I can relate to finding a way to live in relative peace and comfort with a certain personally-defined lifestyle/outlook. But in my opinion and experience these are relatively short-lived (the same way the externally defined lifestyle+belief system is not sustainable). I think that’s first and foremost because they don’t successfully address the most important unanswered existential questions and issues, which at a certain point makes the lifestyle/system feel arbitrary and forced, even if was initially, supposedly, to a large extent self-defined.
Years go by, you’re no longer a child and yet you don’t realize what was a secret then no longer needs to be a secret now. I’m 34 and I just noticed that what was a very embarrassing secret 24 years ago, known only to me, my mom and my aunt (as far as I know), need no longer be embarrassing nor secret.
So now I’m ready to free myself from what still is the slightly embarrassing story of the time I made in my pants.
Yes, in case you weren’t sure, I can tell you from personal experience, that people’s bowels really do unintentionally move when put in an acutely traumatic situation.
I was around 10 years old. My mom did something she’d afterwards regret and promise to never do again until we were older. She let me ride my bike alone along Bathurst Street, a busy main street in Toronto. I’d ride from Patricia southward to the JCC where I’d meet her and get a lift back home.
All this was without a helmet, of course. There was no law about helmets and very little education about their importance.
I zipped along and when I got to Finch and saw a green light, I started crossing on my bike. At the same time, a woman was making a left turn in her car from Bathurst to Finch. The sun was shining in her eyes and she had a huge sticker on her dashboard for parking somewhere illegally.
So she hit me. Just like that.
I fell to the ground, noticing with gratitude that my head did not touch the pavement.
One of the driver’s young sons poked his head out the back window in his hockey gear and yelled, “Are you OK?”
From the asphalt I said, “No, [you crazy kid, of course] I’m not OK. [Your mom just hit me with a car!]” I really was thinking what’s written in brackets.
Thankfully I was barely injured. But my poor mom… She had left after me and was sitting in her car at a red light on Bathurst by Finch. Suddenly she looked to her right and noticed a child on the ground, a broken bike nearby. She jumped out of the car and ran over. I was already sitting up and an ambulance had arrived. (How did people used to call ambulances before cell phones?)
I seemed fine but needed to be checked at the hospital. She may have broken my leg and they had to test for internal injuries. I was given the choice to ride by ambulance or by Mommy’s car to the hospital and I opted for the familiar (sometimes it’s just not the right time for adventure).
After some time in the hospital, waiting in between tests, I went to the bathroom to pee. While in the stall I was suddenly made aware of the disturbing fact that I’d pooped during the accident. I was shocked and a little scared. I had had no idea. None.
I called to my mom through the door who got really scared and broke open the door to see what was wrong (wow Ma, quite the strength!).
I was appalled. How did it happen, I didn’t feel it happen and I didn’t feel it afterwards? I’m 10 years old, not two!
We threw out the underwear and my aunt brought me a clean pair to the hospital. (How did she get the message without cell phones?)
This automatically became a deep dark secret in my life. I hoped no one would ever know besides those who knew out of necessity – my mother and my aunt.
But now I realized I don’t need to be there anymore. There is no shame in this story of mine. I look back on myself with tears in my eyes. I was 10 years old. I was a child. I was hit by a goddamn car. Little me against a car. And my bowels loosened because that’s what happens to humans during trauma. I am human and when I tell my story I am so grateful that idiot woman didn’t maim me (besides a small bump on my left leg).
There. Now you know.
Anything you want to share?
So you take care of the child for a few years and he’s a healthy adult.
So you scream at the judge and win the case.
So you sit down and write that book.
So you practice the piece and then perform it in concert.
Why is it that things are so much more complex and labour-intensive than they seem on the outside? Why is it so hard to explain the complexity of a thing to someone who doesn’t know about that field? Why is it often hard to even explain to someone who is in the field and we just nod at each other knowingly without being able to put it into words?
And why is it that although we all have experience of things being more complex than they seem on the outside, we still don’t get it and we simplify other people’s tasks and lives and challenges? And, strangely, we often simplify our own tasks and challenges too.
The Jewish new year is imminently upon us and amazingly, I remember my resolution from the beginning of the year that is coming to an end. The one new year resolution I had was to stop pursuing perfection.
So how did I fare? Have I internalized more that idealizing perfection is a creativity and fulfillment killer?
Well, it’s complicated, I’d have to say.
