Posted in Life

The Topsy Turvy Day

I would have to say that Purim this year was a bit bitter-sweet, and a lot happened.

It started at work. I decided to dress up as the Milky Way. I found a really pretty silver tutu like skirt (I would wear it for real), a silver shirt, made stars from tin foil (need to find something better for next time), had a silver head band, and then lots of glitter all over my face. The residents loved it (well most of them…one didn’t like that I had silver lips). There is something very fun about walking in the streets fully dressed up, as if there is nothing strange about it.

This is something I will actually miss. On my way to shul, it made me think about Yom Kippur. There was the same feeling in the air. The sun goes down; everyone is rushing to get to shul on time, trying to find parking… just this time everyone is in costume instead of in white (which might also be a costume). But there is something there. I don’t know if the same feeling happens in other places in Israel, but I feel like it will be different next year when I am in the US.

For the past 5 years, I have helped a friend of mine organize a Megilla reading. It started out small, at his apartment. When we out grew his apartment, we moved to mine. And for the past three years, we had gotten so big that we moved to a shul that gave us space. In addition to running Megilla reading, we used to run a minyan that met monthly on Shabbat mornings, monthly for Kabbalat Shabbat at the nursing home, and hakafot for Simchat Torah. So, this year right before we started davening, the third member of our organizing group told me he needed to make an announcement, so I said go for it. It turned out to be a thank you and goodbye message for everything that I have done over the past years…

The reading went really well. And it was nice to be with all of my friends. It is at times like this, that I think to myself, “wow I can actually be a rabbi”. Here I am in a shul, not just of my peers (members of the shul are also invited and we get over 100 people), giving announcements, it being my job to give the nod to continue davening, it not being strange or inappropriate for me to walk over to those reading to tell them to be louder. So really I need to say thank you to the community for allowing me to practice this role as I am studying.

Following Megilla reading, I went to a friend’s party. It is just starting to get around that I am leaving, and so the questions that I get are “when are you off”, and the date is not that far off. I am no longer saying “sometime in May”, but rather “May 16” which is in 6 weeks from now…

My friend R and I, have a tradition of going out together after Megilla reading- this year we went to the shuk. It was only just starting as we got there, and we got there at 10pm! She eventually left, but I stayed and danced a bit more with my friend N, taking in the costumes, music and intoxication of the area. We eventually met up with a friend of hers, who was playing the accordion. We were tired (as it was almost 1:30), and decided to walk home, and for about half the journey we were accompanied by an accordionist. Some of the time we were just talking, and other times just dancing along- the beauty of Purim where anything goes. J Eventually we got to a bar, and had some beer as the last customers of the night.

Israel changed their clocks that night (oh so silly), so by the time I got home it was 3am, and I had to be up at 8 to put together the mishloach manot, get dressed, and make it in time to Megilla reading.

As per usual I went to the women’s Megilla reading at my friend’s house. After hearing the Megilla, I had some whiskey and hung out, till I left to my former chevruta’s house.  From there I went to party #1 my friend Y’s parent’s house. The food was great, and it was so nice to be able to see my friend who is so often not in the country. And then I went to party #2, at shuk boy’s house.

Things have been funny with him lately, as he is not very happy that I am leaving. I got to his house around dessert time, so people were quite drunk. And as I entered, there was lots of cheering- all put to a stop by him, to make a serious speech about our friendship- how we met, some of our traditions, how he is going to miss me….

Another funny thing about him is that he doesn’t touch me. Why, I’m not really sure, but it is just not something that he does (he does touch other women). Well, the next thing I knew, his face was on my (actually happened twice), taking off my glitter and it going on to his face (there really was a lot, I was still covered in it). I was so taken aback, that I didn’t really know what to say.

Another first for this meal was that I actually got drunk. I don’t really drink so much, and I really don’t get drunk…but it happened this time, which kinda made things funny for me. At one point, it turned out that no one went to Megilla reading in the morning, so he started reading. I was falling asleep (that is what happens when I drink), and so I just went to the couch and took a little nap.

After that most people left. And again he was all touchy and sentimental. When I got up to go to the bathroom, he thought I was leaving. I took off his nail polish for him. And then it was actually time to go home, and that is when he said how much he is going to miss me, and pulled me back to him multiple times. I started to tear a bit, because I too am going to miss him…

I need to figure out what/how to say something to shuk boy, because I really don’t know what I will do without him (he wanted to make sure I was ok after leaving, and I told him that I am going to miss him, and I don’t know what to do without him, and he told me he agreed). But is it smart to say something to someone after 6 years, when I only have 6 weeks left? He told me no 5 years ago; do I try and put myself out there? And if I do say something, what do I say? Do I want to just hook-up for a few week? Do I want a dating relationship? Do I just want him to know that I care about him and that I will miss him? How do I bring this up?  Any suggestions?!

