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Everyday Miracles

            This year at synagogue school we’re focusing on miracles for Hanukah (last year we focused on the lights from the candles), and I’m doing a writing workshop with the kids based on Walt Whitman’s poem Miracles (https://poets.org/poem/miracles), to help them see the everyday miracles in their own lives.

            There have been times in my life when I was able to feel the level of wonder Walt Whitman felt at the miracles all around him, but I haven’t been in that state of mind lately. My first thoughts are of what I don’t have, or what’s wrong, or what I’m failing at. My hope is that by actively pushing myself to think about the daily miraculous things, I might be able to regenerate my sense of wonder: like the miracle of Ellie running through the leaves, or the miracle of Cricket giving a five minute diatribe, in the form of an Aria, about why I shouldn’t be allowed to leave the apartment, or the miracle of packages arriving at my door just because I typed a few things into my phone.

“Where’s MY iPhone?

            I want bigger miracles, though. I want to stop feeling so hungry – for food or love or success or whatever else. I want to feel less pain, physical and emotional. I want all of my hard work to kick in so I can finally feel successful and capable and healthy, and safe. It’s hard to be satisfied with the little miracles when I want so much more.

The fact is, I’m struggling. My psychiatrist upped my dose of antidepressants, because my lows have been more persistent lately, even prior to my father’s death. It feels like exhaustion, but I don’t know if there’s a medical cause or a psychological one, or a mix of both. All of the research being done on Long Covid (which I don’t have, because I never got Covid, thank God) promises to offer some insight for those of us who have other long term pain disorders, but I’m not optimistic, honestly.

            My latest experiments with Intuitive Eating have led me to look into self-care more deeply, to see if there are things I could be doing to help lift my mood that I haven’t tried yet, or haven’t tried enough; things, especially, that would take the place of extra food, because I’ve been relying on food as self-care too much lately. My current project has been about collecting good memories (times when I’ve felt cared for, safe, and accepted as I am), so that when I find myself wanting to eat beyond physical hunger I can fill the space with a good memory instead.

            Some of the memories I’ve been working with are: when I was four years old and my grandfather bought me a stuffed panda that was as tall as me and he walked me and the panda, hand in hand, down the driveway to the car; and the time when my brother and I sat on the lawn during a rainstorm with a towel over our heads; and the time we stayed over at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and they took us to Lickety Split for ice cream (I probably had mint chocolate chip) and then we were allowed to choose whichever candies we wanted, and my brother and I sat in the guest room, next to the cuckoo clock, sharing our candy dots and ingesting enormous amounts of paper along the way.

“Yum, paper!”

            I’ve also been collecting songs and TV shows and movies and books that have relieved anxiety or depression in the past, so that if the sweet memories don’t help enough I can move on to visiting YouTube or Spotify mid-meal, or I could even act out a scene from Harry Potter with the dogs if nothing else works.

            I just want to feel better, but it’s all trial and error and lately I’ve been feeling like I’m treading water. I remember this feeling from summer camp, when we had to do a Buddy Call at free swim in the lake. The water was deep and opaque, so we had to go in as pairs, with each pair given a number, and midway through the session we had to call out our numbers, to make sure we were all still alive. If you weren’t at the dock when the whistles blew then you had to tread water through the whole Buddy Call, which could take a while. Under the water I was kicking my legs furiously, but above the water I had to pay close attention to the numbers being called out, so I wouldn’t miss our turn. It was exhausting, and panic inducing. I worried that I’d forget my number, or forget how to count in Hebrew letters, but most of all I worried that my legs would give out and I’d fall under the water and the lifeguards would have to dive in to search for me and they’d be pissed off at me for the rest of the summer. I didn’t have faith that my buddy would remember our number, or call it out, or save me if I started to drown. I didn’t have much faith in other people, period.

“I would save you, Mommy!”
“Yeah, sure. Me too.”

            So this writing workshop on miracles is coming at the right time, and maybe when the kids tap into their own ideas of what’s miraculous in their lives I will remember my own miracles too. My hope is, always, that if I keep trying, keep working at this process of healing, good things will come. I just wish they’d come a little bit faster.

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

87 responses »

  1. For some reason, you said miracles, and I thought of magic. This is my ‘feel good’ song always.

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  2. Yes, good things will come if you let them. Your sweet dogs love you. I can tell they’re happy. That tells me you’re giving them a good life and that should make you happy.

