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Finding Time

Last week I wrote a blog post with my eyes half closed, forcing the words to come out, one after the other, in a way that made any sort of sense.

I wrote it, I published it in the last couple of hours of the week, and called it a day.
I didn’t share it on my facebook like I usually did. I didn’t attach a photo. I even forgot to write what number blog post it was.
I was really close to skipping it altogether. In fact, in my mind, I was already writing this weeks post, all about how I finally missed a week.
But my heart, my soul, my words wouldn’t let me cop out.
So, I put everything aside and got it done.
It wasn’t great. I wouldn’t even say it was good.
But sometimes, life demands everything you have.
Sometimes things get so busy that hobbies, projects, and pretty much anything selfish has to take a back burner for a while.
And I came really close to breaking my blogging streak. Before camp started, I could count on one hand how many times I’d skipped my daily morning prayers in the last 3 years. Since camp started, I don’t have enough fingers to count.
Sometimes, life demands everything you have.
But I didn’t want it to take this.
I’ve been blogging weekly for 43 weeks now.
In a big way, it’s selfish. I don’t expect anyone to care if I miss a week. I don’t expect anyone to care to hear my thoughts. So it’s pretty much entirely selfish.
But then, there are those times that my writing reaches a soul, and it transforms that piece of writing for me.
And this week, someone texted me after Shabbat to tell me that they were quite alarmed when they thought I had missed a week.
And my heart sang.
Because it is moments like that that assure me that I am not yelling into the abyss.
Yes, these blog posts are selfish.
I was so close to not writing one at all last week. My brain was too full of schedules and games, to-do lists and errands to find any creative words floating around.
But then, in the quiet night, I sat and I reflected and I wrote.
And it put everything into perspective.
I didn’t push that blog post, I didn’t share it on Facebook. Almost nobody saw it.
But I did. I reflected. I wrote. It put my exhausting week into order, it reminded me of what it was all for.
With just a week and a half left to camp, I will be able to give my blog more attention soon.
But for now, I couldn’t skip a week, because for one moment, I had to be selfish.
Blog Post: 44/52

Featured Photo via Google.

When Death Tried to Retire

Disclaimer:
I am well aware that death, depression, grief, anxiety and everything else mentioned in this piece are incredibly personal and private experiences. I am in no way making any form of statement, or passing judgment on those who deal with or have ever dealt with any of it. This is simply a creative piece born from a writing prompt, and I hope that everyone can read it with that understanding. There are allusions to suicide, depression, and grief. If those are things you are sensitive to, wait for my next blog post, I promise it won’t be this heavy.

I’ve been working at my job for thousands of years. For real – I’ve been here since the beginning of time. I was a good employee, I would imagine. I always fulfilled my duties, never complained, never questioned my task list, never protested. Well, there were a couple of times..and I actually won the argument with my Boss occasionally. But most of the time I accepted what I had to do, and separated my personal feelings from the task at hand.
But I’ve had enough.
I’ve been working this job for so long, and I’m ready for retirement. I’m ready for a life of pleasure, kicking it back..enjoying things a little bit. I’ve handed in my notice but turns out, I have to find my own replacement.
The old Boss made me promise I wouldn’t go off to my life of retirement until I’d found someone to handle my job. Apparently, the world can’t function for even one minute without someone doing my job.
So today the search begins.
I’ve made a list of prospective replacements.
To start, there’s Life.
Life is always complaining about her job. She’s always grumping about being unappreciated, and being taken advantage of. She’s always seemed so envious of my role.
“They’re afraid of you, Death! When you’re nearby, they do everything you say. Suddenly, I’m soooo important when you’re around, but as soon as you’re not there, they totally forget all the promises they made me.”
I can’t even tell you how many times she’s moaned and groaned to me about that. As if I could do anything about it.
Occasionally, we’ve worked together if she was particularly struggling with a task. I’d come close enough to really shake things up, but then I’d disappear before completing the job. She’s always been really grateful when I’ve done that. But so often, she’s frustrated that she even needs to call me in, that she can’t do it on her own.
So she’s definitely a possible candidate, she’d love to have my job.
Illness has always been a little wary of me. I’m not sure why, being that we often have to work together. It would just be easier for us get along..but she’s always whispering over there with Life about me, always judging me and openly admitting that she wishes I just wouldn’t show up to work some days.
Ouch.
I don’t think I’ll approach Illness at all..I’ve never gotten any friendly vibes, she always just shuts down when I’m around.
Skip that.
My friend Grief might be interested. He’s been around for as long as I can remember. Very rarely do I have a job that he’s not there for, and when I have a job that isn’t on his task list, it makes my job so much more unpleasant and depressing. But he’s so good at what he does, and he loves his work. He’s always talking about how rewarding it is to pass his job off to Life, how the work itself is so difficult and painful but the results of a successful job are so enriching. When he completes a task, he’s on a high until he gets to the next one.
I couldn’t take that away from him.

