hope

Birthdays, Pandemics and Courage

Two weeks ago, when life was still selfish, and we weren’t aware of our every breath, and move, and action, I gave my students a writing prompt.

The prompt was courage.

When do we need to have courage? What does courage mean? What is courage when it comes to faith? Family? Friends?

I sat down to write with them, and this is what I wrote:
Courage sometimes gets stuck in my throat as I try to find the stepping stones to lift myself up above the fear. The tears always begin to fall when I admit I’m afraid, and often these tears are the fuel for the anger I need to stand up and get things done.

My faith requires courage because the world thinks the weak are the ones who turn to
G-d.

They think that faith is a crutch, an excuse, a way to ignore life’s pain. They don’t know how strong your heart has to be, to be able to believe.

I call on courage when my faith is sitting in my hands, ripped to shreds.
I call on courage when my voice is hoarse from calling out to a G-d I know is there, but can not hear.
I call on courage on the rainy days.
I call on courage when I look into my future and don’t know how the outline will be filled.
I call on courage, and I call on faith because sometimes they are one and the same.

___________

A part of me feels strange saying that life requires courage now.I associate real courage with risking danger, with sitting on the front lines, with looking danger in the eye and doing what you have to do anyway. So, yes, I’d say that anyone who is working in the medical field right now is courageous. But the rest of us?

Those of us who are being asked to stay home? To avoid danger? To keep ourselves safe?

It doesn’t necessarily feel courageous. It feels a little stifling. Life is really uncertain, and that makes me uncomfortable. The things I can rely on to give me joy, like teaching my students, or hanging out with friends and family are no longer reliable sources of joy in my life right now.

Which means that I have to turn inward.

And turning inward requires courage.

Turning inward, and accepting what you find there, that is courageous.

_________

Tonight is my birthday.

I’ll be turning 23, but it feels all so meaningless and unimportant while the world is in absolute chaos, while I have to settle my anxiety over and over again, while people are experiencing pain, loss, confusion, and epic disruption in their lives.
But…it’s still my birthday.

It’s the anniversary of the day I started out on this planet. Which means it’s the anniversary of everything I’ve ever achieved in my life, every leap I’ve taken, every fear I’ve overcome. It’s the day in which G-d takes me in his arms and says “I want you here, there is a reason you need to be on this earth.”

What better reminder could I ask for in the midst of the most confusing global experience I’ve ever lived through?
For the last few years on my birthday, I have made a point to do random acts of kindness for others. Sometimes I’ve had my students join in. Sometimes I’ve asked all of you to join in.

This year, right now, we’re not really supposed to be around people. This makes it exponentially harder to do easy acts of kindness, like helping someone with their stroller, a smile to a stranger, even paying it forward in restaurants or coffee shops is not really possible right now.

But if there has ever been a time to reach out with kindness to others, it’s right now. So, if you can, in honor of my birthday, I ask you to reach out to even one friend or family member via FaceTime or text and make them smile. Remind them that there is goodness and happiness and laughter still readily available to us.

We don’t have to do this alone.

_________
It takes courage to turn inwards, and right now, a lot of us are being forced to turn inwards.

It’s not necessarily a comfortable place for all of us, especially when we’ve carefully arranged our lives to allow us to not have to face our innermost selves all the time. Distractions, work, friends, obligations – it’s all so easy to make it all build-up, and then because you’re so tired at the end of the day, tuning everything out by watching or reading something is so justified. And then a new day begins, and then again, and then again, and we haven’t even looked ourselves in the eye all week.

Right now, we are being handed the necessity to look ourselves in the eye, to accept ourselves, to find joy and a sense of peace within our own minds.

It’s not easy. It takes courage.

But this opportunity is ours for the taking.

And we will all be richer for it.

___________

The other day, I was briefly discussing this situation with a friend, and how overwhelmed and confused I felt by it all, and she asked if I’d be writing about it.

I responded that it feels like so many people are writing, what else could I possibly say?

She said “just your feelings.”

So here they are, my fellow humans: for those in quarantine, and for those who are social distancing, and for all those who are feeling afraid and lost.

These are my feelings.

I hope they make you feel even a little less alone in your fears, your anxiety, and your stress.

Keep the faith. We’ll be out of the dark one day.

 

 


Photo by Annie Spratt on 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

Behind the Prayer

This poem is a journey through Shmoneh Esrei, the Amidah, in my daily morning prayer. It’s about connection, it’s about distraction, it’s about trying. Open up your siddur – follow along.

Three steps backward,
Three steps forward.
the same G-d that Avraham spoke to,
Yitzchak, Yaakov:
He’s listening to me.

Bend, bow, straighten,
May the winds blow
and the rains fall,
and the crops grow.
 __
May the ones we’ve loved,
yet unwillingly lost,
be returned.
 __
Can G-d really return them?
Will he?
There is an itch on my ankle.
 
You are holy,
Your name is holy,
Bless me with an ounce
of the wisdom You hold.
 —
Closed fist,
repentance
I am sorry for not being
the person I could be.
 
Heal us,
Heal me,
Heal the parts
that we don’t know

need healing.

I say these words every morning
Is He listening this time?
Can He hear me?
Did I say this paragraph yet?
Did I skip a page?
My lips know the words
better than my mind does.
 
Hear me G-d,
listen to my prayer
Thank you, G-d, for every gift,
every blessing,
every right side up.
Allow me to strip myself of limits
Let me smile more
Let my dreams come true
May I find the man
Whom I will walk this lifetime with,
May we recognize each other.
Please, G-d, listen closer.
Let this life be one of happiness.
 
Bow, straighten.
Thank you for waking us up today,
For the miracles,
the big ones,
the small ones,

The ones we don’t see.

Please, G-d, let there be peace.
Please, G-d, let there be peace.
How many times can I say it,
How many times does it take,

for it to get to His throne?
 —

Three steps backward,
Bow to the left,
to the right,

forward.

 —

Blog Post: 18/52