#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.

#BlogElul 11: Trust

(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 I first thought of trust, I struggled to figure out what to write about. I tend to be a trusting person in my personal life and have been working to improve my relationship with people with whom I feel our trust has been breached for whatever reason—and there wouldn’t be very much to write about in that case. but I just was talking to someone about how my department at work doesn’t really trust each other very much right now, and I remembered something that I hear a lot, especially at work: trust the process.

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reflections, week 37

taking a break from blogging about feelings to check in on how things are going with my goals for the year…

write something every day (except Shabbat). since I’m doing this blogging project for the month, I’ve actually been doing pretty well on this! I haven’t touched any other projects this month, but I think that’s just as well—I’m taking time off grad school also so I can jump right back into dissertation prep in October, so it’s nice to have some time to clear my head and focus more on my spiritual side during this month (especially with all the hustle and bustle of a new school year). I’m also actually bullet journaling with some sort of regularity and doing okay with my habits now that I’m back to tracking, so overall it just seems like I’ve got my act together a bit more this month. 🙂

be better about money. the first CPS paycheck is so close that I feel like I can breathe again and that’s really exciting! I also got some money from friends whose cruise deposit I put down and my grandma sent me a little something, so I’m actually in a good place right now! provided I get my student loan dollars this week also, I should be able to pay myself back so I can knock out all my payments for the month and put a chunk towards our cruise—and still get back some rainy day savings so I can try to work only one job this fall in order to knock out the dissertation behemoth.

self-validate more. I’ve been trying to eliminate ableist words like moron and idiot from my vocabulary lately—but I find that I’m struggling to not use them to describe myself. it seems so easy to fall into the self-deprecating humor whenever I’m embarrassed; it’s so much more comfortable to say you’re right, I’m such an idiot and brush off the correction in a way that prevents me from being vulnerable and/or emotionally engaging with the cognitive dissonance. since I have improved so much in being kind to myself about mistakes in private, I’m now trying to be better about it in public and take responsibility without trashing myself (and thus inviting the trashing from other people also).

until next time, y’all!

#BlogElul 10: Forgive

(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.)

forgive is an interesting word for me to consider because it’s such a heavy concept. despite my zodiac sign’s stereotype for holding grudges, which people remind me of very often, I am actually the type to forgive others—but I cannot forget, not really, and I have a very different relationship with forgiveness when it comes to forgiving myself. I very much subscribe to the idea I grew up with, where forgiveness is not a gift to the person I forgive but rather a gift to myself—a way to let go of things before they fester and I just end up poisoning my own life with bitterness. this makes forgiving other people easy enough, but it creates issues with forgiving myself, as not forgiving myself poisons/punishes me and that seems more appealing than letting me just move on.

that is why I decided to be transparent about having missed days in blogging instead of just backdating some posts in the darkness and pretending nothing happened—which is definitely what I would’ve done in literally every other blog I have ever had—or just giving up like I have done in many other occasions and in many contexts. but I think that part of forgiving yourself is being honest about your errors and shortcomings so you can move past it, so I’m being transparent and just doing a catch-up post for the inevitable days that I miss so I can find ways to keep going.

and since is the season of atonement, I think that I’m not just going to make sure I’m atoning for however I’ve hurt people in the past year—but I’m also going to work to be more open to other people trying to atone so we can move on. in particular, I think that I have exhausted myself having the same conversation with people over and over and, in the situations where we have to continue to interact, I’m going to let go of the past and find a way to move forward. I recognize that on most cases our relationship will never be the same, but I’ve made peace with that—and I think that, once we open the door for a new kind of relationship, there’s a chance that we’ll even end up better than we started. only time will tell, but it seems to me that it’s a much better alternative than just obsessing about what has been lost. I know it’s not going to be an easy thing to do, but I have been trying to work on this with some people in my life and it has honestly removed a lot of the anxiety that our interactions have been giving me.

until next time, y’all!

#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!