10 Years of Shabbat

For me, one noteworthy thing about the year of 2020 (other than the fact that it sucked because of the pandemic) is that I hit 10 years of “keeping” Shabbat.

Admittedly, definitions are everything. Even in my most observant days, there are things I never kept. Like I always ripped toilet paper on Shabbat. I suppose I could have pre-ripped it, but I never did. It just seemed stupid, that the otherwise holy observance of Shabbat would be broken completely by a piece of toilet paper.

Toilet paper: The undoing of Shabbat and 2020? Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Actually, even the language of “breaking Shabbat” bothers me. Like you could keep Shabbat for 99% of the day, or keep 99% of the rules, but mess up on 1% and Shabbat is broken and shattered, like a Christmas ornament that fell on the floor and splintered into a million worthless pieces. The 99% that you kept means nothing.

Metaphor for a broken Shabbat? Image by AlchemillaMollis from Pixabay

But even setting aside the toilet paper, there were weeks over the years that due to circumstances (travel, weddings, deadlines, relative in hospital, etc.) that I compromised/broke Shabbat. I don’t always think I made the right decision on what to compromise, and sometimes, I wish I had chosen against keeping the halachot that I did keep.

And as mentioned in previous posts, I participate in Zoom services on Shabbat and Yom Tov. The Conservative movement issued a teshuvah allowing the livestreaming of services on Shabbat. Orthodox considers this a halachic violation still. But I started using Zoom on Shabbat before the Conservative movement okayed it and would have done it even if they hadn’t. Honestly, it’s one of the better parts of Shabbat for me these days.

So perhaps it is more accurate to say that I self-identified as Shomer Shabbat for 10 years, even though my practice didn’t always reflect this. A so-called vegetarian who didn’t always keep it, if you will. I had a cousin like this.

Still, 10 years of mostly keeping Shabbat should feel like an accomplishment. I did make the lifestyle changes. I gave up long weekends. I gave up hobbies, trips, socializing that conflicted with Shabbat. I told my bosses and worked around it (The non-Jewish bosses/HR were exceptionally accommodating; the Jewish bosses/HR gave me the hardest time). I spent all those Saturdays doing nothing but Shabbat, and all that other time during the week to prep. I took all that time off from work for Yom Tov. I was active in the Jewish community. I never really succeeded in hosting guests for Shabbat meals, but I tried and had limited, mild success with this. So I should be proud of myself. 10 years.

But it’s bittersweet because truthfully, I would like to quit. I kept Shabbat for 10 years and now I would like to stop. And when I look back now on those 10 years, although there was a lot of good that came out of keeping Shabbat, there’s also a lot that feels like wasted time. When I compare what I accomplish in a week/weekend to what my non-Shabbat-observant accomplishes, it is pitiful. I realize it’s a bad idea to compare in general, that my sister is a much more industrious and competent person than I am generally, that even without Shabbat, I sucked at time management.

It’s just…10 years is a long time.

Some People Are The Trees

It was a summer Shabbat – joyous, boisterous Friday night oneg

that makes its own music

lasting hours past midnight – and I remembered

I was due back at the Rebbetzin’s house.  Couldn’t call, so I ran the mile. 

Skirt swirling about my calves, the clack-clack of my ballet flats

against the pavement. Sweat trapped in my pantyhose

and ruined my blouse, so I unbuttoned it

and ran in my bra (no one was out at that hour)

the two halves of my top flapping like wings.

It felt amazing.  Maybe I don’t hate running, I thought. 

Maybe I just hate running clothes. The Rebbetzin welcomed me,

disheveled and exhilarated, back in the house.  It came with the territory,

hosting guests with terrible manners. Some people are the trees,

and some people are the birds who fly back, empty the fridge,

trash the nest when they feel like it. The Rebbetzin would die young –

Ovarian cancer.  Her family moved back to Brooklyn.  By the time I learned,

It was Friday night and there was nowhere to run to.