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  3. I am forever buoyed by the miracle of God’s creation

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  4. The first miracle of the day is waking up then they happen all day long 😉

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  5. You’re certainly on the right path–counting small miracles. This is very much like counting one’s blessings. Gratitude is a miraculous thing.

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  6. Best wishes for your miracle project. I can relate to your post: I’ve been wrestling (I won’t say struggling because it sounds too dramatic) with blah of late. Some of it is that they gray days of winter are closing in. Some is from other sources. I’m doing a little project of posting every day that sounds similar to your miracle project. Looking for something lovely each day, and sharing it. I am hoping to change my habits of thought. We’ll see. I almost didn’t find something today.

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  7. Some say baking makes people feel very good. Along those lines I’ll remind you that I am still available to test samples of suganiyot and provide opinions all without cost.

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  8. For some reason the song Sonntag by Blumfeld cheers me up. (Sorry, I don’t know how to post a link.☹️). I hope some of those big miracles come your way soon!

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  9. I love the idea of looking for miracles. It’s wonderful that you continue to care for the children regardless of how depressed you feel! Give yourself a pat on the back for that! 🥰 Perhaps hearing about their miracles will lift you up! And I LOVE the picture of Ellie running through the leaves!

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  10. I always like to think, the fact that I’m even alive is a miracle in of itself. This is a little gross…But of all the sperm and eggs in the world, somehow I was chosen to be here =D

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  11. Some days are harder than others. I can find the small miracles. I join you in the search for big happy joyful miracles. I hope you find many soon.

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  12. Wow, this sounds so familiar. Thank you so much for sharing Rachel. You have a pawesome day and watch out, the next miracle is right around the corner. I’m sure!

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  13. Focus on the children and their miracles, let them lead the way and with them let yourself be that child carefree child you should have been.

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  14. Hoping you can remember your own miracles.

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  15. Going deep into your oldest good memories is very theraputic. Recently, I have had memory flashbacks from when I was very young, perhaps before I could walk, and they have really given me such warm feelings, and a sense of inner peace. I am sure my mind is feeding me those memories to make me feel better about not being able to do so much now I am close to 70.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  16. May your miracles visit you

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  17. Miracles happen every day, though so many are missed because we are too busy, or too bogged down with other things to see them. I can identify with being hungry, though mine is food more than anything else, and I have over indulged this week (sigh).
    We walked in the woods yesterday and I took loads of pictures. The miracle of Nature recovering over time, and the wonder of so many different hues and tones of yellows, golds, browns, reds, and greens. We had birdsong, and bird chatter, carpets of fallen leaves, dog tracks, and possibly a deer.
    I think concentrating on good and happy memories can help when we are feeling down. Depression is complex and something that never goes away. Ellie and Cricket are your guardian angels…… they love you unconditionally ❤

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  18. Like you, I tend to dwell on all the things I don’t have/want. In my head, I have to start a sentence with, “I don’t have ___________, but at least I have _________” the second blank filled with something I know is worse off than me. “I don’t have great health, but at least I have my limbs.” And Rachel, don’t forget to ALWAYS count yourself as a miracle, because you are!

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  19. I am so moved. I could have told this story about myself if I could find the words as well as you do. How beautiful.

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  20. Rachel, I love your paragraph on memories. I especially enjoyed the stuffed panda story as you and the panda are escorted down the drive by your grandfather. Take care, Keith

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  21. Hi Rachel, I suffer from chronic pain and it makes me feel depressed. Lately, though I have been doing 40 minutes of meditation a day, it’s not something I thought would help. However, surprisingly it has. I just type in meditation on youtube and there are plenty of videos to listen to, some I prefer than others, as it’s all down to if you like the sound of the voice of the person. Give it go, if you haven’t already tried. Take care Nikki

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  22. Hi Rachel, thank you for your sincerity and encouragement. I am not Jewish but as you know I love the Jew. That is because we have the most unique relationship that somehow has been hidden from all of us. God made us. Inside of us is Him. That means you are His image and so am I. This is a realization that the world is only beginning to understand now! We are pregnant with His son, and the light is us realizing how special we are and how we each have a special purpose here. The thing is, is that we have such a hard time believing we are good enough. But get it out of your head because if you cannot accept that then just stop believing in God all together. My long battle with depression has ended. I am off the meds and now I walk being empowered knowing I am loved and am here to love. Amazing!! We both have this battle because we both have an amazing light that the world wants to hide!! My love is mostly you, but while we are still figuring out things I am love to everyone. That is who we are and NEVER let the world tell you differently. You are what the world wants to conceal! But you are that light!! You are special beyond what you can ever imagine. I am here to tell you that you are. You are my reflection as we are opposites. I need you as you need me. Let us be light together!! Let us empower one another!! There are many things that can help you understand but mostly you are stoping yourself from accepting your truth. You are your biggest challenge. I can only tell you what I see.

