.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Isn't it pretty?

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Training Day

It's amazing how you take things for granted. There are so many things that I do that I don't even think about because I have been doing them for so long. I don't register the many processes and steps one has to go through to accomplish many of the tasks that are deemed simple. And then you realize that no everything is so simple - it just seemed that way because you do it so much. I am currently training my replacement at my job. I am trying to teach her about all the things that I do on a daily basis, none of which I have to think too hard about. And I am realizing that to break down all the steps to explain exactly what I do does take thought. And that to throw all kinds of jargon and new terms at someone can be confusing. It's actually kind of interesting breaking down each task into the separate steps that I take to get something accomplished. I keep telling my trainee that she should do things the way she wants to do them - but then I keep telling her how I would do it, like it is an inside secret that is the key to being the most efficient. Who knows what she'll come up with to make things run even smoother than they do now. (Probably labeling things and putting them in some organized files would help.) It's funny, because I never really thought I would miss my job much. But having to relinquish my desk and move all my personal stuff out to give it over to a new person made me feel kind of hurt. Not anything extreme, but I felt replaceable. And a bit pushed aside. These are my emotions that don't have much basis, but I guess I liked to think of myself as indispensable. And I guess it isn't really so. I am trying to be patient with my trainee - it is a virtue, after all. And I am will keep in mind that hopefully, very shortly after my move, someone will be training me also. And feeling replaced. And I will try to be sensitive to it, because I know what it is like.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Part of the Family

My feet are sore today. They are sore because I was at a wedding, dancing up a storm last night! The wedding was for the son of a family that I am very close with. This family is absolutely amazing - the hospitality and caring they have shown to me during my stay in Baltimore has been so warm and loving. I have learned so much from them - what good middos are all about, what it means to have Ahavas Yisroel, what family really means - and they do it all in a quiet, understated way without drawing attention to themselves. I am incredibly fortunate to have them in my lives, and I am going to miss them terribly when I leave Baltimore. They "adopted" me from the beginning, their table has always had a place set for me on Shabbos and Yom Tov, I have always been included on Thanksgiving and other legal holidays, and the emotional and moral support they have given me has gone beyond anything you can imagine. They are just an incredibly special family, with so much love that they share with those around them. It has been a difficult year for them, one in which they were given many extremely difficult challenges, and what I have seen come from them was an important lesson. Through their trying times they bonded to each other, grew immeasurably and opened themselves even more. Through these hard times, I was still always welcome in their home with open arms. My respect for them has just grown. So it was with such pleasure to share in their simcha this past weekend, and especially tonight. I did everything I could to help out, and at every step of the way, they made sure to take the opportunity to express their appreciation. It was just the tiny thing I could do to repay them for everything they have given me over the years. I really felt part of the family this past weekend. I spent the weekend with their family, I was seated at a table with the cousins (many of whom I had met before), and thought it funny when the comment was made that I see this family more than the cousins do, or even more than I see my own family. I was especially touched when, during his speech at one of the Shabbos auf ruf meals, the chosson included me and said I was like an additional sister to him, and thanked me for everything I had done during the weekend. I have a lot of brothers already, but it feels wonderful to have one more. It was so great to attend this wedding and really celebrate a special occasion with this family. They have brought me in and made me a part of them, always caring for me. You can always use more family, especially when they are so special.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Views of Shabbos