4 Day Late #RDP Wednesday Reflection on Professional because it’s in my name

I’m 4 days late to this #Ragtag Daily Prompt party, but I figure I have to reflect on “Professional” seeing as my blog is “Jewish Young Professional”.

I usually default to the Cake Wrecks definition of “professional”, meaning you got paid to do something. If someone out there thinks you are sufficiently skilled enough at something that they are willing to pay you to do it, you’re a professional. By that definition, I have been a professional leyner (Torah reader), a professional pot salesman (and by pot, I mean cookware, not marijuana. I worked in a cookware retail store), and a professional sandwich maker at different points in my life, in addition to now being a Corporate America Professional™. Fun fact, did you know that I, Jewish Young Professional, was once a bacon, egg & cheese sandwich professional? Yup, I got paid to make them at the sandwich shop. (Another fun fact: I went to look up whether Jews deriving benefit from pork, eg. getting paid to make bacon sandwiches, is allowed by Halacha and this medical paper in JAMA came up in the search results before any Jewish websites.)

But there are issues with this definition, with an obvious one is that willingness to pay someone to do something does not in fact mean that the person paid is good at the contracted task. The person contracting the work could have low expectations. For example, my dad once paid me $3 to weed the yard. I definitely would not call myself a professional gardener, and neither would he. Dad just wanted someone who would do that task for a maximum of $3. But also, payment does not always correlate well to skill. For example, the Cake Wrecks blog.

I know that “If I get paid, then I have skill” is not necessarily true, and I have no trouble believing this. But I struggle to believe that the inverse, “If I do not get paid, then I do not have skill” is also not necessarily true. Rationally, I know this inverse is not true (in this case). But I tend to have hard time believing it. It has made it very difficult for me to accurately assess the degree of skill that I have.

For example, I have a complicated relationship with my singing voice. It is good (-ish? I think? Honestly, it is such a complicated relationship that it took me like twenty minutes to decide how to describe my singing voice), but not good enough. The best, most memorable compliment that I ever received my voice was not the many congregants who have praised my Torah and Haftarah reading, nor the occasionally-impressed co-workers at happy hour karaoke, but the one exceptionally drunk stranger who told me this:

Your voice is great! Like, you could make money singing and you wouldn’t even have to show your cleavage!”

Random Drunk Dude

See, it felt like a Real Compliment because it suggested that people would be willing to pay money to hear my voice. That said, Random Drunk Dude’s assessment was incorrect, as no one has ever paid for the privilege of listening to me sing. My skill is such that I have to pay to get others to listen to me sing, eg. by buying sheet music for the choir, buying drinks at karaoke, etc. This feels like a metric I should consider when assessing my skill, but I also know that’s dangerous to think of money earned as the only way to measure skill and worth.

Switching gears, it’s interesting to consider the impact of “professional” as an adjective and as a noun. For example, imagine seeing the job titles below on LinkedIn or something:

  • Professional Pot Sales – My first reaction to this is “Wow, JYP must be really good and experienced at selling pot(s). She sounds like she sells high-end pot(s) or to high-end clients. I would trust JYP over those amateur, low-end cookware and/or marijuana salespeople.
  • Pot Sales Professional – My first reaction to this is “JYP wants to be in a cookware and/or marijuana sales role, but she’s actually unemployed. She is trying to add the word “professional” to make me forget that she’s actually unemployed. I don’t really want to hire her for my open pot sales position.

Not sure why “Professional” as a job title on LinkedIn always makes me think “Unemployed”. It could just be me.

Then there is this whole other context, where Jewish Young Professional = Single and Looking. I really didn’t do the active dating thing because I was too busy being in strange relationships with the wrong people and then met Now-Husband by accident. Dating culture has its own vocabulary and context. The event where I met Now-Husband was a Jewish social event hosted by an Orthodox Rabbi and billed as an event for Young Professionals. I showed up because I thought Young Professionals = People not in College. I absolutely never would have gone to a singles’ event. Now-Husband, however, had been actively dating and he showed up because he thought Young Professionals = Singles and he wanted to go to a singles’ event. Hence, when I chose “Jewish Young Professional” for my blog, I had to put “not single or looking” everywhere. Not that I think there are that many people itching to be with someone who is hopeless at adulting with an unprofitable singing voice, but then again, this is the internet.