So it was a bitter-sweet Purim. All in all I had a lot of fun. It is the slow-hard road now of starting to say goodbye.

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Posted in Life

Some Thoughts: My Director; Elegance of Blue; Women & Receiving

Who is My Director?

My philosophy of acting is that we all have every personality in ourselves, but we make choices to show those things or not. But when it comes to theatre, there is freedom to do those things, because one can rationalize that they are not doing it themselves, the director and/or playwright made that decision.

I was asked, who is my director in real life, that makes me not be able to have some of the characteristics that I feel like I can only have on the stage. I think that there are a bunch.  I wish I could say that it is me that is making the decisions- but I know that would be lying.

Part is my idea of what I think people think of me, and the fear of “what would people think” if I do something “out of character”.

Part is actually society’s idea of what I should be. There are a lot of social norms with women, especially religious women. What does it mean if I give a guy a hug at a party? Do I need to pretend that I wouldn’t do that? And it does reflect on me, especially when they hear that I am studying to be a rabbi, if anything I think there is more pressure.

Part is fear of rejection (again). I don’t know how to flirt. Every time I have tried to ask someone out, I am told no. I don’t know how to make the first move- I just feel awkward.

So another one is feeling awkward (ok, so that can also just be in my head), that I don’t know how to do certain things. I am very good at being in public, but when it comes to actual one-on-one relationships, I over think EVERYTHING.

So basically, my director is a mix of outside people telling me what to do and how to do it (still) and my brain over thinking everything, making me not do things, or making me nervous of doing them… This kinda makes me sad, especially if I am supposed to be a strong, independent, women.


I was on the bus the other day, and I saw these girls from Beis Yaakov. I thought to myself, how elegant and feminine they are, even though they are forced to wear a long blue pleated skirt and blue shirt. There was something dainty to the way they walked and carried themselves. They were still in school (otherwise they wouldn’t have a uniform), but they carried purses that I feel would look silly on me, and on them they looked like women in magazines. Even though their hair had to be pulled back- it was back in a way that was beautiful. I wonder if anyone ever thinks of me that way? Or if I will ever look and feel that way? Maybe there is something in going to a school that you are trained to be a “good woman”.


The Woman is Supposed to Receive

I have a hard time accepting help, or accepting things at all really. I feel uncomfortable if a guy pays for me every time we go out. I feel uncomfortable when people do things for me, especially when I am capable of doing them myself. I feel uncomfortable when I get presents and praise.

I know I am supposed to be wooed, and yes, I do want that. I want to feel wanted, and there is something nice to it. It is nice to feel cared for (I try hard to allow myself to feel that way). But at the same time, I still have my egalitarian ideals, so why should a guy ALWAYS pay on a date? I also am taught to not look weak, so why should I have someone do things for me, if I don’t actually need it? How can I balance both being an independent woman, while also not being afraid to be dependent on someone else?

 

 

Posted in D'var Torah

Remembering and Forgetting

Parshat Zachor is a funny thing- we are told to remember what Amelek did, and at the same time we are supposed to eradicate them from the world. How and why are we supposed to remember but also forget?

While talking about this with a friend over the weekend, it made me think about the Nazis. That they wanted to eradicate the Jews, but at the same time create a museum that showed that they once existed. Or in the opposite direction seeing memorials for great wars or tragedies, we want to remember that this event happened, while at the same time saying “never again”. We must remember, in order to make sure that it never happens again- that we are not going to be in that same situation.

Thinking about it on a personal rather than national way, I think it can also have to do with trauma. There are times that are hard or awful, and in order to continue on, there needs to be some part of forgetting, but also remembering where you came from.

I look back to where I was last year this time- how hurt I was. I still see that hurt coming into my life today- how I haven’t yet started to trust my new teachers; how going to an evaluation make me freak out, just to hear that they think I am doing well; how I still don’t want to get involved with the students; and especially not talk to some from last year. But at the same time, I want to try and move past it, and remember what it brought me. That I am doing to do well and overcome despite everything that happened.

I want to try and forget what happened, I need to, and otherwise I will never be able to trust or work. But at the same time I must remind myself, that I was stronger than they were. No matter how much they tried to put me down and kill my spirit, and even though they came very close- they didn’t actually do it, and that is a lot of power and strength that in a weird way they gave to me.

And just like Amalek- they came at the worst time, from the back just to kill Beni Yisrael in the desert. But, Beni Yisrael found the strength to fight back, and win.

