Friday, October 28, 2016

Reverb 2016: Ghosts

October 2016 Reverb // Ghosts of October Past:
The trees are dying and so are you. We want to know what you plan to do with your remaining years. In the alternate, tell us about your favorite dead relative.

Although I have struggled with words for some of the latest Reverbs, this one caught me. Initially I didn’t want to post anything; I’ve already shared about my mom and I felt like the post was too much at this time.

But then I considered my remaining years. And how lucky I am that I have such strong and meaningful memories with my own family. My biggest hope, beyond wealth and fame, would be that I can impact my daughter the way that my mom and family impacted me.

Skip the long elaborate vacations (although I certainly hope we can do these too), but short weekend escapes, just us. Leave the phones, grab the camera, and go for a walk on the beach together. Let Knish search for seashells and try to race the waves. Let her eat salt water taffy until she can’t even look at a vegetable. Spend maybe a night or two. Then home again, home again, jiggity jig.

I want to teach Knish how to cook. Jews celebrate with food and wine. Food is both cultural and spiritual; secular and religious. Each holiday has a corresponding menu, like Thanksgiving. For American Jews, the fall season means matzo balls for High Holy Days as much as it means pumpkin spice. Winter means latkes and the lingering smell of stale grease, as much as candy canes and cookies. And Spring brings matzo and special candy instead of Easter’s own special candy. And now that Knish is almost one (!!!!!), she is eating and I am so excited to share all of the seasons with her.

I want to be in pictures that aren’t selfies with her. I want her to know love and joy and comfort. And to give all of this to her, I also hope to find peace with myself.

I will not magically become a morning person. Or a different dress size. I will not become tremendously more patient or extroverted. Play dates and PTA will never be easy for me. I can improve all of these with self-care in my remaining days, but I can’t change who I am. By accepting myself, I hope that would make me a better mom (and wife and sister and friend). I can’t be there for her, if I’m not here for myself, as well.

This is my bucket list. Not marked by specific goals to tick off. But an intangible warmth that I hope to impart to my family and myself.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Reflections on the High Holy Days

I know I don't write much about faith here, but it has become more important to my daily life as I continue to grieve. I so naively believed that grief would end with the unveiling. Oh how much I had yet to learn. The tide doesn't stop just because no one is there counting it. The grief washes in and out, like the tide. And right now, the tide is high. 

Fall renewal

I started frequenting our library as I have worked to get more self care time in. I decided that reading would be the easiest. It isn't, but I've always loved it and a few extra minutes here and there is great. I went with the intent of finding a book recommended by my synagogue for the High Holy Days. Nearby on the shelf was a Life's Daily Blessings. I felt drawn to it. After flipping through, I found that each day has its own inspiration with a Jewish twist. I read today's, which was on "Sacred Speech". Essentially, G-d can realize all things across time at the same moment, and can connect two people. Words and thoughts are not static. They are not moments in time. We write it down and then the moment is captured permanently. Rabbi Olitzky wrote here "It is the acknowledgement of God's presence... that brings these words to me, that allows me to hear them, that permits them to enter my soul. Otherwise they might just be suspended in time and I would be unable to hear them at all."

In the weeks following Yom Kippur, a passage from the new Reformed siddur is still sitting with me and after reading this I immediately went back to it.

I love the synagogue and community I have found here. I grew up in a beautiful and intimidating conservative shul. I didn't go to Jewish day school and I always felt behind. Although the most spiritual Jew is rarely the one who knows the most about the prayer, I wasn't given the tools to understand the depth and breadth in front on me. The prayer books offered Hebrew and English, and for some important prayers, transliterations. But rarely real-time information on context and depth. You are meant to pray the way that the book says. I understand it and respect it. Heck, it was the only thing I knew for a long time.

The Reform prayer book however offers many tools to allow people to get what they can and want to out of the experience. I appreciate that. And in that spirit, in addition to the normal vidui (a confessional prayer that is one of the hallmarks of Yom Kippur), it included a poem for a personal vidui. I read it last year, but I forgot to go back to it. I didn't need it last year. This year I do. The traditional vidui is a list of actions we admit to God that we have done. The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are marked with apologizing to our fellow (wo)man before apologizing to God. And I like the idea of also apologizing to ourselves and marking a fresh look at self kindness.

I found this here, on Rabbi Barenblat's blog (the author).

Personal Al Chet
I need to speak these words aloud and to know that the universe hears them.
I get caught in old patterns and paradigms; I am stubborn and hard-headed.
In the last year I have missed the mark more than I want to admit.
Forgive me, Source of all being, for the sin I have sinned before you
By allowing my body to be an afterthought too often and too easily;
By not walking, running, leaping, climbing or dancing although I am able;
By eating in my car and at my desk, mindlessly and without blessing;
By not embracing those who needed it, and not allowing myself to be embraced;
By not praising every body's beauty, with our quirks and imperfections.
By letting my emotions run roughshod over the needs of others;
By poking at sources of hurt like a child worrying a sore tooth;
By revealing my heart before those who neither wanted nor needed to see it;
By hiding love, out of fear of rejection, instead of giving love freely;
By dwelling on what's internal when the world is desperate for healing.
By indulging in intellectual argument without humility or consideration;
By reading words of vitriol, cultivating hot indignation;
By eschewing intellectual discomfort that might prod me into growing;
By living in anticipation, and letting anxiety rule me;
By accepting defeatist thinking and the comfortable ache of despair.
By not being awake and grateful, despite uncountable blessings;
By not being sufficiently gentle, with my actions or with my language;
By being not pliant and flexible, but obstinate, stark, and unbending;
By not being generous with my time, with my words or with my being;
By not being kind to everyone who crosses my wandering path.
For all of these, eternal Source of forgiveness
Help me know myself to be pardoned
Help me feel in my bones that I'm forgiven
Remind me I'm always already at/one with You.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Water in a Cupped Hand

