The Spiritual CAN Influence the Mental

Getting back into Shabbat was the best choice for me last week. I know I have yet to fully experience it as a true converted Jew, but even observing it in the small ways I did was not 4274418_origonly meaningful but also something my mind really needed– a time for rest. I made a commitment to go through the blessings, light the candles and bless the food, but also to stay away from my phone for just the night. It was totally worth it.

Right after work I went to the grocery store to buy my dinner (rotisserie chicken– perhaps this week I’ll make my own chicken in the slow cooker?) and get some grape juice since I can’t drink alcohol. Let me just say, it’s so nice being able to get off work at my regular time, be able to stop by the store and still get home before it’s time to light the candles. In fact, I had enough time to get home, prepare the meat for my weekend meals, do some dishes, and get the table set for myself. Of course I loved the ritual of it all, it felt really good to be a part of something bigger and older than myself. I could just imagine all the other people in the world doing the same thing I was doing, saying the same blessings around the same time and it made me feel like I was a part of something really cool. Continue reading

Book Haul for March

As I said in my previous post, last week I made a spontaneous trip to Berkeley to visit Kourtney at work. While I was waiting for her to meet me, I found myself wandering into the bookstore down the street. Now, I love my kindle and I use it often, but there is just nothing like reading from an actual book. I’m kinda excited because I think I got a pretty good haul for books about Judaism and Jewish life. Continue reading

Celebrating Alone

Since surgery I’ve really lapsed on my observing of Shabbat (I hope the Divine will forgive me, I was recovering from surgery after all). Now that I’m on solid foods I’m thinking about starting back up again tonight. One of the things I’ve been struggling with as far as observing Jewish holidays is not having anyone to celebrate with. Judaism isn’t really made for solitary practitioners, I mean there are some prayers you’re not even supposed to say without at least 10 people. So it can feel especially isolating when you’re trying to celebrate on your own, especially when you’re a newbie like me and have no one knowledgeable to walk you through it. However, I don’t want that to stop me from at least trying to make it work (baby steps, ya know?) so here I am, back at it again.

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Words to live by.

Since I still can’t eat bread or drink alcohol I’m probably going to skip the challah tonight and drink grape juice instead of wine. After eating my little baby meal, I’ll get settled in with some of my new books (see my next post for a rundown of the haul I got in Berkeley last week) and try to accomplish my Shabbat challenge for the week: I won’t use my phone the whole night. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s incredibly hard for me to unplug. I’m constantly on my phone using time-wasting apps. Shabbat has quite a few restrictions, and I’m not looking to tackle them all at once because that’s just setting myself up for failure, but I do want to eventually get to a place where I’m pretty observant most of the time. I don’t want to half-ass it, okay?

Dreams to Realities

I had surgery on Wednesday March 2nd. It went well overall, although the surgeon did find a hernia which may need to be corrected with surgery down the road. I’ve been spending the last two weeks at home recovering. Honestly, it’s not a bad recovery except being SO FUCKING TIRED. All the time. I can do many of the things I did before surgery, but I fade pretty quickly and have to sit down/take a nap. I’m pretty sure that’s because my body is only taking about 200 calories a day and 100 of those are from my vitamins.

Being home has given me time to think about my dreams. What do I want out of this life. I feel like since I’ve graduated from college I’ve been lost, not sure what my next step is, and I still feel that way now but there are some smaller goals I would like to accomplish regardless of what I end up choosing for a career. Some of my goals are not about my career at all, but just about embracing life and learning new things.

