writing

The Purim Story

Put yourself in the story.
Stop thinking about your costume, put the hamantasch down, stop for a moment and let it fall away.
Right now, focus. Listen to the words being read, fall into the ancient story, follow its path.
They say, if you hear the Megillah simply as a story, you do not fulfill the Mitzvah. Rather, you must listen to the story as a true reality.
Put yourself in the story.
 Listen to the wailing of the people, the wrenching sound of Mordechai ripping his clothes in mourning, the thump, thump, thump of Queen Esthers beating heart.
Peer into the windows of Hamans home as he plots his cruel revenge, into the classrooms of young children beseeching their G-d to save them, into the lonely halls of Esthers quarters, where she yearns to be with her people.
Feel the absolute terror of the people of Shushan as each day marched closer to their death. Feel the strengthening triumph in Hamans evil heart. Feel the complete faith Mordechai has in his G-d.
Fill your heart with the glorious gladness and joy exploding in the Jewish people of Shushan all those years ago, the sweet, sweet relief, the tight hugs between mothers and children, husbands and wives.
Notice Esther looking out from her palace perch as her people celebrate the threat to their lives falling away.
Feel the story in every part of you, remember that these are your people, and once upon a time, they lived this story out on earth, every fearful moment of it, every glorious detail. They filled the roads of Persia with joy and celebration, and today, we do the same in every corner of the world.
Let us give gifts with gladness, let us partake in parties with friends and family, let us remember.
Let us remember Mordechai, and Esther, and all the people of Shushan, who watched their lives crumble before their eyes, and had it returned to them,
and so they were joyous.
And so we will be joyous too.
3/52.

Chasing Happy

Not too long ago, I was catching up with someone I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

As I finished bringing her up to speed about where I was in my life these days, she remarked: “You sound so happy.”

The statement startled me.

While attempting to attain happiness was no strange concept to me, someone letting me know that I was happy was a little unsettling.

After a moment or two of silence, I looked back at her, and while grasping it in my mind at the same time, I replied:

“I…am. I am happy. Thank G-d.”

I’ve been thinking about this non-incident ever since.

Am I happy?

What is happiness, really?

This is a concept I’ve grappled with in my mind for probably as long as I’ve been able to grasp that happiness was more than getting the lollipop I wanted (don’t worry, I still get confused.)

My life has been filled with ups and downs, learning and disillusion, mistakes and triumphs, as I walked my slow but steady path towards where I was headed. For a long time, I was very confused about where I was headed, career-wise. I tried all kinds of different things.

Friends and family laughed as I made self-deprecating jokes about being a quitter, about conveniently leaving jobs just in time for summer break, about how I’m a millennial who is just lazy and wants to do nothing and get paid for it.

But really, what was happening is that I tried new jobs to find a depth of happiness, and time and time again, my job was doing the opposite of bringing me happiness – it was dragging me down, silencing my creativity or leaving me completely unfulfilled.

Am I happy?

I certainly do not always feel happy. There are days that I wake up tired, stressed and anxious. Lack of sleep, an awkward interaction, missing a good meal, having too much or too little of a social life – all of these things seem to impact my day-to-day happiness on a much larger scale than anything else I’m doing with my life.

There are bad weeks and good weeks, there are painful experiences and joyful experiences, and these are all extremely intertwined on a daily basis.

There are days that I want to hurl heavy, hurtful things at G-d, stomp my feet and yell as loud as I possibly can, because I’m just so mad at Him.

Do all of these things mean that I am not happy?

I’ve often allowed myself to believe that.

When I’ve woken up in a bad mood, I have allowed that bad mood to control my day, because I was obviously just not happy. Why try to fight something that is not in my control? I’m not happy, why try to be?

Once, during a conversation with a close friend about happiness, sadness and all that comes in between, I mentioned something of that nature. I said, “I don’t feel like I control my moods, it all depends on how I wake up.”

She laughed, startling me, and refused to accept that that was the truth.

I took her laughter as a challenge, and the next time I woke up in a bad mood, I did all I could in my power to fight it, and transform that mood.

I succeeded.

The next time I woke up in a bad mood, I tried it again, with the memory of my prior success giving me confidence.

I failed.

Because there is no absolute path to happiness.

Because I’m learning that happiness does not mean that we don’t cry, that we don’t have bad days, that we don’t fight or say stupid things. Happiness does not mean that we have everything we could need or want, that everything is working in our favor, or that the sun is shining brightly.

