Thursday, May 31, 2012

On the Other Hand, Maybe Not

On a warm, but not hot, morning...

Surrounded by classmates, many of whom you've never seen before....

Your loved ones close by (and some texting you nonstop)....

Sitting with the friends you have made during the slog.....

Listening to many people speak, some terrible, some douche-y and some brilliant.....

Maybe...

Maybe, when you factor in the lunch plans after, and the dinner plans after that...

When you are reminded that hey, there really are people who really do care about you and want you to succeed....

Maybe when you realize that when you have accomplished what was once the MOST important life goal you had (even if that has changed over time)...

Maybe graduation isn't so anti-climactic after all.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Slightly Anti-Climactic

And just like that, it's over. 

No more teachers, no more books.  Can't say I got many dirty looks in college though.

My tests are done, papers in, grades back.  All that's left to do is put on a cap, a gown and sit in the warm air while some guy with a pretentious name like Alistair Guggenheim tells you about how wonderful your future is going to be.  Followed, of course, by the traditional going out to eat with your loved ones.

And I've now had a long holiday weekend to process it. 

And still, it lacks the...I don't know..excitement?...I was expecting.

But that's ok.  Not everything needs a marching band playing in your head while thousands wave and laugh and cry over your successes.  Sometimes quiet satisfaction is enough.

Straighten life around?  Check

Graduate college with a degree?  Check

These are the milestones of my recovery.  I will always have them, even if i don't feel an overwhelming urge to necessarily celebrate them like i always dreamed i would.

Onward...upward.  Even without the marching bands and fancy music.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Getting There

I am.....

SoClose....

To being...

where I want to...

where I need to...

be.



I am, so close, to being where I've dreamed of being.

So close.  Not so close yet so far.  But just so close.

I can feel it,

taste it.

Soon I will be there.  Nothing will stop me.  I will be there.

I'm getting there.



Friday, May 18, 2012

Surreality

Did you ever feel the life you are living isn't your own?  Like somehow you feel into a dream, fantasy or nightmare and the events unfolding around you are those of a stranger which you happen to experience?

I used to feel that way often.  For long stretches, I used to live in a nightmare dream from which I could not awake.  I did things, experienced things, all of them happenings of another simply seen through my eyes.

Retrospectively, in therapy, I gave it a name -

Surreality - the feeling that the real life you are living feels like a dream or nightmare.

Surreality isn't always bad.  How do I know this?  Because I'm experiencing it right now.  Studying for my last tests, writing my last papers, watching a perfectly beautiful dress be destroyed in the name of tznious be made, preparing mentally, physically and emotionally for a new future together with David - all of it happening in a dream-like state.

Surreality.

If this really happening to me? Is this really my life? 

Over the long haul, I doubt anyone's life remains stagnant permanently.  I suffered a long series of lows, yet now I feel total reversal - I'm enjoying a string of highs.  So much so that it took me months to realize that the feelings I was feeling were those of happiness (a foreign word in my vocabulary up until that point).

Surreality

Here I am, finishing up a part of my life - a very important part - and it's all coming together.  A degree, a husband, a new life outside of my home.  In the City no less!  I'm so excited (and will be even more so when I unleash my taste on David's apartment and it magically transforms from bachelor pad to awesome couple's first home together).

Surreality.

Yesterday I took a break from the one day of studying I had done so far to go with Tova on a field trip.  We randomly selected Coney Island.  We drove down Surf Avenue, got cold beverages and walked on the end of the Boardwalk.  It was cool and breezy by the shore but it sure felt a whole lot like summer.

Surreality.

Except this is my real life.  It isn't a dream at all.  And the events unfolding?  They are mine too.

The best part?  For the first time ever, I'm not nervously waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Break From Tradition - But I Wouldn't Read Too Much Into It

Mother's Day in Casa De Cymbaline has always been a big deal. At 11:00 am, the entire family (sans anyone learning in Israel for the year) sits down in the dining room and eats a massively sumptuous brunch feast prepared by my older brother who, if it was more socially acceptable in our circles, would be a great chef somewhere.  Then, at my father's beckoning, everyone around the table chokes out says something nice about my mother. 

Not that I know about this firs hand.  You will be shocked to earn that the last time I attended this family function was when I was 13 years old.  At that event I stood up, smiled sweetly and said "Mom is a dragon lady.  There's nothing about her I love" - at which point I was banished to my room and banned from further events.  (Yes I know how awful and immature I was and yes to this day that memory puts a smile on my face.  Evil laugh. And I know the feast was sumptuous because I vultured the leftovers.

