Thursday, August 15, 2013

Forgetting for the Good

It's not easy, but every once in a while, when I put on a podcast to keep me company, I pass over the favorite entertainments, This American Life, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, The Moth, and I listen to something that's good for my soul.  This time it was a dropbox shiur (lesson) by the incredibly awesome and gevaltic R' Laibish Hundert. 

One of the reasons it is hard to get myself to do this is because I LOVE the escape of mostly mindless podcasts.  I get to escape and feel like an intellectual NPR elitist, which is way better than a mindless reality TV watcher.  These podcasts take away the repetitive, mundane, mind-numbing pain of doing the same chore over and over again.  Like dishes and laundry.  Things you have to do, ALL the time, but no one really appreciates.  So you don't get a whole lot of validation.  And I LOVE validation.  When you garden, you get the validation of everyone who eats your food (wow, you grew this?  It's so fresh!), plus you get food.  And food is ALWAYS validating.

The other reason it's hard is because I usually feel moved, from deep in my kishkas, to change something about my life when I listen to inspiring Torah lessons.  It stirs my soul and and awakens something that I routinely put to sleep with spiritual xanax.  Let's face it, sometimes it is just easier to say that I am angry or upset, or in a rest phase with my yiddishkeit.  I like to say I'm taking a breather.  It's not that I stop following halacha (though I may relax on certain things), it's that I take a break from pushing myself to take on more.  Just for a little bit.  A chance to ask the questions I need to ask.  To let things surface that I had pushed down.  A little break to let myself know that it's ok to be where I'm at.

But then along comes a great shiur, and WHAM! I need to connect to Hashem!  Now!  I need to learn more Torah and daven and do all the mitzvahs b'simchah! (with joy) NOW! 

It's a little manic.  I know.  So I go back to self medicating with a Netfilx movie.  But right now, in Elul, the King is in the field.  Mamesh, He's right here.  And if you've been to my house you know my window looks out over the field so He could be standing by the window, looking in, watching me watch my stupid movie and eat the cupcake I hid in the back of the fridge so my kids wouldn't find it.  And I can't have that.  Because soon it will Rosh HaShana and I will stand before Him and say what?  It's been a busy year, sorry I couldn't spend more time with You?  And He'll say, Nu?  I was watching you watch that movie, Tovah.  For those two hours you could've hung out in the field with me.  And had your cupcake too!  (See, I'm using "field" metaphorically to represent the inner space where my neshama connects to G-d.  I'm a writer so I can do that.)

Anyway, I am not condemning watching movies.  Ok, sometimes I get all self righteous and talk about how Hollywood is destroying our lives.  But then I need to watch the latest Wes Anderson flick.  (I picked something quirky and intellegent so you would think I'm sophisticated, but I couldn't wait to watch Pitch Perfect when it came out and begged my in-laws to let me play it on their on-demand for $4!  They let me 'cause they're awesome.)   But what I am saying is that it's one thing for me to accept where I'm at with Torah and yiddishkeit, which right now is this weird, love/hate, not so sure, but not unsure place where I allow my conflicted feelings to surface.  But it's another thing to avoid the longing because I am starting to accept myself as I am now.  Because with longing for more, can come feelings of judgement that there isn't "more."  That I am not doing more, connecting more.  That I am not more.

So I avoid it.

But like I said, Rosh HaShana is coming, and it's pretty hard to avoid that.  So I need to start my cheshbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul) now. 

But in this shuir, R' Leibish said an amazing thing.  He was teaching a Rebbe Nachman teaching, then went to Reb Nosson's Likutei Tefillot on that teaching.  (Rebbe Nachman wrote a book of lessons and his main disciple, Reb Nosson, wrote a book of prayers based on each lesson.  That in itself is an amazing example of real learning.)  And the prayer for this lesson went something like this: Please G-d, as I do this mitzvah, as I say this prayer, let me forgot all my aveirahs (transgressions) and wrong doings and just be in this moment.  Let me do this good deed as though I never did a thing wrong in my life.

Wow.  That is soooo powerful on soooo many levels.  We all have a past.  We all have a list of ways we could've done something better, ways we could be better.  But in THIS moment let it be as though I have no past and I am pure and coming to you with a whole heart.  Because if we see ourselves as bad how can we pray with goodness?  We will be questioning our worthiness.  Who am I speak to You?  Who am I to help another human.  Should I even bother davening today if I haven't all month?  Should I try to be nice to my husband when I've been so bitchy lately?  Should I really pay attention while making this brocha if I always mumble them?