Goals

I hadn’t really intended this blog to be general updates, but I’m in the mood to write something, and the post I was working on is too emotionally draining, and so here I am.

It is goal-setting season at work. I am finding this challenging because A) I have multiple bosses in a matrix organization and each boss has a different view of the priorities, and B) I am kind of over this job and pretty sure I want to look for a different one. This would be contradictory to the goals of my current employer and the goals of all of my bosses (I guess it’s nice that they agree on something).

Direct Report had an easier time writing goals. He only has one boss, and I gave him good ideas for his goals. Am I allowed to use some of his goals since I’m the manager of the team? Does management work that way?

I also have therapy homework to figure out my goals and set them. I am new to therapy. Not sure how I feel about the overall therapy experience, but that’s a separate post. I don’t mind the concept of therapy homework. I think what I don’t like is the language of goals. Not achieving goals sounds suspiciously like failure. Not setting goals in the first place sounds like a good way of avoiding failure.

I’m wondering if it’s possible that I’ve reached my mid-thirties without ever setting a proper goal. Did well in school because it was expected. Picked a college that felt like a good fit and offered a scholarship. Picked a major by accident, and was too lazy to switch when it turned out I was bad at it (in fairness, it was a hard major), so I stuck with it, bad grades and all. (Honestly, if your expectations are low enough, you can do anything). Picked a minor because a friend asked me to do it with her, and the minor was easy and helped offset bad grades in my major. Got into the industry through a job fair, and it turned out to be a pretty good fit. Moved when the commute was too long. Spent too much time in relationships with the wrong people to be actively dating with purpose, and met now-Husband by accident. Most of these choices turned out to be reasonably good ones, but it wasn’t that I had it in mind to wind up where I am now.

Sometimes, I feel like a paper doll or a Barbie, in that there are probably half a dozen storylines represented by outfits that would have been a good fit for me. I’m might be wearing one, but it probably isn’t the only one that would make me happy, and it might not even be the one that makes me happiest.

The metaphor falls apart because I feel like paralyzed by having to make a decision and commit to a life goal, which is not the same as changing outfits. So I stay in place, naked and undecided (yeah, this metaphor really isn’t working).

Ugh, I’m exhausted. Therapy (and blogging too, in a way) is exhausting. How does anybody get anything done?

NSFW Conversation from Shemini Atzeret

Scene: Saturday morning in a hotel room while on Zoom services. It is a busy weekend at the hotel, with guests visiting for a wedding and/or a sports game. Outside the hotel room, school age children are running noisily throughout the hallway.

Husband: That is a serious meal

Me: What, breakfast? It’s just cereal.

Husband: No, the Haftarah. Right here, it says “Solomon offered 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep as sacrifices of well-being to the LORD.” (I Kings 8:63) 22,000 oxen. That is a serious meal.

Me: Ah. I see. Don’t forget about the 120,000 sheep.

Husband: You can have the sheep. I don’t like lamb.

Me: But aren’t sacrifices burned to crisp? 22,000 well-done to incinerated steaks? What a waste.

Husband: No, it’s barbecue. And all the more reason that we need a cast iron skillet so I can learn to make steak. I need to be prepared when Moshiach comes. (Husband is a Kohein)

Me: Right. You are so spiritual.

Husband: Do people really eat ox?

Me: I think so? I’ve heard of oxtail soup. Presumably that comes from ox.

Husband (shudders): Ugh, that sounds awful.

Me: Why?

Husband: It’s by the cow’s ass and there’s hair…ick (shudders again)

Me: They skin it and clean it. Just like any other meat.

Husband: But it’s by the ass. It’s like a penis. An ass-penis.

Me: What?! A tail is not a penis. The penis is a different organ. And the penis isn’t on the ass..

Husband: If humans had tails, they would use them for penetration.

