Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Required Reading For All The Lost Souls (Including Me)

Dear Chana.  Thanks for this.  Spot on as always.  You could be writing for any one of our "club" (and you so often do).

I disagree with you on one point.  We can indeed outrun our past.  With hard work, with determination - with the right therapist of course.  We never leave it completely behind, but we don't have to make it an albatross either.
I like LOVE your Lord of the Rings analogy.  We Lost Souls are indeed the Fellowship.  We begin our quest - a fool's quest for sure - in doubt and confusion.  The end looks as far away as Mordor.  Certainly, we lose a Boromir on the way.  A Gandalf falls.  But those hearty enough to see it through get to become Kings, wander Fanghorn Forest with our best friends, or simply return to the shire to live in peace.  The luckiest of us even get to sail West.

And though some Gandalfs fall, often they come back to us, at the turn of the tide. 

Yes, we have suffered.  And yes we sometimes fall back into doubt.  But life isn't always a slog.  Sometimes it's pure wonderment.  For you, Chana, it's a dance.  For me, it's a perfect eight plus minute song that lifts me to new heights. 

So you know what I say?  I say bully to your slog.  Bully to your albatross.  We have crawled into the ring of fire and we have emerged on the other side - hardened and better than when we started.

Those memories?  That's what they are.  Memories.  And memories run slow.  Not like us Found Souls.

For Found souls are swifter than Shadowfax.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hey Ma'am, You Really HAVE Come So Far - Thanks For The Reminder

Last night I went to a shiva house.  A girl I was friendly with from my "bad old days" (let's call her "A") lost her father.  Now while I am supposed to stay away from my old connections, I decided to see her (I'm sure my therapist would be properly appalled).

I dragged David with me cause I hate these things.  They are so awkward and uncomfortable, especially if you aren't really so close with the person.  Thus the morale support (from a grumbling "I'm missing BOTH the Knicks and the Rangers for this" David - what a man!  I really picked a winner!  Thank goodness both teams ended up winning, no harm done.)

Her parent's (mother's now, I guess) apartment was packed  - not so much because of the volume of people in it, but rather because it's really, really small.  They had sold their house and moved into this one bedroom when their kids all left the nest (or were thrown out, in some cases).

Mom, her older sister and her brother are all sitting in low chairs in one corner.  A is slightly off to the side, in a regular chair, all by her lonesome.  David and I go sit by her. 

I'm immediately struck by her eyes.  Not their beauty, rather their lack of focus.  "Jesus," I think, "she's lit up at her own shiva house.  That's totally fucked up".  David, by the way, is suddenly so interested in a painting on the wall to the side, that he can't seem to take his eyes off it.

After about thirty seconds of trying to figure out who I am, A lights up (like a joint).  "Cymbaline," she says.  I ask about her dad ("yea he's been sick awhile. I'm not really sure"), how her life is ("trying to get clean, but, like, it's not so easy you know?").  It's clear from the way the chairs are set up that I'd be wasting my time asking about her family, so I let that subject be.  And then there's nothing really much left to say.

We sit there awhile because I felt it would be rude to get up so quickly.  A few minutes later, another girl from my past walks in.  "B". 

B looks like she just finished spending the last 12 hours trolling for johns in the red light district.  She's dishevelled, inappropriately dressed and clearly drunk or high.  Unlike A, she recognizes me right away.  We chat for a few minutes.  I ask her how she's doing.  "You know," she says. 

Except I don't know.  I know it looks like she hasn't changed a bit in the last two years (except she dropped about 10 pounds she couldn't spare and she has a new set of lines under her eyes that I don't remember.  She's looking 42 even though she can't be more than 25).  We make some more small talk  (all about her  - neither A nor B ask me one question about myself despite how different I must look now) and I yank David out of his chair and we make for the door like the hounds of hell are on my tail.

In the car he asks the obvious question - "you used to hang around with those lunatics?"

I can't expect him to really understand.  He or or anyone else who never went through it.  I didn't have options.  I didn't have expanded social circles.  I had compatriots.  People fighting the same war against their parents/religion/society/the establishment that I was.  Our army is pretty exclusive.  You need to be a fucked up "lunatic" to join to begin with.

So yes, I did hang around with those "lunatics".  But seeing them last night made me realize.  I have been honorably discharged from that army.  I no longer fit in with that world.  I have an education, work experience (though I just quit my part time job) I have a life waiting for me.  I'm off the sauce, off the drugs.  I am grounded and anchored.  And while I still understand that army, they are no longer me.  And that's exactly why none of them had a question for me.  Or wondered how I am.  Or gave me any real information on themselves for that matter.  They know I'm not one of them anymore.  So I'm just another square who they can no longer relate to.

