Week 52: A Growing Year

January 14, 2011 at 7:16 (Uncategorized)

I just turned on the TV, “Bridalplasty” is on and I’m wondering what it’s about. It’s basically women using their weddings as a chance to address all their insecurities. Not with helpful therapy, mind you, but with liposuction to cart it all away.

I’m feeling the pressure, too, and I’m realizing that before I enter into marriage where another lovely person is legally bound to me, I have got to clean up my mess — I have to face my issues.

Fortunately, that makes this a good year. Finally growing up like this, paying off debts, excelling in my career, visiting another country, running for the first time and getting asked to marry one hell of a guy — that’s a good year. So happy 2011 to you and I hope it’s a good one. It’s the beginning of my new life.

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Week 51: If It Comes Back It’s Yours.

December 28, 2010 at 7:16 (Uncategorized)

Who am I kidding about getting shit done by just believing? I’m the one standing in my own way! I’ve always been scared of things beyond my control — I’ve always planned for every what if — but I’m seeing now that it’s impossible, it’s delusional and it’s killing me. Life’s just too big for me to get a jump on.

It’s time for an adjustment. I want to to enjoy what I have. I want to live my life out loud. I want to trust myself. I want to not be afraid to fail, to not be afraid to allow others to get close and to live in more moments without anxiety or self doubt. This is the freedom that I deserve, and none of it comes from perfect planning. It comes from going with the flow. From letting go of control and opening myself up to possibility. That’s the joy of life! Possibility! So this year, I’m really going to try to be less of an obstacle. I’m going to do everything within my power to give myself over to uncertainty, randomness, luck of the draw, fate and maybe even happiness.

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Week 50: Yearly Affirmation

December 16, 2010 at 7:16 (Uncategorized)

As the wedding creeps up on us and plans have yet to get off the ground, I am starting to freak out that things will never get done. We’re approaching the one year countdown date and I am overwhelmed at the amount of work that has to be accomplished in that time. Holy crap, holy crap, I’m going to plan the biggest moment of our lives on a shoestring budget, in this uncertain economy from a one-bedroom condo where all our stuff is crammed together, uninsured, averaging about 8 years old and falling apart? Am I really qualified to be a wife and mother?

And then I log on here and look at all the things I’ve written about over the past 50 weeks — all the things I’ve done and the changes I’ve set into motion in 2010. And I realize that I can do this. Look at all I’ve done in a year. I can do this, and everything will be OK when I do.

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Week 47: Humbled.

December 8, 2010 at 7:16 (Uncategorized)

I skipped this week before because it seemed too easy. I went to Thanksgiving at my fiance’s and realized that along with a husband-to-be, I had gained a family. I hadn’t been counting on that, but through a competitive family bowling tourney and a bout of dress shopping, I realized I got a lot more than I bargained for. I got some warm, loving, fun, wonderful people who really care about me. I didn’t expect that would happen until we had kids and worked our butts off to force them to love us…

My whole life, I’ve wanted to get married because I wanted to finally feel like I have a family. I don’t have that from my own relatives, and I never expected to get that from someone else’s. I’ve got some truly wonderful things and wonderful people to be thankful for this year.

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Week 49: Acceptance.

December 6, 2010 at 7:16 (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I read today that doctors stopped treatment for Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer, giving her just weeks to live. I read her Facebook response to this and it was so steady, so reassuring. And I remembered when I was this way. During my own cancer treatments, when we didn’t know if I would live or die, or if it was on its way out or on its way to takeover, I did at some point rise above it all and really accept death. I just accepted that this is what was coming. Not sadly, depressedly or angrily. Not as resignation. Just acceptance. It was much harder for my family to deal with than for me.

Once my doctors got a handle on things and the cancer stopped coming, I found it very hard to re-enter society and come back from that sense of freedom with a “normal” perspective. I saw my life as simply having run its course, and couldn’t function knowing there was more coming. I couldn’t form long-term goals because for years I had accepted that there was no long-term. I saw myself as an old woman because I had programmed myself to understand that there was no 35 or 40 or retirement or grandchildren. There was no looking forward to something or looking ahead. There was really only being for awhile.

But reading Mrs. Edwards’ calm, accepting statement today reminded me of all the things I want to accomplish in a lifetime because length of time is available to me now. It’s not that I’m more grateful because of having overcome cancer; I’m just aware that if I can accomplish so much in such a short period of time, I can feel free to imagine ineffable things for myself over the larger course of decades. There’s a real chance that I can lasso my biggest dreams, dream up bigger dreams and not accept finality or impossibility from anything again. And why not? For me, the impossible has become possible over and over. The unexpected became the norm. And dreams are going to become reality.

