Reform Judaism, Conversion & Finding My Own Path

It is now less than two weeks ’til I go before the Beit Din, the Jewish rabbinical court, for the formal completion of my conversion to Judaism. Prior to that I had to sit down and write a statement to the court about what this means to me.

I thought I’d share it with you.

~ * ~

Nearer to two years ago a lovely lovely lady called P. was the designated meeter-and-greeter at the doors of my shul. It was also the very first time I visited a synagogue. I introduced myself to her and openly admitted that I was very nervous as I had never attended service before and was worried about doing the wrong things at the wrong times. Without hesitation, and with what I now recognise as characteristic generosity, P. asked would I like to sit with her and her husband so that I could just copy what they were doing?

I’ve been sitting with them ever since.

These days P. likes to embarrass me by introducing me to people as “their star pupil”, when, really, the truth is that they – alongside the rabbis and my fellow J-Preppies – have been star teachers; have been people I have learned and continue to learn so, so much from. I have been exceptionally fortunate to have been befriended by long-standing members of the congregation as well as newbie J-Prep students, allowing me to not only stand on the sidelines, but to feel genuinely part of the congregation and synagogue life. A true blessing.

This past year has been a big year of learning, of spiritual growth and understanding, yet at the same time I firmly maintain that my Jewish journey did not start with the J-Prep course, nor will it end with it. Certainly, this year has been different to any other year, and my life has been truly enriched by it, but rather than seeing the meeting with the Beit Din and the formal conversion as the end goal, I feel that it marks the end of the beginning of my Jewish journey.

I came to the J-Prep course having never lit Shabbat candles, never made Kiddush, never affixed a mezuzah and so forth; I had a very bookish understanding of what Judaism is. I now feel that I have much deeper insight into what it really means to be Jewish, and have discovered that the things I had connected with prior to J-Prep; my faith in the one true God, the Torah as a religious compass and so on – all the things that had brought me to the J-Prep course in the first place – have held true for me and haven’t changed. But, I now also know and appreciate that Judaism offers so much more on top of that. I have discovered that many of the core principles of Judaism hold the same moral values as those passed down to me by my parents; the pursuit of justice, championing democracy, being generous to those less fortunate and being open to those different to myself.

I have been struck by the strong sense of community, the constant strive to make informed choices and decisions – even the freedom to challenge the texts we’ve studied – and they have all added a whole new dimension to my life and to the way I think about faith and religion.

Being Jewish means, especially this time of the year, to stop and reflect introspectively, to take a long, hard and truly honest look at what I can do to better this world through bettering myself. It means doing that very difficult thing; asking forgiveness. From God, from my friends, sometimes even my enemies, and, maybe the hardest thing of all; forgiving myself for those times when I have let myself down. To, rather than simply berating myself for my shortcomings, accepting that I am not perfect and never will be, but also recognising that I have been given the blessing of making a different choice in the future.

Even my choice of Hebrew name – Emunah אמונה – serves as a reminder to keep faith in my mind and to remain faithful, not just through words, but through actions and deeds; through actively doing what I can to help heal this very precious and beautiful world we have been given, whether it be through choosing Fairtrade products over products of unknown origin, making sure I recycle things rather than just binning them, or through taking on an active role in the setting up of a refugee drop-in centre rather than leaving it for Mr & Mrs Someone Else to do. It is a reminder that it’s not enough to just tell people that I am now Jewish. I need also recognise for myself and demonstrate to others that I am Jewish not only when I attend service or say my prayers, light my Shabbat candles or study Torah (all of which are, of course, integral parts of living a Jewish life), but that I am living Judaism in all aspects of my life.

To formally convert to Judaism is the difference between looking at someone else’s photograph album and being alive and present in the very moment that snapshot is taken.

Being Jewish is not just an adjective, it is also a verb.”

~ * ~

Click here to read about my meeting with the Beit Din.

Below is this year’s film from The Movement for Reform Judaism.


Yom Kippur, Leather Boots & True Repentance

 

 

My beloved and much appreciated Doc Martens

During the High Holy Days, and Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – in particular, there is a commonly observed Jewish custom of not wearing leather shoes. One reason given for this custom is that traditionally leather shoes have been seen as being more comfortable than other shoes, and on a day of such solemnity one should minimise one’s comforts.

