Sunday, July 14, 2013

Galus

It’s the nine days.; Tisha B’av is almost upon us. I know I should be feeling the mourning, the pain and devastation that the churban and thus, that galus has wrought upon us. I listen to lectures and try to truly feel Hashem’s pain. Sometimes I get these flashes of inspiration and I feel truly saddened. But it’s hard to stay focused, to really fully grasp the enormity of what mourning the churban is all about.

So I focus inward. I think on a personal level about how this galus has affected me and people I know and that finally arouses in me a deep longing for Moshiach.

Let me take you around my block.


(EDITED)


Need I go on?

This is galus. This is a world without the Bais Hamikdash. This is what I can mourn. And this is just a myopic glance at what needs to end. Now.


So cry with me…and maybe, just maybe, the cup full of tears will finally overflow.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Strength

I still remember where I was walking when my friend made the comment. It was Chol Hamoed Sukkos a few years ago and I was in EY for Sukkos. We were walking through a narrow passageway in the hallowed streets of Meah Shearim when she told me that she suggested me as a shidduch to her husband’s friend. The big BUT wasn't short in coming. She claimed that it was hard to “sell” me because in the words of the guy’s mother, “older singles are opinionated and set in their ways.” I remember thinking indignantly that I am not old or opinionated and anyway, why do all older singles have such a bad rap?

Well, fast forward a few years and I admit: I am tougher. I am more opinionated. I am kind of set in my ways. Being single for as many years as I have been will do that to you. If I weren't tough, I wouldn't survive. If I buried my head beneath the rock and remained as submissive as I was when I graduated seminary, I wouldn't be interesting.  I wouldn't be strong. I wouldn't be who I am. I wouldn't be me.

Still, her words frightened me then because I knew it’s true. Becoming opinionated didn't scare me as much as having to pretend not to have opinions so that I can find a guy who will date me (let alone marry me).  There were times that I dated and was told that I need to tone it down. I was coming across as too strong. All I was doing was expressing opinions about topics that were important to me but guys found it intimidating.

But then I met a guy who embraced my opinions. When I told him about my blog and he read it, he thought it was terrific that I had things to say and that I shared it with people. In fact, one balmy night we were walking through the streets of Manhattan and impulsively decided to play a version of truth or dare. I told him something about myself that could scare certain guys away but he just clapped his hands and exclaimed, “Thank G-d you’re normal. You’re normal!” So I learned that there are people out there who can handle my personality. Not only handle, but enjoy it.  Welcome it.

Therefore, if those mothers of guys and guys themselves would be able to get past their fear of dating strong, older singles, they may just discover that along with the strength of character is a vulnerability that we've had to hide because we've been on our own for so long. Beneath the tough veneer is a kind and non-judgmental person who has attained open-mindedness precisely because of age and life experiences.


Truth be told, I’m not worried anymore. I believe that there is someone out there who will see me, toughness and all, and appreciate that life’s circumstances made me who I am and will have the sagacity to recognize that it will stand me in good stead as life brings me further unknowns.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Trying To Understand


When I was in 12th grade I had a Chumash teacher who would not let us write notes in her class. She wanted us to give her class our undivided attention. All was fine and dandy with my classmates until midterms and finals came along and that’s when they would panic. Without notes to fall back on, how would they be able to familiarize themselves with the material and feel confident enough to take the test and answer the questions? For me on the other hand, her class was a breeze.  I wouldn't even study before tests. It was the biggest thrill in learning when there were a slew of questions and then it all came together in a Ramban or Rambam or Rashi.  I would open the Chumash, read the Meforshim and just make sense of everything. It was all there.

I broke up a few months ago with a guy I dated for a while. At first, I was able to write a glass-half-full post about why it was good for me. For all intents and purposes, I bounced back pretty quickly. I had to. I couldn't stand how people pitied me. It was practically public knowledge that we were dating and going to get engaged. We were so sure of it that even I, an extremely private person, shared it with many people. So when it ended, there were that many more people who knew about it and that many more people who felt bad for me. I couldn't take it, the pity. Besides, I had to function. Life doesn't (and can’t) stop because I’m in pain.

