Thursday, December 29, 2011

If It's Not Ok For the Taliban - Why,Then, For Us?

AFTER VIEWING THE COMMENTS AND SPEAKING TO A NUMBER OF PEOPLE ABOUT THIS (EITHER ONLINE OR IN "REAL LIFE"), I THINK IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN A MISTAKE TO POST THIS.  MY INTENT WAS NOT TO CHAREIDI BASH BUT RATHER IT WAS A CRY FROM MY "SOUL".  I HAVE BEEN VERY DEPRESSED ABOUT THIS THE LAST FEW DAYS AND I WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT IT IN MY JOURNAL.  THAT SAID, PLEASE (RE)-READ IT WITH THE GRAIN OF SALT IT DESERVES.


The last few days I've been struggling hard with images I've seen coming from Israel - the increasing civil war taking place between the Chareidim and non-chareidi Jews in Beit Shemesh (and other parts of Israel as well). 

I'm confused and sad and frightened by what I'm seeing.  How can this be?  How can Jews act this way?  If we saw Muslims saying these things about their women we'd laugh it off and call them insane lunatics.

How did it come to this

I do not pretend to be an expert on exactly what is going on there.  Nor am I any type of religious authority to speak of.  But I know "wrong" when I see it and this is wrong.  Spitting on women?  Calling them whores?  Doing the same to appropriately dressed seven year olds because their version of appropriate and yours is different?????

How can this be?  Where is the outcry?  Not an outcry from the non-chareidi world, which has been growing in recent days.  But where is the outcry from the charaedi leaders?

Cynical me would argue that the corrupt rabbis aren't only secretly supportig this, they are encouraging it.  Why?  Because every time they get the loonies to follow their words, they are increasing their power.  Their motives are clear to me.

But what about the other, supposedly "normal" ones?  Do they think it's ok to say nothing because their followers aren't joining in?  Do they think silence is the right approach?  Do they not understand that their silence is an act of condoning what's taking place?  And then, are they condoning these horrific actions or are they merely afraid that the chareidi world will no longer respect a rabbi who takes a stand?

And again the cynic in me wonders how the chareidi population can lack any sense of appreciation for the State.  The State that allows them to live on the dole - without even participating in the country's defense - yet still allows them to walk around like they own the fucking place.

I'm biased, you say.  Fuck yes I am.  I wonder what they would have done to me if they had seen me walking in their streets.  Would they have spit on me?  Called me a whore?  Maybe delivered a few blows or kicks to make their point?  I know what each and every one of those things feels like.  And to think that some rabbi (or in this case dozens) is approving of that makes me sick.

A very smart girl told me yesterday that she doesn't dwell on issues that she cannot pssibly fix.  And maybe the answer is to shut it out and forget it's happening.  After all, it's 6,000 miles away from me.

But i can't - it's managed to get inside of me.  I need an answer - I need comfort.  I need to understand how somethnig like this could happen - and what it means for our future.

And yes, to ask - If it's not ok for the Taliban, then why is it ok for us?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sail To The Moon

"I was dropped from moonbeams
And sailed on shooting stars
"

As they say in French - it's all over.  Got all my grades back (Did really well!!!), Chanukah is just about wrapped up, and now I can focus on my vacation plans  - i.e. pretty much doing absolutely nothing for the next several weeks.

There is an interesting pattern to having nothing to do.  You can wake up late (assuming you sleep).  You can lie around all day in your pj's if you so choose or run around and try to fill up every second of your free time.

Me, I fall somewhere in the middle.  I took two days of doing nothing (literally never got out of my pj's) and now I'm in Trying To Accomplish But Still Be On Vacation mode.  Whatever that means.

But what it does mean is that I can stop and listen to the world again.  I've been running around from one thing to the next for so long that I haven't taken a second to just listen.  To hear.  To see.

The one thing I notice is that as I gain more and more responsibility, there seems to be less and less time to just...be.  To watch the wind shake the branches or watch water flowing down a stream.  Or put on your MP3 player and listen to music with your eyes closed - and sail to the moon.

Tova wants to go to Florida with me.  Right now she isn't allowed to fly.  She wants us to drive (sooooo not into that - with our combined shitty luck we will end up raped and murdered in a truck stop outside of Savannah, Georgia) and I want to take her Dr's advice and give it a few weeks to see if her lung capacity improves.  So we are having that debate.  I'm not excited about flying with her and having her die on me on JetBlue flight number 427. 

The good news is, being on vacation allows for that debate to exist.  No hurries.  There's plenty to do in the meantime.  Or plenty not to do.  Which works fine too.

Since I have started my "road to recovery", I've always been running.  Running to the next stage.  Getting better, getting back to school.  Wanting a job, a career and eventually a family.  Trying to reach that next goal as quickly as I can.  Always moving.  Always looking ahead.  Moving away from just stopping.  And listening.

And yes, I'm nowhere near the end of my journey.  And I know that I'll probably keep running forward at the speed of light.  But for the next few weeks at least, I will stop and listen and remember what it was like to have nothing to worry about except turning on the music, closing my eyes and trying to sail to the Moon.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's the Most....Wonderful Time....of the Year

Ok, let me start off by being absolutely clear - I am not one of those people who suffer from a case of Christmas envy.  That seemingly large portion of the Jewish community who seem to wistfully wish that they, too, could celebrate the Christmas season like everyone else seems to do.  It always seemed weird to me.  Jews have like a million holidays, can't they just let the rest of the world have ONE??

But I digress.  This isn't about envy of the season - rather it's my observation about the season.  Namely, that New York is a great place to be at year's end.  The City is shining.  The stores are dressed up, the streets are dressed up.  There are gobs of tourists walking around with open mouths and stares off wonderment.  It's awesome to watch.  Heck even the main shopping district in my little town is all lit up real pretty at night.  And the best part - people do seem to be friendlier than normal this time of year, which is always a plus.

*********************************************************************************

So during my studying last week (and probably partly fueled by being sick and suffering delusions) I decided to make a Chanukah list of my truly loved ones - the ones I truly care about - and then to buy them things this year.  I've never gotten anyone a Chanukah gift before so I figured now's a great time to start. 

Of course, the list took all of 30 seconds to complete.  it consists of exactly four people - My father, my brother, my best friend and my boyfriend (in no particular order).  That's it.  The sad part - I only have four people in this world I truly care about.  The good part - easier to shop for only four people.

So what is everyone getting you ask?  (Oh, you don't care?  Too bad, it's my blog, I'm going to tell you anyway).  Dad got a gift certificate to a local Jewish book store, along with a note that expressed how much I appreciate all he's done for me the last 2 years.  My brother is getting something he's been wanting very much.  My friend Tova is getting a gift certificate to a store that has a pair of boots shes been dying for but can't possibly afford which she can now afford because she has a gift certificate which covers the majority of the cost of the boots. 

And then there's David.  And the great brain freeze which accompanies him.  I have absolutely no idea what to get him.  What does he like, you ask?  Guy stuff.  Sports.  But his family has jets tickets, he gets tickets to his other sports teams pretty much whenever he wants.  So that's not a good gift.  I was thinking like a watch, but that seems so.....cliche.  I'm totally stumped.  On the bright side, I have six more days to think of something.

So there you have it - the most wonderful time of the year.

Hope you all have a Happy Chanukah.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand Exhale

And there you have it.  Thanks in large part to a sleepless night, my last paper is done.  Which means, of course, that I'm done.  Semester over.  Work complete until it all starts up again in 6 weeks.

Honestly, it feels really good.  Obviously good to be done with another round of tests and papers.  But something even better - the idea that each time I finish something like this, something regular, I'm one step closer to being "normal".  To being part of society - no longer an outcast of it.

No, I'm not overselling that point.  Because its a completely subjective feeling - something only I feel. Something I've worked hard for these last two years and something I can claim as my own doing.

Around two years ago (little more) a choice was given to me - turn your life around or be cut off from your family. 

