writing

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

I Don’t Have a Map

I haven’t really felt like sharing in a while.

That’s pretty evident, being that my last blog post was written almost two months ago.

I’ve been busy kind of being captivated by life.

The way it moves, and lives, and breathes, and swings us from one end of emotions to another within just a few days.

Life is endlessly filled with lessons, and honestly, sometimes I get overwhelmed just trying to learn them all.

To learn from the pain, from the good, from the sad, from the happy.

From every person I cross paths with.

I believe, fully, that everything happens for a reason.

I believe, fully, that in every situation we find ourselves in, we are there for a very particular reason.

Yet, I often struggle to know what the reason is.

I often wonder what is being asked of me. Does this moment in time require considerable effort and depth, or does it require me to let go, and let it happen?

How are we ever meant to truly know?

Even doing my best is too vague of instructions – what part of my best? My best could be to work until dawn or my best could be to get a good night’s rest and start again tomorrow – how can I know?

Someone once told me that if G-d wants us to know, He’ll let us know.

Just knowing there is a reason is enough. Knowing the reason is not up to us. It’s not up to us to dig up the sand, to glue together the map and follow it until the ends of the earth.

If G-d wants us to go, He will hand us the map, and the right shoes to wear to walk towards our destination.

If He doesn’t hand us the map, perhaps He wants us to stay put.

It doesn’t mean that having the map makes it easy, and not having the map makes it hard.

Having the map could be an incredibly stressful experience, as we toil to read the signs on the road, and agonize at the length of the journey.

Not having it could leave us feeling lost and abandoned.

I’ve been in both of these made-up scenarios, and I can’t tell you which one I prefer.

I don’t know that I have the map right now.

This doesn’t mean I’m unhappy, it just simply means I’m not sure what G-d is asking of me in this precise moment.

And this can often lead to frustration. Confusion.

Heartfelt prayers that seem to go unheeded.

I know that I’m where I need to be, I just wish I knew what I’m supposed to be doing while I’m here. What kind of things I should be collecting, or sharpening, or finding.

Or if I’ll be here for a while, or not, or what.

Life is full of these moments.

As a writer, and a sharer, I often wonder if I’m in a particular place so that I can write, and share for the sake of giving someone the gift of knowing that someone out there is feeling that way too.

So.

If you’re out there.

If you’re feeling like you’re in a moment in time that doesn’t seem to quite fit, I’m here to tell you that there are countless others in that space with you.

Day by day, each of us will emerge. Each at the exact right moment. Each for the exact right reason.

But it will happen.

For now, if you have a map, seize it. Don’t be afraid. Follow the lines, tread carefully, and you’ll get there.

If you are mapless, as many of us are, breathe deeply. Soon, the way will unfold itself in front of you. For now, absorb the joy of being mapless – explore every inch of the space you are in, examine it, question it, and learn from it. Without a map, all you have is trust, and you just have to trust that this is where you need to be. For now.

For one day, this space will cease to exist, and you will be all the richer for it.

 

 

 

Photo by Finding Dan | Dan Grinwis on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

A Short: To Wonder

“So, which kind of soul would you like to be?”

G-d was studying the soul in front of Him as it squirmed with the heavy decision.

“I can’t decide, G-d! It’s just too hard!”

“I have an idea.”

G-d took the soul to the edge of Heaven.

“Watch these two kinds of souls on earth, see for yourself what it all means.”


The girl tossed a rock into the crashing waves.

“That rock could travel a thousand miles, get stronger and stronger, and eventually sink a boat,” the girl said.

“Well, that won’t really happen,” said the woman.

“But doesn’t it make you think?”

“The rock doesn’t mean more than what it was, dear.”

“But that would mean everything is just what it is.”

“Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

“That would be heartbreaking.”

The woman shook her head.

“You, my dear, spend too much time thinking about the maybes when there’s a world of yes and no’s for you.”

“But maybes mean that there’s always something new!”

“Maybe makes you unorganized and inefficient.”

“Do you think G-d says maybe?”

“No, I don’t think G-d says maybe, because G-d knows.”

“But maybe…He doesn’t? Maybe He waits for our prayers every morning, and then decides.”

“Why do you always think you know G-d?”

“Well, I wonder about Him. I like to pray to Him.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody likes prayer.”

“No, I just said: I like prayer.”

“You pray when you need something.”

“No, I pray to get to know Him.”

“Get to know who?”

“G-d, of course, who else?”

