Jolie Kanat

Jolie Kanat

The Yiddish term “yahrzeit” translates literally as “year time.” It’s the word we use to annually commemorate the death day of someone we love. We light a special candle. There are prayers, the Yizkor, which means “to remember”, and the Kaddish, which means “holy”. The tradition taps our history and our hearts.

There is respect and honor in remembrance. But the thought occurred to me in the recent month of my mother’s fourth yahrzeit that if she could, she would call me and say, “Get over it, go have lunch.” At the risk of making my rabbi and the sages frown, I agree with my mother. My sadness has no use, and it wouldn’t please her.

She would say, “Don’t waste a candle, go do something for someone. Give them a candle.”

It’s weird to mark death when life is what matters. Death takes a moment and, like any loss or betrayal, may not be worthy of all the attention we give it, while the impact of my mother’s life is forever, and on many generations.

And besides, she haunts me daily as if she never left. From the ether I hear, “Make a corned beef for your father.” Or “Can you be a little nicer to your sister?” Or “You sure you don’t want to change out of those sweatpants before going out to dinner?”

I have a habit of reworking thoughts in my mind to make them more real for me. So, I will secretly be morphing the name of this commemoration from “yahrzeit”- a reminder of death- to “lebnzeit”, a commemoration of life.

My mother’s response would probably be, “Since when do you speak so much Yiddish?”

That said, this year on my mother’s yahrzeit, or “lebnzeit,” my 92 year-old father and I floated on a vessel from the Blue and Gold Fleet for one glorious hour under the Golden Gate Bridge, celebrating my mother’s humor, her impact and her advice spanning the eons.

With a Perspective, I am Jolie Kanat.

Jolie Kanat is executive director of a supported living services agency in Marin.

Jolie Kanat

In the quiet suburban parking lot of Trader Joe’s the other day, another woman and I stopped and turned toward the sudden sound of a clanging railroad crossing nearby. We gazed at the flashing lights and lowering gate of the new Smart Train testing intersection and I said, “Wow, I grew up with railroad crossings, did you?”

“Yes!” she said, eyes sparkling. It was as if there had been a magical edit undo on extinct trains. We hugged each other, like crazy strangers.

And a few weeks ago a giant bookstore opened in my town and a hundred people lined up at the register, jostling for position in the check-out line. And just across the street, the boarded up single-screen movie theater is being restored. These all stop me in my tracks, with odd relief.

I’m not so codgery as to crave the days before Kindle or cars or multiplexes. It’s just the idea of, well, changing lost things back. As if things precious to me could just be spruced up, restored, like a revival healing. And all would be set right.

Like moving my 92 year-old dad this week from the city, where he lived in relative isolation, to his new assisted retirement apartment. We packed for hours, setting things just so. Seeing him on his couch surrounded by antiques and art, his Sudoku and bagels in place, his TV, internet and landline finally working perfectly, I thought, we’ve returned his future to him. He is guaranteed to live forever now. It’s all fixed.

Well, maybe not everything is really fixed. But I do know one thing. The love of what we no longer have will always be here. Just the sound of a clanging railroad crossing, the smell of a new book, or the look in my father’s eyes when he says, “I’m going to like it here,” restores the love of what has been lost, in a way that will never change.

With a Perspective, I’m Jolie Kanat.

Jolie Kanat is a business executive in Marin.

Jolie Kanat

The Yiddish term “yahrzeit” translates literally as “year time.” It’s the word we use to annually commemorate the death day of someone we love. We light a special candle. There are prayers, the Yizkor, which means “to remember”, and the Kaddish, which means “holy”. The tradition taps our history and our hearts.

There is respect and honor in remembrance. But the thought occurred to me in the recent month of my mother’s fourth yahrzeit that if she could, she would call me and say, “Get over it, go have lunch.” At the risk of making my rabbi and the sages frown, I agree with my mother. My sadness has no use, and it wouldn’t please her.

She would say, “Don’t waste a candle, go do something for someone. Give them a candle.”

