Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ki li'olam chasdo...

Hodu laShem ki tov......


Sometimes I fail to see it
Sometimes I don't even try to see it
But it's there
Plainly staring me
in the face
If I sincerely want to see it...

He is good, so good...

I stand before Him
head bowed
I want to be good
I really want to change

He listens

He answers
Takes my hand and
so quietly that I only hear it inside
Look, mamaleh,
My child...
I love you more than you'll ever know...
I will hold you
Guide you
Show you
Forgive you....

You're never alone...

And I feel it

I am never alone
He is with me
Holding me
Guiding me
Showing me
Forgiving me

Loving me...

And granting me so much kindness
More than I'll ever know
More than I'll ever deserve...

Chasdei Hashem ki lo samnu,
ki lo chalu rachamav...

All scars fade. He is so good to me...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Eyes wide open

Every so often it suddenly occurs to me how amazingly awesome this world is.

I remember sitting in a high school classe hearing, "Girls, this world is a microcosm of the olam ha'elyon..." and although I understood the meaning of each individual word of the lesson then, I simply could not comprehend what exactly a microcosm was, let alone understanding it in relation to the Upper Worlds...

I still don't. Of course I understand what it means literally...but what does it mean that we live in a world that's a mini representation of another, higher world? Maybe it's not for us to understand--at least not in the way I'd like to understand it--but G-d has presented us with this concept here in our world so that we can learn something from it.

So what can we learn from it?

Here's one thing I was thinking of...

Just as the world we live in is a miniscule representation of the lofty one up there, our world contains within it smaller "worlds" through which we can better understand it; microcosms to better understand our own microcosm...

Everything in our world is designed with the capacity to assist us in our quest to become better avdei Hashem. There is something we can learn from every creature, every creation, every invention, every person, every situation. Fortunate are those who live life with their eyes wide open, drinking in every detail of the world around them, trying to glean lessons from every person, thing, and situation they encounter.

When I was about 15 years old in camp one summer, our shiur division head posed a challenge to us; she asked that we come in to shiur the next day with as many lessons we can learn from the mundane things around us. The next day we spent the entire hour describing what we had learned from CD players, mosquitoes, too-tight shoes, wet towels, pillowcases, shower stall doors, and hundreds of other seemingly insignificant aspects of our world. After the lesson, (which to our chagrin was not enough time for each of us to give over all of our examples), we each walked out with real food for thought. I remember thinking, "Oh my's such a huge world...and everything in it really means something..."

It's a daunting task--to see every individual thing in this world as an opportunity for learning--but one that is so rewarding and meaningful...

I once ate a meal by my seminary madricha's house, and a ba'al teshuva who was eating there as well made a comment at the meal that I don't think I'll ever froget. Referring to a bit of an awkward situation that had just occurred, he happily exclaimed, "Good! I love MDOs!" We looked at him, waiting curiously for an explanation, to which he replied, casually spearing some string beans on his fork, "Middos Development Opportunities. They're all around us. Everywhere. The question is, will you know one when you see it?"

A thrill ran down my back...oh, my...he's right......but will I...?

How many MDOs do we pass up every single day because we forgot to look for them...?
They're the long line at the bakery, the perfectly round, ripe, glossy apple, the malfunctioning computer, the casual game of chess, the ripped page of notes, the window overlooking the park...everywhere. Knowing that everything we see was purposely put there so that we could see it makes every blink meaningful...

I always thought I lived with my eyes open. But I never realized just how open they could--and should--be.

And how breathtaking the world is once I really learned how to see...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Come back...

I really don't know how to get this off my chest, but I know I want to, and I think I might need to, so I'll try...

What do you do when someone you love with all your heart is not doing so well inside? When you can't even imagine the entirety of the situation because things are not said out loud...and you're almost too scared to ask those who know? What do you do when your parents are hurting so much...and you feel powerless to do anything about it...? When you feel it was your achrayus to have done more, and maybe things could have been prevented or fixed earlier if you had done more for that someone.....?

