One of the reasons I am entering an education-centric field is because I that working with kids exposes you to the wonder with which they see the world. Everything is fresh and new to them, each new discovery about how our world works (big, small, completely unimportant – it can all fascinate a child) is a source of amazement and wonder. Kids are not cynical, and everything is up for grabs, up for questioning. While teaching them can be exhausting and exasperating at times, being around this enthusiasm can be contagious. It forces you to look at the world through new eyes, to rediscover your own sense of wonder and curiosity, which is a fantastic feeling.
One of the things that never ceases to make me wonder is how intricately our bodies work. When you get down to learning biology and anatomy, and you learn just how many things have to go right, coordinate, fire, sync, release, contract to make even the smallest movements, it’s impossible not to be filled with wonder. It’s hardly surprising then, that one of my favorite prayers within the Jewish morning liturgy (shacharit) is the Nisim B’Chol Yom – for daily miracles. The italicized notes in my Mishkan T’Filah journal have summaries of the things we give thanks to God for each morning. In order, they are:
- The ability to stretch
- For rising to the new day
- For firm earth to stand upon
- For the gift of motion
- For clothing the body
- For renewed enthusiasm for life
- For reawakening
- For being in the image of God
- For being a free person
- For being a Jew
- For purpose
- For harmony
I am not a morning person, and I am a long way from being able to pray coherently or meaningfully upon waking, but I try and keep these general sentiments in mind. It’s not always easy for me, particularly as someone who has struggled deeply with feeling betrayed by their body due to chronic health conditions, but when I find myself feeling upset or frustrated with my body and it not doing what I’d like it to be doing, it helps a great deal to have the words of this prayer flit through my mind. When I’m focused on appreciation and wonder for life, and for my body, my perspective shifts and I feel more able to move on psychologically and spiritually, which of course helps physically. Our lives and our bodies are wondrous things, it’s just hard to keep sight of that sometimes.
I am very much a glass half-full type person, and I find that life is better when I learn to look for and appreciate blessings all around me. And really, truth be told, I don’t have to look far, because the number of ways in which I am blessed is somewhat astounding. In a “pinch me, I don’t think this is real,” kind of way. I have friends who are like family to me, I have a family who loves and accepts me, I have a partner who truly is a partner in every sense of the word and stands by, unwavering in his support of this journey even when it doesn’t necessarily behoove him to do so, I am about to enter a profession that excites me and fills me with enthusiasm, I have my health back after a long struggle. It’s amazing how richly blessed I am, if only for the fact that something makes me laugh and smile each day.
So how does this all relate to blessings, other than the obvious?
Well, I’m a strong believer in the idea that what you put out comes back to you – maybe not immediately, but eventually, someday, somehow, we all get our just desserts. How tasty those desserts are depends on (I believe) the kind of person we have been.
This is a powerful thing to think about during Elul, as we try and take stock of ourselves and prepare to make amends. If we are honest with ourselves and truly try and change the less desirable parts of ourselves, or even frame things from a more positive standpoint and aim to do more (be involved in acts of chesed, step up our tzedakah giving, or work more earnestly in pursuit of tikkun olam), we send more good out into the world. And positive things multiply. To quote Dar Williams, “it echoes, all over the world.” And more good begets more blessings. And everyone ends up happier. And if the world is a happier place, maybe we have accomplished an act of chesed and come one step closer to repairing the world as we are commanded to do. And that is truly a blessing.
I decided to start this blog after my latest meeting with my rabbi, which happened this afternoon. I’m a writer by heart, yet my writing voice has been strangely absent as I take myself on the path of becoming a Jew and finding my Jewish soul. I started trying to write a blog just after I began my conversion process (in December 2011), but I felt uncomfortable and uneasy at the thought, and so took refuge in an older, long-neglected online space that felt safer. Today, however, I feel inspired to begin chronicling my journey in a somewhat public fashion, yet with the comforting cloak of relative anonymity. If you’d like to learn more about how I found myself on this journey, you can read more on the about me page.
The other motivation for creating this blog is because my rabbi has asked me to reflect during the month of Elul, which leads up to the High Holy Days in September (this year), which is meant to be a period of introspection and thoughtful reflection as the new year and the day of atonement (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, respectively), approach. As it happens, last night I came across the #blogElul challenge hosted by Ima on (and off) the Bima, otherwise known as Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. The challenge, which I want to set for myself, is to blog each day on the theme of the day. If I feel so inspired, I may also try and add photographs, though I’m not on Instagram, so cannot take part in the #Elulgram.
The themes I will be blogging on are as follows:
My hope is that this month of blogging proves to be fruitful, inspiring and thoughtful. Let’s see how it goes.