Wednesday, December 27, 2006

NEW ...

Once I am out of the fog of this last week, I will take the huge step toward getting with the program of updating my blog to the new technology. One of the things I also intend doing is making a regular feature of, 'MY FAVORITE INCOMING EMAIL OF THE WEEK.'

I received this piece today. It is not the first time I have seen it. The beauty of it is that it is always appropriate to what is going on when you do receive it. What I need today is reassurance, so it couldn't have come at a better time.
'Thank you, Ed' for sharing it with me.
My wish is that you will gain some inspiration from it.
[ My prayer is that Blogger doesn't turn this into a spacing monstersaurus-rex challenge for me :o) ]
(Added later - 'montesaurus-rex' is putting it mildly. As much as I love you, my blog, this piece, every single living, breathing and walking thing in the entire universe, I can't fix it or work out how it looks perfect on the 'create page' and like this on the published page. I hope you will still enjoy it!)

The Awakening
by Sonny Carroll
A time comes in your life when you finally get it ...
When in the midst of all your fears and insanity you stop dead in your
tracks and somewhere, the voice inside your head cries out - ENOUGH!
Enough fighting and cying, or struggling to hold on. And, like a child
quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you
shudder once or twice, you blink back your tears and through a mantle of
wet lashes, you begin to look at the world through new eyes,
This is your awakening ...
You realize that it's time to stop hoping and waiting for something to
change, or for happiness, safety and security to come galloping over the
next horizon. You come to terms with the fact that he is not Prince Charming
and you are not Cinderella and that in the real world, there aren't always fairy
tale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of "happily
ever after" must begin with you and in the process,
a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.
You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always
love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are ... and that's OK. (They are entitled
to their own views and opinions.) And you learn the importance of loving and
championing yourself and in the process, a sense of
new found confidence is born of self-approval.
You stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you
(or didn't do for you) and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected. You learn that people don't always say what they mean or mean what they
say and that not everyone will always be there for you and that
it's not always about you. So you learn to stand on your own and to take care
of yourself and in the process, a sense of
safety & security is born of self-reliance.
You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they
are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties and in the process,
a sense of peace & contentment is born of forgiveness.
You realize that much of the way you view yourself and the world around you,
is a resultof all the messages and opinions that have been ingrained into your psyche.
You begin tosift through all the junk you've been fed about how you
should behave, how you should look and how much you should weigh,
what you should wear and where you should shop
and what you should drive, how and where you should live and
what you should do for a living, who you should marry and what
you should expect of a marriage, the importance of
having and raising children or what you owe your parents.
You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view.
You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.
You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the
doctrines and values you've outgrown, or should never have brought into to begin with
and in the process, you learn to go with your instincts.
You learn that it is truly in giving that we receive and there there is power and glory
in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a
"consumer" looking for your next fix.
You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals
of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon
which you must build a life.
You learn that you don't know everything; it's not your job to save the world
and that you can't teach a pig to sing. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO.
You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry
and that mrtyrs get burned at the stake.
Then you learn about love. Romantic love and familial love.
How to love, how much to give in love, when to stop giving
and when to walk away. You learn not to project your
needs or your feelings onto a relationship.
You learn that you will not be more beautiful,
more intelligent, more lovable or more important because of the
man on your arm or the child that bears your name.
You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would
have them be. You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes.
You learn that just as people grow and change, so it is with love;
and you learn that you don't have the right to demand love on your terms,
just to make you happy.
You learn that alone does not mean lonely.
You look in the mirror and come to terms with
the fact that you will never be a size 5 or a perfect 10
and you stop trying to compete with
the image inside your head and agonizing over how you "stack up."
You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over
and ignoring your needs. You learn that feelings of entitlement are perfectly OK
and that it is your right to want things and to ask for the things
you want and that sometimes it is necessary to make demands.
You come to the realization that you deserve to be treated with love,
kindness, sensitivity and respect and you won't settle for less.
You allow only the hands of a lover who cherishes
you, to glorify you with his touch and in the process,
you internalize the meaning of self-respect.
And you learn that you body really is your temple. And you begin to care for it
and treat it with respect. You begin eating a balanced diet,
drinking more water and taking more time to exercise.
You learn that fatigue diminishes the spirit and can create doubt and fear.
So you take more time to rest. Just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul;
so you take time to laugh and to play.
You learn that for the most part in life, you get what you believe you deserve
and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You learn that anything worth achieving is work working for
and that wishing for something to happen,
is different from working toward making it happen.
More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction,
discipline and perseverance. You also learn that no one can do it all alone
and that it's OK to risk asking for help.
You learn that the only thing you must truly fear is the great robber baron of all time:
FEAR itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears,
because you know that whatever happens you can handle it
and to give in to fear, is to give away the right to
live on your terms.
You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud
of impending doom. You learn that life isn't always fair, you don't always get
what you think you deserve and that
sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people.
On these occasions, you learn not to personalize things.
You learn that G-d isn't punishing you or failing to answer your prayers;
it's just life happening.
You learn to deal with evil in it most primal state; the ego.
You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment
must be understood and redirected or they will
suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.
You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls.
You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many
of the simple things we take for granted;
things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about;
a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.
Slowly, you begin to take responsibility for yourself,
by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to
never ever settle for less than your heart's desire.
You hand a wind chime outside your window so you can
listen to the wind, and you make it a point to keep smiling, to keep
trusting and stay open to every wonderful possibility.
Finally, with courage in your heart and with G-d by your side
you take a stand, you take a deep breath
and you begin to design the life you want to live as best as you can.