  1. I want to become fluent in Spanish and ASL. I’ve also been thinking about maybe taking a Cantonese class, since it is a sought after language skills in both the medical and nonprofit sectors. I’ve always wanted to be multilingual, and I want to pass that on to my future children.
  2. I want to become a craft queen. I’ve spent a loooooooong time dreaming about learning how to sew, quilt, cross stitch and embroider. Sewing used to be required learning for women which is super sexist when you think about it in context, but I actually think it should be required learning for EVERYONE. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to at least know how to fix a hem or reattach a button that’s popped off your jacket.
  3. I definitely want to take a dance class. No, not a zumba class, although zumba is fun and good exercise. I want to take something like tap, or hip hop. I miss performing and working toward a goal (like being in choir working toward concert day, but with movement). When I was younger I was in color guard which incorporated dance into equipment tossing and running across football fields, but I was always self-conscious about my skills and although I would’ve loved to take dance I was worried I didn’t have the body for it. I know now that any body can dance– it’s not about size, it’s about movement (and soul).
  4. Kourtney and I want to take an herbalism class together to learn more about plants and herbs and their medicinal uses. I’m not trying to replace modern western medicine (it saves lives, even if it’s a bit corrupt– but that’s not really medicine’s fault, it’s the greed of the people who run it as an industry) but herbal medicine can be used in tandem with western medicine for wellness. I think Kourtney’s into it which means it’s something we can do together as a couple and hopefully get to the point where we can maintain our own little apothecary cupboard. I also wanna learn about the more magical uses for herbs because I’m totally into being a Jewitch (I just can’t quit you, Jewitchery).
  5. I want to be a Jew. For real. I’ve been casually (and not so casually) flirting with the idea of converting for a number of years now. I think I say this every year, but I want to officially convert. I just worry that maybe I don’t have what it takes. However, I often let fear run my life, and this year I’ve committed to say yes to life and start tackling my fear of failing. So this year I want to really go for it. I honestly don’t know how my life will look once I convert (obviously my marriage is and will always be interfaith, so that makes things a bit complicated) and there are some things about Judaism I have to really think about critically. I’m not going to be a regular convert. I’ve got a lot of ritual and ways of doing things that will mix with my new Jewish identity to make my own brand of Judaism which may make some people uncomfortable or confused but I can’t let their possible reactions influence what I know is right for me spiritually. So I’m going for it. I’M GOING FOR IT.

Final Countdown

March 2nd, 2016.

That’s the date of my surgery (see previous post). I’ve decided on the vertical sleeve gastrectomy (the sleeve, or vsg), and I’m feeling all kinds of feelings. As I get closer and closer to the surgery date I get more and more excited, and although I’ve had some anxiety about it (and who wouldn’t, it’s surgery!) I’m also hopeful about the future. Continue reading

Surgery Date Set!

I wrote this a month ago and never published it. So these thoughts are a little dated:

 

So, my second appointment with the psychologist at Kaiser went well. Our appointment was short and to the point, and at the end of it he told me he was impressed with my progress and immediately scheduled me to meet with the case manager meaning he approved me for surgery. In fact, I met with the case manager that day, that’s how serious he was about me meeting with her! My appointment with her was a bit longer, and we went over the preop test I had to complete, talked about vitamins and exercise, and then she scheduled me for my surgery. Continue reading

WLS Update

Well, I didn’t have my appointment with the surgeon.

I had to reschedule. With the holidays at my job, I just didn’t feel that I could afford to take anymore time off (I’d been sick twice already and had to take time off for that). So I had to reschedule. Now my appointment is with a different surgeon (don’t know if it’s good or bad, I haven’t met any of the surgeons personally). My appointment is on the 29th. I know, right after Christmas!

I’m feeling pretty okay about it, though. November was really rough and honestly I fell off track with the preop diet, with Thanksgiving and Thanksmas and the ramp up of the holidays (read: major stress) I lost sight of my goals and I went with was was comforting and familiar. I kept gaining and losing the same 3lbs for the whole month November. However, I’ve really recommitted myself to this diet. I’m really trying to make it a lifestyle change so that means I’ve had to change a few habits. First, I’ve learned to say no when people offer me food of all kinds (doesn’t matter what it is). Secondly, I’ve become better at meal prepping so I have my breakfast, lunch and dinner planned and cooked at the beginning of the week which makes it way easier to 1) say no to people and 2) stick to the plan. And lastly, I’ve learned to be flexible and not panic when I DO pick food outside my meal plan. I don’t totally self sabotage– if I end up eating some pad thai at lunch with my coworkers instead of that chicken I have in my lunch box, I don’t let that totally derail my day. I accept it as it was, add it to my fitness pal app, and move on. Before, I would panic and feel so guilty, and that would just lead to more bad choices (emotions would take over). Also, I’m making better choices when faced with food outside the meal plan. I’m staying away from the dessert table, I’m picking proteins and healthy fats instead of loading up on carbs. I’m feeling really positive about the whole thing.

