“Death never pierces the heart so much as when it takes someone we love; cleaving the heart they held with their passing.” ―Brandon M. Herbert
*In Memory of my Uncle. Ti amo con tutto il mio cuore.*
“Writers will happen in the best of families.” ―Rita Mae Brown
How To Divorce Your Toxic Relatives
*Taking “sex addict” out of the equation, I think this is helpful for those of us who, as sufferers of various chronic pain related illnesses, have toxic family members that make things worse for us.*
How This Jewish American Wiccan “Celebrates Christmas”
In the very near future, I will be spending a huge chunk of my time in Israel. It will be nice not having to explain holidays to anyone or explaining why Christmas is just another day to me. For now, in the suburbs of a predominantly Irish and Italian neighborhood with a good 20 churches in pretty much every direction I turn (I wish I was exaggerating), I am still explaining myself. I have no idea why people still think their religion is the only one that exists on this planet. I’ll never understand it!
I am completely respectful of other people’s religious beliefs and their holidays, so long as I am not subjected to them in a means to try and convert me, but my spiritual beliefs and holidays are often met with some extremely disturbing questions, as opposed to the few I have received recently that were honest, curious, and filled with excitement for knowledge. They were by no means offensive. When a person is open and honest, and interested, it makes it so much easier for me to be me, as opposed to feeling like I have to repress my thoughts.
A few weeks ago someone wished me a “Merry Christmas” and received my usual response, which is that I do not celebrate Christmas. This is someone whose establishment I frequent once or twice a month, and not only did she look like I’d just kicked her, but she came over to make sure she hadn’t offended me. I had to explain that I celebrate Chanukah and Yule, and that I am not Catholic or Christian. She was incredibly confused, but she came over to make sure she hadn’t offended me with a wish for a good holiday. Me, I simply like to be clear with people. I am not trying to offend anyone, but if you’re going to wish me well, wish me properly. Don’t make assumptions and please, don’t tell me I “don’t look Jewish”. I don’t even know how to answer that one without telling you off, and because I come from a rich ancestral well of knowledge and an incredibly deep DNA pool, I can assure you that we come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. We are all distinctly unique, some more than others.
Growing up, Christmas was not a word used much in our home. Not for any other reason than the simple fact that we’re Jewish. We had many Christian and Catholic friends, some who understood and some who did not, that we ourselves did not celebrate the same holiday, nor did we share the same spiritual or religious beliefs that they did. It is extremely disturbing to me that in 2013, any Jew still has to explain themselves.
People like to quote the Bible at me, and they are generally New Testament folk. They’re the kinds of people that don’t realize exactly how “new” the New Testament really is. I, myself, do not adhere to anything outside of the Old Testament. Even that kind of loses me at times. Prayer is an amazing thing, but I like to stick to my own path when it pertains to anything of a spiritual nature. I am not trying to change or convert anyone.
Today is simply December 25th to me. It’s not a holiday, but it IS my Great-Uncle’s birthday. He passed away 15 years ago, but I still remember him very clearly. I remember the last things he ever said to me, and I remember how silent this time of year became after he passed away. For several years prior to his passing, myself and two other family members would try to spend the day with him. Even though he had long since stopped acknowledging his own birthday, he still loved going out to a nice restaurant and enjoying good food, good company, and he told stories like nobodies business. They’re the kinds of stories you want to hear from someone over the age of 80, because you know that no matter how much time passes, you will never hear such stories again.
After he passed away, the tradition maintained in my home on Christmas Day was movies and good food. Either we went to the movies and came home to a really great meal, or we stayed home with a pile of movies and made a meal together. Almost always, it was homemade Italian food from scratch, or Chinese food from the best place in the area.
To know me is to know that I make killer Italian food. It’s something I love doing, but I am just as comfortable making Asian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, and pretty much anything else that I have mastered in all my years of cooking. Nothing is impossible, but I am an epic lasagna failure. It’s the only thing I make that falls apart, so I’ve stopped doing it. It is never inedible, it just never does what it’s supposed to do. Despite a family recipe for veggie lasagna that has been passed down for four generations, I completely and utterly suck at it. It’ll probably be another ten years before I attempt it again. It takes time and patience, and we all know I have no patience.