“I feel dizzy.”

The two walk along the water, each in their thoughts, in their world.

“Do you think…” the girl begins to ask.

“Just stop – stop thinking for a moment!” the woman tugs her jacket tighter.

The girl looks across the ocean, and does all of her thinking, but just inside her head. She squeezes her lips together in a desperate attempt to stop her all of her thoughts from falling out onto the beach.

She wonders about the fish in the sea, and what they would be feeling like on a cold day like today, and she wondered what she might be like as a fish, and what kind of fish she would be, and –

“But don’t you like to wonder?!”

“No. No, I don’t like to wonder, because what is the point of wondering?”

“Does everything have to have a point?”

The woman sighed.

She kneels on the cold hard sand and looks into the girl’s eyes.

“Don’t you ever think about how much easier life would be if you didn’t have to wonder, and question, and think about everything?”

The girl shook her head “well, that doesn’t sound like any fun.”

Suddenly, the girl spied a fish, flapping and fluttering, gasping for breath on the cold sand.

“Oh! It’s dying!”

The girl ran towards the fish, the woman following behind. But by the time they reached the fish, it had given up its last breath to the cold air.

Tears fill the girl’s eyes. The woman puts a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s just a fish, dear.”

“Why does everything always end with me in tears?” cries the girl.

“One day, sweetheart, you’ll learn to let things go, to stop wondering and hoping and thinking all the time, and life will be easier. Won’t that be wonderful?”

“That’ll never happen to me,” the girl said sadly, as she wiped her tears.


“So, soul. Have you made your choice?”

G-d moved back to the table.

“Oh, yes, G-d. I have.”

“What will it be then?”

“I’d like to  wonder.”

26/52.


Featured Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

 

An Ode to NYC

Over the last few weeks, my words have been stagnant. Unavailable, I should say.

I’ve had ideas, yet their formation was distant, just slightly out of reach.
It took approximately 45 seconds on the subway for my words to come rushing back, fighting to be heard and written and that’s why I’m standing in a subway car, writing.
This city is magic.
It usually smells bad, it’s overcrowded, it’s nearly impossible to get anywhere by car, and there’s only a few days a year that the weather is pleasant enough to actually enjoy the entire experience of walking down the street.
But man, what it gives in place of all the above is pure magic.
It’s a city that never sleeps, meaning people don’t stop doing. People spend less time dreaming and more time exploring, demanding and making things happen.
Today, I overheard a woman talking about climate change and it threw me for a loop – I was shaken by how much we share this world, how much we intake all the same images and words and messages, and we all live our lives so, so similarly.
Oh man, this city is magic.
Today, the fog covered all the tops of the buildings, almost begging me to just focus on the here and now. I couldn’t see the soaring sky scrapers, I could only see the people who walked near me, on ground level.
I’m obsessed with the way that I’ve lived here for 7 years, and I know my way around, yet I’ll never stop finding new treasures, new ways, new adventures.
What could be more inspiring than sharing a city with thousands of souls, all sharing this city that has stories etched into every stone, a city in which every path is so beaten it’s already new again.
I’m in love – in love with a city that keeps giving me reasons to smile, that promises to never be boring or slow or tired. It promises to show up when I seek inspiration, when I seek different and unique and excitement.
And I know, I know one day I’ll leave this place behind, for another lover – a quieter world in which I can once again hear myself think. Expansive space in which my imaginary children can run and not get hit by cars or kidnapped by strangers. Somewhere I don’t silently curse all the way home from the supermarket, the bags not digging into my palms, because I’d be driving  and they’d be in the trunk.
But that’s tomorrow, and today is today, and the fog told me to stop trying to peek at what else is out there, what might be next, what else can I find.
Today, I still have a wealth of adventures and treasures, a world far from completely explored, new alleyways and tiny bookshops, people to observe, these busy streets are waiting for me to hurry down them, and watch, and write, and learn, and write.
Because man. This is a city of magic.

25/52.

Long Night

Thump, thump, thump. Thump, thump, thump.

