Moments of Joy, Moments of Sorrow: The World in Balance

It amazes me how quickly moments of our life can change, bouncing us through a second of pure joy only to have us stop at a minute of total sadness, then we twirl back into the giddiness of the journey, only to be swallowed by the inevitability of the end.

I’ve been on a journey like that for a while now.

As some of you may know by now, I’m writing a book. Over the past week or so, the story has taken on a life of its own allowing me to pour thousands of words onto the page in an incredible rush of creative power. I’ve met characters I never expected to meet. Plots and subplots have become entwined in a tale that, I believe, only partially comes from me. I have become the conduit of the unseen world of creative energy to tell a story that wants to be told.

An old creation of mine, as I learned to connect with the pool of creative energy.

An old creation of mine, as I learned to connect with the pool of creative energy.

This is exciting and energizing, but can also be terrifying and demoralizing. On a good day, I find myself writing without the knowledge of time passing. I end with a feeling of exhaustion mixed with awe and joy. Some days, however, the writing becomes a torturous journey through badly written sentences, ideas that hit brick walls, or the worst feeling of having no clue what happens next.

The change can happen in an instant.

The writing isn’t the only thing taking me on this fast-paced emotional roller coaster ride. Life in general has a way of doing that.

A few posts back I announced that I put myself out there and applied for a directing gig at a nearby university. I felt good after the interview, but knew then it would just come down to whomever those students wanted to work with, and had very little to do with my talent or ability as a director.

I didn’t get the job.  I figured I hadn’t when I didn’t get word from them last Monday, so once I received the actual rejection I’d protected my heart from total crushing, but it still hurts.

I buried myself in writing instead.

Other things, though, have crept in to make sure my joy is balanced by sorrow.

The other day, Christine Grote, a talented writer whose shared her story of her sister and her family with beautiful, powerful words, posted “A Love Story” a poignant tribute to her father who has Alzheimer’s and her mother who was recently diagnosed with cancer, and their life-long love. Reading that, brought the reality of what is happening to my parents into sharp focus. Our situations differ, slightly, but I’m still losing my Dad to Alzheimer’s and watching my mother have to learn to let him go.

Yesterday, I mourned. I struggled with the emotions I haven’t shared with anyone about what’s happening. I feel guilt. I feel sorrow. I feel anger. I feel it all.

So I write.

Yesterday, Stuart Nager, who has been going through his own struggles lately and whose passions in life are similar to mine, posted this lovely post, called “Rededidication, First Light, First Night”. In it he describes the joys of a Chanukah celebration, despite the sorrows he’s faced over the past year.

I have been lighting candles this year with a mixture of joy and sadness. I always cherish the flicker of the Chanukah candles, but this year they sing to me of loss and sadness. I miss the days of my childhood menorahs, one of which you can see in this lovely post of my brothers called “Tradition . . . tradition”. One of the family menorahs played Ma’otzur from a music box. I hold that sound in my heart, and sang it after we lit our own candles last night.

Tori’s “Tiny Spark” series, though, has reminded me that sorrow doesn’t last and we can, indeed find beauty and joy despite the pain. Read today’s contribution “A Helpful Heart”, written by the fabulous Jamie Shea  from The Life of Jamie. I read it this morning, and realized the wonder and kindness that does exist in our world, even if sometimes it feels like its hard to find.

Life can’t be all joy. Life can’t be all sorrow. Life is living from moment to moment in this whirlwind of chaotic emotion, some good some bad. All we can do, is hold on for the ride and never give up.

 

Kindling the Lights of Hanukkah

A Brooklyn resident lighting candles on Hannuk...

Image via Wikipedia

My daughter quivers with excitement, unable to sit still or concentrate on homework. It is the first night of Hanukkah, and she cannot wait. I wonder though if to her this night is only about opening one of the presents that are piled on the table. She counts the number daily to see if there are more. Eight presents, eight nights, but she hopes for an extra one.