True happiness is so much deeper, and I’ve finally begun to really understand that.

I want to say that true happiness comes from having a job you love, or being surrounded by people who love you, but these are privileged things to say. These are things that bring me happiness, but are often not possible for others to achieve, for various reasons. I have barely yet lived my life, and I am not foolish to think that I have dealt with life’s most painful challenges, and maintained my happiness through them. I have experienced pain, but in no way that compares to the level of pain that others have, thank G-d. So I feel cruel to claim that I have the key to happiness, because I most certainly do not. But, I will share the one thing that I have discovered that has brought me happiness, that I hope all can have as well.

It is an awareness that I try to sharpen every, single, day of my life:

I am not the most important person in my world.

Are you laughing? Maybe you’re saying “are you kidding, you absolute child? Obviously you aren’t, you spoiled, privileged, little girl.”

Did you say that? If yes, that’s okay. I get it. It seems like an incredibly simple concept that literally everyone should be aware of.

Yet, it is the single most powerful contributor to my happiness.

I am not the most important person in my world.

How does that practically make a mark on my happiness?

It reminds me that my job on earth is to give.

I have been given skills, gifts, and opportunities that are for me to use to make this world a better place.

It has allowed me to build a strong relationship with my G-d, even when I want to hurt Him with all my might. It has allowed my ego to step aside, even for just a few minutes each day, and recognize that it’s not about me. This world is so much bigger than I am, and it is filled with incredible, unique individuals, and I am a part of the tapestry. I have an important role to fill, and nobody else can replace me – but my contribution to this world is much more valuable than my happiness.

You may say that is the path to negative thoughts of oneself, but I’ve found it to be quite the contrary – it has made me value myself in a whole new way and keeps my perspective on how I can give, rather than in which ways I can take.

And I am happy.

Are there things that I really, really want?

Are there things that I believe I need, and that I don’t have?

Are there moments in which I collapse from the pain that life brings?

Are there nights and days that I wonder about my future, afraid?

The answer to all of these is a resounding yes.

Yet, I am grateful to G-d that He has allowed me to feel happiness in my core.

Like everything good, happiness too, comes from good old-fashioned hard work, quite conflicting with the path to happiness that we are often fed in modern day media.

Perhaps, to be happy is our generations greatest struggle.

But is it achievable?

Yes. Without a doubt: yes, it is.

 

 

Disclaimer:

This entire piece was written with the idea that what is stopping someone from attaining happiness are mindsets that they have control over. If you are struggling with depression or severe anxiety, please seek the assistance of a trained therapist or speak to your doctor. Speak to someone, reach out, and ask for help. Happiness is achievable for you too.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741, or call the suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255

You don’t have to do this alone.

2/52.


Featured Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

I’m Back (For Good.)

I am notorious for encouraging vulnerability.

My family will tell you that, hopefully, my friends will tell you that, and my students will most certainly tell you that. Even just reading this blog for approximately five minutes will tell you that.

Not too long ago though, I got myself into a situation in which allowing myself to be very vulnerable also caused me a lot of pain. Afterward, I found myself wondering if not being afraid of vulnerability was too risky a way to live. That perhaps everyone else had it right, keeping their inner selves protected for as long as possible. I spent some time in deep thought, trying to understand how vulnerability, which was something I intrinsically knew so well, could betray me so deeply and leave me hurting, rather than healed. I found myself fearful of the future. Was this a negative turning point in my life? Would I now join the masses of people struggling to open up, holding other people at arm’s length because it’s the only safe way to avoid pain?

I was terrified. I had spent my life hearing people talk about how difficult it was for them to open up and be themselves, and I was so grateful that I didn’t have that struggle (in some scenarios, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) But now I stood on the brink of falling into that trap, and I realized that people are not naturally born afraid of vulnerability, we are trained to become afraid as a result of negative experiences.

I decided I was not going to let that happen to me. Whatever it would take, I would force myself to continue being open and vulnerable. If that meant opening myself up once again to the risk of being in pain, so be it. This realization came to me after a friend looked at me and asked me, honestly: “If you could do over the entire scenario, but this time be careful not to be as open as you were, would you make that choice?”

When I realized that the answer to that was a very strong no, I realized that I’d always rather be open as a person, no matter the potential cost. Because the reward is still so much greater.

