what’s in a name?

“…that which we call a rose / by any other word would smell as sweet…” ~Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.43-44

photograph of stargazer lilies, which are various shades of pink and go from the deepest color at the center of the petal to almost-white at the edges
is this a play on the fact that the Hebrew name Shoshana once meant “lily” and now means “rose”? you betcha.

(cw: grief, complicated family dynamics)

I feel like I write one of these every few years at this point—a post in which I wax poetic about how many names I have and why I have so many and what they all mean and what I would like to be called, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam. so I figured, for once, I’m going to write that post not on Facebook and I’m going to archive it somewhere where I can just have a handy link for future reference. 🙂

why do I keep having to do this, you might ask?

the truth is that I was doomed from birth—I had been destined to be the third of my name, named after my grandfather (who had no sons) and his father before him, but then I was assigned female at birth and my mom had to get really creative really quickly and ended up saddling me with a host of names that have started many an interesting story.

buckle up and let’s go on a journey, shall we?

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lessons from grief

a shot of the surf coming into a beach
the beach near my dad’s old house

(cw: death of a parent, grief, major life changes)

whenever I’ve spoken to anyone in person about my dad’s death recently, I’ve always turned it into some “here is what I have learned from this” kind of situation, so I figured I would share those three lessons with y’all to start off this week since I’m taking a moment to remember them and recenter myself.

  1. listen to your damn doctor(s). my dad was 51, healthy as far as we knew, active—not exactly a top candidate for a heart attack, but he still had one. we later realized that he had some underlying health issues that, if treated, might have led to a different outcome (or maybe not… heart attacks are unpredictable). with that in mind, I came back from Puerto Rico and called literally every conceivable doctor to make an appointment. going back to old doctors, getting new ones, running new tests, looking into prescriptions… and I doubled-down on this year’s goal to make better health choices so I can maximize my time and the quality of whatever time I have.
  2. say what you need to say while you still have time. a recurring theme during my dad’s funeral was the, “I never got to say ______________.” a lot of us hadn’t spoken to him in a while or, if we had, it had been about something inconsequential—we’d been dancing around big things that are now forever unsaid. so, if there’s someone in your life you need to make amends with, or someone you really have things to say to? do it now, while you can. especially since we’re social distancing—write the email, make the phone call, schedule the video chat. show people that you care… they need it now more than ever.
  3. life is too damn short to be miserable. as we recapped my father’s life in our attempt to write our own eulogy, my siblings and I realized that life isn’t a series of achievements/ accomplishments/purchases/travels—it’s about the connections and the way we touch each other’s lives and what we do with those achievements/accomplishments/purchases/travels. so we sat there and thought about our own lives. if we were to watch the montage of our lives flash before our eyes like some overwrought death scene in a film, would we like what we see? would we feel satisfied? would we feel like we did all we could and lived as well as possible? the answer for several of us—definitely for me—was a resounding no… and that answer has haunted me for the past couple of months as I tried to figure out what needs to change.

my dad’s death changed my life—not just because I lost him, but because his death forced me to confront and accept a lot of things that I had been talking myself in circles around for weeks and months and years. and now, in the midst of a global pandemic, these lessons seem to me more important than ever.

I guess that, in his own way, my dad’s still trying to guide me on to a better path. ♥

what is a legacy?

to quote Lin-Manuel Miranda, “it’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”

(cw: death, absent parent, complicated feelings about grief)

A photograph of a beach during the sunset.
One of the beaches where I said Kaddish for my father while I was home.

I have not written on here for the last almost two months because February truly was the worst month of my entire life—so difficult on so many levels that I am still trying to process… most of it, to be honest. some of the things from the last seven weeks will continue to affect things as we move forward but, for now, I’m going to take some time to talk about my father.

my father died on the last day of January, on Shabbat. he was fifty-one years old and he walked himself into the ER with some shortness of breath—and then had a massive heart attack and keeled over. I got the call from my younger sister, who is twenty-seven, who had been called by my father’s widow. I didn’t understand what she said the first three times but, once I did, I switched into big sister mode and started trying to take care of her until the end of the call. I then called my mother and told her, and she hung up on me because she was so shocked, and then said she’d call my sister and figure out what had actually happened. I was at a Shabbat dinner with new people when my sister called—a group of lovely Jewish women of color—and they rallied around me and packed me a takeaway bag, got my stuff, called me an Uber, asked whether I needed them to book me a flight, hugged me, prayed over me… a really lovely moment where I saw how strangers can come together to care for one another. I then got in my Uber and cried on the way home, still a little shell-shocked.

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thirty, treinta, trente.

a week ago yesterday, I headed out to afternoon tea at The Drake to celebrate my thirtieth birthday with my girls—the same amazing women who helped my wedding happen (with the exception of A, who had to work during our tea time). we had a chance to dress up and just relax with some tea and some treats, and then we went shopping and just had… a chill day, which is something I rarely have a chance to do.

I didn’t want to do anything big or flashy, you see—for a long time, I didn’t even think I would make it to 25, let alone 30.

for most of you, I don’t need to rehash what it’s like to live with mental illness, to wonder whether you’re going to make it through the next fifteen minutes, to try and figure out what the hell is wrong with you that you can’t seem to be an actual human being like everyone else. I was undiagnosed for so long that I managed to convince myself that I was just a complete disaster of a person—and trying to pretend otherwise felt really pointless.

but somehow, between therapy, my friends’ support, and sheer stubbornness? I’ve made it to my 30s, and I’m actually excited to see what happens next!

so, like any other self-respecting millennial, I came with a bucket list of sorts: my 30 for my 30s. I don’t know how this is going to go, seeing as I’m not great at long-term goals like that… but I figure, if there’s ever a time to try, it’s now. 🙂

we’ll see how it goes!