New Years and Earthquakes

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I was about to write this yesterday, but then, life!

Had I written this yesterday morning, as I had planned, instead of now, this would be a very different post. I was going to write about the New Year. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year begins tonight. Jewish people all over the world will gather at home for meals, at synagogues to ask forgiveness for past transgressions and to make requests for the coming year.

I was going to write about new beginnings with a positive note, with a “now what will you do differently, what can you take from your past year and use for the upcoming one, what did you learn, what do you wish had been different…”

But life happened, and the world happened. And a shattering earthquake happened. My home town, my other home, my un-home was taken from it’s actively dormant state and brought to unnerving life by a 7.1 earthquake that destroyed dozens of buildings and has taken too many lives.

It is hard to write about beginnings, about looking at the past and the future when all I can think of are children trapped in their school, parents waiting to receive a child or a body while rescuers are working like they were born to dig in the rubble. I can’t stop thinking about having a home, your home, your place of comfort and security, suddenly changing it’s essence in such a way that it becomes the most dangerous place to be in.

The earth shook. It shook the people. It shook me from so far away. Pieces of my heart are imbedded in places and people I couldn’t reach. I texted, I called, I messaged. I wanted to be there, looking for faces. I wanted to be there, helping remove the debris to find breathing, dusty, humans underneath. (I was also grateful for not having been there, for not being somewhere and my children elsewhere and not knowing how they were. I am also grateful for not having to calm down nightmares of moving buildings from my toddler’s eyes).

How can I bring the devastation that is happening in my city together with the thoughts of a new year? How can I think of new beginnings when so many people don’t know where their loved ones are.

I am talking to friends, I am in as much contact as I can be from far away. I hear what is happening.

What is happening is a beautiful thing amongst the destruction.

People are coming together. They are opening their houses to others that have lost theirs. For sleep, for shelter, for a warm meal, to charge their phones, for a shower. People are leaving their homes in order to help rescue others who weren’t as lucky. People are emptying the supermarkets and taking those items to shelters. People are taking away their wifi passwords in case others in need of rescue seek connection to communicate.

People are holding hands, with their hearts.

So many natural disasters have happened lately and they are terrifying and they are the cloth with which nightmares are embroidered. And yet, the beauty of them is seeing the unity, what the real essence of humanity is. It doesn’t matter that they don’t know who is trapped under a fallen building, they want that person alive and safe. It doesn’t matter that they don’t have children, they want the children to be soothed and safe. It doesn’t matter that you are thousands of kilometers away, you are still feeling the pain and the terror, you are still re-tweeting information and reposting posts on social media. You are still donating money and urging others to do the same.

Disasters, like beginnings, bring mirrors into our lives. We become the other. Everyone has a different past, but the hopes for a new beginning can be very similar.

México, estoy contigo. México, I am with you.

We say “Shana tova umetuka”, a good and sweet year to all. I wish a sweet encounter with the unity that is humanity without having to undergo ordeals of this magnitude. I wish for a reconstruction of my beloved monster of a city with haste and love, with creativity and memory for what happened and the ones we lost.

I wish you all a happy and plentiful new year, and may new commencements begin with a smile instead of a fisted heart. Rosh Hashana means the head of the year, but I’d like to think of it as the heart of the year, the moment we take note from it and act from it.