Thursday, September 24, 2015

"Turning" to the Better Barbara

Sometimes I wonder if religion will get more important in my Third Third. To me, religion is that opportunity to contemplate the “still, small voice” within me. Maybe that’s a God-voice, who knows? What is essential is listening to it, thinking about it, trying to consistently act on it, having conversations about it, wondering about it, not listening to it and messing up, recommitting to it. All that can come from a novel or play same as it comes from a prayer book or sermon.

But there are certain times when the sound of the “still, small voice” is more focused and intense, and Yom Kippur will always be that kind of day for me. It’s not so much that I’m fasting; it’s that I’m sitting in a synagogue for a whole day reading a book that says the same things over and over with a synagogue full of people saying the same things over and over. You say things so many times you can’t avoid hearing them.
All day during Yom Kippur, we hear that we can “turn,” become better people any time. So I sit there going over what a shit I can be, and I vow to be kinder, nicer, more understanding. Less critical, unyielding, and stingy. And then I beat myself up because I’ve said that in previous years and what good did it do? (Think New Year’s Resolutions…)

So we get to the part about needing “courage to do and to become, not only to look on with helpless yearning as though we had no strength.” And then I beat myself up not only for being a shit, but for lacking courage and being a helpless whiner.

Yom Kippur – with all my thoughts of all my inadequacies – is not a bummer day. It’s actually exalting and awesome to contemplate improvement, to have a vision of a Better Barbara. To sit in a roomful of people all thinking of their Better Selves and making plans to bring them to life, to contribute to a Better World. Eventually, I get an idea for something specific I can do, and Better Barbara gets moving. Better Barbara is pretty good at that, but unfortunately, Shitty Barbara usually follows her along.
Once, though, I had some success, and I’m trying to figure out how to duplicate it. I used to be a shrieker. Shriekers shriek things like, “I told you I was buying milk!” or “I told you I would be ready to be picked up at 5!” Shriekers even shriek things like “Who put the bath sponge in the floor-washing bucket?!” Shriekers think no one is listening to them. Then, one day, I heard a friend shriek at her family. I saw the reaction on their faces, I heard her voice – really heard it, for all its screechy ghastliness – and I stopped shrieking. Wham. Gone. Just like that.

No, not “just like that.” It took years of Yom Kippurs. Maybe the message just finally got through. Now, what about the rest of the list?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Sharing Button