Me: But…tails are not rigid…and animals are not human…

Husband: I’m telling you, if humans had tails, they would use them for sex.

Me: TAILS ARE NOT PENISES!!!

Everyone freezes. School age children in hallway perk up with interest.

Husband: I hope we’re on mute.

END SCENE

Confession of a Bad Millennial

I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but I was really hoping for an 8 AM meeting this morning.

Actually, I had one on the calendar at one point. I tried not to sound too happy to tell Husband that I had a meeting at 8 AM Thursday morning and I wasn’t sure if I could move it. And then of course, the meeting organizer moved it because of another attendee’s conflict – to 8 AM Monday morning. Karma, perhaps?

I am a line manager and I suppose I could have manufactured an 8 AM meeting with Direct Report if I really wanted one. But Direct Report is an excellent employee (he won an office culture champion award), and he is starting work tomorrow at 9 AM. It is bad management to make your rockstar employee solve your personal problems outside work. So I didn’t do this. Seriously, managers, don’t do this to your employees.

Anyway, so now I have no excuse for not attending Nephew #3’s bris via Zoom. I guess that attending via Zoom is an improvement over having to travel to State We Don’t Live In. But it also makes it very difficult to have an excuse not to go.

Apparently, Millennials are obsessed with their nieces & nephews. So obsessed, that more than one journalist has coined the shorthand “niblings“. Millennials are having fewer or no children, due to marrying later, poor economic circumstances, less interest, etc. Instead, Millennials are channeling their single-person time & energy and parental urges into their nieces and nephews. Or niblings, if you prefer (Ugh. Seriously, who came up with this word?) Anecdotally, I see some truth in this. I do see fellow Millennial non-parents very interested and involved in the lives of their nieces and nephews, and seem to really, really love them. I just…do not.

It’s not the kids themselves. They are actually, nice, cute, well-behaved, smart, sweet kids (Well, Niece #1 is kind of spoiled, though not outrageously so). When Husband was recovering from surgery last year, Brother-In-Law brought Nephew #1 over to visit and Nephew #1 gave Husband a toy. (I did melt a little at that).

It’s not the parents, exactly. Husband’s Siblings are a lot more religious than us, but they’ve never insisted on tznius (modest) dress or on me covering my hair in front of their kids, or anything like that. Husband’s Family has pretty low expectations in general, which is a relief. Unlike my siblings, who have High Expectations and would expect All The Things if they had kids, Husband’s Siblings & Their Spouses really never expected babysitting (which is good, because we don’t live nearby) or birthday gifts, or even birthday calls (which is good, because I told Husband he was in charge of birthdays and gift-giving and he sucks at this).

The role of aunt just feels juvenile somehow, like a babysitter. The still having to defer to the parents for for the information about the child and the parameters of the relationship. The power imbalance between yourself and the real parents. Babysitting was fine as a teenager, but I quit that years ago. I feel too old for this crap.

I hate the way Siblings-In-Law look at Husband and Me like we’re inexperienced and naive, just because they had successful procreative sex and have experienced the consequences. Like we couldn’t possibly know anything children. Even though we’re intelligent people in our 30s and have the internet, and childbirth and child-raising is one of the most talked about topics in the universe. I hate the way Siblings-In-Law look at me like a resource to help them. Actually, my Peers-Turned-Parents Friends are a lot worse about this. You can just see them eyeing you for free babysitting, or looking at you as some other resource to exploit. I remember reading this piece once about a mom praising her childfree friends, and even though it’s meant as genuine praise, I found it condescending and insulting. She says she knows why I’m childfree (I actually don’t identify with either childfree or childless labels, and no, she doesn’t know why I don’t have kids), she knows how I feel about it (no), and all the reasons she can think of for praising childfree women center around what they do for her, whether it’s giving her wine or a break from her children. Even in praising childfree women, she sees their value only in how they can be a resource to her. Siblings-In-Law are not that bad about the resource part as my other friends. But they do it too.

