The Edge

I’m on a mission to learn from all the people I see around me, to listen close and gain from the process.

This poem may not mean much, it may mean a lot, I’m honestly not sure, and I simply wrote it because I want to be writing more. More than once a month.

And so here is a poem born from a line overheard from a stranger in the library:

“We’re always 3 steps away

from becoming those

we fear

and those

we pity”

the boy in the library

explained

“I always feel like

I’m right

on the

edge”

He wasn’t talking to me.

I heard it as I studied,

I sat only on the

edge

of his conversation.

His bleached blonde hair,

nose ring,

and long black leather coat

said a story.

Did I fear him?

Did I pity him?

How close was I

to the

edge?

Those we fear, and those we pity.

Heretic or

fanatic.

Rich or

poor.

Bad choice or

good.

Always,

right on the

edge.

Those I fear

and those I pity

and then me.

3 steps to an

edge.

For how long

can one balance?

 

Photo by Joshua Stannard on Unsplash

Are We The Village?

As the chicken soup is served, the conversation around the table has gone from polite pleasantries to passionate discussions about what is wrong in our community. Top of the list? The Chinuch system. At Shabbos tables throughout the community, people are sharing their horror stories, their deep-rooted anger, or about how much they wish their children were finished with it.

I know, because I’ve been there.

Time, and time again. I’ve participated. I’ve been the one sharing, I’ve been the one listening, I’ve been the one saying yes! Enough is enough!

Every time I look at a child at the start of their educational experience, I feel my heart sink, knowing that most of them will face challenges that will destroy their love for education, rather than enhance it. I have yelled, I have gotten red-faced, I have stamped my feet.

I have sought out conversation, I have had meetings, I have talked, and talked, and talked.

And then I got tired.

Because I noticed something. People loved to talk. As someone who has put her name out there, loud and proud, as someone who believes that our education system falls far, far too short of it’s potential, I’ve been an address for so many people’s complaints and stories. I’ve been greeted with “let’s talk about how bad the education system is!”

In the beginning, I was excited about that. People knew that I was serious about correcting the system, and they wanted to be a part of it!

But slowly, I began to realize that wasn’t the case. People wanted me to correct the system. They didn’t want to be a part of the process, the work, and the struggles that would include.

This is the honest truth: the system is already being corrected.

Yes, there are lots of things wrong with our already existing system. I know really well how deep those issues are. I’ve been personally hurt by the system, by the lack of respect given to students. I’ve seen others hurt far more than I have. I’ve watched students fly through school, not even noticing how bad it is because of the band-aid of a wonderful social life and extra-curricular. But I’m not here to talk about all of these things, because we all know these things all too well.

I’m here to talk about something else.

Yes. There are lots of no good things going on in our Chinuch system. But…

There are also incredible things happening for Chinuch.

Namely, the Menachem Education Foundation, that tirelessly works to train teachers and principals is one. Their objective is to is take the word education and transform it into something truly magical. I’ve been involved in some of their incredible projects, and I know that there are other amazing things happening that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to explore, and I’m sure there are yet more that I don’t even know about.

But in my opinion, I believe they have one major struggle:

The lack of support from the community.

I’m not writing this to create an angry stampede of people feeling defensive and hurt.

I’m writing this because this is not a one-man job. It’s not a ten woman, fifteen man job. It’s our job. As a community, we must support those who are doing the work that we are not doing.

Enough complaining. Enough endless conversations that all end the same way. Let’s start the real conversation. Don’t stop talking, let’s keep talking – but while we talk, let’s keep our hands busy, let’s follow through with what we’re saying.

Today, the Menachem Education Foundation is running a Charidy campaign. Donate if you can. Spread the good word. Find out if they need something that perhaps you can provide. Find out if there’s any way that you can make a difference towards their tireless efforts.  When you say you can’t wait until your daughter graduates – think for a moment about what that means.

It takes a village to raise a child, but the village is slacking off, closing their eyes and wishing for it to go away. It’s not going to happen, my friends. It takes blood, sweat and tears to create change.

Shabbos table conversations are good, they’re great, and they’re the crucial first step.

But that’s all they are – a first step. And when the dishes are dried and put away, and the last of the leftovers are eaten, the issues are put to rest. And that – that is the precise moment the issue deepens.

