Bad Energy, and Soup in a Tupperware

wisteria lane houses by ceekay on flikr

Heeeey there. It’s been more than a month (closer to two) since I’ve blogged. The reason can be distilled into one intense truth: I will never have more time than I have…right…NOW. (Or, as my brother likes to say, later is later.)  Or, if you will, a Carrie Bradshaw question: When you multitask, are you doing everything, or are you doing nothing?

Leaving that aside…on to my actual post.

Who believes in bad energy clusters? Raise your hand. It seems we (as a people) are about to commemorate one tonight and tomorrow, whether that’s what we want to call it or not. For the uninitiated (or the only slightly initiated) Tisha B’Av, a fast day second in seriousness only to Yom Kippur, starts tonight, culminating a three-week morning period which began with the fast of 17 Tammuz. 9 Av marks the day that BOTH temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, in addition to many other terrible things to befall the Jewish people over the years. (17 Tammuz has its own laundry list.)

If the baddies throughout history were anything like the bored hooligans in my neighborhood, it does not surprise me that stuff was burned down and smashed and people killed and chased during the summer. Riots seem to proliferate in the heat, and I seem to remember that it’s just not in Israel. I’d riot too if I didn’t have A/C. But that doesn’t account for all of it…there’s seems to be something simply unlucky going on.

So back to the bad energy.

There has been lots of stuff going on in our community this month, none of it too good, some of it actually terrible. For a few weeks starting right around when the three weeks did, there was one piece of bad news after another – deaths of friends’ parents, illnesses of friends, and even illnesses of friends’ children. (Statistically, I know, there is nothing out of the ordinary in a community full of middle aged people and 1000+ kids when a few people start to get sick and have their parents die. But the way it hit all at once, on top of a tragic car accident involving Bet Shemesh teens, on top of the Haredi riots mirroring those in Mea Shearim, and several other things that can be classified under ‘local bad stuff,’ it all just seemed like too much…)

So much, in fact, that the rabbi of our shul called for a special communal prayer, where the synagogue was half full on a regular weeknight to say psalms for the ill, etc.. Prayer and food. What else can you do?

Suburbia means that when your neighbor itches, you scratch. Especially Orthodox suburbia, where scratching thy neighbor’s itch is a high art and at times (and for some), a calling. Communal needs become your own, a natural part of life.

Most of the time, this is exactly how I think it needs to be, a page out of my philosophy. Be a giver, not a taker, and justify your existence on the planet, or else you can’t be guaranteed a spot. Cancel out the bad energy with good energy. Or something like that.

But sometimes…honestly (and what can I really add to the conversation other than honesty?)… I feel snitty and reclusive and resent all the communal responsibility for the other, which is vastly time consuming and, more than anything else, erodes privacy in the extreme. The fact that I blog (selectively telling whoever what I choose to tell you) doesn’t mean I’m not also intensely private; I hate that everyone here knows who has what, and who does what for who. We make Lynette, Gabi, Bree and Susan look like monks on a vow of silence where I live.

Caring and nosiness gently lap on these safe shores in a constant tide. Such is the Jewish way.

In fact, some of the people who are on the ill side of the beach struggle with the whole “do I ask for help or do I keep this private” thing, and several have chosen the latter, having close friends sworn to silence and receiving less “hessed” help, more quiet.

Another woman, on the other hand, recently told me that she has no idea why anyone would want to keep an illness to herself, and has felt so embraced by her friends during her struggle with early stage breast cancer that she can’t even imagine going through it without her wide circle of support. Most find a balance that is right for their comfort level, but invariably some people end up feeling both grateful for the kindness and overexposed.

Most of the time, I’m really glad to know 200 people have my back (and not only talk behind it.) It’s for real: There’s strength in a village. So I happily make (really good, I must say) soup and am just intensely grateful I can be on the giving end. It’s a blessing, and I know it, having in the past been a grateful and overexposed recipient.

(But damn it, my cabin on a rocky Maine beach awaits me in my mind.  Even though, if you read enough Stephen King, there’s no worse energy than in Maine.)

1 Comment

  1. ralph

    7/30/2009 at 3:04 pm

    what a great piece of writing. just enjoyed reading it in the way that i would enjoy having a great conversation.

    i came to this website clicking on the author of a well-written comment from sometime in late ’06. i guess that just goes to show….somethingorother.

    good luck to you. whoever you are and wherever you are.

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