My Improvement Goal

Today’s blog finishes a week’s worth of reflections.  Day 7…

How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

I would like to be able to better express myself.  I think much.  I feel much.  I often do not say much.  Out loud.  Especially about topics that get me fired up.

I rehearse and craft passionate speeches in my mind.  I write brilliant letters to the editor in my mind.  I stun and mesmerize others with my arguments and  well-delivered supporting facts in my mind.

In reality, I do not deliver any of these things.  Especially about topics that get me fired up. Like social injustice.  Like racism, sexism, zenophobia, or any type of discrimination.  Like poverty.  Like mental health.  Like marital fidelity.  Like the current presidential race, or gubernatorial race.  Like animal cruelty.

I would like to say the amazing things that are in my head.  I may not ever be able to.  My contributions may have to be quiet contributions:  voting, volunteering, educating myself, educating others when possible, donating, demanding exemplar behavior from myself.

And maybe one day, I’ll have my own Elizabeth Cady Stanton/Eleanor Roosevelt/Susan B. Anthony/Hillary Clinton/Michelle Obama moment.  Until then, read this blog.  Regardless of my feelings about other policy and issues, I have to speak out about Trump’s sexism.  I have been a victim of sexism and sexist acts, and I am concerned about a leader that seemingly does not recognize that trait in himself, and thus would not recognize it in others or in policies and programs.

Open Letter to Donald Trump from Some Angry Women

Is It Shameful That I Can’t Think of an Example?

Day 5 of reflecting as part of the Jewish New Year.

Today’s question:

Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

I cannot say that I had any particular spiritual experiences this past year.  But I had a lot of inner soul-searching as I encountered client situations that were unlike anything to which I had ever been exposed.  I had look within myself to understand what I truly value, what my “red lines” are, and what my biases (often implicit) are.

I also started watching Shameless on Netflix, which is definitely a secular experience.

The World

Today’s question is a good one.

Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

Wow….so many world and national events have impacted me this year.  The Presidential election.  The Syrian refugee crisis.  The terrorist attacks in Paris.  The police shooting of an African-American man in my back yard city of Charlotte.  The 15th anniversary of 9/11. The war in Syria and its humanitarian tragedies.  The death of Prince.  The HB2 bill in North Carolina.  The mass shootings in Orlando.

My list is long, and unfortunately, in rereading it, I can’t find one thing on this list that impacted me in a good way.  These events all brought me sorrow, or frustration, or anger, or grief.  Or a mixture of all these emotions at once.  The world, for many people, is not a welcoming place.  It is often a scary place, and I think that a lot of us are experiencing a lot of uncertainty these days.

I have been really touched by the war in Syria.  Years of civil war — I cannot imagine what it is like to live in a country that is at war with itself.  I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in constant, persistent fear.  And as tales of “barbarianism” are released, I cannot imagine what it must be like to witness and experience such trauma.  No food, no water, no medical supplies.  No shelter, no protection, no government providing security, no guarantee for any basic needs.  And people stay because it is their home.  What if the US turned into such a battleground?  I imagine that a lot of Americans wouldn’t even think of leaving, because this is America, this is where they were born, this is where they belong.  And many Syrians feel the same about their land, so they stay.

And those that leave?  Millions are fleeing, looking for a new home.  Yet, countries around the world are questioning if they should help them.  Our country is questioning if we should help them.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the ordinary people of Syria.  Most of us are born from people who wandered, or fled, or were captured and displaced somewhere in our history.  We should be able to see ourselves in their plight.

Don’t Stop

Today’s reflection question is a tough one.

Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

I’m stretching a little, but my youngest first cousin on my mom’s side got married this year.  It was the first marriage in the family in many years.  His wedding affected us by pulling us together for a joyful experience, creating a bonding moment.

My members of my mom’s family actually sees each other pretty frequently, at least compared to a lot of families whose members live in different towns and states.  As my sister and I were growing up, my mom and her six sisters all lived within 40 miles of my grandparents.  Every Sunday was spent at my grandparents’ house, and most of my aunts and their children came each Sunday.  When my grandfather passed away, he asked my mom to help ensure that “the family” still got together frequently, and my mom and my step-dad have opened their home on a regular basis to us.

Thus, the wedding wasn’t the first time in a long time that we all had seen each other — we just got together at Easter.  But it was the first time in a long time that we celebrated each other, celebrated our family, and celebrated how much we love each other.  (Also, a celebration of cupcakes and Journey songs.)

