Inside my head…

Holidailies 2012Tonight’s entry will be very short, because frankly, I forgot about it until the last minute, but also because a repeat of last night’s would be a snooze and sort of depressing to boot.  So, I’ll just say this…

Trying to find strength and inspiration where I can find it and that can often be from the most surprising places.  I’ve sung the praises of Facebook before, but I’m still amazed at how my virtual community manages to lift me up when I most need it and distract me from my own worst self.  From encouraging reminders to keep the fear at bay to private messages with job postings to pictures of kittens (who doesn’t love pictures of kittens) to fierce games of Words with Friends, sometimes it’s just one small thing that gets me out of my own head.

Today was pretty rough, maybe rougher than yesterday, but it ended okay.  It ended with a phone call from a friend (thanks, Sue), laughter, and cats playing patty cake.  Hopefully tomorrow won’t require the silly video, but it’s good to know that it’s there if I need it.

Ups and Downs…

Holidailies 2012Inevitably, after there are ups and ups, come the downs.  Today, after a weekend filled with activity and all kinds of good things, I woke up pretty down.  And then I found out I didn’t get the job that I had the interview for last Thursday.  Frankly, I wasn’t holding out a great deal of hope for that job, but it still hurt to know for certain, because the job itself would have been really great.

Unsurprisingly, I dealt with it in my usual way.  I napped.  And I woke up and felt a little better, and then my mood crashed again, and I started to feel hopeless.  I’ve been applying for jobs, I’ve been interviewing for jobs, I’ve been practically promised  jobs and nothing has panned out.  It beats you down each time it happens.  I’ve widened my search, I’ve lowered my expectations, and still, nothing doing.

I wallowed a little bit more and then I decided to go back to someplace familiar.  I had that interview in April in California, for that really promising job at a company that I really, really like.  It didn’t work out because they went with an internal candidate who they promoted.  I then interviewed for yet another job with them in August and that one didn’t pan out because hiring me would have frankly been a leap of faith, since there was some supervisory experience I was missing and they then found a candidate who had it.  But the VP told the recruiter that he didn’t want to let me go.  My response was, “If you don’t want to let me go, then find a job for me.”

So, tonight I went back to their website and saw another job for which I’m qualified.  I know it’s at a little bit of a lower level (and hence a lower salary) than the last one for which I interviewed, but I was really excited that there was a position available again and as I said, I’ve lowered my expectations.  I need to be working.  I would like to be working for a company that I like and I know that I really like the culture of this one.

So, I sent an email and I said as much.  And I asked them to consider me.  I put it out in the universe.  I’ll continue to apply for jobs and I’ll continue to hope that the perfect job, with the right salary, and the right people, comes along, but I’m trying very hard to keep myself open to possibilities that will at least get me back in the world of work.  This could be a good place to end up.  Since they knew where my salary was before, I’m hoping they’ll still consider me.  A good job, in a place with people I like, with a salary that isn’t what I wanted, but far more than my unemployment, would be a good place to start.  I’d just like to get in the door.  And then I’ll figure out the rest.

So that’s where I stand now.  I hope that it pans out.  I hope that I can keep my head up and keep fighting.  Otherwise, I’m just not sure where I go from here…

Merry Making…

Holidailies 2012My dear friend Sarah has a holiday party each year and she goes all out.  The thing is I usually miss it because I’ve already left to go down to Florida.  So, a benefit of being here this month is that tonight I got to celebrate the holidays with Sarah and her eclectic group of friends.

When I say Sarah has a holiday party, it hardly does it justice.  Sarah cooked a full buffet dinner, two entrees, a half dozen side dishes, and a half dozen desserts for a group of about 40 people and brought all of that food from her kitchen in Brooklyn, to an upstairs lounge in Midtown Manhattan.  There were decorations, there was music (a finely curated mix of holiday tunes from her vast collection), there was dancing, there was conversation, there was laughter (there was also a gorgeous bartender, but I digress).  Mostly, though, there was a kind of warmth that’s hard to describe.