Esther wrote an article for the Jewish Week about why she no longer lights Shabbos candles. Aside from the fact that it is beautifully written (one of these days, I am going to have to ask her for pointers on writing), I found the article so interesting specifically because of what Shabbos has become for her, and the contrast in what it means for me. For Esther, Shabbos has become a lonely time by herself - hours stretching before her, with no one to connect with by phone, e-mail or Internet. It is staying in an apartment alone, watching the candles melt down to their base, and then being in the dark - spiritually, socially and physically. It signifies the absence of a family, and the fading hopes of creating one of her own. She writes about the Shabbos candles: "Now, they invoke the hazy, increasingly uncertain promise of a future family that I don’t have. These candles, which are supposed to embody the endless optimism of a day of rest, work another mojo — unsettling my mind and making me feel lonelier. It’s like they’re squinting at me, trying to figure out what I’m doing there by myself. Their unsteadiness seems to symbolize my search for meaning in rituals that are clearly meant, optimally, for families." The reason why this article struck me so much is because, as mentioned above, my connection with Shabbos and lighting Shabbos candles stands in a stark contrast. For me, Shabbos is the time when I actually get to spend time with those families I have become close with. It is often the only time when my friends who are married with children can slow down and take a break from carpools and soccer games, and can sit and talk with me, and connect. Shabbos to me is the time I have to walk around and visit those people I haven't been able to catch during the week, when conflicting schedules often make it difficult to find the mutually agreeable free time. When I was in school, Shabbos was often the only point during the week that I was capable of finding the time to be social, and see my friends, and I treasured it greatly. I know I am extremely lucky - I have an incredible network of very hospitable individuals who invite me for Shabbos meals every week. I have a few people who I am close enough with that I have no trouble inviting myself into their homes, and some that I can go to each week if I want. To me, this hospitality is also Shabbos, and I am always startled when I meet someone who doesn't have the same experience, who has trouble finding places to eat meals, and often eats alone, not by choice. In becoming religious, Shabbos was introduced to me as a time to share your home and meals, and I have slowly been finding this utopic view shattered by other singles I encounter who tell me they don't have the same experience I do. So to me, lighting Shabbos candles is the beginning of 25 hours of freedom to see my friends, to interact, to use our day of rest as a way to build my communal bond with other Jews. I think it is sad that it is not the case for so many others, and it should be a call to klal Yisrael to strengthen their Ahavas Yisrael and reach out to those beyond their families, or to look at family as a much bigger structure. I think people should take a look around and see what they can do to make Shabbos special and welcoming for all, and not just those they spend the whole week with. I think Shabbos has the power to bring so many together, if we would just wake up and make it happen. Esther, I truly hope that while you are still single, Shabbos can become a day of connecting with others. And once you start your own family (which I pray will be very soon), you will remember how Shabbos made you feel, and do everything in your effort to change that feeling for others. Good Shabbos!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Happy Birthday, Bro!

My baby brother is 18 years old today. What does that mean? He can legally vote. And, oh yeah, I am getting kind of old. I haven't lived in the same city as my brother for quite some time now, and he has always looked young for his age (good thing he doesn't know about this blog, or he would probably be pretty upset at me for saying so), so in my mind, my brother is somewhere between 8 and 10 years old. Which makes me around 19, which is fine - that's how old I feel, so why should I actually be any older than that? I have a friend who is always telling me that he wants to be 40, or even older. I always say, why rush? Why not enjoy each day as it lasts? He says he wants the wisdom now that he will have when he is that old. I maintain that it is better to take the experiences of each day and enjoy the process of gaining that wisdom. Another friend is constantly telling me that he is getting old, that he is not as young as he used to be. I guess that's true - but to me, it's all in the mind. You can be as young as you feel. Which is why it is startling to me that my baby brother is already 18. Because when I slow down and see how responsible I am, how I work full-time like an adult, it shocks me to see that practically speaking, I am a grown-up. But I refuse to let go of my childhood enthusiasm. Because when we are young, and have less concerns, we enjoy life more. In all honesty, I know I don't get the opportunity to enjoy life enough. So I better make the most of each minute that I have the chance. And I still say that age is in the mind. So even though my brother is 18, I am clinging on to my youth as well. Happy Birthday, dear brother! Enjoy it while it lasts!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Indigo Girls

Barefoot Jewess' advice, in relation to my stress about moving, in a previous post was: Being extra nice to yourself is also tremendously important. I completely agree with her, so last night I decided to treat myself to something I hadn't done in a really long time. I went to a concert. The Indigo Girls. Who are absolutely fabulous, by the way. I have a tendency to skip out on events such as this one, due to cost or time constraints, or whatever other reason that comes up. But a few weeks ago, my roommate heard about the concert and asked me if I wanted to go, and I realized that I did. I feel like I deserve to spoil myself a little and enjoy this summer between undergrad and graduate school. I deserve to take some time for myself and have fun. So, to the Indigo Girls we went. And it was great. I got myself a couple drinks, danced and sang at the top of my lungs the whole evening. It was therapy much better than shopping or chocolate. I needed to just have an evening of enjoyment, without worrying or thinking or being responsible. So, thanks to my roommate, the sometimes snarky commenter here, who took me to the concert. Hope you enjoyed it as well!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Flattering Offer