Sister-in-Law once asked if we could give her and Niece #1 a ride to an activity somewhere. This wasn’t an inherently unreasonable request, as Sis-In-Law had brought the car seat and the destination wasn’t that far. But Niece #1 is prone to carsickness and I am emetophobic. Of course I expect to one day clean up my own child’s vomit. But there was absolutely no way I would be willing to do this for a child who is not mine. (I said no and the plans changed to a walkable destination, and we had as good a time as could be expected given that I don’t enjoy time with my “niblings”).

And it’s not that I never expected or wanted my siblings / siblings-in-law to have kids. I did. I just expected I’d be a mom first and an aunt second because I’m the oldest.

Husband, of course, is a good Millennial (in this respect) and loves being an uncle. He is a good uncle in fact. For him, it is the perfect channel for his parental urges and strengths without actually cramping his lifestyle. I’m the only one who hates being an aunt.

It’s like I didn’t get the lead role I wanted in the play and I’m mad about it and I’m not interested in the shitty supporting role of aunt. I’d rather drop out of the play and skip opening night.

Interestingly, I don’t think of my own aunts, even my non-blood-relative aunt and even after she and my blood-related uncle divorced, as being in a shitty supporting role. Supporting yes (no one can really outshine my own mother), but definitely not shitty. She was, and still is, an amazing aunt, even three years after the divorce. She just reached out recently and sent me a beautiful text after my grandmother died. My aunts on my mom’s side did this too. Actually, speaking of my grandmother, my dad’s cousin wrote a reflection on my grandmother, through her eyes, as a niece remembering her aunt. It was beautiful and moving and I didn’t really appreciate that their aunt-niece relationship was so close (they also lived together at one point as adults, so a totally different situation).

Right now, it’s just hard not to see being an aunt to children being raised by people who have such different values than me, as a crappy consolation prize.

Sukkot, aka Judaism is better when you have children (even if your children are lazy, useless adults)

A bit of background – I got active in Judaism in my 20s without having kids. Active member of multiple congregations, on the board of one of them. Observing Shabbat and Yom Tov, participating in community and learning opportunities, etc. I used to judge people who only got into Judaism, (eg. observing holidays, going to synagogue, caring about Jewish education, etc.) when they had kids. “Don’t you realize your kids are going to see right through you?” I thought to myself. I thought I was totally superior to everyone going through the motions just so their kids would do it.

Then I reached my 30s, and I started to understand it. It wasn’t that my peers-turned-parents never cared before. It’s that there was a certain joy in Judaism with your kids – baking challah or hamentaschen, lighting Chanukah/Shabbat/Havdalah candles – that made it that much better. Even Bestie, who is as secular as you can get, loves lighting Shabbat candles and loved building and decorating her sukkah with her husband and sons. Honestly, pre-kids, I wasn’t sure Bestie knew Sukkot was a holiday.

Anyway, on Rosh Hashanah, Husband floated the idea of going to my parents for Sukkot Days 1+2. I did not like the idea. I disliked the idea (or more accurately, Husband’s confidence/arrogance that this was the best idea ever and total unawareness that anyone could feel differently because his feelings were the most important) so much, that I went from being deliriously happy and horny following the Rosh Hashanah Dance Party (hey, I like dancing 😉 to actually feeling my sexual attraction to Husband plummet. Gentlemen, take heed: The mind-body connection is real and your sexual attractiveness is inversely proportional to the stupidity of the things you say.

In the end, we didn’t have any better options (due to our own incompetence and due to scheduling issues with the Sukkot retreat in Place I Don’t Live), and my parents liked the idea. We cobbled together Yom Tov plans using a combination of the methods from this post. I made and brought dessert (Option #1) and take out (Option #3) to my parents (Option #2). We booked a hotel (Option #3) and ate in my parents’ Sukkah (Option #2). And of course, we lowered expectations (Option #4) – I offered to make real food and ran out of time (also, Mom was not impressed with my repertoire of Real Food I Know How To Cook, lamented that she had failed as a mother, and said she’d rather just buy the food), the dessert was from a box mix, my Dad insisting on following us in the car as we were walking back to the hotel at night and it was driving me nuts so I accepted the ride, etc.