Over time I have found that people really seem to be offended whenever I clarify that I do not celebrate Christmas. They look at me like I kick puppies, torture kittens, steal winning lottery tickets, and am just, on a whole, not a good person. I look at them with the knowledge that, for over 5000 years, my people have not celebrated Christmas. It’s not on our calender and it’s not in our religious texts. It’s perfectly ok to not share the same religious beliefs. If we did, we’d be living in some kind of bizarre utopia. That’s not a world I can imagine functioning in. Differences make the world go ‘round. We can either choose to come together and learn from one another or we can continue fighting in the name of religion. The choice, however, is generally not ours to make because those that govern our respective countries are a huge part of why organized religion is failing. I could go on, but I won’t, or I assure you, I will offend you.
One year a family friend (one of my brother’s best friends at the time), on leave from the Army, wanted me to convince my brother to come to midnight mass with him. I, personally, do not spend time in churches. It has never been my thing. My brother politely declined, but as his friend became more insistent he finally said “Look, there’s a Jew hanging from a cross in no less than 7 places in there. With that track record, I don’t care to be the sacrifice sometime between midnight and 2 a.m.” We ALL laughed, and no one was offended.
This very same friend asked us about Christmas trees, genuinely wanting to know “If we put up Christmas trees, what do Jewish people do?” Never one to miss an opportunity, I turned around and said “We put up a Chanukah Bush, John.” He nodded and said “Oh, ok.” I said absolutely nothing for a few minutes, everyone was in on it because they’d heard me do this little bit before. Finally, after suppressing serious laughter to the point where I almost hurt myself, I admitted to him that I was just fucking around with him, that there was no such thing as a Chanukah Bush (though I admit, I know some people that put one up because they love Christmas trees, but don’t celebrate Christmas). Again, laughter ensued. You have to really know me to know that I will joke like that with the people that know me best, and that, while inappropriate to some, I am careful what I say in mixed company because I don’t go out of my way to be hurtful to others. I do like to be very clear though, that’s just my way. Humor and clarity.
Approximately 11 ½ years ago, Wicca was introduced to me. It is the perfect blend of a nature based religion steeped in Kabbalistic teachings. Kabbalah is Jewish Mysticism. If you don’t know what that is, use a search engine. That will explain it more clearly for you.
For me, Wicca was like coming home. It was pretty much everything I had been raised around, especially a love for animals and nature, and the elements. Part of the Wiccan Rede is “An it harm none, do as ye will”. There is no governing body, you govern yourself, and the Wiccan Rede tells you “So long as you are not harming anyone, do as you will. Live your life.” It is laid back and calm, and it brings an extra level of peace to my life. Even my Rabbi is comfortable with my spiritual beliefs. He’s one of the most open people I have ever met, so I feel supremely comfortable being myself and speaking my mind around him. Until I met him, I had NEVER been in the presence of a man of God and not felt judged. However, my Rabbi is unique. He too, is from a foundation of “You’re not harming anyone by being you. Live your life.” In this, I always feel incredibly blessed.
Almost all of my friends are religiously different than I am, and that is beyond ok. I am not sitting in judgement of them or their beliefs. I want them to be their authentic selves, and I can only hope they want the same for me. I have friends that are Jewish and friends that are Wiccan, so I don’t feel spiritually deprived in any sense of the word. We should all celebrate what we believe in and do so with those we love. We should wish the people in our lives well EVERY DAY, not just during the month of December.
So Lisa, exactly how does a Jewish American Wiccan “celebrate Christmas”? Simply put, I don’t. I ignore the insanity of my neighbors, all of whom DO celebrate Christmas, and I go about my day. I will bake Cranberry Orange scones for breakfast, I will do laundry and maybe enjoy a movie. I will play with my fuzzy little Princess. Later on, I will be making a nice meal for the family I am spending my day with. I might even get some writing finished, if I’m feeling up to it. Basically, anything goes. It’s just another quiet day for me. After years and years spent taking care of others, quiet days are something I really treasure.
Wishing you & yours a beautiful holiday season.
It’s been six years today since you passed away. I still remember the phone calls that morning. I remember every day after it so vividly, even the months of not being able to get out of bed or function after burying you. I never want to re-live it again, yet it plays out each year in ways I never imagined.
