Tag Archives: death

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

ב”ה     الحمد لله

I’ve been busy lately.  Both with working at my new job, and with healing from old trauma.  The work of the job involves sitting at the computer coding, debugging and testing Java/Groovy/JavaScript code.  The healing from trauma involves looking into the loving eyes of my big-hearted wife and allowing old pain to surface.  It’s the latter that’s more challenging for me, requiring as it does copious tears and even more trust.  But it’s coming along, thank G-d.

Last night I was reliving some moments that had arisen; apparently as an infant, my head had been banged against the wall (in an effort to silence my crying).  As I write that, I experience a certain amount of disbelief (perhaps on your behalf?).  How could I remember that; can I be sure it really happened; is some part of my subconscious just making this up?  But then, as I ask those challenging questions, another part of me is quietly confident that indeed, these events, and the tears that come from remembering them, are real and abiding.

And last night, as I trembled with the old fear and with the infant’s lack of certainty whether I would make it through, an odd question arose.  “Should I stay or should I go?”  It felt like somehow, in that moment of yester-year, my soul had asked whether I should leave this world.  I found myself struck by the enormity of that question.

And it occurred to me that perhaps it was a question worth sharing with you.  Because each of us, in every moment, is ultimately confronting that same question, “should I stay or should I go?”  Apart from the vagaries of our mood, our emotions, our daily successes and failures, are we really wanting to continue to be here?  And if so, for what purpose?

I am convinced that each of us is here for a unique purpose, that we each have a special contribution to make to this world.  Are we up to the task of embracing that purpose?  Not in every moment, and not without regularly pausing for rest (and certainly not without setbacks), but in the larger scheme of things, the question lingers: “Should I stay?”

I don’t think it’s an easy question.  Because we would like some awareness of what our purpose here is before we evaluate whether the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are worth opposing for that purpose.  Some of us have a clear sense of life purpose.  Some of us have fleeting glimpses.  And some of us struggle for any semblance of meaning.  But I think even without rational understanding, it’s possible to have an intuitive awareness that there is a larger purpose and context to our being here.  And it’s possible to trust that there is intention to our lives.

Perhaps that intuitive sense is enough to keep us going through difficult times.

I hope so.  For me, I apparently answered the question many years ago with “l’ll stay”.  There were times in high school where the only reason I stayed was because leaving would have meant they had won; that the abusers had vanquished me.  Today I have reasons that involve my children and my wife, my extended family, my friends and my colleagues.  But mostly, I have this sense that I’m not done here yet.  That there is work for me to do, work that I can only do after healing from these old wounds.  Contributions that I want to make, whatever they turn out to be.

So tonight it’s back to the loving arms of my wife to cry and heal, and tomorrow it’s back to the computer desk to code and debug.

And after that, who knows?

But even without knowing, I’m happy for the path and grateful for the adventure.  Even when it hurts.  I’m staying.

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The garden of my relationships

ב”ה

I prefer to eat organic food.  I’m sure that the conventional produce is grown only with the finest synthetic pesticides available for ingestion, but… no thank you.  I was amused when a comedian (Jimmy Fallon?) quipped, “‘organic food’, or, as our grandparents used to call it: ‘food'”.  We have introduced so many man-made chemicals into our food supply that we have a special name for food grown with only naturally occurring elements.

Water seems to be following a similar path.  I remember as a child drinking water from fountains and faucets everywhere we went.  But now, we have bottled water.  Bottled water!  We actually pay money for a plastic container filled with water.  Unthinkable when I was young.  But in these modern days the water that came into my sink in Saint Louis Park (Minnesota) had such a taste that I used to trudge to the co-op and shlep jugs of “reverse-osmosis” water home.  If I remember my son’s school project correctly, this is due to an old creosote processing plant in the area that closed over forty years ago.  Forty years, and the water still tastes awful.  We reap what we sow.

So today I was wondering about air.  Is that the next basic human commodity that we will poison to such an extent that we’ll bottle “fresh air” and make it available at every gas station across the country?

Okay.  “Simmer down, Shimon,” I hear you murmur.  Things aren’t that bad.  And if that were the sum total of my curmudgeon-mind musings this morning, I probably would not have posted.

But, tonight, the Jewish new year begins, and it’s time to evaluate all of our relationships and take a fearless and searching moral inventory.  What to make amends for, what to change, what to foster and encourage.

And it got me thinking: am I so consumed by my own struggles that, like a creosote plant, I’m slowly polluting the environment around me?  Am I taking my relationships with those around me for granted?  They are my lifeline, my source of comfort and strength.   Am I tending to the garden of my relationships with enough natural and organic elements of my heart, or am I giving rote and mechanical effort, too much synthetic pesticide?

I have to be here, that I know.  I have to inhabit the moments I’m given.  Because children grow up quickly, and grown-ups can leave suddenly, and before we know it, we’re looking back over our lives, wondering where the time and the people went and, often, wishing we had done things differently.

How can I avoid that regret?

I plan to practice “dying” a little.  We Jews do this intensely on Yom Kippur (coming up in ten days).  I intend to try on the death perspective all day long, reviewing my life from that vantage point.  What will I pine do be able to differently, or just one more time?

I expect to look at every relationship in my life, every role I play: child of G-d, father, brother, uncle, friend, writer, lover, citizen, consumer, Jew, homeowner, etc.  On my deathbed, what will I wish I had done?

And then, I hope to gather up that wisdom, and, like a gardener, pour it gently back into my daily life in small, loving ways.  Sustainable, renewable ways.  A little here, a little there.

I have an inkling, already, that one of the major things is just opening my heart and soul to others without trying to be something.  Without trying to be anything.  Not trying to have wise answers or know what to say or what to do.  Just sharing the moment-by-moment struggle.  We’re in this together.

I think that’s the most powerful gift we have to offer others.  And ourselves.

But we’ll see (G-d willing!).  Maybe there will be some surprises in there, too.  Things that arise in the space that Yom Kippur creates in time, giving the still small voice an opportunity to be heard most clearly.

I hope, Gentle Reader, that you have an opportunity for such a practice.  And if so, then in the days to come, may you learn much from spending more time listening, more time hearkening to that inner wisdom.

And may we remember to act in accordance with the basic truth of our life here: we’re all in this together.