I learned about anxiety this week.
Right now, I’m taking deep breaths to get through every sentence, because I’m not sure what’s going to be said here, and I’m also not sure this is me prioritizing properly. I’ve just discovered that an assignment I was about to submit was missing many, many requirements, and it means a few hours of work that I thought I didn’t have in my future this week. My eyes are already closing because I slept badly last night. It was one of those nights in which it feels like you’re constantly looking at your phone to see the time, and somehow time is passing but it’s also going so slowly.
I put caffeinated coffee in my cup this morning, something I don’t usually do, because I’m reckless and I drink coffee for the flavor, not for the buzz, because man, do I buzz when I drink caffeine. But I drank it, because I could barely lift my head up from my pillow this morning.
Anyway, that caffeine has long left my veins, and my eyes are shutting, and I need, need, need to work on that assignment, but I also need to write a blog post, and I’m not sure that this is what I should be doing, but here I am, with my heart going thump, thump, thump, my stomach churning a little because I’m honestly not sure this assignment is going to get a good grade anymore, and my grades are really important to me. They never were, not in high school. I didn’t really care much for grades ever, but now, when every dollar is going towards this education, I feel this unending duty to learn the material more than I have ever learned anything before, to sear it to my brain, to do really well in every class.
I’m not going to waste this opportunity.
And I guess this pit of anxiety in my stomach, that I’m ignoring with all my heart, is begging me to re-prioritize, to STOP WRITING A BLOG POST and get to work on this assignment. It’ll never go anywhere but my professors grade book, but it’s about mental health, so it’s important. It’s teaching me things that are going to help me in ten years when I’m faced with a client.
Right?
This is all worth it?
This weekly pulse racing, panic, race to the finish line as I close my laptop before Shabbat begins, hoping and praying I didn’t miss anything, that I read every line I was meant to, that I thought the right thoughts.
Being in school is a privilege, one I don’t take lightly, but it’s also so very contradictory to what my real life is. I’ve been teaching writing for three years, and to be totally honest, I’ve been doing that by trial and error. I’ve made mistakes while teaching and those are some of my worst moments. But I always learn from them, and I get back up stronger, and those lessons become a part of me, and I rarely make the same mistake twice.
School makes me slow it all down in a different way. It asks me to think more, to prepare in a way that I’ve never prepared for anything in my life so that I don’t make mistakes. And it’s hard. I’d much rather learn by experience, to jump into the deep end, and somehow come out kicking. But for my specific line of work, that isn’t a possibility, and to be able to heal other peoples hearts, I need to be as prepared, and educated, as I possibly could be.
So I know, that’s why I’m here, that’s why my heart is thump, thump, thumping, because I’ve never cared more about school than I do right now. And although I know I’ll complete the assignments before the weekend is up, because I always do, it doesn’t calm my nerves. In fact, I’m pretty sure all that nervous energy is what brings me to the finish line, each and every week.
And now, just like that, I’ve written a blog post.
It’s not all that great, but for this week, we’re going to suffice with just okay, because I’ve got a whole lot more words to write tonight before I call it quits.
23/52.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

The Things I’ve Seen

I’ve been MIA on this blog for a few weeks.

