Posts Tagged ‘Shabbat’

THE SMALL THINGS

This Thursday, Americans will consume meals that leave us more stuffed than our turkeys. Hopefully, many will actually give thanks for the big things in their lives. Me? I’ve been lucky. But I’ll also give thanks for the little things.

Admittedly, I’m boring. (Read “The Least Interesting Man in the World.”) My day starts with a bowl of cereal topped with banana, blueberries and strawberries. Plus the sports section. I love it.

Then I take a walk of about a mile. I’m grateful I can still do that and pick up coffee, which I take home in a 49ers mug my son Seth bought me. I drink while I read part of the weekly Torah portion. I love that, too.

Then I write. It’s not about fame (yes, I fantasize) but passion. I had an earlier fiction-writing career decades ago, but in the face of constant rejection—even my agent couldn’t sell anything—I took a break to meet the demands of a growing family and the growing business supporting it. Years later, I wrote two non-fiction books. Solo Successwas published by Crown, New York. I independently published God’s Others—a fabulous learning experience. Then, moving towards retirement, I turned back to fiction and wrote Slick!

Another highlight of my exciting day. Carolyn and I eat dinner watching the news. (Are you nodding off yet?) Sometimes, we have leftovers. I’m thankful we can prepare enough food to have leftovers. Also to have meals delivered by Munchery for Friday night.

Shabbat delights me no end. I put the week, such as it is, to rest and seek new perspectives on life—the big picture if you will. At unfinished Friday business meetings, clients often said let’s continue tomorrow. I explained I didn’t work on Saturdays, but Sunday would be fine. We always continued on Monday.

I’m tickled about TV shows we enjoy. Cable unleashed myriad creative opportunities enabling many series to equal top independent films and novels. (Just finished Homecoming.) And reading. Especially in bed. I have a friend in Connecticut who was director of the Norwalk Public Library and sends or recommends outstanding works of fiction and non-fiction. Not everyone has their own literary curator.

I love having friends. As I’ve written before, I’m an introvert. But introverts can have very close friendships. My week’s highlight? Torah Study with my friends on Saturday morning followed by coffee and conversation ranging from deep (theirs) to inane (mine).

On Thursday, Carolyn and I will host family and friends for Thanksgiving. The sites I’ve seen include Stonehenge, the Colosseum, the Western Wall, Petra, Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon and Yosemite. The most awesome? Family and friends around the table.

And I haven’t yet mentioned 30 years of The Simpsons, the view of Lobos Valley and the Pacific two blocks north of my house, praying in my synagogue Friday night followed by ice cream for dessert, doing research on the Internet (an author once told Terry Gross the Net is catnip for writers; true!), sunning (with a broad-brimmed hat) in my backyard and having ten people reading the second draft of my current novel.

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s a day to give thanks for the small stuff. To me, that’s a pretty big deal.

I’ll be teaching Torah Study tomorrow morning at Congregation Sherith Israel, 9:15–10:15 am. Join me. (Bagels and lox include.) It’s going to be “magic.”

The post will take off next weekend. It will return November 30.

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THANKSGIVING PLUS ONE

Yesterday, Carolyn, Seth and I (Yosi is in Virginia) celebrated Thanksgiving at Aaron and Jeremy’s house. Food? The usual plenty. Although forgive me for using the word usual. I’m grateful for my good fortune, which happens to include lots of “little” things. Here are three.

Thank you cable TV and content providers like Netflix and Amazon for entertaining, challenging shows. We recently concluded Narcos (Netflix) about the Colombian drug czar Pablo Escobar—violent but riveting with a great performance by the Brazilian actor Wagner Moura. We’re about to see Show Me a Hero (HBO) and The Man in the High Castle (Amazon). Showtime’s Homeland and The Affair (Dominic West lives out all my author fantasies) are winding down, but House of Cards (Netflix), Game of Thrones (HBO), Grace and Frankie (Netflix) and Silicon Valley (HBO) wait in the wings.

Thank you books and their authors. I feel unsettled when I’m not into a book even though I’m now reading the December Atlantic magazine with the next Foreign Affairs coming soon. I just finished Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter. It took me 30 years to get to it, although I read the second novel in his Frank Bascombe trilogy, Independence Day, some time ago. I just started Andy Weir’s The Martian—science as fiction. After that it’s non-fiction—Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. I’m not morbid. Just, well, mortal. Then I’ll check my nightstand for more titles. (Tip: Read Chris Cleave’s novel Incendiary, written five years after 9/11, for a British take on Islamist terrorism’s effect on Western society.)