In a moment of relative lucidity, I decided I'd try.  But I didn't really know what trying meant.  It wasn't until a failed session with therapist number one led me to therapist number 2 - who in turn taught me what it mean to try.  Trying isn't doing something half assed and then saying "Eh, I tried.  What Do you want from me?".  Trying is going "all in" - his words not mine.  Trying is deciding that something is worth doing and then giving it your best efforts. 

Going all in turned my life around.  And it has become the principle by which I live my life.  If I do something I do it all in.  School.  Work.  My friends (which is why I have so few) and my social life. 

All in.  Not half assed.  You save half assed for the things you don't really care about (like, for example, pretending to be sad for your boyfriend that the Jets lost on Sunday even though you were not-so-secretly pissed that he acted like a grump all evening and you made the trip to see him even though you had a final the next morning or telling your school friend her new hair color rocks when she changes it monthly and you lost interest in the process 8 months ago).

End Rant. 

Now school is done and Break begins.  The big question now is, what to do?  After the exhale, of course.  Then two days or so of doing absolutely nothing.  Then what?  Israel is out for various reasons I don't really want to discuss.  I'm thinking Tova and I will take a trip down to Florida like we did all those months ago (assuming she's up for flying, I really do NOT want to have to make that drive).  Other than that?  Probably just relaxing and spending time with David. 

Sounds like the makings of a pretty good plan actually.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Am Minutes Away.....

From my last test of the semester!!!  Then I just have to finish and submit a paper and I'm done!

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Past Is A Ghost Which Haunts Me

Ed's Note:  Seriously primal scream below.  Feel free to stop reading now.

I'm depressed today.

I have finals coming up and a paper. I had a sore throat/cold which seems to have blown up into a chest thing. I feel isolated. No problems or anything. Everything's great with David and Tova's good.

But I still feel pretty alone. 

I wonder if my physical ailment is what's affecting my mood.  I wonder.  I wonder about a lot of things.  I wonder why I can't seem to find a regular stream of happiness.  I wonder why there's always something getting in the way - whether it be my own stupid brain or external forces.  I wonder if I'll ever be truly happy.

I wonder - I wonder what my punishment will be for all the sins I've done.  I wonder if this is my punishment - this endless barrage of suffering.  Maybe I've committed so many evils that there's no coming back.  I never forget that it was my decision to leave the faith.  No one made me do it.  And all the sins that followed were my doing.  I did them.  No one made me do them.

I have lived a sinful life according to my faith.  I have disrespected my parents.  I have committed countless sexual violations.  I have caused other people to sin.  I have aided and abetted wanton acts.  I have drank and drugged for my pleasure.  I have denied the existence of God and I have cursed him.  I have told people he has a big ego for making people pray to him so often.  I have made jokes at his expense.

The list is endless. Literally.  Years and years, countless sins.  So many that I couldn't even begin to list them if I ever would even want to.

Let it go.  That's what they say.  You weren't in your right mind then.  You are better now.  It's all behind you. 

But is it really that easy?  Can you really just let it all go?  Is it enough that I feel bad?  Do I have to set things right?  Can I even set things right? 

I don't blame other people for my troubles.  I was young and I was alone.  And people took advantage of me.  And it would be easy to make it all their fault.  But it was my fault.  I did all those things.  No one made me (usually - maybe sometimes they made me). 

[Yes, I know my therapist would be extremely upset to see the previous paragraph.  And I know I shouldn't think that way.  But...]

Sometimes I look back and it makes me cry.  Literally.  I cry for that girl.  But also out of frustration.  I can never adequately express in words what my life was like.  I feel helpless trying to explain to you all what I went through.  This here is just words.  And words are wind.  It all sounds so faint and unreal.  I wonder how many of you would "follow" me here if you could watch videos of what I was like.  How I behaved.  What I did.  I wonder how many of you have the stomach for it (besides the few of you with similar experiences).

Don't worry, dear reader.  This, too shall pass.  It always passes.  That's good.  The problem is, it also keeps coming back.  I cannot ever truly rid myself of my past.  It lives inside a cage within my heart and mind and that cage cannot truly contain it.  To some extent it's good to never forget.  I learn from those mistakes.  And I have been good about not repeating most of them. 

My past is a ghost which haunts me.  He rattles his chains while I try to sleep.  He scares me when I'm awake.  He dogs my steps and harries me at every turn.  I try to exorcise him with therapy and goodness and living right.  And sometimes it works.  But other times it doesn't.

I'm depressed and haunted and tired.  And my chest hurts from coughing.  And the thought of another bought with pneumonia scares me even more than the ghost of my past does.

So, um, how are you doing?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Diary of an Insane White Woman

Me:  Hey.

You:  Um, hey.

Me:  So, do you wanna meet my own worst enemy?

You:  Uh, sure.

Me:  Can you guess who it is?  I'll give you a hint.  He/She is in this room right now.

You:  Uh, there's just you and me in here.  Are you saying I'm....

Me:  OMG.  Can't you stop thinking that the entire world revolves around you for one minute???  Geez.  It's not you, it's me!
________________________________________________________________________________

The continuing saga of Cymbaline - The World's Biggest Mess.  It hit me, in the shower of all places on Friday afternoon.  Why can't I ever just be, you know, happy?  For more than a day at a time.

Flash back.  Wednesday night, he tells me he loves me.  Thursday I'm walking on air.  By Friday?  I'm worried that I can't keep the blog going.

Welcome to the world of an insane lunatic.

Sigh - I know I have issues with worrying about things.  And to my credit, i generally worry about real issues - there are plenty enough of those that I don't usually have to make up fake ones.  But seriously?  Can't I allow myself a happy time?  I feel like I sabotage myself when I allow my brain to get in my way.

It doesn't take a genius therapist to understand WHY I'm like this.  I went 20 years without any good things happening to me.  All 20 years of my life.  So I assume that good things don't happen to me.  I always wait for the next shoe to drop (that's the right expression right?  Or is it the other shoe to drop?  Whichever.  Some shoe is dropping).  And yes, in the last year, things have improved.  No denying.  School, the job, David and to a lesser extent Tova (who is suffering with a myriad of problems but is still churning along).  These are good things.  Happy things.  Exciting things.  And here I am, waiting for the next/other shoe to drop.  I can't help it.  I'm working on it, but I can't help it.
_________________________________________________________________________________

So the majority of responses seem to imply agree that I can't keep the blog a secret from him.  Well you know what?  That's ok.  And I'll tell you why.  Because in the end he will be ok with it.  maybe he won't quite get "this whole blog thing" or making connections with people you've never met, but he'll be ok with it.  Because it's important to me.  The same way his obsession with football and fantasy sports and hockey and basketball and baseball (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) is important to him even though I don't really get it.

And I guess that's the nature of love right?  You but up with your loved one's shenanigans because you love them.  And i feel confident that he loves me enough o put up with my shenanigans.

So now if you will excuse me, me and my worst enemy are going to go and be happy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dilemma

I throw this one out to the general audience:

As anyone who reads me regularly knows, this blog was started as an online journal.  And while it's obviously not a secret diary (as everyone here reads it), it IS secret in the sense that people who are in my "real world" have no idea of its existence.  Therefore, I am able to write about all of these very personal things with limited worry but it continues to serve the original purpose of being an outlet.

So here's the dilemma.

Clearly David and I are getting very serious.  I'd like to think that we will be engaged within the next few months and married in a year or year and a half (totally my made up timeline, we have never discussed timing at all).  And now I'm wondering:

Can i keep this blog a secret from him.

A little disclaimer.  Prof wrote a post a month or so ago about a friend of his who is doing really well in business.  The friend is very serious about a girl.  They are dating and will probably marry.  Friend refuses to tell the girl he's financially well off, because he's concerned that she will only marry him for the money.  And in fact, friend doesn't even want to tell girl about the money AFTER they are married because he's afraid that she will always rely on that and not want to work or be careful about spending.

I commented on the post how ridiculous that sounded to me.  That honestly is a huge part of a relationship and how can you START a relationship where one of the pillars of it is a lie.  I felt, and still feel, very strongly about this.