I’ve exposed my perfection demons to my consciousness. I’ve become more familiar with how they behave, how connected I am to them and what I think about them.
Being more aware of their presence has allowed me to make some exciting and scary decisions. Namely, I am spending my days on things more connected to my talents and loves. This is an amazing development and couldn’t have happened unless I was more able to admit that I can pursue my passions without being perfect in them. It’s so much easier to fail at something that isn’t a dream.
But now that I’m doing more of what I really want to be doing, my expectations of myself and of my life have skyrocketed which hasn’t been fun.
Tapping into my hopes and dreams makes failure seem scarier than ever.
Bottom line? In a perfectly mediocre manner I am succeeding beautifully at fighting my urge for perfection. I am allowing myself to pursue my dreams despite my fear of failing and I am fighting my pursuit of perfection when so much more is at stake.
How did you fare with your resolutions from last Rosh Hashana?
Shana tova. :)
You know when you have an epiphany regarding one of the whacked out ways in which you interact with the world? Inevitably, what immediately follows is a deep sense of joy and release. “I’m free!” you think to yourself, simply because you just pinpointed another pattern of yours that causes you unnecessary pain.
When I experienced this elation today, I decided to share it with a friend, lest it get lost in the abyss called my brain. When I did, my friend asked me the question I realized I should be asking myself: “So what are you going to do with it?”
Hmmm. Good question.
- I am going to feel happy and grateful about it. Done.
- I am going to share it with a friend. Done.
- I am going to write a blog post about it…working on it people! No pressure.
Ok. And now?
I hadn’t thought beyond those initial actions and I think I know why. I was feeling so much lighter that, despite past experiences, I assumed the change had happened and I was ready to move on.
Yes, a change has happened; experiencing an understanding of self so clearly is a huge step forward. Yay me. But part of why it’s so important not to miss that step of internalizing the experience is because otherwise it will turn into yet another fleeting moment instead of the life-altering one it has the potential to be. Only if you take the epiphany and decide you want to work on self improving that aspect of yourself will you start down the road of long term change in attitudes, interactions and decisions.
I must confess: I imagine myself a miraculously changed person often.
Thinking my life is changed following an epiphany is like when I think I’ve changed my eating habits (yeah right, chomp chomp) by making decisions about them while fasting. Or when I think I’m now going to be nicer to my mother because one day I actually am nicer. On a day, by the way, that I happen to be in a particularly good mood (Hi mom!).
So yes, celebrate your epiphany. Just don’t forget that the next step is to ask, “What do I want to do with it?”
Wait! Did I just have another epiphany?
Eureka, readers. Eureka.
Wait, not this kind (though it’s awesome):
Now let’s say someone were to ask you the following question:
Which exercise do you think triggers more endorphin secretion (a “happy hormone), skipping or jogging?
What would your guess be?
Now imagine if skipping became a conventional sport (for adults) like jogging. Imagine if the streets, instead of being full of runners, was full of skippers. If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face…
I am more often compelled to break into a skip than a jog (though that definitely happens too) and I wonder if that’s because skipping is such a happy activity.
And so as your friendly blogger, I’d like to recommend that you add some skipping into your life today.
Have a skippy day!
As I step across the threshold between private and public,
the bare skin of my feet registers the harsh prickles of the welcome mat.
I step from the scratchy mat to the cool and soft stone floor of the hallway,
I pull my front door and let it softly click closed.
A flight of stairs down,
a few steps more and I’m outside,
carefully treading on the uneven stones of the entrance way.
And then the sidewalk.
I take light footsteps,
hopping over unwelcome items on the ground.
Pavement is surprisingly softer than a welcome mat,
giving my unprotected feet a welcomed gentle and sun-warmed massage.
The bag goes in the trash, I turn around,
and my feet experience the textures in reverse
until they again rest safely on the cool,
clean stone floor of my Jerusalem apartment.
These are a few of my favourite things.
Do something you don’t enjoy and time drags on.
Do something you love and time flies by so quickly that you almost feel like it didn’t happen.
Maybe that’s why people like to continue doing things that don’t make them particularly happy.
Check out my new blog: http://jerusalemstreets.wordpress.com/
Baby Beluga, the song by Raffi (Cavoukian), is a very nostalgic song from my childhood.
Baby Beluga in the deep blue sea
Swim so wild and swim so free
Heaven above and the sea below
And the little white whale on the go
In 2009 I was living in Vancouver, working with Jewish elderly people at the L’Chaim Adult Day Centre (My goodness! If you click on that link, the picture you see of the two people was taken by me at the aquarium the day we went there!).