Sarah is one of those people who is a natural at creating communities of people.  Some of the most interesting, talented, and wonderful people I know in New York are because of Sarah.  And they are all so different.  And tonight was an opportunity to catch up with many of them who I hadn’t seen in ages.  And it was an opportunity to relax and let go of day to day concerns and truly enjoy what it is this season is really about.  Laughter and joy and dancing and chatting and reveling with friends old and new.  That Sarah not only managed to put such a shindig together, but to look fabulous and be the life of the party (with the dancing and the dancing and the dancing), and never for a moment seem tired, is slightly awe inspiring.

It’s satisfying to end a weekend of wonderful, happy, good things and to be back in the thick of it at a time when I’ve been struggling to feel a part of the world again.  It made tonight’s festivities just that much better.  It’s yet another moment when I know that I’m very lucky and that despite my bristling against all that new agey, groovy, ethereal shit, believe that people come into your life for a reason (and it’s not just so they can throw great parties and you can eat your weight in brisket and chicken marsala).


On a day well spent…

Holidailies 2012I’ve been spending an awful lot of time lately talking about how difficult it’s become to  fill up my days meaningfully while I’ve been unemployed.  Well, thank goodness for December.

Every year, the month of December becomes a headlong rush towards the new year, with too much to do and it often feels like I’m hurtling forward without the ability to slow down and enjoy it all.  But, I figured that this year, because I’m not working, I have more time in my days and therefore everything won’t feel so crazy rushed.  Only partially true.  I still am the mistress of procrastination and things get done at the last minute, so today happened…

Earlier this week, I was invited to participate in the Holiday Artist Market at 25CPW Gallery today, to be part of a table of four artists from the West Side YMCA Artworks program.  Of course, I felt like I needed to make some more earrings, to replenish my stock and so after I got home from the pottery studio last night (at about 10:30pm) I began to work.  The thing is, when I get into an ADHD hyperfocus groove, time seems to pass without my realizing it.  The next thing I know, I looked up at the clock and it was 5:30am.  By the time I got to bed it was 6am, so, I slept for a grand total of 3 1/2 hours.  Oops.

Got up, got dressed, ran over to the Artist Market and set up our table for a 12pm start.  Each of us took a shift (mine began at 6pm), so I ran home, ate a quick lunch, changed clothes and then met up with my friend Oona to go to the theater.  My wonderful bestie, Genevieve, bought tickets for us to go see Grace on Broadway at the matinee this afternoon (thank you, Gen!)  Unfortunately, she couldn’t make it to town this weekend, so Oona went with me.  It was truly wonderful, not just because the show was so great (it really, really was), but because after, we got to go backstage and spend some time with Ed Asner in his dressing room.  Ed and my mother have been friends since he was a young, unknown actor in New York City, and she was an assistant casting director at CBS.

He and my parents stay in touch and see each occasionally, usually when Ed is in Florida performing, but I hadn’t seen him since I was 18 years old and he was starring in the pre-Broadway run of Born Yesterday in Boston.  He got me a house seat and then took me out to dinner.  So it was truly lovely to see him 24 years later, after a wonderful performance in a great show and to have him be just as I remembered — funny and foulmouthed and effusive and feeling like family.

If that’s all the day had in store, it would have been enough, more than enough.  But the day continued on and after a quick coffee with Oona, I headed to my shift at the Artist Market and spent the evening talking to interesting people and looking at some fantastic art, and even selling a few things along the way (thanks Oona and Moe-Swe!)  It went longer than originally intended, but there was terrific live music and it felt like just the place I needed to be.

But the downside of so much good stuff in one day (and so little sleep) is that I am overtired and overstimulated, and decided to skip a friend’s holiday party in Park Slope (sorry, Liz, hopefully next year!) that I really wanted to go to, because I’m practically useless at this point.  This post is happening partially because I promised myself that I would not miss a single Holidailies this year, but also as a brain dump to help wind me down.  And it’s happening on fumes.  When it’s done, it will be lights out on the Upper West Side.  But before I end up unconscious, I just wanted to reflect on a very good day, after a strange and sometimes difficult week.