These plans were not optimized by any metric. From a Halacha perspective, we committed numerous halachic violations, from using the key card to get in and out of the hotel room to flat out driving on Shabbat since we were running so late. I’m not even counting stuff like making tea without a k’li sheni, ripping toilet paper, or Zoom services because I’ve become so desensitized to that kind of thing, and also because reading Torah and/or Haftarah on Zoom is now the highlight of Shabbat for me. We did not save my parents, including my Dad who is in aveilut (year of mourning) for my grandmother, any work or any money, and actually, we created more work and expense for them (part of why I hated the idea in the first place). From a budget perspective, we spent a lot of money on a hotel room. I mean, I lied to Husband about the total amount of the bill and he was still all WTF about it. Even dessert was sub-optimal, because the brownies came out bad. I didn’t even think it was possible to screw up Ghirardelli’s brownies from a mix, but lesson learned, it is.

It’s not even clear if staying in the hotel was the best way to minimize coronavirus risk. For reasons I do not understand (My Hometown is extremely boring and not a tourist destination for any type of tourist), the hotel was completely packed with people eating, drinking, chatting in the common area without masks. Honestly, I’m not mad that the hotel staff gave up on enforcing the masks in the common area rule. There have just been too many stories of lunatic customers assaulting employees trying to enforce the mask policies of their business establishments. But I was surprised and now I have what I hope is just a cold, and I am feeling paranoid.

And yet, it was a wonderful Sukkot. Meals and conversation in the sukkah, the kind of conversations that last for hours because everyone is actually engaged in them and wants them to continue. Board games in the sukkah. Books and naps on the deck.

My parents are actually perfect parents. They raised four wildly different children who all turned out pretty good. (I get that this blog is not a ringing endorsement of my greatness, so just take my word for it that in real life, I am a person my parents feel proud of raising and not just a complete mess). When it came to Judaism, their enthusiasm was genuine, and they made it the full experience for the kids, took their Jewish education seriously, lived by example. We had family dinners all the time. Not in a everything was made from scratch, no preservatives for my little darlings and plated for Instagram way, but more of a fish sticks and cut up veggies arranged in a smiley face is a perfectly good dinner because it’s fast, the kids eat the veggies because they are arranged in a smiley face, and we get to spend more time on the conversation.

And yet, I see my parents lose motivation when it is just the two of them. I mean, for them, losing motivation still means going to even weekday services and Shabbat services, even when they don’t need to say Kaddish, tons of chesed and learning (to be fair, my parents are in their part-time retirement jobs and have time for all of this), and ordering lots and lots of pizza. They still build the sukkah, get ready for Passover, but I can see the elements of just going through the motions. I feel bad, even though these days, I’m guilty of the same thing, if I even manage to go through the motions at all.

At one point, Dad and I were in the sukkah. Husband had fallen asleep on one of the deck chairs and Mom was inside getting something.

“You know,” said Dad. “This has been the best Sukkot we’ve had in years.”

That’s gotta count for something. Metrics be damned.

Rich People with Wonderful Families Should Not Say Motivational Quotes

I’m writing this as I am virtually-attending our annual office-wide meeting to go over last year’s highlights and discuss the goals for next year. Managing Director / Head of My Office Location likes to start all these meetings by welcoming and embarrassing the new hires, then giving his view of how we’re doing. This often includes a motivational / inspirational quote and always goes over time. Today’s quotes were around measuring success, given the COVID situation, which has impacted our business considerably. First quote is from Maya Angelou

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.”

