There is something much bigger than me. Much bigger than us, much bigger than this 9-month time span, much bigger than my patriotism or my religion. That something is Life. Vast and simple Life itself.
Yehudit is an 84 year-old woman who stands at about 5’3 with clouded brown eyes, wrinkly, freckly, thick skin, and appears to be somewhere between normal and over-weight. Her parents came to Israel from Poland during either the first or second aliya, which refers to the waves of immigration to Israel. After the War of Independence the country had only 600,000 Jews and needed to secure itself and to multiply the population if they were going to be able to stand strong and be resilient. She describes the personal mission of those pioneers of her generation to have without-question been simply to live and die for their country Israel. With this mission in mind there was no such thing as superficiality. No one owned more than 1 pair of shoes, no one cared about expensive jewelry, or had really had much of any tie to anything material.
Recently I’ve noticed my increasingly non-reactive approach to so many of life’s happenings. So the boys aren’t helping cook, big deal. So I’m living abroad for 9 months, okay cool. So I had to wear the same dirty clothes 5 days in a row, life goes on. So I have a Master’s degree, nice. So right now I have financial stressors, I’ll deal. So few things really feel like such a big deal ever… I don’t think it’s apathy (although I’ll keep challenging myself to look at that) rather I think I’m gaining perspective of a much bigger picture.
The day we visited Yehudit we also visited two cemeteries. At both cemeteries the grave plots were relatively all the same size, the tombstones had just about all the same info (name, dates of birth/death, parents names), and the overall physical appearance of them all were generally about the same. It didn't matter what someone had done in his or her life because at the end of it all they were just put back in the ground the same way as everyone else. It really forced me to beg the question of what really matters. How humbling an experience.
I have a set amount of energy to expend each day and it fluxes slightly from one to the next. When I’m lying on my death bed I am absolutely confident that I will not look back on my life and wish that I spent more time gearing that energy toward stress or fixating on areas out of my control. Likewise, I’m also confident that I won’t be considering my life a success because I earned a Master’s degree or because I traveled the world. Perhaps it's a luxury to be in my position but I can't honestly say while I appreciate those opportunities they don't really matter to me in the big picture. When Yehudit was asked "How are you?" Her response was "I'm alive aren't I? It's a miracle!" If that doesn't shed light on a bigger picture I'm not sure what does.
Something is only a problem if we make it one, right? Likewise, time only exists in periods if we create them, right? I was told the other day not to consider these 9 months a period in my life rather just try looking at it as life itself. What a different form it takes when I do so…
My ideas and my writing feel scattered which frustrates me because it feels unclear yet at the same time I think it’s an accurate reflection of the organization of these ideas in my head. It seems as though in this short time I’ve been away from home I’ve already been overwhelmingly faced with so many situations and experiences that seem to provide me with all these new perspectives and ways of looking at life and what really matters. More to come on these thoughts as I get them more sorted out…