Finally, thank you Shabbat. The late Dean Martin had a great line about people who don’t drink: “You wake up in the morning and that’s as good as you’re gonna feel all day.” I don’t equate Shabbat to alcohol but to something far more soul enriching. The Sabbath, which begins Friday at sundown and ends at sundown on Saturday, restores me weekly.

Sure, I live a low-key life—TV, movies (we have tickets to the new Star Wars), theater and books. That’s in addition to writing fiction and this blog. Plus reading Torah each morning. And getting together with friends. But we all face challenges, disappointments and the occasional inner torment. Shabbat suspends all that. It’s the day, never far off, on which every person can “get off the wheel”—turn aside from the ordinary and celebrate the extraordinary: creation (i.e. the universe) and our connection to that which is greater than ourselves. I worship at my synagogue on Friday night. After, Carolyn and I have a special dinner at home. And watch TV! I go to Torah Study on Saturday morning then out to coffee with friends. In the afternoon, I free myself from humdrum obligations in favor of a walk, reading and an occasional nap.

Admittedly, my pleasures—add ice cream, daily walks and any opportunity to laugh—are simple. Still, I try to be thankful each day—and on Shabbat particularly—for those things that truly nourish us yet often go overlooked. That’s why today I adhere to a mantra echoing the Rabbi’s blessing in Fiddler on the Roof: May God bless and keep Black Friday… far away from me.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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THERAPY TIMES FOUR

Self-reflection represents a blessing and a curse. The thinking, aware mind uncovers new possibilities. Yet seemingly intractable problems—a violent world, personal failings—stagger that mind. Four therapies guide me towards positive territory.

FRIENDS. My friend Jim and I do lunch every two or three weeks. We meet in Mill Valley. Revealing what’s on our minds, we share achievements and failures. Tomorrow, I’ll meet several friends at Torah Study as I do each Saturday morning. Then we’ll go for coffee. We’ll talk. We’ll bitch. We’ll laugh. We’ll laugh a lot. Other friends I’ll see for dinner and/or a movie. We’ll enjoy each other’s company and feel uplifted after. A therapist can charge $200 an hour or more. Friends listen for free. And they accept you as you are.

WALKING. As kids, my friends and I walked a lot because so much in our Queens neighborhood was in walking distance. To go to Manhattan, we’d take the subway. A token—this was before Metro cards—cost 15¢ as did a slice of pizza. Then we’d walk. In San Francisco, I walk from my house to the Pacific Ocean, Baker Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park and Mountain Lake, just two blocks away. I walk to my synagogue, Sherith Israel. That’s over two miles. Occasionally when I’m downtown, I walk home, covering as much as five miles (some up hills). Using your legs offers an opportunity to think, weigh challenges and, occasionally, find solutions. Walking with friends? Fabulous.

WRITING. Few authors make big money. The majority—publishing traditionally or independently—keeps their day jobs. Many target the commercial market. Most, I suspect, write novels or stories to work out what roils within them. I do. The only book on which I “made money” was my non-fiction work, Solo Success. A labor of love—I wanted to share what I’d learned about the business side of freelancing—it brought in less than a single ho-hum work month. (Disclosure: My ho-hum months were quite good.) Writing fiction helps me deal with the world. I observed the idiocy of America in Iraq and the ongoing dysfunction of the Arab world. Slick! I detest the hypocrisy both of right-wing hyper-capitalism and left-wing revolutionary movements. San Café. Fathers and sons spawned The Boy Walker. A range of issues produced Flight of the Spumonis. I just finished the first draft of a new novel. It deals with superficiality in American culture. I probably won’t make a dime. Still, I feel better exploring something that disturbs me.

SHABBAT. Shabbat arrives every Friday night. It serves as a focal point in time for considering what’s really important and connecting with what is greater than ourselves and ultimately unknowable—often translated as God. Observing Shabbat offers release from a world that’s always challenging, often painful. Each week, I get to call time out. For an introvert, that’s invaluable.

Who’d have thought therapy could be so cheap? Or that it might take so many forms? True, these four therapies don’t guarantee perfect results. But they nudge the scales towards a sense of balance. Often that’s the best we can expect. I’ll take it.

The blog will take a rest next week and return on September 18. To all who are observing and celebrating the Jewish New Year (5776), Shanah Tovah!

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.