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  • erinschrode

A Solitary Yom Kippur

Twenty-five hours of introspection, atonement and prayer with myself and only myself — for that, I had to prepare. I copied a few reflection prompts from my laptop and a text thread with a dear friend, with whom I have spent the past four Yom Kippurs, into my journal by hand; I dialed my grandmother to wish her a happy birthday, as she prepared to ring in her eighty-third year at midnight; I heated up homemade soup that a friend dropped off in mason jars and drizzled olive oil atop a big bowl of hummus; I walked the house, turning on whatever lights I may need over that period while sipping a final glass of water; I sent my momma one additional Gmar Chatima Tova text at 6:21pm; and then I happily turned off (I mean off) my laptop and iPhone, tucked away in a corner until the next evening. When I sat down in my room scattered with art supplies, journals, cards and books, I became beautifully aware of my thoughts and the gift of time, this moment, our faith, that space. I began to paint, a completely foreign experience for me, but one that many friends have encouraged since my accident and directly spurred by sending me art supplies and sketchpads in the mail. I wrote poetry and even illustrated some with watercolor. I read a real, thick, used paperback book a friend gifted me, the first work of fiction (so fantastically imaginative!) I have gotten into since required reading in college. I fell asleep without stress, alarm clocks or distractions, albeit with all of the lights on, before my mom even returned from Kol Nidre services at temple. My body woke when it felt ready, and instead of reaching for electronics, I read the handwritten note my mother had left that she was out, would pray doubly for the both of us, and loved me dearly. The house was wondrously silent and still and inviting, like my mind, free from outside pressures and thus, free to pray, to explore, to reflect, to dive into what matters most and all of the possibilities therein. This is the first year of my life that I haven’t been able to be in synagogue for the High Holy Days — a sacred gathering, meaningful tradition and spiritual community I missed desperately — but I still prayed solemnly and faithfully, sometimes using the siddur I was gifted by a Rabbi for Yom Kippur in Haiti in 2011. For the past four years, a group of close friends and I have a beloved tradition of focused afternoon reflections in Central Park. I am sadly not in New York City with my tribe this year, though channeled that powerful energy as I sat and wrote and wrote and wrote for hours. I literally filled dozens of pages of my lined notebook by hand, which now aches, not used to this much writing with a pen, rather than keyboard. I reminisced and dreamt. I looked back and forward. I interpreted and envisioned. I repented and forgave. I processed and atoned and discovered and and and… in a revelatory, painful, jubilant, heartbreaking, exhausting, necessary, confusing, clarifying exercise that brought about all emotions, every possible type of thought and unexpected meaning, connection and revelation. I felt acutely alone and deeply connected simultaneously. And now, the gates are closing. Yesterday, my final pre-chag activities wrapped prior to 6:23pm, when Yom Kippur officially began in San Francisco, and it is now 7:21pm on the following day. I am going to finish one watercolor and then head upstairs for the spoonful of vegan ice cream I have been craving and set to work mashing an avocado for this hungry body, for by then it will surely be after 7:30pm, when all-knowing Google said the holiday concludes. I will then begin typing up some of the invaluable insights I have gleaned and write to a number of special souls who crossed my mind, heart and page today. This unexpectedly solitary, intensely introspective Yom Kippur unlike any in my life has changed me — and I feel newly ready to face, appreciate and make the very most of the days, weeks and year ahead. Learnings and revelations to come tomorrow… for now, I break the fast and maybe grab my phone to share this with the world in 5780.


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