I don’t know how to hang on to these moments. These little moments, some already gone. We can’t go back in time. I try desperately to be here, in the moment, now. But am nostalgic already for when this won’t happen anymore. Will I come back to read these notes? I hope so. I try to journal to hold on and reflect just a minute longer. But nothing matches how it feels…

When she lays her head on my chest as I sing her a song goodnight. We rock in the chair, her belly full from one last bottle, the green lights from the sound machine lulling us both down.

Or her morning coos. If I’m lucky, I can get at least a cup of coffee in me, but hopefully my yoga and a shower before she yawns and stretches and talks to herself. I can let it go until the chats turn to yells. But as soon as she hears the nursery door open, she starts and turns to see who it is (almost always me). And then the biggest smile crosses her face, no matter which of us go to grab her. She streeeeeetches, and then clambers to the side of the crib so I can lift her up.

Our morning sips, bottle for her and coffee for me. Snuggled up on the couch as we make eyes at each other. She babbles her baby stories and tells me about her dreams, and I tell her about the plan for our day.

Breakfast is almost always yogurt and cheerios, eaten in courses, and I always get yelled at when I’m not giving the yogurt fast enough.

Little hands, grabbing my legs and my shirt, trying to climb up my leg, while I’m trying to get ready or make dinner. It is sweet, and I love that she needs me. And I try to appreciate that instead of focusing on the space that I sometimes need.

But she will also self-entertain. I sit here typing as she feeds herself Cheerios. Or I can have a real adult conversation with Hubs while she plays in her playroom. Oh, it’s better when we play with her. But even a few moments when she is in there, content and alone, and I can sneak a peek at my apps or adult conversation or even, amazingly, start dinner (although rarely can I finish it uninterrupted).

Baby sighs. Baby hands. Squishy baby toes. Baby breath. The kisses she blows me when I leave her at daycare. Even the way she reaches for the binky as soon as I put her in her carseat (only allowed in the car and at naps, but she knows where and when she gets it).

She dances. She claps. She waves hello and goodbye. She tells stories in her baby babble so emphatically! She loves everything about the cats: their toys, their food, even petting them.

She is curious, and silly, and loving, and amazed by the world around her. And she is almost one.

As parents, these moments slip through our cupped hands as if like water. Our hands are left wet, touched, but not full. I never understood, how could I have understood, before you came into our lives?

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Breakup Letter to My Doughnut

Today, I start my next round of Whole 30. I failed at my third attempt last month. While I gained so much physical and psychological progress from my successful round, it still takes an immense about of planning and drive to complete one. Between buying a house, moving, and chasing Knish around, I was not in the right space. But instead of aiming for moderation, I have channeled my stress into my favorite past time - eating. Eating to evoke memories and feelings and back tracking on all the progress I made in the thirty days. I was eating to feel good but none of it was working. So I have written this as my mental jolt as I prepare for the next thirty days. Food and emotions are so closely linked, and I need to practice eating as fuel for my body, not eating to fuel my feelings.

Dear Doughnut,

This is our last encounter. Long gone are the days when your sugary, pillowy body would jolt and fuel my morning. Now I'm left instead still hungry, with sugar tummy, and even more lethargic. And yet, still wanting more.

I remember first meeting you as a treat on sick days when my dad would pick me up from school. The sugar was an easy treat for us both, we could bond over it, and it made us bot ha little happy. But, it turns out, it was never the doughnuts that really did this.

I remember summers when I worked at a fancy bakery. But it was far more satisfying to stop at the Mom & Pop doughnut shop at 5:30 am to a freshly fried still hot doughnut than any of the fancy cheesecakes at my workplace.

Doughnuts, you dot my memory, sporadic and poignant, as a trusty snack along my path of growing up. This change is not you, it's me.

I have changed while you have remained exactly the same. It's okay to admit when we are growing apart.

I need more. I need protein and vegetables, and dearest Doughnuts, you cannot change enough to be these things for me and honestly, I wouldn't want you to. I know you'll always be here, but I just don't like you like that anymore.

I know my daughter will partake, after all growing up is finding balance and tasting treats. But my special Friday treat is no longer that. Not due to too many Friday indulgences, as they were getting more and more infrequent, but because you don't taste special anymore. You are nostalgic and I remember how I felt when I was with you as much as I remember how good you used to taste. But now I need to separate these. You will never taste as good as you do in that memory. And I need to be able to remember those feelings without the food.

Yes, food is a strong sense to our memories, can trigger memories, and is so much a part of who we are. But I don't need to eat you to remember those times.

I know other people still love you and I know that you will continue on your journey to bring joy to so many others. But you're not right for me and I need to start doing something about it.