reflections, week 45

hi, y’all…. it’s been a while, huh? I somehow didn’t really write at all last month (probably since I was working on my dissertation pre-proposal and getting ready to finalize my committee aaaaaand then we went on strike), but now I’m trying to get caught up and writing on a new project because OF COURSE.

write something every day (except Shabbat). I’ve done decently on this for the week, since I’m trying to get this new project off the ground; as mentioned, I took last month off but I also don’t feel terrible about that! the hope is that I’ll be able to keep this pace going throughout the month for both my NaNo project and my dissertation… yikes.

be better about money. hilaaaarious to think about this after a strike! I’ve been very blessed that some friends and family have been able to send me some money to help get some bills paid this month. the hope is that things will get better once we get back to earning money next month… especially because we have to pay off that cruise, lol.

self-validate more. this has been difficult lately, between the money stress after the strike and my fear that I wasn’t going able to get myself together to write my dissertation pre-proposal after taking over a month off from academic work to recharge my batteries. but I managed to pull through, so I feel like this will be more sustainable throughout the rest of the year because the wild times are over. (she says, jinxing herself.)

until next time, which will hopefully be soon!

#BlogElul 17-29: Awaken, Ask, Speak, Fill, Love, End, Begin, Hope, Change, Create, Bless, Give, Return

(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.)

it’s been a hot minute—these after-work/weekend training meetings are really exciting and useful but they’re also exhausting because they mean I’m working almost 13-hour days—but I want to make sure that I share my thoughts for the second half or so of this month.

awaken. today was the first day students and I really started digging deep into what identity means and how it is constructed—with the hope that it has awakened their curiosity about it since we will be spending the rest of the quarter talking about culture and identity. as we spoke about our first media piece on this topic, I could just about see the wheels turning for some students. it made me realize that to be awake is not just to be conscious and moving through the world—it is to be present in the moments we are living and truly experiencing the world with the wonder it deserves.

ask. ah, to ask. ask and ye shall receive, they say, and yet it is so difficult to ask for help, to request the accommodations we might need, to inquire about different paths we could take even when we’re all headed in the same direction. today, as we discussed the creation narratives from Genesis in class, I found myself asking questions that I knew might be a little above them—and then working with them to co-generate answers—and I realized that, sometimes, the point is not so much the answer to the question as it is being able to know what to ask.

speak. now this is a word that I use often at work because we have speaking and listening competencies that students must meet—but that is not the first thing that came to mind. instead, I immediately thought of Laurie Halse Anderson’s incredible and life-changing book of the same name. it was the first book I ever taught to a class—I did it during student teaching—and I’d first read it in college. it gave me the words to talk about my own experience with assault when I was around Melinda’s age, and it helped me to think about healing in a way that allowed for hope. in a lot of ways, seeing as I was deeply suicidal the following semester and the book was how I began talking about my assault in therapy, I truly think speak saved my life—and empowered me to help others find their voices.

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#BlogElul 16: Pray

(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.)

growing up in a very Protestant household, I was often told about the power of prayer and the importance of doing it in order to maintain a relationship with God—as a matter of fact, my grandmother still “talks to God” every morning and every evening, and she is always asking for prayer requests! but when I started going to Catholic school, I was warned against the crutch of using rote prayers—”a Lord’s Prayer or two is good to get in the rhythm, but the true power of prayer is in letting yourself speak freely”—which seems to me a holdover from the Protestant schism.

and then I became Jewish, and my relationship with prayer had to change.

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#BlogElul 15: Plan

(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.)

funny that I’m writing about planning on the day after I was supposed to… which is a reflection of my poor planning—I knew I was going to be super overbooked this weekend, but I chose to sleep in yesterday and not work on this post when I first got home. instead, I spent my evening planning for this school week—making the slideshows for the whole week, double-checking that I’d printed enough copies of everything I needed, going over my notes re: who would do what in class so I can manage the other adults in the space effectively.

the thing about this whole thing—where my poor planning regarding my personal life is partially due to my excellent planning regarding my professional life—is that it illustrates a problematic trend that I’m trying to work on. for most of my life, I (and my life) have fallen by the wayside because I have prioritized work and school. and, sure, I am finishing my doctorate, baruch HaShem, and I’ve grown a lot professionally—but I keep thinking about all the things in my personal life that I have not done. I think of all the time that I’ve spent dreaming about going places and doing things rather than planning so that I can go places and do things.

so, for this season, my focus is going to be on planning for balance. making sure that Shabbat isn’t the only day of the week where I pay attention to myself and my needs. making sure that I’m getting enough sleep and taking my vitamins. making sure I’m dedicating time to my dissertation, not just things for work. making sure that I am finding quality time to spend with my husband and my friends—time that isn’t accidental or a bonus of me doing something else. I’m going to plan so that I can really feel that I am living each day—not just going through it.