Things progress slowly. Sometimes you don't realize what's happening until things get big and scary. And then it's almost too hard to take another breath because the feelings are stuck in your throat...choking...suffocating...

So I swallow. Try to take a steadying breath. Whisper a wordless prayer...wordless, because I have absolutely no idea how to ask for advice, pray for clarity in this, or even cry...

Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe it's not really as hard as I think it is...but I'm scared. Nervous. Fearing things spiraling out of control.

I know.

I should ask the One to whom lies all the answers...
I should ask Him...
Only I don't know what to say...

My father just asked me for advice. Me? What do I know...? How could I help...? I told him I'd think about it, and he answered back, "Now, soon as possible..."

Daddy, I just don't know...
I just don't know.......

And...Tatty....Tatty...I don't know. But You do. So please show me...please show us...
We are lost without You...

And that specail person in my life....Hang in there...
I love you so much. More than I can ever express to you...
If there's anything else I can do to help you...take away some of the confusion you must have inside...please, please, please let me...
One day you'll be the most amazing person imaginable...I know it...
Just keep trying.....

Monday, November 12, 2007

You can do can, you can, you can...

how i wish i could tell you
all that i see in you
your strenghts
positive qualities
all the beautiful things that we all see
so strongly displayed
in your essence

my sister
my friend
a piece of me...

i reach down and touch you
in your deep pit
you are cold
seeking warmth don't know where to find it...
i am right here

and you tell me you see me
you do see
but you still feel alone
alone and

you are hurting
in pain
so lonely
but i am here for you
trying to show i care
...maybe care too much...
how can my love
joined with the love of
so many others
for you
not keep the pain
at bay
for even a little while

i don't understand...

how i can hold you
try to bring some warmth back
into your cold, shivering self
but when i leave
you feel
more alone
than ever...

but one thing i do understand...

while i can give you some

i cant fix things

only He can


You can.

yes, You...beautiful strong one...

you don't believe me
you look up in despair
saying you're too tired
too alone
too cold

but i say again
i believe in you
because i really really do

you are a pillar
but you don't see it

please look
here, here's a mirror...
just look
there? don't you see?
this is how everyone else sees you...

you, strong girl...
you can do it
we can help support
hold onto your hand
give you guidance


it's your battle
your fight
you were given it
so you can triumph over it

and you can...

we can help
but we can't do it for you

you can do it

i believe in you...


my love for you is

i'm here
until you don't need me anymore
but keep repeating to yourself
keep saying over and over in your head
i can do it
i am strong
i'll get out of this

because You will

and when you finally get out
of that seemingly endless pit
reach that point where
you can pull yourself
over the edge
i will be here
to grab hold of your wrists
and hold on to you
for dear

and hold you as long as i can

for now...
keep remembering
and hoping
and dreaming

because you can do it
you can
i believe in you
we all do
that you can do this
get through this

i love you

You are


Saturday, November 10, 2007

On the Old

Every so often I'll be hit with a thought that seems to have sprung from nowhere. My mind works that way a lot. I kinda find it funny, and most of the time I can amuse myself for a while by retracing my thoughts in an attempt find out where the random thought could have stemmed from.


Last week I was taking care of something at home, when all of a sudden I started thinking about elderly people. Severely random. But once I got over my self-chuckle on the weirdness of my brain's workings, my mind kept on whirring and produced some interesting thoughts which I decided I want to air out here.

I was never too fond of visiting nursing homes. Maybe it was the antiseptic-yet-stale hospital smell, or the fact that so many old people didn't understand when I spoke, (my grandparents often wonder out loud how anyone understands me...) or how the patients used to be self-suffieint and independant and now need help even for their most basic needs, or simply the tangible weight of all the emotional memories pervading the halls... I went to visit a couple of times purely as an act of chessed required of me by my high school, or because all my friends were going, but all the time I was there I felt unsettled, unhappy, and...frightened. Not so much scared by the thought of, "This could be me or someone in my family," but more like, "What happened to the people that used to be living in these bodies...?"

