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Monday, September 28, 2009

And for the Sins of Disconnection…

It is Yom Kippur and in Dar es Salaam there is no Chabad visit this year and I have no synagogue in which to pray (or think, in my case). So instead I am at home, still in my pajamas, still in bed, not quite off the grid…. Reflecting.

Every year between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur I try to make a ritual of making right whatever I might have made wrong during the year – not really with God, but with the people I may have slighted/hurt/ignored/disrespected, etc. This year doesn't particularly stand out as a year in which I've behaved poorly or particularly well. It is just another year and I am an average schmo with average offenses.

Yet this year I have been feeling particularly melancholy – and not only since this season of reflection has begun. I began feeling this way back before I went on home leave; and if anything home leave made it worse for me – highlighting in bright marquee a sentiment that had been steadily building.

I'm feeling disconnected.

I am one of those people who thinks of herself as a friend for life. I still have a large handful of friends from when I was in Kindergarten – and quite a few from even before that. I've always connected and collected friends – most in the places where I've lived – but lots whom I got to know through my work/travels/special interests. I like being a friend. I like having friends. I like keeping friends. It is sort of a hobby of mine.

Being currently unpartnered in life, those friendships matter even more. Without the benefit of a partner, who would be a natural witness to my life, friends are my lifeline, my memory, my intimacy, and more. I value them. If you are my friend, I value you greatly.

Having been in Tanzania nearly four years now I have lots of wonderful friends that I value very much. I am really a very lucky person. But it is my childhood/young adulthood friends still back in the US (for the most part) who have witnessed the majority of my life (my life before children) that I find myself longing for this Yom Kippur day.

After four years of living apart – I feel some key relationships slipping. Or maybe, it is not really the relationships that are slipping, but rather the intensity of how they are experienced. Ever since I was on home leave this feeling has been in the background of my emotional life, and I don't like it much. I was warmly welcomed back to the US by my friends, but after getting together once or twice they were back to the lives that they are now living without me present on a regular basis. It made me feel sad, although intellectually it makes perfect sense.

And I think that these feelings have been intensified because my longtime (pre-TZ and current-TZ) friend, Jane, has been out of the country for the past three months on medical leave. (Heal quickly and come back soon, please.) With her gone, my day-to-day witness is gone, too.

And of course, I have very much played a role in increasing my disconnection. Facebook and blog posts do NOT create community. I may know that my friend is eating baloney on rye with Cool Whip for lunch, but that doesn't create emotional intimacy between us. You may know that I spend my Sundays at a beautiful pool on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean… but that doesn't tell you that I'm feeling melancholy. (And frankly, I would never use Facebook to do that. I have unfriended quite a few people who only whine about how unhappy they are on their Facebook posts. (Hmmm… kind of like I'm doing in this post?) I have my own problems, I don't need to hear about their shit as well. (Special exceptions are, of course, made for people I like who are just having a bad week – or when someone is sick or dies.)

Being someone who abhors being unhappy I've spent the past 10 days working on getting written into MY book of life not by apologizing but by reaching out to some of the people I miss the most. Perhaps you've heard from me this past week? If not, you will soon. Or please, reach out to me. I'd love to hear from you.

There is a hauntingly beautiful and ancient prayer that is recited during Yom Kippur that I absolutely love. When sung by a large congregation it renews and restores me and reconnects me to my ancestors. The prayer asked for God's forgiveness despite whatever misdeeds we may have committed during the previous year. In a traditional service the congregation lists things like lying or gossiping and after every 10 or so misdeeds the congregation sings the words below followed by another list of misdeeds. The non-traditional services that I prefer also include things like homophobia, racism, failing to take care of the earth, etc.

And so this year, for the sins of disconnection…

Avenu Malkenu
(Our Father, Our King)

chaneinu vaneynu
(be gracious with us and answer us)
ki ain banu masim
(though we have no worthy deeds;)
Asay imanu sedaka vachesed
(treat us with charity and kindness,)
(and save/redem us.)

And just in case you are interested… I found a version of Avenu Malkenu sung by Barbara Streisand on YouTube. You can listen to it here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We would love it if you came home and were permanently connected again.
Happy New Year

3:40 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

I wish I was there with you all to celebrate life's ups and downs. Miss you and love you. I love the the prayer too.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Alexis said...

I love that version of Avinu Malkeinu--I played it for my daughter 20 minutes before I read this post!

I would love to see you and your kids if/when you are back in the states. It's been a long time!

4:43 AM  
Anonymous Dorf's Daughter said...

No coincidence that in my attempt to send you an email this early morning-one that was summarily bounced back-I checked in on your blog, which I read from time to time.
Your words of longing connect you viscerally to all of us who sometimes need to know that we are not alone. I think the reason-and who can question reason- that I found this post today was to let you know how much I love and admire you. And no matter what you choose to do next with your life you will always be part of each of us you have touched.
Nancy Letts

1:18 PM  
Blogger suburban dyke said...

Hey Hally
Ah my melancholy friend, I feel your wistfulness. The autumn is here stateside and winter will soon follow. Right now, I wallowing in Carole King's Rhymes and Reasons and feel melancholy myself. You are in my thoughts. The song as song by Babs is beautiful. And yet, dayainu (sp?). It is sometines just enough that we feel and that we are, including when we are down.
Love to you.

4:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hally- We certainly miss you. Tomorrow we will be celebrating tom g's 60th bday at the youngs house (their new renovated house). I loved the pictures of your new house.
be well my friend..
Donna, Patti, and Dominic

2:13 AM  
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5:33 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I just moved to Tanzania (Dar) with my husband and two kids and was looking through the internet to see if there is any kind of Jewish community here. I saw your blog and wanted to know if there is a way we could connect!

11:49 AM  
Blogger Mahlers On Safari said...


Send me your e-mail address (it doesn't show up here) and I'd be happy to chat with you about Jewish life in Dar.


10:54 AM  
Blogger davidS said...

Hi , Am in dar and was trying to find the Jewish temple near Msisima primary in Upanga. could not find it in the end. Am back at the DoubleTree hotel. Do you know if they have any service there on shabbat?
Thanks for any info on the jewish life here.
David Sherman

2:10 PM  
Blogger davidS said...

Hi , Am in dar and was trying to find the Jewish temple near Msisima primary in Upanga. could not find it in the end. Am back at the DoubleTree hotel. Do you know if they have any service there on shabbat?
Thanks for any info on the jewish life here.
David Sherman

2:11 PM  
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