Saturday, May 31, 2014

Becoming Superwoman and Finding My Passion

Asher enjoys Garden of the Gods (and his chicken).

As I balanced Asher on one arm and rested his bottom on the counter while he breastfed, I carefully took the plate with the baked potato out of the microwave. Mr. T was sick, I was working from home and juggling an exhausted, teething 5-month-old, incoming messages and broken websites, and an ailing spouse. I am superwoman. Hear me sigh, yawn, and move along.

Motherhood isn't what I expected. Then again, what did I expect?

Another Shabbat has come and gone and I literally said "Baruch ha'Mavdil," made sure Ash was sleeping soundly, and checked on my computer's backup while running a bath. Mr. T is at shul still, and those precious 10 minutes I just spent soaked in bath-bombed sudsy bliss are about the most relaxing moments I'll experience all week. Just me, bath water, and silence.

I'm in the middle of reading Biz Stone's bio and take on life creating and launching Twitter, one of my most favorite social networking platforms on the planet. An early adopter, I joined the network in 2008. I've been Tweeting for 6.5 years and joined before 99.9% of other current Twitter users. Oddly enough, that was almost four years after I joined Facebook, where I also was an early adopter. The thing about Biz Stone's book is that he and I are complete opposites in many ways, but the way he talks about passion, emotion, and drive for what you do pulls at my heartstrings as it has during every incarnation of the "what am I doing with my life?" internal dialogue I've experienced.

As I balance motherhood, a career, and the desire to do what I'm truly passionate about, I'm really battling internally.

In a perfect world, I've always said I'd be a writer. I've been running Just Call Me Chaviva since April 2006, and before that I spent roughly 8 years on LiveJournal. My story, the narrative that runs through my head on a daily basis, is what I've wanted to write for ages, the joke being that as soon as the book advance shows up I'll be able to put everything else on hold, move into the mountains, and devote myself to composing the work and growing all of my own food (Mr. T's on board, believe me).

I love the work I do, but I've discovered that in just about every job I work I'm taking on more and more of the other stuff that isn't what I'm either good at or passionate about.

Biz Stone talks about how he and Evan (a Nebraskan, mind you) were working on a podcasting startup when they suddenly realized that neither of them (nor anyone on their team) really cared about podcasting. They didn't listen to podcasts. It wasn't their jam. So they found a way to restart and refocus on something they were passionate about. For Biz, that was the social web.

Since I started LiveJournaling back in 1997 or 1998, my focus has always been on storytelling, on reaching out to the universe in the hopes that it would reach back to me. It's where my passion and focus in Judaism come from, the idea that I can reach out to some higher power and a network of Jews around the world -- past and present mind you -- and find some type of answer, commiseration, understanding, acceptance.

From the moment I began writing -- really writing -- I found my way through journaling (technically my first diary dates to a Precious Moments journal circa 1992), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, and so on. If the platform allows for narrative and storytelling, I'm there. It's my passion.

And that goes for clients, too. The power of personal storytelling is something that I've transitioned into working for brands, and that ... THAT is my passion. Using the social web to create dialogue and build a narrative. To create a story that is meaningful to the consumer and brand-altering for the client. It isn't about making money, it's about building connections, empowering your advocates and evangelists, to create an ecosystem that is larger than your own office and internal structures.

I just have to figure out how to make that what I do every day. To dig through the weeds of the "extra" stuff and focus on my passion.

Maybe someday I'll write a book. But it seems like right now isn't that time. The universe hasn't seen fit to throw some money at my feet to get started, so for now I'll stick to what I'm good at on the small scale. Humans are storytellers. It's always been our jam. It's what we do. It's how we convey emotion, understanding, innovation. It seems so simple, but it's so overlooked.

The only thing I have to do now is to remember to stop and give myself a chance to keep storytelling here on the blog. It's been weeks since I last posted. I opened Blogger so many times to sit and write. To share what's going on. To detail a typical Sunday with an English husband playing for the all-Jewish softball league, drinking tea and wearing a flat cap, listening to the umpire say, "You're going to have to be closer to the base than that." To express the pain of a changed body shape, a child who seems to scream no matter how much homeopathic Orajel and Tylenol we give him, whose gas could easily take down an army, but who is still the most beautiful, amazing, precious gift I could ever have asked for. To explain how strange it is to be back in a place where the community grew and changed without me and how I'm coping with being better accepted and invited out now that I'm married and have a child.

I'm still finding my rhythm. I'm still fleshing out what being superwoman really means. I'm still trying to figure out who I am, where I'm going, and what HaShem's plan for me is.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Colorado Life

Sitting in a lounge chair watching Maury.
This is the American side of the Asher Yitzhak. :)

There are two things I can say outright now about being back in Colorado. One positive, one negative. Whether one outweighs the other is yet to be seen.

Awesome thing: Customer service here is amazing. I call and things are handled immediately. I need to return something, and it's not at all a problem. Used a couple of nappies in the wrong size? Take 'em back to Target and return them. Money back? No problem. Gift card form? Not an issue. Mr. T was absolutely baffled by the interaction.

Bummer thing: Shabbat is tough because our walk to the synagogue is along one of the busy drags in town, with cars flying by day and night. It doesn't feel like Shabbat. It's not quiet and relaxing and peaceful; it's loud and noisy and stressed.

There's more, of course. I like being able to walk into a store and get exactly what I need and not pay five million shekels for it. Being able to buy a shirt for $5 and knowing that it isn't going to fall apart is a blessing. Being able to buy the right things I need for Ash is brilliant. Finding inexpensive, delicious gluten-free food is wonderful.

Going places and everyone not being Jewish?

It's interesting. It's a weird adjustment. Even in Israel where not everyone is Jewish, you don't really feel like you're living in a non-Jewish country. Here, I get excited when I see another women in a head covering or sheitel (wig) in Target or King Soopers or at the Starbucks. But having people look at my name and say CHA-viva (like in cheese) is interesting and amusing. It's nice in a way. I get to share a little piece of information: "It's Hebrew," I say.

There's a delicate balance when it comes to living outside of the "Jewish state" of Israel. I find it both easy and hard. It's easy in the sense that it's more obvious here that I'm Jewish. I have to try harder. I have to think about things. I can't just buy things without thinking about it. Keeping kosher becomes more conscious than passive. And you get the opportunity to explain Judaism and its quirks to others when people ask you, curiously, what life is like in Israel.

On the other hand, it's hard because you can't just go anywhere and eat, you can't assume someone knows what you mean when you use certain words. Someone sneezes, you have to consider whether saying "l'vrioot" (lee-vree-oot) makes sense or a "bless you" will suffice. You can't go to all of your friends' homes for dinner, either, making building relationships something of a challenge sometimes.

But there we are. More reflections forthcoming, of course. This life is interesting, as it always has been. I'm just glad you're all coming along for the ride.