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.