I want to tell you about Tel Aviv.
That city and I had a long complicated love affair that stretched out over ten sweet, wildly intense years.
I mostly think I’m over it, but then again, I don’t visit. Which is suspicious. Tel Aviv is like an ex that I never let myself look up to see what she’s up to. Because I’ve moved past our relationship. But maybe also yes okay fine because I’m afraid if I know how she’s doing, I might make contact.
She still has my dishes, my couch, my books, my favorite jeans.
I don’t look her up.
But Tel Aviv is the one who taught me to look up. That’s how we fell in love, me and the city, the city and me.
Tel Aviv is gorgeous, breathtaking. But it takes a while to see, to perceive, because all you see at first is the parts that are narrow, crowded, a little grimy.
You have to look up. Up to the sexy lines of the Bauhaus buildings, the curving balconies. Up, follow the music up to where people are having a picnic on a rooftop that looks out over the Mediterranean
Walk down Hess street at night, the living rooms illuminated by lamps and television. Look up into these cozy dioramas, these scenes of home that draw you in.
Walk through Neve Tzedek towards Florentin. Look up. Look up, it’s his apartment, that magical almost-invisible building — yes, there — go up that wrought iron staircase in the back, up to the door, that’s where we said goodbye. Look up. I have danced on the roof, under stars, by the sea.
That’s why I don’t visit. That’s where he killed himself, and the thought of being in Tel Aviv without him is unbearable.
But still. Up. The secret to loving that city is always looking up. “Everything happens for the best”, is what he would say.
So look up. Things will look up.
Do you remember Alec from The Phantom Tollbooth?
“I see through things. I can see whatever is inside, behind, around, covered by, or subsequent to anything else. In fact, the only thing I can’t see is whatever happens to be right under my nose.”
Milo asks if that’s inconvenient, and Alec explains that everyone in his family has a different perspective:
“My father sees to things, my mother looks after things, my brother sees beyond things, my uncle sees the other side of every question, and my little sister Alice sees under things.”
I also see underthings.
I can’t help it. I’m a woman in her late 30s, all I think about is lingerie.
Anyway. Perspective. Sometimes it’s under things.
It’s the looking that’s important.
You have to look up. And you have to look under things. Sometimes even at the things you don’t want to look at.
But there are ways to do that safely, playing at the edges, breathing sweetness, holding someone’s hand.
I have learned a lot from looking up and under.
Up and Under are my U words. They’re also my YOU words.
This past year we had a Rally (Rally!) for each letter of the alphabet. And I missed U.
[I love how that sounds like I missed you….]
Where was I during the week of U? That must have been my visit to Michigan, to see my mother, before she died.
So for me, Rally U became Rally YOU. That is to say, Rally ME. It was about taking time to do this thing I needed to do for me. I wasn’t physically at the Playground but I had companionship for the mission.
My list of things that begin with U was actually a list of things that begin with YOU.
This was good for me. To keep asking, “Hey, my love, what is here in this week of you?”
Looking up, again.
In dance, looking up is imperative. Not up towards the stars like in the desert, or on the rooftop of an apartment in south Tel Aviv. Not upward towards the curving balconies.
Up as in: not down. Up as in: not distracted.
Up as in: wearing my crown.
If you look down while dancing, it messes with your frame, your posture, your body flight, everything about how you move. It is hard to remember this, even though all evidence has shown that attractive and graceful dancing requires mastering the art of Not Looking Down.
Of course, once I got a handle on not looking down, I still wasn’t looking up. I have this need to look at my partner’s face, always checking in. But the height of my partner’s face is not always the height that my head needs to be for me to be beautifully balanced, beautifully anchored.
Eyes up. Head steady. Crown on.
The crown is invisible. It’s good for balance, and it is also good for remembering to treasure myself.
What I see when I look up.
Standing at the bus stop, I look up and I see green. So much green. I forget how lush Portland gets, how winter rains turn it almost tropical.
Dancing with the boy, I look up into his smiling eyes and I see-feel-experience pure joy, I can’t even tell if it’s his or mine, or if it lives in the music, in this moment of connecting, this happy play of aliveness.
Walking up the path to my house, I see the vase that Mary made, resting in the window with a flower in it.
Opening my eyes after long, slow, deep, old turkish lady yoga on the floor, I see the high sloping ceiling, the spaciousness that is there even when I forget to look.
That makes me think of the Phantom Tollbooth again, the visit to the cities of Illusions and Reality. Illusions is actually a mirage, and its twin city Reality is what you see.
Reality used to be as beautiful as Illusions, but the people in Reality were in too much of a hurry, too committed to efficiency. They rushed around and didn’t appreciate things, and their city faded away without attention, without intention.
That’s why I look.
Looking up and looking under is a way to actively practice sovereignty: What is in the kingdom of me, my life, my internal world, my thoughts, feelings, desires, beliefs, convictions, imaginings.
What is here? What is supportive? What works and what doesn’t?
What needs to be eliminated and what needs to be illuminated?
What is here for me when I look up, when I allow myself to look up? And when I look under things?
These are the questions.
And this is my double-meaning secret code reminder: Everything is looking up.
May it be so! And come play with me.
Usually when I do these meditations on a letter, the alphabet posts, I have to stop myself from listing all the words because otherwise it will take me a hundred hours to write the post.
Luckily U is a small but spicy letter, so here are just a few delicious ones:
Undulate. Ubiquitous. Unfurling. Umami. Utility. Ukulele. Umpire. Uncover. Upward spirals.
Oh, and my absolute favorite U words: Undoing and Undone.
And of course that brings us to all the powerful U words that are negations, like unwavering and undeterred, hello, you are important too.
Also ULTRA-, as a prefix, which enhances any quality or superpower!
If you want to whisper words or sound effects that start with U, go for it.
You are invited to add more U words, or peek over here for more unique and unusual U’s. Like ubiquarian, unstercorated, utraquist, and uxorious.
And of course, if you want to share in any of magic invoked here, help yourself. Words work like the salves in the Friday Chicken: there is enough and there is always more.
Whispering loving spells that begin with U, for myself, and for anyone who wants…