I find comfort and joy in putting everything on the table. I appreciate knowing that the person I am talking to is learning the full extent of who I am. I don’t like hiding. I do often hide, and I always hate how it feels. The truth is, in scenarios in which it is unnecessary or unacceptable to bring up certain topics, I feel uncomfortable. As soon as I’m holding myself back from saying certain things, I struggle to come up with what to say altogether. When people are just meeting me and don’t know me fully, I am aware of the way they inaccurately perceive me – quiet, maybe shy, not very dimensional. Someone who likes to stick to the status quo. Perhaps that is why sharing my writing gives me so much joy. It’s my way of showing the world who I am in an expedited manner. We don’t have to struggle through small talk here, I just get to tell it like it is.

I’ve missed sharing.

Over the last few weeks, some very kind people have been telling me how much they appreciate my blog posts, and I’ve felt incredibly touched, and slightly guilty. I didn’t feel like I deserved compliments on my blog when I’ve consciously allowed it to completely fall by the wayside. I was embarrassed to tell people to check my blog out, knowing that they’d clearly see it was not very active.

While yes, there will always be things that I will not share on this platform, as it is a public one, I am aware that writing consistent blog posts about my world keeps me in a state of vulnerability, and reminds me that there are always benefits to share something that is a little scary to share.

I miss being in that space.

I’ve resisted this for so long, hoping that my mere self-motivation or sheer will would push me to get blog posts out there in a consistent, timely fashion.

Clearly, it hasn’t.

I obviously need the pressure of commitment to a goal to push me in the right direction. 

At some point this year, I told my students: “Figure out what it takes to get yourself to write, and don’t let go of that.”

So why have I not given in sooner?

I am not going to let fear, procrastination or excuses get the best of me.

I once wrote on this blog that I never want to be someone who tells young, aspiring writers that I once had a blog, as I’ve been told many a time from many an adult. I want to be someone who can tell young, aspiring writers that I’ve had an active blog for years, and I still do. 

With that in mind:

I am officially reinstating the 52 weeks of blog posts.

Today is number 1.

I am busier than I was when I did this the first time, but they say if you want something done, ask a busy person, so I’m going to put myself up to the task.

So. Here goes.

Let’s see where this journey takes me.

 

 

1/52.


Featured Photo by NORTHFOLK on Unsplash

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

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.
break

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

Watching the Pot

I’m a firm believer in G-d, but I often struggle with Him.

He has given us various ways to begin to feel the joy He feels.
He gave us artistic talents so that we can feel the joy of creating something beautiful, something awe-inspiring with our own hands.
He gave us words so that we can weave them together into stories, build universes, and create characters with extensive personalities.
He gave our bodies the miraculous ability to create and birth humans, allowing us to feel an unbreakable and impossible joy in their achievements and pain.
He gave us the ability to teach, inspire and care for others. He gave us the power to be the pavers of our own paths, to make choices every day, to build a life made up of so many various different activities and people.
He gave us the ability to believe that we are the masters of our own destiny.
He went so far as to take Himself out of the picture, to allow us to think that we are the ones creating the lives we have, forgetting that we are but characters in a storybook, a paintbrush in an artists hand, a body at the mercy of its mind.
To me, the reason He did all of this, despite the pain it must bring Him, is so that we can relate to Him. So that we could begin to imagine the magnitude of what He has done.
One who has never felt the joy of creating something all their own could not possibly understand how it aches to let it go, to allow others to criticize, adapt, and misunderstand their work.
G-d watches us do this each day, take His perfect handiwork and destroy it.
I constantly walk the tightrope of knowing that I’m not in charge, yet believing that I am. I constantly struggle to let go, to fall backward and allow life to happen to me, for the dangers of that seem to outweigh the benefits.
I watch the pot, achingly waiting for it to boil. I daydream and write my future story so clearly, I often worry I’ve ruined it for myself. I so desperately want to be the author of my own life, yet I am deeply aware that that would make for a terrifying reality.
I often wonder – what does G-d want from me?
Do I plant the seeds or do I stay away from the garden?
Do I raise the flame, or walk away from the kitchen?
Do I write in pen, or do I drop the pencil?
How do I find the balance between grabbing life by the horns, yet allowing life to follow its natural unfolding?
I take great joy in creating something new – a poem, a meal, a story.
I know that my abilities in creation are limited, much more limited than His.
Yet when I look at my life, and my heart aches to make life happen on my own, without waiting, without holding back, without watching the calendar turn pages, I turn to G-d and beg Him to allow me to hold the pencil.
Allow me to feel as if I am writing my story.
Allow Your plan and my dreams to collide, to leak into my life.
G-d, allow my dreams to come true.
For when they do, I’ll know without a doubt that I am only a character in Your story, only a sketch under Your pencil. I’ll know because only You know the intricacies of my brain, my soul, my heart. You handcraft my dreams just as You handcraft my reality.
You’ve given me the ability to create – now allow me the joy of taking life into my own hands and watching my dreams blossom from the seeds I plant, the water I boil, the life I live.
Blog Post: 47/52

Featured Photo by Kowit Phothisan on Unsplash

When the World Burned

She turned around.