NOW.  I will argue, vehemently, that Prof's blog situation is completely different than my own.  I am not lying or withholding information about myself.  David knows everything about me.  BUT, I do treat this as a forum to think out ideas about him specifically.  And I cannot do that if he knows about this blog. [As an example, early in the blog i discussed my relationship with Lil' Sis.  That was a huge mistake in retrospect and now I never talk about her here anymore.  In fact, had i to do it all over again, I'd never have told her about this blog - sorry Lil' Sis, nothing personal :)]

And so we get to David:

a)  I DO NOT want him knowing about this blog.  Real reasons or imagined ones, I do not want him reading about these thought processes.  Rest assured, most of them I will discuss with him, but there are some thoughts I'd prefer not to share.

b)  This is my OUTLET.  My personal one.  I feel like if I have to tell him about it, I've lost it.

So, here's the deal.  In the end, if i decide he needs to know, I'd rather scrap the blog.  At this point, I feel it's a secret I can keep, but that could just be because I WANT that to be the answer.

So I'm looking for some help here people.  What do you guys all think?  Am i being crazy?  Can I eat my cake and have it too?

Help!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And Just Like That

The Darkness is my past. 

It comes up out of nowhere and tries to remind me that, for all of the progress I have made in my life, I can't forget all of the bad.  I cannot ignore what I once was.  No rose colored glasses for me.

It comes to me and says "Cymbaline, you think you are better?  THIS is what you are" - and then proceeds to flash all of my sins before my eyes for a few days.  A few days to re-live all of the sordid events that made up my adolescence and early adult-hood.  To the point where I can't close my eyes without seeing a memory I wish I didn't have.

It makes me feel dirty and unable to scrub clean.

Except this time, the Darkness was a bit different. Because it wasn't my past reminding just me that I was garbage.  It was reminding me that David was going to wake up one morning and realize he was seriously considering spending the rest of his life with a slut.  Or former slut.  Except there's no difference when you are under the spell of Darkness.  Once sullied, always sullied.

And so I've been sitting in a funk since Sunday - brooding over David and unable to focus on anything else - you know, like finals and papers which are right around the corner.

But a little angel came and reminded me that once, not too long ago, I worried that David didn't like me except as a friend.  And that it was only when I asked him that things straightened out.

The angel was right.  I'll ask him, I told her, tomorrow.  Except no, why wait?  So I texted him "rlly need to c u - can u come 2nite?"  And I never ask him to come.  I always go see him.  So yes, it must be important.  And so he responded that he'll come after work.

And so he called to tell me he was here.  I asked him not to come in.  I couldn't take the five minutes of having to be fake with him and whichever family member opened the door.  So instead I put on my raincoat and slipped out into the dark and cold and wet of the night. 

                                                       ***

And in a very deja vu-type way, we were once again in his car with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

We sat in the front seat, engine running and heater blowing.  He shut off his wipers - and the rain, streaking down the windows and pounding on the roof, gave us all the privacy I could ever ask for. 

He looked at me expectantly.

And, much like the last time, it all came out in a rush.  Much that I wanted to tell him, and then much more.  I told him about the Darkness (he knows already) and I told him how this time the Darkness was about him (this surprised him).  I explained how I worry about losing him.  How much worse the fear gets when I dwell on my own past and assume he does the same.  I tell him how I can no longer imagine a life for myself in which he isn't a part of.  I told him this and the telling was like taking a scalpel to myself and carving up.

It was like cutting little pieces of my soul, putting them in my palm and holding them out to him.

To David. 

To the person with the power to make all the hurt go away - or to make it unbearable.

And then he did what he does best.  He didn't pooh pooh me or condescend.  He didn't tell me that I was silly or that my worries were silly. 

Instead he told me the truth.


                                                                          ***

"Early on, I thought everything through.  You know how I am Cym, I don't really rush into anything."  I nod, this is true. 

"When I was thinking about whether or not I wanted to go out with you, to make this serious, I thought about all of it.  I thought about  how you make me feel, how smart you are.  I thought about the way you think about things.  How you make me laugh.  Sometimes.  Cause I'm far funnier than you, but no one's perfect."  He pauses, possibly waiting for the laugh he isn't going to get.  I'm sitting in a rain darkened car waiting for the world to fall on my head, he isn't getting a smile out of me right now.

When he realizes that his joke fell flat, he continues.  "I thought about your personality.  And I also thought about your hotness.  In other words, I thought about all the things I'd normally think about when I'm debating about going out with a girl.

"BUT.  But because you are you, I wasn't just thinking about whether or not I wanted to go on a first date.  Damn, Cym, you and I had been friends a long time.  This wasn't about trying to figure out whether or not you were date worthy.  This was always about figuring out whether you were relationship worthy.  As in - future together worthy.

"So yes.  I thought about all those normal things.  But I thought about everything else too. Your nutty family situation.  Your religious views.  Your past." 

I flinch.  He sees it.  "Yes, even your past.  Look, I'd be lying if I said that some of this stuff didn't bother me at first."  He stops.  He's seeing that I'm pulling back, ready to start defending myself and making excuses and begging him to reconsider and all of the other irrational thoughts and feelings that just be obviously written on my face.

Instead he puts a hand on my chin and says "Shut up, Cym.  I'm not finished.  Let me finish." And his voice leaves no room for discussion and so I shut up and let him finish.

"I said it bothered me.  Past tense.  As in, none of it bothers me anymore.  Look at you.  Look how far you have come.  Look how you've grown as a person.  Look at who and what you are now.  Even as a Jew.  You aren't the same non-believer you were a year ago, no matter how hard you argue to the contrary.  And that stuff with other guys... look I know what you were going through.  And I know it didn't mean anything.  So I don't care.

Are you sure? I ask him.  Are you sure you thought about everything that can possibly bother you about me? Ever?  Under any circumstances? 

Because I want to believe.  I really do.  I want to think that this amazing, incredible guy, who I've wanted more than anyhting else in the whole world, wants me the same way.

"Look," he says.  "I love you.  I want to be with you.  Forever.  I want to marry you and have kids with you and fight about stuff like where we are going to send them to school and how old they should be before we get them cell phones (he's referencing an inside joke here).  I want to have whatever kind of wedding you want to have and proudly introduce you to people we meet as my wife.  That's what I want.  More than anything.  I want you to be my wife.  Is that clear enough?"

And it is clear enough.  Because I'm crying and they are tears of joy.  And he's holding me awkwardly around his stupid transmission shifter and telling me how much he hates it when I get in these worried moods (if only he knew) and how helpless he feels and I'm telling him that I'm fine, I'm great, I've never been happier in my entire life (which is 100% true).

And he says "Great!  Can we eat?  I'm starving."

And the Darkness was suddenly gone.

                                                                               ***

And I'm sure dinner was great.  I really couldn't tell you.  I know where we ate, but I'm not sure what I ordered.  I just know that I was blathering on at the table like a giddy idiot and I felt such a HUGE sigh of relief.  And then he dropped me off and walked me in and we spent five minutes making small talk with my brother who was downstairs when we came in and then David left to get back home .

And Just Like That...

All was right in the world.

And Just Like That

The DARKNESS returns.

You can read all about it, horrible misspellings and all, at the link.

I'm sure I'll be fine in a few days.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Boring

Had a very rough day today.  Caught some sort of stomach thing over the weekend and spent the entire day Sunday in bed, totally weak but terrified of even the thought of trying to eat anything. 

Lying in bed of course means I had plenty of time to think - which usually gets me in serious trouble.  (I think too much when I don't have tons of time on my hands after all - so much more so when I'm free to think.)

I thought about school - I'm in the final stretch.  I'll soon take two tests, write one paper and I'll be done for the semester. I'm planning the winter break trips I probably won't end up taking.

I have my part time job which I've been going to about twice a week.  It's been kinda boring but it's there.  Steady, dependable.

Things with David have been going super.  Really,  no complaints.

And there you have it, all of the components of my entire current existence in three paragraphs. 

I wake up, I go to the gym, I go to school and then I either come home or go to work.  I chat online sometimes and I talk on the phone with Tova and David pretty much every night.  Occasionally Tova and I go our for dinner during the week and I spend as much time as I can with David on the weekends.