We can’t afford to not support our change-makers. We can’t afford to keep allowing things to remain the same.

We can’t even afford to act on our own – we need to work together.

Let’s not just start another conversation about Chinuch.

Let’s start a different kind of conversation:

Somebody is already making the change. Now, how are we going to help?

Here’s how you can. Today. Trust me when I say this is a worthy cause:

https://www.charidy.com/mef

Here I Am.

I was standing in a Starbucks, waiting to use the bathroom. My eyes found a young woman sitting in the corner, knees curled up on the bench she was sitting on. She pulled her jacket tightly around her, as if she could protect herself from the chaos of the human species around her. Or perhaps, she was just cold.

This is something I do. I live in New York City, I spend a lot of time searching the seas of the people around me for meaning. Like the girl on the subway, reading a book the way you read a book when you wish you were the kind of person who could read a book on the subway. Her eyes fluttered up at every other sentence, anxiously surveying the crowd, desperate to know how others saw her. Or at least, that’s the meaning I assigned to the body language that I saw. Maybe she was nervous about missing her stop. Maybe she’s previously had a negative experience with a fellow passenger, and was keeping herself aware. Maybe she was thinking about something completely different.

Because from the outside, there’s only so much you can grasp about the life of another. But there are some things you see, some things that you observe that you can’t deny. At that moment you see the raw truth of a human accidentally become uncovered, before they turn themselves back in.

Like the boyfriend who pointed out something funny to the girl at his side. He was laughing. She rolled her eyes. At least one heart sunk in that moment. Perhaps two.

Or the two construction men sitting side by side, headphones on, dirt falling off their boots. I sit across from them, trying to silently observe as much as I can. One pulls his right headphone off his ear, and turns to his friend “I love this song.”

“Oh, yeah, I always get teary eyed when I hear it.”

Suddenly, in one moment, my entire perception of them is shattered. Moments later, a group of young kids boards. Filled with the energy of the youth, they quite literally bounce on to the train, and don’t stop moving. Two teenagers, one child with stars in his eyes. He can’t try harder to be like the boys he’s with, he’s trying so hard to be something. He can’t tell that he is already so much. The boy, only a boy, sits down to eat a snack to the right of me. The subway slides, he slides right into me, his friends yell “There’s a lady, idiot!”

I laugh.

One of the construction workers passes the boy a napkin to clean up his crumbs.

In this one moment, this is my entire universe. Three boys chasing something, two construction workers that know more about vulnerability than I do, and me.

Each one of us writing our own story.

The boys get off. The construction men do too.

I alone remain, privy to a secret world of occurrences that disappear as the next people sit down in those seats, oblivious to who sat there before them.

Two girls board.

As they sit down, one says to the other with her eyes on her phone:

“Oh, so-and-so died.”

A celebrity. I hope a celebrity.

“Oh, s***” her friend responds, moving her bag to her lap. “So, Katy recommended a great bar.”

Everything changed. Nothing changed. Death and life dancing together in the breath of their words.

I observe.

It’s what I do, it comes naturally, I can’t stop it. I draw conclusions, I assign life-stories, I pull meaning from meaningless moments.

The only thing I can’t see from the outside is me.

October 29th was the last time I posted something here.

On September 20th, I started a new chapter on this blog, I promised excellence. I promised quality. I successfully destroyed my creativity with those words.

Nothing has been good enough.

It’s one thing to be vulnerable and admit that you don’t think you’re very good. It’s another world to be vulnerable and admit that you like what you’ve produced.

How could I put my words up, claiming they are quality? Claiming that they are the cream of the crop, these are the words I chose to share?

The chase for perfection has always been my downfall.

My writing always suffers when I put an iron on it, forcing it to be wrinkle-free and strong.

As I look at my students and tell them “It’s okay if it’s not perfect,” I wonder why I can’t look myself in the eye and say the same.

As I look at my students and tell them “You don’t have to write a novel today to be a writer,” I wonder why I torture myself, trashing every single idea I have because it’s not good enough.

The collection of observations you read above have been sitting in my notebook for weeks. Waiting.

They’ve been waiting for me to translate them into something even better than they are. They’ve been waiting to be carefully placed inside a best-selling series. An award-winning essay on the psychology of human behavior.