It doesn’t really matter if anyone else noticed, it was a weight on my mind that got heavier with each week that passed without a blog post.
I like the me that is able to get a blog post out every week. That is a productive me, an eye on the prize me, a sticking to the commitment me – the me that I always believed would be a writer.
Alas, the last few weeks (five, to be specific), have been busy in a different way. I’ve been on the west coast twice, with full-length flights between each visit, I’ve spent time at the pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, I finished a summer term of college just barely submitting my last assignment on time, I’ve been laughing until I’ve cried, taken more pictures than I really ever have, I met my brand new nephew and created the sweetest memories that I’m now packing away for safekeeping.
And I’ve written about 25 blog posts that I hated.
Nothing has felt right.
I felt a little like good writing requires devotion that I don’t have, and that I’ve been relying on the seat of my pants for years, and I’ve been swimming in the sea of kind words, forgetting that writing requires serious work, and I can’t just hope words are waiting around when I’m ready to find them.
I have to present myself every day, and write, every word.
And as I prepare to teach creative writing for the third year, I need to give my writing a new promise of commitment, of showing up, of giving it what it deserves so that it returns pieces to me that I’m proud of.
The last few weeks have been busy, in the best ways, and I’ve discovered G-d hidden between cracks, in his every creation, and sometimes sitting in the wide open.
Like in the bluest water I’ve ever laid eyes on, in the mountains near Vancouver, and in the tiny blue eyes of my newest nephew as he lay in my arms, his entire being trusting me to care for him and love him.
That’s when He was revealed.
But I also saw Him in the eyes of homeless people on the streets of Seattle, as I found myself inching away from them, feeling horribly guilty but genuinely afraid, I closed my eyes and I reminded myself that we came from the same cloth, life just took us two very different directions.
And I wondered why G-d gave some an easy, happy life, while He gave others countless challenges that left them begging for food in a city that didn’t want them.
But I saw that we are each G-ds creations and that there is no way to measure anyone’s worthiness, because all I saw was the effect of life circumstances, nothing more. I could not see their souls, I could not see where they were in the pathways of life.
I saw G-d’s handiwork in the people, all the people that I came across, in the flight attendant who was dealing with boyfriend troubles, in her friend who grumbled “men, am I right?”, in the little family that sat next to me, their small baby playing peek-a-boo with me, in my nephew that played peek-a-boo with me through a phone, his infectious grin making my heart leap, in the mom at the airport who just wanted her daughter to have a challenge-less life as she demanded to speak to the airline manager, in her daughter who inched away, red with embarrassment, in the TSA employee smiling widely with a hidden joke as each passenger went through security, in my Uber driver who is just trying to make it in LA as a makeup artist who talked me through my tears as I left my three little nephews after living in their home for three weeks. Because I hate goodbyes, always.
I’ve had endless reminders of just how much we all have in common.
I’ve seen G-d’s beautiful wonders, as if He looked at the world thoughtfully, pulled out His paintbrush and painted breathtaking landscapes just for our enjoyment.
I think He did it because He knew we’d build cities that blocked our view of the sky and the sea, and we’d forget that the whole world is not contained within a couple of blocks, piling our frustrations and anger up and up and up until we found ourselves at a sea that’s more beautiful than we realized it could be. He put those there for us.
And I realized I seem to write about the same things, over and over and over, I’m drawn back to the same themes and the same ideas.
Maybe rather than hating that, it’s time I embrace it, and see where it takes me.
By giving me words, G-d asked me to create, to add to His glorious world, to connect to others using a most powerful tool.
I don’t know why words float through my head and onto a paper, I don’t know why they sometimes flow and sometimes don’t, I don’t know why I write poems in my mind in the shower only to have them flutter away as I pick up a pen.
But dreams are a procrastinators life-source, so now, I say: I am a writer.
20/52.

Photo was taken by Chanchie Krinsky, in Porteau Cove Park.

Mornin’

It’s been loud for weeks.

Loud externally, loud internally.
I haven’t allowed myself to stop, to just think.
And breathe.
There are always things to do, or people around, distractions from the whisper inside that was getting louder and louder, calling out:
Just stop!
This morning, for whatever reason, I decided to take ten minutes outside to drink my coffee. Rather than pairing my coffee with typing, or working, or talking, I took myself outside and sat in the early morning air.
I didn’t always love mornings. I used to consider myself a night owl, but a few years ago, my friend encouraged me to get up early with her and work out. It was then that I realized how life-infusing the mornings are. There’s something about the air, and the quiet, and the fact that everyone else is still sleeping.
So, although I wake up each day at 6:15, today I chose to take ten minutes of my usually tightly scheduled morning to sit outside.
And I began to breathe.
And my soul used the first oxygen it’s seen in weeks to release a slew of feelings, rising to the surface.
Sometimes, it feels like life is happening to me. Sometimes it’s so busy, you just have to let it happen to you. There isn’t time to grab on to each horn, to fully envelop yourself in every experience, happy or sad.
Summer is often this way.
The sunny days blend together in one constant chaos of laughter, exhaustion, swimming, working hard, and sweating it all out.
This morning, when I took that deep breath, I felt it all slow down a little.
It was a breezy 68 degrees, a reminder of early fall, the world was open and clean, and it felt good.
And at that moment, I remembered something I haven’t given much thought to recently.
This world is inherently good.
Its goodness gets blurred through our tears, covered in the dirt we rub off of our shoes and drifts away as we fall asleep after another long day.
But, that goodness is there.
And it’s most easy to find in that early glow of a summer morning before the sun beats down on my neck, and the noise levels reach a crescendo again, inside, and out.
And today, I held those ten minutes dear, as I absorbed their emptiness, and in that sense, their absolute preciousness.
And I sipped my coffee. And I texted my friend:
“Thank you for teaching me about mornings.”
18/52