Depression! I can’t believe I forgot about that guy. He is obsessed with me, always following me around, always asking me questions about my job, always trying to secretly add to my task list. I’ve tried to force him and Life to hang out more, but they just couldn’t get along.

The truth is, it’s been lonely doing what I do.

As much as I love the others, I’ve never been anyone’s real best friend. Other than Depression that is, and that is very one way. Everyone has seemed to try to avoid me as much as possible. For example, the other day I walked into a party that Life was throwing. It looked amazing. Depression and Anxiety were in the corner, Grief was just moving to the music slightly, but you should have seen Illness. She was dancing it up in the center. Kindness was right up there with her, Generosity was the DJ, and you should have seen Love. I’ve never seen anything look more beautiful. She was surrounded by Gratitude and Appreciation, and they were just staring at her adoringly.

I watched all this from the outside and figured I’d join the party. As soon as I walked in though, it was as if the entire party shut down in an instant. Depression and Anxiety perked up, but everyone else just stared at me. Love began to cry, and I was only there for a couple of seconds before Life stormed up to me and pushed me with two hands.
“Get out of here, Death! Nobody wants you here! Just leave!”
So I did.
I cried all night long, wishing I was given a different role at the beginning of time. I would never be like them, I’d never be welcome. Grief once confided in me that every time he turned a corner, he hoped he would bump into Love or Life, always dreaming of them. I know that the only ones who dream about me are Depression and Hopelessness and I’m just not interested.
When I told the Boss I was thinking of retirement, I was met with extremely disappointed eyes.
“You’re great at your job, Death. Nobody can do what you do”
I took it as a compliment then, but I’m starting to realize it just might be the truth.

Nobody that hasn’t done my job since the beginning of time could possibly understand what I do.
Depression might think he wants to be me and have my job but I know who he needs to spend more time with. Understanding. Support. Happiness. Recovery. They’ve never wanted to hang out with me, and that’s how I know they’re much better for him.
My job is pretty horrible. But occasionally, my task list isn’t so bad.
Sometimes I get to work with Pride and Contentment. Occasionally, I get to work with Satisfaction. Those are the good times.
I’ll never forgive the Boss for the times He’s made me work with Evil and Cruelty. Anger. Fear. They are the worst of the worst, I’d say even less liked than me, but at least they have each other.
I do wish I had just one friend, one real friend, someone who understood me, and my role. Who understood that there are times it destroys me to carry out my task, but I know that it has to be done. That when I pass a task on to Grief or Heartbreak, nothing hurts more. But then when months later, I watch Grief and Life get to work together, or I see Support and Care working on one of my previous tasks, my heart is warmed.
So perhaps I won’t retire very soon.
But I’ll be renegotiating my terms.
I’ll be asking for a shorter task list, a much shorter task list. Because honestly, I think everyone’s getting a little tired of my job, especially me.
And I’ll let the Boss know that I refuse to work with Depression any longer. The more time he spends with me, the less he understands that he should really be striving to be like Life.
While I feel privileged to have such a unique job, I’m determined to be the only one who does what I do, no matter how lonely that makes me feel.
And while I’m talking to the Boss, I should really talk to Him about that crazy clique, that Evil-Cruelty clique. I’m not going to be doing any projects with them anymore either, no thank you.
And maybe, in a little while, when I do completely phase out and retire, maybe Life will be able to look at me without anger flashing in her eyes, and Love can spend some time with me without it always ending with her in tears. Maybe Grief will join me in retirement, and maybe I’ll finally be allowed to hang out at a party, as long as I promise that I really have retired and have no plans for a comeback.
It’ll come. That day will come.