In June of that year I was told that we would be going on a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium. I had great anticipation when I heard that not only did they have Beluga whales, but one of the females had given birth on June 7th! With our own eyes we would get to see a real, authentic Baby Beluga!
I spent the next week or so going around humming the melody of Baby Beluga.
On June 15, we finally went to the aquarium. The highlight for me was definitely watching the Beluga whales. They are mystical creatures, other-worldly. Here are some of the shots I got (click on any image in order to view all of them in a large slideshow):
Quite tragically, almost exactly a year after I saw that lovely baby Beluga, it died when someone threw a stone into the water which got stuck in his blow hole.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Last week I learned some more about that famous song and the whales I saw three years ago.
It turns out that it was at the same aquarium, the Vancouver Aquarium, in 1979 that Raffi met the Beluga whale named Kavna who inspired the song. (1979 is the year I was born!)
The reason the whale and Raffi were in the news last week is because Kavna who gave Raffi a kiss on the cheek during their meeting, died last week at the estimated age of 46.
Reading this news made me realize that as I stood there in the aquarium in 2009, watching these awesome creatures and humming Raffi’s Baby Beluga song, I must have been looking at the whale who kissed Raffi the year I was born, inspiring him to write such a lovely song.
In Raffi’s very principled manner, this song was inspired by a whale who was in captivity her whole life but it is about a whale who swims so wild and swims so free. I hope people continue to sing this sweet and powerful song for whales and other creatures in captivity and for those who are wild and free.
Today millions of people ran around very, very busy. They were at work early in the morning and then after a productive workday, they came home to their children and cooked and cleaned with barely a moment’s rest. Or they went out with friends or on dates.
Because they did stuff. Truly.
Me? I didn’t feel 100% and it was my day off and so I decided that I really don’t feel like doing anything. I knew it would be hard but I decided that once in a while it’s OK not to do anything.
In my doing nothing, here is what I did:
- Cleaned the toilet
- Read articles online
- Read my book
- Took a shower
- Neatened up my apartment a little
- Worked for one hour
- Brainstormed for my writing (mind-maps, etc.)
- Did some research for a friend
- Wrote some emails
- Did long distance bikur cholim
- Talked on the phone
Once it wasn’t so hot out, I went out to the bench in front of my building with my mind-map notebook, a pen, my book and my cell phone and I sat there alternating between these items as I pleased, also taking many breaks to watch the people going by. A neighbour came over to talk to me and we ended up schmoozing for a while.
Needless to say, this was one of the loveliest days ever.
I know what you’re thinking (maybe). How is it that I did so much and yet I’m considering it a day when I did nothing? But as far as I was concerned, if nothing I did was on my “should” to-do list, it was as if I did nothing.
Throughout the day I actually kept wondering how I was getting away with such a lazy day.
The reason I have all that guilt is because I am living by a set of rules made up by who-knows-who. They are about being super-duper productive and super-duper busy. You have to feel like you don’t have time for the small things and you have to feel like time is zipping by – or else you’re a lazy bum.
But why do most of us subscribe to those rules without giving them a second thought? Just because someone in the western world has told us to try to get a million big and important things done every day, doesn’t mean they are right. What about all those people in the rest of the world who just hang out at home in the evenings? What about those people who don’t have an extremely ambitious to-do list?
It’s not that I believe we should waste our lives away. Our lives are precious. But the question is, what does it mean to do something? For example, I know that many people think that daydreaming is doing nothing. But if any of the things you do in your life necessitate brain work, daydreaming is probably an important part of your work. Sometimes you’ve just got to think. I know that with my work and my writing and also with personal things in my life, I just need to be given the head space to think. I often need to be alone for this and stare into space or do “lite” activities like reading or cooking and stop periodically to make notes regarding the issue at hand.
But I barely give myself the chance to just do whatever I want because I’m scared I can’t be trusted with that. It’s as if I believe that my true self is an irresponsible child and I need to be my own parent, since I, the child, can’t be trusted to make decisions for myself.
Why the fear? Especially considering the fact that I see that almost all of my lazy activities (for example thinking, reading, cooking) lead to productive activities (for example a blog post).
And that is actually what happened today. Among other things, because I let myself just do whatever I felt like doing, I ended up brainstorming on this idea of “doing nothing” and ended up with this blog post as a result.