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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,)
Vehoshiaynu
(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.