I’m studying Psychology. I’ve got aspirations bigger than my blog, and somehow I confused myself by assuming that those aspirations contradict my words right to exist on this platform.

I started playing ukulele a few weeks ago. I’m learning, slowly. My fingers hurt. But it’s thrilling, every time I figure out that chord. Every time I make a melody that someone else can recognize.

I allow myself to be imperfect when it comes to the ukulele. I am able to see, so clearly, that practice is necessary.

Why has writing always been different for me?

I know me.

That’s the only thing I know.

One thing I’ve always known about myself is that I was going to be a writer.

Today, in my life, I’m taking steps towards a different kind of future.

Perhaps I’m struggling to forgive myself for that. Perhaps I feel as if I’ve betrayed writing. I haven’t been as grateful as I could have been for words. I acted like I could be more than a writer.

But I can.

And I will.

For all my observing, I’ve been keeping my eyes trained outwards.

I’ve been afraid to let my eyes look in over the last few months.

I’ve been working so hard towards something that I didn’t realize I’ve always been dreaming of.

And it’s not writing.

And perhaps my identity has shifted in a startling way.

And perhaps these are all the reasons why I haven’t shared a word since October 29th.

And maybe it all doesn’t matter.

Maybe it’s time I take some of my own advice.

It’s okay if it’s not perfect.

I don’t have to write a novel today to be a writer.

I don’t have to know the meaning of everything, for all of it to have meaning.

I’m tired of not writing. I’m tired of putting my words on a shelf, dusting them so they don’t get dirty.

My words are who I am, and that person is far from perfect.

So here they are.

Here I am.

 


Photo by Eddi Aguirre on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Know

Yesterday, traveling beneath New York City on the subway lines, I found myself surveying every person around me.

Had they heard? Did they know? Did they care? Could I trust them? Should I trust them?

Are they friends, or are they foes? Would they hate me for my Jewish faith? Would they stand by if someone tried to hurt me? Would they protest my death while watching it? Would they send thoughts and prayers?

Would they save me?

When something as tremendously horrifying as the murders in Pittsburgh happens, you’re forced to reconsider everything and everyone around you.

If I called out “who here loves all people?” how many hands would raise, confident and proud?

If I called out “who here loves the Jewish people?” how many hands would raise?

Would my words echo?

Worse – would my words be swallowed by a silence deeper than I could bear?

I’ve been coddled by this belief that this couldn’t happen here, not in America, not in a safe town like Pittsburgh, not here.

It happened here.

I watched, bewildered, as so many found their words so quickly, almost as the news was being spread, simultaneously were the answers, the blame, the hate.

I felt bowled over, pushed against a wall, as a stream of answers were being pushed my way –

“This is why!”

There is no why.

Is there a why?

If there is a why, then all I’ve ever been taught is a lie.

We always search for the why, but what I’ve learned is that there never is an answer to the why, and that is what makes us human.

Knowing there are no answers.

Not trying to find the answers.

How can we even try?

How can we organize pain as a question and an answer?

How can we possibly give an answer?

For me, there are no answers – there is only disbelief, only heartbreak, only wishes from so deep inside that it won’t ever happen again.

But there are questions, endless questions, for everyone, from G-d, to the smallest children on the street.

G-d, why do you allow evil in this world? How much light can be born from hate?

Child, how can we change this world for you? How can we purify it enough so that you don’t collapse from the pollution of our pain?

As I hear parents beg for help – “how do we speak to our children?” I wonder if the children need to be spoken to.

Children deserve to be coddled and protected from our world’s most awful truths, but more than that, children know the truth already.

How do we speak to our children?

Perhaps, rather than pulling them to grow up into our chaotic world, allow us to learn from them. Look into their eyes and see the innocence there – remember, remember what it means to be a child, to not know that such pain exists, to not expect it of the world around us, to not grasp for the answers but to allow ourselves to sit down and cry. To cry, ceaselessly and without shame, at the utter unfairness of it.

And then to pick ourselves back up, to make friends with those around us, to make the world simple again – love leads to love.

I’m not a parent, and in moments like these I am grateful that the only eyes I have to meet are mine in the mirror. I don’t have to crouch down to look into a heartbroken face, a child shattered by what they’ve overheard, having the moment in which their world goes from perfection to fractured.