I think it helps that I’m losing weight consistently, though. Even if it’s just .4lbs, it’s gratifying to see my hard work pay off that way. I worry that if I see a gain after a good food day I’ll get discouraged and try to self sabotage (since that’s my M.O.) so I’ve been doing a lot of self talk, repeating to myself that the scale does not tell the whole story and that this isn’t just about weight, it’s about health. I will not be making the goal of 50lbs I set for myself to make by January 6th. However, I have lost almost 30lbs since October and I consider that a win. I hope this surgeon does, too.

Side note: I bought a fitbit Aria scale. I’m worried that it doesn’t work properly, because I’ve been consistently losing weight according to this scale which of course can’t be true because I feel like I look and feel the same size (denial?). I’m slightly terrified that when I get to the doctor’s office on Tuesday and they weigh me I’ll actually be the same weight I was in November. I don’t know how to let that feeling go.

Happy Yule!

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It’s been a crazy few weeks at work and it’s not over yet so I haven’t been able to make very many posts here but I just wanted to say Happy Yule, from my family to yours, from my heart to yours. Many blessings to you in the coming year!

I’m Always Seeking a Spiritual Home

I’m kind of getting used to being in this sort of spiritual no man’s land, Interfaith-Tree1where I’m looking for a place to lay my head but it seems like everywhere I look is just this great expanse of emptiness. That could be an exaggeration. But honestly, I keep thinking the answer is out there just beyond my sight line, so close. Is there a spiritual home that exists in the world that fits all of my needs? I love paganism, and I love Judaism, and I even love Christianity a bit (but more in a nostalgic kind of way), but they don’t completely meet my needs. Are they even supposed to? It seems pretty selfish of me to ask something to meet my every need.

Judaism has structure and longstanding traditions and customs. I love that. I love, to a certain extent, having the roadmap sorta written for me. That’s not to say that there’s no wiggle room, but it in some ways makes it easier to be observant. The instructions are relatively clear! Although I say that knowing that I actually only know a very, very small part of the traditions and customs of Judaism, and some of them are quite complicated (and in an entirely new language for me). Every ritual is on paper somewhere, and discussed by scholars ad nauseum. Jews are not messing around, they take ritual pretty seriously and I really appreciate that. Paganism doesn’t have that kind of structure, at least not what I’ve experienced so far. There are rituals written down, but there are so many for one simple event! Look up “Winter Solstice ritual” in google and you’ll get probably 20 different rituals to choose from. Which one is best? How do you weed through all the flowery bullshit and get to some meaningful ritual that meets your needs (in my case, can be done solitary, without a whole lot of tools, and doesn’t involve a bonfire)? Continue reading

Interfaith Struggles

My conversation with my wife the other day, talking about Hanukkah:

Me: Speaking of Hanukkah, usually each person in the family gets their own menorah. I know you’re not interested in Judaism as a participant, but would you like a menorah?

Her: I don’t need a menorah, love.

Me: Well, it’s not a matter of NEEDING one. I’m just asking if you want one.

Her: I don’t want one.

Me: *instant depression*

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I know, I shouldn’t have asked because I KNEW the answer, and I don’t want to force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do so I didn’t force the issue. I just let it go. But honestly I was sad about it. It’s really hard for me because I so badly want her to participate with me– because I need someone close to me who can do this with me so I don’t feel so alone in it. It’s hard being the only one in my house lighting candles for Hanukkah, or Shabbat, or whatever it is I’m doing. It’s one of the major reasons why I haven’t been able to get myself out there and find a congregation. I’ve been too scared to go on my own. I want someone close to me to be by my side as I do it. Also, holidays should be spent with family, and I end up spending all of my holidays alone. And I hate it sometimes! I love my wife, and there are many benefits to an interfaith marriage, but sometimes I find myself upset that she doesn’t want to share religious traditions with me. She wants no part in any religious or spiritual activity, even the fun ones. Not only does it make me sad, it leaves me confused– because I’ve grown up in religious environments (and loved it), so I’m sitting here like WHY ISN’T THIS STUFF YOUR FAVORITE?! Followed by HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU DON’T LIKE IT IF YOU’VE NEVER TRIED IT?!