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  23. I am sorry that you are having such a tough time. It is so hard to find the joy in everyday things. That poem really tells the story. I understand where you are as I have no real focus at this time and that is so unlike me. I hope you can begin to see the small miracles. I am reaching for that too. Love the scarves on the dogs!

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  24. I’m sure your kids will be inspirational

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  25. I hear you, Rachel, and will be your Buddy now – and we’re not even swimming in water. We are, however, swimming in the negatives that surround us in our homes, in our cities, in our country. As your Buddy, I advise you to increase your outdoor walks with your dogs, ask Alexa to play Abba and watch Tina Turner concerts on YouTube. I guarantee you will feel better.
    You are successful, strong, brilliant. Celebrate yourself today.
    Your Buddy will be celebrating you!

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  26. Your post really resonated. I am kind of having a battle with myself too. There is so much yo be thankful for – sometimes you just have to go there. What am I grateful for today? Sometimes the miracle is just that you woke up today – that we get another chance. Hugs to you.

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  27. I understand how you are feeling. I was having a lot of low feelings myself. Then mid week I had to go to Toronto for my bone density scan. The hospital where they do it is opposite the hospital where I had a big surgery for colorectal cancer 21 years ago Well…. When I looked at that hospital building it took me right back to that time. That turned my whole frame of mind around. I wrote a blog post about it .It’s all a matter of perspective . But I do not suffer from clinical depression just low moods at times. So I am not suggesting you can pull yourself out of your dark place just by changing your perspective. I think the Miracles focus is good one. I hope you will find a miracle!💕

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  28. I love your idea of thinking of memories where you felt safe and loved when you find yourself numbing with food. I’m going to try incorporating this into my ebbing and flowing journey with intuitive eating, too. I hope that you can find some comfort in knowing how much your writing resonates with so many in this community! Your recollection of favorite memories was so vivid, and also made me consider what my own memories would be. Thank you so much for being so open in sharing your experience. I wish you peace and comfort. Good luck with your Miracles writers’ workshop as well!

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  29. Thanks for sharing this. You are such a great writer and you make people happy all of the time. I hope you are feeling better today. Thanks again.

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  30. I hope you feel better soon. This can be such a hard time of year.

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  31. Your blog is definitely a big success. I look forward to reading it every week, and judging by the amount of likes and comments a whole lot of other people do to!

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  32. Mint chocolate chip is my favorite.

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  33. I’ve been looking for some bigger miracles in my own life, although I ashamedly admit I have done very little to earn them. Thank you for the reminder to appreciate the smaller ones. I hope you find relief from your pain and find ways out of your depression. That sweet dog running to your rescue should help!

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  34. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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  35. Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you know that you are loved and appreciated by total strangers around the world. Keep sharing your thoughts and words. That is the miracle YOU share with others. ❤️

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  36. Normally, I wouldn’t share a comment like this, but when I read the beginning of your post, a song by the Wailin’ Jennys came to mind, “You have come by way of sorrow.” After reading that you were collecting songs and other hopeful things, I decided to share a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLEmhkwM5ck
    I sincerely hope this helps and send my best wishes to you, Rachel.

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  37. FWIW, I keep my favorite music around me at all times. It really lifts me, if only for a few minutes. Also, I have my battery operated fake candles all around at this time of year (cats get too interested in real candles 😉 Advent lights, Hanukkah lights, Diwali lights—I reckon lots of folks in every corner of the world are looking for light and a lift of their spirit.
    Wishing you well,
    Julie

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  38. Great idea for a writing project because everyday miracles occur…every day. I’ll be praying for your strength and healing. What gave me healing was finding Jesus and asking Him into my heart. He lives there in the form of the Holy Spirit and is an ever-present help and comfort. God bless you and keep you as you search for your miracle.

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  39. It seems to me you have plenty in your life to be very proud of like your teaching and religious faith. Why does it have to be a miracle to appreciate these good occasions in life? Happy Holidays.

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