May we continue to be blessed in our lives with the strength to fight back (and win) against those who want to destroy us.

Posted in Life

8 Weeks: This Change is Not Just About Me…But Maybe it Should Be?

Two months…8 weeks…it is really happening. I don’t only have a ticket back to the US, but it really feels like it is getting closer. Comes Monday, I’m giving my 30 day notice at work, and after Purim my next (and last) big program is the ball.

This will be my last Purim for the unknown time. After Purim I have friends going to the US, who are going to take stuff with them for me.

After Purim comes Pesach, so with my cleaning the house, I will also be packing and getting rid of stuff- because I leave three weeks later.

I am anxious and excited about the move, and the chance to start a new. Even though the idea of leaving everything I know scares me, I think I have become too settled, and the big move will be a good thing (at least I am hoping…)

What I realize I am most anxious about though actually is not about me. It is about my brother and my roommate. My leaving is not only affecting me. Even though I am single and don’t have kids, my life and life choices do effect people around me. My roommate and brother need to find new places to live. My roommate is a teacher, and I am leaving a month before school ends. She thought that she had somewhere to move into, and today it fell through. She was upset about that (rightly so), and all I can feel, is feel bad because I know that it is my fault that she has this to happen [yes, the rational part of me is saying that she has known for a year, and she can stay here most likely for another month or few, or she will find something…but I still feel responsibleL]

With my brother I feel even worse. I feel like it has been my responsibility to take care of him. He is 8 years younger than me, has no life experience and has been living in a foreign country for the past 4 years- but I have always been there to take care of him. He was not like me (or really any of my siblings) who had no one to help them when they came to Israel. He had me to help him get a cell phone, deal with bureaucracy, have a place to live, someone to cook and go food shopping… And now I am leaving in two months. The school that is supposed to give him a room – won’t, and so he has nowhere to put all of his belongings, go when they are not allowed to be in the dorm, or have any private space (they are 4-6 per room). Because he is technically still in the army but also in Yeshiva, he is allowed to work, but only after 6- and he is having trouble finding a job. I am frustrated with him, because I feel like he isn’t really trying. But I guess in reality I took too much responsibility for him, and maybe he is doing everything he can, and it just not working out. But I worry that I am leaving him alone without any help.

I feel that I don’t have only 8 weeks to sort out my life and say goodbye to my things- but I also have only 8 weeks to help those who I love and care for, so they are not stranded because of my life decisions…

Posted in D'var Torah, Uncategorized

Together and Apart

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be together with people. I love being around people. Even when I went through my very quiet phases of life, I loved being around other people. I wanted to go to big crowds. I wanted to be surrounded by other people, rather than my house- and I did everything I could to do that. Extra projects in school, plays, youth groups- you name it I tried to do it.

In college it was the same, I joined clubs, created clubs or organizations, ran clubs or organizations- in some ways that was the greatest time, because communal living leads itself to having people around all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I was really happy to go back to my single room- but during the day I wanted to feel their energy.

Today, I am constantly creating things. I desire to be around people, and at times I feel like it is difficult to find one or two people to come to something with me- but if I create an event, usually with another person- then people will have to come, and once again I will be around people.

Now, as much as I enjoy being around people- I find it very difficult to become close to people. I don’t really like sharing or making myself vulnerable (I’m working on it). Part of me just wants to be around others to have that energy. And another part of me wants something closer- something that shows me that the other person really sees me. (This could be why at parties I end up having really serious conversations- even though it is unintentional on my part.)

I was thinking about all of this for two reasons- one because I was talking to my therapist today about it. But before that conversation, I was thinking about it with regards to Parshat Pekudei. The Hoshen (breastplate) [and later the way the tribes walked through the desert] make me think about this idea of being together and being apart. In both the Hoshen and in the way the Jews walked they are all together, all the time they are held together by the metal (the Hoshen) or they are totally encompassed by God (as they walk). Even though they are together, they are completely separate entities. Each tribe has their special stone or camp to walk with. Each has their uniqueness- and in some ways does not connect with anything else around it- but at the same time they are part of the bigger picture.

So may we all find our own ways of being unique, but at the same time realizing that we are (and have what to offer) to a world greater than our own.

 

Posted in D'var Torah, Life, Uncategorized

The Beauty of the Half

This past Friday was my half birthday, and slowly I am getting into my 30’s…

People laugh that I think about my half birthday- but I do. I look at it as a half way point in the year. Where am I now? Have I started to accomplish any of my goals? Is my life starting to look the way I want it to? What do I want to do for the rest of the year?

The half way point is actually quite important marker.

This past week we also read Parshat Shkalim- the part where Beni Yisrael was commanded to bring a half a shekel for the census. Yes, just a half. Many commentaries look at this as a way to show that no person is fully whole, and so bringing a half shows that.

