Tag: Spirit

Opening boxes

This past Saturday life, and choices previously made, took on new meaning.

A little less than two years ago I converted to Judaism after two plus years of study – first on my own, and later with a group of others under the tutelage of a rabbi who also became my friend.

Judaism provided me with a sense of peace, belonging, kavana aka intention. It grounds me and gives me a sense of purpose as well as a framework and network to do good to and for others, which aside from being a mitzvah, is something that is a recurring purpose in my life.

As I was debating taking my studies further to be with a rabbi and trying to decide how much this was important to and core to who I am, I visited the local Holocaust museum. I read every plaque. I looked closely at every picture and item displayed. I repeated the question to myself, “If this happens again, how would I (re)act? How would I feel? Can I take this on?” I walked out that day with a sense of purpose, that yes, even should the worst happen again, I would face it, proudly a Jew.

Saturday morning I went to early voting at a new county facility. At one point in the long wait, while standing next to a police officer, I had a terrible thought… What if someone came in and started shooting or had a bomb? There was no form of shelter. There was limited access in/out. There were only two officers. There had been no metal detector or wanding. I live in an area (state? county?) where folks can openly carry as well as conceal carry (weapons); there were no signs asking people to not carry. Heck, someone could say something to someone else and trigger a shooting.

It was a sobering thought.

Luckily, nothing happened at that facility.

When I got back to my car and decided to take a moment to review my Twitter stream that I learned, as I had those sobering thoughts, a synagogue was facing the terror of being gunned down by a madman, simply for being Jewish.

I’m not going to go into the debate about gun ownership, including what type of guns should be available to the public. I’m not going to go into (mental) health care and how it or the lack of it is (tied to gun sales) or impacts ones actions.

I found it profound, as I have in many other instances when this sort of thing happens, that I knew it was happening. My brain picked up on whatever vibes and thought about being shot at in a public space at the same time that it was occurring elsewhere.

I also found it profound how it impacted me the rest of the day. While driving I worried that someone would know I was Jewish and shoot me or ram me with their vehicle. While sitting in a fast food restaurant I worried that someone would ram a car at the window I sat at or would come through the door to shoot me, just for being Jewish. All of those were incredibly long shots to be nigh impossible. After a while, I found a sense of equilibrium and moved on to anger and sadness for those killed and their friends and family.

I revisited my thought process from three years ago, asking myself, what would I do? Would I hide my being Jewish if it came to survival? Would I instead be proud of who I was and this tribe I am a member of and do what I can to fight back, to repair the world in whatever way I can. It’s harder when one knows how easily it could actually happen. The metro area I live in has a large Jewish population and also sees a lot of acts of antisemitism.

But I knew, I would still stand tall and fight back. This is who I am, who I have fought long and hard to find and be.

While it happened many hundreds of miles away, I knew that the likelihood of copycat actions was plausible in my area. I had the thought that my family could be concerned about me as well as about attending my shul for my upcoming nuptials. Thus, I proactively reached out to close family to let them know some basics regarding the safety measures my synagogue has taken in the past and is continually looking to improve.

It was fascinating the responses I got. And a little heartbreaking. One family member showed their narcissism in not having thought about it at all. Another had a vigilante mindset. A third had a compassionate response. A few years ago this would have surprised me, but things have changed in the past year.

Sunday morning I went to a meeting to hear about security measures at my shul, to be reassured. I learned that within minutes of the event starting, local police went to each shul in its jurisdiction to ensure that they were safe in case it was a targeted, larger scale event.

The fact that law enforcement took it as a credible possibility and acted proactively reinforces the reality as well as how ignorant and hurtful that one family member could be so dismissive of my safety.

My fiance appreciated how I felt that the community devistated wasn’t localized to just that shul, but that, while I did not know anyone there, I felt they were my family, my people who were hurt. I saw an image recently that stated ‘when any Jew hurts, we all hurt. We cry as a family. We are family.’

 

20 years later – growth

Yesterday a friend and I commiserated over life in general. We both still have similar thoughts about belief in a higher something, fate, acceptance of what life throws at you, and that as we age, we just become more ourselves.

This friend and I drifted apart after a key point in my life where I made a decision that she supported but didn’t agree with. We recently reconnected via Facebook. I gladly accepted her request but was still trepidatious. We have had minor, passive interactions in the months since that reconnection.

Maybe this says bad things about me, but I had moved on in my life. She was the one to request the connection. If she wanted to rekindle she would do so in her own way and time. I have a very full life and she is 1000 miles away. We can’t exactly meet up for coffee. I gave her my phone number. She didn’t give me hers. I figured it was up to her to take it from superficial back to something deeper.

Then… then she was in a terrible accident last week. To the point, she was “fighting for her life” according to her sister. That she had a “brain bleed” for several days after the accident. I was saddened. It reminded me of how I had reconnected with another friend and lost her shortly thereafter.

I have been told by others that I have a generous spirit. I let her sister (who seems to be the spokesperson for the family to the public) know that if there is anything I can do, I would. I’m a universal donor – so there is a good chance if an organ was needed I could at least test to see if other factors matched and would gladly give. When a Go Fund Me came up, I gladly and quickly gave what I could.

I was surprised and excited when I received a phone request from my friend. We chatted for a long while. One thing that struck me is how some things had not changed and how lucky I was to have such a good friend returned to me. The other was how… things had not changed. She was on the same path in life that we saw 20 years ago. Her life is still limited the way I feared mine would be had I stayed. (I don’t mean any shade by the limited comment.)