I need to find a space to do this with other people. Solitary ritual has its place, but I’m human. I’m a social being, and I just know I’m meant to do (most) ritual with other people. It’s how you create and maintain a spiritual community, and it’s a really meaningful and powerful way to commune with the divine. I’ll find my place one day, hopefully soon.

Apples and Pomegranates

In case you didn’t notice, I’ve changed the name of this blog.

I first called this blog the Seeking Place. I thought it was a nice name because I’m seeking answers to my faith questions, I’m seeking a place that I can call my spiritual home. And although that still holds true, I have expressed many times here that I feel I have my feet placed in two homes– one being Paganism, and the other being Judaism. I chose a new blog title to reflect that.

DSC06823 Continue reading

Battling/Loving Christmas

Alright, it’s officially mid November now. Samhain has come and gone (and it turned out differently than I thought it would). Now we’re balls deep into the “Holiday Season”. Now, I know what you’re thinking: it’s not even thanksgiving yet, how can we be “balls deep”? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but all around us Christmas is basically punching us in the face with its cheer. Starbucks Christmas cups are already in circulation, some of the stores I frequent have had Christmas decorations out since OCTOBER (wtf, too soon), and I’ve already seen like 5 stories about the War on Christmas 2015. The holiday season is happening now people, we’re in it RIGHT NOW.

So, what’s a pagan/jewish-ish girl to do? How am I navigating what some might call a hostile takeover of the winter months by a fat man in a red pantsuit?

I’m eating it up, y’all. EATING. IT UP. Continue reading

One month down, two to go (WLS Update)

It’s been just over a month since my psych appointment and my preop diet restart. So far I’ve lost 20lbs and inches across the board, which is nice to see (not gonna lie). I learned at my weigh in that if I want my weight to reflect the goal I’ve achieved, I have to lose just a bit more over goal– I typically weigh myself naked to get an accurate reading, but obviously I have to wear clothes at the doctors office! I weighed my clothes that day and let me tell you, it all adds up. Anyway, I’ve been mostly sticking to the plan, with some exceptions. It’s been okay overall.

Just kidding, it’s super hard and I have to take it day by day. It’s a really restrictive diet– I have to weigh all of my food, document it in my log. That alone takes some commitment. But beyond that, it’s just hard to not obsess. I feel like I am thinking about food all the time. What am I going to eat for breakfast, what am I going to eat for lunch, is this protein permitted on this diet or is it too high in fat, is this an acceptable starch, when is lunch, should I wait 30 more minutes before dinner, blah blah blah. I feel like food is just totally all up in my face these days and I hate that. I feel like it runs my life right now. I also feel like, because of that train wreck of an appointment last month, that I have something to prove. I have to show this asshole that I can do this. And that’s a lot of pressure. I feel like my life is in his hands, because this is a life changing surgery and he decides whether I move on to the next phase. I don’t even get to meet with a surgeon until this guy clears me TWO MONTHS FROM NOW. And I don’t even think he cares! He told me that he would email me every month to check in and remind me to do my weigh ins– I haven’t heard from him since our appointment. I honestly don’t think he actually believes I can do this, and honestly I think he is intentionally trying to set me up for failure.

As you can see, I’m still holding quite a bit of anger from our previous interaction. But beyond the anger is fear and grief. I’m grieving the fact that my timeline for this process is destroyed and my path is now uncertain. I fear that I will not get this surgery, and I fear that I will fail. So I have to take it day by day. Every time I have a good day I celebrate it, and every time I have a bad day I do my best to stay positive. And yes, I’m still having bad days– I will never EVER be rid of bad days. I don’t binge, but I’ll have a snack when I know snacks aren’t part of the diet. I do great on weekdays but weekends it feels like I’m hungry from the moment I wake up in the morning to the moment I fall asleep at night, it’s maddening.