I know for myself, I like to see the whole picture. I plan A LOT. I go through things in my head, over and over again, just trying to figure out what will happen next. At times I want to be able to see what the outcomes will be, but even before I start (it makes decision making very difficult).

But maybe there is a beauty to the half. A way to see that there really isn’t any way to see the whole picture. One has no idea what the outcome will be until the time is experienced- and the half way point is a good place where you have the ability to both look behind you, but also look ahead. It is also something that can continue forever (if you continue marking things in the halves…).

So yes, I celebrate my half birthday, looking at the past 6 months and looking ahead at the upcoming six months. And counting in halves really does show that we are not whole, but also shows that we always have room for growth and change.

Things that have happened in the past 6 months:

  • Started a new school
  • Spoke in a number of shuls
  • Flew back to Israel & restarted life
  • Bought a one-way ticket to the US
  • Started seeing a therapist, learning how to talk about my feelings and not just the intellectual side

Things that I know will be happening in the next 6 months

  • Moving to the US for an undetermined amount of time
  • Starting CPE
  • Packing up and saying goodbye to my life from the past 6 years
  • Running a ball at the nursing home

Things I want to happen in the next 6 months:

  • Push myself to go to as many social things as possible
  • Start saying yes to things instead of no because lack of time (ie. Find time for fun)
  • Have some sort of relationship
  • Start to feel comfortable with my emotions
  • Allow myself to “go with the flow”
  • Go to Petra while I am still here in Israel

 

Posted in Stories from the Nursing Home

The Orange Sweater & Autonomy

I was wearing an orange sweater at work yesterday. When one of the women saw me, she said how much she like it, but then proceeded to say that she noticed that I wear a lot of orange- that I even have an orange skirt.

I was taken aback that she paid attention. She is a very sweet woman, but easily one could have the same conversation 4 times in an hour period with her. And since when is my clothing something important? I know that the work that I do is important.

When I think about what is our influence on other people around me, I think about smiling to people; saying good morning; orienting people to the day; treating people with respect; I never think that my clothing has anything important to do with my job. It is true that every morning people comment on my clothing or my hair, but to me it seemed like part of the good morning ritual- not as something that people find important enough to remember and actually take notice to.


 

I had a conversation with another woman today about autonomy, privacy and home. She was telling me that it is hard for her because she no longer has a “home”, she will never again say that she is “going home” because the house that was hers is no longer, and as she put it “the only way I am leaving is in a coffin…well, they don’t use coffins here, so not even that…” But she recognizes and mourns (or maybe we need to find a better way to allow for the mourning) for the loss of home or at least a place to call home. A place that one can mope in their room if they want to. A place that is full of memories, both good and bad. A place that gives comfort, rather than just rigid structure. When I asked her if there was anything that could be done to make it feel more like a home, she told me no, it will always feel institutional.

Being in the nursing home has a very rigid structure, and there is very little movement from it, unless you have a private helper. You are told where to sit, and you will sit there every day, basically until you die. You are told when and what to eat. Someone else picks out your clothing, tells you when you need to bathe, when you are allowed to go to the bathroom, when you are going to sleep… There is very little choice offered to people. For some it is because they are unable to make choices. For others it is because they are understaffed, and the only way to be effective is to keep everyone on the same schedule. But this too “helps” make the place not feel like home. Only those who are loud enough will be given the option to choose what is on TV, or what music is playing, or be served first…

The most eye opening thing that she said was about privacy. I recognize the lack of privacy (and really have no idea how to help it, at least here). Many people share bedrooms, the days are spent in a big room with everyone, someone else is showering them and taking them to the bathroom, someone else is dressing them and doing their laundry. There is very little “alone” time, that is actually alone. But she said that eating in a communal room is hard. Even though she can’t see so well, she knows the others around her can and so she is very careful and slow as she eats, so as not to make a mess- she wants to keep her manners. She mentioned that others are not so great at that, and throughout the meals she will hear burps, farts, people needing to throw up- all of which make her at times lose her appetite. But I never thought about the intricacy of food and manners in relation to privacy, but if I think about it for sure it is true. When I am home alone I might use my fingers, eat from the container, and not use a napkin- I don’t really care about social construct. But if I have people around me, for sure I would never eat like that.


 

So, my concluding thoughts on both of these stories is that  I hope that one day myself or someone will be able to find real ways to make nursing care more comfortable and with autonomy. And you never know how much of an impact you have on others- really every little thing that you do someone might take notice. I hope that we find in ourselves the ability to impact positively, even with the tiniest actions that we didn’t even think we were doing.