Meh. It’s worth a shot.
Meh. It’s worth a shot.
(In my vague and limited Jewish knowledge) T’shuvah refers to the time in the Jewish calendar between Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish New Year—and Yom Kippur—when our names are sealed in the “Book of Life” by G-d for the next year.
T’shuvah literally means to return, but most interpretations take it to mean a time of repentance. A time of atoning for our “sins,” and to acknowledge where we’ve “missed the mark” of our own moral target.
I’m not one for “sins,” or for “atoning,” or for asking forgiveness from a spiritual entity. In my own spiritual practice, there is a habit of taking note of where we’ve been wrong and amending that behavior, whether through direct conversation with someone we’ve harmed or through choosing to act differently in the future.
But, the idea of asking a “higher power” to forgive me for anything at all has never sat well with me. I simply don’t think that anything that has the power to create life and death and change and love would need my asking. I believe that whatever “G-d” is, “it” is much too loving or non-personified to ever require me to ask it to forgive my behavior.
As I said, I still think the process of taking stock of my behavior and righting my own wrongs is very important to my emotional wellbeing and my personal relationships. But on the spiritual plane, G-d would never need me to ask for forgiveness. There’s nothing to forgive – there’s only love, acceptance, and a desire for me to be my best self.
That said, I have been reflecting that this week of t’shuvah has certainly been one of returning. I feel that my actions are those of a woman returning to herself and her values; returning to my true nature, and returning to ideas and hopes that were feared or abandoned.
I am in a musical. I’ve returned to that dream of acting and singing, despite the fears and self-judgments it still brings up in me.
I have officially announced this week that I am moving on from my office job. Again, a return to my true desires, my internal compass. I have stopped hitting the Snooze button on my instincts and drives.
No matter what comes of it, disaster or “success,” I am trying something brand new for me. And that is certainly a return to curiosity, innocence, hope, and creation.
I told my coworker that I boycott Yom Kippur these days. The fasting and the communal atoning of sins. I shun this day and its activities because the idea is that by atoning for our sins, we will be “inscribed in the Book of Life” for another year.
According to the Jewish calendar, in 2012 the evening closing Yom Kippur was the moment of my Leukemia diagnosis. I spent the day of Yom Kippur in an ER. And closed the chapter of that day with cancer. I was 30 years old.
I have done a lot of work around turning that diagnosis into the seeds of a new life. But I will never deny that I have a few wheelbarrows full of anger and grief that still need … sorting or composting or alleviation. Or simply time to feel them, and then to let them go, perhaps, if that’s what happens.
But for me, the idea that on one of the most holy days of the Jewish year, on the day when a person is either granted another year of life or is not, I cannot hold the tragedy of being told half my blood was cancer on that same day.
And, I imagine, my feelings toward all of this will transform, lessen, or evolve. But, for now, I boycott Yom Kippur.
I have used this week of T’shuvah to take stock of where I am desirous to return to and acknowledge and rejoice in the truth of my soul, and to note where I already am. I have used this week to affirm that life can be new and different and fulfilling.
I will never need the forgiveness of an entity that is either made of benevolence or simply is the indifferent force of Life itself.
My week of T’shuvah is and has returned me to a place of excitement and possibility. I don’t need a communal atonement to reward me for how exceptional that is.
That said. Shanah Tovah u’Metukah — May you have a good (tovah) and sweet (metukah) year, friends. And may we write our own Books of Life.
So, here’s a funny.
Remember when I posted that blog about finding equanimity in my relationships? About not being thrown by others emotions (or even my own)? Yeah, that one I posted on Friday… three days ago?
Well, guess what I’ve been given the opportunity to practice these last three days?
To be respectful, I will simply say that I saw many chances to retaliate and behave how I used to — particularly, by being curt, punishing, and seethingly silent. If I behave that way, you, of course, will apologize for your behavior, and change in the way that I want you to, right?
