Saturday, October 18, 2014

“Alone” On Simchat Torah?

[explanatory note to non-Jewish readers: On the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, which this year fell on Wednesday evening and Thursday day, it is customary for the men to dance and sing with the Torah scrolls. Women often watch from their section.]

     As I mentioned a few days ago, we had no guests for the first day of Sukkot, and only on Shabbat. Then on Simchat Torah we were again “guestless”.
    Somehow, being by oneself for the holiday is worse than not having guests for Shabbat. On the holidays, nearly all my friends had oodles of visitors. Many had to limit the number of couples coming, due to the logistics of fitting everyone into the succah.
    I understand very well why my children were unable to attend. They all had excellent reasons. Yet I still felt rather “stuck”.
    Somehow, we all tend to base our “simchas yom tov” (holiday happiness) on the externals: the food, the clothing, etc, which is OK, up to a point. After all, there is a REASON why our sages tell us to honor the day with wine and meat, and tell men to buy presents for their wives. The externals affect us.
    However, that should not be the entirety of our pleasure in the holiday. A good friend asked which synagogue I would be attending Wednesday evening for the dancing with the Torah scrolls. My reply was that I saw no reason to push myself through a crowd of other women to watch THEIR families dance. If I have no husband, children, or grandchildren there, why should I bother?
   However, on Wednesday evening I felt differently. I decided to YES go to the synagogue, to hear the dancing and singing. The simcha (happiness) of the Torah is also mine. I have participation in my offspring’s Torah study. And I have made sacrifices to keep the Torah as well. My happiness on the holiday should not disappear just because I have no one dancing downstairs to point to (and brag about). Even if no one will notice the delicacies that I cooked for the holiday, nor the new dress I purchased for myself, I can foster my own connection with G-d, based more on internals than externals.

   So I “invited” G-d for the holiday, and I was not alone.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Sukkah Table Porter

    During the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), we eat for the entire week in a “sukkah” (see HERE if unfamiliar with this).
[image: our sukkah]
     Although I had no guests expected for the first day of the holiday (there might be a blog on this later….), for Shabbat (the Sabbath) I was expecting our son and his large family to come spend the day and a half here. So at noon on Wednesday I decided to set up one table, planning to open my second folding table on Friday. One table is in good condition, the second is getting old, and I knew that it was on its “last legs”. I decided to open the second one… and I am glad that I did, as it promptly broke. “Broke” as in: “died”, “croaked”, “kaput” and “terminally finished”.  It was 12:30. Stores were closing, and would not reopen that day , or on Friday.
   Sizing up the specter of everyone partaking the Shabbat meals without benefit of a table, I grabbed my purse and dashed out the door. The first two stores I tried had no folding tables left, with trepidation I headed over to the third (and last) hardware store in the area. It happens to be my favorite; the manager there is both honest and helpful.  He informed me that I was in luck. He had a final table in his storage area, and sent his brother to haul it out for me.
-          “But how in the world will you get it home?”
-          “I’ll carry it. I only live three blocks away.”
-          “You don’t have anyone to carry it for you? It IS pretty heavy….”
-          “If necessary, I’ll take a taxi.”
   Well, the second I lifted it, I realized that a taxi was definitely in order.  I turned around , heading away from home, and towards the taxi, when an eighteen year old asked “Hey, do you need help with that lady?”
-“Oh, I think I will need a taxi.”
-“A TAXI? In this traffic jam??”, as he gestured towards the street. “Which direction do you live?”
-“I live three blocks away, THAT way.”
-“I’ll take it for you.”
   I agreed, after ascertaining that he would let me pay him, although he refused to take more than a Taxi (in non-traffic jam situations) would. In addition he lugged it up the three floors to my apartment, as well as the additional flight to my roof.  I offered him a cool drink and suddenly he said “I know you from somewhere.  Do you maybe know my mother, H___?”