My life, for lack of a better word, is boring.

It's predictable and repetitive.  It's lacking any true excitement.  It's become a wheel, where each day sort of turns right into the next in a patterns of wash, rinse repeat.

Now my former life, that was exciting. 

There were raves and keggers and drugs and sex.  There were fights with my parents and post high-crying fits with Tova.  There were wild sessions with my therapist where he literally opened me up and tore me apart.  There were sleepless nights in strange places, next to strange men.  There was fear.  Sadness.  Emptiness.  But damn, it was always exciting.

Now - I wake up, I go to the gym....wash, rinse repeat.

My life is boring.  I remember thinking when I was young and rebellious how glamorous my life must have looked to my fellow high school classmates - how they must have looked at me and thought how exciting it all was  - while they were home studying chem or English or whatever, I was out rocking the high life (or at least that's what I tried to convince myself anyway). 

But now I've become one of them.  Now I'm the one studying history and English and wondering what all the fun people are doing with themselves while I'm staring at this computer screen,

My life has become boring.

And I couldn't be happier .

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The View From Out Here Is Pretty Fucked Up

Hey Generic Representatives of All Branches of Judaism.  I'm glad I got all of you in one place.  I've been meaning to tell you something:

Your religion has gone off the rails.  You are so far afield from where you started it's laughable.  Not to mention extremely frustrating for someone on the outside looking in and trying to see its beauty (which I believe exists).

Allow me to explain.

First some background.  I come from a religious family - what you generically might describe as "Yeshivish".  I went off the derech when I was 12.  I've lived a very not-religious life since then.  Recently, however, I've tried to find my way back into your fold.  There are a number of reasons for this which I don't really feel are important for the purposes of this conversation.  But suffice it to say, I have an advanced degree in Outside Looking In and that gives me a different perspective on your religion.

So I'd just like to address (skewer) each of you, Representatives, and tell you what I think of you for what it's worth (nothing) and in no particular order:

Modern Orthodox Man/Woman, in your 200 dollar Lucky jeans, your fancy shoes and North Face winter coats.  Look, I love how you put a premium on the outside world.  I dig how you pride yourselves on your education, your advanced degrees and your hedge fund jobs.  But is it really necessary to forsake so much to live that life?  And honestly, do your kids really need to be that cynical, watch that much tv and see whatever movies they want?  Do your daughters really need to dress so inappropriately just to show that they can?  Do your wives need to wear pants everywhere because heaven forbid anyone sees them in a skirt?  Is it really necessary to hate Chasidim or Yeshivish people because they believe differently than you?  Must you all be so damn cynical about EVERYTHING?  Don't you see that the more you take from the outside world, the less you have to give to your religion?  Soon you will be too far gone to come back.

And you, Chassidish Man/Woman, stop sniggering.  You really think you are any better?  You want to curtain yourself off from the rest of the world, go right ahead.  There is a certain beauty to the ay you live apart (to some degree).  But must you separate yourselves from your fellow Jews as well?  Why, because they are dressed different?  Think different?  They are your brothers! 

And you, leaders, the tighter you close your fist, the more sand slips between your fingers.  No books, no movies, no music - banning even Jewish music concerts.  Did you guys ever stop to think that people need release?  We aren't machines, aren't meant to deny ourselves all the pleasures of the world.  The problem isn't indulgence, it's over-indulgence.  You have lost perspective in your need to control every aspect of the people who look to you for leadership.  And seriously, government support?  Not every one of you is a Torah scholar, get a fucking job and stop taking Section 8 and food stamps from the truly needy.

Oh and also, stop covering up the molestation.  You are doing your community a giant disservice by allowing monsters to roam freely in your realm because it's too embarrassing to let them be seen.

I see you, Yeshivish Man/Woman, hiding in the corner and looking all pious. And it's 80 degrees in here, take off that stupid black hat already. Jeez. So let's get real. You guys have it all down pat. Not as loony at those Chasids, but not wild like the MO's right? You know what's really important. Like white table cloths on your Shabbos table, the boy's familial yichus and your appearance to the outside world.  You are uniquely situated - you get to look down on everyone.  MO, Chasidish, they all have it wrong. Only you know the proper way to live.  My favorite part?  You send your kids to the frummest schools, you only daven at certain shuls, etc.  But your wives wear far and away the tightest clothes of any other group (excluding Latinos) as tznios seems to only apply to unmarried girls, not women.

Conservative/Reform guy, what are you doing?  Judaism with no rules?  Seriously?  Religion has to have rules.  It needs to be harder than that.  Otherwise, what's the point?  If I can do whatever I want, why on earth would I be Jewish?  I might as well be a Hedonist.  Yes, your religious brothers and sisters look down on you.  Because they see you are the ones who took the easy way out.  While they work their asses off.  Are the pretentious and judgemental?  Of course they are.  They are Jews.  But are they really wrong?  Ok, you are dismissed.

And last, but not least, we hit the gaggle in the corner.  The OTD/Chip on their shoulder Jews.  You are non-observant.  Ok.  Judaism and it's tough standards aren't for everyone.  Maybe your teachers/parents/rabbis were too hard on you.  We get it.  I get it.  But stop hating.  Stop whining that Judaism sucks cause you had to sit in synagogue for 8 hours on Yom Kippur when you were 13.  Or that any religion which doesn't allow you to shave your face with a razor is stupid.  Just stop.  Stop blaming the religion for your problems.  That was allowed when you were "under its cruel thumb". Now you are "free".  You chose to stop being observant, in some cases to be Jewish - not us - so do us all a favor - move the fuck on with your life.

PLEASE NOTE:  I think there are many, many wonderful parts of Judaism.  I just think all of you have done your damnedest to make sure no one ever sees them or experiences them. 

You all need to remember, we are one big family.  We are our own worst enemy the way we fight.  We need to stop.  One god, remember?  One god, not one for each of you.

Otherwise you are going to lose the me's of the world.  For good.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Can We Learn From Avoidance?

Tova doesn't like to tell me bad news.  She hides more than half of the things that are wrong with her.  Her pat answer to every question about her well being is "Everything's fine.  How are YOU?", as if my minor issue of the day can compete with her cancer (and all of the wondrous complications that come with it).  The less she tells me (and orders her family to keep me in the dark) the worse the issue is.  That's the general rule.

So now she's had and some further issues and more tests.  And she isn't telling me the results.  Which means, of course, that the results aren't good.  Here's yesterday's phone conversation:

Me: "Hey".

Her:  "Hey".

Me:  "So?"

Her:  "So what?"

Me:  "So what??  So what did the fucking doctor say?"

Her:  "Uch everything's fine. Stop worrying.  You should worry about eating more instead.  You look too skinny."

After several more attempts at getting her to tell me, she started to get mad so I dropped it.  But a comment she made last week, while she was in a more candid phase, troubled me.

"No one beats cancer three times."

It made me stop.  And really think.

No one beats cancer three times.

Three times.  And she's 21.  This is the life she has laid out for her even if she does make it through.  She's weaker this time.  And she will be weaker still next time.  That's assuming all parts of her will get through this in tact (which, to be honest, I'm not even sure is the case now).

The area where i live was rocked this week by the death of a 35 year old who died of Leukemia.  he has four kids.  Supposedly his funeral was packed to the walls. 

Sometimes in my private moments I wonder what Tova's death would bring.  Her family isn't "important" (and quite frankly, her relationship with her mother is pretty muchas bad as mine with my mother) and she doesn't have a lot of friends (having made great efforts to keep people away - when you are sick all the time you don't always crave attachment).  She has no husband or kids of her own.  Will her funeral be well attended?  Will people even notice?

I know, I know.   I shouldn't think about these things.  All i should do is be supportive as best as I can and as much as she allows.

But: 

No one beats cancer three times.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bullet Proof - (I Wish I Was)

"Limb by limb, tooth by tooth
Tearing up inside of me
Every day, every hour
I wish that I was bullet proof"

Just when you think.

Life is funny.  Just when you think it's all good, just when there seems to be nothing in front of you but promise and wonder, life pulls the rug out from under your feet.  Sometimes is a big pull, sometimes a little one, but it's never quite clear sailing, is it?