So I tried to go on with my life. I didn't take into account, though, how agonizing the reminders would be. Every car I saw that resembled his (unique) car would make my heart skip a beat. The songs that we discovered and fell in love with together. The sound of the unique ringtone I gave him on my phone. I can’t forget and move on because I’m constantly being reminded of him and our time together. And it always  causes my heart to twist inside my chest. I don’t go a day without thinking about him, missing him, wondering how he’s doing, rationalizing and fighting brain against heart about why it could work, if only….

And so today and every day I question why I had to go through this. Why give me something so amazing and then pull the rug out from right under me? What did I gain out of the experience? Sure, there is some good that came out of it. I learned a lot about myself. I opened myself up to new experiences.  I was open-minded. But still. I can’t stop taking the whole saga apart, picking at the scabs until they bleed because I want so badly to understand it. I need to make sense of it all. But I can’t. It seems so cruel; the pains overshadow the gains by a long shot.

I’m a BY girl like the next and I know that there are no answers here. This isn't Chumash where everything is clear cut and the puzzle pieces come together at the end. But I know that everything is for the best. And I know that some day in the future I may be thankful for this pain because…I don’t know. That remains to be seen. Or not. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Love


They declare, “Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” I used to doubt the veracity of this statement as well as the existence of the “they” that authored this oft-repeated quote. But of one thing I was certain: this mysterious “they” had obviously never loved and lost. Someone who had would never be able to make such a farcical statement!

Until now. Until I loved and lost. Until I was loved and lost.

After years on the dating scene, I have come to regard it with the same affection as I have for that root canal I had done years ago; I can only describe it as never-ending and excruciatingly painful.

And then, “he” fell straight out of the sky. For the first time in too long, I tasted real, sweet hope. I experienced that which I had given up as ever being possible:  To have someone out there who you can share anything with and know that they’ll still accept you and respect you. Somebody who has your back and you can turn to when the going gets rough. Someone who just wants you to be happy, no matter the price.

 I was given this gift for a beautiful few months…

I’m going to pull another expression out of the box: “All good things must come to an end.”  That does not hold a lot of truth. This good thing that I had, however, did come to an end.

And while inside I may be crying and my chest feels like there’s an elephant sitting on it, I can finally appreciate the legitimacy behind the saying that it’s better to have loved and lost. As a result, despite the very real pain of loving and losing, I’m also feeling thankful.  Thankful… because I was given a glimpse of something magical and amazing, and my heart, though it hurts so much now, has never felt this whole. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Unspoken Spoken

I sit here with the cursor blinking, a blank page in front of me, wanting to write, to speak and connect again. It’s been a long time and I miss the way the words used to flow seemingly of their own accord and the feeling of satisfaction when I completed a piece of writing.
But the words don’t flow anymore. I find distraction after distraction just to keep me from facing this drought. Part of me wonders if I really lost that ability to write like I used to, or if it’s what would come out if I did write, that frightens me into silence.  To challenge myself, I will try not to let the fears of my mind, whatever those fears may be, force me to backspace the truth lying within the words from my heart.

The theme of my blog has mostly been about finding the sun inside the rain. I try to be positive and optimistic about my situation, here and in real life. Thank G-d, that isn’t all that difficult for me to do. Really. People sometimes compliment me on my ability to be happy and positive and I feel like I don’t deserve it.  I wasn’t born with a jealous or negative personality so it isn’t like this is me after working on myself.

But today I deviate from my regular programming and confess: it is really tough being single.

As we grow up, our emotional needs change. What was sufficient at five years old isn’t at ten, and then that changes as we grow into our teenage years and so on.
Naturally, when we reach the age of shidduchim, our needs change.  It’s then that we develop stronger, deeper emotional needs that usually are synchronous with married life. However, although we have those needs too, as frum singles they don’t get filled. We are “one half of a whole,” incomplete, missing. (At least that’s what we’re constantly told.)  At a certain point, nothing and nobody, even a best friend (if you still have a single best friend) can fill the void.

So what happens when day after day, month after month and year after year, those needs don’t get met? You long to connect, to give, to love, to support but there’s nowhere to channel it.  On the flipside, there’s nobody loving you, validating you, respecting you in the way that you were created to need.

