Saturday, March 08, 2008

Making Love to the World; תיקון עולם

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 that 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 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.)



I-66 said...

When you say "kids"... you mean adopting Asian babies right?


VJ said...

Wow, that's some interesting stuff. Hope springs eternal, but it's good to hammer out what you can on the academics front while you're on top of it. It never gets any easier. But this coda is what I think of as hopeful; "peace, forgiveness, exercise and patience". Not even wishes for Oprah either. (She's busy right now too with another 'O' venture). My vote? Integrate what you can as you can. But get the necessary things done first. The world can wait a bit longer. Loving as you are where you are always starts within. Then the journey can better progress further outwards.

Dad's truly a trip though. Behavioral genetics is nothing to sneeze at either. So yes, 'awesome, super nutty kids!' And yes, any academic can tell you that Clotho spun that stuff from anal glands. Worked with it, all day, everyday. But you knew that already.

Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Kim Ayres said...

There's something in this that reminds me of something I wrote a while back called "The Messiah Complex

It's based around the idea that somehow I'm supposed to be out there saving the world, but nobody ever handed me the intruction manual.

I can see I'm not the only one who's been hit with this kind of thought :)

VJ said...

Well yeah Kim, and sometimes if they're lucky, happily (mostly) this is a self fulfilling prophecy too. But if we disentangled all the deep psychological motives here, we'd need a bit more time (years) & space. Suffice it to say that it's not an uncommon thought, and it can be useful in parts. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

Namaste said...

66--I promise to pull an Angelina on you one day. Promise.

Kim--So very interesting that you bring this up. The rabbi went to see a psychologist a couple of months long ago, who told him that he has this so-called messiah complex, and that if he had not chosen to be a rabbi, he would have just as easily become a cult leader or social predator. Ha. Doesn't this make you rest better at night knowing that your spiritual leader is just like the rest of us? The rabbi later related to me that this same psychologist (who has never met me and had known him for 20 minutes) said that our relationship was about "two mutually-reinforcing egos" and not love because we "lack foundational substance". So, yeah. Kind of makes you wander what this psychologist would be if he wasn't already an asshole...Hmmm...This really leaves me wondering what pill the FDA would prescribe for all of us who reside on this side of the light saber?

VJ--As always, you make me smile, amigo, as only you can...

Guy from the Bus said...

For the record, my dear, you do have a glorious ass. It is nice to see what you are spinning these days. ;)

Restaurant Gal said...

Little by little, I have silenced the echoing voices that constantly sang the "Why aren't you good enough, doing enough, being enough?" tune. That song was my lullaby, my family march, and my alma mater fight song. Its source was the step father, a pain-in-the ass sibling who now mimics the step father, and a host of arrogant others who didn't have a clue. I have to laugh when I think about what any of those voices would sing to me now!

WiB said...

I hope that the title says the same thing in Hebrew, because then it's like a bilingual palindrome, and I just think that's cool (assuming that I remember correctly that Hebrew, like Arabic, reads right-to-left).

Given the definition of mitzvot (and is there a difference between that and "mitzvah"?), I would argue that the work you're doing is precisely one that makes love to the world. You're teaching. You're shaping young minds, and while you might not be the source of their sense of purpose, you're certainly helping to refine it, nurture it, and further it. I'd be hard-pressed to name a more intrinsically valuable activity than teaching (medicine is a close second, but someone has to teach a doctor what to do).

And for the record, you're a walking community of awesome.

Anonymous said...

"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."
That is perhaps the rudest thing I've heard in a very long time. I do hope you informed him where he could put that shame and disappoinment! And perhaps remind him that this is your life not his, to be lived by YOUR plans and goals not his! Okay now I'm all fired up and want to go tell someone off. Hears hoping someone gives me the opportunity today...haha!
Please don't let other ppl manipulate you into living by their plans for you. And don't worry so much about having value to others. From what you've shown here, helping others makes you happy. So just do what makes you happy. You are the one who has to live the rest of your life doing whatever it is you choose to do, so by all means, choose something that will make you happy, make you feel alive, give you purpose and a strong desire to get out of bed in the morning and get to it. Too many of us are doing what we have to because the bills need paid, we aren't doing what makes us happy. If you can do both, then do it, do it to the best of your ability, and be happy about it! The little things that help others everyday means so much more than the one or two "big things" attempted to make up for living a selfish life.
Tell the voices from the past, the "I know what you need to do for your life" controlling voices of the present to all shutthefuckup, your future is yours to do with as you please.


Alan Ward said...

I much agree with Mia on that one.

"I don't need to be the queen of yoga in order to be a damn wonderful yoga instructor." Too true. Maybe the reverse is more relevant -- can someone who has spent years building up him/herself know much about building up other people? A queen of X may have been too concentrated on herself, too little on others.

This is _not_ your case.

VJ said...

"The rabbi later related to me that this same psychologist (who has never met me and had known him for 20 minutes) said that our relationship was about "two mutually-reinforcing egos"..."

I wanted to state for the record that if any LTR (friends etc) is Not about "two mutually-reinforcing egos" you'll never quite get to the love & "foundational substance" part. What ever that last bit is. (All the extra pounds after so many years? What? 'Foundation wear?!)

Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

Namaste said...

Dude, VJ...I know! Now, I want you to think how long it took me to call "BS" on that one. Not only highly unprofessional, but just...wrong! The rabbi agreed that this was a rather brash overstep, and simply insulting. Yeah...