Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Days (or at least mornings) of Awe

In my dreams, I am being shaken awake. 

Except it's no dream, I'm being shaken awake.  My father is saying something to me but the words are not getting through.

"What time is it?" I ask.  It's pitch black out.

"4:50" he replies.

"4:50? AM?"

"4:50, am.  [Older Brother] and I are going to shul now for Sjgdldkjf. I thought you might want to come."

"Where?  For what?"

"To shul.  For Selichos.  For Rosh Hashana."

I mumble something incomprehensible.  "[Older Brother] and I are leaving at five after.  If you want to come."  And then he's gone, almost like the dream he awakend me from.

Despite all my good sense, I stumble out of bed, recognizing a gesture when I see it, even if I am not yet awake.  I somehow manage a skirt and sweatshirt and go downstairs.  There's a lot of black hats and jackets (ok, 2) waiting for me.

We drive to shul on the dark streets in silence.  When we get there, I am the only female.  My father hands me a fat brown book - linear translation of Selichos.  He flips it to the right page and hands it to me.  "Follow along as best as you can.  The Hashem Hashem parts are the most important."  I nod sagely, yearning not for the Hashem Hashem parts, but for a 24 ounce coffee from 7-11.  Maybe even the special extra caffeine kind.

There's a bang and we are off and running.  There's a lot of murmering, occassionally some loud prayers and a whole lot more murmering.  I'm completely lost within minutes. 

I read the translations and try to mutter some of the prayers.  The hebrew means nothing to me but some of the english translation is clearly written in a heartfelt, powerful way.  I read the words and try to focus.

About 45 minutes in it hits me.  Something else heartfelt and powerful.  My father has not given up on me.  He's bringing me to Selichos at 5:00 am and he still belives in me.  In my Judaism. 

In my soul. 

Now the words are all of a sudden blurry and I realize I am crying.  But they are neither tears of sadness nor tears of repentance.

They are tears of joy.

In the car home, afterwards, I ask my father:  "If, say, I wanted to attend servic...come to shul for Rosh Hashana, do you think there is room for me?  I know the women's section gets pretty packed."

"Cymbaline," he replies.  "There has always been, and there will always be, a place for you in shul for the Yomim Noraim."

A sense of...belonging washes over me.  A feeling I haven't felt with regards to my family in a long time.  "Now let's go get some breakfast," my brother gleefuly shouts.

And that's what we do.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A New Begining

They say that this time of year is a time for new beginings.  For retrospection about what has gone and then a clean slate for what will be.  A time to reflect and then to move on.  Not for getting stuck on what was. 

I hope "they" are right.

For the first time in..... forever, I will be going to shul for Yom Kippur this year. Not to my family's shul, though.  I will be staying by Tova and praying with her at her shul. I'll probably write about this decision at some point closer to Yom Kippur but...

Dear reader, I wish for each and every one of you (and I mean that, each and every one) that whatever it is you are praying for this year, whether it be health, wealth, love and/or happiness, it should come true for you as best as can possibly be. 

I wish that all of you are able to "move on" from whatever it is you dwell on and that you come to peace.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In Her Defense

She spent the entire day in bed.  Avoiding everyone and everything.

It was about 3:00 when Tova first told her to go home.

"I'm too mad, " she replied.

Tova made a face like she just bit into a lemon.  "Oh please, you stopped being mad three hours ago."

"Fine, I'm not ready to face her."

"Right.  But that's not my problem.  You need to stop avoiding your problems and take them on. Besides, you've been too mopey and annoying to have around.  Your annoyingness is worse than cancer."

"Thanks for your support."

"I have been supportive.  I let you sleep here didn't I?  You know my mother hates having you around.  She thinks you're a bad influence."  They both giggle at the inside joke.

"Uch, fine.  I'll go home.  I hate you."

"You love me."


She packed her things into the bag she took from her house last night, thanks Tova's disinterested mom for taking her in on such notice, and get in the car.  By the time she pulls up in front of the house she's sweating.  She doesn't know what she hates more, that her big mouth gets her slapped down or that she even lets her mother get to her to begin with.

Her hand is shaking when she tries to put the key in the door.  After three fumbled attempts, she gets it done. 

She's on her her way to the stairs, to the safety of her room, when her mother comes out to see her.  She's in her workout clothes either going to, or returning from, her second work-out of the day.  Lunatics need to look good too, Cymbaline thinks crazily and suppresses a nervous laugh.

