Monday, December 28, 2015

Thank You And Goodnight

Forgive me; it's been more than three months since my last post.

I actually wasn't going to write anything to formally put Betsy Transatlantically to bed, but some friends on Instagram (hey there, Amanda and Laurel!) pointed out that it would be rude not to, so here we go.

As I explained to my sister over Thanksgiving, I'm closing this blog because, after my last post about arrogance and humility, everything I sat down to write felt incredibly self-indulgent. The past five and half years of blogging haven't been free of narcissism, of course, but I also put a lot of effort into being part of a larger blogging community and that, in a way, tempered my navel-gazing. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to have built relationships with so many of you over the years, but I can't maintain them through blogging anymore, either here or, as you might have noticed, on your blogs.  That our friendships continue to flourish elsewhere online (and, occasionally, in person) helps me recognize the future of Betsy Transatlantically as not much more than a vanity project.

Sarah, who knows that I love writing, suggested that I could do so without an audience. But another reason I love blogging besides the community aspect is because publishing my words demands more of them - and of me - than simply putting pen to paper. Drafting and editing posts for Betsy Transatlantically has encouraged me to work through my thoughts on all sorts of topics, and the knowledge that they'll be out in the public domain makes me hold myself to a higher standard of exposition.

Over the past three months, I have at times felt compelled to find a way to keep writing online without being a blogger. I can't do that here; it would be too easy to fall back into old habits. So this is goodbye for Betsy Transatlantically. I might start up a new site eventually and, somehow, I'll let you know if I do. But for now - thank you. Thank you to you, dear readers, and a thank you to this blog as well for all that it's taught me.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gratitude, Forgiveness, and Humility

At one point during Rosh Hashanah services, our rabbi asked us to hold in our minds a moment from the past year for which we were grateful. Gratitude, after all, is one of the most pure expressions of faith; it requires recognizing that something wonderful happened to/for us because of someone else without insisting that we deserved the wonderful thing.

Nine days later, at Kol Nidre, the service on the evening that Yom Kippur begins, the rabbi talked about what it really means to atone. Asking for forgiveness, she said, has three components: the "I'm sorry," the "it's my fault," and the "here's how I'm going to fix it."

I'm good at saying "thank you." I'm good at saying "I'm sorry." But too often I think that I earn the good things that happen to me and too often I refuse to acknowledge that the things for which I apologize are truly caused by me and me alone.

You know what both faults come down to? Arrogance.

During the High Holy Days, we thank God for everything He has given us despite our faults and we apologize to our friends and family for hurts we provoked despite their love. Our prayers remind us of our humility, both before God and before our fellow man.

And you know what I'm not good at? Humility.

Before the High Holy Days, Sixth & I, my synagogue, asked what we're going to welcome in with the new year. I wrote down "patience," "generosity of spirit," and "benefit of the doubt." I know we hear what we want or need to hear in sermons, but I swear the rabbis were speaking directly to me at Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur, for each of those things is rooted in humility. When Rabbi Shira told a story about how fear and control often go hand in hand, when Rabbi Miller talked about accepting the unknown of Plan B when Plan A fails, when we prostrated ourselves during the Aleinu and beat our fists against our breasts during the Al Chet - when I prayed and when I listened, I understood the direction I needed to take when I left the synagogue.

So there you have it, dear readers: my new year's resolution. May I take responsibility for both my arrogance and my humility in 5776, and may I go to High Holy Day services next September much lighter of the former and much richer in the latter.