Monday, December 18, 2006

LIFE ...

The last job I had in South Africa was one that I myself was shocked at getting. It was completely out of character for where I was in my life at that time. I remember all the different reactions I got from the various friends and relatives as I told them that I had applied for and been accepted to work at a temple/shul/synagogue. The one common thread was that of surprise.

I had grown up in a traditional Jewish home where all the holidays were celebrated. On a day to day basis we were aware of our Jewishness but we were not religiously observant. Our home was not kosher and we did not observe Shabbat/the Sabbath. My mother did however always light candles on Friday night and ‘Friday night supper’ was not to be missed. It was a family gathering at either my Uncle’s house, my Mom’s lifelong friend who was my Auntie Lily, or at our own home. No matter what was going on, I knew I had to be at Friday night supper, and I was … and I wanted to be there, too. We were like the average non-observant Jewish family in that we were proud of our heritage and content with attending shul services on Pesach/Passover, Rosh Hashana/New Year, Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement and various other holidays in between. I do have very clear memories of attending some Friday night/Shabbat services with my father when I was a much younger child.

Prior to looking for a job, I had worked freelance in the P.R./Promotions industry. I was flat broke and desperately needed to get on to some kind of regular income. I was single and was still recovering from the emotional ravages of having endured an ectopic pregnancy. I was 30 years old and had been in a relationship for two years that I knew was going nowhere. In spite of this, it had been easier to stay in it than to leave it. My emotional stability was seriously in question. Although I was essentially single, I was very clear that I was going to keep this baby – the problem was more how to get rid of the father from my life on a daily basis but allow him to be involved in his child’s life.

With the loss of this pregnancy, a spiritual journey started for me that has basically never ended. My first stop along the way started when I noticed the vacancy advertised in the local newspaper. It mentioned it was for a large Jewish congregation and what appealed to me was the four and a half day week. The offices would of course close at 1pm on Fridays for the preparation of Shabbat/Sabbath, so of course there would be no work on Saturdays either.

I was first interviewed by the office manager, then called back for an interview by the Management Committee and then finally for a third interview to be conducted by the Rabbi.

I did have an impressive resume but it was totally unrelated to any of the requirements for this job. Within minutes of my interview with the Rabbi, I knew I wanted this job. He read my resume, asked me all the questions that any prospective employer would ask and I answered them all perfectly. I was struggling to keep my shit together as I was so emotionally fragile. The empathy I could feel emanating from this incredible human being was making me feel very vulnerable. I instinctively knew that there was no coincidence I had ended up in front of this man and that I needed to be in this environment for my own healing as much as I needed the job for my own survival.

When all the formalities were over, he sat and stared at me for a few moments across the desk and then said to me, “I’ve read and heard what you have done for the last few years, now I would like you to tell me who you really are.”

I chuckled and said, “I’m not sure you have the time for that right now,” and felt my nervousness rising. I remember thinking that if I told this guy the reality of the person sitting in front of him, I would be fired before I got hired.

“Yes, I do.’ he said.

Close to an hour and a half later I walked out of the office feeling like all the weight I had been carrying on my shoulders had been lifted. I didn’t know why, and I’m not sure I understood what I was feeling, but I did know I was feeling lighter – and it felt better than how I had felt when I walked in some hours earlier.

As I got to the door of his office I thought to myself, “Oh my goodness, if he only knew I don’t even have underwear on under my long skirt….” I don’t usually go commando, but I had a painful scar from the surgery I had undergone to have my one tube removed and it was just more comfortable to go without underwear. As if reading my mind, as I was about to close his office door behind me he said, “Thank you for your honesty, Dawn.” Still keeping it together, I casually smiled and thanked him for listening to me when in fact I had nearly jumped out of my skin from shock at his comment.