Another basis for this custom is that it would be inappropriate to wear leather shoes on this day of repentance, as an animal had to die in order for those shoes to be made. To some degree I agree with this and thus, last year, I made the decision to not wear leather shoes throughout the entire High Holy Day period.

This year I’ve not been quite as observant in this regard,  mainly because my energies have been focused on things other than what clothes to wear and what shoes go with which outfit. But also, last year, while I did make a conscious decision to not wear leather, I couldn’t get this niggling thought out of my head: Why is it seen as inappropriate to wear shoes [or coats, belts, handbags and so on] made from leather only* at this time of the year? Surely, if you truly believe that one should not wear something for which an animals life had to be sacrificed, then this must be true all year round? No?

Now, while I’m not prepared to give up my Vans, Docs or other items made of leather, I have been pondering this idea, on and off, and wondering if there is not perhaps another way for me to honour the fact that an animal had to die for me to have those comforts? Or maybe an additional way?

So, this morning I got all of my leather shoes and boots out, and spent a good few hours cleaning, polishing and buffing them. I didn’t do it in order to make them look good – although that is a nice side effect, indeed – but to make sure I kept them in the best possible condition for them to last as long as possible.

I know this probably sounds like the seventh degree of madness, but while sitting there, doing this work, I really did feel an odd sense of connection with something other than just a pair of old Docs. I was sitting there, remembering all the times I’ve worn those boots, how much I love them, how they’ve been with me for such a long time – almost as if we’ve been on this big spiritual journey together, and that through caring for those shoes I was in a sense paying my respect to the animal from which they came.  And it felt meaningful.

Will I be wearing my Docs for Yom Kippur? Probably not.
But I do feel that the true repentance, or, rather, the genuine acknowledgement that these boots didn’t just spring out of nowhere, took place during those moments of connection – and came from a very real place.

xx

PS. If you enjoyed this alternative take on atonement, you may be interested in reading this piece, written by Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers  about how people suffering from an eating disorder could make teshuvah by not fasting on Yom Kippur.

Remember September & Stepping Into The New Year

It’s been a while since I posted a proper update, I know. Things have been very difficult and it’s all felt too raw to put it down in black and white. To pick up where I left off: I went to the assessment at Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre and was offered a place the same day. It was very hard going back there, having not needed that kind of help in quite a few years. So much of my time at the therapeutic community I was staying in was designed to keep you away from the NHS mental health system, to find other ways of getting the support you need, preferably away from medication and hospital. So it was a big decision going back to Drayton Park. But needs must sometimes, and sometimes you have to swallow your pride and just accept any kind of help you can get.

The whole first week and a half at Drayton I spent virtually all of my time in my room, feeling unable to be around people other than my named support workers. I simply felt to embarrassed to be around people while I was fighting the near constant stream of flashbacks, as the things I do to ground myself can look quite odd if you don’t know what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. I did have quite a few people come visit me, which felt more OK, because they were all people who know what I’m usually like, and who I knew could handle seeing me in that very very difficult emotional place. I know it’s hard to see someone you love struggle in the way I was – constantly having to fight this torrent of intrusive flashbacks.

Flashbacks aren’t a new phenomenon to me; regular readers will know that I suffer from single flashbacks frequently, and experience periods of sequential flashbacks every so often, but this was on a scale I’ve never known before. I’ve always understood the single flashbacks as an indicator of sorts that I am ready to perhaps deal with that specific incident in my therapy, and the periods of flashbacks tend to begin either when A. is away or when I am very stressed out about other things. But this, it was just something entirely different. A whole different ball game. As I said earlier, initially I was experiencing an incessant flow of flashbacks, most of them reasonably short and all of things I already knew had happened. Though never a pleasant experience, I was able to come out of them fairly quickly. What was really wearing me down – apart from the re-experience of the abuse situations – was the fact that they were so frequent. It felt very much as if as soon as I had worked my way out of one flashback another started, like one flashback triggered the next, and it took essentially all of my energy to remain fully in the present.