And maybe I’m all wrong. Maybe nothing about this is simple. Maybe nothing about this is simply about that fact that 11 worlds have just been completely shattered because of their Jewish faith.  Maybe it’s not just about the fact that there are people out there who hate me for my faith and will stop at nothing to destroy. Maybe this is about politics, or guns, or protests and rallies. I don’t know. That’s the truth.

And that is why I hesitated to write words at all.

What use are words?

I’m no political scientist, or social commentator.

Maybe one day, I’ll add those qualifications to my resume, but for now, I am just one voice.

One voice, who grasps for words every time I feel the earth shake beneath my feet.

These are my words, and I’m sharing them with you in a desperate moment of trying to connect, to find a place we can meet, in a place that we can throw up our hands, cry out at the unfairness of it, and say, maybe, we just don’t know.

 

 


Photo by Jarl Schmidt on Unsplash

A Short: A Girl Named Blue.

There once was a girl named Blue.

Blue was just another human on earth, another passerby between here and there.
But Blue felt like anything but a passerby.
Blue felt…well, Blue felt everything.
That was the problem.
Blue felt too much.
Life and Blue were synonymous – the pains, the joys, it all passed through Blue like a vicious wind, causing hurricanes and tornadoes inside.
Blue loved the city. The thing about the city that Blue loved was that you couldn’t escape the sheer life of it all. The people were everywhere, their lives spilled across the pavements, their laughter reaching to 30th-floor apartments, their arguments reaching higher.
Blue liked it. Life was meant to be lived, and this was her way of living. Eyes wide open, pen at the ready, soaking up all that happened around her. The beauty in the pain, the pain in the beauty – it couldn’t be ignored.
But Blue often found herself being told things that didn’t sit right.
People would say “don’t let it get to you” or “get over it” or “you can’t fix things for everyone.”
And when Blue heard these words, she heard so much more.
She heard “why can’t you just be more like everyone else?”
But Blue didn’t want to.
See, the thing is, Blue loved the way she heard every song with a deeper note, saw every sunset with richer colors, and the way she knew there was potential in a universe that so many deemed destined for destruction.
But Blue also bruised more easily – hence, her name. She hurt easily. Pain found it’s way to her heart and sat there, comfortable in its familiar surroundings.
When others hurt, she hurt. She couldn’t help it. It was how she was made.
As everyone around her carried on, eyes dry and self-assured, Blue looked at her wounds and wondered why she wasn’t more like everyone else.
So she tried.
She tried to swallow it all.
She tried to ignore the rushing winds, the broken sidewalks, the vulnerabilities that called to her from everyone who walked past.
She bandaged her wounds and wore the right clothing that protected her.
She could be like others. She could care less. She could be less affected and infected by the life around her.
So she lived. Eyes shut, heart closed, she lived like the rest of the universe. She didn’t let the pain in. The joy couldn’t seem to find her either, but at least the pain wasn’t there.
But one day, her armor cracked.
And life began to sneak back in.
And the tears began to spill.
And Blues heart felt heavy.
And she noticed her arms and her legs and her soul begin to look blue once more.
And Blue broke.
Blue was angry. Angry with herself. Angry that she always seemed to be hurting. Angry that she couldn’t just live like others seem to.
Blue walked, and walked, and walked. She tried to walk off the way she felt so different than everyone around her. She tried to walk off the way that life grabbed onto her and didn’t let go.
As she walked, she saw a construction worker, tired and heavy from a hard days work lean over and hand a napkin to a child eating a cookie.
As she walked, she saw men. She saw women. She saw children.
All living.
She saw pain.
But she saw joy.
She heard laughter, smelled warm, soul-lifting food, saw the young being kind to the old, the old being kind to the young – and she knew.
Blue knew it was worth having the bruises. Blue knew it was worth having some days that the world punched her in the gut.
Because Blue knew that every wound had a story, every bruise made her stronger, every hurt propelled her forward. Blue began to realize that when she was no longer afraid of the bruises, those bruises made her braver.
She learned that being Blue was not something that happened to her, but something that was a result of her being her. Rather than running from being Blue, she began to embrace the Blue in everything around her. She realized that the people who loved her most, loved her as Blue.
And life for Blue began to look different.
Blue knew that life would always be more for her than it was for others, but she also knew she was entirely grateful for that.

She was entirely grateful that she was Blue.


