I got bored so I grabbed my camera and headed to a place I’d never visited before. I definitely plan on going back, but when I saw lightening in the distance, I came home.
Yeah yeah … I cheat. I go to Facebook and make sure this blog is linking properly. And then I quietly scroll through to see what folks are up to, if there are any good jokes, what’s happening in the world. And I feel bad and guilty and want to go to confession and then…
I remember that I’m Jewish.
I did NOT cheat on my observation of Tisha b’Av.
I fasted from sundown to sundown. I didn’t shower or brush my hair. I mourned all the losses and suffering of Israel and the Jewish people. I mourned for the IDF soldiers who had to carry out attacks on civilian targets because there were bombs there. I mourn the lost of the Gaza families who were forced to stay even when they were warned to leave. I mourned the losses on both sides.
I looked up at the ark, and the doors were open, revealing nothing.
The Torahs were gone, The ark was empty. I was overwhelmed with grief and devastation and shock. I’d known they would be gone, it’s tradition. But the shock of it was so intense I could barely breathe, and tears filled my eyes.
A world without Torah, without Judaism, without the Jewish people – it can’t happen. It would be unbalanced, askew, tilted off course somehow.
Then the first Torah scroll was brought back and put in the ark. I’ve rarely felt such intense relief. There wasn’t joy, just a profound exhale. And anticipation that the other two would follow and be returned. We and the world could and would recover balance.
And I prayed and sang in shul knowing there was a cease-fire, that the IDF ground forces were pulling back into Israel, and hoping Gaza would fire no more rockets. I dared hope for peace in that region, for calm to settle in, for relationships to be repaired along with the buildings. I prayed that Hamas would disband, would not try again to build more tunnels. I prayed that Iran would mind their own business.
Jews can live in peace.
We live in peace every day. War was not something we looked forward to, or were proud of, or ever want to see happen. We want peace. We also want to continue to exist.
I drank deeply. I ate appreciatively. I came home and washed the mourning off my body, out of my hair. I slept well. I woke up grateful to be Jewish – and that’s where I found the joy.
I know I am not the only person who ever went to camp for the whole summer. I know this, because there were 150 other girls with me at summer camp and there was the boys camp across the lake. I know this also because Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol made a movie about summer camp. That makes it socially significant.
My own kids weren’t interested in summer camp. That is to say, they were interested in hindsight, but since they hadn’t gone when they were younger it was somehow my fault that they were too old to go when I found one and offered them the option.
How naive I was! I thought summer camp was for the kids. I thought summer camp was a time to escape one’s parents, go play in the mountains, water ski on the lake, ride horses, and make leather crafts at the art hut. For me, camp was about seeing my good friends, watching a sunset and writing poetry while perched on Big Rock. I looked forward to participating in the play, to the camp outs, and walking to the general store for the locally made chocolate chip cookies.
Summer camp is where I learned how to play tennis. I didn’t know at the time how one would learn such a skill living in the city. I certainly didn’t know where to ride horses in the city, much less get to feed them and groom them and pick out their hooves. The horses taught me fearlessness. They gave 12 year old me confidence that I never really got on a tennis court or on a sailfish. I weighed 90 pounds, but I could command a beast well over 1,200 pounds. I could communicate to this animal where I wanted her to go, and listen to her so that I could anticipate her next move.
Summer camp was bug juice and salt tablets, color wars, campfires, and catching mice.
Catching mice is a skill that has served me well. I caught one in a box just last week that had sought shelter from the pounding rains in my home. It made it’s way under the suitcase I had not yet unpacked, and the cat alerted me to its presence. I was immediately transported back to camp, the summer our cabin had a mouse infestation, the summer I was a 14 year old girl faced with wild life. I remember catching a mouse in an empty toilet paper roll and carrying it way across campus to release it into the woods behind Arts and Crafts.
Perspective tells me that probably wasn’t even half a city block, but back then it seemed like miles away from our cabin. I was sure it would never find it’s way back.
So the other day when my husband scrambled for a mouse trap, I asked for a box and a towel.
I’ve had pet rats as an adult. They are awesome pocket pets. Smart and clean and social. By comparison, this mouse was the tiniest little thing ever. Small and grey and terrified out of it’s little mouse brain. I cornered it between some packing boxes, and with the towel I shooshed it into a plastic shoe box.
“Why do you care that it stays alive?” asked the hubby
“I don’t. I care that I know that I caught it and got it out of the house. It could take days for it to find the trap and it might have babies behind the bookcase by then. I want to know it’s every move.”
I took my mouse in a box out the back door, to the farthest corner of the fence, and tossed it unceremoniously onto the grass in the pasture under the pouring rain. It looked back at me, unsure whether it should be grateful for freedom or flip me off for putting it back where it started.
I realize now, that summer camp wasn’t for us. Well, not all of us. I’m sure some parents in the 1960’s and 1970’s believed a wilderness camp experience for their city kids would build character or skills or something. However, I think I stumbled on the real purpose of summer camp this year when planning a vacation.