― Maya Angelou

I don’t remember the second quote exactly, but something about how success is trying and making mistakes. Managing Director transitions from the quotes into something about how we’re successful for trying and working through tough times.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these quotes or this message. But it feels cheap for the Managing Director to embrace this model of success, and tell us it to motivate us, because I know perfectly well that the definition of success required for our bonus targets and possibly our merit increases, meeting our yearly financial targets, has not changed. So what difference does Managing Director’s motivational quotes re: success make if Employer is not actually changing the definition of success necessary to pay out a bonus? That’s nice that Managing Director feels inspired. Call me a jerk, but since we’re not successful enough for me to a get bonus, I kind of don’t care.

I’d rather Managing Director just be honest. Tell us we didn’t hit our financial targets because it was a tough year due to COVID-19, we’re not getting bonuses, you appreciate our hard work in spite of this, and you’re going to offer some thank you perk in appreciation of our efforts, like an extra day off or something. Honestly, I don’t really expect the last part, but it would be nice.

Next, it’s time for Finance Director to talk about the financial highlights (Spoiler Alert: Sales are Not Good vs. Target). Finance Director also shares a story about what success during COVID means to him. The story ends with him eating dinner with his family every night and spending more time with his children, and this is the true definition of success – spending time with your children which money can’t buy.

Again, nothing inherently wrong with defining success as family. But there is something tone-deaf about the Finance Director, who makes soooooo much more money than me, telling me that money doesn’t really matter. Also, how am I supposed to feel if I don’t have as much money as Finance Director and I don’t have children? By Finance Director’s logic, I am unsuccessful.

Finance Director’s inspirational message about success is almost a bit Kohelet-esque. Like, “I have acquired all this wealth/women/slaves/cattle and I know it is frivolty, so you should not bother acquiring wealth/women/slaves/cattle”. My reaction would be, well, awfully rich of you to tell me it’s all frivolty for me? Like what if I don’t have any wealth or cattle? Who are you to tell me that my need for wealth or cattle is worthless?

Those kiruv stories of women who had successful singing careers and then gave them up when they became Baalei T’shuva because of Kol Isha always made me feel the same way. Like nice of you, who already achieved my dreams, to tell me that achieving my dreams is worthless. As someone who was just talented enough enough at singing that I couldn’t let go of solo-singing-on-stage style dreams, yet not talented enough to ever audition well or get anywhere with it, I always found these stories kind of hurtful and insulting. I liked kiruv well enough overall, but those particular stories were a turn-off. But I digress.

The worst part of this meeting is that my fellow co-workers keep typing messages of agreement/engagement with these successful motivational talks in the Microsoft Teams Meeting chat. These are genuine responses, not fake suck-up responses. So I feel like the only bitter, jealous, de-motivated person. I think I need a new job.

Maybe it is just me. But I always feel turned off when rich people try to seem relatable by talking about something common to non-rich people, like their kids or something. As someone who does not have children, and who has a lot of complicated feelings about that, those I’m-trying-to-be-relatable-by-talking-about-my-kids anecdotes just make me feel lousy for not being that rich and for not having kids. I guess maybe if rich people talked about poetry, or something I’m into, instead of cliched motivational quotes, then maybe I’d find them relatable. (Any poetry-loving rich people out there who want to be friends? Hook me up with a new job?)

Besides, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that people’s experiences of common events vary wildly. A person raising children in NYC has nothing in common with someone raising children in rural West Virginia. We’re all in the pandemic, but essential workers, teachers, CEOs, celebrities, parents, singles, children, teenagers, college students – they are all experiencing it wildly differently. All that “we’re all in the same boat” messaging is pretty stupid. (And actually, I don’t think the pandemic has taught us a damn thing.)

The irony is that I am, arguably, a rich person. As in a margin above the 50th percentile on those humbling, depressing, and misleading global/US/state income calculators, not mansion in Beverly Hills rich. Overall, I am largely supportive of capitalism and free market economy. (There are limits of course) I’m not a bleeding-heart liberal and I actually don’t think billionaires are the root of all evil. I have no problem with people working hard and enjoying the fruits of their labors, or even for their kids enjoying the fruits of their labor without working hard. I just don’t like having to listen to people who are richer than me talk about success.

It occurs to me that my friends might see me as an obnoxious rich person and hate talking to me. I make a mental note to stop talking to my friends in order to be on the safe side.

