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#86 - And so, a new year....

#86 Family Matters

In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin, September 10, 2020


‘It was the best of years, it was the worst of years’, but then I wonder - really? Is that true? For sure some ‘bests’ were experienced – weddings, evolving love stories, animal additions to family packs, graduations, home making, gardening, baking and cooking, lots of visits together B.C. (before Covid) And some harder parts for sure, but the worst? Let’s recall and hold onto the fact that there was good health for some, or the ability to access help when health was faltering. For the lucky here were no heart attacks, cancer diagnoses, untimely deaths. For many of us, we were well fed, well cared for, remembered by loved ones.


So perhaps a reminder of the full Dickens’ quote:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”


And this is reminiscent of an older quote, the Biblical quote from Ecclesiastes:

“To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season and a purpose for everything under heaven.” TO everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”


Which makes me reflect that perhaps this was not the ‘worst’ of times for some, including me, a woman of much privilege and blessing. For many, yes. Tragedy upon tragedy. Racism, not new, but exposed repeatedly. A virus from which many are dying and suffering and which is wrecking long term havoc we cannot even begin to comprehend – economic, educational, child developmental, interpersonal, medical and psychological messes which will last for decades. Ongoing climate changes such that California is on fire most of the time and temperatures of over 120 in the valley.


So yes, the worst of times in a global sense.


But on a personal sense, maybe not. There was and is joy from last year and I’m committed to continue to note it and experience it in 5781 and I invite you to join in.


The upcoming Jewish New Year is almost upon us. Literally known as ‘the head of the year’, Rosh Hashana begins Friday September 18, in the evening, at sunset. It is the official kick off to something known as ‘the ten days of awe’. It is a time, unlike the secular New Year (where we stay up to midnight, drink lots, karaoke lots, and have a blast), or the fiscal new year (where we get nervous, work late, turn in every piece of paperwork we’ve mistakenly forgotten to submit, and prepare for the next fiscal audit), and unlike the back to school new year (where we used to buy school supplies, worry on behalf of our children, pack lunches, and buy more school supplies and where now we mostly just worry on behalf of our children), this New Year is established as a time of introspection and self-reflection – a time to take stock of where we are, and to think about ‘Who shall live and who shall die? Who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquilly and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.


The basic idea and metaphor is that a big book will be written, and decisions will be made – but – and here’s the catch – apparently with REPENTANCE, PRAYER, and CHARITY we each have the ability to remove evil of any potential decree, and change our fate for the next year. And we do so as individuals, yes, and also, as being part of a community.


How do we find community when we are cut off from people? Where do we meet our social needs, when socializing is ill advised? I have found that in these days, a sense of connectedness pops up in the funniest places.

For instance, I went to get my flu shot. And it was a ‘drive through’ flu shot experience. And it was fascinating, depressing, impressive AND a bizarre connection to community. I was sad that it did not include a double double and fries, as In n Out was the last drive through experience I had, back in February, but….it had other perks. For instance, the nurses, all pediatric for some reason, were wearing cute medical smocks, including a Winnie the Pooh one and a Safari themed one. They were very friendly and chatty while also efficient. They let me know that none of them have gotten sick, that the COVID numbers in the local ICU were down, and that they were preparing for a post Labor Day increase next week.

I hear from my patients that if they want any social time ‘at school’ (i.e. in their online classes) then they need to hop onto the zoom 10 minutes before class. These kids are full of zoom tips. For instance, do NOT write anything in the chat, not even a private message, as the teacher/school can read it all. Also, it’s easy enough to look engaged in class while having your OTHER screen/tablet/phone under the keyboard or to the left of the webcam. Also, just about every child I’ve seen of late (including littles) have told me that it is close to impossible to NOT cheat. And they note that ‘it takes lots of friends to do it well’, so, there you have it – friendship in the time of virtual school. Good news - these kids will be incredibly resourceful and able to hack into any computer system of the present or future while also multi-tasking nicely. Bad news – no way anyone will really learn Algebra, let alone Algebra II.

SO, a new year coming - 5781. Lots of years behind. Thousands. And thousands. And many horrific events that happened, and then passed, and then people moved on and even thrived. I imagine in the course of time, that cycle will continue. But it’s hard to imagine the years ahead, while stuck in the quick sand of this specific time.


Here is a story I learned this week:

On days we feel superior to others we should remember we are but dust. But on other days, when we feel like dust, we should believe the world was created just for us – for you, actually. Yes, there is a corresponding responsibility - we have to help repair the world, as it is not finished yet, by any means, but hold onto the notion - the world was created for each of you, individually. You bring such promise simply by being YOU.


And so –this unusual ‘holiday’ speaks to me – moreso even than in previous years. Can I live life more fully? Can I re-configure the words and change them into more life affirming notions? Who shall live by sharing water with others, and who by igniting sparks of fun and imagination in others? Who shall live with pithy sword-like wit and humor and laughter, and who by playing with big dogs who look like beasts, and who by helping to sustain others so they do not feel famine of either body or soul? Who will live by remembering to pace themselves and take naps on occasion, and who will have some wanderlust and adventure – who will bring harmony to people living with conflict and who will be able to take deep breaths to help others AND themselves? Who will live with tranquility and then share that with their community, and who will find enrichment in this, of all times?


Who we will be in the years ahead? Whomsoever it shall be, we will be together.

I leave us with this last quote:

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.

-Frederick Beuchner


A year of goodness to all.

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