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Isn't it pretty?

Monday, March 31, 2008


There are a lot of things in life that I don't have control over. Who comes in and out of my life. A lot of the details and events that happen.

What I do have control over is my response to the situations that I have no control over. I can break down and cry. I can scream and yell. I can take out my frustrations on others.

Or I can be disappointed but still hold my head high. Keep my dignity and my pride. Try to not let it affect me in the long run.

I try to do the latter. It's not always easy, but I try.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Through an Outsider's Lens

About a month ago, a women who I work with at my internship told me that she really wanted to go to a Jewish synagogue. She was just fascinated by the idea of it and really wanted to experience it. So, I told her that she could come with me the next time I decided to attend. She was ecstatic.

After making this offer, I started pondering. First of all, she was not going to understand a word of what was said. This friend of mine isn't even a native English speaker - her first language is Spanish. And at the synagogue I go to, even the rabbi's "English" is interspersed with so much Hebrew and Yiddish that I have trouble following along sometimes. And that's the sermon! The rest of the service is all in Hebrew - certainly my friend would be bored out of her mind and completely lost if she went to services with me.

Also, the separation of men and women - what would she think of that? Would she be upset by having to sit in the back half of the synagogue, behind the men? Luckily, my synagogue at least has a mechitzah (partition) that the women can see through, but still, I would think it would be confusing to someone who is not used to it.

I explained all these reservations to her, but she was adamant; she wanted to experience it. She's a very spiritual, religious woman in her faith, she thinks Jews are God's Chosen People and she wanted to see how we worshiped. Nothing more to it than that. So I told her that she could come.

In the week leading up to her joining me, she was having dreams about what it would be like. She was SO excited. She was telling everyone about it and just could not contain her enthusiasm. I tried to tell her not to get too excited, that it probably was not going to be like in her dreams, and she assured me that she knew that, that she was just so looking forward to it.

She quizzed me on what to wear so that she was modest enough, whether she needed to cover her hair, whether she should carry her purse. Friday afternoon, when I spoke to her to tell her exactly where to go, she asked if she could bring relatives. I explained to her that she could, but that if she brought any men, they would not be able to sit with us.

Saturday morning, I walk up to my synagogue, and there are four people standing in front waiting for me, very excited. My friend, her sister and both of their husbands are there to attend the service. Her sister and brother-in-law had driven in from Connecticut for the occasion! And it turned out that her brother-in-law was actually beginning to learn Hebrew, because it's the Holy language.

My first obstacle was that the men didn't have yarmulkes to wear. Apparently, my synagogue doesn't have any extras lying around either, so I quickly ran to a friend who lives very close by to borrow some. After that, we went into the sanctuary, my friend and her sister with me, their husbands to the men's side to fend for themselves.

Throughout the service, I gave short explanations to my friend, who was absolutely mesmerized. I have to admit, my synagogue is a beautiful place, with the stained glass windows and a majestic ark. She loved the singing and was touched at the end when the children were leading the closing songs.

Afterwards, we went upstairs to the kiddush where my friend and her sister were literally in tears describing how special they felt the experience was. They were blown away by the reverence and service shown by the congregants. My friend said she was just so moved by the Torah reading and she had not wanted to let go of the copy of the Chumash that I had given her. She loved the fact that the children were there participating as well and the fact that these traditions had been kept alive for so many years and years.

I told her how nice it was to get an outsider's perspective, because I take it for granted. To have someone else comment on how special the experience was made me try to look at it through those lenses.

I have to say that I was very pleased by how friendly everyone was to my friends. Many people walked up and introduced themselves and wished them a good Shabbos. I was very glad that it was such a positive experience.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It's Complicated

There is an option on Facebook to list your relationship status as "It's Complicated." I've never really understood why anyone would want to broadcast to everyone that they were involved in such a relationship but it does describe one of the relationships in my life.

I have a complicated relationship with God.

When I first started becoming religious, I was at a very low point in my life. And I was introduced to the concept that God really cares about each person, and that we each have a specific purpose in our lives, and that no one is given a challenge that they can not overcome. And that those challenges are supposed to make us stronger. I loved this idea. Because I needed to believe that the hard things I was going through were for a reason. And that I did have a purpose for being here.

Through the years, I have really tried to put my challenges into this perspective. Tried to learn what I can from them, and believe that God wants me to go through these experiences because I can get through them, and that they will make me stronger in the end.

But I feel like I fail miserably. Over and over. And I'm having a very hard time seeing it anymore.

I have had periods where I have really made efforts to strengthen myself in many ways, to become self-aware, to improve, to be a good person and follow what I think God wants me to do. And I have often felt like my efforts were for naught. That no matter how hard I am trying, it didn't really matter, things still didn't become easier.

And I look around and see my students who struggle with so many challenges in life, to the point where I am ashamed to say my life has challenges at all. And how could they possibly have the tools or the strength to handle it? How could a God who really cares about each of His creations really be making all these things happen?

And on the other hand, there are some amazing people in my life, who I really love, who are really good to me. And how can I say that God doesn't care if those people were brought into my life?

I know that maybe my understanding of the concept of God's rule over the world may be faulty, but still, I struggle and have a hard time giving up on the attempt at trying to make sense of it, or to coming to my own conclusions about it all. Maybe it's a problem with my faith and I just don't believe strongly enough. But maybe it's not.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I haven't posted here in a really long time. I wasn't really sure I was ever going to again. But I miss writing.

I don't have anything incredibly profound to share. Life has been in high gear without a break. I've been sick a few times, I've been overwhelmed, I've been working and studying really hard. I've laughed and cried and smiled and been sad. It's life.

I have 66 days left until I graduate. I don't think I have ever worked so hard for anything in my entire life. And I'm proud of myself for doing it, and doing it well. But I'm also really glad it's almost over, because I'm ready to work on a whole list of other interests that have been on the backburner for a while. I want to train for a half-marathon and get really healthy. I want to learn Spanish. I want to do pottery.

I'm really relieved and happy to say that I really do think I've picked the right field for myself. Every week that I'm at my internship, I enjoy the students more and more. I've really built good relationships with them. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I hear them say things like, "I have to tell you what's going on," and "I was thinking about what you said." The students I am working with have so many challenges that they face every day, I'm struck by them. I'm inspired by their tenacity. I'm there to care about them, which is just about all I can do, but it's something that they don't have otherwise. And I'm getting a huge sense of accomplishment from it.

But that huge sense of accomplishment doesn't mean that I'm really whole. Lately, I've been feeling a huge sense of something missing. It could be because I do sense graduation approaching and a lot more free time. Or it could be that it's getting warmer and Spring is almost here. Or it could just be that I'm getting older and I'm starting to feel it a bit (still not freaking out about a biological clock, don't worry there), and I really want to be sharing these years with someone. All I know is, I've been feeling lonely. And I've been waking up at night from bad dreams and bad feelings and really wanting someone there to reassure me. And when I read this, I couldn't imagine expressing how I feel any more poignantly or accurately. As wonderful as my friends and community are (and they really are wonderful, I can't say enough), in the words of the great John Mayer, something's missing.

And it's kinda hard because I know that in some ways, I've done it to myself. I have chosen to pursue this crazy schedule and to put school and my career first. I have some issues to work out that I haven't (though that's another goal for after graduation).

Anyway, that's a little update on me. The good and the bad. I do hope to be sharing my thoughts here more regularly. I have missed it :)