b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: holiday

a new year

It’s Rosh Hashanah. The head of the year. The couple of days that are supposed to represent the rest of the year. The beginning of the 10 Days of Awe. The Book of Life is open. At the end of Yom Kippur it is closed, sealed. 10 days to repent, revisit, review. 10 days to think long and hard about the year that passed, the lifetime that has passed. Time to decide on how the new year will be. So much pressure. No wonder I fought with my sister and mother every single Rosh Hashanah growing up. Where’s my life now. A husband that is working hard, doing what he always does, taking care of us, and is just a little bit out of reach, distant. My fault? A gorgeous 5 year old daughter. Super creative and a non-stop talker. Non-stop. Non. Stop. My poor brain tunes her out so I can have head space to get the every day banal necessities completed. No room in my head otherwise. I still see her as an adult-human sometimes. I forget she’s 5 and I lose my patience, lose my temper. “Stop acting like a 5 year old!” Oh wait, right.

Another set of meds I’m testing out, ever the lab rat. Is it working? How can I tell? All I know is the side-effects and how they impact my day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. Have I improved? It feels like running in place most days. How long has it been since the last breakdown? 2 years? 3? That’s pretty good. I’m not gibbering and rocking and sobbing in a corner. So that’s a definite improvement?

What do I want for the new year? More patience. Less hurrying and adhering to the clock. More in-the-moment experiences. Those fill me with gratitude. Gratitude, the high beam that banishes my darkness. The electricity that wakes up my heart. The surge of hope that makes it possible to see more days, more moments filled with more gratitude.

I want more closeness. I’ve been holding myself out at an arms reach. Sure it’s safer. But it’s also lonely.

I want more energy. How do I achieve that? Probably not on my current meds… More walking. More yoga. Less cell phone and tv time. An easy time waster/time sucker, that brings me to bedtime, and morning, and a repeat of the repeat of the repeat. Which is not a motivator.

I stopped wishing for my old self back long ago. Who or where she is, I don’t know, she’s long gone. This me is a little more serious, a lot wiser, and a bit more compassionate. I’m okay with the current me. That surprises me. I never thought I’d think that. I’m glad I do. Acceptance is way smoother and easier than the alternative, fighting and thrashing against the perceived loss of the stronger, stabler me I used to be. I remember taking for granted the day to day, it was so easy. Was it? I don’t really remember. Everything’s a blur. It’s not helpful to imagine a time that I can never get back. I’ve mourned it already. I’m ready to be in the now. I’m ready to look forward to the year. One year at a time. One day at a time. One minute at a time. So far, so good.

All vows

I have sinned. I am not so arrogant as to say I have not sinned. For I have indeed sinned.

For the sins I have done on purpose, please forgive me. For the sins I have done accidentally, please forgive me. For the sins I have done with my eyes, my hands, my mouth, my thoughts, please please forgive me. For the sin of hating my life, please forgive me. For the sin of hating my child, please forgive me. For the sin of hating myself, please forgive me. Forgive me, pardon me, grant me atonement.

For the sin of wishing harm unto others, please forgive me. For the sin of wishing harm onto myself, please forgive me. For the sin of judging others, please forgive me. Please, Hashem, forgive me, pardon me, grant me atonement.

I have lied, I have cheated, I have led others astray. I have disrespected, I have caused shame, I have excluded and have preyed upon weakness. I have taken joy in causing the suffering of others. I have willfully neglected the feelings of others. I have willfully ignored the needs of others. I have hardened my heart at the sadness of others. I have sinned, Hashem, please please forgive me.

I am not anywhere near perfect, Hashem. I am broken, damaged, limping along. I am lost, Hashem. I am wandering around in total darkness, bumping into things as I try to go forward, my arms reaching out grasping at air. I am hollow, Hashem, a large part of who I thought I was has been scooped out, leaving a messy shell that aches and throbs in pain. I am desperate, Hashem, I need your help. I am desperate for the sun’s warmth on my face. I am so cold here, Hashem, and I feel so alone. You above all others can help me. So here I am, prostrate before you, admitting that I am nothing, surrendering to Your wisdom and Your judgment. Please, oh please, forgive me.