There is an awkward silence as they stand there, not really looking at each other.  Finally she can't take it anymore.  "Hi," she mumbles as she adjusts the bag on her shoulder.

"Hi," her mother replies.

Pleasantries done, she starts towards the stairs.  "Cymbaline, I..." her mother starts, then stops.  She stops and turns around, waiting to hear the words of wisdom her mother has for her. 

Except when the words come out, they are nothing that she expects.

"I'm sorry."

Absolutely stunned inside,  Cymbaline manages to nod her head and walks up the stairs.  When she gets to her room, she closes the door gently behind her.

Then she lies on her bed and cries her eyes out.

A Curious Series of Catastrophic Events

Dear Diary:

Last night my mother, in a terrible mood for something that happened (which didn't involve me) started ragging on me mercilessly (having finally stopped mercilessly riding my younger siblings for hours).  She made a nasty remark, which led me to make an even nastier remark.
Which led to her slapping me across the face, calling me a bitch and throwing me out of "her" house (for the second time).

So I packed my stuff and went to my only true family  - Tova.

And here I'll stay, in bed all day, until further notice.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Do Affairs Always Suck?

I used to babysit for a family.  The mom was a monster.  Even in the little time I spent there, I could see it.  She was so cold to her kids and mean to her husband.  One time he was driving me home after an another episode where she emasculated him in front of the babysitter and I made a stupid flippant remark in the car like "it can't be easy being married to that".  "You have no idea," he answered. 

And then he started to cry.

Every time people talk about the affair du jour (and I mean that literally), it is always a horror story.  After all, how could you betray the person you love in this way?  Isn't marriage a sacred contract?

I have been thinking alot about this the last few days. a) I just heard a story about people I know who are having an affair.  b) Even worse,  I am convinced that someone close to me is having an affair. 

Who it is or why I think so is irrelevant.  What I focus on is the why of it.

Why do people look outside their marriages?  I have spoken to a lot of people about this over the years.   The stories often take a similar trajectory and, in fact, almost always fall into one of 3 broad categories (or some combination of the three):

 - Boredom

 - Lack of love/fighting in the marriage

 - One of the 2 parties isn't fulfilling their bedroom obligations

I know that the "standard" perspective regarding marriage is it doesn't matter which category you fall into - you are in marriage for better of for worse and it's sacred and so on and so forth. 

I happen to not entirely agree with that.  Marriage is supposed to be a 2-way street - two people who love each other doing for each other - sometimes things they don't necessarily love to do - for the sake of the other.  If you don't fulfill your end of the bargain, why should your partner?  If you can't talk nicely to your partner, who shouldn't she go find someone who does?

I know, it's horrible to even contemplate such a thought process.  After all, an affair is cheating on the one who is supposed to trust you the most. 

But that trust is supposed to be earned.  Earned by talk, deed and action.  Earned, sometimes, by participating in the things you don't necessarily love, for the sake of the ONE you love.

Imagine marriage as a whole made up of many parts.  There's love, admiration, sense of humor, many many parts which form the marriage.  Ask most women what percentage of a marriage sex is and you often get a low score  - "oh sure sex is important - 1%!!".  Then ask a man.  He'll tell you sex is 10% 20% 40% some crazy number  (or at least crazy to women). The other percentage for him is looks  :)

The point is, men and women are extremely different.  And good relationships are built when both partners recognize that and make efforts to "see the other side".  It means listening to your wife with both ears instead of having one in the game.  It means having sex more or with more variety or whatever it is your partner wants.  Even if you don't want.

What it isn't - is assuming that you can do what you want and forever not have to worry because of the sacred bond of marriage.  It doesn't work that way.  It requires work.

This is a ramble.  I'm rambling.  Why?  Because I worry.  I worry about my relationship - I want it to work - both in the short term and in the long term.  I try to understand what makes him tick and I hope he's doing the same for me.  I want to make him happy and, through that, be happy too.  I hope he feels the same.

But I get it - I understand why these things happen.  And sometimes I can't even find fault.  I don't think it's automatically "bad" when an affair happens (outside of the collateral damage to the kids etc - that's ALWAYS bad).

Sorry again.  I needed to try and clear my head.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happiness is Your 21st Birthday

Today is Mah Burfday!!!  YEAH!!!

Today I turn 21.  September 15, 2011.  What a day. 

