Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wuv, Twoo Wuv

Perhaps one of the most surprising revelations of my 30s has been the evolution of love.

Or - more correctly - the evolution of my understanding of love.

In my 20s I succumbed to the butterflies, the is-he-going-to-calls, and the "love conquers all" belief oft peddled in dime-store romances.

The result - lots of passion. Lots of depression. Lots of tolerating intolerable behavior waiting for the day when love would overcome alcoholism. Or drug addiction. Or womanizing...

Helpful hint for my current 20-somethings: LOVE DON'T WORK THAT WAY.

Inevitably, after every breakup, I'd go crying to my father, who always offered the same advice: "Why don't you date someone YOU DON'T HAVE TO CHANGE? A MAN IS NOT A PROJECT."

But what did he know?

He just didn't understand.

He didn't FEEL what I FELT.

And that's where my 30s - and meeting my husband - has been such a revelation for me.

First thing's first: love is not about feelings.

Feelings may come as part of the package, but butterflies in the stomach does not love mean.

Often, in my life anyway, the butterflies came with mean love - love with too many strings. Love with uncompromising compromises. In short, not LOVE at all.

It took me 15 years of dating to discover this simple truth: that feelings, while genuine, are not the be-all and end-all barometer of love. Especially if those feelings are obsessive, and cause you to doubt yourself and your worth.

Somewhere around age 30/31 I started exploring not who I had always been told I was, but WHO I ACTUALLY WAS.

What did MY heart know to be true - even if it ran counter to everything I'd been taught.

During this process of self-discovery, I moved to a place of my own, without the comfort of roommates or a boyfriend. I pursued my graduate degree completely on my own. I discovered Judaism and its role in my life. I abandoned old dreams that died in the face of reality and accepted things about myself that I had resisted for...the entirety of my life.

And, for the first time, I made a list of what I wanted in a man, and what I would not, under any circumstances, accept in a man.

And I stuck to it.

And I met Scott.

While it would make for a lovely dime-store romance to say it was love at first sight, it wasn't.

And thank God.

As someone who analyzes everything to death, I wouldn't have been able to live with a love-at-first-sight situation.

I liked Scott. He liked me. He fit my criteria. He didn't raise the immediate red flags. We decided to see each other again.

The beginning was rough. I had my guard up. I wasn't going to give my heart away again easily - no sir!

But about 3 months into the relationship, I found out I had a tumor that was going to require surgery.

That surgery would require three weeks of bed rest/recovery.

I would require help.

And Scott volunteered.

Sill skeptical, I thought this would be the end of the relationship.

He'd see me, unshowered, cut open, with an unending list of needs including help showering, help cooking...help...ugh...toileting.

I thought our relationship had an expiration date.

And that date was the date of my surgery.

But the surgery came and went, and Scott never left my side.

He didn't abandon me at my (then) worst, and I didn't tire of him or want him to go away.

The whole three week period he didn't make my stomach flip - not with excitement, as I dreaded what was happening, but not with fear either. After the first few days I was no longer afraid this man would turn tail and run.

And it was so...comfortable.

My friends, love is COMFORTABLE.

And that's something I never "got."

I thought love was supposed to be like your sexiest going out outfit - a hot, passionate, edge-of-your-seat, what's-going-to-happen, ensemble that hugged your curves and hid your flaws.

Friends, love - true love - is like your favorite pajamas - soft, comfortable. Incapable of hiding flaws but instead warmly embracing those flaws.

Love isn't waking up next to someone you hope will give you approval.

Love is waking up wanting coffee and biscuits, because whether or not you have approval never even crosses your mind.

Passion is loud.

Love is quiet.

...

Now that I know this in my romantic relationship, I am better able to see it in other established relationships as well.

My body will intrinsically tell me now if someone is a true friend - it's an easy test: am I wholly, unapologetically myself around them, or, do I mind myself to make the best impression?

My comfy PJ people are my friends, the others...aren't.

In my 20s I would not have accepted this.

In my 30s it hurts, but I know it to be true.

...

Throughout my 20s, I'd revisit the Bible verse that laid out what love is. As I was always seeking love, committing centuries-old wisdom about it to memory seemed as good an idea as any.

Anyone who's ever been to a Christian wedding will be familiar with this verse:

1 Corinthians 13: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I may be a Jew, but the Christians have this one correct (unsurprising, as the first Christians were Jews...but I digress!)

And this understanding of love I've come to - that love is quiet, calm, serine, wise - reminds me of characterizations I've heard about the nature of God.

He is mentioned as being a still, small voice in the heart and mind.

He is called Love.

This is an aspect of love I continue to struggle to understand.

A God of love and a world of suffering...

They seem incompatible, and that raises all kinds of questions...

But I delight in the questions. That is who I am.

And I discovered that - and embraced it - in my 30s.

Perhaps by my 40s I'll have a better grasp of agape (<- Godly love. Not standing with your mouth open.)

Until then, I'm satisfied with my current rate of progress.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dayenu

Fear lies at the root of all human suffering.

And fear drives our actions.

I truly believe that the key to inner peace - and world peace - relies on living life without fear.

If you don't fear your neighbor, you cannot and will not hate your neighbor.

If you refuse fear, death has no sting.

I live each day in fear.

I fear what my body will or won't do to me each day.

I fear the resurgence of antisemitism and what it means for my family.

I fear my inadequacies and flaws will render me unlovable.

I fear all this - human suffering - is for nothing.

But what if I wasn't afraid?

What if my body's malfunctions did not phase me? What if I were able to embrace my decay as beautiful, natural, inevitable, and GOOD?

