I recently began to question if the work I am doing is not the work that cultivates a life that makes love to the world?
Lately, I have been wondering...if, all of those years ago, when I wanted to study writing for the intrinsic purpose of expressing myself...when I wanted to be an actress and a dancer just for the intrinsic purpose of letting my body be alive with my art...why did I allow myself to believe my father when he said that this was not enough? I can't remember why or from where it became so important to be externally recognized as having intrinsic value through high-reaching achievements. Then, when I buckled under all of this pressure and said that I wanted to be a teacher or maybe a veterinarian, why was it intolerable to think that I would be anything less than the President of the United States? "Why be a nurse, when you can be a doctor?," my father always liked to say from his soap box. Through the tall barrier walls, which I have erected in my adulthood to protect myself from my father's extremely contagious strain of self-loathing, I have recently heard from one of my field officers that I am "a source of shame and disappointment" to him for not finishing my Ph.D. before my 30th birthday. Funny how I seem to have constructed my life around the fear of not being someone's shining star. Even more ironic is that I have perhaps managed to melt my own wings in this sardonic endeavor of self-sacrifice.
A week ago, the rabbi made a rather interesting declaration on the phone. He stated that he realizes what he must do in order to be a source of support that will give me what I need to share my love with the world. According to him, I have so much love to give. Also according to him, he recently came to the realization that he sees himself as a part of this...this...love-as-something-greater-thing that involves...me. Who knew? He knows I "feel it" but I don't "completely believe it...yet". With that, he had to get off the phone to meet a friend for dinner, leaving me...and my soft bellied larva brain to spin fine webs of shiny silk...(from my ass, of course. Apparently, this is where all great things reside, including my own head.)
So, I have been thinking about it. Thinking a lot about it, actually. I have been thinking that having the rabbi come into my life re-awakened me to all of those wonderful, creative dreams I have always had to do great things of love in my life in small ways. When the rabbi and I began talking very seriously about making a life together, I am sure his intention was to scare me away with all of the talk of roles and responsibilities that I would have to assume as "the rabbi's wife" in our future community. Instead, I immediately started thinking of all of the incredible stuff that could do in this capacity...like teach mom and daughter yoga classes and meditation for teenagers...and really dive into kabbalistic integrative healing...and write children's books, inspired by our really awesome, super nutty kids...and come up with a gluten-free recipe for matzah ball soup...
The Jewish tradition of "tikkun olam", or repairing the world, is one of the many aspects of Judaism, which has endeared me to this tradition over the years. The act of "mitzvot", or doing good deeds for the intrinsic value of improving the world has always been something that I find particularly meaningful. For me, it is a way of connecting the spirit of the world through the actual practice of putting good energy into it. There is a purpose for the mizvot, and one of the purposes is to give human beings a sense of purpose. And yet, as I consider the high-reaching impetus that my father deeply embedded in my psyche--Why date a nice Jewish boy, when I can date a rabbi?--I start to wonder if I haven't been obscuring my original sense of purpose with unrealistic visions, warped by my childish inclination to believe that there really is a high-reaching shelf to which I must use my brain power to climb in order to achieve the prize of happily-ever-after? Because, let's face it, this just doesn't exist.
In a way, I guess I was hoping that building a life with the rabbi would give me the foundational excuse to break away from the trajectory of my academic life and begin to explore a new path of my ever more exotic and enlightening intrinsic interests. But the reality is that these interests of mine were there before the rabbi came into my life, and, really, it is my choice to explore them or not. It is time for me to accept that achievement does not mean over-achieving, and the self-fulfilling insecurities placed in my head from my father need not apply. I don't need to be the queen of yoga in order to be a damn wonderful yoga instructor. For that matter, I don't need to be married to the rabbi to be a really fantastic human being who goes out into the world as a Jew and builds her own "community of awesome".
...So, I have decided (once again) to take it all in, but focus on one thing at a time. First, this is the year of Ph.D. (simply because I'm too stubborn to give up). Next, will come yoga teacher training. Then, who knows, a book or something...ok, lots of books...although I have a feeling that I am going to dabble with painting....
...Maybe a house with happy people. Definitely a garden with fresh basil and mint. A porch swing somewhere, on a big porch for social gatherings. A brick fireplace with real wood. A room with books and a writing desk. Kids. Friday night family dinners. Quiet, peaceful Saturdays.
But I am getting ahead of myself. For now, peace, tolerance forgiveness, exercise and patience. (I am already tenacious enough.)