So fast forward eight years.  Imagine every one's surprise when Cymbaline comes into the dining room, dressed up for the occasion, presents her mother a card, and sits down at the table!  When it was her turn to speak, she stood up (no sweet smile) and choked out said "I want to thank you for all of the hard work you have put into the wedding.  I really appreciate it and it's taken a tremendous, unwanted burden off of me."  Mother nodded her head in thanks.  (By the way, the card had the same message - thanks for planning the wedding.)

Sitting down and picking up my fork, I couldn't help but notice my older brother covering his smile with a napkin.  "Jackass," I mutter under my breath. 

Later, we did lunch/dinner (lupper?) at David's house.  Much less formal, no going around the table.  Though I did say that I appreciated how much she (and everyone else) has invited me into their family and taken me in as one of their own.  Everyone said "awww" in unison and then the conversation turned back to the Rangers hockey team.  I guess when you actually love your mother, you don't have to make as much of an effort.

*****

Be the bigger person.  That's what they say.  Let go.  Don't hold a soul eating grudge.  It's all true.  And I think it's better to live that than to just spout off about it.

I've written recently that in order to fully move on, I need to forgive her and forget her.  Well, this was an active part of the process.  Give the devil his due, they say.  And I did.  Although she's doing it in her own commandeering way, taking everything over and being bossy, the fact is she has taken an unwanted burden from me.  And for that she got thanks.


Oh and a belated Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers (and future mothers) out there.  :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Saving Our Souls One Rule at a Time - Part II And a Goodbye to Some of You

Disclaimer:  I have a certain background and that causes me to have certain negative feelings towards orthodox Judaism and it's leadership.  So anything I say should be read with that in mind.  These are my opinions only.  But each and every opinion set forth here is based upon conversations I've had with people in all worlds.

Disclaimer 2:  I think the internet is a wonderful tool.  I also think it is a dangerous tool.  I do not disagree with that assertion.  I have seen bad things, discussed bad things and even done bad things on the internet.  And what's true for me is undoubtedly true (in some form or another) for each and every one of you. And not only bad things - also simply wasteful.  E.g., David is a Tweeter - I've seen his twitter feed.  Between his friends and sports writers, he follows like 70 people.  There is a constant stream of information on his page.  If he were to follow each tweet, he'd literally do nothing all day.  So from these perspectives, I get why certain Jewish leaders believe the internet can be a dangerous place.

HOWEVER

This was the front page otfthe New York Times this morning.  Now I would be the first person to opine that the New York Times has a very liberal agenda, one which does not include Israel of orthodox Jewery.  Anyone who knows me in real life has heard my anti NY Times rants.

Now as bad as the internet is, where is the public outcry in the Chasidish world about child abuse?  Molestation?  Sexual abuse?  Wouldn't we be MUCH better off if the Jewish leadership sat 40,000 people down in Citi Field and explained to them that these problems are significantly worse than looking at porn on the internet?  Am I crazy to think that way?

A couple of stories I'd like to share with you.  These are real life stories, told to me by the people they happened to.  You can choose to believe them or not.

Story one - This is one I've heard from at least half a dozen chasidish guys and "confirmed", if you will, by several more who say they've seen  but not participated.  There is a decent percentage (no I do not have a number nor do I want to guess) of chasidish males who are having their first sexual experience with other males in their yeshivos.  Each and every one that I spoke to states this as if is completely normal.  After all, they have no contact with females when they are hitting puberty so they use what's available.  Interestingly enough, each of the people I spoke to speak negatively about gay people and homosexuality, and seem to draw conclusions that what they experienced was somehow not a homosexual experience.  Not judging this one way or the other, I'm merely setting forth a fact.

Story Number Two - I have an email correspondence going back and forth with a reader who is, wonderfully enough, getting married in a few weeks.  She is 19 years old, from a very frum (yeshivish) community and is marrying a seemingly wonderful guy.  She wrote to me because a) her kallah teacher talks about sex as if it is some sort of Holy Episode and, from the way Teacher describes it, it sounds to the poor kallah like Teacher is talking about something she's never herself actually experienced.  It's like a theoretical exercise out of a sefer.  And b) the one married friend she talked to about it (and the only one she felt comfortable enough discussing it with) described sex as follows "it hurts at first but you get used to it".  (IT HURTS AT FIRST THEN YOU GET USED TO IT?????????  Bites down hard on tongue.)  So this poor girl, who has never experienced any sort of physical relationship, emailed me because apparently it's been intimated that I've had sex before (how you fuckers saw through my "tennis analogy" is beyond me.  You all are so clever) to know if sex was some magically holy act which hurt and wasn't in any way enjoyable.  My response to her is irrelevant for this discussion.