Blog Post: 41/52

Featured Photo by Madison Grooms on Unsplash

Here’s To Life

As another school year ends, and another summer begins, I am once again taken aback at how quickly time seems to go.

As a kid, it would stretch on forever, endlessly, the wait to grow up was so long.
I remember hearing my parents talk about quick years and I couldn’t begin to understand them. A year was a lifetime.
While I’m certainly not as old as my parents are just yet, I’m starting to notice how quickly the years go by. As I count on my fingers how long it’s been since I graduated high school, or spent a summer in Atlanta, I realize that time is slipping through those fingers in a frightening way.
Taking advantage of time is so difficult, for it moves so quickly, and it’s so much easier to watch the sand fall in the time-glass and exclaim at how fast it’s going than it is to take life by the horns, ignore the time-glass and LIVE.
As my summer begins, and I am quite privileged to still have a summer, it’s easy to make all sorts of resolutions for the summer days. I’m going to eat clean, and go swimming every day, live each summer day from dawn until dusk, and soak in every ray of sun and every memory of laughter filled evenings around a fire.
But alas, I know that summer is not all that different from winter in the sense that it passes you by, and you find yourself at the end of it before you know it.
I have an exciting summer ahead, and I’m looking forward to it. Yet I am afraid of myself wasting it away, watching the clock, trying to slow it.
I often catch myself escalating my expectations for myself, lifting the bar much too high, setting myself up for failure. For while reaching for the stars is important, sometimes my capabilities don’t match my goals.
And then I find myself frustrated at my inability to keep on track.
If you’re a loyal reader, then you know that I struggle to live in the moment, and this is only a sub-plot of that story in my life. I want the very best for my future self, but my current self often struggles to keep up.
This summer, I’ll be traveling to Europe. Next year, I’ll be chasing some bigger dreams, the next chapter I’ve been waiting to start for a long time now. A chapter that will allow for bigger and better. That will allow me to start acting on all the things I talk about.
And that makes me excited – all of it. New goals, new adventures.
But for now, I want to work so hard on the day-by-day. To not think about when the summer ends, and when next year begins, and about endings and beginnings. I don’t want to day-dream about a time that is not in my present life, I don’t want to mope about things I don’t have yet.
I want to live.
Because time does go by in the blink of an eye, but it goes even quicker when you’ve got your eyes on the finish line.
I’ve recently begun meditation as a part of a course I was taking. It’s an experiment to see what happens to me when I take some time to just focus.
The first few times were tough. I was all over the place, my brain could not stop thinking about my to-do list, and what I was going to do as soon as I stood up.
But the next few times, I just focused on the breathing. Each time my mind wandered, I yanked it back. Not to think about anything – only to feel the breath go in, and out.
Because sometimes, life just requires presence. No planning, no thinking, no dreaming.
Just. Pure. Presence.
It’s what I struggle with most.
It’s what I want most from my summer.
So here goes tackling one major obstacle, and here’s to overcoming it. For I know that it will pay itself back in my life in a million ways, so no matter how hard, it’s certainly worth it.
So instead of worrying about how time flies, and how the summer will be gone before I know it, I will focus on today, and how I’m going to make it count.
Tomorrow, I will focus on tomorrow.
Blog Post: 39/52

Featured Photo by Srikanta H. U on Unsplash

Knowing The Plan

This week is my 33rd blog post. Tomorrow is also the 33rd day of the Omer (the count from Passover to Shavuot) which marks the holiday of Lag Baomer.