Anyway, one month down and two more months to go. I have 30 more pounds to lose before my next appointment, so 15 each month, and it’s holiday season. I’m trying not to freak out about it, but it’s a dieter’s worst nightmare. Pray for me.

The Lonely Witch’s Samhain Fun Night

This year’s celebrations are not going as planned. Typically every year we do what we call a Harvest Feast at our house (less pagan sounding than Samhain Feast for our non-pagan friends and family). We cook a nice meal, invite people to bring their own food, and we play Halloween music and socialize. It’s really a combination of a few different cultural traditions– for instance, people dress up in modern day costumes (a secular Halloween tradition), We have an altar for our departed loved ones (Dia de los Muertos) where I put a plate of food out for them (Samhain) along with soul cakes (Christianized Samhain?).

This year, we won’t be having a party. My wife is working, so I’ll be home alone. No one to celebrate with. So what am I  gonna do?

HERE’S THE PLAN:

  1. I’m gonna cook a meal anyway, a meal for one (which is really a meal for two/three/four since I’m on this preop diet and can eat so little).
  2. I’m gonna put some food out on the altar. Because the spirits don’t need a party.
  3. I’m gonna light candles and do a mini ritual to usher in the holiday.
  4. I’m going to watch my favorite Halloween time movies: Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown, Disney’s version of Icabod Crane and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Practical Magic.

Yes, I will be alone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t a fun, meaningful holiday.

Revealing my Authentic Self

On Saturday Kourtney and I went out (basically on a double date) with two of our favorite people, R and P– I don’t know how they feel about being on my blog so I’m gonna keep them as anonymous as I can. Anyway, Kourtney and I have known R since high school, and although we haven’t known P for nearly as long he’s really great to hang out with and he and Kourtney have a lot in common so they’ve got a bit of a bromance going on. They live a few hours away from us but they just happened to be in town, so we went out for dinner and drinks. Kourtney and P decided to go to the bar, so R and I stayed and talked and it was awesome and SO VERY MUCH NEEDED.

R and I have pretty different stories, but they stem from the same mental illness diagnoses. We both suffer from anxiety and depression that has been, at various points in our lives, severe and debilitating. We are both in recovery for eating disorders. We’ve both dealt with self-injury. And we both have loving, supportive spouses who sometimes just don’t get what it means to be clinically depressed or anxious and how that affects the way we function in the world. So we just really get each other. It’s been awhile since we’ve been able to hang out and really talk about how we’re doing. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to be understood, to talk with someone who knows what it’s really like to deal with mental illness on a daily basis. To share our war stories. I felt like I could really be my authentic self, because of all the identities and parts of me that I carry, my mental illness identity is one I try to hide the most– and it feels like a burden sometimes.

I felt like that burden was lifted on Saturday, at least for a little while, as we talked and shared with each other. And we reminisced and got nostalgic about our high school days and we talked about what we were like back then, when we were teenagers. About how it was awesome and scary and we were happy and angry and sad and our minds were totally wild, unchecked. We had no idea how to cope with what we now know is anxiety and depression (and probably many other things), and all we had were really our friends to get us through it. Now we’re adults and we know better– we have resources we didn’t have back then, and we know how to advocate for ourselves, and we’ve learns (some) better coping skills. It’s kind of interesting to see us both as adults with jobs and spouses, and notice how our anxiety and depression manifest in different ways now– we have adult problems. Like taxes, and insurance, and rent. And although our lives are pretty good (I would even go so far as saying really good), we still struggle. Because clinical anxiety and depression do not depend on good times or bad times. They go beyond that. Sometimes I feel depressed even when everything seems to be going right. And I’m still anxious 95% of the time– on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being not anxious at all and 10 being full blown hospital level panic, I feel like I’m at a 3 most days.

So yeah, it’s nice to have someone who gets that. Who understands that it’s mental illness is ILLNESS, and that it’s manageable, but it doesn’t just go away. And some days are better than others. So I really appreciated having the time to talk with her and be heard.