I feel different - I feel magic in the air around me.  The sun seems brighter and the trees greener.  I'm happy.

I can legally drink in New York (though to be sure it's never really been all that much of a problem obtaining alcohol when I've wanted it).  But more importantly, I'm a full-fledged adult.  No one can tell me I'm still a child anymore.  I'm part of the grown-up world.  A big deal for someone who has had to work extremely hard to "legitimize" who they are.

Tonight, my boyfriend (I love saying that!!) is taking me out to celebrate.  I don't know where we are going or what we are doing.  Only where I'm supposed to meet him and to dress nicely. 

Tomorrow I'll wake up and things will go back to normal.  The sun will seem it's usual brightness level and the trees might seem a tad more dull.

But today is my birthday and all is right with the universe.

Monday, September 12, 2011

When the World Came Crashing Down

Note - I actually wrote this yesterday and then spent hours debating if I should post it.  I was so young at the time, my memories so unclear.  But after sleeping on it, i decided to go with it (as I usually do):

I was a child when the towers fell.  Too young, even, to have yet been branded "rebel".  I remember the slight sense of panic in the teachers and administrators as we were herded from our classes.  I remember being home and my mother being extremely worried (my father was in the city, his cell was dead and we had no contact with him for several hours).  I remember.

In the years that followed, I have spent time trying to get a feel for what it might have felt like as an adult.  Knowing that this country had taken a blow that would change it forever.  Knowing that the inherent safety we all felt living in America was suddenly gone. 

I remember getting off in Penn Station with my dad once a few years after.  We passed the national guardsmen, with the big rifles and their bomb sniffing dogs. "This is our new reality, " he told me.  I don't remember a world where soldiers didn't prowl the nation's travel hubs.

But there is one thing that forever strikes me.  Of all the images, it's not the plane striking the second tower, the terrified scrams as the towers fell.  The large clouds of billowing ash and debris.  All horrifying in their own rights, for sure.  But forever seared in my brain will be the images of those who jumped from the towers.  Every time I try to imagine what was going through their minds as they clung to window sills-  the extreme heat, the terror - no possible rescue.  I try to imagine the horror of knowing that you best option is to leap a hundred stories to your death.  And my brain seizes up.  it does not allow me to even go there.  And I feel such an awful clenching in my guts.  And I know that there is the pain of an entire nation.  Wrapped up in the decision that to escape this pain, this heat this impending death is to chose to die on your own terms.

Yesterday's ceremony at ground zero was extremely well done and moving.  The falls and trees and pool is a wonderful monument to those who died.  To see the way the fire fighters still honor the first responders makes me feel that America as a country has not lost its way so far that we cannot come back.

I heard ex-New Jersey governor Patterson say that now that we have had out tenth year ceremony, it is time for America as a whole to move on.  Whether he's right or wrong aside, we may move on but we may never forget. 

The atrocity committed by those who hate us was the opening blow in a war that's lasted over 10 years.  It didn't end with the death of Bin Ladin.  Our enemy's heart is filled with a hatred for us and everything we believe in.  He will not rest until we are all dead.  And that is why we cannot rest either.  We must remember.

My birthday is almost here.  I'll be 21 - no longer a "child" in anyone's book.  I will have my own memories, my own feelings and my own life.   I will continue to move forward and try and make the most of the life I have.

But each year on September 11, I will remember the day the world came crashing down.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On the Brink of Happy Exhaustion

"I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink
I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink

I'm so tired I don't know what to do
I'm so tired my mind is set on you
I wonder should I call you but I know what you would do

You'd say I'm putting you on
But it's no joke, it's doing me harm
You know I can't sleep, I can't stop my brain
You know it's three weeks, I'm going insane
You know I'd give you everything I've got
for a little peace of mind

(John Lennon)

Hurricane Cymbaline is a Category 5.  Schools started, part time job starts next week, I have a full social life and a best friend on the mend.  Things are, as they say, busy but good.

So what's the problem?

The problem, my dear friends, is I don't sleep.  It's not nerves.  It's not even anxiety.  I just don't sleep.

My therapist has argued that alot of my lack of sleeping is due to the fact that for so long I was forced to "sleep" in places where I was too afraid to close my eyes.  Or was sleeping with people I didn't like.  Or in strange places where i never got comfortable.  Which is why i only really sleep when I'm just too exhausted not to or I'm very comfortable in my surroundings (like I do sleep better when I'm at David's parents house).  I think that's partly true. 

