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The beginning of 2023 for me is not just about making resolutions, but is centered on trying to gain clarity over what my core values really are -– not just muddling through with no clear vision -– which, by the way, is what I normally do.

I have one advantage though: living in a hurricane-prone area forces me to give thought to what I would take with me as I evacuate to safety. A few of the things I grabbed during the last impending storm didn’t surprise me but gave me a window into what I hold dear: 

My late father’s World War II duffle bag filled with his uniform, dog tags and letters he received from my mother — his 17-year-old lonely war bride. 

An oversized shadow box holding my paternal grandmother’s wedding veil, wedding invitation and her old-fashioned clutch purse. She died at age 42, when my dad was 16. It was the only thing I had that had been hers and I didn’t realize until that moment how much I cherished those scant belongings. 

My maternal grandmother’s brass Shabbat candlesticks. 

The bound issues of the American Israelite from when I was managing editor

This parsing through my belongings and selecting what meant most helped bring clarity to what I value and what values I’d like to pass on to my children and grandchildren: 

Core Value Number One:

Respect for family history and heirlooms 

Another lens leading to knowledge of our own core values can be glimpsed by listening and hearing what others say about us. My husband once mentioned to a close friend of mine that he loved my sweetness. My friend burst out laughing. “Iris is a lot of things,” she quipped, “but I’d never call her sweet. However, she is resilient, curious and persevering.”

Core Value Number Two:

Resiliency. Curiosity. Perseverance. 

And I realize one of the things I need to implement is slowing down just a bit to live a simpler life. I visualize it as “creating cozy” in my life. I pondered how to do this and realized “creating cozy” is about fashioning a template of warmth, comfort and well-being. Mine is certainly not an original revelation. The Danish concept of Hygge is about just that  and it’s done so through connection. (It’s no wonder Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world)

Core Value Number Three:

Creating cozy

And then I got easily sidetracked — sucked into the vortex of blatant consumerism –- of always wanting more –- just a little more: 

A fire pit in my back yard 

Another trip to Israel

Unlimited funds to spiff up my very dated, un-chic wardrobe

I consciously pull back on my unbridled desires -– knowing deep down that another gadget, another vacation, and more black yoga pants and jean jackets are not the path to my lasting well-being. (However, they sure can make me happy in the moment and that is nothing to be lightly dismissed.) 

I begin looking further for core values to pass down to the younger generation of my family.

Sometimes we ask and the universe provides what we are seeking. And this time it came in a rather strange way. A close friend’s mom died in South Florida and was buried in her hometown of Indiana. My friend’s circle of buddies had no way of actively participating in shiva. So we came up the not-so-novel idea of taking our friend out to lunch when she returned home. And we named it “A Shiva Lunch.” 

We all brought her little gifts meant to console and comfort her, reiterating that unfortunately we all had walked that path of losing our moms. And we laughingly referred to our group of motherless daughters as the club “no one wants to belong to.”

The photo in this column was what I made to support my friend on her journey through the grieving process. 

And that’s when I realized another core value.

Core Value Number Four:

Creating connection in our own original way.

In this New Year, let’s be open to the many ways we can create, maintain and pass on our values –- so that when tough times befall, we will have provided a footprint through the forest —  once again re-affirming that though at times we may feel so very alone, we are not. 

 

Keep Preserving Your Bloom,

 

Iris Ruth Pastor

 

 

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