1: Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?
On January 19th, I left home early. We had an off-site meeting that had increased stress-levels for the last two weeks, and I looked forward to coming home that night and not having to think about what more needed to be done tomorrow. I picked up my laptop in case we had to access materials for the meeting and rushed out the door.
When I pulled into the driveway that night, there was a police car parked in front. I walked in the front door to see my mom’s red puffy eyes and our house in chaos. The officer was taking down my mom’s statement.
That day, someone decided to slide open the window on our enclosed patio. To shatter our sliding glass door. To enter our home. To walk quickly, grinding the shards of glass into our wooden floors and carpet. To steal heirlooms passed down from the time of my great, great grand-mother: wedding bands, 16th birthday necklaces, anniversary earrings. To take laptops, desktops, DSLRs, my high school ring, money from my tzedakah fund. The house and car keys from my parents’ room. Gift certificates from the Christmas season that were waiting to be used. A stack of bills with our names and addresses. My mother’s shotgun. My Shabbat candlesticks and Kiddush cup.
When I walked in that afternoon, I wanted to have the same response as my mother: overcome with a sense of violation, upset, confused, tearful, wondering what else, what more we could have done to prevent this.
But I could not. I had to be the logical, rational one. The one that said to call the insurance company. To get dinner. To notify my father and uncle. To specify the clean-up process. To notify the banks. To call an alarm company.
My mom didn’t sleep in her room for weeks. We scrubbed her room as though it were our kitchen before Pesach. And only then, when all possible traces of the criminal could be vanquished, did she return to it. Her sense of trust, of humanity’s goodness, of the privacy of her own home is gone, and only now slowly beginning to reappear.
I feel anger. Not because I had to “be the parent” in this situation—the shock is larger when you discover something yourself. Not that the shotgun was later recovered on a parole search of some Norteno thug’s house, meaning we have no idea what evil this gun was used for. Not that I will never get to replace my class ring, nor that my children or grandchildren will never wear the garnet passed down from the 1850s on my mom’s side.
But that scum like this gets to live. It is probably for the best that no physical evidence was left behind. I would have no problem shooting this person through the heart. The damage you caused was more than the $40,000 in goods you took. I do not care that this is not a Jewish response.
2: Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you’re especially proud of from this past year?
It’s never easy breaking someone’s heart. But, when you realize that they love you more than you love them, and when you realize that the future you would have with this person is not at all the future you want for yourself, it becomes necessary to stand up for yourself and to release the person from an unbalanced relationship.
I wish I had had the guts to do this earlier, to be honest with myself that it wasn’t working for me, as much as it was working for him. I adored him, but in the way I do younger cousins in my family. He was 10 years behind me in life experiences. He had communication and emotional issues to work through. I knew this when we got together, but I guess I got comfortable.
What I learned is that you can be in a comfortable relationship because you know exactly what you’re going to do, day after day. It’s routine. Non-challenging. A staple.
And then there is comforting because you know that no matter what life throws at you, that this person will have your back. And that’s adventurous and securing all at once. Try to surround yourself with individuals such that you can be part of the latter kind of relationships.
3: Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?
My sister’s wedding occurs next week. The last 10 months of our existence has revolved around it. The bridal shower took until June. The cookbook took all summer. The items to be sewed took until well, today. Then we have packing, and shopping, and ironing, travel arrangements, seating arrangements, hair appointments.
This is what my sister wants and I am happy to participate in it because she is my closest friend.
But its effect on me has been to push me further into realm of low-key, casual small wedding intentions.
4: Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?
The slaughter in Norway. The declaration of South Sudan’s independence. The death of Osama bin Laden. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The Arab Spring. The death of Steve Jobs. The Palestinian petition before the UN.
All have ramifications and cause for celebration to me. If I had to pick one, I suppose it would be the Arab Spring. Three brutal heads of states have been overthrown. Civil wars have broken out. Minorities—including Jews—in these countries have been critical to the movement’s strength. They’ve wreaked havoc on the economy. They’ve inspired movements in China, the Caucus, and Africa. Some have labeled it the fifth wave of democracy.
It humanizes the “Arabs”, “the Muslims”. It brings us one step closer to the long, hard road of self-determination and human rights. And I am now cautiously watching the outcome of these countries’ attempts to start over. To form a representative government.
I am also terrified for Israel. I do not believe for one second that the Palestinian Authority wants to change its ways, only that it will become emboldened by the international support or cause internal divsion (West Bank vs Gaza Strip leadership) that allows factions to splinter and become extreme, entrenched in their views. I pray I am wrong.
5: Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.
I’m not really spiritual, but I am religious. So, I’ll say that I fell in love with the ritual of mikvah when I converted. It has encouraged me to find some kind of kallah class available to Conservative Jews and it makes me look forward to immersing again and again in the future.