#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.

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#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 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!

#BlogElul 1: Decide

(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 interesting that the first thing I have to write about is deciding because it is… not my forte, to say the least. I’m not sure if it’s because I have anxiety about change or because I just find decision-making very emotionally exhausted, so I often struggle to even decide what to eat or wear to work. there is also the fact that, even when I have made a decision, I often struggle to follow-through and complete whatever task I have set ahead for myself. so whether it is a lack of decision or a forgotten decision, this is definitely not a verb that I am very comfortable with.

perhaps that is why this is the word I have to start with as I prepare for the new year—or perhaps it is because deciding is such a big part of my Jewish journey.

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reflections, week 35

hello from teacher institute week! I’m struggling to stay focused during this meeting, so I’m going to lean into my ADHD need to do multiple things to maintain sustained attention and drop y’all a quick update.

write something every day (except Shabbat). I am actually probably taking a break from writing, including academic writing, until mid- to late-September so I can focus on starting the school year off strong with kids and also give myself a bit of a brain break since, at this point, I have been going year-round with grad school for three straight years (and I embarked on this degree less than a year after finishing two years of nonstop grad school for my previous degree). I will try to get back into bullet journaling full-time for September and I might do some sketching/outlining for my dissertation and my novel project for NaNoWriMo, so there may or may not be updates here—but I’m going to be gentle with myself and take some time.

be better about money. I’m trying to tighten the purse strings to make it work for the next couple of weeks, but that looming strike is really increasing my stress levels and I’m honestly not sure how successful I’m going to be with this. I also had to drop more dollars at the vet this week for different antibiotics for Kiwi—who is too clever to be tricked with tablets in food/treats and refuses to unhinge her jaw for me to pill her directly—so there’s just a lot going on dollar-wise right now.

self-validate more. this was tough this week with the return to work—there is some tension happening within my department at work, which made me hella uncomfortable and, at times, insecure… and then I had to present on something that felt outside of my realm of expertise because it was developed this summer and I had to present it to the toughest group in the building, so I wasn’t the world’s most confident person. however, I wore my fave shirt from my summer job, did a brightening sheet mask last night, did my hair this morning, and I wore my lipstick armor (rockin’ my beloved Fenty Beauty’s Stunna Lip Paint in Uncensored to much acclaim today)—so I got through it and I feel like it’s strengthened me to keep working with these folx this year.

thanks for sticking with me through this wild summer! until next time ♥

reflections, week 32

hi y’all! forgive the all-over-the-place nature of this post, as we’re having a hella ADHD kinda day today.

write something every day (except Shabbat). this has been tough, but I’ve been a little better this past week and I have managed to be productive while still taking time for myself. right now, I’m trying to outline some stuff for projects I’ve been working on to figure out what I should focus on next—I’ve tried to stick to one project at a time but I think that, with the dissertation coming up, I’m going to have to get more comfortable with multitasking. I did also spend some time preparing my bullet journal and thinking through some upcoming blog posts, so I think I’m in a better spot for the next two months. we’ll see how this goes!

be better about money. the other shoe has dropped with this a bit, finally—I ended up going HAM on a Sephora order this past weekend and I rounded out my Sims 4 collection, doing more personal spending in a weekend than I had for most of the summer. but I’m still in a decent place for bills this month and into the next, so I don’t feel too terrible about it… just have to make sure it doesn’t become a habit! I also know I’m getting more and more nervous about not having a contract for the fall yet, and J and I are considering synagogue membership, so the summer’s leaner budget might extend further into the school year than we thought… we’ll see how it goes! but we’re making payments on our cruise and having that vacation to look forward to is pulling us through some tense times!

self-validate more. who would’ve thought that this, the thing I was most scared by, would end up being a strength this year? I definitely did not think so! but I think I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I feel confident in my work and in what I bring to the table—and I’m much more willing to shoot my shot. whether I make said shots(s), however, is still to be seen…

lunch break’s over so back to work it is—until next time!

reflections, week 21

skipped another week because things have been even wilder… I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, now—I’m hopeful but nervous, and I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other until then.

write something every day (except Shabbat). really fell off the wagon for this for the month, not just this week—from an abandoned bullet journal to various works in progress that have seen no action whatsoever, and I haven’t even been updating my word count spreadsheet. and, as you can see on the blog, it hasn’t been any better here! the truth is that this has been a really difficult month for me on a personal level, and these struggles have consumed every waking moment. it looks like we might be on a path to some resolution, which I hope will allow me to take the reins of my life in the last week of the month!

be better about money. this has been so-so over the past couple of weeks—I think I’ve been doing more spending to try and fill the hole that I’m feeling because of these personal conflicts. I have tried to not buy things that are too frivolous, but the truth is that I did not need all this new baking equipment or the ingredients to test like 10 new recipes (recap coming soon, once I crack the code for the brazo de reina)… I just got them because they made me feel better. I have also replaced my laptop and I’m waiting for the new one to be delivered—but I don’t feel guilty about that because I have had my current laptop for seven years and I love her dearly but she’s ready for retirement.

self-validate more. I’ve realized that there is still a part of this which I am struggling with and which is not so much giving myself credit for the work that I have done or trusting myself to do things—but more about trusting myself and my instincts and my needs without needing anyone’s permission. I really thought that I had gotten over my issues trusting myself but honestly it’s another day, another way in which complex PTSD continues to impact my life. I think that realizing ADHD is part of my life has made it a lot easier to give myself room to struggle with staying organized at home and come up with more regimented systems to support myself in executive functioning—but now it’s time to spread that to being kind and supportive of myself regarding whatever I need for life after trauma.

throughout these dark few weeks, I have been incredibly blessed to have friends and family near and far offer their support in a myriad of ways. if nothing else, that has been a beautiful part of all of this—to know that, even if sometimes I am writing here just for myself, I am not in fact alone. 🙂