Are you in love with life?


     At the beginning of all of my workshops I ask the participants to raise their hands if they love life. Most of them, although some with hesitation, raise their hands. To my next question however, as to whether or not they are in love with life, hardly anyone answers, yes.

     I think that I have always loved life, although at times it seamed hardly worth loving. Probably had it not been for that love I believe that I would have not survived my wartime experiences during the five years of German Occupation or the Warsaw Uprising or all the other serious dramas my soul chose for me during this lifetime.


      At our home mother had an iron which looked very much like the one on this picture. I remember clearly touching it when I was four years old. It was cold because it was, as I was told, without its soul. That soul which I saw later as it was taken out of the fire and with a long metal hook put into the iron, I remember as well. I touched the iron again with the soul in it, which of course I was told not to do. Perhaps the pain I experienced had solidified in my memory sufficiently to make me be aware of how important the soul was, which in turn, had somehow helped me during the terrible war years when I was forced to see and, be next to many bodies, that were just lying there, pale and cold sometimes covered with blood but not showing any pain on their faces. They were like the irons without their souls. 

      After many adventures while it lasted, and many other right after it ended, the terrible war was finally over for my mother and I when, having lost everyone and everything, we finally reached New York City as sponsored immigrants in February of 1947. I was 17 and mother 39 and we were ready to begin our new lives. 

      On my blog in the stories entitled  My Gold Key, My dog John and many other I tried to describe all that I remember of what it was like to lead a constantly threatened life during which I lost my childhood and my adolescence. 

      I smile when I think now how little my life from 10 to 17 had prepared me to be a baby-soxer in the art high school I was admitted to a few weeks after we settled in New York. Luckily I knew some English, had a portfolio filled with good art and lots of courage. Each morning I woke up with a smile and swallowed my freedom with great big gulps.  America! for me you were indeed the promised land and I will always love you and be grateful to You for it. 

       “So how do you like America?” was often asked of me with a sneer by someone who was native born. To which I would answer with enthusiasm, I love it.  Because indeed I did.  I loved it because I felt that it gave me, if I tried hard enough, the freedom to be whatever I really wanted to be. Believing that I could I succeeded. at almost everything I did, except, I did not quite yet know, what my soul, the most important part of me expected of me or in other words what my real passion in life really was. 

      At the age of 45 in 1975 I became gravely ill with lymph node cancer. Surviving it, since chemotherapy was not yet available, had cost me my right breast and one third of all the muscles on the right side of my body.  I avoided mirrors and to prevent lymphedema of my right arm I carved wood which I loved to do and I went on with my life. 

      Next wake up call came when at 52 after 32 years of a love filled marriage, I very suddenly became a widow. Six months later however thanks to a number of miracles I found myself at my first workshop with Jean Houston called Possible Human and begun my journey to become one. 




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Irena Rutenberg