And at those moments, when the tears are welling up in your eyes and that weird bubble is filling up from your stomach to your chest, you wish you were a stronger person - more easily able to take the next hurt, chew it up and swallow it back down.

Bullet Proof.


"Wax me, mould me
Heat the pins and stab them in
You have turned me into this
Just wish that it was bullet proof"

This hurt is an old one re-surfacing.

Well not old, rather recurring.  That's the word they use to describe her form of cancer.  Recurring.  Not as bad as the other type, but it keeps coming back.  And even when you fight it, and seem to be beating it, there are always the dreaded "complications".  Organs that don't work right, brittle ribs that break from coughing.  Damage done because you spend months at a time throwing up nonstop.

And me, in the dark, finding out days, weeks later.  Never exactly knowing how bad it is.  because she won't talk about it.  "Everything's good."  Always good.  Wonderful.

Life's a bowl of freaking peaches.

So she might need an operation now, one which she might not be able to survive. Body isn't that strong, body loses blood very easily. 

If you or me had this operation we'd probably be out of the hospital the next day.

And good friend that I am, all I can do is worry.  Or something even less useful, like tell her I don't like her boyfriend.

Some friend.

And through it all is the feeling that all that optimism I have, how everything looks brighter now, is all just an illusion.  Life isn't a big happy party.  It's filled with both good and bad.  Never a clear road.  Always a worry, a pressure, a sickness a death.Always something to stab at us making sharp little holes.

Oh to be bullet proof.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Eye of the Beholder

Someone asked me what beauty is.  Here's my shot at it:


What is Beauty?

Is it the simple answer most shallow people would give you? Is it the face on the cover of a magazine?  Or the one looking down at you from a 50 foot movie screen?  Is it really all about the perfectly made-up, airbrushed, no connection to reality person that we are told is beautiful?

Beauty.  Like flawless skin, a gentle curve of a hip or breast.  A perfect nose.  Startling eyes.

Beauty??

Is that really what it is?  Is that the beauty of this world?

What about the cloudless blue sky of summer? A rolling river.  A forest from the distance?  A pristine lake.  Waves breaking on an endless expanse of shoreline.

Beauty.

Beauty is perhaps the most subjective thing on earth. Is anything inherently beautiful? 

They say it lies in the eye of the beholder.  I think this is true.  One person's beauty is another's ugliness.  But sometimes that view is drilled into us.  Sometimes we don't even rationally get to choose anymore/  Is every orange sunset automatically a thing of beauty? 

There is, however, one beauty which is neither subjective nor simply in the eye of the beholder.  Pure beauty - inner beauty.

A person with inner beauty is objectively beautiful.  Inner beauty - kindness, strength, grace, selflessness.  These are inherently beautiful traits, not those which society tells us are beautiful. 

What is beauty?

Beauty is many things to many people. But it is also one thing to everyone.

External beauty is nice, sure, I admit it.  But better to be beautiful inside.  Whether others can see it or not.

Be beautiful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dream Sequence

So I went to the wedding of one of David's closest friends.  I wore a nice green dress and black heels and I daresay looked nice and pretty.

During the chupah (are all Jewish ceremonies so painfully LONG??) I found myself daydreaming.  Thinking about the big what if? 

Actually, I can say with some confidence I was dreaming of the big WHEN. 

They say every girl dreams of her wedding day when they are little kids.  They dress their dolls and make pretend weddings.  They sit in class and dream of the boy they are going to marry.  The prepare for it for an entire year in seminaries in Israel (I jest,  I jest).  Every little girl.

Except me.

I never dreamed of getting married when I was younger.  Not because I didn't want to get married or because I'm against marriage.  Hells no.

I just didn't ever really see myself finding Mr. Right and being happy.

You have to believe in happiness to think you can ever find happiness.  I spent most of my developmental years (say 10-18) thinking that I wasn't ever going to be happy.  First I felt stifled by my religion.  Then by my family.  Then I fell in with the sort of people you wouldn't really want to spend the rest of your life with anyway.  Then there was a long period of time when I thought who on EARTH would want to marry the damaged goods that are me?

When you are young and embittered and your heart is harder than steel, you don't spend much time fantasizing about white dresses and veils and dancing the night away with your life's love.  Instead you jam yourself into really tight pants and tops and dance the night away with whoever is buying that night.

So yeah, let's say I don't have a long history of dreaming about the big day.

But you know what?  It's nice to be able to dream about it.  It's nice for me personally for these reasons:

a)  It means I have reached a point where I can dream about being happy, that the last two-ish years that I've worked so hard to become a functioning person in society have started to pay off.  I can dream about being happy because I believe in happiness for myself again.  That is no small thing.

b)  It means there's someone to dream about.  I'm talking about you Davey-boy.  When I dream of being married, it's you I dream about.  I dream of walking down a velvety aisle - while you wait for me under a canopy of flowers - and taking your hand while all the customary rituals which will bind us together are performed.  I dream of dancing with the people who are really happy for me, the people who are pretending to be happy for me and even the people who have openly rooted for my failure.  I'll dance with them all and be happy about it too.

So no, I'll never dress up my dolls and have mock weddings with fur and plastic.  I'll never be able to have adolescent fantasies of the "first night" without having any real idea about what it means.  I can't retroactively go back in time and make myself a person who thinks all these things can be a reality.

But that's ok.  Because even now, as I sit through a boring lecture on European history, I am thinking about it.  I'm thinking back to last night's wedding, to dancing with David's friend's new wife - and the way she happily pulled me into her little circle and danced with me with joy on her face - and I'm letting my own imagination flow like a stream.

And I think today is a good day to dream.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fake Plastic World

"A green plastic watering can
For a fake chinese rubber plant
In the fake plastic earth

That she bought from a rubber man
In a town full of rubber plans
To get rid of itself

It wears her out, it wears her out
It wears her out, it wears her out"

Sometimes it's all so fake.  The smiles, the hello's.  Sometimes it's nothing more than a practiced gesture.  A wave, a handshake.  Meaningless patterns repeated over and over. 

"The world is fake" you hear people say.  No one really means anything.  So much simply done by rote.  And yes, it can be pretty tiring to see everyone walking around robotically, automatons on an assembly line.

"She lives with a broken man
A cracked polystyrene man
Who just crumbles and burns

"He used to do surgery
On girls in the eighties
But gravity always wins

And it wears him out, it wears him out
It wears him out, it wears him out"

Is it the same with relationships?  I think sometimes.  (I've had so many fake plastic relationships of my own, I am surprised that I was able to see the difference.  But I do see the difference.)

But even a "real relationship" has its fake plastic moments.  Or even years.  Eating dinner together saying nothing.  Making idle chatter just to fill up the empty spaces.  Sleeping at opposite sides of the bed.

"She looks like the real thing
She tastes like the real thing
My fake plastic love"

And sometimes the fakeness even feels real to you.  Like those intense internet relationships with their exceptionally strong feelings which, if exposed to the light of day, crumble and burn.

Or the guy you meet and have an instant connection with, only to find there isn't really anything there.

Fake Plastic.

The world is full of it.  But is it really all bad?  Can people really expected to be their full-force selves every minute of every day?  Isn't it ok sometimes to switch to Robot Mode and smile and wave at the paparazzi?  Doesn't that beat being snarly and mean?

Life is exhausting.  Just daily routine can be mind numbing.  It wears us all down.  And sometimes fakeness is the only thing keeping us from trying to stab our next door neighbor in the eye when they cheerily say good morning as we are leaving out houses.  Or wrapping your hands around the throat of the exceptionally friendly barrista at the coffee shop BEFORE you have had your morning jolt.
Fake Plastic.

Or lying to your friends and family to make them happy.  Telling your wife she looks good in a dress that actually makes her look like a sausage in a too-thin skin.  Or telling your best friend you like that new thing she has even though you despise it to its core.

Fake Plastic.

It's not that the world is fake.  That's too easy an answer.  it's that people can be fake - are often fake - because in some ways its  apart of our reality.  Manners and proper etiquette. 