But there's another issue.  My brain.  it simply never stops.  I'm always thinking...over thinking...about something.  I'm not even talking about bad things.  Just everything.

This has led to some wonderful comments in the past.

Tova:  "I can't believe that a mind that works that hard produces so little."

David:  "I don;t get it.  You are up all night thinking??  That's what you do every second of every DAY!"

My friend Daniella (who came with my on the upstate vaca and shared a room with me (and took the now infamous waterfall bikini picture of me that appears to have accidentally spread past its intended recipient):  "Oh my god Cymbaline - you were thrashing around so much last night I thought a raccoon got in the window."

As you can see, my overactive brain is a constant source of amusement to my so-called "loved ones".  But it aint no joke to me.

My general pattern - have trouble falling asleep, finally falling asleep, sleeping poorly, waking up, staring at the ceiling or out the window and hoping I get back to sleep before my stupid alarm rings.  Sounds awesome no?

Melatonin?  Been there done that.  Sleeping pills?  Absolutely not.  I do not take pills (besides Advil) unless there is no other choice (too many bad memories).  Maybe I'll pretend it's the '50's and try warm milk.

So yeah, I'm tired alot.  On the brink of exhaustion even.  But right now, it's a happy exhaustion.  Things are good.  I'm not complaining.  The good news is that I'm so used to it, it barely effects my day to day.

But damn, what I'd do for a nice twelve hour deep sleep....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When the Stars Align - What Follows?

When your motto is "Winter is Coming", the supposition is that you are a negative person. 

I argue, to the death, that I am a pragmatist - a realist - not a pessimist.  That the reality is good follows bad and bad follows good from the time you are born until the time you die.  I have had more experience with the bad, which is why I look at it as "Winter is Coming" as opposed to "Summer is Soon on its Way".  It's neither good nor bad, it just is.

So what to think when stars begin to align

What to think when the boy you like has become your boyfriend?

What to think when your best friend begins the process of beating back the odds and continues to not just live, but improve?  (And even snuck off to Florida alone for the weekend without telling her best friend.)

What to think when at least a little of your faith in God has been restored?


I have begun to say a paragraph or 2 of Tehilim each day for Tova.  To most of you, this is a no-brainer.  I'm sure you all say Tehilim for sick people all of the time.  For me, as silly as it makes me feel - as red as my cheeks burn when i am doing it  - it suggests a level of religious commitment that I have not felt in a very long time.  (Perhaps the embarrassment is part of my penance - if so, bring it on.)

I have decided to attend shul on Yom Kippur this year.  I hope to go to Tova and go to her shul.  My mother will not want me in shul with her - the whispers of the prodigal daughter returning will be too much for her to bear.  I understand her shame.  While I may not agree with it, I suppose it would be counter-productive to attend shul and make her suffer on Yom Kippur.  (Any other day, no problem :)  ).  I don't want people to think my mother is trying to marry me off and therefore I'm back in shul to clean up my sullied image.  For while I do my best to portray the image of the good girl when I'm home, there are too many people who know what my life was before and the whispers will (righfully) always be there no matter what.


What to think when your stars begin to align

Should you be hopeful?  Or should you worry that if it all comes crashing down, you won't be strong enough this time to recover?  Should you think back at all the energy it took to get you to this point and worry that another loss will be one that you cannot recover from?

Or maybe, you should just be happy.  Happy you have a love.  Happy that your best friend is beating the odds.  Happy that MAYBE, just maybe, you will not be cursed to live an empty, faithless existence that you have dreaded for years.

I don't know the answer.  But I don't think I am expected to.  None of us, no matter how it looks, actually know the answer.  All we can do is work at it and hope we find enough that makes some sense to us.

Because after Winter surely comes Spring again.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Men Are Loveable Losers

So yesterday I picked up David's favorite healthy dinner from my neighborhood and took a train into the city.  The plan - surprise him when he got home from work (which I checked to make sure was happening right away) and hang out for a few hours.


Last night was David's fantasy football draft!  Which was held in his apartment.  With 9 of his closest friends.  Boy, was I surprised.

Let me explain this to all of you who aren't men.  They pick real football players to be on their "teams".  They every week the players get points based on how well they do and the person who has the most points, his team wins against another team. Got that?  Me neither.

