Who says I'm not counting?!
Jewish mourning customs are carefully structured in levels of intensity…from the depth of the restrictions placed during shiva, the first seven days, to the somewhat lightened rules during sheloshim, the first thirty days. Traditionally, there are strict rules for mourners, which can actually be very helpful. If "the rules" tell you that you aren't allowed to shower or shave, you feel less like a crazy person when you really don't feel like it. If "the rules" tell you that you're not allowed to study Torah, you don't have to justify why you can't focus on a page of words and make sense out of it. And if "the rules" tell you that you are supposed to sit on the floor, you feel like your desire to curl up in a ball on the floor and cry is totally normal.
And of course, there are reinterpretations and modern interpretations, and times change and ideas change. That all fits in with how I look at my Jewish observance and how I look at the world.
The sheloshim (30 days, counted from the day of the funeral) period has less strict restrictions on mourners. While many normal activities can be resumed, "the rules" tell you that not shaving or changing your clothes is okay, and listening to music or attending social events is mostly restricted. Writing these words in the period of sheloshim, I can tell you how wise they are. Some days I'm totally good with getting up and putting on clothes and going out and doing things. And other days I just want to stay in my pajamas.
These "rules" (and my quotes are not intended for sarcasm, not in the least. But they are to indicate that I see these as traditional guidelines that help to focus and inform my behavior…not strictly dictate) are awesome in their detail, in their attention to how people actually feel, in their understanding of the human need to mourn and to also be told to try to begin to move through. So often rules give us structure and even permission to believe that our feelings are valid and real and "normal."
But there are so many really MODERN things that are missing from "the rules."
What do I do about Facebook (and other social media), which is so much a part of my "real" life? How do I engage online in ways that are comfortable for ME and for others too? I've been so lucky -- my social media is full of Sammy. Some days I want to post cute pictures or recipes or funny jokes or snarky ideas…and some days I don't. And how do I make a distinction for myself…knowing that it's really only about me -- I think that many people wouldn't even notice or judge or care. It was an evolution, not a set of rules for myself, but I've spent these thirty days seriously considering the posts I write, the pictures I post, and the way that I say things.
Every Friday, it is my custom to wish my Facebook (and Twitter) world a Shabbat Shalom. Usually it's written with sweetness and joy, with a hope for a day of rest filled with love and blessing. Usually the responses are in that same vein. I haven't quite had the heart to wish a whole world a "shabbat shalom." Sammy's death on Shabbat has forever colored how I feel about Friday nights. I've somewhat avoided it…using other words to "sign out" on Friday nights. Will I feel differently when sheloshim ends?
Every Saturday night, I write "Shavua tov! How was your Shabbat?" (Shavua tov = a good week)
I know that I write it every Saturday because if I don't, I get gently heckled by a few friends who write it to me! I haven't posted that since Sammy died. It's even more different than "shabbat shalom" -- it actually has the word "good" (tov) in it. Oh, friends, I definitely want you to have a good week. But similar to wishing me a happy birthday…I'm not quite sure I'm ready to throw that sentiment out in the world yet. So I've avoided it. Posting pictures of our Havdalah candle, ending our Shabbat with light and warmth and blessing…this has been my avoidance tactic. I'm not even sure anyone has noticed (the kind hecklers are mostly in on my musings) but it's had an impact on me. It's different, it's where I am right now…
And then it's over. Thirty days, and the rules are done.
As much as I love and value the rules…I'm not done. How can I be?
So now what? (I think that's a whole other post…)
When sheloshim ends, we return to "normal," to our regular activities. Aside from the "real life stuff," let's keep going with the online world: Do I post funny pictures, silly quotes, recipes, ideas, ordinary stuff? Do I share my usual life -- movies, books, articles? Do I express my frustration with some of Solly's antics, tempered by the idea that I value his presence all the moreso in the depths of missing Sam? I offered up a thought this week, when I posted an article about grieving parents, that I don't want to become a "one trick pony," only posting about grief, only posting about kids with cancer, only posting about the swirling uncertainty around us. That's not who I am, it's not who I want to be. Many friends reassured me that I'm not…and I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing or how I'm feeling…and I've decided that it's okay. I'm okay with posting what I feel at that moment. Feeling like posting funny pics? Okay. Feeling like posting something sad? I'm hopeful that my online community will continue to be okay with that too.
Navigating the waters of mourning is difficult each and every day. I am grateful for the structures of tradition and for the practices of reforming that allow me to interpret and re-imagine, to figure out how these ancient pathways can lead me into my modern existence.
And we just keep on swimming...
|Sammy, finding something really fascinating online (in 2008)...