We took our son on a cruise this year. He moped and grumbled and frowned in high teenager style almost the entirety of the trip. So I wondered what I had been like on vacations, grateful or grumpy, when I realized, I hadn’t been on summer vacation with my Mother. In fact, I have no idea what she was doing while I was gone. She certainly wasn’t answering letters from camp, responding with pages describing the loneliness of the apartment in my absence.
Our cruise this year was filled with screaming children, running every which way, oblivious to the fact that 40 years ago they would have been packed off to camp so that their parents could enjoy a Mediterranean cruise on their own, child and responsibility free.
Summer camp was a three month long babysitter for some parents. How had I missed this?
I have no idea what my Mother did while I was stamping leather and camping out in the Adirondacks. Throwing wild parties? Renting a house on the beach? Redecorating? Who knows?
Would I trade those summers by the lake?
Not in a million years. How else would a city girl learn how to catch a mouse in a box?
We all know about the Holocaust. We know the names Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, and Treblinka. Those are only three of many.
What we don’t learn about in school, or really anywhere outside of Judaism, are the other pogroms. We don’t learn what a pogrom is, or what happens, or why.
Not that there is ever a why for a pogrom.
Did you know the word “ghetto” is not about Harlem in New York?
Did you know it is the word for the walled towns in which Jews were restricted throughout Europe after the second destruction of the Temple on the Mount in Israel? The walls were to protect the Jews, keep them separate for their own safety. Because no other country was ever sure, “Are they Jews first or are they citizens of our country first? Where is the loyalty of these people who cease work on Fridays and don’t resume until Sunday? Who will they defend in times of strife?”
In Catalonia, now Barcelona, Jews were driven out of Spain. They were driven from their ghetto homes. And then, something worse happened. The Catalonian King took the stones from the Jewish graves left behind, and built them into his castle. The inscriptions are still visible on the stones used to build the castle and attached cathedral. Is this a warning? The way skulls were built into the structures at Chitzen Itza in the Mayan world, to show enemies what might befall them? It certainly had the effect of making me want to leave Barcelona and never return.
The separateness that is a people’s covenant with our G*d is also the separateness that makes countries afraid. If being Jewish comes before everything else, then how can Jews be trusted to fight for the country in which they have landed during diaspora?
Jews are reminded again and again how they are not trusted to be loyal to a country before their faith. This past month, as Israel responds to the non-stop rockets from Gaza with great force and works to prevent further more serious threats from underground, violence against Jews has broken out all over the world. In Paris, shops were attacked, destroyed, burned. In Germany, where even the Germans thought they knew better, there are chants of “Die Jew!” In Los Angeles there is Nazi themed graffiti. In Calgary, a man had an Israeli flag tried around his neck and he was then dragged through the street. My own tiny shul in a small town had its’ sign graffiti’d on, and is under police protection.
Tisha b’Av is a Jewish fast day of mourning and hope. We mourn the destruction of so much, and we hope for a future that will sustain lasting peace.
This year, in the shadow of war and uncertainty, the fast is so much more poignant, so important. Communities will gather, prayers will go up, discussions will be held all over the world. We will stand united as a scattered people, hoping for peace, praying for understanding that leads to an end of the violence and threats.
It’s amazing how often I check my phone for Facebook even though I have logged out on the Droid. Amazing and kinda sad.
In the meantime, I have finished the photo book from our Mediterranean cruise. I’ve gotten laundry done. I’ve gone grocery shopping. We ate dinner on the patio. I’ve started applications for scholarships for school. Gone on two motorcycle rides. Started watching “Weeds” on Netflix. I’m still slowly working on cleaning my office. Scheduling is an ongoing task with my classes, my kids after school activities, family theatre time, and other new activities that get me closer to goals.
The hubby suggested that I just cut out Friday night and Saturday, and have Facebook the rest of the time. I think that will be the long term plan. And then limit myself to certain times of the day.
I do find myself thinking about myself more, and planning for my future. I care more about daily tasks that will lead to long term goals. That’s important. I am a year from completing graduate school. From there I need to find licensing supervision, and begin my studies for becoming a certified sex therapist.
Maya Angelou said that if we spend all our time trying to be normal, we will never know how extraordinary we can be. (Loose quote) The hardest part of school has been being normal enough not to get my butt kicked out of the program, while still reaching for the extraordinary goals I hope to achieve. Some professors are still put off my goals, and by my enthusiasm.
That’s the part I don’t understand. Why is enthusiasm threatening?
Is it something that they have given up, and so it’s uncomfortable to see it in others? Is it somehow threatening? Is it the topic of sex that sets them back?
I don’t want to find balance in my excitement. I want to keep it alive. I want it to infuse everything I do. I want it to define me and guide me and push me forward. Not just in counseling, but in photography, Judaism, cooking, writing, loving. I want to fill life with myself and let life fill me. Balance has no place in that. There is no guarantee of anything after this. This may be my only chance to breath in and breath out. I may only get one chance to leave a lasting piece of myself here. I need to use that opportunity to the fullest.
