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Living life actively is what I do, but at the same time I have always tended to play it safe within certain parameters.  At least I did until my job situation changed and I had no choice; I had to face my deepest fears.

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.  ~Jim Morrison

On December 16 of this past year, I was called into my executive director’s office at work.  My job had been cut to half-time. The congregation I was working with lost members and our school lost students.  Initially, I was stunned, never had I heard of a Jewish Educator going to half-time mid-year.

Instead of licking my wounds, I started really thinking about what I wanted with my life. Did I want to remain in Jewish Education? Did I want to stay in Tucson or move closer to the water? Could I find a way to focus on ways to grow while also sustaining myself financially.  There was and still is so much to consider.  The questions I was asking myself were endless.

What I had initially decided is that I wasn’t ready to push myself hard to find the ‘right’ position, I needed some time to breathe deeply and consider what I really wanted to do.  And the good news is that while I now had no health insurance, I did have a half-time salary.  Even with everything being strained financially, I was willing to take the time to seek the best working environment for me by deciding what I needed to best thrive in a new work environment.

As the days of my new work situation turned into weeks, and then months, I have been allowing myself the quiet time to figure out what would be next.  I interviewed for new positions and learned how to live with less; I grew angry for what I was enduring and I let the anger go.  I allowed myself to take this journey with few preconceived notions.  I wasn’t sure how I would emerge from where I was; I am still not sure how I will emerge, but I will.

There was and still is a thrill in learning how to live with less and accepting help.  From the beginning, I thought about my needs and wants, my space and how I craved simplicity.  And then my son Aryeh found a job and helped financially.  And then a friend gave me a job as a care-giver for the agency she worked; this allowed me to supplement my income.  When my car broke down, a friend lend me part of the money to fix it and when I was short the rent money one month, it showed up as a gift.  I am still reflecting and learning how to deal with where I am today.

Torrey Pines State Reserve Photo courtesy of David Davidson

Photo courtesy of David Davidson: Torrey Pines State Reserve

The Journey continues. . . .

And then in April or May I learned that the congregation that moved me from Washington, DC to Tucson two years ago could no longer afford me.  Effective June 1st, I was no longer employed as a Jewish Educator.  I had no guaranteed income and I had lost my community.

While I was aware that I could lose my position, I was also hopeful that I could continue working part time as the Youth Education Director.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, the congregation said that they couldn’t afford my salary.  The new reality made it time to figure out the next chapter and quick (or maybe not so quick).

Moving forward is not optional.  Choosing to find light in the dark moments propels me to soar.  Allowing myself time to ask some important questions as I make this new reality work is scary, but feels wise too. With each day, I choose to celebrate the blessings that always surround me. My friends, far and near, have never wavered in their support; the desert mountains and the magnificent skies nurture my spirit even though I miss the ocean.

And in this moment, I am blessed to be working as a care-giver with some amazing people and earlier this week a friend gave me a short-term  freelance job within Jewish education. I seem to be staying afloat for the most part.

Reality 

From the moment I was given my walking papers from the temple, I was forced to look at my deepest fears directly.  As a result, I have always been terrified of not having the money I need to sustain my family with even their most basic needs.  Growing up without healthy food or the clothing appropriate for a girl in the suburbs was hard.   And for the first time in my adult life, I know that I there are times when I may not afford  rent, utilities, or basic necessities.  If something goes wrong, I will not have what I need to make things work.  And yet, I am blessed with friends and a belief that all will ultimately be good.

As a young teenager, my family  didn’t have enough food and the fear of foreclosure was constantly looming. Potential homelessness was a possibility then and now it is again.  And while it would be easier if I lived on the east coast because we do have friends there that would shelter us, my guess is that I have friends in Tucson too.  The beauty of where I am today is that I am beginning to heal from the experiences of my youth; I also realize that I have more tools now.  I understand what it means to thrift shop, borrow, and cook from scratch.  As a child, I really didn’t have the tools to help myself.  And today, I have something I never had before, I have friends and loved ones that are there for me and I am able to find the gifts within the challenges.

I am no stranger to financial struggles, as a Jewish professional (not clergy), I have always just made it financially. And when my children suffered health crises, we sometimes didn’t know how we would afford even their most basic needs. Yet, in the end, all of our needs and many of our wants have always been met often with the help of friends.  For me, darkness always turns into light.

What’s next?

I want to live consciously in all areas of my life.  Being authentic matters whether it is with people, my environment, or the larger world.  My words and my actions should support my beliefs and my spirit.

My foundation is what it is because of the role Judaism has had in my life.  The teachings have given me the wisdom to grow and the room to wrestle. Doors have opened to me because of my many interactions with the social actions of my previous communities.  When one door opens, I often find many other doors ajar.  Some I will go through; some I will not. I am who I am because I listened to the values of my faith and used it as a springboard to move me through life and learning from others.

So now, I have to figure out how to have a career that either nurtures who I am and/or allows me the time to make a positive impact within the world I live.  My hope is that I can do both. I love people and working with people; I also love the idea of working behind the scenes to get things done.  Even though, I have only really worked within the Jewish community, it doesn’t mean that I have to stay there. I have learned so many skills that can take me wherever I go.  I really am looking forward to the next chapter and hoping that it allows me the room to be creative either on or off the job.

My purchases should be mindful of the people and the physical planet I live; my interactions with family, friends, and others should always be sweet and caring.  Living in the world means I have a responsibility for walking gently and lovingly with each step and with each word.  Everything I do matters.

Today, I am considering ways to ignite my non-profit organization, find or create a meaningful work environment, taking time to write, and living into the answers of my many questions.  Today I am fully embracing life.

Each step in this 8 month journey has been scary. Yet it is also exciting to explore what is now meaningful to me and how I will afford my needs for now and into the future.  I don’t have all the answers, but I know that I am trusting the universe and doing what I need to do to move forward.

May today and every day lead us beyond our fears and towards freedom.

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