—Rabbi Jonathan Malamy, Director of Meaningful Life

Hello Jewish Home Manhattan. 

This is Tuesday May 19.

Where am I catching you today? For most of us most of the time, it takes little to no effort to place ourselves in our surroundings. We know who we are. We know our history. We know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We know what we care about and what we don’t, what we like and what turns us off. 

In clinical language we often talk about people being oriented or disoriented. When we say oriented, we mean: They know themselves. They know their location. They know when it is.

And while there are conditions like dementia or delirium that make a person lose track of those things, all of us have momentary or temporary experiences of disorientation. It happens all the time.

Sometimes it’s a small thing. You walk into the kitchen and you can’t remember what you came in for. Or your cell phone gets an update to its operating system and suddenly you don’t know how to find anything anymore.

Or it can be a big thing. You start a new job and you don’t know any of the rules. Or you become a parent and your sleeping patterns (sleep?) are thrown into chaos. Or you move to a new city. Or you go through a break up. Or someone you love dies. Just like that — you don’t recognize your life anymore. That orienting sense of who you are and what you’re meant to do is gone.

This pandemic has been like that. Normal living has broken up with us. It’s been profoundly disorienting. And at times really scary. What do we do? How do we live now? What should we expect? What can we look forward to? And when? Our confusion makes a lot of sense.

But the thing about experiences that disorient us, is that they also spur us to new growth. We wouldn’t choose them, and we didn’t, but now that we’re here, there’s a lot we can learn. Like the new sprouts that break through the forest floor after a fire, learnings about ourselves emerge. Take a moment to notice and appreciate what you have learned about yourself in the face of this adversity. 

We are making our way back and gaining strength and confidence. The ground is settling but the world looks a bit different than it did before. We are mapping out a new way of being in this renewed and changed world.  

For thousands of years human beings have known, the only constant in life is change (Hereclitus). But we are resilient and resourceful. A disorienting change may knock us off our feet, but we will catch our breath, reset our balance, and get up once again. 

Changes (David Bowie)