It’s weird to mark death when life is what matters. Death takes a moment and, like any loss or betrayal, may not be worthy of all the attention we give it, while the impact of my mother’s life is forever, and on many generations.

And besides, she haunts me daily as if she never left. From the ether I hear, “Make a corned beef for your father.” Or “Can you be a little nicer to your sister?” Or “You sure you don’t want to change out of those sweatpants before going out to dinner?”

I have a habit of reworking thoughts in my mind to make them more real for me. So, I will secretly be morphing the name of this commemoration from “yahrzeit”- a reminder of death- to “lebnzeit”, a commemoration of life.

My mother’s response would probably be, “Since when do you speak so much Yiddish?”

That said, this year on my mother’s yahrzeit, or “lebnzeit,” my 92 year-old father and I floated on a vessel from the Blue and Gold Fleet for one glorious hour under the Golden Gate Bridge, celebrating my mother’s humor, her impact and her advice spanning the eons.

With a Perspective, I am Jolie Kanat.

Jolie Kanat is executive director of a supported living services agency in Marin.

Jolie Kanat

One rainy day in elementary school we played definitions. Mrs. Riley chalkboarded a word, and we would quickly write its meaning at our desks. She gave us words like, “cement,” and “happy” and “experiment.” Simple words, simple concepts. Easy A.

Recently, I was thinking that it would have been mean for Mrs. Riley to have listed the word, “love.” Because it has a million definitions. After marriage, motherhood and mayhem, I am closer to the eye of the swirling vortex where love lives.

I do know that love is blind, it’s true, it can be false, it can be true, it creates loss and undoes loss. It sells aftershave, mirrors, strapless dresses. It is the source of country western songs and the ending of Cinderella, Snow White and Rapunzel. But none of these descriptions say what it is, what it is made of. Like an atom or a chocolate-covered cherry, what is in the center of it?

I’ve decided, like the chaos theory, it has no center, just motion. Love is made of motion: like the feeling of dancing in a twirly skirt, or seeing a mysterious gift from eBay on your front porch. It is the Beverly Sills money note in Donizetti’s Ah Tardi Troppo. It is the devastation that comes from divorce because without it, there is nothing to lose. It is the thing that runs us and that we run.

I have learned that it is better, truer, to unpack the word. Like this: I love my children, they are the source of my beating heart and everything real. Or, I love this hike, I’d like to lay down right here on this moist foresty path and smell every molecule of this earth. Or, I love to dance, it is like having a tea party with Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma all at once.

Love has something to do with all of this. But, even though Mrs. Riley was vigilant with her lessons, I can’t define it perfectly. It looks like I will have to leave that up to you.

With a Perspective, I’m Jolie Kanat.

Jolie Kanat is a business executive in Marin.

http://u.s.kqed.org/2011/09/09/CfakepathJolieKanat248.jpg

The idea of blaming a leader or "government" for our ills or prosperity, may have floated down from the land of Wynken, Blynken and Nod, the place where comforting lullabies rock us into a deep sleep.

Railing against government assumes, of course, that we ourselves are not responsible, that it is a distant panel of tax-spending warlords, far far away from our reach or influence. The Royal They.

Now it is observable that we have a president, senators, congressmen and assorted other representatives making an earnest effort to further their opinions. Like any committee I am thrilled not to have been nominated for, I am glad these people are making an attempt to steer the vessel USS America through rocky seas, albeit the rockiness of which many of them have created themselves with misguided decisions.

But as a result we have roads that we can travel on, we have general hospitals, we have money for my disabled daughter's care, we have laws that work, we have fire trucks, we have protected religion, we have permits for parades of protest. We have open space and cross walks. And we have catastrophic war and misspent millions. The fact is, we may not control every aspect of it, but have a say in all of it. No one but us put those candidates in office, or fought for our benefits, or enlisted to fight in those wars. We are the creators of our own future, our own government, our own peace, or lack thereof.

