A Dedication

Locations accumulate associations. My desk, for example, is now associated with sitting cross-legged in my chair and gloomily staring at the to-do list of things to study and feverishly trying to avoid doing any of them. This does not make my desk the most cheerful spot in my room.

People build up associations too. This is why you sometimes have a knee-jerk negative reaction to an otherwise innocent behavior or comment from someone who has irritated you in the past.

Sometimes, you just need to get away from all the associations. This is the idea behind a vacation. You can sleep late just as well in your own bed, but your own bed has that alarm clock next to it, and it’s in your room that you need to clean in a house you need to maintain with a sink you need to empty and full of people who are potentially hazardous for your blood pressure… Thus, people prefer to sleep late in a hotel, motel, or even a campground, where there’s no sink at all. No sink, and no associations. Aaaah… That’s nice.

Judaism acknowledges this issue as well, with Succos. One reason given for moving out of our homes shortly after Yom Kippur is to help us maintain that fresh start by removing us from the association-filled environment that causes all that unfortunate autopilot behavior. Having a new home, albeit briefly, provides us with the opportunity to start over. Sort of like a troubled couple trying to piece their marriage together with a second honeymoon. Only, a little colder and a lot wetter.

Any transition in life is an opportunity to start over, to be more conscientious, to be a better or more dedicated person. Isn’t that how we approach new marriages? We promise ourselves we’ll always be considerate, we’ll never get angry, we’ll never slack off, we’ll always be in love…

And that’s how I approach the idea of moving out on my own. It’s a chance to begin a new painting with a palette of idealism. To escape any of that negativity that might have built up in my old haunts and habits and relationships by starting them afresh with a different perspective.

It’s easy to promise to become perfect when you get married, but it’s a tough guise to maintain if you don’t have much practice. That’s what’s so nice about this. It’s an opportunity to get a head start on perfection, by practicing on a new beginning.

New beginnings are a time of great hope, anticipation, and change. I’m grateful to get in an extra one now, before marriage.

A Dedication

by Rudyard Kipling

My new-cut ashlar takes the light

Where crimson-blank the windows flare;

By my own work, before the night,

Great Overseer, I make my prayer.

If there be good in that I wrought,

Thy hand compelled it, Master, Thine;

Where I have fail’d to meet Thy thought

I know, through Thee, the blame is mine.

One instant’s toil to Thee denied

Stands all eternity’s offence;

Of that I did with Thee to guide

To Thee through Thee, be excellence.

Who, lest all thought of Eden fade,

Bring’st to Eden to the craftsman’s brain,

Godlike to muse o’er his own trade

And manlike stand with God again.

The depth and dream of my desire,

The bitter paths wherein I stray,

Thou knowest who has made the fire,

Thou knowest who has made the clay.

One stone the more swings to her place

In that dread temple of Thy worth,

It is enough that through Thy grace

I saw naught common on Thy earth.

Take not that vision from my ken;

O, whasoe’er may spoil or speed,

Help me to need no aid from men

That I may help such men as need.

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Today I am a (Wo)Man

Everyone chuckles at the bar mitzvah boy’s announcement. Not just because he’s so short that he has to stand on tip-toes to see out of his hat. But because we all know that, bar mitzvah or not, there’s no big black line that you step across to become a mature adult. It happens gradually, and not always at a regular pace.

That was what I was thinking about while reading some of the comments to last Monday’s post (“Are People Pitying Me?“). Far be it from me to say that people who get married at 19 are miserable and stuck in foreclosed identities (though I know there are some). The post was about me, and how I believe the extra time has made me more than ever ready for marriage. However, I know there are many women who didn’t need that extra time, and I don’t begrudge them their marriages.

Some of us are just late bloomers.

I’ve always known I was slow.

In 5th grade we learned about Helen Keller and our teacher asked us to write a composition about what we’d do if we had three days left to see. I didn’t have to think too hard about that one. I was in 5th grade, and had hardly seen a world that I’d read about extensively. I picked some of the sights I thought I shouldn’t die without seeing and wrote a little itinerary for my three days (allowing that my parents would have to  escort me).

The teacher asked who wanted to read theirs aloud, and of course the class goody-two-shoes (G2S) raised her hand. Then she recited an essay all about how she would spend the three days memorizing the facial features of her family. As she read, a smattering of students around the classroom surreptitiously picked their pens back up and oh-so-nonchalantly added another paragraph to their paper.

I was among them.

It would be fair to say that I resented her and her dumb composition (and who needs three days to remember what their parents look like anyway?). She had the right answer – always had the right answer. A right answer that showed me up – not for having the wrong answer, but for lacking… lacking something, some instinct that led her to the right answer. What exactly, I couldn’t say. But it wasn’t something you could learn from a book, or look up in an encyclopedia, or even understand by being told about it. Either you got it or you didn’t. And I didn’t. And that bothered me.

My best friend (BF), on the other hand, didn’t understand why I was so bothered. She’d written about going skiing and hadn’t felt the slightest compulsion to amend her story.

G2S was about a decade ahead of me in emotional development. I should mention that she was in the first wave of engagements and marriages. BF also got married, but a few years later. I wonder when she finally understood G2S’s composition, and if it had been sudden or gradual, early or late, if she’d even noticed at all. I wonder about all the other surreptitious paragraph-adders in the class.

But most of all, I wonder about what else there is that I might be missing. And when I’ll finally learn what they are.