blogitto ergo sum

September 23, 2012

#210 – Happy. Limited. Yom Kippur 2012

Peninsula Temple Sholom [] Tashlich ceremony, Sep.17, 2012

 Once again, Yom Kippur is here.  This year it’s not near or in the proximity of my birthday; the two are one and the same, leaving me no escape.  Two years ago, I had my Slicha project.  And it felt right, appropriate, a true act of cleansing.  Last year’s Yom Kippur was mellower; my slate was much less loaded.  And here I am, thinking Happy Limited thoughts.

An observation: nobody that I know or can think off, from the most observant to the most ignorant, says “I’m sorry.”  “Gmar Hatima Tova” is the common wish and greeting.  Thinking of the importance of asking for the forgiveness of the people in one’s life, I wonder how the observant settles the abyss between the fasting, the many long hours of praying to atone the wrong doing of year past, hoping God will see it your way, and doing nothing about the people you hurt, offended, bad-mouthed, gossiped about?

Asking for the forgiveness of a person, via phone, SMS, email or the hardest – face-to-face while maintaining eye contact – is so much harder than praying or fasting.

So let me say it out right.  I am not perfect.  I offended few people this past year, and I try very hard not to let myself easily off by saying that they hurt me too, hurt me first, hurt me more.  This is my Yom Kippur, my Slicha, [and birthday too].

And I’m sorry, for the impatience, for the disrespect, for self-centered moments, for overdose of directness some of you rather I didn’t employ. And yet, there are two things I am sorry for, regret most and want to self-inflict a mental Tashlich on my mind.

First, is the sin of holding a grudge, of maintaining or nourishing the offense, the insult, the hurt, the anger, self-righteousness.  Last February, on a fun-free visit in Israel, I was speechless [only for a moment, really] to find out that my mom had been holding a grudge [based on a complete misunderstanding] against a friend since 2004.  Pointing out the very obvious stupidity of the unjustified sense of offence was met with the stubbornness of “I’ve been angry and offended by this for so long, why stop now?” duh?!

Now, seven months later, as Yom Kippur approaches, I want to clean my slate of grudges, offenses, bad air, ill-feelings I’ve been carrying around for no good reason.  Time to let go.

Here’s my Tashlich list:

The anger of your using my love for you to your advantage.  Off you go.

The lingering offense for your treating me as a lesser person than you, the disrespect you showed, your patronizing “I’m so much smarter than you” attitude.  Out of my head, vanish.  I should not seek the company of such.

The pain of being forgotten by you that I carry around.  Let the past be the past.  Moving on.

The anger of letting you treat me with disrespect, while I say nothing and yet hold it against you. No more. Out of my system, now.

The frustration with your demanding of me what you don’t demand of yourself.  No more.  I shall do what I think is right, and call out your double-standard as it happens.  Will no longer allow it to be a voice ringing in my head, but make it a part of our dialog.

Allowing myself to be put down by your insensitivity, not to say self-centered view – no more.

The prayer says something like “…He does not maintain His wrath forever, for He desires [to do] kindness.  He will again show us mercy, He will suppress our iniquities and He will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”  I am much more comfortable with my version.  The idea of figuratively emptying my awareness of all grudges [rather than the pockets of my jacket] has its appeal though. More so if one gets to do it in, let’s say Half Moon Bay.

I’m sorry if any of this makes you feel uncomfortable.  This is as hard if not harder than asking for your slicha.  Now that I hold no grudges for or against you, there’s room for new, fresh, more positive, healthier experiences for us to share. And I think this is great.  Almost.  Got to clear one more thing.

So much has been written about the pursuit of happiness.  It’s part of the deceleration of independence of the USA.  It’s a great movie.  It’s what we so want to have in our life.  But…

And this “but” is so much greater than i ever imagined.  Think, which you are more familiar with, “I’m happy,” or “I’m happy, but…?”  What do you say or expect to hear more?

