the air she breathes

what to do when someone breathes
suffering

underneath their put together hair,
face

it leaks into every conversation
every place

there’s nothing that you can do
to help them

stop them
calm them

you certainly can’t save them
fix them
 
you might not even be able to
support them

and yet it doesn’t feel
totally right

to leave this
fellow human

totally alone.

the story of a name

You might be wondering, what’s going on with my name?? To be clear, my name as I understand it now is Erica Shoshana Rivers. I have not changed it legally yet, but likely will at some point. Currently, I have some people in my life who call me Erica and some people who call me Shoshana.

I have deep respect for my parents who chose the gender progressive route of giving me the hyphenated last name Erica Seltzer-Schultz. For many years, it felt good to honor both my Seltzer and Schultz lineages in that way. At the same time, the name, given its length, tended to pose some problems as I navigated the world. Nothing really big, just a series of minor annoyances. There was a sense among both me and my parents that I might not keep it forever.

Last year, while participating in a women’s circle, we had the option of choosing a different name for people to call us by. I decided to choose my Hebrew name Shoshana which was also given to me by my parents at my naming ceremony shortly after I was born. Shoshana translates as lily or rose. I loved the sound of it and the way I felt when people used it to refer to me.

I would admit that I am more drawn to the name due to its sound and energy over the fact that it’s my Hebrew name, but I do have a felt sense of it feeling good to acknowledge my Jewish identity. My recent ancestors would never have considered naming their children or taking a name that was so overtly Jewish.

Their focus was assimilating into American culture and finding ways to survive and thrive. To take the name now in our current political climate feels both powerful and a bit scary. I’m still developing an understanding of what it means to me. Having a name that combines both English and Hebrew feels complicated to me due to the imperialism that I associate with both of those languages. And yet it doesn’t feel correct for me to have a name in another language.

As I toyed with asking people to call me Shoshana, I came back around to the issue of the last name. “Shoshana Seltzer-Schultz” simply was not going to work…perhaps it was time to consider finding a new last name. One late night last summer while I was journaling, the name Shoshana Rivers came to me and I immediately fell in love with it. I have a fierce love for water––I often feel most myself and most alive when I’m in or around it. At the time, I was living two blocks from Minnehaha creek and visiting it mornings and evenings most days. Whenever I could, I was canoeing on the Mississippi and kayaking and swimming in the St. Croix. This summer, I live farther from water, but still try to spend time with it as many days as I can.

My recent ancestors have had the privilege of living by water: the Seltzers on the Mississippi and St. Croix and the Schultzes on the Potomac River and Atlantic Ocean. And so, while the name Rivers came more organically then careful calculation, I like how it still honors my lineage.

At present time, I am introducing myself to new people as Shoshana but I’m still comfortable with people calling me Erica. Shoshana has a different feel to it that makes me happy when I hear it, but I still genuinely like the name Erica. At some point this might change and I might ask that most people in my life call me Shoshana.

It feels vulnerable for me to change my name, but as I step more fully into my life’s work and launch a new website (stay tuned!), it feels marvelous to have a name that feels so fully me. Thanks for reading and helping to support this time of transition.

update 6.17.19

Work 

Currently I am doing integrative healing sessions on the phone and out of my home. I am wrapping up a family oral history project and I’m working on a history exhibit for the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest. I’m also teaching oral history workshops for the Rockford Area Historical Society.

Community

I am part of a group for white-bodied healers interested in healing racialized trauma. Our work is guided by Resmaa Menakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands. I am also a member of a learning group for femme astrologists.

Art

In April, I participated in an artist residency at Tall Reeds Healing Arts. You can check out some of my mosaics. I am also occasionally writing poetry and hopefully more blog posts!

glint

As long as the sun glints
Off the myriad shades of green
Grass, petals, leaves
Parked cars
Outside unlocked garage doors

As long as birds chirp
Airplanes are not too heavy for the sky
And wind rustles through trees

As long as my heart breathes
I will let its crust keep cracking
So I can release into unfolding
And never stop noticing the glinting.

thin ice

These days the world feels like thin ice

Cracking underneath

I try to stay steady

But keep slipping

Around me people are falling

What do we do?

What do we do?

What do we do?

I know we will keep grabbing elbows

Trying to hold each other up

Somehow.

 

thriving

We the children of boomers
Whose parents made believe in the American dream
Were raised to belief that
We would not just survive
We would not just thrive
We would be special, somehow
We would make a difference

We were taught that if we learned a lot
And retained just enough to spit it back quickly
And efficiently
We would get the grade
And if we got enough grades
We would get the degree
And if we got enough degrees
We could be worth something
Never mind that we owed 300 grand
Nothing could stop us
Certainly not our skin
As white as a snowflake
Which we took for granted
Because we certainly weren’t racist
Privilege isn’t something you see
When you swim in it, it’s like
Asking a fish to notice all the water

So there wasn’t too much to be grateful for
There was just more to strive for
If we got enough likes
Perhaps we could feign for moment
That we were making ripples
Knowing the waves were yet to come
Yet to come
Our necks permanently thrust forward
From all the planning, holding minds fit to bursting
With all the comparing
For all the things we had learned in school
No one had taught us how to notice
what was happening in there
But we noticed it all right when we couldn’t keep functioning
I’m not talking about getting more degrees
I’m talking about basic eating and sleeping
Making a living
It looks differently—
For some it’s thinking about dying
For others it’s self-mutilating
Others don’t want to do anything
And many of us can’t stop doing

We’re not thriving
We’re barely surviving
In reality we’re drowning
Not all of us are
For some, life was handed to them on a gorgeous platter
And there was never the need to step off
Never mind the debt
The jobs they’d get would pay it off
And in the mean time mom and dad would help
For some, their minds stayed steady
And their bodies stayed healthy
For some

But the rest of us need a new blueprint for living
But my god this is not a glorious undertaking
A lot of time it feels like choking
It’s hard to breath in a society
that doesn’t even value breathing
properly.

a new path

I would like to carve a new path through stone
Stone they haven’t blasted a tunnel through yet
I would like to carve a new path that wouldn’t be perfectly smooth
But there would be a sureness in the way forward
Not a slide but a slope
It would be too dark to look behind
Too dark to see the other side
But a solidity underneath, sand
no longer clinging
Bottoms of my feet flat against the red earth.