Reconnecting the Dots

Suzanne Fenton. Courtesy photo

The Jewish New Year, comprised of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, always begins in the fall — a natural, dynamic process of transition. The days shorten, air cools, and leaves turn orange, red, and yellow before falling to the ground. We say goodbye to what was, and look towards what can be, as one chapter closes and a new one begins.

I feel fortunate that Judaism provides this window and sacred time for self-reflection and introspection, particularly this year. It is quite humbling and life-affirming to stand in Judgment year after year seeking forgiveness for pain I may cause my sisters and brothers through actions or inaction.

“Am I the person I think I am?” and “What am I missing here?” are recurring themes I grapple with whenever I have more questions than answers. I would love a reality check or shortcut affirming if I am on the right track. Without one, I am forced to connect the dots myself and hope my mind, heart, and spirit are in sync.

As an artist, self-expression and self-reflection are how I navigate the world. Finding meaningful ways to connect with others on a deeper level is challenging, even during the best of times. Person to person, heart to heart, mind to mind is what I need to feel whole.

When the pandemic slowed everything down, it provided the space to pause and (re)evaluate what matters most, with eyes wide open. It was

the perfect storm to burst our insular bubbles and start paying attention to what we miss. Each seismic shift creates an opening for change.

I cannot alter the past, but there is certainly a lot to gain by revisiting it with intention and curiosity. After years of seeing one version of events, something clicks and makes sense after being examined from a different angle. I vividly remember occasions my pragmatic mother lectured me, “I’m not angry with you for making a mistake. I expect that. But I’ll be disappointed if you don’t have the sense to learn the lesson.”

It may be early for 2020 hindsight, but here is my takeaway so far:

• Stop wasting time. Do what your heart tells you to and not what you think you should do. Merely thinking about it does not count.

• Never take anyone or anything for granted. Calling your mother? Friends? Hugs? Toilet paper?

• Real communication means so much. I wrote handwritten letters to my friends just to say what I had neglected to say for far too long. Call or text when you think of someone.

• ReDo. How fortunate we got one. I became Mom 2.0 when all three sons returned to the nest. Although everything is ‘unprecedented,’ at least we have and appreciate each other.

• ReEducate. Since May 25, 2020, and the heartbreaking aftermath, I went “back to school” humbled by all I did not know and had not learned, like the difference between systemic and systematic racism, and how our country is blatantly both. I continue to read, watch, listen, hear, engage, see, and dedicate myself to talking less and listening more. My new motto and resolution: See it, say it, stop it.

As we transition past the election, a probably brutal winter, more isolation, and uncertainty looming on the horizon, we cannot see the big picture yet. The only thing in our control is how we choose to show up.

Suzanne Fenton (she/her) is a visual artist, storyteller, and executive producer of the independent feature film “Hollywood Fringe.”

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