Monday, October 24, 2011
Finding Yourself – Again
For most Rabbis, the Yom Kippur sermon is a "showstopper". It's the biggest, most captive audience a Rabbi is likely to get all year. Many non-observant Jews, who otherwise don't set foot in a synagogue, show up on the Day of Atonement. So the topic is often bold, provocative, urging you to repent and reflect. This year was a little different and it certainly got me to thinking.
My Rabbi began with a story. He recounted how he spends one week every year teaching a Bible course in Mexico. Over time, he's developed a close friendship with one of the families there. Prior to this year's class, the mother of the family had spent months in Texas, battling cancer, in a fight that frankly no one thought she'd survive. Thankfully, she did. She had returned to Mexico, but of course, the treatment took its toll physically. She was thin, balding, frail.
So my Rabbi said he was not surprised when the woman said she had a question for him. He was prepared to answer the inevitable: "why me?"
But instead, the woman said, "Am I still me?" It wasn't the physical changes that worried her. Instead she was frightened that she had lost the essence of who she was. That cancer had claimed not her life, but her identity.
The Rabbi's answer to the woman was thoughtful, gentle, and reassuring. Yes, cancer had changed her life, but it hadn't changed the essence of who she was. She remained a kind, caring, generous, intellectually curious individual.
Life can make us doubt who we fundamentally are. It's more obvious when it's an illness; the physical changes can be traumatic. But doubt rears its ugly head in other situations. The loss of a job often threatens one's identity. I know a brilliant man who was let go from his high-powered, high-paying position after 35 years with the company (after a mega-merger). In this economy, at his age, it was almost impossible to find a job, and certainly not one at his previous level. His professional and personal identities were intertwined. For him, and so many others who are unemployed, job loss equals identity loss.
Or take the case of another woman I know. She recently separated from her husband of 30 years. Who was she if she wasn't Mrs. X?
And it's not just the difficult moments in life that can seed doubt. Getting married, as well as having a baby are both important game changers. Different surname or the new title of Mom can affect not only how others look at you, but how you look at yourself.
But with time (and patience), with the help of family and friends, perhaps with professional counseling, and in my case, with faith, you begin to find yourself…again. The outside may change; some of the circumstances of your life may change – but the essence of who you are is still there.
I'll remember that for myself. I'll remember that when someone is in crisis. It's easy to bring a casserole, but what I must bring is reassurance. I'll remind my friend: You're still YOU.
Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Sullivan Investigations Mystery - e-book series
Murder Off the Books Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords