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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What Punctuates Your Life?

I was chatting with Sarah this morning, who has indicated on her Facebook status that she is a squiggle. I asked her what that meant exactly, and she told me that it's like her curly hair and her blog picture, but also like life - up and down - these days. I could relate to that.

It made me think about the end of my group counseling class. The week before our last class of the semester, my professor asked us to think about what punctuation would be representative of the end of the semester. And life in general.

At any point, your life would be signified by a question mark, in which you have lots of questions and possibly not a lot of answers. Where you are exploring and curious. Or wondering and waiting. My time learning about Orthodox Judaism comes to mind for the question mark - wanting to know what it was all about, asking tons of questions. Also, moments in time when I am waiting for an answer - acceptance to grad school, trying to figure out where I am was going to live last year. A year from now, when I will have completed my Master's Degree and am trying to figure out what I want to do next.

It could also be punctuated by an exclamation point - exciting, adventurous, climatic. My adventures in sky diving remind me of an exclamation point. Also, this summer, which has already been full of simchas, could definitely be signified by that symbol of excitement.

I hope to rarely have a moment punctuated with a period. It seems that it would be incongruent even with my writing style to end something on such a closed note, since one thing always seems to lead to another, and on and on. But I suppose it must happen some time.

Commas are good for continuation and connection. I think Jewish Geography would be signified with a comma, because one connection always seems to lead to another. I also like commas, because I have a hard time figuring out where they should be replaced by semi-colons, and prefer just sticking with what's simple. And the fact that I don't do rules so much, so even if commas are in the wrong place - so be it! I don't care.

But the final option my professor gave us is the punctuations I identify with the most, and it is the punctuation that I chose to embody the end of that semester. The ellipse...it allows things to flow...it signifies no real ending...it symbolizes expectations of things to come...without really knowing what will...some loose ends, as there always seem to be...Yep...the ellipse seems to work for me...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Story

In my last post, I discussed some of the changes that have happened in my life in the last 10 years. One of the major components of these changes is my religious observance. In response to my mentioning this change in my religious observance came several requests for my "story" about how I became more religiously observant. I found my response to these requests interesting.

I was going to write a post discussing what I felt about these requests, but I just realized that I already did, on Beyond BT, a while back. In re-reading the post, I think it's pretty accurately outlines my feelings. It's also the reason why, despite several requests from readers, I have refrained from posting my "story" on my blog.

I also think that the request for a "story" gives me pause because the story is ongoing - it is my life. And to try to point out a starting and stopping point in it would be foolhardy and incomplete. I'm not a finished product, not by a long shot. And as much as I couldn't have predicted 10 years ago where I would be today, I hope that today I wouldn't be able to predict my life 10 years from now. Change is progress (in it's ideal state). And so I hope my story continues to unfold.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ten Years Ago

There's a chick who lives in Passaic who I met almost exactly 10 years ago - she was one of the leaders of my first trip to Israel. I see her at shul sometimes. It makes me reflect back on my life 10 years ago and the myriad changes that have occurred in that time.

10 years ago today -

- I had just finished my 2nd year of college. I had just switched my major from engineering to psychology.
- I was living in Birmingham, Alabama. I had never even been to New York, much less ever lived there.
- I was 19 years old, still a teenager.
- I think I had met approximately 2 Orthodox Jews in my entire life. Shabbos to me was Friday night. I had no idea that women would wear wigs for religious reasons, nor had I ever heard of wearing skirts and long sleeves either.
- I'd never had anyone ask me what my "english name" was before. They usually just asked me if I was Indian.
- I had extremely few Jewish friends. I had been the only Jew in my high school, and was one of very few at my college. I was the first Jew my college roommate had ever met.