It’s good to be busy again…

Guns do kill people…

Holidailies 2012I’m sick and tired of the NRA’s ridiculous argument.  It simply abdicates any responsibility for the fact that the more guns that are out in people’s hands (and often in the hands of those who should never have them) the more gun violence exists.

The fact is, the easier it is to get a gun, the easier it is for them to be used in the perpetration of violent crimes.  Certainly, there are other ways to commit murder, say, for instance, with a knife.  But knives don’t allow distance from the act of killing. Knives are personal and messy and inefficient. They require you to get up close to your victim.  They give your victim more time to respond and to fight back.

The likelihood of a knife-wielding mass murderer taking out a movie theater full of people or a high school or an elementary school full of children is practically nonexistent.  Of course someone determined to cause mayhem will often find a way, but high powered automatic weapons make that mission far easier, especially when there are few limits placed on the ability to procure such a weapon.

Yes, people kill people, but weapons, and guns in particular, make that act far easier.  There are those among us who are mentally ill, who are angry, who are prone to violence and rage.  There are those among us who in the heat of a moment will wield a gun to feel powerful or frightening or even funny.  But, imagine how different the outcomes of many gun crimes would be if those people had not so easily gotten their hands on that weapon.

The right to bear arms should not mean the right to bear arms without any legal restrictions.  The right to bear arms should not mean that high powered automatic weaponry should be available to the public at large.  The right to bear arms should not mean that it’s easier to get a gun than driver’s license or allergy medication.

For those who say that making sure more people are armed (like security guards) would prevent such episodes as today’s school shooting in Connecticut, I point you directly to the tragedy at Fort Hood.  A military base, full of armed and trained personnel, and a single man wounded 29 people and killed 13 others.  More guns is not the answer.  The answer is that we should make it more difficult to procure them for those who would do ill.  (The answer is also that we need better, more affordable mental health care with less stigma attached, but that’s a whole other rant.)

For now we need to grow up as a nation and recognize that the wolf is not at the door, we are not living in revolutionary America, where the threat of freedom means we should all be armed to the teeth.  We are a modern, civil society and we need to acknowledge our culpability in the gun violence that surrounds us and take action to mitigate future tragedies.

Small Pleasures…

Holidailies 2012And now a fluffy post to balance the downers that have preceded it.

I make it no secret that I am a voracious consumer of television and movies.  And although my movie theater viewing has been curtailed severely over the last year (THIRTEEN DOLLARS IN NYC!), looking at the upside of unemployment, I have a lot more time to feed my movie and TV habit and I’ve taken full advantage of it.

So, tonight, a list of some of my favorite TV and movie viewing of 2012, including (unsurprisingly) some guilty pleasures (but don’t think I actually feel guilty about them).


Best in the Movie Theater

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild – one of the most beautifully rendered and delicately acted movies I’ve seen in a long time.  Part fractured fairy tale, part modern commentary, all heart and soul.  Highly recommended!
  • Lincoln – There’s nothing that I can say about this that hasn’t already been said.  I’ll just marvel again at how Daniel Day Lewis disappears into every role he inhabits and how he most certainly IS Abraham Lincoln.

Best from Netflix/Amazon/Video on Demand – Documentary Edition

  • Marley – It doesn’t hurt that Bob Marley’s music is part of the soundtrack of my youth, but this wonderful documentary delves into the many layers of his life and music and is so rich with never before seen footage and conversations that I will likely watch it again.
  • The Queen of Versailles – Expecting a movie that mostly pokes fun at the wretched excess of wealth (particularly the nouveau riche variety), this documentary about the rise and fall of Jackie and David Siegel as they embark on a quest to build the largest (and tackiest) house in the country, was at turns, funny, sad, pathetic, and always deeply fascinating, especially in light of the way David Siegel chose to interject himself into the Presidential electoral process this year.