The coincidence did not escape me.
I’m a connections kind of person. A deeper meaning kind of gal.
I grew up with the concept of Hashgacha Pratis (literally translated to divine providence,) which means that nothing is coincidental or accidental, everything happens for a reason. Every moment, every leaf, and every wrong turn has its purpose and place in the grand scheme of things.
That concept has always given me so much comfort, and more than that, it gives life an air of optimism and mystery.
Life is full of mystery. Honestly, every moment is a mystery, we never know what the next moment will bring.
I like to be in control. I avoid depending on people as much as possible, I like to get things done on my own, I like being the master of my own destiny.
So you can see how allowing G-d to be in control can be a little difficult for me.
Remembering that ultimately, I have no control over what happens in my life is something I constantly struggle with.
But at the same time, I have this deep, deep understanding that G-d really is always in control.
Hence, the connections.
When the subway takes too long at a stop, or I randomly choose a different route to walk, or something happens which forces me to do something I wasn’t planning on doing – that’s when I know G-d is in control.
I know that there is a reason my life is taking this path. It is not random or accidental.
But a moment later…when the reason behind what happened is not revealed to me, my spirits begin to plummet.
See, I’m happy for G-d to move around the pieces in a way that I don’t understand. But when even afterward I still don’t get to see the full picture, I feel a little cheated. When I think the signs that I am seeing are so clear, but then everything they were pointing to falls apart, and I realize how little I know, and how little what I think actually matters to the plan.
See, when I realized that it was the 33rd day of the omer when I would be writing my 33rd blog post, my brain went scrambling for reasons, connections.
I came up with a few.
The 49 days of the omer are meant to be a time of working on oneself, going through the various good attributes we have, and sharpening them.
For 33 weeks, I have been working hard at writing blog posts, each week focusing on something else in my life and my personality. It has forced me to look at myself honestly, and open up.
On the 33rd day of the omer, we have been looking at our attributes for 33 days already. We have been refining ourselves, trying harder, taking notice of what can be done better.
There was no specific reason I chose to begin writing weekly blog posts 33 weeks ago, I had no idea that it would line up this way. Which means – there’s got to be a connection, right?
It’s a little bit far-fetched, I know.
Pretty much everyone I know would chalk this up to a very random coincidence because honestly, it doesn’t really matter.
But it gives me joy to connect the dots. To see the reasoning behind things. To feel like I am part of a plan, to perhaps see the faint outlines of G-ds pen.
Maybe I’m too uptight. Maybe I need to let go a little bit, to learn how to depend on others, and most of all, to learn how to depend on G-d. Maybe to survive through life, one just has to be laid back, and not try so hard to understand everything that happens around us.
But that doesn’t feel right to me. It doesn’t seem like the way I want to live. I’d rather continue to thank G-d when the little things go right, and notice Him in every part of my day, than to loosen up and forget that He’s there.
It’s a difficult balance to find. Like with everything in life, there are pros and cons to every path we take.
There is one thing I know for sure – everything happens for a reason. Everything is connected, and everything has a purpose. The dots are there. But for whatever reason, G-d has chosen to not show me which dots connect to which. He has chosen to not reveal the why’s behind each choice He makes, which has made for some very anger filled prayers on my part.
It’s nice when we get it, but it’s not important for us to get it. The important part for me is to realize that there is a reason – and that’s all.
I will never stop hoping that G-d reveals His plan a little more, that He’ll let me peek, that one day soon He’ll let me understand why I take those wrong turns.
But until then, I will do my very best to unclench my fists a little bit, to trust that He can handle it, that He has heard my prayers and that despite the fact that things seem very scattered at the moment, He has a way of changing things in a moment.

I will continue to pray that my prayers be answered, and I look forward to knowing that they already have been.

I’ll just be over here taking deep breaths and eating chocolate.

 

Blog Post: 33/52


Featured Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Am I Tiny?

I was going to write about another topic.

