Monday, August 30, 2010

It Should Be Illegal

Last night as I was coming home from a hard day at work, I received a call from my husband.

“I just wanted to tell you that the Internet and phones are down.” Again, just like a week or so ago, my whole Yishuv, the whole area about us, is incommunicado…well except for cell phones. Just when I was looking forward to some downtime and to catching up with friends. No computer. Great.

Went to bed last night, woke up this morning and still no connection.

It should be illegal. By what right am I to be inconvenienced? 

This isn’t my only woe. My husband is basically out of a job, and, believe you me, we need the money…not for luxuries, but to just pay the basic bills. And to get a job he needs the Internet!

At this point we can’t really even afford to buy stamps so I have a lot of penfriends who I hope will remain my friends, after not receiving any mail from me for months on end. We don’t even have all the books we will need to get through this school year.

There are some health things going on, but I think I have them basically taken care, but they are still annoying. The heat is making it hard for me, and I’m often short of breath. Neither I nor my husband is sleeping well. My husband is going to have eye surgery and I will need to be losing work to help him. A few of my kids have health issues that need to be dealt with.

I made a mistake at work that, while I believe I corrected, still cost me lots of anguish.

Can I go on and on and on about this? Can you?

You probably can. Almost everyone has a string of good and bad events in their lives that occur and disrupt their day. Few of us don’t have a “something” going on, that gives us humps and hurdles and even mountains that seemingly impede the road before us.

The road we think we are on, or believe we deserve to be on and the road we are actually on are two different things. We want to just sail through, straight and unhurried, on a smooth and beautifully arranged path. Only for the very few is that the road we will receive. Most of us must make our own paths, using our “moral compass” as a guide.

For me, the Torah is the compass. It tells me the basic direction I should go in, where I must go and where I should not go. But I must make my own path through life; I can’t demand of G-d that He paves the road so my travel is easy.

When faced with a patch of road that is impeding my progress I have two tasks. The first is simply practical. “What do I need to do now?” See a doctor, ask for a loan, find a second job, or sell something I possess, learn a different skill etc. etc.

Simultaneously I need to ask G-d “Why me? But not “Why me I don’t deserve this” but “What is it that You wish me to learn?  Am I doing something I should not be doing? Have I strayed from where you wish me to be? Have I gone into areas that were not meant for me? Or is there something good for me along this path; that however painful it seems at the moment it is like the pain of childbirth, or the pain of pushing that extra few steps during a run?”

There is a beauty in such pain that those who haven’t felt such pain do not understand. It is power, the power of ones self to move beyond what one thought one could do.

There is a reason that the path isn’t smooth in front of me at the moment. I need to try and smooth it the best I can. This is one job. The other is to discover why it is rough here and why now and what it is G-d wants me to see. Perhaps there is something of great beauty just beyond that I wouldn’t see if the path were clear and easy. Perhaps there is someone just ahead who has a gift for me, or I a gift for them. Work to make it smooth, but trust that this is what is right for me, for whatever reason.

I am here now, and it is for the good. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