Then, one day – and I still don’t quite know why – the flashbacks changed. They became less frequent and were about things I had no conscious memory of. Although the reclining frequency was a welcome break, making it possible to at least go out of my room and spend time in the art room, it was absolutely terrifying. I always knew that there were gaps in my memory, pertaining to one specific person, but some of the things that came out were things I had absolutely no recollection of at all. I know that what emerged in those flashbacks did happen, that they weren’t figments of my imagination [although at times I tried very hard to convince myself that maybe they were].. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like I was remembering things I had forgotten I knew. These flashbacks tended to be more like long sequences, and were a lot harder to come out of, I think, in part because they caught me so unawares, memorywise, but also because the content of them were cruelty on a whole new level, and I felt paralysed by fear, unable to do the things I usually do to come out of the flashbacks. And I have to say, I’m still dealing with those memories now, feeling utterly traumatised by what those flashbacks unveiled.

I ended up spending a full three weeks at Drayton Park, and throughout those weeks, being stripped of the release and relief my various means of self-harm offered, they were probably the worst three weeks in my entire life. Every day I would ask the staff – pleading with them – to please, please let me have my scalpels, just for a little while, just to get a small break from the flashbacks. And each day my support workers told me no, because although their policy is that they recognise self-harm as a genuine coping-strategy for some people, they felt that my cutting would not be safe and could end in me, accidentally or intentionally, cutting to kill myself rather than to just relieve pain. Also, owing to my previous track record at Drayton Park, downing a pint of anti-freeze in a bid to end my life, my trust/credit rating with the staff isn’t the greatest, so their decision to not allow me to use any form of self-harm to cope, is entirely understandable.

I am now back home. Things are still difficult. The flashbacks aren’t as frequent, but I still have them fairly regularly, and it seems that an underlying depression is rearing its ugly head, and I am often struggling to get out of bed at all, unless I have to. I push myself to get to therapy and to not completely disappear in my own misery, but it’s hard work.

One thing that is good is that we’re now in the middle of a period called Yamim Noraim, [lit. Days Of Awe, commonly referred to as the High Holy Days, is the period between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur] – so there are a lot of things going on at shul, and so I have more things than usual that I need to get to. Also, on the days I simply haven’t been able to go to service I’ve been able to follow it online, and I’ve made a point of always making sure I am up and appropriately dressed, even if I’m only attending service via the internet.

All in all, it’s still a bit of a roller coaster; one good day, one bad and so on, but I suppose that it’s better to have some better days than none at all.

So, for a better and sweeter new year,

שנה טובה ומתוקה

~ Shanah Tova Umetukah ~

xx

OK – so this isn’t for this new year, but this Rosh HaShanah video from Michelle Citrin still makes me smile. I mean, c’mon – I named my blog after one of her songs, after all.

The End Of The Beginning

It’s been a little while since my last post. Guess I just needed a bit of down time to myself to feel things through without writing things down. I’ve also been quite light on the journal writing, so it’s nothing personal. It’s not you, it’s me.

Had my final regular J-Prep session on Wednesday, including a lovely Havdalah [separation] ceremony to mark the transition between being on the J-Prep course and continuing our Jewish journeys on our own. There were hugs, tears, well-wishes, all the things you’d expect at a graduation of sorts.

I have mixed feelings about the course coming to an end. There were no tears on my behalf, but – as I said to my classmates – I think I was emotionally shielding myself from the idea of J-Prep being over by focusing on the fact that next Wednesday we’re all going on a walking tour through Jewish history in the East End, so goodbye wasn’t really goodbye.

This course has been different to any course I’ve ever taken. I’ve learnt a lot, but even more than that, I’ve grown as a person. I’ve had a place to explore my own beliefs and an opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings with other people being on a similar journey, and that’s been one of the best things with this course.

I came to the course having – naturally – read quite a lot about the religion, but it was a bookish kind of knowledge. What the course has given me is a more real way of relating to things. Also, throughout the course, I’ve more and more discovered how Judaism is about so much more than just religious beliefs and studying the Bible; how the emphasis on tzedakah [charity,  fairness, justice] and tikkun olam [healing or repairing the world] really fits very well with my own way of thinking, and the values I was brought up with.