Growing up I wanted to be as little like you as humanly possible, and you know why. I chose to separate myself and be my own person, because I couldn’t fathom having your blood running through my veins.
Our relationship was a difficult one, but in the end, I made sure you got the best medical care possible, I planned your funeral, and gave the eulogy. I did everything you asked of me. I spoke at the memorial service. You had battled cancer bravely for 15 years, and I chose to honor you instead of pointing out your many flaws. I can always discuss those in therapy. I wasn’t about to embarrass you in front of friends, family, or your co-workers. Lets not talk about your extended family, because you should be utterly ashamed of them. I know I am.
Today, I can hear your voice whenever my brother says certain things, and I can see your expressions when he does certain things. You live on in your son, with his twisted sense of humor, good heart, and firm belief that every single year is going to be a winning one for the New York Giants and the New York Yankees (Not this year M, sorry.). I’m sure you’re rolling over in your grave knowing that Mariano Rivera retired this Fall.
Unfortunately for my brother, he also picked up a lot of your bad habits and a great many of your issues. I have tried my best to help him, but now he’s on his own. I won’t allow myself to re-live my childhood and adolescence with another person with abusive tendencies who doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the things he says or does, who refuses to take responsibility for his actions. I won’t let him become the worst of you, and I won’t allow him to hurt the people that you hurt for so long. If he ever treats a wife and children the way you did, I will put a stop to it. I won’t allow the cycle to continue.
Fortunately, at the core of who he is, he’ll give someone the shirt off his back and save a life. I have seen him do it countless times, and I am in awe of that calm, patient, gentle soul that is caring and accepting, that shows genuine concern for others, that listens to people and shows such immense kindness, it’s incredibly endearing. But when he turns on a dime, I hear and see you, and I probably always will.
Yes, you had your good points. You were smart & sharp, educated, and possessed a warped sense of humor, and a deep and abiding love for cats. You had amazing work ethic. You passed those things on to your children. Bravo.
In fairness, I know you were a product of your own childhood and the traumas you endured. I get it, I really do, but it’s no excuse. I realize you never wanted children, and to that I say “Then you never should have gotten married, and if you did, it should have been to someone who also did not want children.”
For years after your death, I decided to let it all slide. What difference would it make now, carrying around all the anger and hostility I felt and still, to this day, feel? I don’t want to live in the past and carry any of this forward, but the truth is, it does remain. Lingering around forever, like bad perfume.
I have always been very open and honest about what I’ve experienced in my life. I’d be more ashamed if I didn’t discuss the things that have shaped me into who I am. Nothing was perfect, but my mother came pretty damn close. She had to carry the weight of two parents, after all. You may have been physically present, you may have been home each night after a long day of work, but you did not raise your kids. That fell to my mother and Grandmother, and later the responsibility also fell to me. It continues to fall to me to this day.
I can forgive you for what you put us through, and some day that forgiveness will come to fruition. Not today, maybe not in a year or ten years, but eventually I will forgive it, or at the very least, make peace with it. I will NEVER forgive you for what you put my mother through. She deserved a husband who was everything she was, and God, did you fall short in every possible way, to the point where it actually pained me to bury her next to you, for in death I felt she deserved some peace and space that you did not also inhabit. I know eventually it’s just bones, but it still matters to me. She will always matter, for she is a part of me that is deeper than blood and bones.
This was not what I intended to write today, but somehow pain has risen to the surface and I do not possess the ability to “let it fly”. To fake it would be falseness of self, and I cannot abide by that. For today, I may not be able to “let it fly”, but I can certainly “let it be”, because to ask any more or any less of myself would be to court more madness and that is something I do not want, nor do I deserve. For today, it is what it is.
‘Six years can change everything. It can change how you see the world, how you see yourself, how you see your relationships, and how you see the future. I have hardened. I have softened. I have strengthened. I have focused on myself, and I have grown. I have fought battles, and won. I have fought battles that weren’t worth fighting, and walked away unscathed. I have tended wounds, and worked on scars. I have loved and been loved. I have seen beauty, and I have seen the dark underbelly. I have accomplished things people told me I would never attain on my own. I have risen out of the ashes, as the infinite phoenix of my own destiny. Most importantly, I have stood on my own two feet. No matter where life takes me, I know who I am. I know my worth and value.