Best on TV – Zeitgeist Edition

  • Homeland – I mean seriously, who isn’t watching this?  I don’t even have Showtime and I manage to watch it, every single week.  Replacing the first season of 24 as the crack cocaine equivalent of TV viewing.
  • The Newsroom – Come to think of it, this has a strong standing in the crack cocaine equivalent of TV competition too.  The best that Aaron Sorkin has been since the very early days of The West Wing, maybe even better.  And so timely and so smart and so much more enjoyable than the actual news!
  • Scandal – as far as I’m concerned, Shonda Rhimes can do no wrong.  Grey’s Anatomy may not be what it once was, but it’s still on my regular viewing list. However, for a political junkie, conspiracy theory, thriller loving girl like me, Scandal is the ish!
  • The Walking Dead – Totally in withdrawal and it’s been just over a week since the midseason finale.  Bloodier and better than ever, this show (and its companion commentary show The Talking Dead) make Sunday night the best of TV.  Currently consoling myself by reading the comics from which it was created.
  • Sons of Anarchy – Never fails to be violent and bloody and shocking in the best possible way.  And fearless in its narrative decisions, even when it means killing off beloved characters. (RIP Opie!)
  • Revolution – Give me a smart, engaging, post-apocalyptic series with a fascinating mythology and you’ll have me at hello!

Best of TV – Another Country Edition

  • Twenty Twelve – Mockery of the London Olympics in the style of The Office?  Starring Hugh Bonneville?  Yes, please!  Though the series was limited, it’s brilliance looking at the absurdities of office life, elevated to the world stage is absolutely HILARIOUS!
  • The Hour – Called the British Mad Men, resemblances end at dapper costumes, lots of cigarette smoking, toppled stereotypes, and high quality storytelling, BBC News has never been this interesting, in a 1950s set thriller about TV journalism.  Series two just started on BBC America and I can only hope there are more episodes than series one.  Love it!
  • Downton Abbey – Shall I just say, Duh?  Even the theme music makes me happy.  Some of the best period drama to ever grace the small screen as far as I’m concerned.  Series three starts on PBS in January and I’ve managed to restrain myself from seeking it out on the ITV website and wait for the US premiere (though I do quite enjoy watching “adverts” from the UK.)
  • Copper – Gritty New York City set tale of rough and tumble policemen and Tammany Hall politics. Think Gangs of New York with better accents, a more attractive main character, and a distinct lack of  Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • Being Erica – The final season of my favorite, hip, smart, Toronto singleton figuring it all out (while traveling back in time to revisit her choices).  Sad to see it end.  Erin Karpluk, you need a new job that will treat you as well!

(Note: I may or may not have watched some of the above on their home country broadcast websites via a beautiful technological invention that allows me to be in those countries virtually while never leaving my living room)

Best of TV – Teenybopper Edition

  • Girls – Okay, not quite “teenybopper,” but I’m far enough away from my early twentysomething angst that it almost feels like it.  That said, hilarious, smart, awkward, and not all shined up for glossy TV viewing.  Lena Dunham is the real deal.
  • Dance Academy – Soapy, sweet and a dancer’s smorgasbord, I discovered this Australian show about aspiring professional ballet dancers on Netflix and cannot wait for the next series (and if it doesn’t happen, I may be crushed!)
  • Teen Wolf – Not your mother’s Teen Wolf (nor mine either).  MTV has brilliantly taken a goofy, 80s comedy about a cute dude (aww young Michael J. Fox) with a werewolf curse and turned it into a moody sci-fi tale of teenage angst and ruthless killers, plus it co-stars Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica‘s Saul Tigh) as a grizzled loose cannon (shocker!).  What’s not to love?
  • Awkward! – If Square Pegs and My So Called Life had a baby, added edgy humor, serious snark, and lots of bleeped profanity, this would be it.  You’re Welcome!
  • Bunheads – Sutton Foster.  Dancing.  Small Town Hijinks.  Snappy, snarky dialogue.  Yep.  I’m in.

