#BlogElul 5-9: commit, want, understand, hear, see

(for the Jewish month of Elul, which happens to coincide pretty perfectly with the month of September this year, I’m going to try to blog once a day about one of the themes for the month to prepare for the upcoming Yamim Nora’im or High Holy Days. I will most likely blog in the evenings, so it will technically already be the next day in the Hebrew calendar, but I’m really going to try to keep up with this! you can pop on over to originator Rabbi Phyllis Sommer’s blog for more details about this project.)

I wrote some notes for every day that I’ve missed, so I’m just gonna do a catch-all with some thoughts so I can jump back in the saddle today… here are my thoughts for the last five days!

commit. ah, commitment. this is such a double-edged sword for me because once I commit, I really jump in with both feet—but it takes me forever to make a decision I can commit to, as I discussed in my first post for this month. if anything, I think my issue with commitment is not so much with the commitment as it is with the follow-through; often, no matter how committed I am to doing something, I struggle to get it done (thanks, ADHD). my big push to hold myself accountable and recommit on a constant basis so that I keep making small decisions to bring me to those larger goals is how I am trying to deal with that—and that is why I am blogging these reflections rather than just journaling about them. this way, there are other people to hold me accountable also!

want. there is so much that I want—and I struggle so much with feeling like it’s okay to want. so many times it feels selfish and almost shameful to put my wants and desires first—or even to follow them at all—but part of my journey to start trusting myself again involves trusting that I can learn and grow and, therefore, I should listen to myself when it comes to making decisions. it also involves unlearning the shame that there is wanting more for myself—and the process of beginning to believe that I am enough and I do deserve better. throughout this month, when I am looking into myself so much and really processing my feelings and coming to terms with my actions, I will find it extra important to be kind with myself and accept what I want even if I choose not to pursue it.

understand. we’ve been talking a lot at work about what it means to understand—as this is essential to our work with students—and one of the things that is included as a facet of understanding is being able to empathize. it’s such an incredible notion, that empathy belongs in the classroom, and it has made me realize that it is not enough to be able to conceptualize someone else’s situation—to understand someone means to be able to empathize with their feelings and circumstances. (NB: obviously this can be a problematic idea for neurodiverse people who struggle with empathy, so I do not mean this as a blanket statement—but then again I believe that it is likely that said neurodiverse folx are actually showing empathy in ways and situations that are different from “the norm” rather than being incapable of empathy.)

hear. ah, here’s a word I struggle with as I recite the Shema every day. is it enough to hear? would it not be better to say listen or, better yet, focus or pay attention so that the language does not exclude those who are deaf or hard of hearing? what does it mean to hear, anyway? is it enough for the sound waves to make your ear drum vibrate so you have an awareness of the sound? or do we mean the point where the sound turns into comprehensible input and you can parse it out into words or musical notes? do we mean the extra step where you have taken what you recognized and thought on it, and figured out where to go from there? the issue for me is that it is such a broad concept that I cannot really answer those questions, so I am stuck in a cycle of feeling like hearing is not enough. perhaps this is also because I am not an auditory learner—in fact, I have auditory processing issues so I really struggle with auditory input—but it just does not seem like enough to hear, as if by coincidence. this season, I want to listen instead. (you can find more on this topic, including some beautiful examples of prayer in ASL, here.)

see. another word I sometimes struggle with, although to a lesser degree. while there are potential ableist connotations here, my work with inter-epistemology—in which we discuss learning to see what was previously hidden—has opened my eyes (there we go again!) to the possibilities in which the metaphors for seeing can be immensely useful and even powerful. still, I want to go deeper, especially this season—so I am interpreting see more as observe or even examine. what are the parts of my life on which I have not shone a light recently? what are some things I have not considered with the care they deserve? what are ways in which I can be more intentionally aware of what and what surrounds me as well as what they bring to my life?

that’s that for these terms… there’s another post to come today, in which I talk a little more about why I chose to approach this post the way I did—so stay tuned for that!

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