Unfortunately, or fortunately, I really noticed how I wanted to react, my first reaction. How my disappointment wanted to come out as being mean. Instead, I tried to my best to “let it go.” I had that silly Frozen song in my head a lot this weekend!
How others are choosing to behave is none of my business. As it affects me, it is my business. But it’s up to me to choose how I want that to be expressed.
Let’s just say that I was pissed, so much so that I was on the phone while driving, and got pulled over by a cop before I even left San Francisco.
Luckily I was let off with a warning (and I know how much those tickets cost!), but it gave me the opportunity to pause and look at why I was behaving in the way I was — in a way that wasn’t good for me.
The whole weekend ended up, for me, being an exercise in letting other people have their emotions and their actions, and not being drawn into that drama. It’s camping. It’s supposed to be light, fun, and not particularly insightful, except maybe the insight and rest and joy that comes from being in the silence of the forest. Which, is never actually that silent, once you get quiet enough. That’s one of the things I love about it. To hear the rustle of the trees, the little animals, the little noises. How this tree sounds as it sways in the wind as opposed to that tree.
Luckily, I was able to ask for some of that time for myself, so that I could get my stillness in.
I am no saint, and I am no angel, and I have no business judging others, or assuming that they should be any way other than they are. But I do get to ask for what I need, and I do get to behave in a way that is in alignment with how I want to be. Despite that my brain gremlins are momentarily eviscerating you.
Upon arrival home to Oakland, I get a phone call. It’s my dad.
I let it go to voicemail. I’m emptying out the cooler in my bathtub. It rings again.
Now I think it’s an emergency. Nope: After a decade of being engaged to the same woman, he’s finally getting married.
The last weekend of the play I’m playing the lead in.
I was *informed* I should see if they can get the understudy to do that weekend. I wasn’t asked what play it was. I wasn’t told congratulations. I was told, in the voice of force only my father knows how to invoke, that I should be there.
I told him I’d ask about the understudy.
I called my brother, who’d left me a voicemail about this earlier that day. If the invitations were going out the next week, it was clear that this plan was in place quite some time ago, no? Could be that I could have been informed a little earlier, no?
I was virulently reminded of when I was sick with cancer, and my father told me that he could only call me after dark, when I was exhausted from my days of chemo, that “This is how it works.” This is what he told me about not being able to call me earlier. “This is how it works.”
After I got off the phone with him yesterday, I remembered that. This occasion, this insistence that I be there, despite whatever (SUCCESS) is going on in my life, is part of his pattern of demand, and selfishness.
And, an inability to say something like: You know, Molly, it would mean a lot to me if you could be there.
I told my brother when we were discussing the viability of my coming out, plane tickets, and where to stay, things that my dad has obviously not thought of. … that I would talk to my network. That I would look at my numbers. Maybe ask him to pay for half the plane ticket out, since I’m not in a position to go back east again right now.
But then, I do know how awful it is to ask for money from him.
So, I will talk to my network. I will repeat “Let it go” in my head, and I will remember the thing I usually forget when I feel made small by him: I am awesome.
My being in a play IS a big deal. My getting a lead role IS a big deal. I’m doing a brave and new thing. I am taking chances to be greater in my life. And the exercise in equanimity is to allow and remember and embrace and be bolstered by these facts.
It is not a surprise that the weekend I claim that I’ve moving “beyond” being thrown by others, I’m given several (immediate!) chances to practice what I preached.
A mentor once told me that our “character defects” (or, outmoded coping mechanisms) aren’t relieved from us. They aren’t removed. Instead, we’re given opportunities to either pick them up again, or to act a different way.
I haven’t known what that other way is, until I’m given the chance to try something else. If I only reach for what I know, I do the same thing. It’s not that I feel relieved of being thrown by others’ emotions. I just feel more able to deal with what that brings up for me, and how I choose to engage with that.
What will happen with my friend? Change.
What will happen with my father? I can only hope: Change.