The conversation was like a mirror into another dimension as to what I would have been had I not made some changes to my life. It was a blessing, helping me to appreciate better where I am and that I am glad I made those changes. I am happier and healthier (emotionally, mentally, maybe even physically) than had I not made those decisions.

I am very sad my friend had her accident and the challenges it is putting her through. But I am grateful that it was a “wake up” moment on so many of these levels.

What is community

Two plus years ago I took a very scary step. I gave religion a second chance after giving up on it many years ago.

I didn’t feel any fulfillment from organized religion. I had been burned in niche communities with the drama or being used in someones agenda. I had a hard time reconciling faith with science. Despite all that, I stood by the quote from Contact (the movie, never read the book,) “[…] we belong to something that is greater then ourselves […]” This book and movie was before the popularization of the Higgs-Boson, though I suspect Carl Sagan was aware of it when he wrote. Read more

The secret

Last night I had an somewhat fancy event to go to with my boyfriend. It wasn’t just a fancy event, but also an opportunity to meet most of his immediate family. Between the unclear dress code and wanting to impress, I found the perfect outfit and put a lot of effort into looking and being my best.

I was proud of how it all came together, so of course I posted selfies on social media. One of the responses was from my brother, stating that his girlfriend approved (um, what?) and wanted to know my secret. My response at the time was that it was lots of things, but I’m happy to share. So this is sharing.

Many of the things circle back on each other.

The first thing to looking fabulous is being happy. I’ve worked long and hard over many years to resolve all sorts of issues and learn to be my “best self.” Lots of introspection, conversations with family, counseling, etc. I’ve also worked very hard to reach a point in my career where I’m happy with where I am, what I do, and how much I bring in. I’ve gotten to a comfortable place with my investments and cashflow. I’m happy with the people in my life, focusing on those who (for whatever reason) bring me joy and/or support while drifting away (ok, not the best thing) from those who brought out bad things in me or took more than they gave. I love my communities that I actively engage with.

The second thing is feeling good. I’ve spent the last several years slowly working towards being physically healthy. I’ve made HUGE strides in the past year. It seems to have finally found a good balance where I feel phenomenal. I sleep great, I eat great, I’ve found the mix of food, meds, and supplements that I need to be my best. I’m not going to say the specific food plan, exercises, meds, or supplements because I don’t want to give the impression of knowing anything, being a medical professional, or saying something that while it works for me doesn’t for others. No two people have the same needs. Though one thing that makes a big difference is hydration – drinking lots of water, moisturizing, etc.

The third thing is knowing what works for you. I’ve experimented a lot over the years. I’ve gotten to a point I know what colors, cuts, etc. of clothes/styles that work for me. I know how to pull off different looks (hair/makeup) that achieve different ends depending on the situation. I have found specific products that work best for me – both in the moment as well as long term. (Because if it looks great one night but makes you break out the next day is not good!) I’ve learned how to style my outfits that accentuate me best, as well as the outfit too. I’ve found tricks (spanx!) that help to make things look better on me.

It may not be clear, but as one goal is reached, it opened doors for the next goal. It was all interconnected – having the income helped to focus on finding the right accessory or supplement. Feeling happier mentally and emotionally helped me to do more and eat better. Feeling physically better helped me do better in my work and in working through my emotions.

Looking good for an event, an evening, is not about one secret. It isn’t about a fad diet or exercise program or vitamin or article of clothing/accessory. It is a culmination of being your truest and best self, of being happy and healthy.

Relational Judaism part 1

I’ve started reading this book, as the ideology is what our Board of Trustees (whom I am not a member of) is using to hopefully revolutionize and revitalize our community. I’m barely started (<25 pages in) and it is so eye popping and jaw dropping. Why aren’t more people thinking like this? Is it really so hard to move beyond transactional – providing an event with food – to developing relationships?

Yes, building relationships is hard and takes time. And events (with the promise of food and/or booze) foster a way to get people out of their homes to encounter others…. The trick is getting them to interact. Connecting people who have a need with those who can help. Connecting people period.

Right now I am fired up by a paraphrase of Mordecai Kaplan, ‘religion is meant to serve the Jewish people, and not that the Jewish people should serve the religion.

How is that for a mic drop statement?

Jewish Weddings

Several years ago a coworker/friend got married. He wanted me to attend, but, couldn’t afford to invite me. I totally get that. So he told me the day and where – but not when. I was essentially given permission to crash. As it ended up, I showed up late – missed the ceremony and frankly didn’t spend much time at the reception. I didn’t know anyone else there and felt bad eating since I wasn’t an accounted for/invited guest. So I didn’t see more than 30 minutes of the reception.

Recently a friend got married, but it would be out of state. Another couple who are acquaintances also got married recently.

All three of these weddings are Jewish. As a recent Jewish convert, and with the hope to get married again someday, I wanted to see in action a Jewish wedding to understand how it differs from the multitude of Catholic, or other Christian or non denominational weddings I have attended over the years.

Being the nerd I am, I’ve done my research so I know the differences regarding the ketubah (marriage contract), chuppah (canopy), and the Hora (chair dance done to Hava Nigla/Oseh Shalom/Siman Tov.)

To be fair, this wedding was interfaith. I expected it to be more involved due to that. The ceremony was MUCH shorter than any other I had been to. There simply was less ceremony to it. It was processional, vows/rings, the traditional 7 blessings and Numbers priestly blessing, they did a unity candle (as a nod to the groom’s nonJewish family), and breaking the glass. Then it was pictures, food, and partying.

The other big difference for me was that it started on time. I have been to dozens of weddings and none of them started on time – not even my own! (Though that was my being benevolent and due to my future MIL running late.)

I half hope to see others to get a better feel for them in general.