In the past 10 years -
- I've traveled to Israel three times, including my first trip where I met the chick who now lives in Passaic. I would consider making my home there at some point.
- I've lived in Atlanta, Baltimore and Passaic and met wonderful, warm and lasting friends in all three places.
- New York has become my stomping ground. I can give directions to people who ask and even help them figure out which subway to take.
- I've become an "observant" Jew, meaning that I consider myself shomer shabbos, I "keep kosher" and I make efforts to follow halacha (Jewish law) to the best of my ability (I used to not know what the word "halacha" meant).
- I've taken possession of, and had to give away, a cat.
- I've completed my Bachelor's degree and have one year left of my Master's. And I've chosen the field of school counseling for my career.
- I've worked in full-time jobs that I don't like so much, but they have led me to my career and school decisions.
- Most of my friends are now Jewish. My life, in many ways, revolves around Jewish celebrations and observances.
- I'm 29 now, starting to think about turning 30 (SO weird) (oh, but I've been devising a scheme to retro-age, so I'll actually turn 28 this year, I totally think I can pull it off).

Those are the changes that are pretty tangible. But I think there are a lot of changes within me personally that are harder to delineate in a list. I think I've grown into a person who knows who she is (pretty much) and who thinks about life and the world a lot more. I've seen more - more of the physical world, more of the spiritual world and more of the emotional world. I've been through good and bad, difficult times and happy times. I've met so many people who have enriched my life.

It's really incredible how 10 years can replace so much of what was once your world. The places that I saw every day, the people I talked to, the activities I took part in. Very little is still the same. But the core of me, I think that hasn't changed too much. I don't know if it can really.

10 years - new cities, new faces, new strengths and new weaknesses. I wonder what the next 10 years will bring.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Life's Soundtrack and Dreams

Over Shabbos, I kept myself occupied with several different reads, one of which was the "Journal of Creativity in Mental Health." The first article in the journal was a fascinating read entitled "When the Music Stops: Releasing the Dream."

I found the article fascinating for two reasons. The first was the technique described, which seemed to be the reason for the article, but which I felt took a back seat to describing the situation in which the technique would be used. And the second was the situation they described, which I thought offered an interesting perspective. Ok, since I'm sure all that was kinda ambiguous, let me explain what I'm talking about.

The article was written about using a "soundtrack of life" technique in therapy. This approach is used by having a client think of those songs that have stood out in their lives and have held meaning for particular reasons for those clients. The client is then instructed to put together a CD or tape for the therapist, and during a therapy session, the client and therapist listen to the soundtrack and discuss the reasons for inclusion of each song. The reason I found this so interesting, and potentially amazingly therapeutic, is because I totally find myself viewing certain songs as symbolic of events or struggles or feelings I have in my day to day life. I've often written about them here. So to see it being offered as a therapeutic technique was pretty exciting.

The other thing that I found really interesting in the article was the discussion of "releasing the dream." The article discussed that often people get hung up on unrealized dreams and it causes them a lot of pain and an inability to move forward in their life. These unrealized dreams can be that of love, career, specific accomplishments, etc. The article theorized that people are often unable to give up on these dreams even after they have been proven to not be attainable. And that the release of these unattainable dreams is necessary in order to move on and work towards other goals in life.

The article discussed this idea of releasing unrequited dreams quite eloquently:

"A part of the reconciliation process involves shifting our focus from the past to the present moment. If we do not make this shift, we will spend our energy and creativity holding the past in place rather than in investing in a new present. Shifting our focus to the present does not mean that we will not miss our dream or the people with whom we hoped to enjoy it. Nor does it mean that we forget the dream of discount its importance in our lives. No doubt, some of us may live with a bittersweet memory of the loss that reminds us of our humanness and of how our tenacious passion can become ignited. Rather, this challenge suggests that we genuinely come to terms with life as it presents itself so we can live in gratitude and a spirit of receptivity as new opportunities arise."

When reading the article, I certainly could think of examples of unrequited dreams that I haven't quite been able to let go of, and how it hurts sometimes to realize it. And I can also think of the songs that punctuate my thoughts of that dream, that stand out in my mind of characterizing the time in my life that I thought those dreams either would come true or when I realized they were falling apart. And I honestly think an accounting of those songs, along with the remnants they hold of my dreams, would be a great way to say goodbye. And to move on.