This idea of following one’s passion has never sat right with me. Today it’s particularly stressing me out and so I’ve given it some thought and upon a certain amount of introspection, I’ve decided that there are two parts of this idea that are faulty.
1. The singularity of it
This idea that is supposedly so freeing is, in fact, extremely restraining, namely because it makes the terrible and silly assumption that we only have one passion. It’s very nice and good to focus on one of your passions for a short or extended period of time, maybe even for your whole life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things you’re passionate about. It’s just that we need to make a decision about what to focus on or else we’ll never get anything done. That’s all.
2. The damn word
Also, the word “passion” irks me. Maybe that’s because it gives the impression that the subject of your passion should cause you great feelings of meaning and enthusiasm on a constant basis when, in fact, that thing, when broken down, is as mundane as anything else in life. Not to mention the important fact that the reasons we are driven to focus on certain things is not only “passion.” For me, for example, it’s also out of trying to find something that works with my personality as a highly sensitive, highly questioning person.
Yes, there might very well be moments of passion but it is far from the only factor in our decisions to do what we do.
The new way to say it?
Point being, I think instead people should say:
“Follow one of the things you feel drawn to if you feel and believe that’s the right thing for you right now.”
Entrepreneurship is very important to me. It is this lifestyle that opens up the opportunity for me to develop the ideas I have, work with the people I want to and influence the things that really matter to me.
But it’s also a very difficult lifestyle. I am often trying to figure out not only how to put one foot in front of the other, but which direction to put that foot in. I am forever competing with self doubt in a lifestyle that demands constant decision-making, a balance between ideas and practicality and, of course, all this with the infamous uncertain and unknown future staring right back at me.
I’d like to share some of the philosophies that, when actually practiced, give me the strength to get through the day-to-day life as the woman roaming the streets of Jerusalem, consciously (and self-consciously) offering narrowly-defined services, dreaming of an innovative business with a colleague and almost always juggling too many things at once.
I hope you find this list useful.
1. The impostor syndrome isn’t only bad (most things aren’t only bad)
Many of us are walking around life sure we’re about to be found out as the frauds that we are. We feel like we don’t know enough and we aren’t professional enough and we marvel at the fact that people take us seriously at all.
But recently I saw a new way to look at the impostor syndrome which made me realize the upside of this painful phenomenon. Namely, that if we feel like we don’t know what we’re doing, it is a sign that we’re pushing our limits and trying new things. So, maybe we’re feeling like a newbie because we really are always learning and trying new things, which is a good thing!
Here is the animated gif which I love that inspired this thought:
2. Be really forgiving of people
While working on building up my own thing, there is little space for pettiness. It’s a world of imperfect people and being suspicious or feeling resentment towards them for making mistakes or being inconsiderate, dooms me to a life of tab-keeping. It takes too much energy and people really aren’t usually that bad.
Of course that doesn’t mean we’re never going to get upset and that there aren’t times when it’s important to get upset. But I often experience first hand the benefits of letting things slide and moving on.
3. Keeping self-absorption to a minimum
Working for myself, being my own manager and having to make decisions constantly, are all things which bring up a lot of feelings about myself. I am so aware of the responsibility I hold all on my own that my successes and my mistakes hit home very hard.
And I find it best not to dwell.
I love how my latest blog post came out? Yay! Next. I made a big mistake with my taxes last year? Oy veis mir! Learnt my lesson big-time. Moving on. I think I came off sounding a little stupid in that meeting? Ugh. Anyway… That excellent piece my colleague wrote was based on my idea? Clearly I do know what I’m doing! Woo hoo! MOVING THE FUCK ON.
Because, like in #2, we could spend our entire lives keeping tabs, trying unsuccessfully to figure out if we’re the bee’s knees or impostors indeed, and that’s a waste of a lot of perfectly good energy.
4. Be happy for (and learn from) others
I grew up being taught to “fargin” people their achievements and successes. Only in my adulthood did I find out that fargin is a Yiddish word, not an English one (and it is also a popular Hebrew word – לפרגן). It means to be generous of spirit and to feel truly joyful for people and their accomplishments and good fortune.