Best in Guilty Pleasures

  • Breaking Amish – Probably not a moment of “reality” in this reality show, but it certainly fed my fascination with religions and subcultures.
  • Man vs. Wild – discovered thanks to my sister and nephew and devoured in multi-episode Netflix marathons filled with mockery from the peanut gallery. Plus Bear Grylls = adorable (though slightly insane).
  • Intervention – What is it about watching alcoholics and drug addicts spiral out of control, have their families rally around them and then turn their lives around (or not)?  I guess I love a good redemption story.
  • Investigation Discovery – Yes, pretty much the entire network.  I’m weirdly obsessed with true crime, and I guess since there’s a whole channel focused on it, I’m not alone.  Mostly, though I love 48 Hours Hard Evidence, Dateline on ID, On the Case with Paula Zahn, and Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?

Looking forward to in 2013

  • SMASH – The return of my theater fangirl favorite!  The addition of Jennifer Hudson!  And locations shoots at the Westway Diner!  And singing and dancing and Broadway show geekery!
  • The Following – Serial killers, cults, Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy.  I’m in!
  • The Americans – 1980s set tale of KGB spies who are the All-American couple next door.  And it stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys.  Again, I’m in!
  • Mad Men – Though it may not be what it once was, I’m still a sucker for Don Draper and company.  Awaiting their return. Oh when, oh when will it be?

Tomorrow we’ll likely return to our regular navel gazing program.  But until then, enjoy…

Shaken and Stirred…

Holidailies 2012“When people show you who they are, believe them.”  I think I need that tattooed on my brain.

I’d say that in general I have pretty good instincts about people, but I have also been known to give some of them the benefit of the doubt far longer than I should and far longer than they deserve.

So, today, when someone who I spent several years making excuses for did something that I knew long ago he was capable of, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.  But, even though as soon as he spoke to me, my gut knew what was coming next, I was still surprised when it happened.  Even after I called him on it and he completely and transparently lied to my face, I was surprised.  I was hurt.  I was angry. And I let it happen.  I didn’t do anything to protect myself.  And that made me even angrier and I turned it in on myself.  This person is no longer a significant presence in my life, he’s barely a blip on the radar anymore and yet I let him shake me up and upset the calm I’ve been cultivating.

In the aftermath, I shared the details with several people who it affected directly (actually, more directly than it affects me in the long run).  They too were outraged and not a bit surprised.   They reaffirmed my feelings and helped me diffuse them, but the episode left me shaking with rage and it took a good couple of hours to calm down and stop reeling from what had happened.  I think the lesson is finally learned.  I only hope I don’t ever have to face it in this particular way again.

Please excuse the vagaries of detail in this post.  It’s done to protect the innocent (as well as the guilty). I’ll just leave the guilty party with some advice:  When your job requires you to be Ethical, you sometimes have to act above simple self-preservation and do the right thing, even if it’s hard to do.  Maybe start with a dictionary and look up the definition of the word ethical, and then read a book or two about how to practice being ethical.  There are hundreds of them in the library down the hall from your office.





Today the “I don’t feel like facing the world” voice won.  I had intended to go grocery shopping and get a couple of other errands done, but instead I never left the apartment.

On the other hand, I did apply for about a dozen jobs.  That’s a positive, though, and I count it a good day when I get that much done.  And I’ve been feeling pretty good about the job search, with some positive stuff coming up, including a job interview on Thursday for a job I’m really excited about (and hence terrified of the interview process).  But, there was this other job that I interviewed for last week for a pretty cool start up.  The salary was lower than I really want (or need), but it was a good opportunity and an interesting job.  I felt pretty good about the interview and the founder told me that she liked me, thought I’d be great, and wanted me to meet with their investors, probably this week.

And then today I got an email from the other person at that startup who interviewed me, and the news was crappy.  They are going with another candidate, thankyouverymuch for your time.  I handled it pretty well, I think.  I sent them a response, thanking them but telling them that I was surprised and disappointed because they had told me they wanted me to meet with their investors, and that I would have been an asset to their company, but I wished them well.  I was a grownup about it, which I think they probably need there, since, seriously, you don’t tell a candidate that you are going to have them meet with your investors and then have one of your underlings send a “thanks but no thanks” email.

