The High Holidays provide an annual chance for us to examine and correct our behavior as we enter a new year. And for writers, they provide an annual chance to write about every aspect of the holiday. Since I haven't written in this space for a while, I wanted to share some of the pieces I've written about this season: some of them have borne the test of time better than others, but I find it interesting to revisit them and maybe you will too.
But first, my entry in IKAR's annual writing/reflection challenge - this year, we were charged to think about hope:
As an adult seeking hope, I think about many things. What I can do easily. What's realistic. What's a challenge, but still attainable. What is beyond my reach. I've never been one of those "if you put your mind to it, you can do anything" people, because I cannot win a Nobel for science, compete on American Ninja Warrior, wear white without spilling on myself, fly without fear. And then there are the wild cards that muck about with what’s possible. Fate. God. Destiny. Illness. Murphy’s Law. The Universal Random. Other humans.
Some people suffer and give up, while others cling to the smallest hope. When I suffer, hope usually hides behind a piece of emotional baggage while I track down and recite my mantras: that things will get better, that help is out there. I find some comfort in the Evening Prayer’s natural imagery, of night rolling into day and day into night, darkness to light and light to darkness, that there is a cycle that we can rely on, for better or for worse. This concept is important because we all face the danger of believing that a moment is forever: being in tune with gravity grounds us in a harsh, or sometimes helpful, reality.
I try to put hopeful things out there in the world. Last year, I wrote a piece for the Jewish Journal about empty apologies, noting that, "When words are hollow, they nevertheless contain a space of potential at their center." To this year's me, that sounds impossibly optimistic, but still rings molecularly, idealistically true.
I have three nieces and two nephews. Every once in a while, their eyes fix on me with a look of awe, marvel, appreciation. And when they see it, so do I.
In cultivating hope this year, I think two things may help. The first is to always see ourselves as those who love us see us. And the second is to cultivate a spiritual, and physical practice of hope and kindness. If we can use words to create the muscle memory for behavioral change, then perhaps we can use hope to create the muscle memory for optimism, whatever form that optimism takes: prayer, a hand extended, a heart opened, or letters that become words that can - if we are are lucky - reach the people who need them most.
This year, I also did a video about Rosh Hashanah resolutions.
Other readings (two of which feature the phrase "in the age"):
- Apologies in the Age of #SorryNotSorry
- Coping with Loss in the Internet Age
- Casting Call: A Tashlich Meditation
- Things Not to Say to Mourners (and some things you can do instead)
- Courting Forgiveness: An Al-Chet for Singles
May you have a meaningful fast and may this year be full of many blessings, including health, love, happiness and abundant hope.