So this was, for the record, the best Shiva call ever.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Another Hurdle Cleared

Obviously not word for word, but definitely close enough to be written down:

"So I have a confession to make," she said.

His face curls into mock horror.  "Oh God, here we go again."

She punches him, hard, on his arm.  "What's that supposed to mean?"

He grins, but at least he's rubbing his arm.  "Nothing.  What's your confession?"

"I have a blog."  There, she thinks, it's out there.  For the world to see.  Can't be taken back.

"A blog?"  She nods.  "Cool, like _____land"  He names something.

"What's that?" she asks.

"It's a sports blog.  Written by my favorite writer for"

She sighs.  "No, nothing like that.  It's a personal blog.  Like a journal.  My therapist had suggested I start a journal, like a year ago.  So I decided to blog it."  And then, as an after-thought, "it's totally anonymous.  I write under a pseudonym."

He makes that face he makes when he's thinking.  "OK.  Can I read it?"


"Why not?"  He gives her indignant.

"Cause there's a bunch of stuff in there....about you."

"What do you mean about me?"

"Well it's my journal.  So you're in it."

"And people are reading this?"

"Yes, but they don't know it's you.  The whole thing is anonymous."

"Hmm."  Still with the thinking face.  "So I can't read it?"

She sighs again.  "I've thought about this a lot.  At first I wasn't even going to tell you about it.  But I don't want there to be any secrets between us.  So then I decided to tell you.  But now...look, if you really want to read it, you can read it."

"It is good?"

"I guess so.  I can't really judge it cause it's mine."

"And people read it?"

"Yea, I don't know why exactly, but people read it."

"How many?"

" 10 or 15 I guess."

"Well.....I would be lying if I said I wasn't massively curious you know."  He looks at me expectantly.  I look back, also expectantly.  It's an awkward stalemate.  He breaks it first.  "But it's not about sports?"

I laugh.  Well, I did write something about J-Lin" [Editor's Note:  that's what us cool insiders call Jeremy Lin].

"I'd like to read it," he finally says.  "But not if it's going to make trouble for you and me."

"Then I'll lie to you and tell you it will."  They laugh.

And that's kind of how we left it - open.  I didn't give him the link yet.  Truthfully, I'm afraid to.  If I do, I won' be able to write the same way.  I will have to conceal certain things.  You hear that David, you are fucking everything up!!  So we will see how it goes.  But I know I did the right thing.  So that's the price of right-ness I guess.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happiness is a.......

"A warm puppy" (ask the Peanuts gang).

"A warm gun" (ask John Lennon and the Beatles).

"A warm, glowing feeling that doesn't seem to want to go away, that lifts you and holds you in ways you have never felt before" (ask me).


Until recently I didn't know what happiness was

Don't get me wrong, it's not like I've never been happy.  Everyone has moments of happiness, even the vast majority of unhappy people.  So I knew what it was like to feel happy - but I had never ever experienced true, enveloping happiness.

To such a degree, dear reader, that when I recently began experiencing true happiness, I had no idea what it was I was feeling.  It took me days to process (yes, I know how sad that is).  Was it gas?  Indigestion?  A delayed high from some drug I took 5 years ago? 

But then it hit me - that euphoric feeling I was having, that sustained euphoria, was happiness.

This realization came in two stages:

 Stage I - "Wow, that's happiness!!  And happiness feels awesome!!"

Followed by Stage II - "Wow, I just realized it took me two days to realize I was happy because I have never been really happy before" (which, for the record, feels less awesome, however that less awesome realization got washed away in the glow of happiness)!

So dear friends, the good news is I'm very, very happy these days.  The even better news?  There's no bad news.  Right now the other shoe isn't dropping.  And even cooler - I'm not waiting for it to drop either.

I know I won't be happy forever.  I know that life is a series of ups and downs and middle grounds.  It's not sustained euphoria.  But now I know that I can be happy, that I am happy, and that's the best feeling that there is.  It's almost like discovering chocolate for the first time every single day - only with no calories or guilt!

No - I am not trying to shove this into the face of people who are currently not so happy.  But this is new territory for me and I wanted to see what it looked like in print.

And you know what?  It looks pretty good.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hey, Hey What Can I Do

You can't win 'em all.  Sometimes, you can't win any. 