The League is called "The League of Dorks" after their favorite sportswriter - who calls it the same thing.  So at least they know what they are.  After an uncomfortable discussion, it was agreed I was "cool" and could stay (most of these guys know me from hanging out with me all summer) so long as I kept my snarky comments to myself (except, of course, for the one creepy guy I never liked [and cannot understand why these guys hang out with him unless he has pictures of all of them doing inappropriate things] who kept staring daggers at me with a "but for Cymbaline we'd all be watching porn" look.  Good times).

Since there were 10 guys there, someone had brought in a greasy food extravaganza, which was washed down with beer (mmmm beer).  The awesomeness I had brought with me from home was wrapped up to"be eaten later" - i.e., thrown out after I left.

Well, if you are a guy, I do not have to tell you how the next few hours unfolded.  I was totally ignored while these losers studies spreadsheets (SPREADSHEETS?!?) and charts and made their picks and then ripped on each other for these self-same picks.  And I wasn't allowed to be snarky?  There were some hysterics when someone picked a guy named Aryan "too high" because he has a "bad hammy".  My god, wasn't the world a better place when these knuckleheads would just go PLAY football?  Though to be fair, these are some pretty funny guys and I found myself laughing at things I didn't really understand.

Anyways, because he felt bad for me, David let me name his team.  I was so flattered I almost cried.  I doubt I'd have been happier if he proposed to me right then and there. (The previous 2 sentences were sarcasm).  I resisted the urge to name them the "Ballerinas of the Pussies" out of pure spite and went with my motto instead - "Winter is Coming".  Since football is played mostly in winter, and it's kinda ominous, the idiots seemed to approve.

By the time I got back home it was late and I realized I hadn't eaten.  What was worse, the food I had brought was probably in David's building incinerator.  Eff my life.

On the bright side, I got to name a team in the coveted League of Dorks 2011 Fantasy Football League and once again re-affirm that which i already knew.  Men are loveable losers.

And let's face it ladies, we'd be pretty lost without 'em.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Littlest of Little Things

Inspired by Am Inspiration:

Bloggers have their style.  Some spout nonesense.  Some are about as eloquent as the great scribners. Some are funny.  Some...less so.  Some are all over the place, from Torah thoughts to movies to their stupid loser fantasy football leagues (just kidding Ezzie).

Many look to find lessons.  They see inspiration in small things - they tie it back to God, to religion.  They manage to enrich their lives by mining the day to day into golden nuggets.

So I was chatting with Am about it this morning.  She wrote a really nice post and we were discussing it.  I mentioned to her that she, like others, manages to find sparks of religion or God in their moments of time.

My reply - I don't get inspired BY the little things - I live in awe of the little things.


Let me explain the difference. 

To me, living a "normal" life is one of the greatest accomplishments I've managed for myself in my time on this planet.   

Small, normal things. 

A life.  No red carpets, glamour magazine shoots, late night parties.  A simple, day-to-day accomplishment.  Where I'm coming from, this is EVERYTHING.

Waking up in a strange place.  Fuck that, not even sleeping to begin with.  Lying next to strangers.  Coming down off highs, drunks.  Associating with people you abhor so that you have a place.  Giving yourself away in exchange for a false sense of belonging.  Trying to come to grips with the fact that the people who are supposed to love you the most would erase you from the world if they could do it without committing murder.

That was my world for my entire adolescence.  I've seen people like me end up dead or worse than dead.  The living dead.  Or messed up with so many issues that they are incapable of living a normal life.

But how am I ending up?  Perhaps "normal" is a bit of a stretch?  Ok, I will concede that. 

But look at me kids.  I'm living a "normal life.  Waking up in my bed, going to buy coffee (yes I'm a coffee snob - screw you if you don't like it), going to school, doing well enough at a job that they asked me back - for pay (!!!). Keeping a boyfriend and a sick best friend in line.

Is it perfect?  Hells no.  I still have trouble sleeping.  I still haven't found my place in Judaism.  But I'm working at it.  I'm working hard.  And isn't that what being normal is?  Struggling and striving and trying to do better?

Elul, Spetember, whatever the month.  I cannot speak for anyone else.  I try to live the same way ALL YEAR LONG.  I try to improve myself EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I don't wait for occassions.  I don't "do teshuva" or "make New year's resolutions". 

Hmmm, maybe not so normal after-all.