Spent a good part of Friday’s therapy session talking about J-Prep and what it’s been like to be on the course, and one of the things I realised, sitting there talking about it, is that while I have really enjoyed being part of my particular J-Prep group, I’ve also got to know a lot of the people in the other J-Prep groups, as well as being fortunate enough to have been welcomed into the community by some long-standing members of the congregation, who have been very generous in answering my questions and sharing their knowledge and experience with me.

That I’ve been able to form relationships with people in all the different parts of synagogue life, and so, even tough the course is now ending, I will still be as active in my new community as ever.

Though I feel sad that J-Prep has come to an end, I also feel ready to take the next step; going to the Beit Din to formally complete my conversion and to move on to truly being a part of the synagogue community.

All the way through the J-Prep course I have said that my Jewish journey didn’t begin with joining the course, nor will it end with the completion of it, and that feeling has not change. This really is just the end of the beginning.

All the very best and more,

xx

PS. To read a lovely little blog post by one of my rabbis about her experience of J-Prep please click here.

To learn more about Reform Judaism in general, click here.
Or here to learn about how Reform Judaism views conversion.

Being Wrong & Self-Elected Madness

No one likes to be wrong, right? Wrong.
Right now I’m ecstatic to have been proven wrong. As it turns out snowballs do have a chance in hell; Sweden just knocked the Czech Republic out of the Ice-Hockey World Championships and claimed their place in the battle for gold on Sunday evening. Can’t wait! Go Tre Kronor!

Later tonight Finland and Russia go head to head over the other slot for the final. I’m rooting for Finland in this game. I probably shouldn’t, because Sweden-Finland games tend to be very hard on the old ticker. Lots of history there. But – the games are usually well worth watching. Maybe we should strike a deal with the Fins if they make it to the final; if they let us win the ice-hockey they can win the Eurovision Song Contest.

All this ice-hockey excitement aside, there is something to be said about sport on an international level. It boosts our national pride and strengthens our national identity: we get together and celebrate or commiserate. We’re united, a team. And in a world where we are becoming more and more detached, where even our next-door-neighbours are often faceless strangers, this is not to be underestimated.

Also, sport is an excellent opportunity to express emotions. To let both victorious jubilation and devastating disappointment out, to let it show on the outside, to not hold back. Complete and utter release. It’s good stuff!

So, to those of you who don’t see the point in playing or watching sport, it’s actually a pretty healthy thing to engage in. There’s even been books written about the psychology of it all. More than one, in fact. One which I particularly liked was Football Delirium by psychoanalyst Chris Oakley in which he argues that football offers us the possibility of manageable doses of self-elected madness. This guy gets sport. He is also self-electedly mad. In a good way.

Whether you’re into sport or not, I’d recommend it:

Anyway, soon be time for face-off in the second ice-hockey semi-final of the day, and I need to do some manic last minute pre-Shabbat prep. As much as I love ice-hockey, Shabbat comes first.

That’s just the way I roll.

Be good to yourselves,

xx

Independence, Community & Cyber-Kiddush

The week spent at my ex’s flat is drawing to an end. It’s been an indescribably luxury to have a place to myself, to be able to come and go as I wish and to have to justify to no one my need for solitude, which I am aware does not exactly fit in the House I am currently living in.

Some time ago I gave my notice to my house mates, saying that I’ve decided the time to leave has come. That said, I gave my notice quite far in advance; I’m  still going to be living in the house for a while – I’ve said I’m leaving at  the end of May. The reason for this is that I didn’t want my moving out to be seen as a direct response to things that were going on in the house at the time, but a decision in its own right. Naturally, things going on in the house is part of my decision, but I think there is a difference between something being a part of a decision and somehing being the cause of it. Also, I felt I needed the time to mentally prepare myself for moving. Because it is a big deal. I’ve been living in this therapeutic community for over two years, and although I am the first admit that I’ve not opted to entirely be part of this House in the way that perhaps people feel I ought to have, moving out is still a big step.

Staying at Dev’s flat, the second time this year, has been helpful in terms of testing the waters, of seeing how well I can cope on my own, to check that I am able to find a good balance of allowing myself time to myself, yet keeping myself from completely shutting myself off to the outside world. While staying here I’ve been taking part in my J-Prep course, I’ve gone to therapy as usual and – as an added extra – I’ve had friends over. This added extra, seeing my friends in the comfort of my home, has really reminded me of how much I have missed it. Back when I was still with Dev and we had our flat that was the place where my friends and I would meet. And I always loved that. While meeting in town, as I have been doing these past two years is fine, it’s simply not the
same as having people round to your own place. It just isn’t.