Like Lots wife, she felt her soul leave her body, but instead of becoming salt, she felt her heart, mind and soul explode into a thousand pieces as she watched the world burn.
Her small son in her arms, all that she had left of her family, was wailing, his young face streaked with ash. Pieces of their universe fell around them like the snow Jerusalem hadn’t gotten in so long.
It was more than heart rending or tragic, it was the end.
There couldn’t possibly be a day tomorrow, a new dawn. The birds couldn’t possibly sing praise to a G-d who could allow such torturous destruction of an empire, of a nation, of a world.
She pulled her son closer as he cried the tears she couldn’t even find. His belly was empty, yet she could not provide, for she had not eaten in weeks. The fact that she had not yet collapsed with the rest of her family was a miracle she didn’t understand, nor cared to be grateful for. Life was not something she prayed for anymore.
Her mind, against her will, went back to the last Passover, a day that began in hope and prayer, but ended in massacre and mourning. Her uncle who had risked his life to come to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices and praises to his G-d had been killed that day, in the holy temple, together with her father and her oldest brother.
The starvation was next, destroying what little will the Jews still had. Her tears began to fall as she recalled the faces of her mother and sisters as they worked together to create meals out of dust for their families. One after the other, her nieces and nephews, her own children, her sisters and brothers died of starvation, their bellies empty, their hearts broken, in a world so dismal most prayed it would be them next.
And then, today.
As her surviving neighbors, her husband, as they banded together, and despite their impossible pain, made the choice to fight back, there was a roar.
The Temple was on fire.
She watched in disbelief as everyone around her rose like one body and charged towards the Temple, armed with nothing but sheer hatred towards Jerusalem’s enemies. She watched as they foolishly attempted to put out the destructive flames. She watched, numb, as her husband was engulfed by the flames, destroying everything she had left. She looked into the eyes of her son, and with  strength that came from somewhere she didn’t know she had, she lifted him from the ground and ran.
She didn’t look back as she heard the tortured screams, she didn’t look back as she felt the rivers of blood rise up to her ankles, she didn’t look back as she felt the heat of the fire on her neck.
She held her son and ran.
And then, she turned around.
And she watched everything end. She watched the impossible occur. She watched everyone she knew and ever loved go up in flames, sacrificed like animals on the altar.
She raised her eyes towards the heavens, the sky heavy with smoke and misery.
Bitter tears climbed up her throat, she ached in every way, calling out for her Ima, her Abba, her children she helplessly watched die.
Her son laid his head on her heart, holding her, afraid she would crack.
Her son who’s entire life had been this nightmare.
She knew.
She knew that if there was to be a future, a tomorrow, they would never be able to grasp how earth shattering this pain was. What it felt like to be alive when the entire world was burning.
What it meant to be the one who had to wake up tomorrow, who had to still scrounge for something to feed her son, to smile through the tears so that her son would know what love was.
She hoped.
For the first time in months, she felt the stirrings of hope deep inside her chest.
She hoped that someone would try, that they would not be forgotten, that someone would truly mourn.
She hoped that somehow, this destroyed nation would piece themselves together. That they would rebuild, yet not replace. That they would remember each and every lost soul, that they would bring themselves to a humbled place and remember.
She looked at her son, his eyes still bright with future, and she knew why she had survived.
For her son.
For the future.
For the next chapter.
As she gazed back at the flaming city, she saw one wall of the outer temple gates undeterred, unmoved by the destruction.
Like her, it watched as everything around it collapsed to the pain, yet it stood strong, unwavering.
And she knew that the same way she would provide comfort and strength for her son, that wall would forever stand for the Jewish people, as a symbol of hope, as a symbol of strength.
And as she enveloped her son in her arms, and together they cried, she saw that one day, again, the Jews would flock to Jerusalem.
Blog Post: 45/52
featured photo via Unsplash