In Memory of my father, who knows why these things are all so very important. …May You Never Be Broken Again.’
Thanksgiving is days away and I’m going to do my shopping tomorrow (I have been in far too much pain today to actually psych myself into it. I was also far too drained to focus on anything other than staying in my PJ’s and not going out in 22 degree temperatures. I’ve wanted a nap since a little after 9:00 this morning. I’m seriously eating dinner and going to bed as soon as humanly possible.), which is unusually late for me, but I have a list and I’m sticking to it, even though it’ll be crazy in the store no matter what.
I honestly don’t think I’ve made a Thanksgiving meal in about 6 or 7 years. It’s been long enough that I simply don’t remember the last time I did it (though I do know that my father was in the hospital at the time), but this year I decided that, despite only cooking for a few people, I’m not making ten plus pounds of turkey for anyone. It’s a lot of food, food that will absolutely go to waste because no one around here eats dark meat (Based on personal preference, nothing more. ), so I am going to re-vamp the menu slightly, but I’m still going to make stuffing because I’m craving it and it’s one of the most awesome things about Thanksgiving in terms of food.
Everyone makes stuffing differently, providing they make it at all, as everyone likes different side dishes this time of year. I don’t know anyone that makes stuffing the way I do, but I inherited the recipe from my mother and it’s good enough that I will pass it down the generational line because there is no way in the world this chick is genetically producing children that can’t cook.
I’m keeping things healthy by including a salad, even if I’m the only person that eats it. Truth be told, I like to tear up my turkey or chicken and throw it right into a salad, even on Thanksgiving. I do not feel guilty about food EVER, but I especially don’t like bringing food issues of any kind to the table during the holidays.
So, I’ve got a nice meal planned, there will be plenty of leftovers, but I’m completely sidelined and baffled by dessert. For the last couple of years I’ve ordered pies and cheesecake for the holidays from a local Italian bakery. I’m not a pie maker, I know my baking strengths and I don’t have the patience for pies, so when it comes to things of that nature, I turn to those who do it for a living. I made the mistake last year of ordering a Pumpkin Pie that was so bad, I refused to eat it. From the crust to the filling, it was one of the worst things you could ever possibly taste.
Pumpkin Pie is hard to screw up, it’s a pie I know how to make without a lot of effort, but I was exhausted last year and there would not have been pie at all if it were left up to me. I think I ordered four or five different pies between Thanksgiving and the end of last year, and the only ones worth eating were Caramel Apple Walnut & an amazing Chocolate Cream that was downright sinful (it took me two weeks to finish it, it must have weighed ten pounds!). All the others stunk, but the Caramel Apple Walnut is consistently good.
I eat fruit year round like it’s a sport, and I have an immense sweet tooth, so even though I had not previously thought about it, I am going to try to snag a Caramel Apple Walnut to cap off this year’s meal. Personally though, at least for myself, I’m thinking of making my awesome brownies. It will take me the next month and a half to eat them because they’re truly divine, and full of dark chocolately goodness and other healthy things that help reduce any issues one might have at eating a small chunk or two, but a lot will depend on how long it takes me to get the main course and the stuffing in the oven.
Fibromyalgia makes it virtually impossible for me to prepare a huge meal in a few hours like I used to, so I’m thinking I will prep the stuffing Wednesday since it’s not a long amount of prep work, and then do the main course and the salad on Thursday. Each takes less than 20 minutes, the oven does all the real work. If I have energy after that, brownies will be made. If not, I’ll settle for a tiny wedge of pie. However, I guarantee that pie will not see the light of day. It’ll come into the house tomorrow afternoon and by Thursday evening, the box will be in the trash. I have serious pie eaters here, they don’t mess around.