So you keep yourself so busy (chessed, school etc.) that you don’t have time to notice the lack. Or you just squelch it until you don’t even think you need anything or anyone anymore. Another way of dealing is by going out and looking for it in less than savory places. You get trapped in unhealthy relationships and have to claw your way out on your own. Or you simply fall when temptation lands on your territory, because you’ve been wanting, needing it for so long.
Perhaps you’re one of the incredibly strong people who holds on to the hope that soon, very soon, it’ll happen and you keep your eyes focused on that, and only that.

I’ve done time in all. And I can tell you: it’s really difficult whichever way you slice it.

So there you have it.  If anyone tells you after years of being single (not by choice) that being single is fun, know that they’re lying. Yes, it’s an opportunity for growth; true, marriage isn’t a cure-all, but G-d knows you need a tremendous amount of strength to stay truly happy, healthy and on the right track.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Reunion

It's been ten years since I slammed my locker shut for the last time and with a carefree spring in my step, walked out of the doors that I’d walked into 5 days a week for the last 12 years of my life. Ten action-packed years. Incredible years. Difficult years. It’s been a decade since my grade graduated, and to celebrate that, there will be a grade reunion.


In a prelude to what it’ll be like, I met a classmate on chol hamoed. I was walking with my little niece in a jungle gym when I saw her, surrounded by what seemed like a half a dozen children and her husband at her side.


She saw….me.

Unchanged me. Me, with my own hair on my head, no extra baby fat sticking to me, no dark circles under my eyes from too many sleepless nights. Me, unfettered, single.

I saw her eyes lock in on mine until a glimmer of recognition lit up her face. We smiled, said “hi” to each other and walked on. It felt awkward for both of us, like a stark reminder of the disparity in our lives.

I admit that at first, I felt self-pity welling up inside of me. What do I have to show for my ten years that have passed so swiftly?

But then I tried to change perspectives and made a decision not let it get to me. I know that beneath the surface, I don’t resemble the person who graduated ten years ago. The past ten years have been the most happening years of my life. I’ve been through more than most people do in an entire lifetime. I’ve had my absolute best, my absolute worst days in those ten years. I’ve been to hell and back in those ten years. Through it all, I’ve learned my most valuable lessons as I’ve grown as a person, as a daughter, as a sister and as a friend.

So yes, I’m proud of the results of those ten years. Sure, I have a lot more to learn and G-d knows how much more work I need to do. I’m by no means a perfect or complete person. But I’m a traveling person, I’m on this journey that will take me to greater heights, not letting my challenges deter me from continuing on the often difficult trek through rocky mountains and rugged terrain. That is why the prospect of meeting my grade-mates as the only one still single doesn’t scare me. I plan on walking into the hall with my head help up high.

I’m no fool; I know that there will be moments of sadness for myself. I hope, more than anyone can know, that by the next reunion I will have a ring on my finger, a wig on my head and wallet-sized pictures of my brood ready to be whipped out at the slightest expression of interest.  But for now, what matters is not what they can see, but what I know. I've been around the world as far as experiences go. I've gotten burnt when I got too close to the equator and I've gone numb from the cold when I traveled too far from it. And all this time, I have never experienced the comfort and support that only a spouse can give. I've never kissed a child knowing that I won't have to hand him or her over to his parents. I haven’t had much in terms of physical possessions that are mine but one thing I have, that nobody can take away from me, is the growth and experiences that have made me who I am. And that ever-evolving person is someone that I think I can be proud of.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Living Life Without Expectations