The fool never learns this lesson.  The fool bangs her head against the brick wall, over and over, until she's dented and bleeding and hurt - still not understanding why nothing has changed.

The wise fool?  The wise fool learns that, after the fourth or fifth bang, when the blood start dripping and matting her hair against her forehead, it's time to disengage from her fool's errand.

So what am I, the fool or the wise fool? 

I'm happy to report that I was the fool - but time and experience have made me the wise(r) fool.  I have stopped banging my head against a certain wall that cannot yield.  I've stopped crying out in frustration from things beyond my control (or, at least some things I cannot control).

Last year I would have understood my backing off as a "loss".  I have lost this battle.  I let her beat me. Again. 

But last year I was a fool. 

Now I'm a (partially) wise fool.  And I understand that I have not lost, I have gained.  Sanity, peace of mind.  It's not my headache now, it's theirs.  They are free to work it out however they want - the only rule being I am not involved in any fighting and I get final ok on everything. 

All the say, none of the headaches.

 So what am I, the fool or the wise fool? 

Looking at it, maybe I'm neither. 

Maybe, just this one time, I'm the wise one after all.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What a Difference A Year Makes

Once Upon a Time, a very, very good and caring therapist told a recovering wreck to keep a journal in the media of her choice in order to use as a tool for self-assessment.  The recovering wreck decided on a blog - her idea being that she'd write stuff down and it would be "out there" for the world to see - but since no one was really going to read it, it wasn't that big a deal. 

Of course, she turned out to be wrong about everything.

So somehow, I've managed to keep this journal for a year.  I didn't think, initially, I'd last a month.  So a year is pretty good.

And what a difference a year makes eh?

THEN - I was a completely non-observant Jew who didn't care a whit for Judaism.

NOW  - I am a semi-observant Jew trying to find a permanent place within Judaism.

THEN - My best friend was about to enter a really dark tunnel for the third time - a tunnel that even she didn't think she was coming out of.

NOW - She seems to have come out the other side, certainly worse for wear, but improving every single day.  And, for the first time in a while, there's actual hope.

THEN - I looked at all frum Jews the same - they were all a bunch of hypocritical assholes who didn't practice what they preached or, even worse, believed every single word of their insanity.

NOW - I see that frum Jews, like everyone else, are diverse and even good people.  Just kidding about the "even".

THEN - I had a shit relationship with my mother, and the relationship with my dad was on life support at best.

NOW - I still have a shit relationship with my mother (hey, this isn't a fairy tale) but my relationship with my dad has improved dramatically, as has my relationship with my older brother.

THEN - I was about to be single (again) and the only real relationship I'd ever had with a guy was the one I had with my aforementioned therapist.

NOW - I'm engaged to be married this summer to the most wonderful guy ever.

How much of that has to do with the journal?  Well not that much - BUT:

  It has helped provide a lens with which I have used to view the change.  I re-read alot much  of what I've written in the last year and I can see a change that has taken place.  Where I have been, dare I say, jaded? in the past, I feel much more of a sense of openness and optimism about things.  Even things I was so sure of in the past.  So the journal has served its purpose.

  I've been exposed to many Jews - I've read their own journals, I've spent time chatting with them - and I feel that has helped me gain a tremendous amount of perspective about observant Jews:

 - the ones who are strongly observant yet still struggle with their Judaism  - showing me that it's not one or the other - it can be both.

 - the ones who have shown me that not everyone who lives in the South is slow-witted (just kidding!!).

 - the ones whose writing has touched my soul.

 - the ones who have shared a similar journey to my own, who are still effected by it, but have managed to carve out places for themselves in the world despite of it.

 - the girls who share my love of all things Ice and Fire - and who made it ok for me to embrace my inner-geekness.

 - the ones who have tested my patience but in the end it was all good.

 - the ones who have provided me with outstanding ears to listen as well as wonderful advice - all without pushing too hard to break past the barriers I've set up to keep a level of anonymity.

 - the ones who let me be silly with them when I needed it, or listened to me bitch and whine when I needed it, who made me laugh when i needed it and who sagely told me I was being an idiot when that was called for too.

Yes, it's been quite a year.  I've struggled, I've fallen back, I climbed back up and to a large extent I've overcome.  It's actually been a great year.  And this journal has acted as a record of it for me.  Bless you Dr. Therapist.  Another feather in your cap vis a vis me.

So I don't know if blog anniversaries are a big deal or not, but I shall mark this one anyway.  A year in the life of a former recovering wreck  - now just a girl in the world. 

Who knows what the next year will bring?