Thursday, September 27, 2007

Freedom from Fear

Regimented minds cannot grasp the concept of confrontation as an open
exchange of major differences with a view to settlement through genuine
dialogue. The insecurity of power based on coercion translates into a need
to crush all dissent.

-Aung San Suu Kyi, In Quest of Democracy

Aung San Suu Kyi wrote these words nineteen years ago. The people of Burma still long to live in a democracy, where they can be free from fear.

It is heartbreaking to think of the thousands upon thousands of people who have taken to the streets this week, only to be fired upon by their own government. The photographs make the hairs on my arm stand on end--the bravery of the monks in their maroon and orange robes, the masses of citizens standing alongside them, filling the streets despite the risk of injury or death.

It is man's vision of a world fit for rational, civilized humanity which
leads him to dare and to suffer to build societies free from want and far.
Concepts such as truth, justice, and compassion cannot be dismissed as trite
when these are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power.

- Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Overheard at the Store this morning

By a cashier to another employee as I walked out of the store "Look, there's that customer who brings her own bags."

I grew up in NYC, so it is safe to say that the town in FL where I currently live is indeed the smallest place I've ever lived. However, I did not think that I could possibly be the only person in this area who uses her own cloth bags at the store.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Getting to the Root of Things

Last week I received letters from each of my children's teachers. And each one resulted in tears. My tears, not my children's tears.

Neither letter contains anything that signifies the end of the world. Neither is beyond remedying. So why the tears? Worse than the tears--why the ache in my heart and stomach?

I'm not one of those "helicopter mothers." While of course I take pride in my children's accomplishments (geez, they are 8 & 5, accomplishments sounds a bit much, no?), I don't live through them. So what on earth is my deal?

I thought about it all weekend. I think that I'm particularly sensitive to any hint of rebuke from teachers because of an incident that happened when I was in first grade. I was shy (and anxious!) and did not want to read aloud to the class when called upon. I can still see the illustration accompanying the text about a mail man in my mind's eye. The teacher called me to her desk, and asked me to bring my reader. She took the reader from me, as punishment, and I recall going back to my desk crying. I didn't go home and tell my parents; they eventually heard it from the teacher herself at parent-teacher night. My mother, also a teacher, was furious that I'd had a book taken from me.

After letting the tears out, and having lots of time on Yom Kippur to ponder this, I re-read the email from my daughter's teacher. I can see that I read the note as an indictment of my parenting. Add that to my sensitive nature, and this apparently unresolved first grade incident, a 24 hour fast, and boom. It ain't pretty. I hope that I can excise the hurt that I am still carrying around, and figure out how to hear from my children's teachers without reverting to that crying first grader.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Problem with Perfectionism

Yesterday I baked and cooked and baked some more for Rosh Hashanah. I was vaguely anxious all day, hoping I'd get everything done on time. A few times I noticed my anxiety, and tried to calm myself. What was I so worried about? No guests were coming, this was simply a meal for our family.

By the time we sat down I had a headache and was all worked up. The chicken wasn't done yet, it was already 7 pm, the kids' bedtime was already weighing on me (they don't have today off), and then Sam started complaining about the texture of the butternut squash--normally his favorite vegetable.

Then the voices started- see, why do you try so hard, it never turns out how you wanted it anyway? What's wrong with you--should have gotten the chicken cooking earlier (never mind that you were at Maya's dance class)? What kind of a parent are you that your kids don't just eat their food without a litany of complaints?

And it occurred to me--when you are a perfectionist you really don't allow yourself to enjoy a damn thing! You're filled with anticipatory worry about all the things that could go wrong, and then when anything ends up differing from your vision of perfection you are upset at your perceived failure.

Every year at Rosh Hashanah I pray for G_d to help me to live a happy life. I'm so envious of those who seem to have happiness come to them so easily. I pray that this will be the year that I will learn to stop shooting myself in the foot, that this will be the year that I will be a patient mother, a loving, non-critical spouse, and that I will do the things that I know (in theory) will help with my rampant anxiety. And so often I am feeling like a failure even before the end of the first full day of the new year.