Old age happens to everyone. We mature, go through life stages, get old, and eventually die. Just as surely as young adults start dating, get married, have kids, buy homes, go on vacations...they get old...and then pass on. Even us young people will get old. It's so hard to believe it now, but it's true. And scary. We forget that one day we'll be needing help even for those most basic of tasks which we find so easy to do now. I really don't intend this post to be depressing or morbid, but this is real, it's life, and I think it's important to think about it some time, while we can still appreciate the freedom and spirit of our youth...

I'd once heard that one of the worst feelings in the world--yi'ush, despair--is often felt by the elderly who reflect back on their lives and realize that they could have been better, could have done something differently, should have been something else... And I keep thinking, "Oh, Hashem, let me not know of such feelings. Please allow me to live my life so that at my end I don't regret what I did or lament what I could have done..."

And then there's the beauty of old age... Society so exults youth that so often we forget that the elderly are a product of so many years of self-toil and development. They have wisdom, knowledge, experience, and so much to share...if we just slow down enough to listen. I wish I had more time to sit patiently with my grandparents and hear thier slow tales of their lives and their lessons for how to better live my own. An old person is so complexly beautiful if we learn to look past their wizened exterior...

I was really hoping this post would be shorter than I usually write them. It's just that I always have so much to say, and few words never seem to be enough. I can go on for days; succinctness was never my forte... Eventually I'll find something to say that I can write concisely :-)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Cry, mammaleh, cry...

As per a concerned parent's request, yesterday morning's circle time was devoted to glorifying the exciting first visit to the dentist. We extolled the virtues of the special chair that goes up and down, the exciting made-in-China prizes for well behaved patients, the delectable bubble gum flavored toothpaste...

The class was enraptured, eyes wide, drinking in the glorious world of dentist visits. Most of the children who'd never had the delight of such rides and prizes were noticeably jealous of little Ahuva, but at least the rest of the class gleaned some sort of benefit from the lesson; Ahuva was lost unhearing in her own spaced-out word of dental anxiety. Alas, poor child...

The lesson then turned to discussion. As with most circle times, the girls were each allowed to raise their hand and contribute something on topic. Most of them related how they had once gone to the doctor/dentist/allergist and how they'd gotten prizes and the like. I listened to their accounts, mildly enjoying my 10 minutes and my adorable students, until one small child said something that bypassed my mild interest and stunned me into instant concentration:
"Morah, one time in the summer, I got a shot and it hurted and I cried a lot cuz it really hurted..."
Oh, my child. My naive yet brilliant and knowledgeable child... That is how we're born to be. We hurt. We cry. There is something inherent in hurt that spurs tears, and something inherent in tears that eases the hurt.
And yet...yet...
We live in a world where we are told to suppress those inherent reactions. We are told, "Be a big girl, don't cry. Crying is for babies." And as young chilren, we listen, internalize, acknowledge and identify with the fact that yes, we need to be brave and control our emotions outwardly so we can fit in with the mature world of adults. For a child of 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, being called a baby is one of the most heart-wrenching insults, and so these children will supress their tears if they can rather than release what is so big and painful for them...
And as adults we are not spared that painful choice either.
So often society demands stoicism, does not permit open emotion, turns away from outward displays of passion. Upon witnessing a heartbroken wailing father, or grief-stricken families, or individuals unable to cope with their raging inner worlds, most people feel uncomfortable and try to ease that discomfort by either ignoring those situations entirely, or attempting to ease the situation as best they can. Nobody wants to witness pain like that. But why must it be so awkward? Why do we feel that crying is so shameful, so embarrassing, so wrong?
I am not saying that everyone in slight emotional, physical, or mental anguish should walk the streets proclaiming their misery outright and cry incessantly. Obviously, that is not beneficial for those in pain, nor for those who must deal with them, and there are various coping methods available to help them handle their problems. But on the other end, when it comes to real, valid, excruciating pain, why should we have to suffer by feeling that asking for help or shedding tears is embarrassing or shameful?
We hurt. We need to cry. My Mindy understands it so clearly...
Is there anything we can do to make others--and ourselves--less uncomfortable?
I am so grateful to all those who have personally heard my pain and have supported me through the times I felt it necessary and theraputic to cry...Thank you...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Breaking out of the box

