselves back on their feet, financially or emotionally. It was a warm liquid feeling, this wonderful sense of being so effective and so appreciated by the babies. Being entirely responsible and capable of contributing is rare for a young teenager.
The sensual pleasure and the adventure of being with these babies filled me with joy. I was able to be expert with my love. It was like a feast for every one of my senses. I loved the feeling of the babies in my arms. Feeding them. Having them throw up on me. Changing them. Having them reach for me, want me, know me, relax against me. Running from one to another as they cried, and being able to stop their tears and restore them to happiness. Watching them crawl, holding fat, moist fingers as they stood to walk. I loved making up stories about who they were, and pretending that they were all mine. I just loved those days of taking care of these unwanted babies. I had this feeling in my body of knowing exactly what to do to be of service.
The staff would take a break at 10am to go to the cafeteria for bread, butter and tea. But I would not leave the babies. The food of love they gave me melted me, fed me, and gave me place and space. I knew who I was, there, with them. They were all mine to love as I pleased. The home was understaffed, so the babies were basically mine. It was like a fantasy come true – to be given 20 babies to play with.
I knew exactly how to care for them and bring them back from the space of being indifferent and dead to love, with my attention and playfulness. They were my joy. Some days, their families would come to visit. And even though these babies were only a year, or younger, they could feel that they were with their family. And when the family would have to leave, the baby would fall into terrible despair. Inconsolable despair.
I learned about the dead space that happened when a baby was ignored or unloved. The child would simply stop growing and stop responding. What I loved to do, more than anything, was to reach inside that hollow place and awaken the dead parts, and bring that baby back to her love of her life. There was no better place for me than being with those babies, and being able to pour my love into them.
There was a baby called Judith. About 8 months old. She was a beautiful, brown-eyed baby, but had not had the love or attention that could keep her connected to her curiosity, her attention, and her life force. She was lethargic. Affectless. Not giving a crap about sitting up… at 8 months old.
A doctor taught me how to work with her, which I did, every single day. I would take a small toy, catch her eye, and watch her watch the toy as I moved it from one side of her sight lines to the other, encouraging her all the way, with approval and love. I would move a toy towards her, inviting her to grasp it, approving of her and appreciating her. She would engage.
I learned that there was a technology to love. Not just a feeling.
I would have to watch her ever so closely, and then stop the moment she grew tired, quickly – before she could feel disappointment in herself – and switch games. I learned to approve of any small step she made, of increasing her attention, increasing her reach. I learned that she wanted to engage, despite all the disappointments that had come before. And I learned that the shy smile that moved across her face, when she was pleased with herself, touched every cell of my being. And all I wanted to do was see that smile again. I knew that this love I was learning – this love I was privileged to give her, and to all these babies – was food for The Goddess. She was all around me in this place. This beauty was feeding her, pleasing her. I could feel it.
I had to work hard to get to there. Two crowded public buses. Where I was often harassed or molested. But I would do anything to go and to be with those children. My job was to assist them to remember. Remember that they can laugh. And love. And receive love. And nothing could have stopped me from the chance to do that. And it took very little from me to have them remember. I learned how to love a baby back from the edge of despair and despondency.
Which loved me right back to myself, right along with them.
And in doing so, I became an expert love jockey.
So many of us long for love.
So many of us were orphaned one way or another – not receiving the attention we required, or not being supported in a way that was most sensitive to the children we were. So many of us grew up with empty spaces inside that might have been loved into brilliance if we had been given different kinds of support.
There is a technology to love. It’s about attention. It’s about patience. It’s about approval.
And the gorgeous part of this technology is that no matter how we were or were not loved, in our lives, we can still practice, every day, both with ourselves, and with one another.
I’d love to hear from you, in the comments.
Where can you place your attention on another person today, so that they feel noticed, seen, gotten?
Where can you polish someone with your approval and appreciation?
Where can you give your approval to yourself today?
How can you find yourself adorable and enchanting for no reason, except that you exist?