   Yes, I do. And he is just a “chip off the old block”. She is also the active, impulsive type, eager to help anyone that she can. (After he left I gave her a quick call just to let her know how fantastic a teen she has…….)

PS. By the way, HE could walk faster WITH the table than I could WITHOUT it. He kept telling me I didn't have to try so hard to keep up. (I was carrying his bags for him, so I was not concerned that he was going to take off with it.)  Women, men are a different species....

Resilience defines RESILIENCE as:
the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

  In Wikipedia the following points are made:
“Resilience should be considered a process, rather than a trait to be had. There is a common misconception that people who are resilient experience no negative emotions or thoughts and display optimism in all situations. Contrary to this misconception, the reality remains that resiliency is demonstrated within individuals who can effectively and relatively easily navigate their way around crises and utilize effective methods of coping. In other words, people who demonstrate resilience are people with positive emotionality; they are keen to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones.”

     I believe that a large part of this flexibility and inner strength can come ONLY when you have come to accept yourself as an imperfect human being. When we expect ourselves to be perfect, not acknowledging the pain of certain situations, we are sitting ourselves up for self-bashing. [When talking to parents of new infants with Down syndrome, I worried most about those who were in the “Gee I’m so grateful G-d chose us!” mode; those who admitted to the pain where better able to take the steps needed to keep their families emotionally healthy.] When we engage in overthinking how terrible we are, we waste our energy there, instead of taking active steps to cope.
    Here are my ideas on weathering challenging foibles of life:
    First we need to ascertain exactly what is bothering us, what is the situation. Is this caused by something you have control (even partial) over, that you can rectify? Is this caused by someone else that you cannot control (or choose not to control)?
     If the distressing situation was caused by something you did, you need to forgive yourself for not having been perfect. (This does not mean absolving yourself from taking rectifying action in the future, by the way….) For example:
1)       I think I should have done more fun things with my children when they lived here, and been less concerned on accomplishing my “to do” list. This does not make me a bad parent (I DID do things with them, just not as much as I think I should have) or an evil person. I was trying my best, and there were definite reasons for what I did. (However, this does not mean that I shouldn’t be careful not to let my “to-do list” preempt time with my grandchildren!)
2)      I was terribly overweight for many years, and that was because I made poor choices. It does not mean that I was an un-worthy human being. It means that I needed to take action, but that means NOTHING about my value as a human being.

    If the situation is caused by someone (or something) you can not control (including   G-d), you can acknowledge that the situation hurts, and that you wish things were different. You need to accept the fact that you can not necessarily change the situation.  Your Uncle Al may one day wake up and decide that his low opinion of you is wrong (and therefore stop criticizing you), but it may not be likely. Neither is your teen likely to become more neat, nor are you very likely to win the lottery and become rich. YOU can only decide what you are willing to live with, which may often be things you do not like, but the ramifications of change may be worse (ie, “jumping from the frying pan into the fire). The major point here is that you do not need to feel bad that there IS the situation, that you don’t like it, and that you are doing the best that you can.  For example:
-          Shortly after  Ricki was born, I was at a friend’s new baby’s son circumcision feast. Several people there praised me for being so “upbeat”. I turned to a good friend and confided “Sometimes I feel like SCREAMING that this was not the baby I had prayed for.”   SHE had a baby with cancer; she understood, nodding. She said that “accepting G-d’s will” does not mean saying that everything is great. It is simply keeping your connection with G-d, and not throwing everything out the window.

     Some situations are very painful. Acknowledging that you feel that way is what allows you to move on and deal with it.
    Once we have accepted our feelings, and recognized ourselves as fallible human beings, we can move on to the next step. The next step is to make an action plan to deal with the situation. I will not go into great detail now, as I have covered this before  HERE and HERE:   

    But let me add that when dealing with stressful situations, part of the plan needs to be dedicated to reducing contributing triggers (ie, the need to eat healthy, sleep well, etc). And try to be kind to yourselves as well.