NaBloPoMo 5: Choose Life

You have to give up the life you planned to find the life that is waiting for you.                  –Joseph Campbell

My son is looking at high schools. In a city like Los Angeles and a district like LA Unified, it is a daunting task. So on Friday morning I found myself in a vibrant, rich and exciting classroom at the Humanities Magnet at Cleveland High School. A program with an integrated curriculum of literature, history, philosophy and art history, the classroom walls, and even ceiling, serve as blank canvas for student embellishment. It was beautiful. Perusing the student murals, I came upon Campbell’s quote. I was struck by its simple truth.
We all plan. We all have expectations. We all think we know the direction we want to take our lives. And then, as John Lennon said, “life happens.”
I remember when I was a teenager. While bar/bat mitzvah is probably the best know “rite of passage” in Judaism, Confirmation is another. Acknowledging that most 13 year olds aren’t in a position to take on the mantle of religion, that commitment is made again at the ripe old age of 16.
One of the truly beautiful traditions of my rabbi was to offer each of us a personal blessing as part of our Confirmation ceremony. There was a condition, though. We had to affirmatively ask for it. And if we opted not to receive a blessing, that was okay too. We could always go up in front of the congregation and privately talk with him about the White Sox.
I remember my blessing. While I believe most of his students do as well, we almost universally hold that moment in sacred trust. I’ve never shared my blessing with anyone else, and I’ve never heard another’s. But I will share this: the blessing I received that day, more than 30 years ago, empowered me to do just that – to embrace the life I am meant to lead, regardless if it was the life I had planned. Those words have made all the difference, and they continue to do so today.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nancy's Point (@NancysPoint)
    Nov 05, 2012 @ 12:00:45

    This is so powerful and so full of meaning. Thanks for sharing this blessing you received – something you’ve held in sacred trust for so long. I like the way you were expected to ask for the blessing, but also could opt out. There’s something so non-judgmental and accepting about that in itself. Sometimes it’s hard to embrace the life we didn’t plan isn’t it? I’m still working on this…

    And good luck picking out that school. High school years are exciting times!


    • Lori
      Nov 12, 2012 @ 11:41:11

      It is hard, isn’t it? I actually think it’s an evolution…a choice we need ot make again and again, and one in which we fight the inertia of what we had planned.

      Thanks so much for your comment, Nancy!


  2. Facing Cancer Together
    Nov 05, 2012 @ 12:27:35

    I love this quote and the story of your Confirmation. The idea that it’s okay – and rather normal – for things not to go as planned is kinda freeing comforting at the same time. Catherine


    • Lori
      Nov 12, 2012 @ 11:42:44

      I think it has everything to do with believing we have a power that we don’t really have…a lesson learned quickly in the face of cancer, but we always need reminders, don’t we? Thanks so much for your thoughts!


  3. Anonymous
    Nov 05, 2012 @ 13:02:24

    Lori– I loved hearing this and I know Rabbi Shapiro’s not on Facebook, so I hope you’re sharing it with him somehow. Fondly, Barbara Irlen (a name from the past also)


    • Lori
      Nov 05, 2012 @ 13:30:09

      Barbara Irlen….hi!!! I will be getting it to him. So great to hear from you!! I home all is well with you and yours! I was just talking about your (I think…) family holidays curriculum!


  4. Jeff Subeck
    Nov 05, 2012 @ 13:14:41

    Great quote. I am adding it to a short list of quotes that I started compiling in recent years.


  5. hopeforheather
    Nov 05, 2012 @ 14:18:52



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