The Eugene Field lullaby that starts with a dream of Wynken, Blynken and Nod, three fisherman in a wooden shoe on a magic sea, ends up telling the sleepy child the truth: 

"Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes, And Nod is a little head, And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies, Is a wee one's trundle-bed . . . "

And of course the truth is that we are the Royal They. When we demand changes, when we help, when we share our opinions, when we fight or disagree, when we insist upon participating, or when we refuse to participate, when we understand, choose, and teach ethics, we become our own form, not formed from afar. And as luck would have it, our imperfect American government – forming us and formed by us — affords us those sacred human rights.

With a Perspective, I'm Jolie Kanat.

Jolie Kanat is executive director of a supported living services agency in Marin. 

Jolie Kanat

The holidays are a time when spirituality or the lack thereof, seems to abound, and I get a bit more introspective about the big picture. There has been a lot of conversation throughout the centuries about the meaning of life. From Buddha to my cousin Judy, everybody eventually has an opinion. This is a subject that some of us pursue and others of us scoff at as being a philosophical self-indulgence in the midst of keeping up with the bills and the laundry. Who has time?

You would think that if we could travel to the moon, construct the human genome and learn how to Instagram that by now we would have solved this mystery. But apparently the final definition has not been signed, sealed and delivered by those who manage the archives of knowledge.

It was two and half years ago after my mother died that the answer came to me. And as the candles are lit, the dreidls are spun and the trees are decorated, I think of her. I didn't find the meaning of life on a mountaintop or a sanctuary. I didn't find it in church or in a book, or in beautiful jewelry, or even in arriving somewhere I always wanted to be.

I discovered that the meaning of life is just having it around. It is the glow, the talk, the stupid stuff, the smart stuff, laughing your head off at a dumb joke, the shared idea, the motion of having a living person with you. Because when my mother left us, I could clearly see that the value in the beautiful things surrounding her had been magnified by the life she imbued them with. And when she left, things seemed to deflate. And that's when I knew.

The meaning of life has nothing to do with telling someone that you love them or the last thing you said to them. It has to do with the simple breath, the irritations, the everyday, the phone calls, the arguments, the Chinese food, the ongoing story, the small picture. The small picture is the big picture. The meaning of life is just having life itself.

And so I wish you happy holidays surrounded by all the life, and all the glow you can get your hands on.

With a Perspective, I am Jolie Kanat.

Jolie Kanat is a business executive in Marin.

CfakepathJolieKanat248

The idea of blaming a leader or "government" for our ills or prosperity may have floated down from the land of Wynken, Blynken and Nod, the place where comforting lullabies rock us into a deep sleep.

Railing against government assumes, of course, that we ourselves are not responsible, that it is a distant panel of tax-spending warlords, far, far away from our reach or influence. The Royal They.

Now, it is observable that we have a president, senators, congressmen and assorted other representatives making an earnest effort to further their opinions. Like any committee I am thrilled not to have been nominated for, I am glad these people are making an attempt to steer the vessel USS America through rocky seas, albeit the rockiness of which many of them have created themselves with misguided decisions.

But as a result we have roads that we can travel on, we have general hospitals, we have money for my disabled daughter's care, we have laws that work, we have fire trucks, we have protected religion, we have permits for parades of protest. We have open space and cross walks. And we have catastrophic war and misspent millions. The fact is, we may not control every aspect of it, but have a say in all of it. No one but us put those candidates in office, or fought for our benefits, or enlisted to fight in those wars. We are the creators of our own future, our own government, our own peace or lack thereof.

The Eugene Field lullaby that starts with a dream of Wynken, Blynken and Nod, three fishermen in a wooden shoe on a magic sea, ends up telling the sleepy child the truth:

"Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies,
Is a wee one's trundle-bed… "

And of course the truth is that we are the Royal They. When we demand changes, when we help, when we share our opinions, when we fight or disagree, when we insist upon participating, or when we refuse to participate, when we understand, choose, and teach ethics, we become our own form, not formed from afar. And as luck would have it — our imperfect American government — forming us and formed by us — affords us those sacred human rights.

With a Perspective, I'm Jolie Kanat.

Jolie Kanat is executive director for supported living services in Marin.