May it be your will that I, and my family, and all the people of Israel, and all the people of the world, be inscribed in the Book of Life this year.

Amen.

xmas twofer

-What do you want for xmas?

Am I allowed an xmas present? I’m Jewish! Of course it was stolen from the pagans and absorbed by the retail world. So for Xmas I would like my sanity. I want to feel strong but calm, clear minded and sharp, well rested and relaxed. Ok, go!

What? That’s not how it works? Well, bummer. I guess I’ll settle for basically stable.

-Are you looking forward to xmas more or less than last year? Why?

Since the year before I married my husband, we have flown to visit his family in the mid-west each xmas. The first year our connection flight got cancelled and we had to rent a car and drive in a snowstorm the rest of the way. The second year, now married, we flow over our airport but couldn’t land because of the snowstorm. We circled for 45 minutes, then flew back to the connecting airport to get a rental car and drive the rest of the way. The next year wasn’t as bad, we were redirected to another airport, at least we were in the right state. But the drive from there was 9 hours in the fog. Last year we made it the whole way! Well I’ve been watching the weather over there, and there’s lots of snow so wish us luck.

But oh yeah, the writing prompt! I look forward to it a little more each year. I’ve learned the family politics. I’ve gotten to know most of his family and I know what to expect. And each year I fee like I’m more a part of his family. With more comfort and trust, I can hand my daughter off to grandma and go nap or read a book. (Luxuries!) It’ll be busy this year – my MIL already sent me a daily itinerary (she used to be a school teacher) – but I am giving myself permission to excuse myself and go escape into another room by myself when I need to. And I’m really looking forward to a local, tiny ice cream shop, they make the best milkshakes!

What steps are you taking to prepare for the holidays?

I hate the holidays. I’m sure having my only other past, intense relationship crumple around this time of year doesn’t help. Neither do the short, gray days that reflect the gray inside my head and heart. But most of all I blame my orthodox Jewish education who said we are the minorities – we are – and we are not part of everyone else – not true. They reveled in being separate and persecuted. We were special, in that we did not belong. And not belonging created (so far) a life-long wedge between me and the xmas commercial crap that is shoved down our throats each year. You’re probably thinking, “bah humbug!” But I know all the xmas songs by heart and I’ve never tried to learn any of them. And when I lived in Paris I loved the holidays. Beautiful decorations everywhere, but no intense commercial marketing. When I babysat for a Mormon family in high school and college, I really felt a warmth about the holiday. For them it was, yes about Jesus, but more importantly it was about family. Now, as a parent, I find my anger about the holidays returning. From every direction, in all forms of media, everyone is telling you to buy stuff. And my toddler is caught up in this tsunami because she doesn’t understand this forced consumerism. I try to shield her as best as I can, but the decorations, like the marketing campaigns, are colorful and distracting and everywhere. And I have to explain to her that they are not for us, because we’re Jewish. She quiets and looks thoughtful after I say this. And I wonder how the wheels that are turning in her head are processing this. I don’t want her to feel excluded, but unfortunately that might be the end result anyway. At least, in our home. We’re headed to the mid-west at the end of the month to visit my in-laws, who are Catholic. She’ll get her fill of xmas there, grandma will see to it. I guess I just really hope she won’t try to talk to my daughter about Jesus. Even though I have no control over who my daughter becomes – gay? conservative? athiest? – I really want her to feel pride in being Jewish. And let’s face it, xmas is alluring, with its shiny decorations and its mountain of gifts (a sure thing from grandma – my daughter is the first grandchild, and she’s adorable). As for preparing, I’m not sure there’s much I can do except be flexible and be aware of my state of mind so I’m not triggered. Do I ask grandma not to talk religion with my daughter? Do I dare? Maybe after I first see what she’s bought me.

