Just Don’t Ask Me Where I Come From

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My name is Shira Gur. I’m Jewish and I come from Israel and I’m many more other things. Lately I have stayed in Nashville, Tennessee (long story). It really is a great city but when people try to be friendly and engage in a conversation by asking ‘where do you come from?’ I feel like someone punched me in the stomach. Why? Read and find out.

Let me share with you a little anecdote: Couple of nights ago I took a cab to the place I’m staying at in Nashville. It was late at night and I was freezing and tired and the only thing I was interested in doing was climb into bed and sleep. What I definitely had no interest in doing at that particular moment was engage in one of those small talks that begin with the question: So, where do you come from?

When I got into the cab I noticed that the name of my driver was an Arab name so that wish started blending with a slight fear. Thankfully the gods answered my prayer and the (very nice) driver didn’t ask me directly where I come from. Instead he was interested in the origin of my name and wondered if it was Persian (tricky gods).

I could have lied, easily.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I told him my name is a Hebrew name and waited for his reaction.

I anticipated different kinds of reactions based on past my experiences. The one I didn’t expect was the one I actually got which was a moving and quite emotional speech that defended Israel, its leaders and the people in it.

What can I tell you? I love my country and all but I sure am much more critical about it than he is because I couldn’t have produced such speech.

Nevertheless, that speech led to a fascinating conversation in which I learned a lot about the situation in Balal’s native land – Kurdistan and their fight for freedom.

When I finally went to bed that night lots of thoughts ran through my head. Some of them were related to the content of the conversation and others to my initial hesitation to answer a simple and supposedly neutral question such as ‘Where do you come from?’

Why just the thought of it makes me so uncomfortable? It’s just a place, isn’t it? It’s not like someone asks me what do I do for a living? How old I am? Am I married? Do I have or want kids? What are my political and religious beliefs? Am I straight?

All they ask is where do I come from? C’mon Shira, relax!

Well…

For me this particular question is everything but simple and non intrusive. For me, whether I like it or not this is one of the most difficult and personal question anyone can ask me. For me, my answer to this question and the possible reactions to my answer are the sum of some of the most intimate parts of my identity and my deepest fears.

The reason for it is because for me, the place where I come from is very much WHO I AM.

Why is that, you ask? How come that a small dot on Google Maps mean so much?

It starts with the meaning of the word ‘Place’ – ‘Ma’kom’ in Hebrew.

Hebrew is a very multilayered language but not a very rich in vocabulary. It doesn’t have too many words (definatly not in comparison to English for example).
In fact, it’s not that uncommon to find yourself, while using Hebrew, in loss of words. It’s actually quite normal and even welcome at times because silences, those gaps between the letters, are also part of this language. In Hebrew the challenge is often not just to find the right and exact word that will give a full and accurate description of something but also find the word that will hint on its inner and deep meaning. That’s because that a basic Hebrew assumption is that for the most important things in life there are no words so all a language can do is just hint and guide us but not TELL us.

What am I trying to say with all of this and how does it have to do with small talks in Nashville and the meaning of the word ‘Place’?
I’ll explain.

‘A Place’, Ma’kom in Hebrew means a physical place but also a spiritual place and you don’t need to use it in a certain context to switch between the two meanings – it’s already in the word itself so when someone ask about my physical place that person, without even knowing it, also ask about my spiritual place and the way I perceive them both.
That duality exist already in the bible that bind together physical and spiritual with this word and with Israel.
When the sons of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land after 40 years in the desert, Moses gave them a prophet about ‘the place’ they were about to enter and said that the physical place and the spiritual place are connected and in fact the spiritual is a condition for the physical.

Without getting too much into theological discussions, the significance of it is that very much like Raymond Carver that talked about Love, when we talk about a place in Hebrew we also talk about lots of other things and we try not just to describe a certain place, but also ask- what is a place?

So when someone ask me innocently this question my mind wonders into many different directions.

First, as history thought me, I hear a warning sign and a possible danger in revealing the name of the physical place, since unlike a Jew from New York or London or Paris, my physical place hint on my spiritual identity and my political association of course. I’m an Israeli and therefore, probably a Jew and that leads to all kinds of assumptions. I can’t hide or save this information for later when we get to know each other better and ask each other questions about politics and religion. It’s already out there just by spelling it out.

The second thing I hear or to be more accurate, feel – is that I am different. One might call it ‘unique’ but I don’t feel that because I didn’t choose that. At that moment I feel like my entire Jewish heritage, which I hold dear, and whatever brought me to the place where I stand are a burden. That’s because at the moment all I feel is the decision of society to label me as such and I rebel. I share this ‘uniqueness’ with other minority religions, The LGTB community, people of color (that are labeled even before opening their mouth) or anyone that seem ‘different’ in anyway. I will not even get into the labeling of women here cause that’s a subject of a different discussion. All I can say is that in one second, I feel as if this part of my identity is taking over my entire being and that I am ‘outed’, so to speak, in a very intrusive way even if no one intend to do so. My place is so many things and one of is private. My place is mine and no one else’s!