Featured Photo by 秋白 on Unsplash

52/52.

All year, I fantasized about writing this post.

The last post.
I thought about which direction I’d take it, the options being quite endless.
For a while, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to reveal a brand new project, something exciting. Alas, no project has been underway that is ready for reveal this week.
It took until this week, the actual completion of the 52 posts, to realize exactly what I want to say.
In honor of the last 52 posts, I’d like to take a few steps back, back to the very beginning of this blog.
The truth is, it began as a Tumblr account back when I was in 10th grade.
I came upon the name ThisPublicDiary rather accidentally. I had been wracking my head for an idea, something creative, something that represented me and my words.
I chose HerPublicDiary. That was already taken as a Tumblr username.
I wrote at first anonymously, but then, always a sharer at heart, the identity behind the account was revealed slowly but surely.
In twelfth grade, my brother asked me why I don’t just start a real blog.
Thus – ThisPublicDiary.com was born.
When I chose the name, I didn’t quite know how accurate the title of my blog would be. But when I read back into my old writing, my newer writing, I’m amazed at how much of a public diary it is.
From those very first posts up until the post last week, I have bared my heart and my soul on this platform, leaving a trail of markable growth behind me.
The last 52 posts have been a journey all of their own.
When I embarked on my year of writing, I was about to step into a classroom as a teacher for the very first time, and I was 100% terrified.
I needed to prove to myself that I could work hard at something I committed to. I had to prove to myself that I could write even when I didn’t feel like it. I had to prove to myself that I could be absolutely and completely vulnerable and let the world take me as I am.
I did it, folks, I did it.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I stepped into a classroom again, for my second year as a teacher, and I felt the strength of my 50 posts behind me, my incredible year of proving myself wrong, and I did it. The nerves were there – change is always scary, but the nerves were completely different. I had proven I could do this. It was a whole different story from the year before.
This past year, so, so much has happened, so many milestones met, milestones that had weighed on me for so long.
I also traveled to Europe for the first time.
I’m also back in school now, having finally focused what exactly I want to do, and finally being ready to do what it takes to get there.
I’m a passionate person, you know this. I have ideas and plans and all kinds of opinions, and at times I’ve feared I’m all talk, and no do.
This year, I discovered I can also be a do-er. It doesn’t always come easily, but I can do it, and knowing that only propels me further into my future.
This past year, I did some really scary things.
I learned that in a million ways, I’d rather wear my heart on my sleeve than keep it locked up.
And that I sincerely hope I can help others trust this world enough to wear it on their sleeves too.
And I still dream of a world that is trustworthy enough for them to do so.
I’ve had some really, really good days.
And some really, really, really bad ones.
I’ve always known life could hurt, but man, have I learned that life hurts.
But on the flip side, man, have I learned about joy, about goodness, about true, raw kindness and connection.
So, what’s next?
What’s next for me, what’s next for ThisPublicDiary?
I don’t know what comes next for me, that’s hardly in my control.
And what comes next for this blog is largely in your hands, dear readers.
For the past year, I’ve selfishly handed you whatever I wanted. There were a couple times that my posts were so bad I found myself really, really close to just deleting it.
The entire year, the whole project was almost entirely selfish – I made a commitment, I wanted to keep it, I needed to keep it, and so I gave.
The weeks you read, my writing had so much purpose.
The weeks you didn’t, less so.
But the year is over.
This past year, I put myself first in a lot of ways.
I needed to. The things I got done, the things I accomplished, they required my full focus and selfishness.
And now…I want this blog to be less about me, and more about you.
Don’t worry – I’ll never stop being ridiculously vulnerable.
But I want to give you better quality content.
I don’t want to write for the sake of writing, not here. I’ll do that on my own personal time.
I want to know what you want to see from me.
It’ll mean probably no weekly posts. I hope to upkeep a certain sense of consistency, but my priority will be quality.
Like I tell my creative writing students – first you have to wring yourself out, get to know the real, raw parts of yourself. Then, you can think about your audience.
This past year, I turned myself inside out, I analyzed the depths of me.
This past year I’ve written short stories, poetry, vignettes and endless ramblings.
What do you like best?
I’m ready to focus on my audience.
At the risk of sounding completely ego-centric (although I hope you know confidently that I don’t mean it that way,) I have a request: If you have ever considered reaching out to me for any reason, please do.
If you liked what I wrote, if you didn’t, if you related, if you found it ludicrous, I want to hear from you. If you wished I wrote more about a certain topic or in a specific style, please tell me. If nothing else, I want this blog to foster human connection, and inspire honesty and vulnerability in all of us.
Here’s to a new year.
Here’s to a year of new connections, new friends and new experiences.
Here’s to a year of quality content, honest writing, and new stories being written.
Here’s to a year of ThisPublicDiary being not only mine, but yours too.
Here’s to a year of maintaining the balance of inward and outward.
 Here’s to a year of ThisPublicDiary: Scene 2.
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Blog Post: 52/52!