September's Song

September's Song

Lift my soul on
Your breath like a
Bird on the wind

Far below falls
My patch of days:
Small little squares

Embraced by
Cloud-dreams and
The warmth of truth

Then gently
Lower me
gently down

But allow
A bit of cloud and warmth
To capture heart and mind

So I can remember why
I reap and sow
My little patch of days

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


When I was 16 years old I thought the age 40 sounded “way old” and in fact, I figured I would basically be halfway in the grave – my kids would be grown and married with their own children, and what would be left for me? As I didn’t want to be old and useless I thought 40 an okay age to die.
Yes I was that stupid (immature, foolish, unbelievably idiotic) because fast forward to the age of 52 and I don’t want to leave this world yet.
No way, nohow. Heck, life holds so much for me! There is still so much I haven’t seen, haven’t done and my kids are not all out of the house yet. Most of the time I don’t feel old; I feel as if I’m 16! I don’t have all the answers (do we ever?), still love to walk about barefoot, blow wishes on dandelion puffs and it takes all my effort sometimes not to skip down the street (one of three things you, believe me, do not want me to do, at least in your presence.)
At the same time I know I’m aging, besides the obvious gray hair and wrinkles there are all those other nagging little reminders that I am not a young girl anymore; getting up after sitting down for instance— lets just say certain areas feel the change. I find myself waking earlier in the mornings when I would rather be sleeping, and stiffer when I rise. Friends too, in many cases, are having more problems. Surgeries on knees, changing eye prescriptions and surgery, increased hearing problems— minor things mostly.
And I am a bit nervous about what the future holds.
We have just returned from a vacation to the States (I and three of my children live in Israel now). We went to see my parents and celebrate their 55th anniversary. They are living in a wonderful retirement home, where all the apartment sections are named for a variety of flora, indicating the abilities of the clients who reside there, which helps maintain the dignity of the clients.
There are three floors in the complex in which my parents live (independent with a bit of help), with wide halls that easily allow two or so scooters or wheelchairs to move down them with ease. There are multiple exists, which make it easy to evacuate the slow-moving in case of emergency, as swiftly as possible. There is a main dining-room, which serves lunch and dinner (part of the price) and the management encourages group meals rather than sitting up alone in one’s apartment. Meals are healthy, and varied and there is some choice in the menu (daily plan plus standard ala carte). There is also a deli (prices are great!) for those that do not want the fish chowder or whatever else is being served.
Apartments are relatively spacious, three rooms, two full baths, and a functional but small kitchen. The windows are large and let in a lot of light, and there is a lot of greenery to look out upon.
There are two libraries, there are two Shuls (Jewish place of worship), there is an auditorium where they put on various programs, such as the history of patriotic music, several times a week. Other programs also take place in the library or the deli after the deli has closed for the evening. There is a nursing staff and medical office on the premises. There are guards. There are buses that take people to the local shopping center. Staff, one and all, are friendly, patient (something one needs in excess for those who move slower, think slower and whose memories are failing), and they know their clients.
The place is in fact packed-full of what one wants for one’s parents, or grandparents, to know they are safe, well cared for and given the best opportunities for happiness in the “golden years”.
Though older my in-laws, in contrast, are a tad healthier than my parents at this point (my mother has been battling cancer for about 10 years, my father’s memory is really starting to go.) They are slower thinking and are experiencing memory problems, have a more difficult time getting around, but are living in their own house and maintain a business. There is a pool in the backyard and my MIL attends a gym.
All of which leaves me a bit sad, and scared. Not for them; both sets of parents are pretty set. Both have other children around them who can and do help them out. Both still have enough money to nurse them through whatever they face (though the crash effected both somewhat, my parents more than my husband’s parents.)
But we haven’t the money to do what we need to protect ourselves in the future. We barely have what we need to keep ourselves afloat now! Mostly we get by on prayer and last-minute luck. I wish to neither be a burden upon nor dependent upon my children for anything but love.
We have some cushioning;pensions, social security from all the years my husband has worked (I have a little but I was mostly mom, a career move that overall I’m glad about, but I will admit it has made our financial situation more precarious, I did work, but worked around the children’s’ schedules). But we are not situated as comfortable as my parents are.
I spent my days catching up with family, enjoying nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends, but in the back of my mind, always, worry, my mind on the future.
Reflecting I realize that life is preparing for tomorrow. Has it always been so? Of course. A grandfather planted a tree for a grandchild perhaps not even yet born, who would then reap the benefits. We plow and plant in spring to reap in autumn. Life must be lived in the present, informed by the past and for the future.
Neglecting any of these areas harms ourselves and others.
But the keyword here is prepare . Worry is nothing more or less than mental pain: it indicates that something needs one’s attention. Staying worried is similar to ignoring an aching tooth; it will only lead to further trouble.
So I’m moving on, from worry to prepare, to asking questions and figuring out what to do with us for the future.