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Hi, loves. 🌿
Happiest New Year to you.
Today, I’m revisiting a (slightly amended) post I wrote last Rosh Hashanah. I was surprised to see, a year on, that it still captures so much of what this season brings up. Sent with love. x
I have the sense that I'm not the only one losing track of, well, most things these days. Many, many people. Entire cities, appointments, commitments, dinners I’d planned to cook, books I’d meant to read, texts I’d earnestly wanted to answer (how are you? and you? and you?), whole swaths of reality. Weeks have gone by and I think: oh dear God, I meant to check in! Or as one of my dearest friends from Vienna used to say: I’ve lost the plot.
This is now my favorite expression. I’ve lost the plot! Indeed.
When my daughter was not even yet two and we lived abroad with no family or old friends within a continent’s reach, I remember writing a note in my phone one particularly trying afternoon: Does the feeling of emergency ever go away?
I was overwhelmed by the sense that we rarely got through a week without something happening and it upending whatever semblance of routine we were frantically trying to create: a virus sweeping through the daycare, a major scheduling conflict, a marital argument that stretched over days, many sleepless nights that blurred the mornings that followed. I lived in a shoulders-to-the-ears/jaw-clenched state. When everything was running smoothly, we got by fine. “Fine” really being the operative word; it always felt a little like holding on by something only a little thicker than a thread.
My husband and I were newly married; we had a small baby; we were in a foreign country where I could barely speak the language. We truly had no idea what we were doing most of the time. If we were doing fine it was actually quite something. Impressive, really. But when one piece fell out of place?
That’s not exactly how everything feels right now, but it’s also not so far off. I don’t need to say that the world feels much scarier than it did then, when Obama was still president and hurricanes weren’t yearly nightmares and we hardly knew what a pandemic was and democracy wasn’t in tatters on the floor. Our lives are much fuller and more complicated than they were with a toddler who napped every afternoon and was happy playing with dried beans on the floor of our kitchen while I made dinner. There is something lonely about being far from home but also sort of liberating: you make a simple life out of three wonderful friends and a beloved babysitter who becomes like a little sister and free healthcare and by crossing your fingers.
Now we have (endless) Covid (is the pandemic over, Mr. President?), the stripping on reproductive rights, climate disasters everywhere. It is impossible to ignore the way the world is no longer only coming apart at the seams but actually leaking into every facet of our everyday lives: flooding subways and whole cities, burning down towns. Along with my actual exhaustion—because has anyone really slept soundly in years?—I feel an existential one, too. A friend told me about going to see her primary care doctor, finally, after almost two years and both of them admitting to the other that they were sort of depressed. Yes, I thought, maybe that’s it. A low level giving up, a shrugging of shoulders—but only briefly because how dare we let our guards down and get Covid (again?) or let our cities burn to the ground or let the Republicans take the house or let go of democracy forever! Get off your ass and do something!
Today is Rosh Hashanah, Day Two. For the last few years, thanks to a friend who put me onto it, I’ve been doing something called 10Q. Over the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur you answer questions about your year: Describe a significant experience that happened last year. Describe an event in the world that impacted you. Have you had a particularly spiritual experience this last year? Once the ten days are up, the vault is closed and you don't see them again for a year, your answers in a proverbial bottle out to sea.
My answers from 2020 are unsurprisingly short. Noa was home and in school. I was teaching on Zoom from the dining room. We were stuffed into the apartment for hours on end with little escape. (Have I mentioned that our flat is open concept?) I didn’t give myself much time to reflect.
Some of my hopes, however, came true: Biden became president. We got a vaccine. But it’s my answer to the last question that gave me pause. What’s your six-word memoir of life during Coronatime? I wrote: This is really fucking hard and
I’m so intrigued by that “and.” I knew, somehow, that it needed to be there, that a period didn’t belong at the end of “hard” where it had every right to land. Yes, admittedly, I was trying to get to six words. But there was, in fact, an “and,” wasn't there?
At that time I was going to my friend Ali’s backyard every Wednesday evening to drink homemade cocktails and make calls for Biden; I was making sourdough alongside my friend Nick and trading tips; I was making cookies and delivering them to Jay and Sandy; my parents Facetimed Noa every morning from their lockdown in Montreal; I was teaching groups of women that sustained and inspired me; I was suddenly having monthly Zooms with my best friends from college; I was doing my best to flatten the curve by staying out of the way.
The “and” felt like that old improv adage: yes and! You’re in the middle of an improv skit with someone and they decide you’re in Antartica searching for buried lemons? Yes and! You cannot deny their reality. You need to work with it, to add onto it, to build the world, this new creation together. Collaboration: the only way through.
Isn’t that what we are doing now, still, years on? Living in the “and.” Searching for whatever hope is still here. Acknowledging the pain while, still, in spite of it all, and for our children and their children, reaching for the light we’ve not yet seen?
L’shana tova, loves.
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