It's fake.  It's plastic.

Sometimes it makes the world go round.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mea Culpa

"Once again, I’m in trouble with my only friend
She is papering the window panes
She is putting on a smile
Living in a glass house"

Sometimes I can really step in the shit. 

Like most people, I can be thoughtless and callous.  Sometimes I think I'm doing the right thing, pushing and pushing.  But in the end, the border between "being a good friend" and "being a thoughtless pain in the ass" gets faded and I find myself on the wrong side.

So it is with me and my best friend.  Sadly (or smartly), I cannot reveal the exact issue, but suffice it to say she's doing something I do not agree with.  My thought process -  she's doing it because of a lack of believe in herself -  she knows it too. 

And after suffering in silence, I finally opened my mouth last night.  "You're better than this," I declared.  "You can do better.  Why settle?"

And boy did I get the tongue lashing of a lifetime.  No one can quite cut through you like she can.  And boy did she slice  me up.  Last night she was Valaryan steel slicing through warm butter, like Longclaw carving up mutton (shouts out there to Malka, Colloq, Sibaw and Chana), taking me apart piece by piece and really giving it to me.

And you know what, I deserve it.  I was wrong.  To quote Allanis, I'm wrong and I'm sorry, Baby.  It's so easy for me to sit in my ivory tower and dole out my unsolicited advice.  My empty words of wisdom. 

I have one ironclad rule of arguing/debating.  You must see the other side.  You cannot fight a position you do not really understand.  You need to step in their shoes and strengthen your understanding before you can formulate a winning argument.  It's never enough to say "I'm right because the other side is wrong."  You have to know WHY the other side is wrong.  Or less right.

And I have failed to do that.  I've listened to her arguments, but I have not heard them.  I failed to understand her reasoning - rather I've simply told her what a person in my situation would have done.  But we do not share a situation.  That's what got lost in my thought process.  I looked at it from my side only.

Tova and I made a deal.  She doesn't read this blog though she knows of its existence.  But I'm apologizing publicly anyway (and I will apologize 100 more times to her privately as well - until she stops bitching me out and accepts it).

So mea culpa - my bad.  And I'm sorry.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Good Old Days

"From the window of a rented limousine
I saw your pretty blue eyes

One day soon you're gonna reach sixteen
Painted lady in the city of lies"

Colloq writes and I weep.  Or tremble.  Her posts are beautiful and emotional and awe inspiring for me.  Often, though, they make me remember a past that stretches its hand out to me like a villain with an oiled moustache and an evil glint in his eye.

She wrote a post recently about some bar (club? hookah place) that probably reaches its hand out to her.  And it brought me back to a very black time in my life (ages 15-18).

"Oh, how you play the game
Still don't know your name

You know I'm the one you want, babe
Yes, I've got to be the one you need, need, need."

It's not just the drinking.  Or the drugs.  Or the rebellion.  It's also the people.  The low-down, dirty, callous masses that prey on the bottom feeders.  Bottom feeders like me.  The weak, the helpless.  They promise you the world.  If only.

Just give it up and I'll get you what you need.  Money, drugs.  A roof over your head.  "Just give me what I want.  And you get what you want."  And after it's over - "So what's your name anyway?  Can I have your number?"

Quid pro quo.


"Lips like cherries on the frown of a queen
'Come on' flashed across your eyes

Said you dug me since you were thirteen
Then you giggle as you heave and sigh"

But it's not like we were so innocent.  Oh no.  They may have asked for it, but we were offering it too.  "We" being me.  Only it's less painful when you were just a sheep following the herd.  Rather than a wolf making your own decisions. 

A wolf that used its weapons to get what she wanted. 

I was a sheep and a wolf both.


"Oh, do you know my name?
Do I look the same?

Baby, I got to tell you, I'm the one you want
And everybody knows I'm the one you need"

And the other wolves, the ones who prey, they see a kindred spirit.  There are no innocents in this dance - just varying degrees of guilt. 

You are the one I need.  "Here's what you want - now your hour is up.  Where's the reward?"


"Hours, hours, were the moments in between
Oh, baby, how the time flies
The fun of coming - oh, the pain of leaving
Oh, baby, dry those silver eyes"

4 years.  A childhood.

It is a dark, empty flash of...light?  No, that's not right.  It's a dark blur.  Images from many long nights all interconnected, woven together by drugs and alcohol.  Endless parties and raves and gatherings and opportunities for all kinds of "fun".  Oh the "fun" I had.  Each incident leaves an imprint on my soul - like a tattoo that seemed a good idea of the time but has now become a sagging, faded reminder of the stupid decisions of youthful innocence.

Or guilt.

And all the time the vile man with the moustache sticks out his hands and beckons.

We Interrupt Cymbaline's Normal Life To Bring You...

Midterms and papers!!!!!

One test down (did well - yay), one to go.  Then some papers (already in the process).

Let's get 'er done!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

In The Light

"And if you feel that you can't go on. And your will's sinkin' low
Just believe and you can't go wrong.
In the light you will find the road."


Faith.

I'm guessing it's a pretty cool thing to have.  The belief that there is something, someone out there watching over you.  Some unseen force that that serves to make your life better.

Faith.  Faith in God.  So many of you have this gift.  So many of you can see His magic in the smallest things.  In a random line written by a long dead rabbi.  In the sunrise.  You see it and it gives you inspiration.  It reinforces your comfort that every single thing is controlled by a (usually) benevolent force that keeps the train on track.
"Oh, did you ever believe that I could leave you, standing out in the cold
I know how it feels 'cause I have slipped through to the very depths of my soul."


This benevolent being that you have - you have the faith to believe in.  And it gets you through the rough times and the bad times and is reinforces by the good times.


"Now listen to me.
Oh, whoa, as I was and really would be for you, too, honey
As you would for me, oh, I would share your load.
Let me share your load."

So what do I have?  What do I believe in?  A very small number, very select group of, people.  Friends, certain family members.  People who, over time, have proven themselves to really be there when needed.And when you have those people, you would do anyhthng for them.  You would share their load.  Their hopes, their fears, their dreams.  And through the sharing of these burdens, I sometimes find the inspiration, the Light, that others have so eloquently blogged about.  The light those lucky ones find in a commentary, in a sunrise - I find it in a shared laugh with Tova or the embrace of my love.

Because:

"In the light
Everybody needs the light.
In the light, in the light, in the light."

Where does your inspiration come from?  Is it your faith?  Your friends?  Family?  Some other inspiration?  The truth is that a life without the Light is empty.  It lacks direction or meaning.  And eventually it will make you hollow. 

And the other truth?  A life with SOME light but lacking the light of faith - it will also lack a sense of completion.

So you who have the Light - I envy you.  I seek your Light but as of yet I've found only small bits and pieces - much of those simply reflecting off of you to begin with. 

So I will continue to look - in the Light.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ten Years Gone

A conversation between Now Me and 11 year old me, as told through the lyrics of Ten Years Gone by Led Zeppelin:


Her:  "Then as it was, then again it will be
An' though the course may change sometimes
Rivers always reach the sea"


Translation - Remember the days of innocence?  So long ago they were, but in the end you will get where you are supposed to be.  You may not see it along the way, but your path will take you there.
 Me:  "Blind stars of fortune, each have several rays
On the wings of maybe, down in birds of prey
Kind of makes me feel sometimes, didn't have to grow
But as the eagle leaves the nest, it's got so far to go"


Translation:  You will feel, for a long time, that there is no God.  That there is nothing but blind luck.  That everything is for chance. 

You will feel, for a long time, that you have all the answers and that there's nothing left for you to know beyond the stark, harsh reality of your life.  But, over time, you will find there is so much for you to learn.
Me: "Changes fill my time, baby, that's alright with me
In the midst I think of you, and how it used to be"


Translation:  I think back to innocent me, the me of 10 years ago, and my heart fills with sadness.

Did you ever really need somebody, And really need 'em bad
Did you ever really want somebody, The best love you ever had
Do you ever remember me, baby, did it feel so good
'Cause it was just the first time, And you knew you would


Translation: Hmmm, who but a verse about David in here???


