[After a long discussion today, I've decided to post this publicly. All my #ThisIsReal
posts will be public and I will be merciless in deleting comments that do not fit the tenor of the conversation. This is the one and only warning.]
Chapter 1 (part 1):The Soul Stretches Out to Contain Itself: A Map of the JourneyIn the visible world, we live out routine and sometimes messy lives. We have jobs, families, and houses. Our lives seem quite ordinary and undramatic. It is only beneath the surface of this world that the real and unseen drama of our lives is unfolding [...]. If the purpose of ritual is to render the invisible visible, then what is the profound, universal, unseen, and unspoken reality that all of this ritual reflects? What journey of the soul, what invisible journey of transformation, does all of this make visible?
AndThe liturgy, however, makes a very different claim [than that the decree against us will be torn up], namely that prayer, righteousness, and Teshuvah will not change what happens to us; rather they will change us. We will understand what happens differently. These activities will not tear up the decree; rather they will transform (ma’avirin) the evil of the decree. Spiritual practice won’t change what happens. Rather, it will help us to experience what happens not as evil, but simply as what happens. Spiritual practice will help us to understand that everything that happens, even the decree of death, flows from God.
Okay. So that second paragraph I quote is a hard one to swallow at first. Because I don’t actually believe that God goes around deciding whose turn it is to live and whose turn it is to die. Not in such granular detail. But at the same time, I sort of do? I believe that there is a guiding arc to the universe, in which each of us is allotted our span of days. Yes, we can medically intervene and expand the ones given to us naturally, but that still falls within the same science that describes how the moon makes the tides and the sun rises and so on and so on. At some point, however, bodies give way.
What happens happens.
As I begin the journey into the Days of Awe, and the cycle that both ends and begins the year, it’s worth thinking about. I say a lot, “it is what it is.” It cannot be changed, I can only change how I react to it, perceive it. By the time the moment is happening, it is written, and it is how I take the moment that allows me to affect the future. To change the decree.
That’s hard. Right? Like, as a kid you spend all the time attached to moments and feeling them intensely and learning how to react. And now, here, as an adult, I’m being told that it is changing my reaction that will change the moment.
But “repentance”? That sounds like bullshit. I do my best to be a good person, not to have things to repent of, and I spend a lot of time self-flagellating already. Anxiety means I sit with my mistakes over and over, replaying them, seeing all the things I could have done wrong or differently. My desire to be a good person means that I try to identify the times where I went wrong in that pursuit and change them, act differently. Aren’t I repenting all the time?
The Days of Awe are about a different kind of repentance. They’re about letting go of the baggage. Acknowledging the wrong I’ve done, making amends for it, and then ceasing to dwell in it. Ceasing to think of myself as a less than worthy person because I’ve made mistakes. Integrating the lessons from what I’ve done and what has happened, and then letting the hurt go.
Part of making amends is healing myself too.
This is especially hard for me. I talk a big game about how I don’t hold on, how I don’t feel hate or let anger fester… But I’ve realized that I am sometimes lying to myself on that front. A recent encounter with someone who apologized to me for an event in our past has made me realize that I was hanging on to hurt from that still, years in the future. I nursed that wound because it was part of my self-definition. I was the girl who was injured in that moment.
And I do the same thing with the episodes in my life where I perceive myself to be a fuck-up. I nurse that, I tell myself I am terrible, horrible, unloveable. Part of this journey then, part of the Teshuvah (return, which requires one to turn away from the path one has been on) is to stop hurting myself with these weapons I have so easily available. Stop diminishing my own value by pretending I am being realistic when I am, instead, listening to the hardest, meanest parts of me. Not the divinely inspired parts, but the parts that separate me from God.