#BlogElul 14: Learn

(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 laughed when I realized that learn was the word for today because today is one of the few Saturdays that I’m actually doing some work on Shabbat because I had a work training to attend—and, surprisingly enough, I did end up learning! we talked a lot about what’s important to do as cooperating teachers to develop our student teachers, particularly when it comes to finding ways to be more transparent with our thought processing, and a common theme emerged: in order to learn, we have to be vulnerable and humble.

I think, really, that is the thing that I want to think about when I consider learning: that I have to be vulnerable and humble, especially when it is uncomfortable because it is in those moments that I am stretching and growing and learning. this is not new, of course; I’ve been teaching for eight years and I say that to students all the time. but I think there is something different about being an adult being vulnerable in front of other adults, knowing that it might lead to judgment from them—and about being humble in front of those people who might take you less seriously as a result. but something I’ve been talking a lot about is wanting to bring my grandma’s energy into my thirties, and so I’m repeating her mantra (translated): don’t let anyone rob you of your peace. so I’m going to be vulnerable and humble and look to grow for myself and, if it affects how other people view me, then that’s just going to have to be a thing.

and now, off to get some rest so my brain can rest from all of today’s learning! 🙂

#BlogElul 13: Remember

(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.)

(pardon my scattered thoughts—I’m writing this with a lot of Benadryl in my system and the exhaustion of someone who chased, wrestled, and carried an almost-nineteen-pound cat to and from the vet today.)

as someone who has both anxiety and ADHD, I have a complicated relationship with remembering. the anxious side of me remembers everything it shouldn’t, like an embarrassing thing that I said to someone seven years ago—and the ADHD side of me cannot remember that she renewed her car registration even when she gets ticketed and, when she does remember, she cannot figure out where the sticker went after it arrived. (this is absolutely a true story, I am sad to say.) but if there’s one thing that this push-and-pull has taught me, it’s this: remembering is an active process. it requires effort to remember, either because one uses tools like reminders and calendars, or because one exerts large amounts of effort and focus to recall the information independently.

but, I think, there is also a Jewish aspect to remembering because remembering is, to me, a mitzvah. the important part is to be careful to remember not for vengeance but for justice; not for trying to find fault for the past but to inform decisions and prevent those mistakes in the future. it is our job to remember in order to preserve, and choosing to do that involves thousands of small decisions that allow us to remember, constantly, who we are as Jews and what that means in a world that is often unfriendly to us. having converted to Judaism, I feel a particular responsibility to remember where I came from and work on building bridges between the world I left and the world I joined. and, of course, there’s the element of wanting to be remembered—wanting to do something that impacts the world in a way that will outlast us. the work is now, and it is never-ending.

Shabbat shalom.

#BlogElul 12: Count

(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.)

when it comes to the literal meaning, counting is something that I do a lot. as someone with anxiety, I count every mistake I have ever made whenever I’m thinking about doing anything. as someone with ADHD, I count the overwhelming number of tasks on my to-do list (but not the minutes that fly by as I struggle to get going). as a Jewish person, I count the days between holidays and the hours of Shabbat and the fasts. but what I do not seem to be quite as skilled in is making it count, and that’s what I want to focus on this season.

as trite as it might sound, I think of the whole “life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away” thing when I think about making it count. I remember that we have one life, that we get one chance to leave our mark on the world—leave our legacy, as my boss is so fond of reminding us—and that, whatever I do, I have to make sure I make it count. I have to make sure I live life to the fullest, even (or perhaps especially) when that means facing my fears and slaying my demons and surprising even myself with the things I can do. and yet, knowing that and rooting for myself doesn’t mean a lot if I don’t follow through… so I need to make the effort count, as it were.