So, staying at the flat has made me feel very strongly that I am definitely on the right track with moving out. Whilst I’m unlikely to be able to get a place of my own, even just moving out of where I’m staying is a step towards that sense of independence. As much as I don’t regret moving into the House, it has also made me see how much I value my independence, and how much I struggle whenever I feel that that independence is under threat. I’m not a child, and while valid points have been raised regarding my need to keep separate from my housemates, I do feel that safeguarding my right to living my life the way that feels right for me is more important than a lot  of other things.

On to something entirely different.
This Shabbat I wasn’t able to make it to Shabbat morning service owing to ridiculous problems with public transport and an incessant dry cough which I would rather not pass on to the people I normally sit with in shul. Felt quite sad about not going, since it’s such a big part of my Shabbat routine. I love sitting in synagogue, listening to E. leading the choir and congregation in song and praying together with my community. Somehow the idea of saying the prayers and singing the songs on my own felt just not enough to truly celebrate Shabbat the way it should be celebrated. So I had a think and remembered reading about how some synagogues stream their services online, so that housebound congregants can still be part of the service.

Now, I don’t normally use the internet over Shabbat; this is my personal choice, my way of making Shabbat different to the rest of the week when I am always available and always hooked up to some techie-gear or other, but having given it some thought I decided that switching on the computer to be part of Shabbat morning service would enhance my Shabbat experience rather than detract from it.

My shul doesn’t yet broadcast the services online (although it’s apparently in the pipelines) so I had a look on the MRJ website to find a synagogue that does. Found one and with the click of a button I found myself virtually joining another of the reform synagogue congregations for their Shabbat morning service.

This turned out to be a really interesting experience. Having not really visited other synagogues it was really cool to see how in some ways things are very similar, but how each synagogue has its own little tweaks. One thing I really liked about the service I was joining was how the rabbi leading it at one point turned around and asked the members of the congregation to share their thoughts and hopes and prayers out loud, asking what their week had been like and so on. It felt like a very nice touch to make the congregation feel like a real community.

I was amazed at how I really felt I wasn’t just watching the service, but actually being part of it, joining this little community. The angle of the web cam allowed me to feel
like I was sitting in one of the pews of the shul, and – siddur in hand – I stood and sat with the congregation, just as I would have at any other service.

So, I guess my conclusion is that although people sometimes say that technology gives us a way to cut off from the world, it can also be used to do the exact opposite.

That said, I am already looking forward to seeing my J-Prep friends on Wednesday and my Shabbat service gang next Saturday. Somehow cyber-kiddush just isn’t quite the same thing as the real deal!

xx

About Converting

It’s been a while, I know. That pneumonia thing knocked me for ten, I have to admit. But, I’m here now, freshly manicured [silvery black with white swirls and flowers] and ready to blog!

I was thinking the other day that I’ve really not written much about my conversion and how that’s going, despite it being such a huge part of my life. In fact, to say that it’s a part of my life feels like an understatement in the extreme, considering that it’s a life change, rather than something which affects only a partof my life. It’s not something which can be kept separate from everything else, or even separate to who I am.

The way I look at this goes something like this: being on the Jewish preparation course [J-Prep for short] is neither the beginning nor the end of this journey. This journey began much much earlier. I know I’ve previously said that it started three years ago, following a particularly difficult time, having survived something I really ought not to have survived and deciding that the time had come for some serious thinking in terms of what really matters to me, but – although this certainly made me set out on this journey in quite a purposeful way, I’d have to say that drafting the subconscious mental map for this journey probably began many many years earlier, perhaps even as early as when I at 14, told my priest – the night before taking first communion – that, actually, I wasn’t so sure that the core of the Christian canon was really something I wholeheartedly subscribed to, that I felt very unsure about some quite major parts of it. I’m not suggesting that I was, at 14, forming the idea of converting to another religion, but I do believe that questioning things in the way I did, was a definite step away from one thing and towards something else, even if I didn’t at all know what that something might be.