DAMN this is difficult.
First most difficult task was getting Facebook turned off on all my devices. I’m not sure that I have accomplished this yet. Some notifications continue to come through.
Then it was just difficult not to check responses to the de-tox post!
But I managed. I was even somewhat productive. I don’t feel wonderful about the productivity, as some projects required sitting at the computer anyway.
I do know when I became addicted to the Internet in general. It was when my boys were babies, and I was alone and isolated. It was when my (now ex) husband was abusive and controlling and I had no where else to go. My family was estranged or far away. My close friends had somehow stayed on the East Coast, or moved all the way to the West coast. My Mother, such as she was, had just died. I found a TV show to obsess over, and it had a movie as well, and I started looking up information on the web.
From there I found community. I found support. I found people the ex couldn’t touch, people he didn’t know. I found people of like mind to me. Intelligent people. Thoughtful people. For the most part, kind people.
I also met bullies there. I treated them like a learning curve. I thickened my skin, as it were, and I got stronger dealing with them. It was easier to deal with bullies who didn’t even know me. That eventually translated into bullies in real life, and they simply stopped bothering me. Instead, I felt pity for them. I knew they had no idea who I was, so the bullying was clearly a reflection of something inside their own heads and hearts. The world had taught them for whatever reason that this would keep them safe. I think that’s a sad place to be in life.
Anyway, that community sustained me. It expanded me from afar. And then it encouraged me and protected me so that I could rid myself of the abusive marriage. I found people who would let me mourn my Mother in my own way. I credit those people for helping me find myself again, helping me through emotional rehabilitation.
The downside was that I got dependent. But that’s a blog post for another day. I think I promised a list of things I want to accomplish this month.
And as promised here is the list of things, in no particular order, that I intend to get done this month, and some that I made a dent on in Day One.
– Respond to colleague regarding previous email (done)
– Apply for licensing
– Apply for jobs
– Purchase birthday cards
– Kid errands: Shoes, haircut, driver’s license
– Me errands; Staples for ink, paper and post-its, Batteries plus for computer battery
– Call friend M
– Call friend N
– Finish photo book from vacation (worked on this for about an hour on Day One.)
– Clean Office (worked on this for about an hour, moved books around.)
– Finish downloading borrowed study CD’s
– Study/work on index cards for exam (worked on this for about one hour on Day One.)
– Sort University emails into proper folders
– Laundry (2 loads done Day One)
– Clean magnets off fridge/put on new fridge
– Blog no more than one time a day
– Work on novel
– Prepare for school: notebooks, schedule, bag, etc…
– Make hotel reservations for class on distant campus
– Check GPA, reapply to honor society
– Doctor/health stuff
– Weed the garden
The Today Show suggested that August be a month for “de-toxing” from things with which we have a problem putting down. This means activities, foods, or mentalities that we are seemingly addicted to, that are simultaneously toxic for our bodies, minds or lives. Some people were going to abstain from shopping, or sodas, or technology. One woman was going to de-tox herself regarding negative self-talk about her body, because it was having an affect on her five year old daughter.
While it is tempting for me to de-tox from technology altogether, there are some roadblocks for doing that at this time. For one thing, I am a full time Master’s student and I simply need my computer and my smart phone to write, read, and create projects with classmates. For another, I am working on de-cluttering my life, and some of that involves scanning documents or photos, and creating a photo book via an online publishing program. I also track my food and activity on line through FitBit, MyFitnessPal, and Endomondo, and I don’t intend to stop. Finally, I know my limits. If I can’t use technology at all, I will likely become a crabby unhappy person. I don’t think my family would appreciate that.
Instead, I am going to abstain from using Facebook. No endless scrolling for new posts, no re-posting of news, politics, memes. No games. No trivial posts hoping for funny responses. No Facebook chatting. No Facebook.
The rules are simple.
I will not look at Facebook at all; not on my personal computer, school computers, Nook, or Smartphone.
I will put $1.00 in the box on my desk for each transgression, if I transgress. (This may be increased if transgressions occur.)
I will allow myself one blog post per day to track the productivity that has occurred in the time formerly spent on Facebook.
I will not substitute Twitter or Google+ for Facebook.
I have made myself a list of things I need to accomplish. These things range from correspondence, licensure application, and cleaning to applying for jobs and shopping for necessities. I intend to return to the ways I used to do things; sending out actual birthday cards instead of Facebook greetings, using note cards for study, and keeping my files organized. It’s clear to me that Facebook has allowed me to ignore the simplest and most basic of chores and I want to remedy that. I may include this list tomorrow. Today, I am working on crossing items off the list, or at least making a dent in them.
What I hope to have accomplished by September 1st is peace of mind, peace of space, and freedom from a social media addiction that has lasted nearly fifteen years in one for or another.