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On Happiness, Loss, and Mixed Emotions

A lot has happened to our family and me the past month.  Many happy events and also some not-such-happy events.

From birth, bris, haircutting ceremonies, engagements, marriage, and death – our family has experienced the vast life cycle in just one month. Many of my nieces and nephews had new babies, my grandson got his haircut at 3-years-old, and our son got married.

And sadly, my mother-in-law, the matriarch of our family, the force, the backbone, the constant presence in ours and our children’s and grandkids’ lives, passed away at age 97 1/2.  I plan to write more about my dear mother-in-law in a future post, but suffice it to say that with her passing, we’ve felt the gamut of emotions from sadness and shock at her brief illness and sudden passing, to confusion and overwhelm at the timing a few days before our son’s wedding, and to gratitude and acceptance that she lived a long and fulfilling life.

And these happy and sad events spurred many strong emotions. Life is full of paradoxes and happy events spur good feelings – along with a sense of loss. Sad events cause mourning and loss – along with a sense of acceptance.

Back to our happy occasion – our son got married. Mazel Tov! A myriad of emotions have spread across our hearts. First and foremost are the feelings of  overwhelming gratitude. Gratitude to G-d for helping and guiding us to this stage. Gratitude to family for supporting us emotionally while we raised this child and our others. Gratitude to friends for being there with us through thick and thin.

And mixed with all that happiness at our son’s marriage (Did I mention it is our youngest son?) was (is!) the feeling of “loss” of my position as his daily Mommy, and of my stature as the one and only woman in his life (And did I mention he doesn’t have any sisters?)

Till now, I was the one he called when he wanted to discuss something (besides his rabbi and friends of course!). I was his go-to person. No more. Now, it’s his wife. And of course – that’s the way it should be. Right? That’s what we pray for and long for. That’s what we want in life – that our children move on. But still. Still. Just because we want something, doesn’t mean when we get it – there won’t be a change in the dynamic that takes getting used to. Change implies loss of one thing and replacement of another.

Other  mundane losses for me surround our son’s marriage – ranging from my missing seeing his stuff in his room, to my longing for of his many phone calls to me during the week. In general, the idea of having him all to ourselves has now gone away. We have to share— share him with a wife, a new family and in-laws.

With loss comes sadness, void and emptiness. Sadness that things are not the same. Void and emptiness for the space that used to fill the busy-ness of taking care of that child. Change is never easy and when I acknowledge those changes and move gently with them, I know things will be good.  Then, I can fill those spaces with good things.

What are those good things? Time will tell. But for now, I’m acknowledging and even accepting the void, the lack, the space. The Quiet. The Emptiness.

It’s all good.


Turning the Corner

Remember the fun of riding a bike for the first time?

Remember the excitement of being able to balance while going straight down the street or in the park? While staying upright (barely), pedaling the wheels and holding the handlebars, you looked straight ahead and felt the wind blowing in your face. Maybe your mom was holding on to the seat of your bike to help you along. Maybe she already let go.  Practically holding your breath, you didn’t dare look to the side.

And then you came to the end of the path. It was time to turn the corner. You were excited. But also a bit afraid.

Turning the corner required  extra skill  and was a risk. You had to tilt the bike ever so carefully, while veering the handlebars to the right or left.  You might fall and get hurt. You might find new territory on the other side, while going further away from home. Turning the corner was tough stuff.

The past 7 months, I’ve had a broken ankle, several surgeries, and complications. With lots of encouragement from my wonderful husband, children, family, friends and community, I’ve done pretty well.

I’ve moved  forward. Sometimes backward. Sometimes staying the same.  More recently,  I found a great doctor who got me on the road to recovery, and on the straight path.

But  I wasn’t allowed to put my foot down, or bear any weight on it. Doctor’s orders.

Until today.

Today, I went to the orthopedist for a check-up after my surgery 7 weeks ago. He told me the news I’ve been hoping for. The words we were all waiting for.

“It looks great. It’s healed.”


Buzzzz...ohhh. it tickles

And…on with a simple boot that I can walk on very soon.

In one week, to be exact. That’s. Very. Soon.

I’m excited. I’m happy. But there’s another component here.

Part of me is afraid. What if I turn the front wheel too far to the right and end up plopping down? What if I make it around the corner but find that it is too scary or painful over there?

What if I find that it’s too hard to do stuff around the block, and decide to go back to my own street,  up and down the same street?

But honestly, I cannot really afford to think the above thoughts, or remain gripped with fear. Such ruminations will prevent me from moving to the next step in my recovery.

All beginnings are hard, and so are transitions. Change is exciting and wonderful, but it doesn’t come without fear.

I remember looking at my injured leg before surgery 7 weeks ago, and mentioning to the anesthesiologist who was there, how utterly skinny my leg was. In comparison to my good leg, this leg was shriveled and thin. What was that about?

“Oh, that’s because you haven’t been using it for so long,” the doctor explained, referring to the many months that I’ve been without a useable leg, due to several surgeries and an infection.

His comment led me to think of the implications for life.  When we don’t use certain muscles, they shrivel up, and waste away. When we refrain from turning  corners toward change, we make it harder and harder to get back into things. The more we put off doing what needs to be done, the more we have a hard time doing it.

That is why I’m looking forward to taking that first step in my boot in one week from now. It may hurt, and it may be difficult. I may limp at first and I may want to stop walking and rest.

