Date archives "August 2013"

What Weight Watchers Taught Me About Atonement


My husband and I collect stones with words on them: love, health, family, even Beshert. Until recently, one was missing. We wondered how we had thought the collection complete without it, so we added a new stone: forgive.

Forgiveness is a central theme of the Jewish High Holidays. We ask God to forgive our sins, and we forgive those who have wronged us. What I don’t see emphasized is the need to forgive ourselves. Self forgiveness — the ability to say, “Who I was before doesn’t dictate who I will be in the future” — seems to be at the core of atonement.

I often think about a sentence I heard at a Weight Watchers meeting:

Your eating can be out of control at 10:00 and back in control at 10:05.

I love the insight this phrase suggests. It speaks to the hopeful promise that whatever your failings, you can forgive yourself, change and move on. Forgiving yourself, however, is harder than you might think.

I can list proudly many things I have done as a parent, but I have a list of shame as well. When my children were young, I was a yeller. Every parent yells at their kids at times, but I yelled a lot. One day, when my daughter was 12, we went to the grocery store.

I gave her a list of things to get. When we met at the check-out counter, she had gotten the wrong thing and I yelled at her. A few minutes later, in the parking lot, a woman approached me and said Continue reading

Where’s Maria?

What does it feel like to have dementia? In Where’s Maria, you experience first hand the confusion, anger and humiliation that people with dementia experience every day. Could this be your mom? Could it be you someday?  I don’t remember much before this moment.  I don’t recognize exactly where I am, although this recliner chair fits me like a glove.  A female talk show host on the television is blathering on and on about some burst of insight, but it’s not Oprah and I don’t care for the knock-off, dime store psychology.  The imitation is enough to make me shift in my seat and utter something in annoyance, more of a raspy croak than my usual gentle voice.  I glance to my right and the grey-haired man next to me smiles with his eyes and a tangle of memories are suddenly swept out the corner and set adrift, cascading down in my mind as sparkly as water splashing off of sun soaked rocks. hands I feel a flood of joy and break into a face-splitting grin, which is quickly replaced by a concerned and furrowed brow.  He looks surprised as he reaches for my forearm and gives me a gentle pat. “Are you getting Maria off the bus?” I ask him. He continues to pat my arm, turning his attention back to the Oprah Winfrey imposter. Typical.  He never responds to anything I ask the first time.  I guess I’ll have to go get her myself. I start to stand up, my knees grinding in revolt, and somebody rushes from the across the room and pushes me back down into my seat. This actually hurts a little.  I must have strained my back carrying laundry up and down the stairs.  I swear the amount of laundry these kids produce… This lady is pointing her finger at me.  I’m told to stay .  Like a dog-trainer scolding an errant beagle, she says it three times in escalating volume.  Why is she so angry?  The fourth time she is pushing down on my shoulders so hard that I have no choice but to push back. I realize that the bus is almost at the end of our street and, at this rate, no one will be there to meet her.  Sunny must be home with her baby.  I think Shane is at football practice with his son.  Or maybe with his dad.  I can’t keep them straight.  Poor Maria won’t know what to do.  The thought of her standing there, alone, looking lost and afraid, causes me to panic. I am quicker this time, and get to my feet before the lady can bully me any further.  The grey-haired man also protests my actions, reaching for me from his recliner, which makes me really angry considering it’s his six-year-old daughter too. I shout something at Continue reading