Wednesday, October 3, 2018

I Suck at Sticking to Things, but I'm Good at Being a Social Introvert

So ... you remember that time I said, it's a new year! It's 5779! This is the year I blog every single day!

Yeah. That didn't happen. The thing is, when it takes 20 to 30 days to create and maintain a good habit, how do you get to that point to actually make the habit stick? Maybe I'm just not at a time in my life where it makes sense. By the time my brain has settled down even a little bit and I can start thinking about the things I want to write for the sake of my own verbal bliss, I'm usually in bed, too tired to sit up, and my brain just spins and spins and spins. The hamster runs at light speed when I'm supposed to be sleeping. I have the most amazing ideas, the most profound thoughts. And then I get really angry at myself because I don't have the energy to get up, get my computer, and put fingers to keyboard and make something happen.

So I'm not going to do resolutions or promises or commitments to do X every Y number of days. My husband kept asking me if I was going to start learning Daf Yomi, as I was so inspired by If All the Seas Were Ink, but I didn't. I can't. I won't. I don't have the time. I literally cannot pen in a specific time every day to make it happen. In my line of work, calls come up, people need things sporadically,  and I simply don't have the willpower to wake up at 5 a.m. every day before everyone is awake to commit to it.

Basically? I suck at resolutions. I blame being a mommy. Scratch. I blame it on being a working mommy.

When I was single and living in D.C. and then Chicago, I sat and went through the weekly Torah portion every single week like a gangster of gemara. I was good at it, I kept to it, it was my thing. I look back at that girl and think, "DAMN girl. You go. You go girl. You get your learn on."

So enough about my inability to stick to anything for more than five seconds, let's talk about me being a ridiculous introvert.

A few days ago I was standing at the local King Soopers in the self-checkout lane. I go to the self-checkout religiously (like, I'm better at sticking to my ability to self-checkout than to write) because it prevents me from having to engage with strangers. Even when I have a coupon or run into an error or need my ID checked, the interaction is non-verbal and quick. It's bearable. But when I was standing there on a Sunday and the store was busy and the self-checkout was packed, someone walked up to me and said, "I can help you on number 11, ma'am."

I was playing on my phone, and I froze. I had two options:

  • Tell the nice checkout guy that I was intentionally waiting in line and to leave me to my mobile device, pretty please. 
  • Take the nice checkout guy up on his offer and have to engage in conversation and awkward smiles and unwanted dialogue and ... my worst nightmare. 
The reality of having to explain that I was happy to be anti-social and wait in the line was too unbearable so I went through the guy's checkout lane and it was just as awkward and unwanted as I thought it would be. 

Thanks, but no thanks. 

But then there was the few days over the Jewish holiday season where we had guests over and it was wonderful. I was, undoubtedly, exhausted after people left, because that's what being social does to me. It drains every last ounce of energy and strength I have. But it was so nice, I remembered why I loved to host. During the year, we never host because our house is too tiny. But when we can move outside and into the sukkah, we have an actual dining room people! Space to have multiple people and families over. So we invited friends over, the kids played in the backyard, people spent all afternoon with us, and it was great. I fed people, I talked, I schmoozed. It felt good.

I'm an odd duck, honestly. I crave interaction and desire to be included in social activities and outings, but at the same time I do absolutely nothing to include myself or inject myself into the lives of my friends. 

I know there's a name for it -- social introversion -- but I also struggle with it making sense to people. Everyone says how great I get along with people and how social I am, but the physical and emotional toll it takes is what people don't see. 

So now we're back to the regular year where we're back inside our house and can't host anymore. I'm both relieved and disappointed. I wish we had the space to bring in friends every few weeks. Our kids love it. And sometimes, just sometimes, the mess their friends bring with them is worth it. Until next Sukkot ... 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

#MomLife: Yom Kippur Edition

Zusha and the Big Fish!
Now that we're well stuffed with the gluten-free lasagna I made, it's time to start shutting things down, bathing everyone, and getting ready to shut down for the most important day on the Jewish calendar. I have to mention that the lasagna was actually made for Shabbat lunch, but our plata didn't turn on, so we had to have challah, lox, and cream cheese instead, so I decided to heat it up for our erev Yom Kippur meal. Why? Well, the traditional pre-Yom Kippur meal includes kreplach, which are little meat-stuffed dumplings. The idea behind them is that the meat is "hidden," and it comes from this verse in Isaiah 1:18:
“Come, let us reach an understanding, —says the LORD. Be your sins like crimson, They can turn snow-white; Be they red as dyed wool, They can become like fleece.”
Meat = red. White = the pasta. Boom! Except that we don't do meat, but the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes were hidden between layers of pasta. It works! IT WORKS!

Anyway. Am I ready? No. Does it matter? No. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. But you know me. I know me. It does matter, but I'm trying really hard to not let it matter.

Yom Kippur is hard. Neither Mr. T nor I fast well, and we've got three small kids who need us to be at our very best all. day. long. So, I'm trying to pull some understanding and forgiveness to myself based on this article on
Let go of expectations for how a “real” Yom Kippur should look like. There are many ways to honor and celebrate Yom Kippur, and each year will be different, depending on the ages and needs of your children, as well as your own physical and emotional capabilities. Intense prayer may be out of the question for you, but you will still be experiencing Yom Kippur to its fullest.
The sages tell us that on Yom Kippur, itzumo shel yom mechaper—the essence of the day atones for us. Regardless of our prayers, meditation or hard work, Yom Kippur itself reveals that part of us that is always connected to G‑d, the part that doesn’t need to do anything or be anything other than what it is. This is our etzem, our essence.
Spending the day caring for your children is no less G‑dly than spending it in the synagogue. Wherever you are, you are at one with G‑d.
So, here I am, pounding Little Secrets and water instead of, well, anything else. My husband is bathing the kids, I put the baby down for bed, and now I'm anticipating what 5779 holds for me and whether I can honestly and truly commit to Daf Yomi while also blogging every day. 