Featured Photo via Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

The Road Between

There is so much that I want from life.

Recently though, I’ve boiled down my prayers to be pretty specific:

If there is one thing I do right in this lifetime, may it be my family.

My prayers don’t end there, certainly not – but each time I turn to G-d I let Him know that that is the key aspect of my prayers. That if He’s unable to grant me anything else I ask for, He still gift me with that.

If nothing else pans out, allow me to still be capable of a loving marriage and raising my children the way I hope.

. . .

I am a spiritual person.

Rosh Hashonah is a very spiritual holiday. Even as a kid, I would look forward to the familiar tunes and prayers said only on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. That excitement has not faded and has only strengthened through a deeper understanding of what the holidays represent.

Over this Rosh Hashonah, I was deeply connected and focused.

I was rudely awakened yesterday as assignment due dates and to do lists came back into focus, and I was reminded that I am not a spiritual being, I am actually so very human.

Our days are made up of so much, our world is made up of even more, and there is no end to the opportunities and challenges that arise each day.

In the end, our joys and our pains are oh so physical, not so much spiritual.

Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur are nice – and more than that, they are truly truly important.

But they are the spiritual half of our journey, and in a way, the much easier part.

I didn’t forget I was human on Rosh Hashonah – I prayed for all the parts that are human in me. But somehow, on Rosh Hashonah, being human was easier.

And yesterday, as I emerged from the cocoon of prayer and spirituality, it was a startling wake-up call to what being human really is about.

Because our life is not made up of enormous life-changing events, like the ones we pray for.

Our life is not made up of graduating college, getting the dream job, getting married, or having children.

It’s made up of all the tiny things in between, the tiny things that are easy to forget about when you’ve got your eyes on the big picture.

But when you face life, those tiny things are exactly what it is.
I prayed for the big things, because they are easier to pinpoint.

Today, I pray for the small things.

As I transition back into my world, suited up with spirituality, I pray that the small things go right. That our lives are filled with the small things that count.
I pray that the big things are so great that I get to appreciate and notice the tiny things.

. . .

At the end of the day, my prayer still stands – if I do anything right in this lifetime, may it be my family.

Yet I mean that in a thousand ways, as it filters down to real life.

All the roads that lead towards it – may they be brightly lit. May all the roads we take in life be brightly lit and filled with joy.

Because it is the road we’re on that that counts. The destinations are important, but it’s the rest stops that make it better. The music we choose, the snacks we eat, the people we put in our passenger seats.

It’s those tiny things that make up life that make life worth living.

And I look forward to G-d granting me these prayers. That ahead of me, I have a life filled with sticky fingers, dirty kitchens, late night deadlines, busy work days, hugs and kisses, aching laughter, days in swimming pools, and a heart filled to capacity.

On Rosh Hashonah, we pray.

And on Yom Kippur, may it be sealed.
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Blog Post 51/52.