Story Number Three - I was sexually  abused.  Not by my parents (that was simply emotional abuse Mom, don't worry), my creepy uncle, my third grade Morah or a stalker in the mikvah.  I was abused by guys, some kippah wearing and Shabbos observing, who knowingly preyed on my weaknesses and my needs and my addictions to get what they wanted from me.  Partly my fault?  To some degree, yes. And yes, I know it isn't the same thing as family or teacher or leader abuse, nor am I comparing the same, but I am making an over all point below.

Story Number Four - I'm not telling you story number 4.  But I will only say I heard it from the abused person, it's horrible, and, last I heard, the victim of this crime is currently unable to function in society without the aid of illegal drugs.  I still cannot think of this without getting sweaty and feeling uncomfortable/ill in the pit of my stomach.


What's my point?  My point is simple - and not original in any way. 

Giant rallies against the internet, and internet filters, are like putting lipstick on a pig.  The ugliness is still there. 

Can anyone really tell me that the "internet problem" is more severe than the abuse issue?  Or the fact that so many walls have been put up regarding sex in the Jewish community that it's viewed by our young people as "evil" and shameful - two very CATHOLIC ideas.

People, the problem isn't the internet.  The internet is simply a symptom of a much bigger problem.  And making more and more and stricter and stricter rules won't help.  There will always be a way.  Take away the internet and people will just do what they will do in "real" life.  Take away girls and boys will find boys.  Take away information and candidness about sex and you will make sexually dysfunctional marriages.

And for fuck's sake, stop protecting abusers of the innocent!!!

And now - my goodbye to some of you - specifically those of you who will be putting filters on your internet.  I'm pretty sure this blog isn't going to make the "cut"  - especially if this guy's blog didn't.  So to those of you who will be filtered, I say fare ye well.  I enjoyed having you here and I shall miss you!

At least until you leave your house, log on at work or on your wireless, filter free devices.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Saving Our Souls One New Rule at a Time - UPDATED

So long story short - W shouldn't care about this because it's not even the rabbis, it's their handlers, and the rabbis arent crooked, it's just their handlers are.  And it's not the rabbis, it's a bunch of guys who are out to make a shitload of money from selling filters that the rabbis, who aren't responsible for all this (their handlers are), are going to tell everyone there they need to get on their computers.

Now granted, I didn't really lsiten to the stories so much, but in all the stories about the great rabbis, wasn't it the job of the handlers to run around and do what the rabbis wanted???  NOT the other way around??? 

How did it become so turned around?  How did it become a situation where these rabbis, in their ivory towers, are so....busy? learned?  engaged in heaven?  that they need handlers to tell them what to do?  Is that the evolution of Judaism?  From great rabbis to those with their heads in the sand?

I think I'm actually MORE confused now.

***

A Song of Ice and Fire contains great lords and their bannermen.  Bannermen being those who serve those lords, who pay allegiance to those lords, and when war is upon them, the Lords will "raise their banners" and all bannermen will come to fight.

Judaism has bannermen too. 

They love to ban.  The ban Jewish music concerts. They ban minor league baseball games. They ban TV's movies and popular music. They ban people who oppose them.

And now here they come, ready to ban the internet.

Not to be general, but there are certain sects of Judaism which are controlled by those who want but one thing - Control.  It isn't about serving their god perfectly under the guise of the Lord, it's simply a power grab.  And gods be good to all who oppose them.  Shit they've even authorized burning houses down, what's banning some cyberspace?

Bannermen. 

Why?  For whose good? 

I'm not going to try and discuss the issue on the merits.  What's the point?  I have my opinion, the zealots have theirs.  Never the twain shall meet.

All I will do is issue the following paraphrased warning  - stolen from Princess Lea of all people - "The tighter your grasp, the more that slips through your fingers."

By all means, ban the internet - so people will have their computers delivered in Boxes which say "Dryer' on it, they way they do with their TV's.  You can;'t stop what people do in the privacy of their own homes. 

Here's the saddest part - in two years, when people are still having marriage problems and issues of "sexual depravity", what will they blame, and ban, next?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Evolution of Life's Priorities

On my road to recovery, one of the things which really kept me going was my Road Map. 

What, you ask, is my Road Map? I shall explain.

As you might have noticed, I'm a thinker.  I think things through.  I wonder about all options.  I decide on plans.  And so I decided to set forth a road map of my life goals - the aims I was striving for - and to mark the progress on the Road Map as personal success; each land mark reached an indication of how far I've come.

It was, and in my own humble opinion still is, a worthwhile venture.  Without a doubt, seeing lights at the end of the tunnel help propel me forward when I was feeling weak or insecure or feeling as though I wasn't making progress.

The Road Map was divided into two parts - short and long term goals.  The short term goals were all specifically related to my therapy and not relevant for this post.  The long term goals, however, were my true goals for life.