It’s Thanksgiving and I am thankful for

My husband – He must be an angel. I know of no other person (and I have met thousands of people) that has the patience and calm that he does. His quiet, strong presence is like a drug to me, I instantly feel relaxed and release all tension in his arms. How did I get so lucky, I don’t know. But every single day I am grateful that he exists and that I’m lucky enough to have him in my life.

My daughter – She is fascinating and hilarious. She is creative and exuberant, and her unquenchable desire to understand the world around her amazes me. Even though I am tired all the time, and sometimes can’t fully appreciate her boundless energy, I am glad it exists. Her fearless expressiveness means we are doing something right.

My home – Even though we’re only renting this beautiful house, I’m really glad we’re there. When we were first looking for a place to rent, we saw many different properties. When we saw this one, I fell in love. It was bigger than we needed, and more expensive than the rest, but my husband saw how much I loved it, and so chose it. Every day, looking at the pieces of the house that I love, reminds me how much my husband loves me.

My car – They say you can’t live in Orange County without a car. But hundreds do, I see them at the bus stops, and I say a silent prayer of thanks that as young as I am, I have my own transportation. My car equals freedom, the ability to go where I want when I want. And I am so grateful for it each and every day. Sometimes I feel guilt, why should I have a car, but someone’s grandmother, sitting at that bus stop with lots of bags, does not. I don’t understand the distribution of things in this world. But I am grateful for what I have.

Health insurance – I have seen so many doctors over the years, I have lost count. My PPO lets me go anywhere I want without a referral, and believe me I take advantage of that. Anytime I have any medical issue, I locate a specialist. I don’t waste time (and money) anymore speaking to doctors who are generalists. They’re just going to refer me anyway. I find out who’s the best and make my appointment. Even with health insurance, my medical bills are high. But without it I could not afford any medical help. So I am so very thankful for health insurance (even as frustrating as they can be a lot of the time).

My messed-up childhood – Despite all the suffering I have experienced, despite the after-effects all the trauma continues to have in my life, without my childhood being exactly as it was, I wouldn’t be who I am. It sounds cliche, but the strength I have garnered, the insight I wield, is incredibly valuable. No one wants to suffer, I certainly don’t. But the past is the past, it’s over and unchangeable. I can’t fix it or alter it. So instead I am thankful for it. It makes me interesting. It makes for great stories. And it connects me to a real and powerful part of every human being I get to know. Because no one is exempt from suffering. Every single one of us has that hole in the center of our being. Many people ignore it, fill their days with so much stuff and things to keep from paying attention. But some of us are experts in pain. And I think when someone meets me, they can sense that I understand, and we can connect on a deeper level than the usual fluffy shallowness.

My friends – More than anything else in my life, I am so very thankful for my friends. I am the luckiest person on this planet, because I have friends that love me unconditionally, in many different facades and angsty melodrama renditions, through the ugly and the dark, and back again. They’ve dispersed all over the world – Colorado, Utah, Chicago, DC, Hawaii, Washington, NoCal, SD, Florida, France, Israel – but even as far away geographically as they are, they are right here in my heart. Some of you I have known since elementary school, some of you I have just recently met. Some I haven’t talked to in a while, yet I know, if I reached out, they would grab a hold of my hand. Just knowing that’s there, is everything. When I am sitting in my black pit of tar, when the entire world has gone gray, when I ask myself “what’s the point?” and don’t have a good answer – if I just think about how much my friends love me, as is, it is a pulsating lifeline back to the light. I may feel alone, but I’m not. I’m never alone as long as these truly amazing friends exist. I am the luckiest person on this planet, because I have the most awesome, the most compassionate, the most brilliant group of friends ever. I love you all. You are my life saver, my lighthouse, my everything.