I had an idea as I fell asleep. But when I woke up, I discovered that today is Yom HaShoah, a day on which many focus their minds and hearts on the tragedy of the holocaust. I realized that my idea did not seem right today. It would feel like yelling loudly in a quiet theatre. Rude, unwelcome and disrespectful. So that idea will remain tucked away for another week.
This week, I’ll write about what the holocaust means to me, as a 21 year old, living in America.
I was first introduced to the holocaust by way of my grandmother’s history. As a tiny child, she escaped in the night with her young parents and baby sister. After a terror-filled journey that had seen many miracles, the small family made it to safety. My great-grandmother was the only survivor from her own, yet rather than wallowing in well-deserved grief, she and my great-grandfather built up a family, resulting in my life – one of hundreds of great-grandchildren.
As a Jewish child, in Jewish schools, I learned about the holocaust in various ways throughout my years. I heard stories, I saw clips and interviews with holocaust survivors. It was certainly a real thing in my life, but it wasn’t until I was nearly 18, that I truly confronted it.
On a trip to Israel, I visited Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum in Jerusalem. As we walked through the quiet halls, looking at what was left of millions of innocent lives, my heart shattered. The reality of it was so raw and horrible, items of clothing and personal belongings telling their silent story. I looked into the eyes of the victims in the images on the walls, and apologized for not having tried to see earlier. For trying to avoid holocaust films and books. For not being more destroyed by what they had been through.
I always use words, yet there are not enough words in the English dictionary to describe what happened in the holocaust, the wiping out of generations. Cruelty and horror are even too kind. It was more than that. It was worse than that.
I have been knocked down by far, far (far, far, far!) less.
Yet holocaust survivors have built their lives back up, put the puzzle together despite the missing pieces, painted their world with vivid color again. Despite every reason not to.
The other day, I overheard my five-year-old nephew having an existential crisis. He was trying to explain to his three-year-old brother how insignificant we are. “We are really just tiny!”
“Nu uh. We are not tiny” said his brother. “Etti’s not tiny”
“She is tiny. We all are tiny. The whole world is tiny!”
I smiled at the depth of wisdom he held. Perhaps he does not quite understand it all just yet, but he was taking his first steps into the endless wonder of who we are, how we got here, and what we are supposed to do now that we are here.
We are tiny. I am tiny. I am one solitary figure in a world with billions of people.
Often, my small daily decisions and choices seem to impact only me. But I know that despite my “tiny-ness,” I have the ability to affect so many. Holocaust survivors knew that – and they knew it was up to them to re-build a nation so thoroughly destroyed. Like my great-grandparents, so many of them went on to have large families, despite the unimaginable fear and anger they must have felt.
Today is a day that we remember the past – but tomorrow, we focus on the future. I often feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things, yet I have been raised to know that my actions count. That I am here for a reason, and that reason is not to serve myself, but to be there for others, to wake up each morning and figure out how I can do better.
My nephew’s words reminded me that yes, we are tiny. And that is something to remember- something to remain humble about. In the expanse of the universe, I am but a speck, if that at all.
But, it is crucial to still stand with confidence, to know that despite how tiny I am, my life has meaning – and I can and do impact all of those around me.
The holocaust had millions of victims. Millions. It is impossible for any one person to recite all their names, or to truly give remembrance to each one.
Yet every single one of them was a person, a human being, with dreams and hopes. They were never just a name, they were someone that was loved and worried about.
They were in no way just a speck.
I will never, in any lifetime, be able to grasp the magnitude of the holocaust and the idea that so so so many were ripped away from their lives.
But I will try to live fully because they were not allowed to. I will try to remember what they have taught me. I may be a tiny speck, but I am a speck that can change the world.
Blog Post: 30/52

Featured Photo by Mika R on Unsplash

The Background

On September 11th, 2017 I decided to write a blog post every week.