Her: :through the eyes an' I sparkle, Senses growing keen
Taste your love along the way, See your feathers preen
Kind of makes makes
me feel sometimes, Didn't have to grow
We are eagles of one nest, The nest is in our soul"


Translation:  You and I will forever be one.  Our journey will be long and painful.  We will endure hardship, love and pain.  But they will make us into a stronger, more knowing person. 

And this is our journey to take together.
Me:  "Vixen in my dreams, with great surprise to me
Never thought I'd see your face the way it used to be

I'm never gonna leave you. I never gonna leave
Holdin' on, ten years gone
Ten years gone, holdin' on, ten years gone"


Translation:  Now, finally, I am starting to see me, the old me, when I look in the mirror.  The innocence I lost, though I can never truly get it back, I still feel a spark of it.  That surprises me - I thought that past was dead. 

Now I will never ever truly leave behind the ten middle years, from when I went from being you to being me, I still hold on to the person I was before. 

Youtube it here.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-changes

If when you think about me, what is it that comes into your head?

Reformed rebel?  Regular Joe-anne?  Frum?  Not frum?  Faker?  Sincere?  Slut?

A high-born Dwarf once gave the following advice to the Bastard son of a nobleman (in a time when being a bastard was as low as you can go):

Dwarf: "Let me give you some advice bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you."

Bastard: "What the hell do you know about being a bastard?"

Dwarf: "All dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes."

My past.  If I wear it like armor, it can never be used to hurt me.  Run away from who I am?  Shit, I embrace who I am.  Who I am is everything to me.  My identity.  My whole purpose.

But what am I?  Reformed rebel? Regular Joe-anne? Frum? Not frum? Faker? Sincere? Slut?

I am all of these things and none of them.  These are labels.  They are words on a computer screen.  They are general ideas.  They are all parts of me but do not serve to define me.

Who am I?

I'm the one who fell off the derech early.  Who drank, drugged and slept her way through adolescence.  Who sank so low that her own parents threatened to disown her if she didn't turn her life around.

Maybe I don't write that too much anymore, maybe you have forgotten - but that's still a part of who I am.

A part.

As the aspiring rapper "B Rabbit" rapped at his enemy:

"Don't ever try to judge me dude,
you don't know what the fuck I've been through"

What do you think of me  - when you think about me at all?  When you read a post of mine that makes you laugh, or cry, or shake your head in disgust?  When you wonder about the choices I've made (or make still)?

Did you know that I've been keeping Shabbos for the last like 6 months? Totally and completely (no cheating in my room with the phone or computer).  Does that change how you think of me?

Did you know that I've been keeping kosher for almost as long?  Hell, maybe not your kosher.  Maybe I'll eat a salad in a non kosher restaurant, bugs and knife and olive oil and all.  But it's better than the grilled chicken salad I'd have ordered 6 months ago no?  Better than eating breakfast in diners no? Does that change how you think of me?

Do you know that I hate Apple?  I hate how they control what music you can put on your Ipod.  So when my Ipod broke I switched.  Now I use a Sony "Walkman".  Way retro right?  (or so I've been told by old people)  Does that change how you think of me?

I have a rule (learned from my father) - I treat everyone the same.  From the president of the company to the janitor (his examples) or from the shop owner to the lowly stock girl (my example), everyone should get the same courtesy.  Does that change how you think about me?

I have a piercing in my belly button.  How about that?

Or that I've contemplated "playing tennis" with my boyfriend before we tie the knot.  So much so that people were instructing me on going to the mikvah to prevent giant karmic stains on my soul.  I bet that changes how you think about me.

Or that I eventually decided against tennis.  How about THAT?

"All dwarves are bastards in their father's eyes."

And all rebels are bastards in their mother's eyes.

I know what it's likes to be judged.  I've been judged by the best.  I wear it.  Like armor. 

But it still hurts.

Judgement.  Her judgement.  People I don't know.  I expect it, I know it's coming (or there already) but it hurts the same.

Et tu? 

Why must others set the bar so damn high?  So I'll fail?  So I'll become so disparaged I'll give up?  I'm sorry if I disappoint.  I really am.  But I am not sure I can ever meet anyone else's expectations.  Sometimes I worry that I will fail to reach my own.  But it's very possible that the comfort zone I will eventually find won't meet your approval. 

And then you can think of me as a disappointment.

But.  Every single day I don't slide backwards is a victory. Every inch forward a battle won. Every single day I try and touch the bar (set lowly) and try to raise it a quarter of an inch higher. Slow progress. Nothing sexy.  Slow and steady wins the race.

My race - not yours.  My victories, not yours.

Judge me if you must.  I'm used to being judged.  I wear it like armor.

But don't forget that you don't know what the fuck I've been through.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Guess Who Is Coming to Brunch

Than you to all who emailed and asked about the brunch -or as I call it, the Brunch of Doom.

In short, it was neither the worst 2 hours of my life, yet it was quite far from the best.

David showed up early, was dressed appropriately and acted like an all-star.  I'm extremely proud of him.  He was a real trooper.  He shmoozed up my dad, talking about his family (including telling over the story of how his grandfather came after the Holocaust - which always goes over really well).  They also talked business a bit.  Dad smiled a few times and seemed to genuinely not dis-like him.

Mother was, well she was Mother.  At first she did everything but handcuff him to the chair, shine a light in his face, and ask him where he was last Wednesday at 8:30 pm.  The highlight was when she asked him, with a smirk, what he was learning.  Jesus Christ.  Eventually though, she ran out of gas, stopped asking dumb questions, and even offered to make him coffee.

As for me?  Well, between the sweating and the stammering, I was a full blown mess.  I felt like a poorly trained lawyer trying to keep a prosecutor off my client.  I was so worried about what she might say or do that i could barely concentrate on anything else.

And then it was over and I all but pulled him out of the house as he graciously got out his thank yous.

Now the Brunch of Doom is over and things will go back to "normal".

And tomorrow, or the next day, she will drop a comment (or ten) enumerating all of the things wrong with him.

Can't hardly wait!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

And Behold, Out of Left Field, an Unexpected Twist

Let me set the scene for you:
 It’s about 11:30 last night.  I’m exhausted.  I’ve been suffering with severe cramps (TMI??  Well I have to set the scene no?).  I’m showered and in bed.  It’s finally time …


To close my eyes…


And drift off to…

When there comes a tap tap tapping at my door (quothe the raven, nevermore).

 Now as a general rule, no one except my brother ever comes to my room.  And he doesn’t tap, he kinda bangs.  So it’s not my brother. 

 I drag my extremely tired ass out of bed.  It’s my dad.  He asks if I have a few minutes.

 So off we go, down to his study/office/library.  That’s where he talks to people.  It’s the nicest room in the house (in my humble opinion) - all paneled wood, leather chairs and a gorgeous desk.  The walls are lined with books, mostly sefarim, but not only. (Many an important Jewish person has sat in this office, though you’d never know it.)

 I’m sitting across from him, wondering what important issue he needs my sage advice on, when:

“So tell me about this boy you are seeing.” 

 If a person can turn multiple shades of red, I’m sure that I did (the office has no mirrors, perhaps for this very reason).  I start stammering out an answer when I catch sight of his face.  The way his eyes crinkle at the corners when he smiles.  The way they are crinkling now.  I let out a breath.

“I love him,” I simply say.  He nods his head.  He waits patiently for me to continue.  I talk more.  I tell him about David, about how he’s been there for me forever.  About how he treats me.  The way we get on with each other. The fun we have together.  How he makes me laugh.  How he makes me happy when I’m down. His family.  Everything.  Occasionally he stops me to ask a question or clarify something (mostly having to do with his family), but for the most part he lets me talk.

And the whole time, I’m sitting there feeling really….good.  Like, I’m having an important conversation with a parental unit!  About the guy I love!  And I don’t have to defend myself or yell or fight.  Not how I’d imagined this conversation in my head.

He says something.  “What?” I ask.

“I said, we’d like to meet him.”

