Response to Is “the clock” ticking?

Thank you, everyone, for your comments and your stories. I love it that you are sharing and I hope that you will want to continue to respond with your stories, thoughts and feelings.

There are some common themes in our thoughts, it seems…strength, trust, faith.

We make the decision to follow a path…yes, that’s the first step. But the hardest part is actually then choosing to follow through. It’s hard to follow through because others will judge, we will face challenges, we will face the chain of decisions that follow the initial decision. We’ll probably face loneliness, if we’re going against the grain. We face doubts and then fears. And THAT’s when we need faith. One would hope to have faith in the path that they’ve chosen…faith that it is the right path and that it will bring fulfillment.

If we don’t have complete faith in the path, maybe we’ll have faith in ourselves, in our sense, to know when to turn back or fight on. If we don’t have faith in that, what is left? For the ones who are spiritually inclined, there is having faith in the universe…that the universe is a place of goodness and that it will conspire to help us on the path (The Alchemist).

The Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture, has a message that I find helpful when I feel like I’ve lost faith (in almost everything). The key in life is to do your best, fight your hardest, get off the fence and be brave…but relinquish the fruits of the battle. The victory, the prize, even the success should not be the goal. The battle you forge, the Process, is where the growth lies. If you divorce yourself from the hunger for a specific fruit, a specific outcome, you make yourself an open vessel to be filled with endless possibilities.

We cannot control outcomes…this idea solidifies, I think, the older we get. We waste so much time and energy, chasing after castles in the sky.  My good friend Barbara always tells me, “Try, Shiva, for once, to explore living in the unknown.” We can’t imagine all that could be in store for us…if we would just let go and make room for those things to come.

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Is “the clock” ticking?

It’s always been interesting for me that of all the 613 mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah, only 3 (THREE!) are considered chovah, mandatory for a woman. The commandments are split up into to general categories, commandments that time restricted and commandments that are not. The Mishnah (the compilation of Jewish oral laws) explains that women are not required to fulfill laws that are time-restricted, and they may voluntarily choose to do the laws that are not time-restricted. This leniency is granted because of their constant demands, children, the household, etc. Requiring them to do all time-based laws would be unrealistic.

Isn’t it fascinating? For a gender that time is so much of the essence,  Judaism decided to give a break on exactly that issue? Women are not bound by time!

As I grow, as a woman, time is becoming more and more of an issue. What do I want to do with my life, when do I want a family, how will it all figure in, if I do this now how will I become successful, if i wait will I be able to have kids and raise them as I want to…it’s actually quite terrifying. I know people, friends and family who have gone through fertility issues, first and second marriages, first and second careers. Culture and society, obviously, play into this a lot. It’s more acceptable now to put off having kids, to pursue a career and make professional success a priority…but is it? I am sandwiched between modern culture and the modern orthodox (Jewish) culture. I would say that at least 50% of the people I went to high school with are married…and that is a conservative estimate. So am I late? According to a woman in our community I am; she once told me, “Nuu, come on, when I was your age (22 at the time) I had 2 kids!” Ehem…

Yeah, it’s a different generation, but different, in a big way, in that it is confused. Mixed messages are all around. Teen pregnancy, divorce, adoption, motherhood at 65, in-vitro at 25. We know we have options, but how can we hear our own voice over all the bantering, all the suggestions, all the PRESSURE?

It’s about perspective…objectivity to be precise. At the end of the day, time is an illusion. At best it is a social construct. “Norms” don’t entirely exist anymore, as far as I can see. I think as a woman who struggles with expectations, ambitions and guilt, the first and healthiest thing one can do is to just throw that clock away all together. It is a hindrance to creativity and a burden. We/I need to always remember that the world is wide and age is a number. This is not to say that one can just float like a dandelion seed  to wherever the wind blows. My point is that life is not about reaching checkpoints in a timely manner. It’s funny, that game “Life” that we play as kids is just like that. You get a job or go to college, you get married, you buy a house and have kids…but we need to remember, that’s just a game. It’s not the real thing. Forget the checkpoints. The only way to have peace of mind is to be efficient in whatever it is you are doing. Live. Whatever you are doing, do it with purpose, with mindfulness and with love.