She watches the sun waiting for the minute she can light the candles. My orders are clear, “Mommy, you light the helper candle (the shammas) and I get to light the other one.”

“Of course,” I say, thinking back to my own childhood memories of Hanukkah.  I remember wondering if it was my turn to light the candles that night (since we alternated between the three of us). I loved the sound of the match striking, the smell of the sulfur sparking, the sizzle of the candles lighting. I loved deciding how to put the candles in, alternating colors some nights or using all one color the next.

I also remember debating the present issue. Should I open one present or all of them? Should I open the big one or the littlest one? (Often the best things came in the small packages as I soon learned). I know that presents became the focus often, but I don’t think it was just that for me.

To me the holiday was about light in darkness. It was my little bit of color in cold winters.  I had this tiny little ceremony that warmed up cold winter nights. The colors of the menorah were as bright to me as Christmas lights. It was what made being different, being Jewish, worth it.

I think that is why I still light them with my family. They represent something joyous to me. I’m not super religious. I’m not even sure what I believe. But I cannot let go of the tradition. I want so much to leave Sarah with fond memories of candles lighting the house on a cold winter’s night.

I worry that all she sees is the presents.

As I type this, Sarah runs into the room, a smile on her face. She doesn’t say anything, just glints at me with a twinkle in her eye. She runs into the other room and says “The sun is down!” as if I am not sitting in front of a window watching the colors of day fade.

I ask Sarah, “Why are you so excited to light the candles?

“Because it’s fun.”

“Do you know why we light the candles?”

She answers, “I know part of the story. The oil lasted eight nights. I think we have a book.”

“Would you like to read the book?”

“Yes, after I finish my homework.”

Maybe I am creating a tradition that goes beyond the presents.  It’s time to light the candles.

In Search of Faith

 

Observing the shabbath closing havdalah ritual...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Questions without answers

burn in the flame

of the Havdalah candles.

Twisted wax of blue and white

drip to the end of the Sabbath

sung out with the strum of a guitar

but my questions remain.

What does it mean to be a Jew?

Racial history of a tribal people

etched into stone

and into the flesh of an arm.

Pain of rejection

and loneliness

as you fast,

light candles,

eat special food off of pink glass plates

learn a language nobody speaks

celebrate holidays nobody knows.

Christmas carols come from other homes

but our menorah plays

Ma ozur Y’shu a ti

eight candles flickering flames

of pride

announce to all

“Jews live here.”

Always a symbol of difference

the yellow star

the pointed hat

the tallis.

But that was years ago.

My search continues.

A search that started on a cool spring night

running with friends to find

Elijah.

He never came.

We never found him.

I chanted to the memory of grandparents lost

on the bima of adulthood.

I became a woman

through the words of my haftorah

but they took on more meaning the following year

asked to repeat my performance

with no ceremony attached.

I sang with pride.

Where did my pride go?

Rejected by my community when we could not pay;

rejected by a Rabbi who could not see the value

of a star and a cross printed on the same t-shirt,

not on top of each other

but reflecting the value of

differing beliefs.

The circle of equality in difference.

Was I still a Jew?

Judaism rediscovered in the middle of Japan

a Passover celebration with Israelis

bonded by a ceremony

a language

a song.

Rejoicing over non-kosher food

and a smoke that brought us closer to heaven

floating from spirituality

and community.

Am I still part of that community?

Being a Jew is

contradiction

confliction

reality

confusion.

It is kinship and isolation.

It is daunting and authentic

It is who I am.

I am a Jew

but I am also a Buddhist.

I am a Hindu.

I am a Wicca.

I am all religions and I am no religion.

I am belief and disbelief.

I search for answers

in a world of prayer and ceremony

in spirituality that feels

beyond my grasp.

I want to dance in glory

a circle of holiness and faith,

celebrate love and essence,

rejoice in community.

I want to honor both earth and spirit.

I am Apache

I am rebel.

I am black.

I am white.

I am outsider.

I am Jew

I am lost.

I am found.

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