Meet him?”  Despite the shower I just took, I can feel the sweat starting to leak.

“Yes.”


We?”  More sweat.  Looks like another shower in the cards for me.

 “Yes, we.”

“Mommy wants to meet him?” I ask.  My mother?”

He sighs.  “Cymbaline, do you think that this boy David is going to be a permanent part of your life?”

“I hope so.”

“So we want to meet him.”

Ok Cym.  Think.  All you need to do is agree and then be vague about a time and eventually it’ll blow over. “Ok, sure.  We can figure out a time and….”

“How about Sunday?” he asks.

This Sunday?”

He’s in full smile mode now.   “Yes, this Sunday.  We can have a nice brunch.  You know how your mother loves to entertain.”

I start stammering again, trying to think of a good excuse.  But I look in his face.  There isn’t going to be an excuse.  We are having brunch with David on Sunday. 

A terrible thought pops into my head.  “Here’s the thing.”  I’m trying to be diplomatic.  “Mommy can be a little…critical? sometimes and…”

“Your mother will be on her best behavior.  I promise.”

My father’s promise is gold.  “Ok then.”

“Ok.  Let’s call it for like 11:30.  I have a breakfast Sunday morning for a Tzedakah which I have to attend.”  He pats his non-existent stomach.  “I promise I will save some room for the bagels.”  There’s a twinkle in his eyes.

And just like that the meeting is over.

I text David.  He's in for brunch with the 'rents.  I have officially lost 13 pounds of water weight.

Now I’m back in my room.  All hopes of a good night’s sleep are suddenly done.

David.  In my house.  Eating brunch with my mother.

David vs. Goliath.

Sigh.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thoughts on a Milestone - AKA Happy Hundred - CORRECTION MADE

I can still remember the Evil Thoughts in my head:

"Hey Cymbaline, we hear you started a blog," they say, barely suppressing their giggles.

Me, playing it cool.  "Yup, that's right."

"What's it about?" snigger snigger.

"It's kinda like an online journal, to help me with my thoughts and feelings."  Feeling the sweat break out on my temple.

Derisive laughter now.  "Who the hell would want to read THAT?"

"No one, I suspect."  Nothing like brutal honesty.

"How many posts have you written so far?"  Snigger snigger snigger.

"Uh, 2." 

Howls of laughter.

Then Evil Thoughts all took bets on how many posts I'd write before I gave up.  The consensus was between 10 and 20. 

I laid my own bet on 12.

********************************************************************

Well here we are, dear reader. 

At post 100.

*******************************************************************

Write a journal, my therapist suggested.  A journal to pen your thoughts and feelings.  Record them and then look at them from time to time to get a grasp, a snapshot, of what you were thinking in a moment in time.  These pictures will be windows to your soul, he said.

I chose a blog.  Why?  Perhaps because it's a journal, but one with the possibility of an outsider looking in on those self-same thoughts and emotions.  That keeps you honest.  Keeps you from being lazy.  Did I think anyone would actually read them?  No.  (I still find it hard to believe people do.)  Did it matter?  No.  This blog was back then, and still is today, about me and for me.  You all are an added bonus (more on you later, dear reader).

I try to read the earlier posts.  It's very painful.  Not that I am shy about my past or because it embarrass me.  But rather because the process of laying yourself open for the world to see is painful.  No two ways about it.  I was a disaster - a twenty-car pileup - and I wrote every detail out for the rubberneckers to see.

My past.  My rebellion.  My rock bottom.  All live and in Technicolor.  With THX surround sound. 

But he was right.  My therapist, I mean.  (He usually is).  A truthful journal is a window to your soul.  To your psyche.  It is like building a mountain of yourself, climbing that mountain and then getting a panoramic view of all the things that got you to where you are (as well as the road to where you are going).  Of every rock you had to climb over (or through) to get to the peak.

I'm building myself back up from the ground.  From the gutter.  Piece by piece.  Link by link.  Step by step.  Stone by stone (you choose your own metaphor). 

Proof, you say?  Ok how about this:

Look at me at post number 2 - I'm in school (doing well), I'm partly aimless, the boy I love doesn't seem to see me as anything other than a friend and I may want to go to law school.  I have no affiliation with religion, though I do strongly identify with being a Jew.  Oh, and while my head is on, it's not quite on straight.

Fast forward eight months - I'm in school (doing well), I have a job and I have the man of my dreams.  I know what I want to do with myself and it's not law school.  I'm still not observant in any way, but I'm no longer opposed to orthodoxy (and no, dear cynical reader, it's not just because it's easier for David and me if I am).  And while my head still may not be on straight, at least it's more tightly screwed on.

(And yes, I am intentionally ignoring the fact that my "tennis" drought has lasted approximately as long as my blog has.)

Is that all because of this blog?  Of course not.  But I have learned so much from this process.  From the writing. 

From you.

You, dear reader.  You were the piece I didn't anticipate but now treasure.  Your comments.  Your emails.  Your g-chats.  All of it.

Those who treat me like their daughter, their friend, their Blogger acquaintance.  My sometimes therapists and secret keepers.  My occasional debate partners and sometimes flirtologists.  The ones who took time to send me carefully crafted, 20,000 word essays on the pros and cons of law school.  And the weirdo's among you who even ask me for advice (at your own risk!!!).  You all know what role(s) you fill (and if you don't, just ask).

If this blog is any good (and that's a big IF) it's because of you.  Because I know you are watching.  Because I don't want to let you down.  Because your ideas inspire me.  Your criticisms make me better.  Your ideas and your comments all give the blog a flavor that it would not otherwise have.

But that's just a blog.  Words on paper (or, in this case cyberspace).  And that's all nice and helpful to me.  But it's only part of the story.

It's you, dear reader.

I am better for having spoken to so many of you.  The advice you have given, the humor you've shared.  The sanity you have bestowed.  I won't name you.  This isn't an Oscar speech.  But you know who you are.  (And if you have a doubt if you are on this list, then you probably are.) 

You have all become a part of my life (as corny as it sounds). 

And true, maybe not quite "real" life.  Maybe we don't have coffee (mmm coffee) or hang out in restaurants chewing the fat - but that doesn't mean my life has been any less positively effected by you all.

 I need to keep a seperation.  If anyone ever connected me to this blog, I'd be forced to shut it down.  To delete it.  To disappear and never return.  And I'd be sad if that were to happen.

So yes, I keep walls up.  Most of you don't know my real name - where I live.  But it's not personal, it's a choice I make because I'd hate to have to lose all of you.

*****************************************************************************

So here we are, dear reader.  We made it to post 100!  Evil Thoughts left town in a huff and I'm out the ten bucks I laid down on 12 posts.  But I think I'm better off for it.

Will I get to 200?  I strongly doubt it.  I'm not sure I have that much more to say.  And I'm hoping that my story gets very boring (and she graduated college, got a job, David proposed and they lived happily ever after with their 2.6 kids, their minivan and a well maintained Tudor-style home with a white picket fence).

But I hope you stick around with me to see.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Family

Blood is thicker than water.

"Mother" is the name of God on the lips of little children.

Family is always there for each other.

You can pick your friends but you are bound to your family.

There must always be a Stark in Winterfell.

Family certainly means alot of different things to different people.  But the general gist of it is that the ties created by blood are different, usually better, than the ties formed in any other manner.  Soldiers who fight together are "brothers".  La casa nostra is "the family".  It's a bond which cannot easily be separated.

I had the opportunity to spend three days with David and his family over the first days of Succos.  For me it was a chance to view a family unit quite different than my own, but also similar in many striking ways. 

I was also stuck with how accepted I was into this unit.  From the minute I got there his mom put me right to work in the kitchen, treating me not as a guest but as a member of the unit.  I got on pretty well with his siblings (except his older sister but she doesn't seem to really like too many people in general).  His younger sister LOVES me (quite a bit different than in my family where my younger sibs barely speak to me). 

This post was supposed to be a much greater detailed look at his family.  But that's not really the point as far as I can tell.  The funny thing is, as nice as everyone was, it still felt weird.  It's not my family.  At least not now.  Maybe one day....