For some reason it scares me when others do good work, as though it is a sign that I missed my own boat of success. But I’m aware of the fact that this is a narrow-minded view of the world and so I think it’s good practice to show support to people in their work and celebrate their successes with them. And, of course, we can always use their successes as learning opportunities for ourselves.
5. Always on the lookout for excellent people
Work relationships are intense and important and one of the benefits of independence is having more control over who we work with. Namely, I want to be with professional, kind and idealistic people who I truly respect, trust, enjoy, admire and can relate to.
This might sound like a lot to ask for and sometimes I feel like my pickiness might hold me back, but I also realize that this is of utmost importance to me. And when I do meet people who fit my criteria, it is often exhilarating and with (relative) confidence we can move forward together.
6. Doing things I enjoy
Sometimes I could spend an entire week trudging through annoying work. But this isn’t the reason I’m where I’m at and at those times, I like to ask myself, “What could I choose to do with my time right now that I’d enjoy?” and I try to do that work instead.
When we stop for a moment and make sure to spend time on things we enjoy, that means we can still be productive but also create something which wants to be created and and it will inspire us to continue on.
7. My support network only goes so far
I have a wonderful support network of colleagues, friends and family. I rely on these people often and often heavily, but I have understood over time that the buck stops somewhere. In every situation, at some point we must stop talking, take control, believe in our abilities to make good decisions and move on.
8. Finding inspiration
As many people close to me know, I am in a near-constant state of asking “Why?” Why am I doing what I’m doing? Does it even matter? What does anything matter? Is this where I want to be putting my time? How do I make that decision?
To say the least, this is a strenuous place to be and I’m always looking for ways to either answer the questions, quiet the questions or give a constructive place for them. This is very personal and each person needs to find their own sources of strength and inspiration but here are a few ways in which I inspire myself:
b. I listen to talks and read pieces which touch upon the philosophical and psychological issues I deal with. For example, Krista Tippett’s interviews on “On Being” with deep thinkers from around the world (like this one with David Steindl-Rast where they talk about what gratitude really is) give me the opportunity to find insight into the issues that often sit in my subconscious and not feel alone with my questions.
c. I talk to people who either can relate to my internal process helping me understand and appreciate them more or can offer me different perspectives on them, helping me evolve over time. For example, it is one particular friend who has helped me respect my questioning and understand how it contributes to the work I do, taking mine and my colleague’s ideas to deeper, more innovative places.
d. I remind myself that this is not the last dance but instead just one movement in the composition of my life. Everything has worked up to this point and is continuing to work up to some future unknown point.
9. My personality isn’t a hindrance
Sometimes I get upset at myself, for certain personality traits I possess, and I think that they hold me back. For example, my constant questioning of “Why?” mentioned in #8 has often infuriated me since it makes me lack the carefree spirit which I have idealized in other entrepreneurs as their way to move forwards without always looking back or thinking too much.
But I am reminded, also via the tools I mentioned in #8, that who I am is the reason I do what I do, not the thing that gets in the way. For example, my sensitivity and awareness towards others, though tiring and intense, often allow me to connect with people in wonderful and inspiring ways.
I think that when we’re upset about certain things about ourselves, it’s a good idea to stop for a moment to ask ourselves how these traits might also contribute towards our goals, hopes and dreams, not only holding us back. Because the more we respect who we are, the more we can tap into our unique selves and create our own unique work.
How about you?
If I had written this list a few months ago, it would probably look different. It’ll probably look different in a few months from now too since the things I’m dealing with change and I’m always looking for new ways to deal with the challenges and continue to grow. What helps you stay strong, persevere and carry on?
You say goodbye to someone you love, or someone you’ve known or someone you didn’t know so well or someone you wish you’d known better, or someone you liked a little or liked a lot or really didn’t like very much at all. And when there is no life left in their body, when, in an instant, it becomes a temporary mass of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus, you are slapped with the reality that our bodies are only vessels and that’s one thing that is completely clear.
And where does the person go? Where is she now? Moments after her death? Days, years, centuries afterwards? Some have no idea, some have theories, others think they know.