I met with my rabbi a few weeks ago for an end-of-term meeting [although time wise it was more of a beginning-of-term-two meeting] and we talked about what my experience so far has been of being on the J-Prep course and starting my Jewish journey. We also talked about how, initially, the rabbis had asked me to wait a term to start the course, because they felt unsure of how possible it would be for me to fully engage in this process while still living in a therapeutic community. At the time I was very disappointed by this request, because I felt that it was based not necessarily on their knowledge of me, but on their idea of what a therapeutic community is and what sort of people live there. At the same time, this setback wasn’t going to put me off pursuing this path in any way, because – as I said at the time, and reiterated in my end-of-term meeting – this is a life decision, and waiting a few month to start the course wouldn’t really make much of a difference. As eager as I was to set out on this more formal stage of the journey, this was never a race to the finish line and I always felt very strongly that my conversion was never going to be about the J-Prep course in and of itself, but about something much bigger. Something which started before, and will carry on after my formal conversion. The J-Prep course gives me the tools, or at least some of the tools, to help me lay the first few bricks, but this is the sort of building work that can be infinitely added to and has no final form.

Anyway, I will try to write more about how my religious construction work is coming along, but I think I’ll stop here for now.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in finding out more about reform Judaism (the denomination I am converting with), you might want to check the Movement For Reform Judaism website out.

All the very best,

xx

Yahrzeits, Anchors & Remembering One’s Divinity

It’s been a year since my friend C. died. I still miss her and think of her every day, think of the way that she died, making that final choice to end her life. How lonely she must have felt in those last moments, because dying the way she did, it cannot be but a lonely death. A final act that you must carry out on your own, without any of your loved ones at your side.

I know the feeling. I’ve been there. I’ve made that choice, I’ve made it more than once. But each time the outcome was different to hers. Not only in the obvious way that I am still here today, despite giving it my best shot not to be, but also in what I have taken from each time I’ve survived. Each time I’ve failed to die – because, ultimately that’s what I did; I failed to die, failed my mission – each time it’s brought me closer to some sort of truth about myself and about life. It’s not always been a truth I’ve wanted to hear or acknowledge, especially in those very first moments when I’ve realised that this didn’t work, either. But even so, it’s something that lives in me, this truth, whether I acknowledge it or not.

Last night I lit a candle for C., a yahrzeit, and I said a few prayers for her. Despite being of different faiths, I know that C. would have wanted me to do the things and say the prayers that felt right to me. The ones that help me deal with losing her.

One of the prayers says, towards the end of it; “it is God who is her heritage”. And that really made me think. About her, and where she is now, about who is looking after her, and it made me feel better.

But it also made me think about myself and the difficulties I’ve had recently, trying to cope with the not-knowing surrounding my biological heritage. And it made me think about the concept of remembering one’s divinity; what it really means. How, each and everyone of us was created in God’s image. That all of us, because of this, carry a little piece of divinity within, and how that is at the very core of who we are. And although this thought does not entirely dispel those existential questions of who I am and where I come from, I do find it very comforting to think that I do have a heritage that I know of. And it’s not just any heritage, it’s the Heritage, the one that I share with every other person on this earth.

There have been lots of twists and turns in my life, many many ups and downs, and I expect that I will continue to be presented with challenges to remember my divinity, but in the midst of all that, there are two things that have always been with me: the wish to have children – to pass that heritage on, and my belief in God. Those are the two ultimate constants in my life.

Those are my anchors.

Have a lovely day, make the most of it.

xx

Birthdays, Psychotherapy & London Rain

Called my little brother today. I rarely talk to him other than when I’m home and he happens to be there at the same time. We don’t really stay in touch much in between. But, today is his birthday, so a phonecall was due. It was nice to hear his voice, but, for some reason, on the phone we are quite awkward. The conversation isn’t exactly free-flowing. But, I’m still glad I called him. He’s my little brother, and fraught as our relationship is, I do love him.

My very first memory is of him. Well – technically – the more vivid bits of my memory is of riding the lift up to the maternity ward, but I do also have a fleeting memory of seeing my little brother for the first time. I was very nearly three at the time.

In other news:
I’ve finally “outed” myself in therapy.
No – this isn’t a sexuality related thing. It’s faith related. Which most of you reading this post will already know.