Boxes inside boxes. That was the standard doodle for boring classes. As a rule, I was pretty interested student, but every so often a teacher would lull me into the box-inside-box monotony. The worst thing a teacher could ever say is that the material taught in that lesson would not be on the test...

But that day, as I picked up my pen to occupy my mind with aimless scribbles, I didn't know that I was to learn a lesson so important, a mere test on paper or scantron could never accurately record my knowledge of it, or its practical application. Indeed, the test of the day would

When I heard one word my ears perked up. Family? Since when do we talk about family in Chumash class? I looked up, bemused, but suddenly curious about what Mrs. Jacobs had to say about family.

"Hashem created the family structure to serve as a workshop for each of us...."

She's talking in a general sense. Surely not my family...

"Each neshama was put in the perfect family for it to have the ability to grow to its fullest potentail. Your family is perfect for you. You would not grow as well or reach your potential if you were put somewhere else..."

No. Mine must be a yotzei min ha'klal. Maybe someone else's family, but mine...? No. My family is not the perfect place for me.

"Hashem in His infinite wisdom matches each child with his or her family. And do you know what, girls? Each of you, before you were born, actually chose your own family to be sent to..."

Can't be. This is just too weird. Why would I have chosen my family?

The bell rang. We packed up our books and left school. On the way home, my mind was still whirring with the last lesson. My family? The perfect place for me? No...can't be...

But that lesson stayed with me that whole week. Through Shabbos when I was so angry I just wanted to storm away from the table and run upstairs...but I didn't. On Sunday when I couldn't imagine having to go to the park with my family...but I agreed anyway. Throughout the week when all I wanted to do was run away from them and stay alone in my room, or go visit a friend, the words of my Chumash teacher echoed inside my head...
"Your family is perfect for you. You would not grow as well or reach your potential if you were put somewhere else..."

Oh, how I had wished to have belonged somewhere have been part of Esti's family, or Shana's, or Sariva's...any but mine! How could my family possibly be helping me grow? It just didn't make sense...

But that lesson stuck with me. For years it comforted me when I felt that things were not fair, that everyone else was so lucky to belong to their family...except me...

And as the years went by, I started understanding things a little better, seeing more of the picture. I began to see the middos I developed and the wonderful traits I had that were only brought out as a result of me being part of my family...a product of my parents' parenting and my interactions with my siblings.

And the more I realized how true Mrs. Jacobs's words were, the more I realized that all those years I'd been squishing myself into tiny boxes, each one smaller than the one before... Instead of realizing that my family was a place for me to grow, I pushed them away and retreated into my cramped quarters, thinking I could better myself alone, without their help. I closed myself away from them, failing to realize their potential to help me soar, climb, reach out, be loved for being myself....

Now I can see it. It's taken me a long, long time, but with His help I can now understand a little better that where I was placed is indeed the best place for me to grow. Not only that, but it was me who chose to be a part of this family when I saw things more clearly up there...

Even with this knowledge and acceptance, it can still be very hard. Excruciatingly hard at times...painful, lonely, misunderstood... But I still repeat that lesson of many years ago to help me get through those struggles. He knows. He runs the world. He planned it all. In His wisdom He picked this one for me... And I try my hardest to extract myself from my self-imposed imprisonment inside my tiny, blue-penned boxes inside boxes...

I break free. And it feels wonderful. It feels strange, because I'm unused to it...but I feel like a newborn child... to soar, climb, reach out, be myself.....