Yesterday, during my school's annual Kallah (a welcome back retreat, always held at a camp in beautiful upstate NY), one of my favorite professors talked on a panel about self-care. There, she admitted something that shocked many of us: she has issues with food.
This woman is a widely known cantor, teacher, and composer of Jewish music. She is married to a rabbi and together they share a shul, a home and 3 beautiful children. Always put together and on the ball, she is as talented a community organizer as she is a musician.
Never in a million years would I have guessed she had issues with eating.
She didn't go into details about her issues, but if I had to guess, I'd venture to say that she fits onto the opposite end of the spectrum as I. Instead of dealing with eating too much food, I'm assuming she struggles to allow herself to eat enough. She's been pencil thin as long as I've known her, and I've often wondered how she managed to maintain her beautiful figure after giving birth 3 times.
I've felt a connection to this professor for as long as I've known her--even in my audition, when we were literally strangers. There was something in her eyes that just told me our stories were somehow going to intersect, that she was going to be one of those people who are so much more than just a teacher. Until yesterday, I thought it was merely our shared love of music and Judaism that brought us together.
While I've never experienced anorexia or bulimia, I've often felt the ties between those who undereat and those who overeat. It's a matter of agonizing over every bite of food that goes near your mouth. It's a matter of feeling ugly, judged, hated by everyone around you. It's a matter of seeing yourself as completely different than you actually are. It's a matter of using food--whether eating too much or too little--as a way of controlling the chaotic world around you. It's a matter of finding comfort inside of a world that feels safe even when you know it isn't.
Today, as I was leaving breakfast to head out for a walk by a beautiful babbling stream, I bumped into this professor. I thanked her for her candor and sensitivity in sharing a snippet of her story with us. I told her that it made me--someone with my own food issues--feel good to know that I wasn't alone. I mentioned that I felt an even closer bond with her for telling us about this. We got to talking about how sometimes it is sharing our FAULTS with our communities that sometimes allows us to be the best cantors we can be. I shared with her that I've always believed our congregants like to see that their clergy are NORMAL people who make mistakes and bad choices from time to time. Though we've chosen to be role models for our communities, we are still everyday people--our congregants like to see that just like them, we struggle with everyday life issues, too. It brings a certain level of humility to a profession that is sometimes seen as overly dramatic or egotistical. She admitted that until our conversation, she'd never thought about it that way, and that I was right. It was nice to think that my words stirred her brilliant brain just a little bit.
It's kind of amazing how at the same time as I chose to open up about myself to my community, this wonderful woman chose to open up about herself, too. Maybe the Universe is trying to tell me that this I'm doing the right thing at the right time. As I open up about myself, I become more aware and accepting about the struggles in the lives of those around me.
It is at times like these where I am 100% sure that God exists, that there is something so much more powerful than science that brings our souls together.