I should.  And for this moment, let it be as though I ALWAYS say my brochas with kavana, pure intention.

And how much can I extend this lesson to EVERYWHERE in my life?  If I try harder to have a more peaceful relationship with my son, let me, in the moments I spend with him, let go of how I see myself as a mother: angry, resentful, impatient.  Let me just be here, as the mother I want to be right now.  Present, open and loving.  So what if I wasn't yesterday.  If I see myself as undisciplined and irresponsible, let me in this moment, while I am preparing to take on a new job, forget that and be this person for this moment.

G-d, as I approach you all month and into the holidays, let me approach you with the intent in my heart right now.  Not the history of failed tries to connect.  Not the disappointment in myself and disappointment in life that I hold deep within.  Let me forget all that just in this minute.   I am calling out to You and I am telling You that I do want to connect.  Now.

And if I go back to avoiding these deep longings tomorrow, that won't stop me from trying to be my best today.

Everybody, the King is the Field.  He is here.  Ready to connect.  If you weren't such a good Jew all year, well for this moment, forget.  Be in the beauty of this moment of connection.  Let your soul be stirred even if you have a history of burying those stirrings deep.  Pray that for this moment you forget the parts of the past that don't serve you.  Because in this moment, you are loved by Hashem.  Now.

  1. Torah podcasts.  Way to use the evil internet for Good!
  2. The clouds outside
  3. The watermelon dripping off my 2 year old's chin
  4. Recent visits of friends
  5. A little bit of homeschooling happened
  6. Learning to make cheese on Sunday!
  7. Discovering spotify.  Life forever changed

Monday, August 5, 2013

It's Your Fault!


Do you feel it?  The pit in your stomach?  The awfulness of getting stuck with the blame?  The neeeeeed to pin the blame on someone?  Anyone?!!!

Here's the way it happened today.  Actually, to tell it straight I have to start with yesterday.  Yesterday I went to the wedding of one of my most favoritest women in the whole world.  It was beautiful, joyful, elegant and wonderful!  And I danced my heart out.  I love doing that.  Especially because the Kallah is my favorite dance partner!
After the wedding, we spent the night at my MIL's with the kiddos.  Needless to say, the five of us in one bedroom = not the best night of sleep.  Especially when my oldest son comes to bed and repeatedly swallows air then burps it out to entertain himself.  (Thank G-d for earplugs!)

In the morning I drank a small coffee and went to the Tuscano Agency to see about a job.  Yup.  It's time to make some money.  That whole adult reality thing.  Ugh.  Anyway, we went back to the house to pick up the kids after the meeting.  It was here that my true selflessness showed.  I didn't drink another coffee.  I wanted to.  I needed to.  But on the trip to Pittsburgh I had to stop and pee twice.  Since this drive was going to be even longer, I made the sacrifice and just brought along a cup of ice chips to keep hydrated.  Aren't I a saint?

I don't think people with big healthy bladders will ever understand the true handicap people like me live with everyday.  Everything us small bladders do has to be planned around having adequate and frequent access to a restroom.  Like the window seat?  Too bad, we need the aisle so we don't have to pass our asses in front of you, our seat mates, every time the urge arises.  Camping with a bunch of friends sounds fun, right?  Wrong!  Finding a secluded spot, not too far away, but not too close, is not as easy as you would think.  Tickets to the Pittsburgh Speaker Series?  Sounds awesome!  Not!  Once you leave your seat, you can't be readmitted and you miss the whole lecture.  So get ready to squeeeeeeeeeeeze!

And then there are car trips.  Windows down, music playing playing, everyone relaxing.  Until... You look over at your spouse with that guilty look, hoping he'll smile back and pull over.  But instead it's usually, "AGAIN?!"  What else can I say but, "Sorry."

Back to today.  Since I am aware of my disability, I took one for the team, shorted myself on coffee, and survived the trip on ice chips.  Normally I drive.  Everywhere.  It's another one of my disabilities: Motion sickness.  And I could write another whole blog on how incredibly debilitating that one is!  But that's how it goes.  I don't feel sick if I drive.  But today we were in the truck, which is easier for me to handle.  And I was tired.  And we had materials in the pickup that really stuck out the back and I didn't feel like maneuvering on the highway with all that.  So hubby drove.