I woke up 20 minutes after my grandmother died. It’s one of the things I’m struggling with, as though I should have been awake, even if I was thousands of miles away. Either my soul should have sensed it or I should have been told she was leaving so I could cry about it while she was still here. I am laden with guilt following my grandmother’s death, almost as though it is a way to hold on to something, instead of letting her become simply a memory. She is a weight on my shoulders, as though that will give me some control, an occupation, as though, if I feel guilty enough, maybe she’ll come back to let me finish the job of good granddaughter.
But I keep thinking about how Bubby herself dealt with death. The death of her beloved parents. The death of her beloved husband and her best friend in one year. The death of her second beloved husband. The death of her son in law which left her daughter a widow, just one month after she had become one for the second time. The death of other close friends and relatives…
And I think that that thing that takes me fully into a task, into a moment, the great joy I feel in my accomplishments, my laughs with good friends, my good times with my family… That thing which makes me revel in life and my heart burst with love… I can feel it moving me onto this next stage in my life and I think it is what kept my Bubby moving on, time and again.
The one time I heard my Bubby curse was the day I called to tell her I don’t keep Shabbat. I didn’t want to lie to her about my shabbatot in Vancouver and so I told her that I drive to synagogue on Shabbat and she got so angry at me. She said, “That’s bullshit!” and then she asked me to write her a letter explaining my choice.
And then we continued on in our relationship. She took immense pride in her personal, authentic relationships with her grandchildren and I took immense pride in my part in that.
And with all the realness, she cherished me. I was a far from perfect granddaughter but she just loved me.
It often felt as though Bubby possessed some kind of deeper understanding of the world than I do. Her “simple faith,” something I observed with awe, respect and envy from the other side of the chasm, gave her an aura of romance and beauty that made her very attractive.
And I think that her “simple faith” was one of the things that kept her consistently determined to put one step in front of the other with a smile.
Bubby wasn’t always easy. I think most of us who were close to her had many times that we felt frustrated with her. But I’m not upset with her today because those memories fall away and I just recall her love for us, her beauty, her constant singing, her great pride and her contagious enthusiasm. I suppose, if she’s also thinking about me, she will be thinking of the good, which is what she always did. She’ll be remembering our conversations, going out shopping together, eating together, praying on the High Holidays together… And she’ll be feeling great pride for the person I am, as she always did.
It’s hard to let go of the guilt. There is no one to blame my shortcomings on but myself. There is no one to apologize to. And I don’t want to kid myself into thinking I would have been different given a second chance. Saying that would mean disregarding the complexity of what was and the reasons behind how I am.
Life is a great balancing act and it’s full of stumbles, falls, scraped knees and scraped hearts.
But it’s also full of getting back up, of hugs and kisses and singing together and holding hands and laughing and reveling in life’s experiences together, and I’d like to think that if I were to say, “Bubby, I’m sorry for the times I got upset at you. I’m sorry for not calling more often during the last year of your life,” she might say, “I don’t remember you getting upset at me. And that last year was hard on us all. But Deena, why are you thinking about that? Don’t you remember all the times we laughed together? And you looked hysterical in those curlers. And you’re the best.”
Today my Uncle Avrum got up from shiva, the seven day mourning period when the immediate relatives of the deceased sit on low chairs as friends, family and acquaintances pay respects. As his shiva came to an end, we stood by him and gave him our condolences for the passing of his mother, my grandmother. He then stood up, put on his outdoor shoes, put on his jacket and went for a walk around the block by himself.
Avrum’s first reventuring out into the world seemed almost like a rebirth as a new person into an altered world. He has spent the last week embraced by those who love him and now he’s begun his reintegration into the world.
On the one hand it is so sad to see my uncle take his first steps. On the other hand, the post-shiva walk symbolizes the inner strength of the individual, especially the strength of which we are unaware.
I know those steps were only the first of many which will sometimes feel heavy, sometimes empty and sometimes full of potential. When Avrum came back, I gave him a hug and we all sat back down with our loved ones to have breakfast and to talk. Because thankfully he the cocoon of the home and family will continue to be there, waiting for his return.
I’m currently participating in the JCC Association’s Innovation Lab: Jerusalem. I’m meeting dozens of dedicated JCC leaders from the United States who’ve come to Jerusalem to be inspired by local talent and initiatives and I’ve had the opportunity to get an up-close look at so much of Jerusalem’s innovation.
