Saturday, January 18, 2014


Why now?
After all, there are people who have been blogging for decades. So why now?
You study me quizzically as you take another sip.

In fact, you might even regard me a latecomer to the blogging scene.

The truth be told, I have never been the one for small talk. In fact, I can't stand small talk. But I'll talk for hours about life. Life is too short to waste time discussing trivial matters. And whenever given a choice, I would rather be with a close friend or two than among a crowd of people I barely even know. In some social settings though, I have to pretend, and play the small talk game. Some people call it the art of diplomacy.

At this point, I might as well call you a friend. After all, we will cease to be strangers before we know it. The beautiful thing about this arrangement that you and I have is that we don't have to pretend or maintain whatever illusion we want others to have about ourselves.

Last week, I went to my regular counseling session. I resumed seeing a psychotherapist to work through my anxieties and grief after my grandma died. My grandma had been very much like a mother to me in many ways.

As I went through a list of people who died since one of my best friends committed suicide when I was seventeen years old and she only sixteen years old at the time, I told my therapist, "I am in my late 20s and didn't grow up or even live in a war zone. No one I know at my age has had to face so many losses early in life."

In fact, I hesitate getting close to anyone out of fear of losing yet another person that meant something to me. As a result, I unknowingly started to build defenses around me.

My therapist quietly responded, "What you have experienced in life has nothing to do with you at all. These were rather unfortunate events. In fact, we don't even know when we or anyone will die. Instead, all of those people in your life who died actually gave you what perhaps is the biggest gift in your life."

"A gift?" I was incredulous.

"Yes, a gift. A gift of life. They are in fact giving you a gift of empowering you to live your life even more freely by encouraging you to fully accept death as a fact of life. It's just that you have had more practice than some people."

I thought about it. It was certainly something I had never considered previously. But it did make some sense.

After all, us Jews subject ourselves to a total abstention from food and drink every year during the holy day of Yom Kippur. Why would anyone, including myself, in their right minds put their bodies through that?

On Yom Kippur, we are told that G-d decides who will live and who will die in the coming year, and that death could come for any of us. The physical uncomfortableness that we feel by fasting serves as a reminder of our mortality. In fact, Rabbi Jacobs-Velde who compared Yom Kippur to a ritual death of sorts and said, "[Yom Kippur] gives us a way, especially in our culture, where we are so death-denying, to come to terms with what we are doing with our lives." In other words, we are given an opportunity to start over, make amends, and strive to do better.

Then what does it mean to live more freely?

My mind immediately conjured an image of myself when I was a little girl. My father often would take me to the neighborhood park to play. My favorite thing at the park were the swing sets where my dad would push me for hours. I would laugh and ask for my dad to push me harder. I thought if I went high enough one day, I would become a bird and be able to fly to the top of the tree. From the tree tops, I would then watch the world go by. Free. Away from the worldly constraints.

When we are talking about living freely, we are not talking about becoming a bird and being able to fly. We are really talking about living authentically. Again, what does living authentically really mean anyways?

It's a question worthy of examination. There probably will not be a simple answer to that question.

But through our conversations, we can learn from each other.

My grandma, circa 1942


  1. I can relate so much to you on many levels. I am the same way; I cannot handle small talks either, and am usually quiet until there's something fascinating to discuss. Life is too short to be spent on trivial things, yes?

    As for death, It definitely has taken me a long time to embrace it as a good instead of a bad thing. I know it sounds strange to refer death as a good thing. It is a reminder that we are able to love deeply, how lucky we are to have something that makes good-bye so hard to say, and to process our feelings--to feel truly alive after grieving is done.

    I spent so long trying to find authentic myself. Matter of fact, it is not until my son came along when my life truly has changed.

  2. Thank you for sharing your blog with us. Cant wait to read more.