Update: My direct report won an award for being a office culture champion! I don’t know what that means because I forgot to read the award information and forgot to nominate anyone. So I guess it is good that someone else in the office did my job for me and nominated Direct Report for an award. I am proud of Direct Report, but a little jealous since Finance Director announced the award as if I was going to get it. I think Direct Report winning an award reflects well on me, although I feel a slight anxiety that everyone thinks he is better at his job than I am at mine, and that I will be fired. I think I do need a new job.

Update: Finance Director thanked the Finance team for being supportive because his daughter has been going through a difficult time. Seems that Finance Director’s daughter has been having significant health and/or mental health struggles. I didn’t know this till today since I’m not on the Finance team. Now I feel bad for being bitter and hateful.

Shabbat and Yom Tov Arrangements (aka Adulting for Idiots)

In essence, there are four basic ways to make plans for Shabbat and Yom Tov:

  1. You could do it yourself – prepare the food, prepare the accommodations, build a sukkah, kasher your kitchen for Pesach, etc.
  2. You could have someone do it for you – be a guest for a meal or overnight, visit relatives, use a community sukkah, etc.
  3. You could pay for it – buy takeout, pay for a community dinner, book a hotel room, go on a Pesach resort vacation, etc.
  4. You could lower your expectations – this could be expectations of decor, eg. paper plates and basic menu, or it could be forgoing minchagim, chumrah, or even outright cutting halachic corners, depending on your circumstances and level of religiousity.

These options aren’t mutually exclusive and many people will do some combination, even within the same Shabbat or Yom Tov. You might cook one dish from scratch (1) and buy another dish already prepared (3). You might host guests at your home one meal (1), and be a guest at another meal (2). You might host (1) a potluck meal (2), so your guests bring food that they cooked (1) or bought (3) to you. If you choose to stay at your relatives (2) and your relatives are lousy cooks and/or less religious than you and unable to accommodate your level of observance, you will probably need to lower your standards/expectations (4) or stay at a hotel (3). Or stay home and not visit them (1).

When I first started romanticizing Orthodoxy, I had this idea that becoming Orthodox would not only make me a better person on a spiritual level, but also a better person on an adult functionality level. Planning around Shabbat, meal prepping kosher meals instead of buying whatever – all of this would make me better at organization and time management. I pictured myself becoming queen of running a Jewish household, hosting awesome themed Shabbat meals for massive numbers of people, while excelling at everything else on my schedule, because somehow, the decision to wear longer sleeves and cover my cleavage would correlate to incredible time-management and hostess abilities (i*)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

*This would be Option #1 per the list above, but I’m putting i instead to show that it was imaginary, magical thinking, like an imaginary number.

It turns out that if you are bad at time management and then become Orthodox, you remain bad at time management. You just have more things to cram into your schedule and then fail spectacularly at, and then you get to feel not only the failure for being hopeless at adulting, but also religious guilt.

I wound up marrying a guy who was almost as hopeless at organization and household management, and even more hopeless at time management, than I was.

I did manage to host a limited number of Shabbat and Yom Tov meals (in all honesty, I don’t even really like hosting, unless it is under extremely specific circumstances with a highly curated guest list). Mostly, for Shabbat and Yom Tov, we were either at home by ourselves (1), or managed to be really cool guests at other people’s houses and exploit our families’ goodwill (2).

Now it is nearly Sukkot. Our Own Ineptness + Non-Ideal Housing Situation That We Are 100% Responsible For = We will not and cannot have a Sukkah. COVID-19 has largely removed being a guest and/or visiting relatives (2) from consideration. The options now are to spend lots of money and driving time to go on a Sukkot retreat in City I Don’t Live In, which aside from the expense, does not really work out well from a scheduling perspective (3). Or we could lower expectations, stay home, and not have a sukkah (4), which is the clear path of least resistance.

Honestly, Sukkot is not one of my favorite holidays, not even close. But the idea of no sukkah feels weirdly sad to me.