I died on the eve of Yom Kippur. I’m being a bit dramatic but it certainly felt like it, or at least like a part of me had with the heavy blows “it’s” and “over.” If a person is not complete until she finds her other half, shouldn’t separating from a partner be considered a death? After all “male and female He created them”, therefore one without the other according to this biblical definition is not even a full human (Genesis 1:27).
Breaking up is like losing someone you love, a death—you can no longer talk to him, you will no longer watch his eyes imitate the crinkling of a paper bag as he smiles, no longer bask in his embrace, no longer hear his laugh sing to your heart and no longer share piquant Torah tidbits with him on Facebook. Should an observant Jewess then grieve the parting of a lover the same way she mourns the loss of a loved one? Not shower and shave? Wear sackcloth and ripped jeans? Abstain from music? Jettison the photographs in her home?
This timely death was a result of a condition particularly common amongst the social media savvy and writers. I know the Day of Atonement has passed, but the One Republic song has been proven wrong by the book of Exodus, Jonah, Hosea and Jeremiah; later by Plato, Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods — it’s never too late to apologize.
I am sorry for writing myself in the Book of Life. I am sorry for catching the Carrie Bradshaw syndrome.
Symptoms of the Carrie Bradshaw include sensationalizing life experiences and diving into the depths of narcissism. The relationship columnist and professed shoeaholic Carrie Bradshaw was the protagonist of the hit HBO series Sex and the City, where every episode carried a theme framed by a witty question. “Is there a secret cold war between marrieds and singles?” Carrie asked. “Do we search for ‘lessons’ to lessen the pain?” “Are we the new bachelors?” Or, a rather telling one: “Do we need drama to make a relationship work?”
When Big—her most prominent boyfriend of sorts— takes our heroine to the same restaurant twice in a row, she searches for an ulterior motive. She listens to his voicemail repeatedly, struggling to hear what he has not said. If only one of her girlfriends told her—over analyzing solves nothing. Carrie becomes so submerged in her own crafted conundrums that as her friends deal with cancer, infertility, and a mother in law with Alzheimer’s, Carrie still makes it a point to one-up all of them at lunch with her latest romantic woes.
Why did anyone date Carrie Bradshaw? Were her lovers not aware that she wrote a highly promulgated column called Sex and the City? That their every move would be recorded for all of New York to read? She was a dating columnist for crying out loud! Yes she might have made cute epithets for her victims like “Big”, but anyone who knew the couple was aware of who this “Mr.Big” was. Did he not feel violated? I might have verbally masked my own partner, but from experience, it doesn’t take much to decipher the face behind a nom de guerre.
Similarly around Yom Kippur Jews pray to be “inscribed in the book of life.” “May you be written down and inscribed for a good year,” they say to one another. Yet in a generation of Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Myspace, Pintrest, Instagram, Snapchat and— let’s dedicate this next spot to the social media platform of tomorrow—where we publicize each time we see a friend, sit at Starbucks, or are stressed at work, we often forget that we don’t write this book—God does. One of Yom Kippur’s central prayers, describes God as the sole author of the Book of Memories whereas we humans just place our “signatures” in it. Although a consciousness that actions are recorded can make us more cautious, taken to an extreme we are left only living for the book. Man and woman are merely signatories not authors.
The biggest danger with the Carrie Syndrome and awareness of the Book of Life is when you start recording life and stop living it. You plan your actions based on what would make for an interesting twist in your personal narrative or what would make for a best seller, often leading you to forget that there are other characters in your story.
A week ago I looked up to Carrie. I thought “why settle for the mundane, when you can strive for drama and live the movie-like life!?” As a writer, when do you know when you’re only living for the write up? Perhaps when for the sake of good story and having your name in electronic ink, you overlook the implications of publishing your personal plot, and end up hurting the real people who love you, for the sake of virtual “likers” of an article. Perhaps it’s when you bring the whole world into your most intimate relationship. Perhaps it’s when someone is breaking up with you over the phone and you interject to ask if the obscure symbols of goats and lovers in the Chagall painting you face are relevant to the dying relationship.
When you’re getting dumped in the middle of a Vera Wang fashion show and you broach the irony that Vera is famous for her matrimonial frocks; When you’re publishing pride leaves you in the middle of Lincoln Center, heartbroken with sepulchral black tears staining that expensive dress you wore once before to a wedding; When you comfort the man you hurt with “on the bright side, your poetry will gain some nice dark depths”; When you find literary patterns in restaurants and call men your prophets; When others draw attention to your flaws, yet you continue to repeat them by justifying “well that’s my character.” When suffering from the above, rush to your closest shrink or responsible friend, as you’re suffering from a bad case of Carrie Syndrome.
Caught up in having my name in electronic ink, I forgot that despite the shared Semitic curls— I am not Carrie Bradshaw. Busy writing my own book of life, I selfishly pursued personal literary interests, overlooking the repercussions of my words on my own leading man. Seeing that the world was reading more into my life then I was, I finally recognized I benightedly chose my writing “relationship” with the masses, over my real one with a man.
A Faustian deal with the publishing devils left me dejected, flushed with shame, and ready to flood the gates of heaven on the Day of Atonement with desperate apologies and lengthy confessions.
Later that Yom Kippur night, Kol Nidreh commences and I step into the crowded silence of synagogue. Amidst the thronged space, I notice the rabbi, the gaping ark guarding ornate Torahs, the lost face of my mother –and step out of time, into everything rolling beyond. Black tears cloud my eyes once again intensifying all I cannot see. The group singing is quite disappointing compared to the enthusiasm and beautiful tunes of poignant female vocals last year at seminary in Israel , yet the silence is prayer and surrender .That silence did not hold an absence of noise, but a presence of something deeper: the gravity beneath my thoughts. The small synagogue turned into a hospital for my soul. Figures in snowy white bend, heads bowed, drawing my attention to all that cannot be said or even written. From the blue prayer book juddering in my hands I read “man’s origin is dust and his end is dust.” I join the congregation and bow in recognition of my mere humanity. I tried to apologize for all I did to my former leading man, hoping that if God can not only forgive me but “erase” my sins, surely an ex could too. So I let the apologies rush to a God who took the form of my tall, dark, and a bit too handsome male protagonist. I punch my chest with each confession the hardback has set out for me: “for the sin we have committed before you with an utterance of the lips…through speech… by a confused heart.” I quaff these words, close my eyes—and remind myself of what is real, what is lasting before giving myself to everything that isn’t. No longer a 19 year old women grappling the responsibilities, the romances, the questions and the perennial eyes on the battlefield of encroaching adulthood, the prayer shatters me as if I was child trembling once more before my parents.
As an aspiring journalist I focused on the content of the new, the now, the public approval, and on the fake eternity of print, but to be human—even for the one who writes— is to be cognizant of the past and what stretches beyond time– our interpersonal relationships, our primary necessities.I found out the hard way on an empty stomach and even emptier heart, that in order to eventually write for Time, I first must concentrate on Infinity.