And you know that unintentional napping I tend to do?  I did it.  Only, it wasn’t unintentional at all.  It was completely intentional.  It’s not because I’m just so tired (though sometimes I sleep poorly), it’s because it’s a coping mechanism.  I don’t often acknowledge that, but it is.  I shut down emotionally and I go to sleep.  I guess there are other, far worse ways to handle something like this, but there are certainly far better ways to handle it too, like say, for instance, taking a walk or going to the gym, but today that didn’t happen.

But, I’m going to forgive myself because as these things go, it’s a relatively gentle way to escape, I had gotten some good stuff done today, and I woke up feeling better.  Plus, tomorrow I have the opportunity to do it differently.  So, while I’ve had many a day that felt like one step forward and two steps back, today at least felt like two steps forward and one step back.  Net positive, at least as far as setbacks go…

Uphill Battles and Small Victories…

The conversation begins in my head before I’m barely aware I’m awake.

What am I going to do today?  Can I just sleep a little longer?  What if nothing at all happens?  I have to get x, y, and z done.  I don’t feel like it.  I’d rather sleep.  I’d rather surf the web.  I’d rather post on Facebook.  I’d rather do almost anything other than wake up and face the day.

I promised myself that today I would start exercising regularly again.  My friend Yalitza agreed to walk with me in the park, and I figured that having someone to walk with would be the outside pressure I needed to keep myself honest.  Of course my first instinct was to find a way out of going.  I’m nothing if not resourceful when it comes to making excuses and letting myself off of the hook.  I’m tired. My back hurts. The weather’s crappy.  I have nothing to wear.  I don’t feel like it.  Instead, though, before I lost my nerve I called and left a message to see if we were still going and what time.

When I got a text message back, asking if we could start on Wednesday, I was happy to be let off of the hook. But maybe because I’d eaten a sensible breakfast, and had gotten it in my head that today was the day, I thought maybe I’d still go.  And then I spent the next several hours changing my mind.  Back and forth.  I should go.  I’ll go tomorrow.  I really should go.  I don’t feel like going.  What path am I going to take if I go?  It would be better if I had some company.  No, I’ll go.  Nah, I’ll do something else now, and then go tomorrow.

I started to beat myself up for not following through.  And then I got a text message from my friend Julie in Florida that made me happy and sad all in a matter of minutes.  Happy to hear from her and sad because I won’t get to see her this month.  And I started to spiral, feeling sorry for myself, and I thought, nope, not going.  But, I realized that I had to put a couple of letters in the mail today.  It had to be today.  And if I had to go out anyway, I might as well go for a walk while I was out.  I knew it would make me feel better and stop the spiral or at least distract me for a little while.  And so I put on my workout clothes and my running shoes.  And while I was at it, I put some quinoa in the rice cooker, so I’d have something healthy to eat when I got back.  I grabbed my iPod and my keys and started heading for the door.  And then I heard the tink, tink, tink of the drizzle hitting my air conditioner and I knew the rain was coming.  But, I still had to get to the mailbox and I was still dressed for a workout.  So, I grabbed a bottle of water and my membership card, and I went to the YMCA after dropping off the mail.

I walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes.  The first time I’d done that in many, many months.  The first five minutes were great.  The middle 15 minutes or so sucked (as they almost always do), since the conversation in my head continues unabated, even with some of my favorite music blasting (Barenaked Ladies).  I can stop now.  At least I did a little.  It hurts. I’m sweaty.  It’s hot.  I should just stop now.  But I didn’t.  I kept going, and the last five minutes (plus the cool down) were pretty great.

Afterward, I came home and felt really tired but in the best possible way.  And I felt proud of myself because despite the worst possible opposition (me), I did it.  I spent 30 minutes doing something that without fail makes me feel better, even as I fight against it tooth and nail.  And I didn’t need someone else to go with me or to keep me honest.  And I didn’t need for the situation to be perfect.  I just needed to go and do it and shut the hell up about it.