One of the major reasons I have a blog is because I am so bored at work. Now, this hasn't been so true lately, but for a good, solid year I sat around my office, searching for things to do because I had completed everything expected of me. I went back to school because one day, while making copies, I realized that I wanted more out of a career - I wanted to care about what I was doing. And my job was great while I was in school - because I had plenty of work time to write papers, study for exams, e-mail professors and classmates, and Internet research. So, I find it very flattering, and quite interesting, considering my apathy about my position; that my boss called me into her office yesterday and asked me to reconsider my move and subsequent resignation of my position. She offered me more money, tried to persuade me to go to school here in Baltimore, and used scare tactics such as the prospect of riding the subway in New York (which doesn't bother me at all), in order to attempt to convince me to stay at my current job, and in Baltimore. It was incredibly flattering to receive such an offer. I know that I do my job well, but I was told once by a boss (who liked me very much, but was trying to make a point) that everyone is replaceable. Apparently my current boss doesn't think so. It was interesting to me that my boss and I have such different outlooks on the job I do. My boss fully understands that I have absolutely no interest in what our office does, nor will I ever care very much about the field we work in. It also sometimes amazes me how oblivious she is to my boredom at work - I once wrote an entire 10-page paper while sitting at my desk, supposedly working. And forget about blogging - no one at work knows about that one! But that doesn't matter to her - she thinks I do a good job and wants to keep me. Unfortunately for her, I think I am headed for hopefully greener pastures, graduate school with the prospect of doing something I truly care about and will find meaningful. It is very flattering to be made such an offer, to know that I am wanted, but I think I have to move on, even despite my fear of the unknown. But at least I will have a great professional reference!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dying of Suspense

I hate suspense. It drives me crazy. I hate it when someone says they have a surprise for me but they can't tell me what it is yet. I was always the kid who found the hiding place where my parents kept the presents and found out what I was getting beforehand. It is so mean to me when people say they have to tell me something, but I have to wait. I actually get sick sometimes when I have to deal with suspenseful situations. Don't get me wrong, I love surprises. I love opening up the mailbox and seeing an envelope with a real stamp on it. I actually liked not having Caller ID because it was so cool to answer the phone and have no idea who it was going to be (at least it was cool when it wasn't a telemarketer). I just don't want to know about surprises before they are going to happen - because I can't handle the suspense. I don't like the anticipation of an awaiting surprise, and I get really frustrated at people who put me through it (which is why most of my friends have learned either to not mention things in advance or to tell me the whole story right away). Which is why I think I am having such a hard time lately - I am moving soon, and I don't have a place to live, or a job, and I don't know how things are going to turn out. I am waiting on other people to make decisions before I can make a decision. The suspense makes me so nervous. I just want to jump up and down and yell out to Hashem to let me know what is going to happen (that, or find a working crystal ball - either one would work). It's funny, because I am not a control freak, and I am not the kind of person who has to have all my decisions nailed down. I like keeping my options open. But hanging in limbo, with the possibility of homelessness in a little over a month, has me so thrown off I can't stand it. I just want to know what is going to happen, what will be. Anyone have a future-telling device for me?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Don't Lose Yourself

I couldn't sleep, so I decided to do something more productive than lying in bed. I hope this makes some sense in the morning... I was at a bridal shower a couple of weeks ago, and the bride's sister gave some advice that I really appreciated. She told my friend to make sure to not lose who she was, to hold on to those things that make her uniquely herself. I thought the advice was interesting, because I think many people getting married do give up a lot of what is uniquely them in the attempt to be a good spouse. They think it is important to agree with and have the exact same opinion or outlook on every issue that comes up or else they don't seem like a united entity. I have often heard "my husband says" from friends so many times in one conversation that I want to beg them to express their own opinion, to have their own opinion. This is a reason that I am glad that I have gotten to be a bit older before getting married. I have had the opportunity to figure out who I am, what I believe, how I think and what I stand for. If I had gotten married very young, I don't think I would have been able to do that for myself, I think I would have been a blend of myself and someone else. And I kind of like who I have worked to become. I also appreciated the advice for what it offers to a marriage. I think it's important to know what you won't compromise on before you get married. When you know who you are and what you stand for, I believe that you make a stronger spouse, because you can offer who you authentically are. Compromise is important in a marriage - don't get me wrong. I don't think there is anything wrong with working together, with striving towards a common goal. But when you know yourself, and stay yourself, I think you are stronger, happier and more fulfilled. And I don't think that it is antithetical to a marriage. I think when each spouse knows who they are, they can more easily fulfill each other, because they can help meet each other's needs if each one of them expresses their unique needs. You don't have to lose yourself in marriage. Holding onto your unique desires, opinions and characteristics helps each spouse really know each other, because you know yourself.