My only other real “plan” for Thanksgiving is to watch movies and read. I just want a nice meal and a relatively quiet day. Black Friday will be spent chasing newly acquired black kitten who is SO at home right now, it’s not even funny. Every day she learns something new and shows me a new trick. Yesterday it was the fact that, small as she is, she can open closed doors. I have to admit, I was impressed. Today she ran up and down the stairs like a mad woman, and every time I’d go to check on her, she’d go flying back up the stairs like she’d just committed a crime. If you saw the behavior on video, you’d crack up. It’s entertaining as hell. She doesn’t make a lot of noise, so when she meows, which she finally did Saturday, it is the cutest thing ever. She’s pretty possessive of me, but I don’t mind, except when she speeds after me, nearly knocking me down. She’s a little beast when it comes to following me when she wants to. She’s sound asleep, the next minute she’s right under my feet or bumping her head into my legs. She is the gift that keeps on giving, and I’m thankful that I decided to come from a place of yes and bring her home. She’s already helping me feel a lot better about certain things. I’ve had less headaches/migraines since she’s come home, which cannot be a coincidence. I’m calmer and more centered, and I am not yelling nearly as much as I normally do.
I am not gifting anyone anything this year, other than my love, loyalty, and friendship, and for some people, all three. I might treat myself to something small, but I really just want to survive the remainder of this year with my head above water, and move into a New Year where I can prosper.
I feel bad that I won’t technically be doing anything for Chanukah this year, which begins Thanksgiving night, and is my favorite of all the Jewish holidays. I have such great memories of the happiness of Chanukah that it makes me sad, but it’s also not about gifts. Right now, for me, it’s about remaining focused. I’m doing my best.
This year has taken huge chunks of my soul, but others things have been given back to me, like unconditional love, loyalty, confidence, respect, new friendships that I treasure, old friendships that are the untarnished Platinum in my life, and the knowledge that the more I grow, the more content I am with who I am and where I’m going. Nothing is set in stone, and I’m learning that every time someone tries to break me, I come back stronger from the trial.
I hope everyone has a wonderful, peaceful, happy, healthy, and safe holiday.
The Day The World Changed & How I Changed With It…
Thanks to Shaun for asking me this question in July. He blogged about it, not knowing I was preparing to do the same today.
The world was irrevocably changed on September 11th,2001. Lives were affected globally. People cried and mourned, and unfortunately in certain countries, some people celebrated what they felt would be the demise of America. There’s a special place in hell for people like that, and I don’t even believe in a heaven/hell concept.
There’s really no one that can’t say that the events of 9/11 have had no effect on them whatsoever. You’d have to be completely heartless and brainless (I have a list of people that make the cut, as I am sure we all do.) to not react to what occurred and what continues to occur in this great big world of ours.
I will start by saying where I was that morning and how I look back on it.
As a native New Yorker, I watched a piece of my city be destroyed by pure evil, by unwarranted hatred. My mother had narrowly escaped the first bombing of the World Trade Center years before, so I already knew the towers were a target, but could I ever have expected to wake up one morning and watch the world change before my eyes in such a dramatic way? No. It still feels like it happened yesterday, except I know how much the world has changed and how much my own life has changed in the past 12 years since the attacks.
On that fateful morning, I woke up to take my Mom to work. She was returning to her job after a little over two months of being home recovering from failed back surgery. I was her primary care-giver/care-taker, so I was present for everything, including that morning’s events.
I am vividly reminded of that day because it started out like most people’s inevitably begin. I woke up and hit the shower. The key to my shower was that the radio was dead silence. Back then I normally listened to CD’s to drown out my own “mind noise”, but since I was in a bit of a rush after my CD fogged up on me, I switched on the radio mid-shower. The station I listen to is always rife with early morning talk and music. It freaked me out after a few minutes, because every single station I switched to was pure static, and the only brief thing I could make out through said static was that the World Trade Center had been hit by a “small plane”. I guarantee you that it was the fastest shower I’ve ever taken in my entire life, because I had to know what was going on, and if my family was safe. It was a total “What the FUCK?!” moment. Hearing those words repeated a second time on another radio station amidst all that static silence, I knew something was very wrong.
I remember throwing on clothes, going into the living room, turning on the TV, and watching the footage. Initially, I thought I was watching a trailer for a new Bruce Willis film, because that’s what it felt like. It was incredibly surreal and disturbing. This could not be happening on American soil! I was in disbelief.
Every channel was showing the footage, but they were claiming that a “small aircraft” had hit the World Trade Center. Surveying the damage, I knew that it hadn’t been a small anything, and that this was an act of terrorism, as opposed to an “accident”. Knowing the area well, I knew that a plane didn’t just swerve in that direction of its own volition.