It’s taken me the better part of eight months to get to the point where I felt able to talk about my decision to convert in therapy. That – by the way – says more about me than it does about A. Or.. hm.. is that true? Maybe it says something about the both of us? Our relationship? Just having a few random thoughts in my head, as I’m writing this.

I have talked about this to pretty much everyone of importance in my life. My various family members, my close friends, most of my workmates, housemates.. Pretty much everyone but A.

For some reason something has held me back in these past several months. I mean, some of the reasons I feel quite aware of; the question of “Am I allowed to do this?”, the worry about intruding on someone’s turf.. [Someone meaning A.’s turf]. But I’m sure there’s more to it than just what I can see on the surface. And I’m looking forward to exploring what those reasons could be.

What else?

Went out for dinner with some of my workmates on Saturday evening. Really enjoyed it. It’s a really good, friendly gang. Got absolutely soaked on the way home, though.

That said, I kind of like torrential rain. There’s something quite purifying about it. Like being washed clean, spiritually, somehow.

It’s like Heather Nova says: “..nothing falls like London rain..”

Just love the opening lines of that song. Used to be a favourite text message to send to my ex on a rainy day.

“..I’m coming..
..I’m coming home to you..
..I’m alive, I’m a mess..
..I can’t wait to get home to you..
..to get warm..
..warm and undressed..”

London Rain [Nothing Heals Me Like You Do] – Heather Nova

Lyrics from London Rain [Nothing Heals Me Like You Do] ©  Heather Nova

Elections, Shame & Paper Cranes

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am usually very proud to be Swedish.
Not so tonight.

Today general elections were held in Sweden, and I feel utterly ashamed to say that it looks reasonably certain thatSverigedemokraterna [Sweden Democrats (SD)] will make the 4% threshold to enter Riksdagen [the Swedish parliament]. I’m guessing that to anyone not from Sweden this might not sound like much to be ashamed of. Sweden and Democracy – how bad can it be, right?

The answer is “VERY”. (SD) is the Swedish equivalent of the UK’s British National Party, and much like the BNP they win voters through sheer scare mongering, using, what they call “severely restricted immigration” as their main manifesto, and, again, much like the BNP, they prey on people’s fear of the unknown, to gain voters. They market themselves as not being a racist party, despite the fact that many of its members and frontline politicians have backgrounds in both neo-nazi and white power movements. An early SD campaign poster [not used in this year’s campaign] read “Bevara Sverige Svenskt!” – “Keep Sweden Swedish!”

So, in short: I feel absolutely disgusted with the outcome of this election.

It looks like Alliansen [the allied, ie the conservative parties] will be the ones to form the new government, but, sadly, it’s not at all impossible that they’ll need to work with (SD) to push new policies through.

As it currently stands Moderaterna [the Conservatives (M)] is set to be the biggest party, with Socialdemokraterna [Labour (S)] second. Miljöpartiet [the Green Party (MP)] is having their most successful election ever, coming in as the third largest party, surpassing Vänsterpartiet [the Left Party (V)], who have traditionally been the second largest party in the Red/Green block. At a guess, I’d say that a fair few voters have given their vote to (MP), in the hope that they, would agree to work with Alliansen, in order to shut (SD) out.

Now, I’ve never been one to root for any of the conservative parties, but, honestly – if the choice is for them to work either with (SD) or (MP) – I’d be happy for (MP) to take a step to the right, to make that happen.

To counteract my rather dejected mood, I’ll end this entry with something a bit more positive: Had a really good day today. Had soooo much fun at the Special Event we ran at work today. Such an experience. So rewarding. I feel honoured to be part of it.

Also had a blast at my J-Prep class this evening, learning lots and making decorations for the sukkah at my synagogue. Had a go at making apple, orange and lemon decorations, but failed miserably. Luckily there was also origami paper to make paper cranes, and, having taken part in a project to fold a thousand of them for the Sadako Sasaki peace monument in Hiroshima at age 11, this is something I feel a lot more at home with. In fact, I ended up running an impromptu crane folding tutorial with my fellow J-Preppers, and I really enjoyed it. Funnily enough, I’d actually done something quite similar earlier today at work, with a very different group of people.

All the best,

xx