But the more I exercise my muscles of change (within reason and appropriately), the better and easier everything will be. Eventually my leg will fill up with muscles and will be more like a “regular” leg. Turning the corner takes trust, courage, and effort.

Maybe during this time of introspection during the month of Elul, before the High Holidays, each of us can figure out what is our “corner.” What place is our point of change were we go from a straight line to a right angle?

What is that point of difficulty where we have to exercise new muscles and joints to make it work in another new way before venturing into new territory? Figure out that point or joint that is your own niche for change, and then turn it. Turn that corner. It’s hard at first.

But it’s so worth it.

See you around the corner!

Sharing Sad Feelings

I can’t even bring myself to write a chatty and cheery blogpost. The past few days have been very sad ones for all of the world and especially America. The Connecticut tragedy is something that is unfathomable, and beyond belief. To use an old and tired cliche, I cannot wrap my head around it. Continue reading

Back to Bubby Basics

When it comes down to it, simple is often best. When things get broken down to manageable steps, life is so much easier. My friend shared that with me the other day. She told me how she had babysat her grandchildren and found that life has become so complicated these days. My friend felt that she couldn’t help her grandkids with the math homework, because the “new” math has concepts that are so foreign to us Bubbies. Similarly, this friend noted that Hebrew words are so different than the traditional Hebrew language that we remember growing up with in our Hebrew day schools. Today’s modern Hebrew has become more of an imitation English, that my friend felt that the Hebrew homework was also too complex for her to oversee her grandkids completing.

My friend confessed that the only thing she was able to handle when her grandkids were over at her house, was giving them baths, reading books to them, and taking them to the park.

That’s it. Well, to me that was great news. At least some things never change. I mean, here we are in the 21st century, using computers, blackberries, I-phones, DVD’s, and so much technology that our children’s day-to-day activities barely resemble that of our own childhood. And if we are to care of our children and grandchildren, we need to relate to their world.

So thank goodness that parks are still around, bathtubs more or less operate the same way, and books are still around. If nothing else, how are we to preserve a Bubby/grandchild relationship with such a large gap in technology, education, and language?

Here’s to bathtime, rubber duckies, shovels and pails and The Cat in the Hat. — all skills that a bubby from any century can handle.

Shaking Things Around

This morning I woke up to some messages from friends, “did you feel it? did you feel it?” A few said they didn’t feel it. Others said they lost a whole night of sleep, but no damage otherwise.  Still others wanted to know what in the world we were all talking about.

I felt it, and felt it big. It could have been in my own backyard for all I knew.

“It” was an earthquake. Epicentered near Beverly Hills, a few miles from where I live.  Only a 3.2 – which for Southern California standards, that’s pretty low and unimpressive. But nevertheless worthy of mentioning during the time of Ellul, the month before Rosh Hashanah,  when we need to shake ourselves out of our complacency and oblivion, and get down to brass tacks of fixing up our ways – both to G-d and to our fellow man.

So the fact that it was a small one is a kindness. Some say the “Big One” is coming….and it’s only a matter of time. To me that’s a scary notion, and it makes me want to prepare and prepare (water, batteries, canned food…huh? what else?).

But for now the real preparation is for the Big Day in a few weeks when we will stand before our G-d in prayer on Rosh Hashanah. Praying for a sweet new year. For a non-shaking year…

Sometimes we need to shake things up, change and better ourselves down here, so that G-d shakes things up for us in a good way for the coming year. May we all have a sweet, happy,  and healthy New Year. And safe.

Letting Go of the Remote Control

An all-too familiar situation:

Here’s the scenario:  I see something going on in my surroundings – whether with my adult kids, or with a close friend, or even with a colleague at work.  I think about it a lot,  decide I know better, and make an assessment. A voice inside me says “stay out of it” but I don’t heed that voice. Another voice says, “help them, get involved, say something.”

Eeny meeny miney moe. Which voice to listen to? I listen to the second voice – the busybody one.

CLANG! I realize immediately that I shouldn’t have! Voice #1  inside me says, “you knew better than to get involved….”

Proactive or Reactive?

There is a new word the past decade or so: proactive. That refers to taking care of things ahead of time, planning for the future so that there is more chance of success.  Pushing the buttons on the Remote Control – the mechanism that thinks we can control and take care of everything in the world. We are going to save the day.

Proactive is a great thing. But usually “proactive” is for one’s own life. Not someone else’s life.

In fact, when one gets involved in someone else’s life, it often only complicates things for them —– and for us. It doesn’t help.

Shouting (to myself!) to Stop!

So when I read about people in books and periodicals who have dilemmas “should I or shouldn’t I?”…..I want to scream through the pages of the book, “DON’T!….. Stay out of it! It’s a train wreck!” But then again, I can’t tell them what to do. It’s their life to live (even if it’s just a fictional account in a book!).I think unless something is in a  life and death situation, or in a case of abuse or serious danger, OR if that person specifically asks for help (and even then it’s probably best to refer to professionals – a friend should never take the place of professionals), then it is best to stay out of it.

Prayer and relinquishing control:

Sometimes I really have to protect myself from places that I am not equipped to navigate the difficult waves.  Prayer always is a good thing. We can pray for the well-being of others, let G-d take over, relinquish control. And then give them love and encouragement.  And finally focus on the one place that we were given power to change: ourselves.

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