The Little Bird

I’m home now.
My home state, that provides a new backdrop for my writing. A reminder of how many stories were spun in the woods of New Hampshire, how many poets secluded themselves in the mountains, breathing only fresh air, speaking to no one.
Alas, I am far from secluded in the evergreens. As the summer begins, my childhood home is filled with family, and often, chaos reigns. And amidst the noise, and the hustle and bustle, and the lists of what needs to get done, there is a single bird, who lives in the tree right outside our home. He spends hours each day slamming himself into the window. It is mesmerizing to watch as time and time again the bird foolishly throws himself at the window – why? As he bounces back off of it, he looks again at the window, as if this time, the result will be different.
How is it possible that the bird does not learn from his mistakes?
How does the pain of the never bending window against his feathered wings not teach him to stop?
The science of it is simple. The bird sees his own reflection in the window, and regards the reflection as an enemy. As all he holds close and dear to his heart only lives a couple of feet away, this is his attempt to protect from an intruding bird. His dedication to his little nest is so fierce that no pain will stop him – as long as he believes there is danger, he will stop at nothing to be the protector.
If only he could understand the science as simply as we could.
If only he realized that what he perceives as the enemy is truly only himself.
I’m that bird sometimes. Sometimes I get confused about who the enemy is. I see the enemy in the reflection, and I charge, I try to fight it, to protect what is dearest to me, and I end up hurting even more, confused, sometimes even with a broken wing that requires tending to, to heal from.
It is an endless, life-long process to master the balancing act that is putting yourself out there, and protecting your most inner world.
Most of the world you interact with each day won’t have the time, or the patience, or the ability to understand and grasp who you truly are.
There is a reason humans seek companionship, and why we seek that one person that “gets” us. For some of us, there are plenty of people who get us. For some of us, that number is much more miniscule, and that much harder to find.
As a result, some of us turn into that bird, fighting anything that seems like the enemy, because so often, it feels like an enemy. So often, others don’t see who we are, or are dismissive of what we hold dear. So we protect it. We go on defense.
But maybe, like the bird, we have become so caught up in protecting ourselves, we don’t even realize that the enemy has turned into us.
Perhaps I spend so much time assuming that others do not “get me” that I forget to just be me, whether they are listening or not.
Little bird, one day, that window could seriously injure you. Perhaps rather than looking around you, ready to protect your nest from imaginary enemies, stay near your baby birds, and revel in the life that you have.
It’s a good one.

 

16/52.

5 Things I Learned From My Grandfather

Today is my grandfather’s 4th yartzeit (anniversary of death). It’s obviously unbelievable to truly recognize that, but when he passed, I had just been a year out of high school, unsure yet of where the future would take me. A lot has happened since then. I’ve changed. But, in passing, my grandfather has been a constant, and I still remember him exactly the way he was when he left us. I lived with my grandparents for my final two years of High School, in New York. I lived side by side with my unassuming Zeidy, getting to know him well between quietly shared breakfasts at 7 am, or through conversations in the living room, as he spoke Yiddish and Hebrew fluently, and I stumbled through attempting to use my tiny knowledge of those languages, always resulting in me just speaking in English, much to his chagrin.

The truth is, I don’t see a lot of myself in my Zeidy. Perhaps it’s simply the generation gap, or because I was born in America, and he in Israel, or perhaps because my life has been nearly bump free, whereas he persevered through challenges to get to where he was. Whatever it is, I know that I can learn from my grandfather in a lot of ways. As I was thinking about this day coming up, I thought about the things that so personified my Zeidy, and that I felt I could do well to learn from him. Here are 5:

1. Keep it simple.

From what I’ve heard from the old days, and what I saw for myself, was that my Zeidy didn’t have much he wanted for himself. He had a simple diet, made up of simple, tasty foods. As I rooted around in my grandparent’s kitchen Saturday night, looking for something new, and different, and exciting to eat, my grandfather sat down to the same exact meal, each Saturday night. Food is a big part of my life, and I am not ashamed to find it enjoyable to explore new flavors and cook up a storm. But – it would do me well to remember more often, as my grandfather clearly knew, that we don’t live to eat, we eat to live.

2. Joke around.

I’m a serious girl. I like big conversations and real life things. There are things in life that I believe should not be joked about. My grandfather was a serious man. He dealt with issues of great importance on a daily basis. He was constantly surrounded by people who were going through difficult times. He knew, better than most of us surely, that life was no fun and games. But if you ask any of his grandchildren what pops into their mind when they think of Zeidy, I will assure you that right up there on the list is the memory of his practical jokes and teasing. He had a light spirit and found joy in putting his grandchildren and many guests at ease. He would try on our sunglasses and jackets that he found laying around, he’d tease us about all kinds of things, and I will never forget the infectious grin on his face as he did so.