It's all about carving time out, having a schedule, prioritizing. Things I'd like to prioritize better? My husband, my kids, my self-care, my learning, my career growth, my happiness, my health. It's about time that I put everything in perspective and start prioritizing what matters. And the nice thing? I think my job gives me that space. I just have to take advantage of it and stop treating every work assignment like it's the end of the world. 

Anyway, candle lighting is coming soon, and it's time to sip the last of my water and refocus myself for Yom Kippur. To really think about who I am, to celebrate these moments where we are closest to HaShem. 
“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d" (Leviticus 16:30).
As I plead for forgiveness, I also ask for strength to be inscribed in the book of life in the year to come. 

I'm wishing one and all a g'mar chatimah tovah -- may you be inscribed in the book of life and have a meaningful fast. Catch you on the other side!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Haiku for the Jewish Mom with a Full-Time Job

Twelve hour workday.
Coming in, close to midnight.
I see Yom Kippur.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Ari Fuld, and Living it All on Loan

There is a Midrash on Proverbs 31:10, and it goes like this:
Beruriah was the learned and compassionate wife of Rabbi Meir. While Rabbi Meir was teaching on a Shabbat afternoon, both of his sons died from the plague that was affecting their city. When Rabbi Meir returned home, he asked his wife, “Where are our sons?” She handed him the cup for havdalah and he said the blessing. Again he asked, “Where are our sons?” She brought food for him, and he ate. When he had finished eating, Beruriah said to her husband, “My teacher, I have a question. A while ago, a man came and deposited something precious in my keeping. Now he has come back to claim what he left. Shall I return it to him or not?” Meir responded, “Is not one who holds a deposit required to return it to its owner?” So she took his hand and led him to where their two children lay. He began to weep, crying “My sons, my sons.” She comforted him, “The Lord gave, the Lord took. Y’hei sh’mei rabah mevorach, May the Name of the Lord be blessed…”
I bookmarked the discussion of this particular midrash this past Shabbat as I finished up If All the Seas Were Ink by Ilana Kurshan. It felt so powerful to me, the discussion of how all that we have is merely on loan from HaShem. 

Even further is a discussion in the sixth chapter of Berachot over the blessings over foods. At once it attempts to reconcile the fact that "the heavens are the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the earth and its inhabitants" (Psalms 24:1) and that "the heavens belong to God and the earth was given to men" (Psalms 115:16). While later Rabbi Hanina bar Papa says, "All who benefit from this world without first staying blessing are as if they are stealing from the Holy One Blessed Be He" (35b).

The reconciliation for this, Rabbi Levi explains, is that everything in the world belongs to HaShem, but the moment we make a blessing, it's on loan to us. 

This discussion was so powerful to me, so potent because I struggle intensely with making berachot. One of the things that drew me to Judaism was the level of 100-percent consciousness that is required of the Torah-observant Jew. So I marked this page, it made so real the idea that all that we have is on loan from HaShem, we only need make a bracha, a blessing, in order to take pleasure of it, to enjoy it, to truly be able to cherish something -- or someone. 

And then, this morning, I awoke exhausted after going to bed around 1:30 a.m., turned on my phone, and started looking through my news feed. The first thing I saw? A distant friend, someone who helped me greatly when I made aliyah, someone who was a Lion of Zion, someone who would lay his life down for any person who was on the right side of history ... had been murdered, viciously, by a Palestinian terrorist at the very place I used to go to buy groceries or get a coffee many times every week. My immediate reaction was that I had to be mistaken. Ari, Ari who basically spends 24/7 -- or spent -- at that place in Gush Etzion speaking with soldiers and providing them with chizuk and food and other special gifts from his fundraising -- couldn't have been murdered. He was a soldier. He knew that place inside and out. And yet, there he was. There was the video. The video of him being stabbed by a vicious animal -- not a human, not anyone I would remotely call a human -- and then chasing after him, poised, shooting at the savage, and then collapsing backwards. 

There's something about watching a friend, someone you know, someone who you watch regularly from a distance be murdered ... that just crushes every possible understanding and love you have for life. For Israel. 

And then, as the day went on, and I fought between anger and tears and confusion and the question, "Could I ever take children back to that place?" And then I thought about what I'd bookmarked on Shabbat. About how this life is just on loan from HaShem, and we have to be grateful and send out as many blessings as we can every moment of every day to keep these lives and all that are part of them on loan. For it's all we have. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Haikus for a Shabbat Afternoon

Although I have much to write about, especially after finishing If All the Seas Were Ink, I want to keep this short and sweet as I have much to do this evening. Here is my Shabbat in a series of Haikus:

Sleep? I try so hard.
Toss and turn, flip and groan. Sigh.
My mind does not stop.

A quiet morning.
Kids at shul with Mister T.
Head in a book -- peace.

I promise myself
when they return I will breathe
and stay calm, happy.

The plata? Not on.
Looks like lasagna will wait.
Lox, cream cheese it is.

The whirlwind arrives,
overwhelming my senses.
I embrace crazy.

Everyone naps now.
Fast, I put head to pillow.
A cry -- poor timing.

Finishing a book
feels like fresh, warm laundry
on my skin at last.

The sky turns black-blue.
The flame flickers bright before
spices are inhaled.

Shavua tov, you.
You who dreams of eternal
shabbat and shalom.

And that, friends, is Shabbat in Haikus with Chaviva. Shavua tov!