And while hubby drove, kiddos fought.  Oh My G-d.  It was so F@&%ing ANNOYING!  It was nonstop.  It was high pitched screaming.  It was bickering.  It was tattling.  It was "MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAMA!" Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

So between me and hubby trying to talk over the roar of the wind--did I not mention the lack of AC?  Yeah, we have to have the windows down or we suffocate with warm car air.  But it's a Ford diesel.  The thing is a beast.  A loud beast.  So any conversation comes with a lot of shouting.  And a lot of "What?"

Back to the story again, we were trying to seriously talk about our future.  Should we sell the tractor?  Should we fix the mowing deck first?  Should we sell the truck and get a small non-gas guzzler?  Should we focus on getting some money put away before we invest more on the farm?  Etc.  And meanwhile, between fighting with each other, the kids are crying that they are hungry.  Starving.  DYING!  (They just finished two wholewheat cream cheese sandwiches each.) And when it felt like we should definitely have been home a;ready, we realized we were almost in Ohio.  Oops, just passed the state line.  We are in OHIO!  WTF?!  We totally missed our exit.  Like, 50 miles ago!

And the ride is so miserable.  And I am so pissed off.  And how the hell did we just add an hour and half to a two and a half hour drive?!!!

IT'S YOUR FAULT!  The words are bubbling up inside me from the bottom of my stomach.  Pressing against my lips.  I have to say it.  I neeeeeeeed to say it.  Hubby!  How the hell did you miss the exit and then not notice that you missed it?!

Wait, if he missed it, I missed it too.  I was right next to him and didn't say a thing.

Of course we missed it!  We were yelling at the kids to STOP FIGHTING ALREADY!  It's THEIR fault!  Now I have someone to blame.  Now I can turn around in my seat and shout at them and tell them how, because they behaved so badly, we just added a freakin' HOUR AND A HALF to our already super long ride!

But they're kids.  And it's not their fault that we missed the exit.

So who's f@&%ing fault is it?!!!

In my mind I am desperately searching for someone to blame.  Someone.  Anyone!  G-d!  It's Your fault,  I think to myself.  But I quickly see how ridiculous that line of thought is.  And I am left with this pain.  This awful, horrid pain.  The surrender.  It's no one's fault.  And without someone to blame, the anger has nowhere to go.   It's just there.  And it hurts like hell.  It brings me to near tears.  I keep grasping at blame like a life raft to lift me from my sea of despair.  

Blame is a tool of anger.  Anger is a tool of avoidance.  I use anger to avoid the pain.  Because if I'm angry, it's someone's fault.  Even my own.  I can be angry at myself.  I am all the time.  But when you're angry, there is something wrong.  Something that can be changed.  There is movement.  Distraction.  When there is nowhere to put the anger, their is stillness.

The stillness cannot be fixed.  It can not be moved.  You can't exchange one feeling in the stillness for another.  You just have to be with whatever is there.  And often, it's pain.

I won't say that after being with this painful stillness I got out of the car enlightened.  Nope.  I got out moody, pissed off, and with a bad vulnerability hangover.  (Part of the hangover was letting myself be so exposed on the dance floor.)

But it did leave me with the insight that I am holding a deep, deep reservoir  of hurt and pain.  One that I will do almost anything to avoid feeling.  Such as, watching movie trailers on my phone when I go to the bathroom.  Because otherwise I would feel the stillness.  Or calling a friend when I do the dishes.  Or putting on a podcast when I clean.

What's below the reservoir?  I don't know.  It will probably take a lifetime of sitting with it to know.  But I would like to try.  I don't want to feel like I need to run my whole life.  I've never been much of a runner.  I'm more of a 'sit on my butt' sort of person.

So, my resolution for this week is to try to go to the bathroom without any distraction.  No books, magazines, or phones.  It won't be easy.  I use that as an escape from my kids all the time.  And an escape from everything else too.  But not this week.  This week I will be still.  On the can.

Baby steps.

  1. The Wedding!!!
  2. Making it home without killing myself the or the kids
  3. My husband not loosing it on me as I sulked
  4. Seeing my friends at the wedding (I LOVE YOU GUYS SOOOOO FREAKIN' MUCH!)
  5. My Momma's visiting
  6. She brought us dinner tonight
  7. The kindness of my inlaws