And so, on the other side of today’s war inside my head I’m thinking about how exhausting it is to have that ongoing conflict happening.  To let a thousand little things derail me at any moment and to give up and let myself spiral and wallow simply because I can.  It uses an extraordinary amount of mental energy to fight myself and my worst instincts.  It’s a ludicrous exercise that could simply be circumvented by waking up, getting dressed and going for a walk or going to the gym.  Or at least waking up, getting dressed and knowing that I’m going for a walk at a specific point in the day and not letting the argument even begin.  Because, fuck you negativity.

I consider it a minor miracle that I got out of my own way today and I’ll take it as a win.  And I need to continue reminding myself that arguing with someone irrational (especially when it’s me), is a surefire way to lose every single time.


Why? Because it’s a tradition…

So far this year I haven’t talked at all about the holidays in my Holidailies posts.  Part of that is because I’ve spent the past week climbing out of a hole of pity to focus on the good things and the things I appreciate and the things I need to do for myself, which has been really important for me.  However, some of it also has to do with the fact that for the first time ever I will not be spending part of December with my parents and/or siblings in Florida.  And it makes me very, very sad.  But, it’s my reality this year and that’s really all there is to it.  Sitting with it and being a little sad, but setting it aside to focus on other things…

I’m not religious, but I do strongly identify as Jewish.  It’s not about religiosity for me, it’s just about who I am at my core.  The values I was taught, my secular and religious education, the heritage that surrounded me, my family, the history of the people who came before me, are all an integral part of who I am today and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  But, when thinking about my relationship with Judaism, there are some things that resonate particularly strongly.

My freshman year of college I took a philosophy class called “Science and Religion” with Professor Robert Cohen, who was on both the Physics and Philosophy faculty.  By way of introduction in our first class, he referred to himself as a Jew by tradition rather than belief and that made a lot of sense to me.  In a conversation a short time later, I shared that statement with my father and he agreed with it, going a little further in his own inimitable way and saying, “I don’t believe in god, but who’s more Jewish than me?”  And it’s really very true.  My father is about as Jewish as they come, but a true believer he is not.  On the other hand, I have my mother, who is on the Board of the synagogue and is the only reason my father ever steps foot into High Holy Day services each year.  My mom lights Shabbat candles every Friday night and is the keeper of the flame (pardon the pun) as far as Jewish traditions go in our family.

I have a Jewish education that goes from kindergarten (I went to a Jewish day school before I went to public school), through Bat Mitzvah, through Confirmation, through Post-Confirmation (high school graduation).  I have a minor in Judaic Studies, two years of college level Yiddish and did my senior thesis on Yiddish Film.  I think it’s fair to say, it’s in my bones, in my heart and in my soul.  I’m Jewish.  But belief in a deity?  Not so much.  And even if there is a god of some sort or stripe (or many), all of the divisiveness and hatred that’s been created in the name of religion is so not what god (or God or whoever) had in mind.  But, I digress…

I come to this post because as I was lighting the Chanukah candles tonight and said the blessing, as I watch them flicker even as I type this, my heart is full and I have a great sense of peace.  Because it’s not really the reasons why as Jews we light candles and say a prayer (one day’s worth of oil lasting eight days…a miracle!), that is the significant thing for me.  It’s what it evokes.  I use a menorah given to me by my mother.  I use candles, cobbled together from the many Chanukah care packages she’s sent to me over the years.  And I light the candles and it reminds me of every time I’ve ever done it before, most often with my family.  The words in my mouth as I say the prayer feel just right.  The smell of the burning wax, the glow of the candles as they burn down to nothing.  It feels exactly right deep down and essential to who I am.

So, this Chanukah I’ll light the candles each night and I’ll say the prayer that I’ve said so many times before and I’ll watch the candles burn and I’ll think of my family and of my friends and of millions of people around the world doing the same thing and I know that my Judaism is part of something far bigger than me, but also only mine.

Why do I light candles for eight nights?  Because it’s my tradition.