3. Talking less, but talking when you should.

I talk a lot. Not everyone believes this about me, but then there are times that I’ve met people, and when I told them I’m an introvert, they did not believe me, because when I’m excited about something, I could go on, and on, and on. I know I talk a lot. My grandfather did not. He could sit at his Shabbat dinner table, and not utter a word, just listen and observe. But, at the same time, if something came up, or someone did something that he did not find appropriate, he would speak up. His silence was not a result of fear, or being shy, or not having what to say. He simply recognized the value of words and did not waste them.

4. Doing good things, quietly.

I like doing good things. I get a lot of joy from doing things for people. But that doesn’t exactly make me special – it’s a human thing. What made my grandfather special, is that no one else in the world, other than those he helped, knew about it. After he passed away, our family heard countless stories from all over the planet about people that had been quietly assisted by my grandfather, whether it was financially or emotionally. He never bragged, he never even mentioned anything. He was the worlds greatest secret keeper, and his secrets only began to leak when those who had been touched could not hold it in any longer.

5. Overall, I think about myself way too much.

Clearly, I think about myself all the time, as this blog post shows. But, even if one is thinking about themselves in regards to making oneself better, I’ve learned that the less we think about ourselves, the better. When we keep our focus on others, we naturally become better versions of ourselves. By making our lives about others, we correct our flaws so that we can be a better friend, child, employee etc, in a way that obsessing about our flaws can never help. My grandfather lived a life for others, and today, he is deeply, and warmly, remembered by all those who had the privilege of knowing him.

Always, on this day, I remember the last moment I saw my grandfather, as I left his house after dinner on a Wednesday night, as I waved goodbye to him, as I called out “Good night, Zeidy!”. He smiled and waved, and two days later, I found out that those were the last words I’d ever say to him in person.
I’m just one of his many, many, grandchildren, yet, then and now, I still have a relationship with him that I cherish. I am forever grateful that my genes stem from this great man who lived a full and generous life, never chased honor or attention, but left a legacy that the wealthiest men on earth would be envious of.
15/52.

 


Photo by David Becker on Unsplash

Hold On

Time.

The tick, tick, tick of the clock, the passing pages of the calendar, the “what? it’s June again?”
As a small kid, time was endless. Days were long, weeks were even longer, and when I was waiting for something, it almost seemed as if the minute hand on the clock had frozen.
I guess as years go by, time picks up speed. All of a sudden, you’re constantly looking backward, trying to find the days that slipped through the cracks, that flew past you as you were tying your shoe, or taking a breath, or blinking.
As a (very) young adult, I’ve been caught by surprise by how time has picked up its pace, bringing new seasons faster and faster.
What?
It’s June again?
Just last year, I was packing my things, ready to leave the city for the summer, looking forward to the laid-back New Hampshire life, but knowing I’d be missing the anything-can-happen-at-any-moment lifestyle I’ve come to love in NYC.
Here I am, again, with the very same feelings and the very same thoughts. I already feel the sand slipping through the hour-glass, as June speeds ahead, knowing that the very first day of September will be here before I can possibly swim enough, laugh enough, travel enough, study enough. I’ll be starting another year of college, that much closer to a goal that I was so far from this time last year.
Time runs, and the best thing you can do is put things in your life because time will pass no matter what, whether you’re doing nothing or whether you’re doing everything.
Time. Speeds. By.
It feels bewildering and startling, frustrating and exhilarating.
Because when will I be suddenly finding myself living the life I’m striving for, looking back fondly at the days that I spent dreaming?
Will I realize that I’m living it, or will I always be seeking more?
How does one remind themselves on the bad days that time goes by, and as it does, it heals the tiny wounds and the large wounds and brings new gifts and surprises?
The story of life is always consistently being written, there’s no such thing as pausing, or putting your foot on the brakes, or holding up your hands to yell stop, even when it’s all you want to do.
Time often brings us to roadblocks that loom large, cracks in the road we aren’t sure we can leap over, it’s speed sometimes causes us to trip over our own feet.
But time also brings us to shores we never intended to see, unearths spectacular gifts we never knew we had, swoops us up in its arms when we most need to fly the coop and flies us towards a brighter future.
Time.
It is June again.

Next June will be here before I know it, and I’ll be marveling again, and all I pray is that come each June, I have the joy of marveling at how much beauty, how much good, how much growth traveled the days with me.

14/52.


Photo by Adrien King on Unsplash