Friday, June 10, 2005

In Need of Options

I was speaking to a friend of mine last night whose oldest son will enter the 4th grade next year. This friend of mine recently left Baltimore for a much smaller Orthodox community where there is only one school to send her children to for kindergarten through 8th grade, and the school is co-ed. That is significant for my friend, who leans toward the yeshivish end of the spectrum, but she and her husband have decided to deal with that drawback of living in a small community. What I thought was so significant is that she mentioned to me that her son will be joining the band next year, and learning to play the clarinet. I was so excited for him. I have known my friend's son since he was a toddler; he is a sweet, sensitive, creative and very bright boy who I can only imagine will flourish with having the outlet of playing an instrument. I was so happy that the school they are sending their children to includes the advantage of including music and performing arts as a part of their curriculum, because I think it is so important for all students to have some way of expressing their individual talents and to get away from the intellectual atmosphere of the classroom from time to time. She lamented a bit the fact that the Torah learning is not at the same level as many of the yeshivos they would have chosen; that they were going to have to learn with him at home on a more intense level than they would have otherwise. But my perspective is that such a singular focus on Torah learning must be incredibly stifling to a child. A few children will enjoy the learning immensely, and probably excel, but I think the vast majority need to have some kind of option and individual development considered in developing educational objectives. Each child is different, and to have only one path through which a whole school is gear is, I believe, a way to really turn many students away from that which is so intensely focused on, especially if a particular student has difficulty with the subject matter. It is often said that a school can't offer everything at a distinctive level. I agree, and understand the focus that is put on Torah, because it is incredibly important. But I don't think everyone can, or should, focus on it to the exclusion of all else. So I am extremely happy that my friend's son is going to be in the band - for him, I think it will make an incredible difference. I wish that all kids would be nurtured into finding their individual outlets, I know for me, it was one of the highlights of my education.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

My "I Believe"

Okay, I promised you my personal "I Believe" so here it is. It's probably not as thought out as it would be if I had some real time on my hands, but I don't at the moment, and I like just flowing anyway, so here goes: I believe in dreams, and encouraging everyone to actualize their human potential, which is incredibly great. Shooting for the stars, setting your sights on colossal goals, persevering - I believe that is what has led the world to so many of the great things we have today. I believe encouragement is what keeps us going - support for dreams and a gentle push in the direction of aspirations can be the difference between man walking on the moon and man being earthbound forever. I don't believe in the word "can't" - I think individuals can do whatever they put their minds to - the mind is the most powerful creation G-d has put on the earth, and with some imagination and drive, anything can be accomplished. I believe in breaking out of boxes, of defying the odds, of fighting for all one is worth. In fighting for what you want, it is that much more meaningful, precious and dear. I believe everyone forges their own path - despite whatever obstacles are in their way. I believe in doing whatever I can to help those who are pursuing their dreams - I know I have certainly had incredible encouragement along my journey, which isn't even close to ending. Keep dreaming and chasing rainbows! What do you believe?

