Monday, September 28, 2009

God Is A Verb

Monday night at stately Brooklyn Baby Daddy Mansions. The Brooklyn Baby Mama is asleep, the Brooklyn Baby Baby is also asleep. The cats are both asleep, with Cromwell on our bed. I tried to sleep, to make the picture complete, but insomnia is a patient and persistent mistress.

Today was Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of Atonement. I don't know how much actual atoning I accomplished, but this was the general idea. We had a very Brooklyn Day of Atonement, it seems. Woke up this morning at 6:30 a.m., earlier than I like, because the baby was crying, bawling really. I tried to rock her back to sleep, but it was no good. So I took her down for some breakfast and watched her eat. After a little while Randi woke up and we got ready for temple. On Yom Kippur there are a lot of things you're not supposed to do: not wear leather, not bathe, not brush your teeth and not eat or drink. The idea is to be a little uncomfortable. I did them all this year.

As we drove to the temple Stella fell asleep, and here's the Brooklyn part, we couldn't find any parking anywhere. Then we realized that if we woke her up to bring her into temple she would probably just cry a lot and run around. So we drove home, and fed her some lunch. Then we went to the playground and she ran around. It was about noon now, and both Randi and I were very cranky. There was some kid running around in a sweatshirt that had a hero sandwich on it, I was like, dammit kid, stay out of my line of sight.

We tried to get Stella in for a nap, but she wasn't having it. Then the idea was to make the 1:30 family service. As we got back to the Duplex Randi passed out stone cold on the couch and Stella was never further from passing out in any way. I decided to try and make the service with just the kid, and see how it goes.

I drove back to Park Slope -- which is five minutes away -- and this time found some parking. We then parked our MacLaren stroller outside the temple (which was really a church borrowed for the occasion by our Jewish group) with all the other MacLarens. We made it inside and Stella even sat in my lap for a minute before getting up to run around. I tried to keep her on a short tether, but it wasn't going to work. I gave up and we went outside. I called my friend Dan to see if he was around and he was. So I walked the two blocks, more or less, to his apartment and we spent a few hours there with him, his wife Becky and their son Abe, who seven and a half months old.

After driving back home we finally broke the fast at 6:30 and it was delicious. We got bagels from this place called The Bagel Hole, which might be a stupid name but they have the best bagels anywhere. We also had lox, cream cheese, of course, and some Kedem grape juice. A very Jewish meal. I wasn't even all that hungry by fast-breaking time, which is how it seems to go with me. I get very hungry around lunch, but if I can make it past there I can fast, it seems, for another day. One day I would like to try that, see how it goes. Maybe even lose some weight the old fashioned way.

So, not necessarily a whole lot of atonement going on this year, but still, Yom Kippur does make me think about a lot of things that are important. One is this idea of trying to ask forgiveness, literally from everyone you know. Even people whom you might not have knowingly offended just to be sure. This is a good idea, a good thing. So, readers, I'm sorry!

Another is that in Judaism the most pious people and the most wicked all repent together, and say the same prayers, and ask for the same forgiveness from god. Showing that we truly are in this all together. Through effort and work you can repair your bond with god, but no praying can repair your bond with other people. That can only happen through effort. I have thought a lot about people I know, and whether I've given them my best. Friends, family members. I am bad at returning calls, I have gotten more closed off, and have not made the efforts I used to in order to connect with people. A lot of that is, of course, having a kid, but this is life and as much as these people might need me, I know I need them more. I don't feel like a whole person when my relationships are put on the back burner too much. Without this contact life is much harder.

I also think about community work and charity work. Every year I think it would be swell to take part in a canned goods drive, or do more to help the environment -- thus literally working on the commandment to heal the world. I can do more.

I also realize that there is one person whom I never forgive, no matter how much I think about it. And that's myself. When I look in the mirror I mostly see my failings, the things I haven't done, the work I haven't completed, the ways I've fallen short. I beat myself up a lot, in ways I never would were it another person. With other people I am very forgiving, I understand, I know that they deserve to be given a break. I almost never do that with myself. Instead I measure myself in ways that are so arbitrary. I see people who look happy, who look like they're doing the types of things I would like to be doing, and I imagine that if only I were more hard working, more honest, more gutsy, more, more, more I could be happy like them. But I'm only me, indolent, afraid of so many things, with a shortage of foresight. That's the way I see myself on many days. I don't know how I started to see the world like this, but it's not healthy and I need for it to stop. For one thing it's self indulgent. For another thing it's not constructive. Action feels good, worrying, not so much. Also this fretting violates the commandment to be joyful, which is truly why we were put on this earth. And I think it's unfair that I've made so many of my friends into my therapists. The truth is I like hearing other people's problems more than admitting my own. I think I'm better at it, sympathetic, but over the past year, at least, the tables have turned too far in the other direction.

Also I am worshiping false idols, in this case what I imagine other people have that I need. This is not rational. Because we are all human. We are all weak. We all fail in important ways. We all let ourselves down, and others. There is not a one among us reading this blog, or writing it, or anywhere, who are only happy. Or only unhappy. I am guilty of reducing complex human interactions, which are so rich because they are so varied, into a four color comic strip. I worship an idea that has no basis in reality, and the idea is always something I can't have. So, in a sense, to feel like a failure based on my imagined insights into other people's lives is to be guilty of covetousness and, as mentioned, worshiping false idols. It also is extremely passive. God is not passive. God is a verb.

All this is to say that in 5770 I need to atone for many things, and for my actions against others. But I also need to atone through action. Participate more, act as if I am part of a community that matters, and be more insightful and understanding with myself. Be my own friend, which I've never really been. Can you be your own frenemy? Well I have been. And that is not what we are here for.


Holly said...

"Can you be your own frenemy?" What a great way to think of that. Lots of food for thought.

David Serchuk said...

Hi Holly,
Thanks for the kind post! And I hope you guys are adjusting to life with the new one.