Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What do you believe?

Lately I have been thinking alot about fate, destiny and the words "meant to be". There are basically two camps when it comes to this sort of thought...those that believe in such things, that believe that everything happens for a reason; and those that believe that life is random. That things happen because of the choices that people make.

Years ago, when I was in college, I believed wholeheartedly in the "meant to be" brand of life. I had my share of negative episodes in my life, and rather than believe that I just had shitty luck, or bad karma to burn off or whatever, I needed to have that romantic view that this was all leading me to somewhere or something that was bigger and more important than I could imagine...that it was all supposed to happen. If everything is supposed to happen and is somehow pre-ordained then you can have no regrets. Your actions are not truly your own doing, you are being moved along by some cosmic hand. Just as my belief in this started wane, as things were looking interminably bleak - which I now realize is a fairly indulgent outlook for someone who was a mere 19 years old to possess - something came along to renew my belief that I had not endured my own set of trials for nothing...I found something that truly made sense. I met a boy! To me this was not just a boy though. This was my soulmate. When I looked at him it was like looking at myself, only with all of the mysteries that I couldn't puzzle out about myself right there in front of my eyes to discover. With that "fateful" meeting, I felt sure that my destiny was sealed, that I had found my purpose, achieved my greatest goal: I had found "the one". Every moment seemed life changing, and every day seemed unbearably important. I abandoned the idea that life had a special and individual path for me to take, and instead happily resigned myself to sometimes follow and sometimes lead this boy wherever we were supposed to go. And life seemed much less intimidating, knowing that I would never be alone again. So much uncertainty had been stripped from it...there were no more choices, just living out our own special life script. Time rolled on, and as I look back, we were together for a relatively short time. We were very young, and drama and foolishness intervened. Our parting was loud and messy and I don't remember an actual moment of it, but I can relive it at a moments notice. We made choices and they were different. Our paths no longer seemed intertwined. Needless to say, I was crushed. It was a short time, but it left a mark on me permanently.

I spent a rather longish time trying to recover my sense of self, of individuality. I was looking for my path...and at some point, I gave up on it. I decided that there was no master plan. That I was the only one controlling where I woke up and where I rested. That life was random and there was only the now. And thus I stumbled along for what at this point in my life, adds up to a great many years. I am sure, when I look back upon my life from the vantage point of death it will be but a season, but for now, it appears to be a vast expanse of my history. At any rate, with this newfound conviction that destiny was merely a cliche, I made alot of mistakes, which I set about learning from as soon as I recognized them. I dwelled on things when it suited me, and brushed things off as I saw fit. No longer hostage to a pre-ordained future, I took whatever liberties pleased me at any given time and felt no guilt at much of anything. I was just enjoying the landscape that I was discovering all around and inside of me.

One night, I woke up. I came face to face with the man who would change my life. This was not my soulmate. This was not the yin to my yang. This was not someone to lead nor follow me; but it was someone with whom I wanted to make the rest of the journey with. This was fate and destiny and free will, all in one package. I didn't HAVE to be with him; I wanted to; I chose to. I realized that, had I not made the choices that I had made, I would not have found myself presented with him at the exact right moment. But those were my choices. I had been fickle. I had been careless. I had been completely and utterly shortsighted. Yet it had all gotten me to the right place at the right point in time. We went on to create two beautiful children, whom I realize are my purpose in life. They are what I was put here to nurture. I have continued to make choices which I believe are entirely my own to decide and I have found that whichever choice I make, it is the right one, because it is the one that I have made. So life it would seem is both random and pre-ordained. Once I figured this out, I felt a certain peacefulness wash over me. A certain sense that I may not know where I am going, but that is only because I haven't decided yet.

Fate. Destiny. Meant to be. They are interestingly ironic little buggers. Just when you think you have found their place in your life, they pop up unexpected and unbidden. It would seem that somehow, in attaining this inner peace, I welcomed them back into my life. Once I figured out that destiny and free will could peacefully coexist, that cosmic hand reached out and opened up a door. On the other side, having taken his own path to get there, stood the boy. With the wisdom of the years behind me, and the confidence of mature love on my side, I realize that he is not a sign of things to come, he is not a threat to all that I have struggled to create, he does not dictate the path that I must walk. He is a part of my life story, the story that I alone have chosen.And I like it that way. Welcome back boy.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

New & Interesting

So, recently I found myself doing something that I had never envisioned...on Tuesday I actually joined a church. I have been going to said church for a number of months now and had not actually burst into flames, which I took to be a mightily good sign.

I don't know quite why I found this simple act so surprising, as when I look back on my life I know I have been searching for some sort of Religious identity for years and years...

Upon meeting my father the Rabbi, I assumed that all signs pointed to Judaism and really, with a parent "of the cloth" what choice did I truly have? I immediatrly set about trying to be the best Jew that I knew how. I figured hey, with a Rabbi Father as a role model I should be on the right track. I found somethings unsettling though...other than the obvious edict against Christmas trees, reindeer and jolly old actually had to pay for membership. And there were times that the doors were locked. Did you know that worship actually has "Hours of Operation"?? This sort of set me a little off center...I mean for me, I could pretty much always count on preferential treatment and after hours access to spiritual guidance should I request it...or at least in theory, this is afterall MY father we are talking about, who those that know me understand means he is not that available to anyone that isn't there for the specific purpose of lauding his achievements and personal greatness...unless there is an audience...but I I was saying, for me, the Hours meant nothing, I had a key (literally) to the sanctuary. But what of those poor lost souls whose spiritual crises did not have the good sense and courtesy to occur during convenient business hours. Or even worse, what of those in need of comfort who had NOT written out a sizable check to ensure that their souls would have a place to gather with kindred souls? Is it me or does this seem to be basically the antithesis of what people seek when they are in Spiritual need?

So anyway, I joined a church. It was utterly painless and took almost no time at all. The people are very straightforward, well meaning folk...not too fussy or prissy, just level headed and compassionate. I have never gotten the impression from any of them that they seek to compete with one another, in order to determine who is *more* devout. (I have always wondered, what does one who wins this contest receive? Is there a VIP section in Heaven? Do you get the fluffiest cloud?) And they have all regarded me with nothing more than the usual idle curiosity that one might expect when you walk into a room where no one knows you...which one must realize, in my religious history is something of a novelty...being a Rabbi's Kid (albeit unknown and invisible until the age of 17) I became quickly accustomed to being scrutinized constantly. On the plus side, it did improve my mimicry and thicken my skin somewhat to being in the public eye. On the minus, it made me feel exposed and a fake who was mere moments from being uncovered. Thankfully I found the solution...absent myself entirely from the whole mess, including said egomaniacal Rabbi Father...voila, no more stress...but I digress again...I really feel comfortable when I am there, and I find that it sets me on the right track for the week. I think it is safe to say that we are all the very best versions of ourselves that we can be when we are in church...if even only for that hour, it reminds me of the kind of person and parent that I really, truly want to be...and for that hour, I am that person...and I leave with that...and I think every week, I manage to remain that person for a slightly longer time... I joined a church!