Featured Photo by rawpixel  via Unsplash

To The One Who Made Me

Dear G-d,

In six days, I’ll be standing in synagogue, standing before You, a tiny speck before an all-encompassing, all-knowing creator. Before the big day, I’d like to write to you, so that I can explain where I’m coming from this year.
You and I, we have quite the relationship. I’d like to say it’s mostly reliable. I turn to You on a constant basis, and You respond. I may not hear Your words per-se, but You respond in other ways.
When I’m in a rush, and the lights work in my favor, I know that’s You.
When I wake up in the morning, energized and inspired, excited about my day, I know that’s You.
When the food I’m cooking comes out tasting exactly the way I was hoping, I know that’s You.
When I find things right before I lose them, I know that’s You.
When the concept I’ve been struggling with for a while suddenly clicks, I know that’s you.
When the little things and the big things seem to fall into place, I know that’s You.
Yet.
When life darkens, and things feel trapped, that is still You.
When the pain is greater than the joy, that is still You.
When things fall on the ground, when anxiety is rampant, when lives are taken, when the world seems to be falling apart at the seams, that is still You.
And it’s on those days that hurt the most that I am forced to recognize that the same You that brings goodness and joy to our world also brings pain and misery and mourning.
As a simple human being, I struggle to wrap my head around this, G-d, but the truth is I don’t want to understand.
I just want You to start choosing goodness.
Is there a cup that must be filled with tears to turn the tide? G-d, I am confident that it is overflowing.
You created me, You give me each thought, each step, each new day.
Sometimes I wonder, when You breathed life into me on that very first day, what were your hopes and dreams for me?
What did you hope I would do with the gifts you’ve handed me? What did you hope I’d say with the words you gave me?
And am I doing it, G-d? Am I following the path You painstakingly created for me?
Some days it feels like I’m walking my own path, all alone, so determined to do things differently. You made me this way, didn’t You?
What did You dream for me?
There are times in life, G-d, I just wish You would speak.
I’ll be in synagogue in six days, and G-d, I have so many prayers.
I have countless dreams and wishes for this world, for my future, for the people I love.
I’ll be bringing them all to You, every last one.
I am no saint, nowhere close, and I fail on a pretty consistent basis.
But I am Yours, aren’t I?
G-d, You’ve designed a glorious world. It is filled with natural sights that blow my mind on a daily basis, it is filled with billions of people who do their best every day with what You’ve given them. You’ve given us so much, yet you’ve also taken more than You need, and G-d, I pray that You see us worthy of so much more goodness.
We’re all just doing our best, G-d.
And as the Shofar blows next week, and our prayers are lifted to your doorstep, do Your best.
Do Your best to say yes. Give us our dreams. Give us our wishes. Answer our prayers in the way that we seek for them to be answered.
Please.
Allow the things I only dare dream about become a part of my reality.
Allow the work of my blood, sweat and tears to develop into something more real and more beautiful than I could have hoped.
In six days, I’ll be in synagogue, standing before You, my heart open, my words sincere. My whole self, with my past behind me, and my future that only You know – it’ll all be there.
G-d, You created me. Now You have to deal with me. And being that You created me, You should know better than anyone what that means.

I don’t give up all too quickly.

Sincerely,

Etti

Blog Post: 50/52!

Featured Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Can I Just Be Honest?

As the High Holidays sneak closer, this time of year is one of introspection. A closer look, an uncovering of what I’ve safely kept hidden all year – the more difficult parts of life, and myself, that I’d rather not confront on a regular basis.

