The new year begins on Spud’s birthday and I am pouring over my balance sheets. I am doing my annual medically recommended pot-free week this week. Last year after a few days I got pretty agitated and shaky but I didn’t fall apart. My OB put me on Wellbutrin to alleviate some symptoms caused by amok hormones. I don’t much like it and it messed up my pot dose, which is always iffy anyway because there is no standardization of medical marijuana. Since starting the antidepressants I have felt alternatively completely tolerant to the pot and at other times quite over medicated. I’ve been encouraged to continue the Wellbutrin for another month at least. Given this, I am more relieved than anything to be doing my pot fast, although this is being written on the first morning. By the end of the week I might resemble Ray Milland in the Last Weekend.
Nevertheless, pot or no pot, I try to go into the high holidays with an accurate inventory and a clear focus. Last year our house was in shambles and my father was dying at Cedars. This year we are finished remodeling. While there are still sad moments, I have tons of happy memories and think I have adjusted pretty well to being fatherless. I never remember being as thankful as I’ve been these last few months but I feel obligated to recognize and try to eliminate all the interference I run that prevents me from feeling and/or being worthy of my wonderful fortune.
It is difficult for me to remain calm. It is difficult for me to remain focused. I am too vulnerable to what I perceive people are thinking about me when usually they are not even thinking about me at all. I am blessed to have a husband who I love and who loves me. What makes me loveable to him is pretty much what I value in myself so I am at least in a relationship that is conducive to bringing out the best in me and that nurtures my aspiration to be better.
Earlier in the year I had an epiphany that led me to “divorce” a relative who seemed for my whole life determined to make me feel small. Although I was raised to believe otherwise, after fifty plus years, I am beginning to learn that my love and attention are an awesome thing. Connections ebb and flow but sometimes, out of force of habit or that sick need to be loved NO MATTER WHAT, I wake up to an accretion of red ink. My sister debased herself in the quest for love again and again. I don’t yet fully understand the “it” of the family legacy but I do see in myself the tendency to look to others to fill an emptiness which is really mine to fill by cherishing the flawed and funky person I have become. I strive to experience the pureness of love and not to, although it seems the propensity of my legacy, worship false idols.
I want to be sure that my emotional generosity comes from a true place and builds equity. I also struggle with a shameful selfishness. I visit my mother nearly every week, although she really has no sense of time. She is in a good facility but even the best facility cannot mask the ravages and stench of dementia and after over two years of weekly visits, entering her “hotel” has grown no easier for me and I often develop dry heaves and nearly vomit. I cannot bear, for even a minute, the place to which I have consigned my mother for the rest of her life. I whisk her out on Saturday afternoon and feed her something and get her a decent cup of coffee but I am unable to make any human sort of connection with her. I cannot get her back to the hotel soon enough and every week, I kiss her goodbye and say “I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” which is simply a lie and she will be left for another week in the charge of the hotel caregivers who are kinder and more patient than I. The happiest moment of my week is when the security door shuts and she is inside and I am outside.
People like my kids and often go on about how neat they are. I try to remember what it was like being nearly 13 and nearly 16 and I have this vision of being a perfect, empathy exuding mom. I fall so short. Sometimes they try to engage me in conversations about things that interest them which I find boring and instead of trying to figure out from them why they are so interested and to get to know them better, I just grunt and pretend to be listening. There are topics I remember being particularly sensitive about as a kid but this doesn’t always inform my communication with my own boys and sometimes I wound them in ways I swore I never would. God help me not fuck up my precious kids too much.
I have mixed feelings about attending high holiday services. The kids don’t like it. Himself doesn’t much either. Because of the congregation’s kindness to my family after my father’s death, I volunteered, but haven’t had the balls to tell Himself yet, to provide lunch on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. It will be a lot of work but enormously appreciated and I cannot think of a more fitting use of my new kitchen, which, so much like myself, was in shambles last Rosh Hashanah. I’m sure Himself will recognize the rightness of this and be his usual sweet supportive generous self. Or at least bow to the inevitability of public shaming here if he is less than a stellar sport. I drift in and out of the service and alternate between squirmy bored and high and moved. I have become one of those Jews I used to diss who only goes to shul on the high holidays but I’m not a high holiday Jew. The day of judgment metaphor runs heavily through the days of awe and the God that presides is the one who sits in judgment. My God is flexible and multitasks and in addition to judgment, renders comfort and love throughout the year. High Holiday Jews only get that single dimension and while I don’t achieve it with regular Shul attendance I strive to stay connected to the force that is everything and at its most awesome, nothing.
I strive, as the year ends to be better and more honest and closer to God. I have missed the mark often in this year full of blessings and I hope to honor the grace I’ve been blessed with by living more gracefully. Atonement is the theme of the Days of Awe. We pound our chests, not just for our own shortcomings but for all the Jewish people. I extend that to the peoples of the world. I will pound my fist against my heart for the sins of greed and intolerance, which with this week’s news of the economy and the Middle East, seem beyond forgiveness. I miss the mark as a wife and mother and daughter and friend and citizen of the planet again and again. Perhaps it’s hubris but I believe, even in a world that attests, with each day’s news, to the impossibility of this, that my prayers matter.