A sampling of the things I long for:
I want to get my doctorate
I want to do published research
I want to write a novel
I want to head an organization
I want to be influential in a not-for-profit
I want to start a small local business
I want to speak to people and motivate them
I want to enforce equality of genders
I want to teach
I want to bring people together

It’s because of cancer I learned to rely on my gut because it’s always right. And my gut tells me to go for these things I’ve been driven by for 32 years — to not bury them deep inside and fool myself into thinking I’ll be fulfilled whether I live one more year or 60 without them. This statement from Mrs. Edwards reminded me that acceptance of myself doesn’t only have to happen at death. It has to happen now and continue to happen. I feel silly saying something as trite as “I’ve been given a second chance”, but not as silly as I would if I didn’t say it at all.

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Week 48: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

December 1, 2010 at 7:16 (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Living in the Midwest, I find that Judaism’s traditions have become a bigger part of me because I’m the only Jew here to carry on the traditions! So I want to educate and share. Tonight’s the first night of Hanukkah, and it’s such a happy and warm time of year for us — except for the misconceptions.

Hanukkah is not another form of Christmas. It’s not the Jewish take on this time of year. It’s not even a major holiday. It’s a celebration of a miracle that’s as unbelievable as any other religion’s miracles. Our temple was destroyed in a revolt and Judaism was basically outlawed. We rebuilt the temple which was totally defiled, and then we had to rededicate it. I think that means blessing it ’cause some pretty nasty things were done to it that were completely against our beliefs. You could call it terrorism. And we only had enough like “holy” olive oil to light the Eternal Flame (which I think is part of the cleansing and blessing process) for one day. Yet it was required to burn throughout the night every night. And miraculously, it burned for eight days and eight nights, which is coincidentally how long it takes to make fresh olive oil. Boom! Hanukkah. What a freakin’ awesome double-reason to celebrate.

For me, it means celebration of being here and being alive; good food; simple traditions and singing in Hebrew together with family. Tonight — especially because yesterday T and I officially became Domestic Partners, each other’s Powers of Attorney and joined each other’s bank accounts — my family gains one more. I can’t wait to share this happiness with him and our kids in the years ahead.

Chag sameach (Joyous holiday)!

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Week 46: Perspective.

November 18, 2010 at 7:16 (Uncategorized)

My uncle was in town on business this week. I loove when my uncle comes into town. He’s so happy, so full of life, so brilliant and experienced and thoughtful, and our discussions always leave me reinvigorated.

It’s a something I only usually gain from vacation, this spark. I feel very inspired right now to go for the things I want. Not at work, where I’ve been forced to spend my time lately, but in other areas we like to call “life”.

I really do miss being able to invest in myself. I want to write. I mean take a class and figure out how to really write this story I can’t seem to start. I want to sing with a big chorus. I want to swim. I’m so interested in learning Spanish and starting a business and dabbling in investing. I want to read all these books and get involved in projects like sewing and painting and sketching. I want to try yoga and belly dancing. I want to try so many things — and I want to do them all for fun. Not to check them off a list. Not for competition. Not to please others. Not for weight loss. Not on a deadline. I just want to live.

I used to be full of life. That’s what attracted T to me. I used to be multi-dimensional, but trying to prove myself as worthwhile has made me boring. I want my dimensions back. I want my boldness and fun.

T and I have some boring responsible stuff to take care of over the next month or so, but after that, I’m bustin’ loose. Zee stick is leaving zee arse.

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Week 45: Cutting the Cord.

November 9, 2010 at 7:16 (Uncategorized)

My mother came into town to meet my fiance’s parents for the first time. The meeting went well, but my time with her alone was the most interesting I’ve had thus far. Isn’t it funny how you grow up and then past your parents and still remain codependent to them because you’re afraid to be more or different than you were raised to be?

I know you probably don’t agree. I’m sure you  became your own person long ago. But any time you don’t put yourself out there, consider why. Any time you hold on to fears, avoid risks, hold on to bad habits, continue doing what is not good for you or stubbornly refuse to pursue what is, recognize that what holds any person back is the comfort with the old way and a lack of familiarity with the unknown. And the unknown is simply what we didn’t experience or weren’t pushed to experience as children. It’s not rocket science that people would decide not to fix what’s not broken. But that’s exactly how we don’t challenge ourselves to think differently, and it’s exactly how old patterns get repeated. And man are they hard to break.