The sequence of events seemed too interconnected to be deemed arbitrary:
My friend and I were feeling increasingly hopeless and stuck in the quagmire that is the shidduch scene. We embarked on a trip to Eretz Yisrael in the hope of coming back rejuvenated and of replenishing the rapidly depleting storehouse of chizuk and prayers.
While on the trip, we experienced unmistakable Hashgacha Pratis time and again. Without going into detail, we truly felt Hashem’s guiding Hand during the entire trip.
We came home feeling more optimistic than we had in a long time.
And that’s when the ball began rolling…
Two weeks later, my friend started dating the guy she got engaged to.
At her vort, a relative of a very sought-after guy I’d been wanting to date for a long time saw me and convinced him that I’m worth a date.
At the same time, not knowing that anything was cooking, I took upon myself something very difficult for me, without making any bargains with Hashem.
An hour later, the guy said yes.
There’s something so incredible about feeling like you actually get to see the other side of the tapestry once in a while. When you feel like things are finally coming together.
I thought I was there….
But I wasn’t. Hashem had other plans for me. We dated but we did not get engaged. Though I thought that being engaged at my aforementioned friend’s wedding would be the beautiful, fairy-tale end to the story, the plot took a different twist.
And yet, I’m grateful. Because each time something like this happens, it further ingrains in me the importance of living life without expectations.
For years, I’d had this notion that life is somewhat like a math formula. You punch in the numbers and the results will always be the same. And then a new knowledge started seeping into my brain, like thick syrup through a sieve: I learned (not without a good deal of frustration) that sometimes you punch in the numbers, and the results are far from what you expected.  That no matter how many times you try and try to imitate what others have done or to do what others tell you to do, when all's said and done, you have absolutely no control over the end results.
And the only thing that keeps me going through the disappointments that life inevitably brings is the core knowledge that the end results will always be good, even if they don’t appear magical. Even if it doesn’t seem good now. Even if I never get to see how it was ultimately good.
Because Hashem is good and therefore whatever He has chosen as my lot in life, is good. And that’s an equation that will never change.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Happily Married or Simply Married?

There are various factors that are essential to a good shidduch:

Hashkafa, personality, life goals, background… among others. Some have more importance than others, but they all carry some weight.

However, there are people who think otherwise.  There are people who believe that there is only one ingredient necessary to make a good marriage. There are people who believe that if singles want to get married badly enough, they have it within their power to do so.

Listen up all you languishing singles, listen up parents of singles, and listen up shadchanim and wannabe shadchanim.

You can hang up the phone, ditch the vetting process, delete the list of what you’re looking for in a potential spouse, and throw out the notebooks with descriptions and information.

There are people who have condensed all that a good marriage entails into one basic component: good middos.

And while I agree that good middos are of utmost importance in any situation and particularly in marriage, I vehemently disagree with the assertion that that’s all it takes to make a good marriage.

If people got married based on that assumption, they would quickly morph into someone you don’t recognize as they proverbially bend over backwards to make their marriage work. Forget about superficialities such as being happily married, their entire Shana Rishona, (which even in the best of cases requires work and adjustment,) would be about changing themselves so that they can simply tolerate their spouse, and merging sometimes vastly different goals and outlooks in life so that they can head somewhat in the same direction. Someone in the marriage would evolve into a chameleonic person as they try to figure out who they are and who they need to become in order for the marriage to work.

I certainly don’t intend to test that theory but for anyone who considers it, flex your muscles. You’re in for the workout of a lifetime.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Taking Chances

Life is about taking chances.

You take a chance when you raise your hand in class.

You take a chance when you decide on a seminary or yeshiva.

You take a chance when you drive, when you fly, when you swim, when you date, when you walk and talk and breathe.

And sometimes, there are choices to make, things to do and you have to decide if you want to take the chance, if it’s worth taking a risk or to take the safe route and remain with the status quo.

Will you hold your breath, close your eyes and jump into the deep end of the pool, hoping to make it back up and out intact, or will you stand on the sidelines, cheering on all those that try and do and win and lose?

Sometimes, you have to endure the voices whispering in your ear or shouting in your face, telling you that you can’t, you shouldn’t, you’ll fail, you’ll get hurt.

You have to plug up your ears, tune out the dissenting voices and choose to listen to your own inner voice telling you, “You can, you can, YOU CAN!”

Because you know yourself better than anyone else knows you.

And if you sincerely believe in your ability and in your strength, then your strength will prevail.

So believe that maybe, despite what they say, despite what they think, you can succeed , that you do have the power to overcome numerous challenges and prove to everyone else, most importantly to yourself, that the ultimate power lies in what you believe.

And know that your Father is standing at your side, ready to catch you should you fall.

Because though trying is not a guarantee for succeeding, one thing is definite:

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. 
~ André Gide


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ugliness Redefined


The only thing uglier than pity is self-pity.