Monday, June 06, 2005

I Believe

NPR has been hosting a series of essays from characters around the country with the theme "I Believe." I was fortunate enough to listen to this morning's selection, which inspired me and I felt would be wonderful to share. This essay, by Kay Redfield Jamison, is entitled "The Benefits of Restlessness and Jagged Edges": I believe that curiosity, wonder and passion are defining qualities of imaginative minds and great teachers; that restlessness and discontent are vital things; and that intense experience and suffering instruct us in ways that less intense emotions can never do. I believe, in short, that we are equally beholden to heart and mind, and that those who have particularly passionate temperaments and questioning minds leave the world a different place for their having been there. It is important to value intellect and discipline, of course, but it is also important to recognize the power of irrationality, enthusiasm and vast energy. Intensity has its costs, of course -- in pain, in hastily and poorly reckoned plans, in impetuousness -- but it has its advantages as well. Like millions of Americans, I was dealt a hand of intense emotions and volatile moods. I have had manic-depressive illness, also known as bipolar disorder, since I was 18 years old. It is an illness that ensures that those who have it will experience a frightening, chaotic and emotional ride. It is not a gentle or easy disease. And, yet, from it I have come to see how important a certain restlessness and discontent can be in one's life; how important the jagged edges and pain can be in determining the course and force of one's life. I have often longed for peace and tranquility -- looked into the lives of others and envied a kind of calmness -- and yet I don't know if this tranquility is what I truly would have wished for myself. One is, after all, only really acquainted with one's own temperament and way of going through life. It is best to acknowledge this, to accept it and to admire the diversity of temperaments Nature has dealt us. An intense temperament has convinced me to teach not only from books but from what I have learned from experience. So I try to impress upon young doctors and graduate students that tumultuousness, if coupled to discipline and a cool mind, is not such a bad sort of thing. That unless one wants to live a stunningly boring life, one ought to be on good terms with one's darker side and one's darker energies. And, above all, that one should learn from turmoil and pain, share one's joy with those less joyful and encourage passion when it seems likely to promote the common good. Knowledge is marvelous, but wisdom is even better. Stay tuned for my essay "I Believe." I think I've been inspired.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Great Divide Between Reason and Emotion

I constantly find it interesting to examine the difference in my emotions and my logic. Very often, my emotions will be running away with me, getting me all upset, while my reason is telling me that I am crazy, that I am reading a lot into very little, and that I just need to calm down. Most of the time, it is my reason that is correct. And I really do make an effort to let it guide me, because I know that getting upset at little things is silly. If I do get upset about things, it is usually temporary and I let it go fairly quickly, I don't make a scene or even share it most of the time. But why do my emotions force me to go through it at all if my reason knows better? Emotions are so powerful and can cloud judgment so much. Sometimes I wish I could just turn my emotions off and let my reason take the steering wheel. I wish I could always be clear-headed and not jump to silly conclusions or get my feelings hurt over things that aren't really there. But then there's the other side. If I didn't feel things so strongly with my emotions, then would I love as much, and care as much, and feel as much? It does sometimes hurt to feel so much, but it is also such an incredible gift to care so much about other people. And that part of me would be paralyzed if I let my intellect rule all the time. I wouldn't let so much get to me, in good and bad ways. And then I don't know if I would recognize myself. So I guess, as in all other things in life, it is important to try to strike a balance - the great balancing act between reason and emotions. Right now, I think my emotions outweigh my intellect on ocassion, but I'm okay with that. I like being able to feel.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Writing Down Birthdays

I don't write birthdays on my calendar. When I was young, I remember watching my mother meticulously go through and transfer all the birthdays, anniveraries and dates to remember from her old calendar to her new one. That way, she wouldn't forget to send cards or call all the relatives and old friends that she always kept up with. Growing up, my family moved around a lot. We were rarely in the same city for more than a couple years. And I have continued that tradition by moving myself around several times since high school. Moving around so much has meant that the people in my life have been very transient, which has left me a bit insecure about relationships. I know what it means to move - it means that a few faithful people will keep in touch for a little while, with phone calls and e-mails, maybe a card here or there. The more busy people who you aren't as close to will drop out of your life altogether; maybe you'll hear an update about them from mutual acquaintances every few years. I am always so jealous of those people who have friends they have known since kindergarten, my closest friends rarely go back more than a few years. So, because of this inconstancy and fluidity in relation to the people in my life, I have always been hesitant to put birthdays on my calendar. Because what happens if by the time that birthday rolls around, that person is no longer in my life? Then it just serves as a reminder of another person who has disappeared into the abyss of lost relationships of my past. And it makes me really sad. So now that I am planning another move, I am having a hard time with the thought of losing all those people who I have developed relationships with over the last three years. Those people who have become such a huge part of my life, that I will no longer see on such a regular basis. I know that I have matured a lot, and with that comes some measure of being able to continue friendships across distance, but I know that the truth is that I will be losing some people from my life. And that truth is hard. I hope someday to be able to write birthdays on my calendar with the confidence and knowledge that it won't cause pain when the day actually comes around. I hope to find some people who are constant within my life. And because they have been so wonderful, and because I feel that the relationships I have now are more enduring than in the past, I hope that the people who are currently in my life are among those whose birthdays I am celebrating in the distant future.