Through my parents’ patterns, I experienced narrow mindedness, judgment, haughtiness, anger, selfishness, avoidance, anti-social behavior, seclusion, anxiety, fear of “different” and insecurity. I’m really just realizing now how much of my life I spent becoming, trying to become or pretending to be this person.

It’s goooooood to separate myself. It is really good. I’m happier already  feeling the momentum of  the big ship finally, finally turning itself around.

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Week 44: Free Bird

November 1, 2010 at 7:16 (Uncategorized)

It goes without saying that happiness is defined differently by each person, and so it’s quite possible someone could feel alone in a city as busy as Chicago. That’s been me, lately. I’ve felt restless and lonely, but I know better than to blame it on Chicago. If anything, I’ve been a bad citizen to Chicago lately. I’ve ridden the bus in pitch black, looked at the sunrise beginning over the lakefront, sat in my office building, left it at pitch black and returned home on the same bus. I’ve cleaned my condo and gone to the Target. I really have become detached from my city in the past six months, so it’s no wonder I feel uninspired by it.

Whenever I start to feel like I’m drifting like this,  the thing that always draws me back is music. I’ve been feeling the pull of choral music, lately. To me, lending my voice to a chorus is the most fulfilling thing I can be a part of. Fronting a blues band, acting in musicals, singing a cappella and singing lead in a band have never been comfortable fits for me. They’re always someone else’s version of me, and I feel like I have so many other opportunities for people to tell me what to be in life that singing is where I should really be able to let myself fly.  The greatest music for singers was written to fill a huge concert hall without restraint, and I’m craving that again. I haven’t done it since I was 23 or 24, but I’d say that’s probably when I really lost myself to begin with.

Work is busy and life has its responsibilities, but everyone has to have something all for themselves. I feel extremely fortunate that my greediest, most personal, most joyful activity is joining my voice with other people’s. I can say with much relief that even though money is tight, if I can squeeze out some time, I can definitely afford to be happy.:)

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Week 43: Vacation, All I Ever Needed.

October 25, 2010 at 7:16 (Uncategorized)

We spent the weekend in Nashville for our friends’ wedding. And I saw what I always see when I’m on vacation: How I love gaining a different and renewed perspective above all else. I never would have gone to Nashville, for example, if it weren’t for our friends C&S. That’s something to recognize as we halt and alter and stretch and re-scope and  bastardize our wedding plans in pursuit of the perfect scenario that pleases all.

C & S come from religious families but had their wedding in a music joint in Nasville. They did it their way, with vintage  clothing, a gritty and sparse setting, BBQ from down the street and friends playing music all night. If they had done it any other way — how their parents’ envisioned, in a way that would have made it better or easier for anyone else, whatever that means, or just traditionally — it just wouldn’t have worked. And I don’t just mean for them. Yes, they wouldn’t have been happy — and trying to please others doesn’t necessarily mean the others will be happy, either, as I’m learning. But it’s more the benefits they afforded all of us because they made the occasion about them; not about us. It was one day to see things from a perspective other than our own. Some people I know are long overdue for that awakening.

Going on vacation gets you out of your head and your rat race and your routine of a life and freshens your perspective. Doing a mundane thing like attending a wedding in a completely different way from what you’re used to can evolve and develop and grow you, too. It’s something I hadn’t considered when trying to make everyone happy: That they might actually benefit more from not getting what they expect. That doing what they want isn’t necessarily the right thing, nor is it in line with my beliefs about what it means to be a good friend, family member or  person any more. I think that if they decide that they can’t make it or won’t stand for it or that they’re only content with things a certain way, it’s their loss. And it truly is.

When people say the wedding is ‘about you’, I now interpret that to mean ‘we’re coming because we want to be a part of who you are and what you share together. We’re happy for you — who the two of you are. We want to experience that and celebrate that and draw from that and feel good about that.’ And maybe, unspoken, is the hope and expectation to learn from that and take more than a cheap trinket home with them. It’s bigger than that to them.

And in the spirit of bigger than that, my marriage is bigger than all the pettiness that is going around, too. It’s more than support I want for T and me, although even that seems hard won. It’s deference for our beliefs, personal preferences, religious backgrounds, spiritual values and approach to OUR family and future. It’s not about us being the center of attention or waited on hand and foot, but it is about allowing the moment to emerge naturally where we come into our own. About no one standing it our way. It’s about bearing witness to what happens without control or expectations, which is how our love came about in the first place.

It’s about letting us be. It’s about letting it happen. It’s about letting us be happy.

It’s about me letting us be happy.

It always is.

I need to figure out what  I want and start changing everything else. Already, I know I need more vacations.

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