They were, in order (and skipping some):

Get Back To College
Graduate
Find my own place
Get my dream job
Succeed at my dream job
Get married at about 30 to a non-Jew; and
MAYBE have a kid at 33.  MAYBE.

Yes, it really was that specific about ages.  (See, as an 18/19 year old, I was clearly a genius, with all the answers, who know exactly what she wanted.)

Each milestone on this Map, in my mind, was an essential measuring stick of my success as a human being.  Each step progress in the path of my own life.  Each point reached a giant "fuck you" to anyone and everyone who didn't think I could do it. 

And I threw myself into it.  At first, the short term goals.  With gusto.  With fervor.  With everything I had.  Because my therapist told me there would be no long term success until the short term goals were reached.  And I'm nothing if not persistent.

However, this was all before I had heard of the saying "Man plans and God laughs".  (This was also before I believed in God so the saying would have been nonsensical at any rate.)

But you know what?  Man plans and God laughs.  But not always in a bad way.

I did get back in school.  At some point, I amended the road map to getting married at 27-30 to a non-observant Jew and have one or maybe two kids 29-33.

Now here I am.  I'm getting married at 21 to an observant Jew, I can foresee having maybe even three kids (!!!)  - all before 30.  I still want to try and find my dream job, but I no longer think that my success in the work force is more important than raising a family.

And, while I will be graduating college this spring, this accomplishment suddenly feels less important than it did three years ago.

I'm not really sure what to make of this either.  On the one hand, graduating college used to be the ultimate proof that I was something on my own.  That I could function as a productive person in the world.  My BA was going to be like a flaming sword, cutting through the darkness and shining a path to whatever the future held for me (you know, a great job, a non-Jewish husband and a kid at 33).

Now, I still think about it with a sense of accomplishment, but that's it.  It's a milestone in life, one that a thousand other people accomplished with me in my school alone (ok, that's an exaggeration but not much of one).  But suddenly, I look at my college sword and all there is is a damp flicker of light.

Yet there is a bright light coming from somewhere

My personal life sword stands as a beacon now.  I see that my excitement at my graduation has waned because my priorities have changed.  I'm no longer 18/19 year old Cymbaline struggling to be someone.  I suddenly AM someone.  And I have accomplished.  And yes, over time, things which seemed so important to me at one stage of my life are no longer the end all's and be all's.

Does that make me a failure?  Of course not.  It makes me a person.  A real person.  Which is what I've always wanted to be anyway.

So do I crumple up the Road Map?  Fold it and place it neatly in some box in the garage never to be seen or heard from again?  No way.  Instead I amend it, re-draw it and hope to look at it fondly in five or ten years and laugh about 21 year old Cymbaline's ideals.  Because I'm sure over the next 5-10 years those will change as well.

People change.  It's just the way of the world.  We learn more, we mature.  We grow up and our priorities change.

Now excuse me while I try to accomplish my new plans before God starts laughing again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Why We Fight"

The sound of soft knocks against my door woke me up this morning. 

Confusing because:

 a) Everyone is confused when they first wake up and b) no one EVER knocks on my door for pretty much any reason.

And just like last time, it's my dad.

"Maybe you shouldn't go to school today he says."  I look at him, puzzled.  "It's really coming down out there.  It may not be safe to drive."  He pauses.  "The weddings coming soon you know."

For the first time, I become aware of the sound of rain pounding against the skylight in my bathroom.  It is loud.  I won't go to the gym, I tell him.  I'll wait to see if the weather clears up before I go.  If it stays this bad, I'll stay home today.

He looks satisfied.  "Ok, I'm off to shul.  Have a nice day."  He gently closes my door.  

I bury myself back under my covers.  But there will be no more sleep for me this morning.  But for a good reason this time.  I feel a spreading warmth inside me.  It feels as though it starts at the heart, radiating outwards from there. 

It feels like being loved. 

Life is a series of events.  It moves fast.  Things happen in an instant and then they are gone.  Moments occur which, if properly judged, would have huge impacts on our lives.  Sometimes we see them and sometimes we flat out miss them too.

But this morning I have not missed the moment.  My father, who is very guarded and not exactly what one would describe as a mush ball, has sent me two messages - the first is that he loves me and cares about me.  The second is that he approves of David and me spending my life with him. 

Now you might tell me I'm reading too much into this moment, to his words, but I will tell you that you are wrong.  Because I know people - I know HIM - and I know what our two minute interaction symbolized.

Life is a series of events.  Many, if not most, mundane.  Some wonderful and some downright horrible. 

Why do we live?  What makes it all worth it?  Why do we fight - slog through the muck?  The answer is because when we do slog through - and when we recognize the special moments (a baby's first step, true love's first kiss, a parent's love) - we get to feel the warm glow spreading inside us.

And it feels like being loved.