In past weeks, I found myself offering “I’m happy” + a smile to the inquiring ones among you.  Surprisingly, more than once, what I got was a consecutive but.  Sometimes, it wasn’t even an audible but; it was the sound of silence.  The silence of the but.

The “I’m so happy for you” that eventually came was sincere, mostly, but…The but was there nonetheless.  And it got me thinking.

Why is it that we expect “happy, but?”  After all, just like everything else, iPhone5 included, Life isn’t perfect.  When i say “I’m happy,” I’m NOT saying “everything is perfect.”  I’m saying that things are as great as they could possibly be right now, therefore I’m happy.”  Things could be better, really.  And they could be much worse.  So here i am, in this moment, happy.  Why is this need to limit the happy?  Restrict is with a but? Is but the new Ltd.?

Who are those but Sayers?

First, there’s the cynical know-it-all-too-well.  Things can’t be this good, and if they are, it won’t last long, and something, many-a-thing can go wrong, and will.  Be prepared, don’t let yourself be happy.  Wakeup is painful.  So come-on and spit it out.  You are happy but… what aren’t you saying? When will the honeymoon be over?

Second, there’re those who know-me-all-too-well.  Their line of thinking goes like this: “we heard you before, the but is coming, we wait for the other shoe [read: but] to drop.  So yes, i do tend to take the good for granted, assume that you can see and realize the good for yourself, therefore there’s no need for me to point it out… often not making enough room to recognize and enjoy the good.   This is my other Tashlich challenge.  I recognize that omitting the good, obvious as it may be, distorts the picture.  So throw this one away too, off with this bias.  I shall call out the good and the not so good, acknowledging both. New Year, the year of & [no more the year of the but].

Thirds are those who aren’t happy with where, what and how they are.  It’s not that they don’t want me to be happy; they don’t like the idea of me, or anyone else for that matter, being happier than they are.  The notion of anyone [outside the characters of the Princess Bride] being perfectly happy doesn’t really appeal to them. For these, the bigger the but, the happier they are.  After all, why should you or I be happy if they are not?  It sounds so petty, that it got me wondering what do i say when I’m the listener.  Do I say “I’m so happy for you, tell me more?” Do I say “be careful, watch out, things can’t be as good as you think they are”? Do I think it, feeling the wiser, yet say nothing?  Seating here enjoying an amazing Californian Fall day, I challenge my mind to be happy first, and second.  My trouble or struggle should never cloud your neither your happiness, nor your sharing of it.

Not sure any of this applies to you?  A couple of weeks ago, over coffee @ the Sufi café [which deserves a chapter all of its own] I outlined the “but observations” to a friend.  Her immediate response was that it all has to do with me.  That it is because my friends are used to me usage of that inevitable “but” they now expect it.  “Oh no,” i laughed.  “Let me replay to you two of the personal experiences that you just shared.  BOTH followed this template:  I’ve changed/learned/improved/am better/happy… BUT…”

As much as she didn’t like to admit it, she could not deny the presence of the but.

Happy New Year, Happy Yom Kippur clearance.  Looking forward to having and sharing many happy experiences with you, and no buts.



  1. Many good thoughts to reflect on. Thanks.

    Comment by stephanieannbrown — September 23, 2012 @ 11:33 | Reply

  2. What a wonderful tradition. I now understand my Facebook timeline and the multitudes of confessions/asks of forgiveness much better now!

    Comment by Kimberly Dillon — September 25, 2012 @ 10:57 | Reply

  3. Just getting around to this one and I like it. I appreciate the individual and my friendships don’t have buts.

    Comment by jeff — November 6, 2012 @ 18:55 | Reply

  4. […] Last year, I was about eliminating the “but” and letting go of grudges.  This is key for a real slicha.  Letting go [of the anger, pain, hurt, even self-righteousness and own mistakes] is a critical step.  I shared it with you HERE. […]

    Pingback by #217 – That New Year Stuff | blogitto ergo sum — September 29, 2013 @ 16:19 | Reply

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