The third thing that comes to my mind is that Hebrew silence I was referring to before. That silence within the language.
You see, when you ask me and probably most Israeli Jews (and possibly lots of Jews in general) where do we come from, even without the possible bad reactions and the feeling of invasion to our private sphere, it takes us a minute to answer because we live in Hebrew, so for us, the answer is really complicated. We have to think about it since it’s not enough for us to mention the physical place-we feel the need to give an accurate description as to what this place looks like and means for us.
When you ask me that for example I see a picture in my head. The picture on top.

It’s a picture of a certain spot in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem where I spent many years studying and becoming who I am. That spot is borderline that divide the green forest and the yellow desert. On a clear day you can see from there to the dead sea. It’s a sentimental place for me for many personal reasons but it’s also my answer to that question.

I am from there.
I wasn’t born on that mountain and I don’t live or work there but I’m from there.

I am from a place of two polar ends that divide them and creates conflict but also bring them together is a special way. I’m from a place where the direction of the wind is more important than the temperature or the rain and that somehow your soul is shaped by it. I’m from a place that on a clear day you can see forever and still not be quite sure as to where you stand because something always feels fragile, temporary and eternal at the same time. I’m from a place where the shouting and music are as loud as the silence. I’m from a place I don’t always understand, that I love and hate, that I am a part of but also am forever also just a guest because it’s bigger than me. I’m from a beautiful, ugly, generous, vindictive place that will not allow anyone to define it. I am from a place that is also not really a place. I share this place with others that know exactly what I’m talking about and maybe even smile to themselves while reading these lines. There are parts of it I only share with my loved ones and part I don’t share with anyone.

I would love to talk about it someday, because there is so much more to talk about what I talk about my ‘place’ , but for now, I came to you. I didn’t invite you in. So please, don’t ask me where I come from, just ask me how I am. I promise to answer.

Just a perfect day

#Nashville filter for a beautiful day in Tel Aviv

If inspiration doesn’t strike me after that-Don’t know what will

Fifty shades of blue

The more I live the less words I have to describe feelings and impression. It seems that the highest praise I can give, more often than not, is pure respectful silence, because when the world speaks-We listen

Nashville: The worth of a woman

Rayna and Liam rocking the stage

Photo Credit: (http://justthewayitwas.tumblr.com /)

If there’s one scene in Nashville that demonstrates just how attractive and appealing a grown woman is, it’s this one.

In this scene, Juliette Barnes is circling around the stage trying to get everyone to notice her. She is using every trick in the book but it’s just not enough and she is upstaged by Rayna Jaymes. Rayna owns the stage and in this specific moment, is just not in the mood of sharing so Juliette doesn’t stand a chance.

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Nashville: Rayna Jaymes- Understatement as a necessity

Rayna’s presence on stage is charismatic and sexy as hell, and to do it, all she does is simply show up.

Rayna doesn’t try to impress anyone. Instead, she relax, lay back and enjoy herself. The more she does so the more charismatic she become and that alone is enough to get all eyes to focus on her. OK, yes, it also doesn’t hurt that she looks amazing, but so does Juliette (although Connie Britton is a godess).

The main difference between Rayna and Juliette (beside the hair and the height) that allows Rayna act so freely and for Juliette to try too hard, is that Rayna is a full realized women who is comfortable in her own skin and Juliette isn’t. Juliette is still a girl.

Women are not Girls.

Women are beautiful. Their beauty derive from a strong sense of self, inner peace and freedom that only time and experience can provide. They belong center staged. They’ve earned it (and most likely will be able to cope with it better).

Girls are also beautiful but in a very different way. Their beauty is the beauty of a fresh start and a promise. What they need most of all is the freedom to explore and decide what kind women they want to become.
One of the best ways to do so, is perhaps by having all sorts of women as role models to get inspired on the way. Juliette has Rayna, and by the second season we see that as she takes another step towards adulthood, she tries to mimic some of Rayna’s traits. Although she finds out Rayna’s `nice` just ain’t HER color it’s still a step in the right direction because she’s more aware of the possibilities and as a result become even more determine to find out what color DOES suit her and brings out “the best version of herself”.

Nashville love project: It’s complicated

Oh, how the world loves girls! Women? Not so much!

While Juliette, slowly and painfully grows into herself (whatever that means), Rayna simply keeps showing up, just as she is. Her challenges and conflicts in life and with herself have nothing to do with her identity as a woman. She already figured out the crucial parts and she’s leaving these things to Juliette and Scarlett.

When Rayna finds out, one time too many, how her label prefers Girls to Women, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She already made the long jouney and she lost patience for those who treats her as if she was a girl.

She’s already a woman, and a successful one who has a say, so she will not let anyone dismiss it and settle for her back catalogue from the times she was a girl or a woman in the making. No, she’s worth much more than this.