This Makes Me Proud…

It’s the second day of reflection before Yom Kippur, and that means answering the 2nd question.  How would you answer this?

Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you’re especially proud of from this past year?

I am really proud of myself for going back to school and completing the first year of the Masters of Social Work program.  It took several years for me to find the courage to quit my job and pursue a new career, and I believe that it has been the best decision.

It has not been easy.  I have always been good at school work.  I do not suffer from test anxiety, so school has come easy for me in the past.  My goal when starting school this time was to enjoy the experience and learn as much as possible — grades and performance would be last on the list of my priorities.  I have been able to stick to this goal and philosophy of school.

What has been hard has been the immersion into social work.  Social work is about social justice; it is about enhancing the life of others.  In the preamble to our code of ethics, our mission reads “The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed and living in poverty.”  Since I have been in school, I have been exposed to so many cases where people are lacking basic human needs, like shelter and food, and I have met and worked with so many vulnerable and oppressed individuals, like those with mental illnesses, the homeless, the elderly, minorities, and those in abusive situations.

That is what has been hard.  I have been blessed in my life with a loving and giving family and friend support system, food and shelter, access to education, a family environment that encouraged education and encouraged me to be successful, good medical care, etc., etc.  The exposure to those who have only a few or none of these is eye-opening and heart-hurting.

And I have asked myself several times if I have the emotional stability to be in this profession.

This is why it has been hard.

But I love it and am proud to be pursuing this career.


10 Days of Reflection

Two years ago, I participated in the ten days of reflection that precede Yom Kippur (My Jewish Experiment Day 1).   I did not participate last year, but want to take these days to reflect now.

So, here goes:

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My divorce became final this year.  Even though we have lived completely separate lives for over two years, and have had almost no contact since the day that I moved out, actually getting divorced and getting my maiden name back felt liberating.  Especially getting my maiden name back.  Until your name has unpleasant connotations, you don’t realize how often you hear it or say it on a normal basis.  Picking up a prescription at the pharmacy?  Give your last name.  Going to the bank?  “Welcome, Mrs. Elder.”  Signing a credit card slip.  Signing his last name.

Hello Name Tag Sticker on White

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When you are trying to leave a marriage behind, his name keeps popping up on your way to the new you.

Until I got that final divorce decree.  Which changes absolutely nothing about how I have been living during the last two years, or my finances, or anything.  Except that now I can get my precious name back.  And I am grateful.

Future Look. Day 10.

Today is the last day of my 10 days of self-evaluation / reflection, compliments of borrowing parts of a tradition from Rosh Hashanah.  Answering a different question each night has been a good experience for me.  I was drawn to trying this out because I thought that the tradition of spending 10 days deliberately and thoughtfully evaluating the last year and my actions over the last year was a worthy undertaking.  I imagine that in Jewish tradition that this time spent in reflection helps prepare the person for today, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  I know that after the last 10 days, I am much more cognizant of the actions for which I should make amends.

Are you interested in trying it?  No need to wait until next year, but if you want to, sign up like I did with the website 10Q, and next year during this time, you’ll get the questions and can answer them, anonymously if you want.

And on the 10th day you can answer this question:

Question:  When September 2015 rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you’ll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you’re at as a result of thinking about and answering these questions?


I think my first reaction will be pleasure.  I will be glad that I took the time to answer the questions and document my thoughts and feelings right now, especially since this is such a changeable year for me.  There are a few years that I regard as important years in my life.  Not just important days, or weeks, or moments, but years that went far in defining the me that exists now.  My sophomore year in college, the year that I bought my first house, the year that I turned 35, and now, this year.  These years, for very different reasons, challenged me and led me to make permanent shifts and developments as a person, or an employee, or as friend or partner.  These years were not business as usual years.  This year will be one of “these years”.

And for that I am glad that I took the last 10 days to answer 10 questions.

As for my expectations of where I’ll be next year, I am actually trying to keep them low.  Ok, low may be the wrong word, because I don’t mean that I think that there won’t be any forward movement or positive things in my life.  I think that what I mean is that I’m keeping my expectations realistic.  I mentioned in one of my earlier answers that some of the best advice I have received over the last three to four months has been “you don’t have to have it all figured out right now.”  So, I’m leaving my options open and my future a little more up in the air.

Which is exciting…because while I have been reminded by answering these questions that sometimes the worst does happen, our fears do come true, the bottom does drops out, the beautiful, wonderful, magnificent truth is that I can handle it.

Next year — who knows where I’ll be?  I hope that I’m learning more, healthier, have more friends, trying something new, still laughing.