Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Oh, The Choices We Make In Living Our Lives

As a means of updating and full disclosure, I just returned from three weeks in Israel with family and friends and my annual pilgrimage to the Shalom Hartman Institute. I have so much I want to share from this wonderful two-week seminar and will do so in later posts. I also want to continue to share thinking from Malcolm Gladwell’s important book, Outliers, and my present reading of an amazing book called The Sacred Hoop by Paula Gunn Allen, which also has SO MUCH to teach us all as we peek inside another cultural context and heritage, that of the American Indians and their Feminine focus. This will be done. Finally, I have been forced out of the school I created, Solomon Charter School, and this is definitely a topic for another time. It was horrible but I always allow the objectivity that the passage of time allows before reacting, so for now we will leave this at rest. As for me, I am returning to consulting, curriculum writing and am trying to get more teaching at the University/Graduate School level so please keep that in mind if you hear of anything. I am continuing to focus on the beauty and lessons of Jewish texts, the importance of inclusion and acceptance of all, and new perspectives on difficult and complicated challenges in our lives. Most important, my family and friends are generally doing well and we are all healthy, and this is what must be kept in mind in the face of daunting challenges to our professional lives and other aspects of our existence that we hold dear. Now for the subject at hand – how we live our lives. Years ago, we were in San Antonio, actually for many different CAJE conferences through a period of about 20 years. We loved to go to this fair held annually at a large museum campus in which senior citizens displayed their woodworking, fabric art, weaving, cooking, musical talents and so much else. In Texas, there is this program where adults in their FIFTIES (which I am about to exit, EEKS!!!!) are encouraged to take up hobbies, you know, that second career we all dream about in a talent area from which we may have been discouraged as young adults because “you can’t make a living doing THAT.” But the State of Texas learned something significant and has an important lesson to teach us all. What you may not be able to make a living doing MAY JUST BE the trick to keep living in an active and purposeful manner later on. These 80-somethings and 90-somethings and others… are vital, alive, active and TALENTED!!!!!! I think of them often these days. You see, my parents are 89 (dad) and 90 (mom). They are not cut of the same cloth as those amazing older citizens in Texas. I have pleaded with them for decades to have hobbies, interests and to pursue something outside of work, kids and house. They did not! And now they sit, angry, hurt and feeling like life has passed them by. It is sad and painful to watch and yet I am powerless. Oh, we make the two to two and a half drive back and forth from Baltimore as much as we can and spend time with them and try to entertain them. My siblings and cousins are also there as much as possible. But they basically sit and look at each other all day and I just feel the boiling point of their individual and collective anger and frustration at the injustices of life reaching a most dangerous point. I know my children are so affected by this as well. It is not easy to see or explain. And yes, as my husband Ken keeps reminding me, I am realistic. Why should they change habits that have taken 89 and 90 years to develop? Is it even a possibility to think that this can happen? I look at Betty White, my friend Susan’s 101 year-old mom - Yetta, my amazing Aunt Sandy, some of the retired Rabbis I see at the Hartman Institute who still come and learn, and other wonderful examples of aging and living. I am sad that I cannot count my parents in those numbers. Maybe they would have fared better if they lived in Texas. So, Ken is 60 and I am not too far behind him. On one hand what a scary thought. On the other hand, I never understood the 50s and am quite sure the 60s will not compute either. I am still working, running, cleaning my own house, swimming every chance I get, I WALK A LOT when I am in Israel (my friend counts15,000 to 20,000 steps a day on her pedometer, I suspect many days I am not too far off that number!) and I CANNOT SIT STILL (like my father’s sister, Aunt Sandy). I KNOW I feel differently and act differently than my parents did at my age. To be fair, I know they each faced difficulties in their life that are part of the equation. That being said, I suspect and know for a fact in many cases that this is also true for many of us. The blessing we give each other is that we should live until the age of 120. Personally, I love Deepak Chopra’s idea of living until 200, and by then they will figure something out. In the meantime, I am living today as I hope I will live years from now. Oh, and that hobby --- well I love sewing, want to go back to playing piano and take an art class. What are you planning to do? Let’s share.