I immediately called my father, who was working that morning in a government building in the city that had once been a target after the Oklahoma City bombings. He was asking me what happened because my view was different from his, despite his physical view being clearer and closer, and as we spoke, we both watched in horror as the 2nd plane hit the other tower.
We were both vehement in our belief that this was an act of terrorism on American soil, that it was Arab extremists, and we were both upset as all get out. We got off the phone briefly so I could take my mother to work. The devastation we were all feeling was so strong, you couldn’t have come at it with a sword. Anger, silence, worry, it was all in the air.
The news that the Pentagon has been hit, and that a plane had gone down in Pennsylvania were minor shocks at the time, yet all of it was terrifying. Planes entering U.S. airspace were now being re-routed to Canada to avoid further attacks via aircraft.
I returned home to make sure my Dad was still ok, and we talked for a while before an announcement was made that his building was being evacuated as a precautionary measure. The city was in chaos, and it took my Dad a while to get home, but once he was safe I was breathing a huge sigh of relief. My Mom called me throughout the day for updates on what was going on, did my Dad make it home safely, what else were we being told, etc. My brother and I were angry, and Americans were being warned that the attacks on our soil might continue, even after they closed all of the airports. Basically we were being told to watch our own skies. Living near major airports my entire life, the sheer silence of not hearing a plane go overhead for weeks on end was, and still is, freaky. Of course now, after all these years, I still watch planes very carefully.
Despite the phone lines being jammed in the tri-state area, I was lucky to spend part of the day mostly on the phone with my parents. My Mom was completely and utterly horrified after we’d watched everything that morning. When I picked her up from work later that day, as I did every single day until she left her company, that day had changed so much, and shifted the world and our view of it completely.
I was very lucky. I did not lose any friends or family members/loved ones. People I knew very distantly were affected, and for that I will always be sorry, even though I know full well that none of it was or is my fault. That level of tragedy is not something you can put into words, not really.
A week or so after the attacks, you could still see and smell the smoke heavy in the air. I cried seeing the wreckage, my city skyline destroyed, as I went over the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island into Brooklyn. Watching trucks in a single file going over the bridge all the way out to Arthur Kill to bring in the debris was awful. Cars, physical pieces of the towers, you could physically feel the spirits of people in the air, and it sickened me to my core.
I will never forget the friends from all over the world that went out of their way to contact me to make sure that I was safe, that my parents were safe, to ask if I needed anything. I remember exactly who contacted me as if it just happened, because almost all of them were overseas. A friend who had visited me the year before and gotten the “Lisa Grand Tour” of New York City was mortified. Eerily enough, one of the charms she had purchased for her charm bracelet had broken the day before. She immediately thought of us buying them together during her visit, and the following morning she took the broken charm as a sign alerting her to my being in danger, and she sent me an e-mail to make sure everyone was ok.
One of the biggest things conveyed to me since 9/11 is people’s fears of flying, be it domestically or Internationally. I’ve been flying my entire life. I have never been afraid to get on a plane and go somewhere, or get on a return flight home. I’ve been lucky to mostly have very smooth travels, and only one or two flights during really bad weather where I was grateful the pilot knew what he was doing.
Do I worry about clearing security at the airport? No. I’ve been hassled once, at Dallas-Fort Worth International where I was screened four times while people who were actually visibly questionable walked right through with no problems. This was at a time when the TSA was being warned to “thoroughly search single white women traveling alone”. I watched as they tore apart my carefully packed carry-on bag, rifled through my books page-by-page (I kid you not!), questioned a pouch chock full of nickels, dime, and quarters acquired during my two week vacation, and asked where I was going, where I was coming from, what my travel intentions were, etc. Texas is one of my favorite places to visit, and the experience with TSA did not sour me in the least, but once they finally cleared me after an hour of unnecessary hassle, a man in a cowboy hat and cowboy boots who’d been watching the entire thing go down told me how disgusted he was to have witnessed that, and that he came very close to intervening on my behalf. That was really sweet, but by that time I was exhausted, and honestly lucky to arrive at my gate to a two hour flight delay, as opposed to 30 minutes of time left before boarding.