A few days later I got the call from the office manager who had been the first to interview me, and she was happily offering me the job. To the South Africans reading this, I was in DIONS in Wynberg when I got the message on my beeper. There were no cell phones yet. I ran to the information desk and begged them to let me use the phone, and I told Helene that she had made my day by offering me the job.

The essence of my job was dealing with the life-cycle events. This meant that I would receive a call from both congregants as well as non-members from within the community at large requiring assistance in the event of a birth, death, marriage, Bar/Bat Mitzvah within their family.

I have stories from this experience that would justify having a blog dedicated to them and nothing else. What got me thinking along the lines of this post, is the way my life has gone for the last two weeks since my last post.

The course of my working day would be so varied. I recall clearly the events of one day. I had just taken a phone call from the grandfather of a baby who had suffered a cot/crib death. (SIDS)

I followed the required procedure of the call and scheduled the time for the family to come in to complete the necessary paperwork to process the burial of their infant. As I put the phone down, it rang again. It was the mother of a bride-to-be for a wedding the Rabbi would be officiating at some months down the line. She made reference to how long she had held on for me on the line and then proceeded to explain the reason for her call. A Jewish wedding ceremony takes place under a chuppah. In most shuls these are traditionally blue or red. This Mom wanted to know what color ours was as she was concerned about how it would match with the color scheme of the wedding party.

By the time I had ended this call, the Rabbi had responded to my internal office call to come and meet with me so that I could explain to him the details surrounding the family who would soon be presenting themselves in my office.

At this stage of my three year span in this job, I was very confident in what I was doing and in spite of my lack of formal training in bereavement counseling, I had gained a lot of experience and knowledge under the superb guidance and instruction from the Rabbi. I had proven sufficiently to him that I had an instinctive empathy for these kinds of situations which is why he would always respond without question when I would alert him to a situation that I was certain needed his intervention. This was most certainly one such time.

I all but slammed the phone down on the Mom who was extremely concerned about the potential clash of colors and expressed strong views about how pathetic this all seemed to me in light of the call I had taken just before her.

It was in the discussion that followed between me and the Rabbi that I learnt one of the most valuable lessons in my life. He explained to me how in that moment, the wedding of that woman’s daughter was without a doubt thee most important thing in her life. Nothing held more purpose or meaning for her, clearly right down to the smallest of details, however insane it might have appeared to me by virtue of the sequence of events I was faced with handling. It was my job in my professional capacity to extend the respect to each situation that it deserved, acknowledging without any shred of judgment the importance of each one to each person. That lesson has stayed with me ever since then and I draw on the experience of it very, very often.

It was this awareness that has helped me get through the events of the last two weeks in my own life.

It has been a challenging time for me as things have gone from what might seem like totally unimportant to the next person to deeply important to me. What has been amazing to me is that although circumstances have forced me off the blogging radar, my comments box holds 30 messages and my email IN BOX has brought me a steady flow of mail expressing concern from people I might never have the opportunity to meet in person.

So while we go about the daily activities of our lives, we need to always remember that what we see on the surface can so often be as far removed from the reality of what’s going on as is possible.

My sister sent me this beautiful message back on December 6th. Please watch it with sound ~ it will make a lovely addition to any internet/email wish you might want to extend to someone you love and are grateful for. If you would like to use it, this is the link.

p.s. The full extent of the relationship that grew between me and my teacher, friend and mentor, the late Rabbi Ady Assabi, can be read in a previous post. VOWS on September 5th, 2005

Friday, December 01, 2006

PHEW ...

It’s interesting how different cultures express different feelings. If I was in South Africa this last week, I would have described how I felt as, “Feeling really kak.” If we were still living in England it would be referred to as, “Feeling poorly.” Another way of describing it would be, “Under the weather.” This creature best reflects how and where I have been this week, better than any words from any culture.

I am finally feeling much better and hope to get myself totally back on track by the end of this weekend. This will of course include catching up on my blogging – it has been an eventful week in spite of how crap I might have felt. In addition, I will most certainly have paid long overdue visits to everyone who has been kind enough to pop in and say hello.

It’s World Aids Day today ~ everyone is choosing gifts for different reasons for different people. By shopping one
(RED) item you will make a difference in many lives. Please consider adding it to your list.

Shabbat Shalom to those Shabbat-ing, and a wonderful weekend to everyone.

If you have approximately 7 minutes to spare, watching this video will re-charge your batteries, I promise!