Every year, for the month before Rosh Hashonah begins, it is customary to listen to the shofar blow, a spiritual version of an alarm clock, a wake-up call to take stock of what counts. This year, we received a very real and cruel wake-up call.  When my cousin passed away, long before the world could afford to lose her, it was a harsh reminder that life is fragile and how easy it is to lose focus.
I’m a very passionate person. At times, I’ve even been told I’m too passionate.
But I have so many dreams, so many hopes for the future, so many ways we can be doing better as a nation, as educators, as people.
There are so many ways I can be doing better as me.
I know that I am not the best version of myself yet. I know there is so much more digging, so much more discovery to do – but do we ever really become our best selves? Is there ever a time that we can put down our tools, put our hands up and say “done”?
This Elul, this month leading up to Rosh Hashonah, has been one filled with lots of thinking, lots of looking within and facing some hard truths.
Why have I been putting certain things off?
Why do I hold back from doing certain things?
Why do I hold back from saying things that are difficult to say?
Why do I consistently and constantly allow for the things that don’t matter to get in the way of things that really do?
One thing my cousin Hindi was really good at was honesty.
How many times will I lie to myself before I realize that we only benefit from honesty, no matter how hard it seems at the time?
As much as I love to say that I love vulnerability, and sharing my deepest thoughts, I suffer too from the normal human condition of being terrified to open the door at times.
Because when we open doors, the world is allowed to judge what is within, and allowing people to judge our most inner selves is scary stuff.
But. Honesty. Ugh, honesty.
There is this moment in time, always, right before I say something I’m scared to say. It’s this moment in my mind in which I must make a decision – silence, or share?
Every time I choose the latter it’s like an adrenaline rush, as soon as I commit to being honest, to sharing what hurts, or what may be scary to say.
And want to know the truth?
I’ve never regretted it.
That fact alone should be enough to motivate me the next time, but each time it’s a fresh new battle.
Vulnerability and honesty are not easy. But they are the only things that keep us human.
If we can’t relate to each other, if we don’t know each others weaknesses as much as we know each other’s strengths, how can we connect on the level necessary for human connection?
Sometimes my honesty and openness makes others uncomfortable, and I apologize deeply if you have ever been on the receiving end of this.
But for as long as I live, I hope to never lose the ability to be vulnerable, and I pray that this is a year that each time I choose to open up, I lose a little bit of the fear that comes with it.
For we are all only human.
Life is fragile and comes with no guarantees.
Why should we hide? Why should we fear being real, when that is what we are all craving anyway?
We live in a world of edited realities – let’s not let that determine who we are.
I’ve had so many beautiful, raw, vulnerable conversations with people since the start of this blogging-for-a-year stint, and that has taught me that when you open a door, others will walk through it.
I hope to always be able to keep this door open, and I invite you all to open your own.
I’m not promising that it won’t scare the heck out of you.
It will.
But that’s the point.
This post is a kind of a mess, and I’m not sure if it all flows, but it’s what’s on my mind today, and this is me.
Here’s to a year of truth and honesty, and being unashamedly myself.
Here is to a year of not being afraid.
Blog Post: 49/52

Featured Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

When Everything Broke

While I was uttering the words of Psalms, heartfelt prayers in my heart and on my lips far away from home on a sunny morning in France, the one thought I knew deep in my mind was “G-d wouldn’t.”
I knew, so solidly, that everything would be okay. That Hindi would come back from this. That soon our family would be discussing the huge miracle that occurred.
I knew it.
And then in one sickening moment, everything broke.
I didn’t believe the words I was reading. For hours afterward I waited for someone to say it was a mistake. That it wasn’t true. That everything wasn’t destroyed.
I consistently and constantly use words to express myself, but this time there weren’t any. Like being socked in the stomach, I couldn’t breathe, let alone write or speak. Only silence felt suitable in the wake of such an immense tragedy.
And so, I was silent.
For the first time all year, I missed writing a weekly blog post.
Every other time, I couldn’t justify breaking my commitment, I couldn’t allow myself to let a week go by without forcing myself to write something.
But when G-d kicks you in the gut, nothing matters anymore.
There were no words. I didn’t want to create words. I didn’t want to be a part of this tragedy, I didn’t want to raise my voice, I didn’t want to hear my words echo in such a cruel world.
And as I sit here, writing with tears in my eyes, wearing a dress and heels I’m trying on for a friends wedding I’ll be at next week, reality makes less sense to me than it ever has.
G-d took a mother from her children. A wife from her husband. A daughter, a sister, an aunt from her family, a teacher from her students.
Someone whom I’ve always, always admired.
In a world of false realities, Hindi was real.
She didn’t know how to work social media, she was all about honesty and truth.
The meals I shared with her and her family at her parent’s house I always remember so fondly, even before this horrible tragedy. She was quick to include me in conversation, ask me honest questions and listen, oh so well.
In a world of distraction, Hindi was here.
In a world of easy ways out, Hindi worked so hard to achieve her dreams.
Her babies are now left to grow up without her – how? They are surrounded by so much support and love, but nothing on earth can replace a mother.
As I take my next steps in life, I wish I could have spoken to her sooner about how to do it all. How to have the family and the career, how to maneuver the education system, how to bring positive change to the world, how to raise children to be open-minded and intuitive. But I missed my chance. I missed my chance to tell her how much I’ve admired her. I missed my chance to ask all my questions.
A part of me is broken, and always will be.
These things don’t go away. There will always be hard-hitting reminders about this new ugly reality we live in.
And for a long time, there will be so many moments that it feels like there is no air to breathe.
G-d knows what He did. Somewhere deep inside me, I believe His tears are mixed with ours. As I cry into my pillow, furious with Him, I desperately pray that He knows enough is enough.
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