Once in college I went to career guidance to talk about and plan graduate school. I came into college as a naive, sheltered (very sweet) observant girl from a religious high school. I asked the career counselor, “so how does all this figure in if I get married? How do people balance?” She gave me this funny look as if to say, “You got plans to get married, hunny?” And she said, “I…wouldn’t PLAN around marriage. You do your thing, and if something comes up like marriage, then you fit it around what you are doing.” It was SO incredibly important that I heard that piece of advice.

I think the moral and my message are first, as I said, throw out that old clock. It’s meaningless, a waste of time and causes the secretion of unnecessary stress hormones (bad for the skin). As a woman I know I need to be mindful that I am living for myself and not for a mold or a norm, imposed by others or even by myself.

Just look for a minute at the mystical aspect of things: The soul is timeless, isn’t it? So what is age? A number…not more. And we all have as much time as we want to have…we are as free as we allow ourselves to be.

Chag Shavuot Sameach :)

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Fragments of a Whole

A new generation emerges today; it is the result of a extensive, perhaps global, melting of, let’s call it “identity”…National, Social, and Gender identities. It is as if we have become fragments of lands that we came from, lands that we’ve passed through and lands that we carry in our names, our genes and our stories. But these are fragments, and if one were to gather all these fragments they would find that they don’t  come close to constituting any recognizable, identifiable whole. Who are we? This question and the horrific silence that threatens at the end of it is the Reason we don’t regularly dare to make sense of the fragments we carry.

Are we carrying the fragments or are the fragments carrying us…making us? And if we are to venture saying that we are made of the fragments, then we are fragments. We are fragments. We are fragments? Am I not a whole? Do I not come from a whole? Or have I been so shattered, by what forces let me dwell on later, that while I was once whole, now I am not and can never be again.

There are philosophical, theological and scientific premises that may help quell the rising flames from the paragraph above. Let me entertain some of these…

One premise is that we are all shattered fragments of God, a supremely Whole being. As a pieces of a shattered glass mountain all maintain the molecular properties of the original glass whole, though they may be fragments at present, each piece contains the essence of wholeness at a molecular level.

Another premise is a tenet of physics, the law of conservation of energy. No energy in the universe is ever consumed or created. All energy is perpetuated by flowing from one form to the next.

One more premise to weigh in is that each day, each breath, each moment is a new creation. Nothing remains unchanged. Thus what we know to be a unit, a whole or an identity in one instance will inevitably change in all subsequent instances. If we are to fully embrace this concept of eternal and constant change, we will then also embrace the idea that many fragments bunched together can create a new type of whole, a hybrid, perhaps. If one allows for a fusion to occur, then he or she has allowed for creation to take place. This creation, like all creations, is whole and pure of essence.

And thus we are not fragmented and lost, but rather we are unified and new…found, even. Perhaps we are raw, but never disadvantaged.

Let us then be fearless in examining what we’ve become. The one thing that is absolutely true, and I will paraphrase from what I have learned from Deepak Chopra, is that the state of things at a given point in time is always just as it needs to be…each instant and each state of being is one of balanced perfection in the view of the universe. (I don’t take that idea lightly – I know that it entails both pleasure filled states and states of morbid, senseless suffering, simultaneously. However, I have said that we must be fearless in this mental trip that we are taking…it is meant to be a voluntary trip.)

I would like to think about all the different, seemingly fragmented pieces that make us the whole that we are…let us all open and see the pieces we are made of…examine them. How big are the pieces, how small…what part or parts of us do they constitute and how do they interact and affect one another. Do they all fit together? And if they don’t, is there a way, any conceivable way, we could find that they would fit?

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