During these days I’ve thought a lot about what I do, shared my ideas with participants and it has helped me realize more than ever the importance of my work – both my social-cultural events and my Jerusalem events listing. I’ve also understood how these projects could probably be beautifully extrapolated to JCCs as well as other settings.
But this is not all as rose-colored as you might think.
I just spent the last two hours lying on my bed, staring at my Facebook newsfeed, and refreshing it repeatedly; anything not to deal with “reality.” Actually, even yesterday, as I was enthusiastically talking to people about what I do, I wasn’t actually doing what I was supposed to be doing. Namely, I was supposed to finalize dates for my upcoming events but I didn’t. I pushed it off yesterday and I didn’t take care of it today. Because for all the excitement and understanding, my cold feet remain. You’d think it would be the easiest thing in the world to set the date for my next event when I’m in the zone of feeling like my work is nothing less than a personal mission. And yet instead, just like every time before this, actually doing it, is feeling like a huge leap and yet again I need to work hard to muster up the courage to take it, which sometimes works and other times doesn’t.
It almost seems that there is a downside to dreaming big and feeling inspired. Over the last couple of days we’ve talked about great successes and grand dreams. But in the end, every success and dream is laden with that nitty-gritty work and that frustrating up-hill battle. And that’s not to mention the not-so-grand dreams, well, projects, that simply still need to get done. And yes, there are some people who consistently push through their challenges with their goals always in the forefront of their minds. But many others – myself included – get scared, wondering if it’s worth it, forget why we’re doing it.
The transition from inspired to mundane is painful. Inspiration is created by looking at the big picture. The grand picture. The meaningful picture. And getting things done is about the hours of wording a Facebook event, finding the right person for a job, managing said person, figuring out financing, trying to sell your idea to others, etc. etc.
And so after the conference is over and we settle back into our regular lives, I guess we’ll all sit back down at our (messy) desks, and along with our limitations, concerns, struggles and fears, we’ll put our noses to the grind and get back to the good ol’ mundane stuff, awaiting there patiently for us inspired souls, with the hope that something has shifted towards at least one of our grand dreams.
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.
Today I left work at 3:00pm in order to be at my physiotherapy appointment at 4:00pm. I got on an empty bus, sat at the back, and called my sister in order to discuss our next evil plan.
As you can imagine, I was worked up and excited about the suffering we’re planning to inflict on a group of people this coming Thursday (spoiler!). That mixed with bad reception on her end and a bluetooth on my end had me talking in, let’s say, a vibrant voice.
Meanwhile a whole bunch of other passengers had boarded.
And then she hit. I frown as I write this because it made me so sad. A woman in the seat across from me started mumbling loudly to herself in Russian and somehow got across that it was about me she was being grumpy. I turned to her and said in Hebrew, “You just had to ask” and she said something mean and bitchy again about how uncouth I am for talking so loudly, “As if you’re at home.” Then I said, “Oh, you’re really nice” (in sarcasm, of course – it was the best I could come up with to at least attempt to instill some guilt in the lady’s soul) and then she said something mean and bitchy, part in Hebrew, part in Russian.
Blah blah blah, these things aren’t supposed to upset you. Stop wanting to tell me that. Stop thinking about how obviously it wasn’t personal and obviously she is just a bitter angry woman. It hurts and I was angry and I quickly began fantasizing revenge. Yes, right before Yom Kippur (because any other time of year would be more opportune?).
Specifically, I imagined jumping up, grabbing her goddam book of number games and shaking it to oblivion in the air, crushing it and then tearing out some of the pages. For some reason, only some. Maybe so she’d feel like she owes me.
My now-changed evil planning (first it was with my sister about Thursday, then it was all in my head about right then with the mean woman next to me) truly helped pass the time. How wondrous!
I arrived at my destination with 10 minutes to spare, walked by the pizza place and felt drawn towards it. I felt like I neeeeded that pizza after being made to feel so low.
And so I indeed ate that pizza.
It made me feel better knowing I still have control over when I eat one of the foods I avoid (cheese – not pizza per say). How lucky.
I went in for my appointment supposedly feeling a little better, still finding it hard to smile at my friendly physiotherapist. He asked me if I feel a difference in my back pain from doing the exercises and I said I don’t. He said, well let’s do some work on you then.