What Jeff Fordham doesn’t understand is that for Rayna what’s on the line is her authenticity, and as much as it’s hard to compromise it at any age (as Juliette recently discovered) it’s even harder to do so when you already know who you are. That’s because that feeling of a strong sense of self as a person, and clear voice as a woman is simply priceless. It’s true for every artist who doesn’t want to compromise himself, but for women it’s even harder, because there are even less open spots for them at the top.

Now it’s time for Rayna to take a risk. The risk is not simply leaving her label. It’s not JUST business as thick Luke Wheeler joked. The risk is exposing herself completely and dare asking, without anyone backing her up, the exact question that haunts so many women around the world: Do you acknowledge the journey and dare to love a woman just for what she is?

I’m looking at this scene and know my answer.

What’s yours?

Nashville: Understatement as a necessity

Photo Credit: http://mrs-coach.tumblr.com/

Someone wiser than me (AKA Buffy Summers) once said that “The hardest thing in this life is to live in it”

At the beginning of Nashville second season, the queen of country music, Rayna Jaymes, and her troubled ex/current/future love-of-her-life guitarist Deacon Clayborne found out just how hard it is to live.

Climbing out from a pit is not easy for anyone, but unlike Deacon, that dug himself an even bigger hole before climbing out, Rayna took a very different approach to the situation. She prefered to look ahead, move forward and leave as much as she can from the past behind her.

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Both approaches come with a price. At first, Deacon’s “joyful and vital” approach led him, to depression, self-hatred, guilt and all the things that keeps a person from engaging life. That’s because no one can live fully exposed and vulnerable ALL the time. It’s like living in a body without skin – impossible.
That’s also why even Deacon slowly realized that being a martyr can get him that far and that if he wants to live he need to wear at least a small armour while stepping back into the world.
Sadly, his guitar was not and option but thankfully, so were the numb-the-pain alcohol and the yearning-for-Rayna drug. Instead, he created his own “armour” made of career ambition, father duties, and, hmm, yes, a relationship with the boring lawyer.

Rayna and Deacon: Is it too complicated?

Rayna is a completely different story. She didn’t just wear a small armour to protect herself. No, she went for the biggest and strongest one, added a shield and a mighty sword and with all of them joined together she charged through life.
When you take this approach to the extreme the price for it is the loss of a chance to fully heal, since by closing the door on pain and sadness you also close the door on happiness. That’s because both derive from the same place.
Sadly that’s what happens to Rayna, the “all or nothing” woman. It’s especially tragic in her case since we are talking here about the woman who prefers being “naked” in her relationships and appreciate authenticity above anything else.

Until she’ll be ready to open that place in her heart again, Rayna channels all of her inner needs for ‘truth’ and ‘authenticity’ to her career and by doing so takes even bigger risks than usual.
As for her romantic life, it’s the Teddy syndrome all over again, only this time it’s with a Country music mega star ( will not mention his name cause he’s a self-centered ass and I can’t stand him ). She gets involved with the “right” choice on paper, the one who will support her current needs as a business women and a mother, but her heart…it’s in a far away closed box.

For the viewers this behaviour makes Rayna less accessible than Deacon and it doesn’t give us too many “award-winning” over the top moments of meltdowns or “fighting-to-keep-the-tears-while-all-I-want-to-do-is-die.

But truth is that more often than not, this is life for most adults in similar situations – especially people with kids and most especially women. We just deal and let time take its course. It doesn’t mean we don’t think about it or don’t grieve but we rarely allow it to consume and swallow us whole. The reason? We already know better and even when we don’t, we simply don’t have the luxury to do so.

Rayna Jaymes is no different from the rest of us (beside the obvious), and like us she also doesn’t have the luxury to enter fetal position and dwell in self-pity every time something doesn’t go her way.

Rayna has two daughters who almost lost her that depend on her and need her (even more so now that she’s divorced); She has a career she wants to keep and take to the next level after working her entire life to build it; she also has a young artist who needs her as her mentor and a whole team that she support.

Moreover, Rayna came to a point in her life where she really knows what that means when people say that life’s too short.So getting completely invested in her heartbreak, like we tend to do in our teens and our 20s is not a valid option anymore.

When you dust yourself up the first time even though your heart is aching that you can’t breathe, it’s hell. It also feels like an act. But after a few times this behavior starts to feel normal and not completely foreign, especially if like Rayna you are going through the SAME familiar pain for the 100 time. Then you lose patience for anything that’s holding you back and try to get back on the saddle as fast as you can.

Practicing and mastering this approach towards life also ,usually, gives you an unexpected gift in the form of a healthy perspective on life and a sense of humor to get through it. That way, instead of crying to the sky WHYYYYYY???? you can look at yourself from the side, laugh at how miserable (and even pathetic) you are and sum it all up like Rayna as ‘a really crappy month’.

After all, The best songs Do come from broken hearts. It’s just that someone must be brave enough, and strong enough to step out into the world, live and write them.

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