Things have changed drastically since then, but my experiences at various airports have been fine clearing security. I’ve been subjected to one “hair search” due to a clip in my hair that had a metal core and one “pocket pat” to verify that what I was wearing clipped to my pants was indeed a pedometer and not a bomb. <rolls eyes> I don’t blame them for being thorough, but I definitely think they need to change a lot of their rules and make things less stressful for travelers who are already frazzled enough as it is.
In the days following 9/11, I remember a much greater sense of patriotism than I had probably ever felt in my life and I will openly admit to being proud of my President in times where I am positive his decisions were not easy ones to make. Standing side-by-side with FDNY firefighters, he made me proud of my city, of its people and resilience, and of basic human kindness and compassion. In general I don’t witness a great deal of human kindness or experience an awful lot of compassion, so it was a highly emotional time.
One thing I am keenly aware of is that I might very well have lost my life that day had I taken a job one year prior with a company whose offices were terribly affected. I like to think my intuition would have kicked into high gear and kept me home that day for a plethora of different reasons, but one never truly knows. When I heard about all of the people lost from that company, people who stayed behind and did not immediately evacuate, or those that went back in to help others, I am extremely grateful for my own life. It’s a humbling thing. Sometimes the choices we make save our lives and we may not always be aware of it, but that night, I was definitely more aware than I ever cared to be.
As a nation, I feel we are both stronger and weaker. So much has changed, but as I look deep within myself, I am glad that 9/11 didn’t harden me any more than anything else I have experienced in life. Certainly it raised people’s awareness to a whole different level and for a very long time fear was a motivating factor for way too many people. I refuse to live in any country and be fearful of my life or my safety.
Every single day we are given is a blessing. We all have our “list of shit” in our lives. Nothing and no one is perfect, but each day is an opportunity to make sure we never forget, to make sure we tell the next generation what happened, and how we all lived through a major moment in history.
In memory of those that lost their lives: You may be gone, but you are not forgotten.
On this day, please click on the FDNY link and donate whatever you can to the Official FDNY Widow’s & Orphan’s Fund. This charity was close to my father’s heart.
For those who maybe haven’t picked up on it yet, I am Jewish. 100% through and through because, even though I disagree with varying viewpoints at times, I believe in a spiritual deity, and it’s drastically different from the church and its teachings.
I am not posting this in an attempt to convert anyone, because that’s not my deal at all, but I am posting it to share and explain.
In late 2002, while studying Psychology & Comparative Religion, I stumbled upon Wicca as a 2nd “faith”, if you will. Growing up with Kabbalistic Judaism, which is Jewish Mysticism for those of you who only hear Kabbalah and think of Madonna or Demi Moore, Wicca sort of brought it all home for me. It made sense out of all the things I’d been raised to believe and it made sense for my every day life. It brought me to a peaceful, calmer, happier place. A place I really needed to be considering how difficult my life had been up until that point.
Obviously there are differences between the two religions. You have a monotheist belief system, but because I grew up believing in duality of God and Goddess, Wicca, as a polytheist belief system, makes sense to me even within the confines of Judaism. I see them as being incredibly intertwined most of the time.
To be clear, I don’t practice either faith for shock value or to attract attention. I do it because it’s my spiritual path and it’s part of what makes me who I am. I’m spiritual as opposed to religious, but I have members of my family that are Ultra Orthodox and barely acknowledge my existence because I’m not “Jewish enough” for them and their way of life. We pretty much all grew up Reformed, yet they are now somehow superior to the rest of us. You can’t help, but roll your eyes. I respect their faith, but they can’t respect mine. It’s a good thing they haven’t seen my tattoos, they’d probably drop dead and spit.
My wish for this New Year is for my family & friends all over the world to have a better, happier, stronger, more secure year than the one we are leaving behind. Less struggle, more happiness. Less pain, more days where we can feel like we’re truly part of the bigger picture. More healing, less torment. More listening, less ignoring. More compassion, less negativity.
To my Rabbi, thank you for being there for me over these past six years. It has made such an immense difference having you be a voice of reason. To Shani (my sister from another mister) in Israel, I love you and I’m thinking of you.
For those of you who do not celebrate this holiday, my wishes for you remain the same.L’Shanah Tovah!