Friday Dispatch: The Power of "Maybe..."
Seeking possibilities instead of conclusions
“I'm always learning something. Learning never ends.” ~ Raymond Carver
In an online world full of memes and sound bytes, opportunities to connect more deeply become all the more necessary and meaningful. The reciprocity of this exchange – me here, writing, you there, reading, sometimes responding – is one of my happy places.
Below you’ll find a new “11s” I wrote this past week, focused entirely on a form of text study – and a life practice – I am diving into as a Fellow in the Jewish Studio Project Creative Facilitator Training. I’m also sharing info about the 2024 Sound of Real Life Happening, a special opportunity to circle the year with a small group of fellow 11s practitioners.
I have a new piece out, quite possibly the most vulnerable I've ever published. I wrote it on 10/14 in a moment when anger pierced through the layers of first numbness then grief, refusing to be tamped down. The fact that it came out on the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht is not lost on me. I will tell you this – it was/is scary to share. Nothing I write is the entirety of me, a truth that should go without saying, but in these wrenching times feels important to acknowledge. It’s called I Don’t Want to Win. You can read it in the Jewish Journal.
In the weeks since those words poured out of me, I’ve been making time for conversations with people who are ok with not having easy answers. I’ve been reading and writing a lot. I’ve been seeking safety while trying not to retreat into rigidity. I’ve been seeing my own understandings and thinking expand and contract and evolve. I’ve been soft and hard, open and closed, sad and scared, emotions alternately frozen and flowing.
It is not easy making room for “maybe…” when certainty is so seductive. But it is also what is helping me keep touching into my own heart, my own humanness – and thus, other people’s.
I hope you’re being good to yourself, and the people around you.
Shabbat Shalom and love,
11 things after my first Havruta
Sunday night was my first havruta study. This is a form of Jewish text study where two or three people get together to read a passage and respond to it, ask questions of it, poke at it, turn it over and around, and see what that opens up. The instructions, which I wrote in rainbow colors and taped on the wall above my desk are to start with your own initial response: what do you notice, what do you wonder, what surprised you? From there you use the questions on the source sheet to guide your discussion, and you engage with your partner(s) to “clarify, deepen, challenge, interrogate, expand, and elaborate” on the text and its possibilities.
The text we read had a significant “meta” element to it, in that it had to do with the need to have a study partner in order to acquire Torah. We dug into the word “acquire” as well as why one needs a study partner in order to truly do this kind of learning. Later, we read a second, related passage, which said you should make for yourself a teacher, acquire (that word again) a study partner, and judge every person as meritorious (assume positive intent).
I am new to this process. When you read and study a passage of text with another person, you not only dive into the text, you open yourself to another person’s ideas, perspectives, and questions. This is also Torah.
One of our study partners had to leave early, so the other one and I stayed on and went further. We talked about the idea that you cannot study/learn Torah alone. Why is this? Her idea was that maybe wisdom happens in a pair or a group, whereas the work based on that wisdom happens alone. My thinking was that maybe it also works the other way – we find the wisdom through introspection, but do the work together. As my rabbi might say, the answer is probably “yes.”
The other “meta” part of all this came for me when I asked a “process” question of my havruta partner. “So… this is it? We just kind of throw things out there and feel around but don’t necessarily get to something where we think, yes! That’s it! That’s what this text is really telling or teaching us!”
In other words, I was probably seeking validation for my own lack of conclusions. Her answer surprised and honestly delighted me. It also unlocked something much bigger for me.
She said something about how sad it would be if we reached an endpoint, an answer.
And in that moment, I saw so clearly how pervasive the desire to “get somewhere” lives in me. This shows up just about everywhere. It limits me in so many ways. It keeps me from following my curiosity more often. It makes me rush rather than slow down in my experience, be it my experience in a relationship, or with a text, or with a particular challenge I may be facing.
But if this is the wisdom and the work, this voicing of thoughts and ideas, this bouncing off of each other, this saying, maybe… maybe… then the goal is not to reach the answer but simply to stay with the endless teachings.
I’m not sure I’m capturing or conveying how profoundly this landed with me. Maybe… that’s also ok.
What if we related to everyone we meet as a potential teacher and a potential study partner, someone we could truly learn from and learn with? What if we saw each other as deserving of positive regard before casting judgment? What if? Havruta study brings people together to ask questions, to listen with an open mind, to consider what we might not be seeing, to add layer upon layer of meaning, to practice wiping the judgment from our eyes, and to avail ourselves to learning as a continuous way of relating. I feel it is already working on and in me.
Come Write “11s” With Me in 2024
Does the prospect of being part of a group that comes and goes but carries you through the seasons intrigue you?
Would you appreciate being part of a space where we learn about ourselves, as well as with and from each other, through the simple but powerful act of writing 11 things a day, for 11 days in a row, once every few months for a year?
If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to sustain a writing practice, but also know that “real life happens” and there are sometimes stretches where you don’t write at all, this group might be for you. It’s an opportunity to give you a “start again” place, so that over time you begin to trust that you can always come back to the page.
Payments are quarterly, and other payment plans are available – just ask.
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