Suddenly I found myself lying stomach down on a massage table and he gave me a totally relaxing massage, loosening up my back muscles, particularly those that make me jump the most. He explained that this is in order to help the exercises work more easily.
Which made me realize.
Just like a body massage can help loosen things up, we also need soul massages to loosen up the crap there.
How exactly does one administer a soul massage, you might ask? Here are some ideas I came up with. I did #4 and #5 and felt much much better:
Go for a walk
Make a list of things you’re lucky about in your life but only things you actually are able to feel lucky about at the moment you write them.
Write our your thoughts and feelings in a private place (not for publishing).
Life whacks us around. We (well, I, and probably you too) need soul massages at least once daily in order to fortify against the poo. Life is just too poo-ful to get through without a soulful combating strategy.
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?
I’ve yet again had enough of my should voice. It is my incessant personal judge. It tricks me into thinking that there is always some ultimate way of behaving in every single given situation.
But my intellect has since matured and I see how much those shoulds are lacking in complexity and understanding.
So suddenly, a few days ago, I had an epiphany. I decided that whenever I catch myself saying that I should behave in a certain way, I’m going to switch the word (or idea) with “could.”
And so far, I must say that it has been a great success. I am finding my narrow-minded pressure making space for a world of choices.
OK fine, you want some examples? I’ll give them to you but please keep in mind that I think they sound pretty stupid when said out loud. Eek. :/
Here you go:
Should: Deena, it’s after midnight! You shouldn’t be up this late. Could: You could be up this late. Or you could go to sleep. The experience: Much less stress around the experience. It isn’t as if I sinned for being up after midnight nor will it be a sin if I stay up longer.
Should: Deena, it’s so bad that you’re leaving the heat on so much. So expensive and frivolous. Could: Deena, you could have the heat on less if you want. The experience: Understanding that my actions are not the be all and end all of money-spending and energy-using. Perspective.
Should: You should read all the old material from the first version of this blog post to make sure you don’t lose something that’s written really well. Could: You could read all the old stuff from yesterday or you could just delete it. Whatev. The experience: Letting go. Not worrying too much about the repercussions of my actions as if they are so critical.
P.S. I didn’t read it over. I just deleted the old stuff.
Should: I should include a picture with this post. Could: I could include a picture with this post. The experience: Get over it. Or, just stop it.
Should: I should feel offended by what he said. Could: I could feel offended by what he said. The experience: I could just let it slide. I will survive and so will my ego.
For the most part, the shift in thought is opening up my moments to opportunity as opposed to confining me to one supposedly righteous way. The shift in my experience is from heaviness and seriousness to being more easy-going and lighthearted. So, so far so good.
Yes, I should have a proper ending to this post but I just can’t think of one!
I could have a proper ending. But I guess I won’t.
Here is one of the recent pictures going around Facebook:
What’s wrong with this quote
Am I the only one that cringes from this kind of quote? I think it’s just annoying that it is assumed we’re all on the same page with a lot of the lofty terms mentioned here. Lets go through them:
The happy person
There is an assumption that we know what it means to be a “happy person.” From a quote like this, I automatically picture tranquil, smiley, laughing people. (AKA, those annoying happy people.) But what is true happiness?
Making the best
There is also an assumption that we’re supposed to know what it means to “make the best” out of something. I picture the person being faced with a terrible situation. This person who is excellent at making the best out of everything, quickly takes a good look at the facts and pick out the one, tiny little good thing about the situation and feels good about it.
But is that making the best? Or is that lying to yourself? I don’t believe in making “the best” out of any situation because that alludes to making everything seem OK when it isn’t OK. I think that truly making the best means rolling with the punches, feeling how one is made to feel from whatever is experienced. Appreciating whatever one can appreciate without believing that one is supposed to feel great.
The best things in life
Finally, there is an assumption that we all know what the best things in life are. What does that even mean, the best things? Who is to judge who has the best things and who doesn’t?
So who are the happiest people then?
I believe that the happiest people are those who aren’t desperately looking for happiness. They are the ones who wouldn’t think of making this sign. They are the ones who just don’t focus on happiness and whether or not they have it.
They are also people who try to make good things happen for themselves and others and they don’t really think about whether or not they have what they supposedly deserve. They don’t even go there.