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.

 

Meaningful Messages

Puzzle globe (partial view)

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever had one of those days where the universe seems to be sending you an important message, but the message is hidden in symbols so complex that you just can’t figure it out? It’s like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that don’t quite fit together yet. Or maybe a couple of pieces are missing. If you can get them together, the image is going to be something you never imagined.

Today is one of those days. It started off normal, except for this inner feeling of strangeness.

Then, I watched Bones on Hulu, and nearly sobbed when Brennan realized what she wanted and couldn’t have. Or, more importantly, that she didn’t want to have regrets.

From there I watched the surreal claymation version of Community which, in its typical fashion, uses sarcasm and humor to reach some real truths. The truth for me was that everyone is searching for something at this time of year; a sense of belief or a feeling of belonging. Sometimes a combination of both.

Next I log onto Facebook and find a friend who has not been on for a long time. She posted this Huffington Post article James Baraz: Can We Afford Joy in a World of Suffering? which made me think about a life without joy. Actually it made me recognize how often I live my life without joy. That’s not a good thing.

Next, I check my work e-mail to find a message from a friend commenting about my husband looking like a five-year-old (oops, she asked me not to say anything, but he won’t mind . . . he knows). That comment made me laugh out loud, and think about the joys of childhood.

I went back to FaceBook and starting chatting with a friend. We ended up talking about forgiveness, especially the need to forgive ourselves. This then led to my friend saying “emit goodness and goodness will come.”

Words of brilliance in a simple chat.

Next, I hear a strange jingle and bump at the front door. Is it Santa coming for a chat? No, it is my incredible escape artist dog knocking on the front door to come in. I didn’t even know he was gone. And of course, rather than get angry I had to laugh.

Finally, I make a (slightly belated) presentation about Chanukah for my daughter’s second grade class. The questions they asked were complicated. Why did the war start? Why did they leave a mess? etc. The teacher did not want to go into detail about those issues, but we did say that is was people being mean to other people for being different.

None of these stories are related, and yet somehow there is a message in there. It is about finding joy in who you are and embracing the things that make you different. It is about making connections with life. It is about living. And yet, the message is still unclear.

Sometimes I really wish for a blazing message written across the sky.

But for now I will just have to settle for jigsaw puzzles.

So, what is the message the universe is sending me today?

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.

It’s the Loneliest Time of the Year

Bah humbug!

Okay, maybe I’m not that bad. I like Christmas. I like the holiday season. But, every year at this time I feel lonely deep inside.

Maybe it is the number of required festivities that bring me down. There’s nothing like an Office Holiday Party to make me feel like I am a stranger in the midst of people who have only one thing in common, the place they work.

Maybe it is the number of parties I don’t get invited to. Last year, we didn’t get invited many places because people felt bad about our leaving, this year, we won’t get invited many places because we are so new we only know a few people.

Maybe it is leftover from my childhood, when Christmas was something I saw only from the distance. Friends celebrated and I did not, being raised in a Jewish household. Of course, I always had the obligatory explanation of Hanukkah in school, which only served to make me seem even stranger to my peers.

Maybe it is the constant explanation of Hanukkah which is not really the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar, but has taken on the aura of Christmas. I love lighting the menorah, but at the same time it is a symbol of my difference. This year in particular our menorah will be one of a very few.

Maybe it is the hope of magic and mysteries that fill the airwaves, or the movies that always end with new love or Christmas miracles. Hope is high at this time of year, but after it is over we go back to the status quo, and that feels discouraging.

Maybe it is the fact that, since I work in education, I’m always facing my failures at this time. The students who should have done better. The grading that shows nothing has changed. True, I often have successes as well, but as any instructor knows, the pain of grading has the tendency to cut into the joy of the season. At least usually that grading can be supported by the decadence of chocolate, cookies, and egg nog lattes.

Or maybe it is that I look back at the year and see all the things I promised myself last year and did not achieve. Where did my weight loss go? Down and up on the scale as usual. Where is the sense of achievement? My portfolio keeps growing, my cv gets longer, but I’m still looking for something.

 

Maybe it is watching my daughter soak in the joy of the season and knowing that she will be a little disappointed when she doesn’t get exactly what she wants, or misses out on some festive fun. I love the smiles of children at this time; but the “I want” attitude really bothers me.

Whatever it is, at this time of year I find myself withdrawing just a little bit. I love the songs. I love the lights. I love the feeling of hope. But somehow, each year, it just feels a little bit lonelier.

Does anyone else feel that way, or am I alone?

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