It’s been 26 weeks since, and I haven’t yet missed a week. Halfway – and going strong.
I’ve really liked some of them. Whether it felt like I was finally expressing a deep truth I’ve wanted to express for a long time, or whether those who read it reached out in a variety of ways to let me know what it meant to them, some of my blog posts had a real impact on me.
Some of them kind of floated by. There were a couple of weeks I toyed with the idea of skipping it, because why write when you don’t feel it? Why write when there is nothing to write about? Is putting my random words out there more important than putting something of quality out there?
But at the end of each week, my commitment won out. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to commitments – once I make em, I can’t break em. I get a thrill out of keeping to them. That part of my personality has it’s pro’s and con’s but that’s not what this is about.
That’s really just to explain why even if all my posts haven’t been of the greatest quality, I’ve still been sharing them.
This week, I closed up a short story unit with my students.
We’ve been working on it for a long time because, in comparison to poetry, flaws in short stories shout a lot louder. It’s much harder to know when you are done, it’s much harder to fall in love with a story you crafted because you’re never sure if you did enough.
And my students were feeling that pressure. I could tell.
But this week, I looked at them and told them this week it was going to happen. They were going to finish their short stories.
As I write this, I’m waiting for the last few to submit them.
But so far, I couldn’t be more proud.
Writing a blog post every week has pushed me. It made me realize how similar my posts were. It pushed me to try my best to spice it up a little. That led me to write 3 short stories in the span of 6 months.
I had written about 3 short stories in my entire life before this October.
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and bare with me because this post is a little bit of everything, a little bit of everywhere.
I’ve been thinking about growth – which you know from my last post.
I’ve been thinking about risks. Pushing limits. Trying new things. Allowing yourself to be who you are, truly, deeply and authentically. The kind of be yourself that shakes you and wakes you up and reminds you that you are meant for more, that you can be doing things that you never thought possible – as long as you reach inside of yourself and use the tools you’ve been given. I’ve been thinking about owning up to yourself, looking yourself in the eye.
I’ve been thinking about what I want out of this life, and how quickly the days are going by, and how until G-d slowly moves the puzzle pieces of my life into the picture I want, I have multitudes of blessings to work with. But I’ve also been thinking that I don’t have to be content with that – I can stomp my feet and ask for more, as long as all the while, I am thanking Him for what He’s given me.
I’ve always been a bit of a paradox. I’ve lived much of my life fearful of others thoughts and others minds, and the fact that I can’t see inside them.
Yet, I’ve also lived in an almost fearless way of not being afraid of telling others what I feel. Of reaching out, of putting myself in the deepest, most vulnerable spaces for the sake of something so much bigger and better.
I’ve been thinking about perfection. I’ve been thinking about how much I wish my writing was perfect, that I was perfect. Often, I find myself admiring other’s wonderful qualities and wishing for them – before I remind myself that just like dying my hair red, someone else’s best quality would sit oddly on me. And that life is not about being like others, it’s about being there for others in the best way we can be.
I’ve been thinking about my future, because I never stop thinking about my future, and how I spend each day looking for the rest of the characters to walk in at any moment.
I’ve been thinking about how I chopped my hair off, and in some twisted way, my hair knew that I needed something drastic to change before my heart truly admitted it.
I’ve been thinking about 21, and what it means, and how much it doesn’t mean.
I’ve been thinking about all of these things.
I’ve been reading my student’s stories and realizing that doing something that scares you is the deepest reward you can give yourself.
I’ve done things that scare me, and sometimes the result is obvious, the gain is immense.
Sometimes you do things that scare you, and the result is not obvious, and you can barely see any change, any gain.
But I’m realizing that every moment, every thought, every word, every day, despite how meaningless they often seem, are so so full of impact, so so full of development.
And as I make my small plans down here, G-d is shifting the big things up there.
And as I scheme and develop what I feel are big things down here, G-d is moving timelines and space to make my dreams come true.
I’ve written 26 blog posts since September.
Some of them, I could feel the words rush through me, their purpose clear.
Some of them I posted with some shame, some feeling of letting someone down, perhaps me most of all.
But I don’t think any of them were useless.
For they proved to me, if nothing else, that I can do it.
That it’s sometimes not about perfection, it’s not about being inspiring, or funny, or insightful, or writing the best post ever.
My students may not have all fallen in love with their short stories – but they wrote them, and you know what?
For me, for today, that’s what counts.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m trying to remind myself that I only see one tiny sliver of the picture. And I know that in the deep part of my heart, but it’s much less accepted in the forefront of my brain. So when my blog post seems like it’s missing something – yet I post it anyway, and I make plans, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to follow them through, or I pray, and pray, and pray, yet it seems like I’m praying to a closed door – I am trying to remember that this is not everything. I don’t know everything. I never will.
And as I feel guilty for wanting more from life when I have so, so much, I am reminded that I don’t even know how much more I could have, and while it is foolish to feel ungrateful, it is useless to feel guilty.
And as I discover the impact of one moment months later I am reminded that I never know the background story of what is happening around me, and I am reminded that as I pray for G-d to write my story…

He is writing as fast as He can.

Blog Post: 26/52


Featured Photo courtesy of a birthday gift from a very thoughtful friend.