What if, in the face of threats by those who would have the Jews wiped from the earth, I felt only compassion? Pity? Love?

What if, instead of fearing I'm too flawed to be loved, I chose the peace that comes with knowing I am a human being - and that, just BY being - I am a living testament of love? Of survival of the fittest? Of eons of evolution?

What if all of this human suffering IS for nothing? What's to fear there?

My life, in the grand scheme, may not mean a thing. But I got to touch an elephant. To smell a flower. To put my feet in the Jordan River.

And that is enough.

Dayenu.

It is enough.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

I'm frightened

I'm frightened.

One of the many symptoms of my Fluoroquinolone Associated Disability (FQAD) is something many would consider benign - an inconvenience maybe, but not a big deal in the grand scheme.

Many would be wrong.

I completely lost my sense of smell and taste.

During the first year post-"flox" - I lost my sense of smell and taste for 6 months...but after that half-year, it came back.

I was unbelievably grateful for this, and considered it one of the few aspects of my illness to have rectified itself.

But a few months ago, these senses disappeared again.

And they haven't come back.

In addition to being emotionally devastating - I cannot smell the flowers. Or coffee. Or any of the other millions of smells that consistently brought me joy - this is a bad sign.

It's a bad sign for my recovery but - worse - loss of taste and smell is considered an early sign of debilitating neurological diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

My grandfather died of Parkinson's, and watching him waste away was sobering and terrifying.

I remember thinking that, were I to ever develop Parkinson's, I'd rather die than live the life my grandfather had in his later years.

Now that Parkinson's seems like a real possibility...

I'm frightened.

...

Prior to FQAD, I had an extraordinary sense of smell.

Silly as it sounds, it was a source of pride for me.

That and my 20/20 vision.

FQAD robbed me of that too...

In fact, prior to FQAD I was a wonderful sleeper, had a beautiful head of hair, oily skin, no pain, perfect eyesight, sense of smell, vision...

FQAD took all of this.

All of this and more.

And to my knowledge, medical science isn't even studying FQAD, much less proposing cures.

I'm frightened.

I'm frightened.

I'm frightened.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Ninja Purim

Today's Purim, and for those readers without a fucking clue what that means, I'll tell ya:

Purim is the Jewish holiday celebrating the Biblical book of Esther.

Still lost?

Basically "They tried to kill us. They failed. We won. Let's eat, drink, put on costumes, and throw a raucous party."

In the lexicon of Jewish holidays, Purim is a fun one.

Like Jewish Mardi Gras...

But, while today is a celebration of Jewish triumph over those forces that wanted to see us exterminated, I'm not feeling particularly celebratory or fun...

CNN reported today - or, at least, I saw it today - that the shooter in Parkland, Florida, had carved swastikas into his guns, which he then used to mow down 17 innocent people, many of them Jews.

Again today, NPR is reporting that, "Anti-Semitic Incidents See Largest Single-Year Increase On Record" an ADL audit finds.

In France, a rabbi's baby was just subjected to an acid attack.

All of this, and much, much more in 2018.

And it's only February.

Despite history's teachings, despite the horrors of the Holocaust, it seems we Jews still bear an unwanted, alien status.

As fascism once again rears its ugly head in Europe and the US, our status as "real" citizens of our respective countries is questioned.

For a faction of the population that's becoming more vocal and more violent, Jews are usurpers, interlopers, manipulators that cannot be trusted.

We are a pox, a plague, an infestation that must be eradicated.

It may be Purim, but some in our respective societies would rather celebrate a purge.

...

It's a dark, running joke within the Jewish community that many of our holidays are the same - They tried to kill us. We won. Let's celebrate.

That's the story of Purim, of Passover, and even of Hanukkah, to an extent.

We remember it with Yom Hashoah and Holocaust Remembrance Day.

But here we are, in 2018, once again facing a rise in antisemitism, fascism, and Far-Right Nationalism.

...

No, I don't feel like celebrating.

I feel like screaming, and not to blot out Haman's name.

Sure, we defeated Haman once. But what about the modern-day Hamans?

How long are we Jews going to have to keep screaming to blot out the Hamans for good?

...

It is said that those who refuse to learn from history are destined to repeat it.

And I am sad to see the beginnings of history repeating itself before my very eyes.

Where is our modern Mordecai?

Will another Esther rise from our ranks?

Need we Moses and another 10 plagues?

What more must we do to make this stop?

Tonight, if my resolve holds, I will go to an "American Ninja Warrior"-themed Megillah reading and celebration.

At first it just sounded like fun...but American Ninja Warrior Jews may be exactly what we need to face down this most recent rise in hatred, and I don't know if there are any Mordecais or Esthers to lead us out of this newest, yet millennias-old threat.

Maybe we need some ninja warrior tactics, as #NeverAgain is looking less and less likely.

Many await the Messiah.

But I subscribe to a saying by some Jewish sage whose teachings were in the footnotes of my sedur. The wisdom goes something like this: Live each day as if there was no God, and that every kindness and human advancement was dependent upon you alone.

I hope to do my part to make the world a better place.

But just in case, a little ninja warrior training can't hurt.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A real friend stabs you in the front...

Adulting, in general, is hard. But one of the hardest things to endure is the severing of relationships that were once important to you.

People grow and change. People drift apart.

Still, it's hard on the heart to wake one day and realize a once-prized relationship is over.

My mother once told me, "If you have even five good friends, you're lucky." I thought she was crazy. I was in school at the time, and I had scores of friends.

But now, as an adult, I see what she meant.

Friends are more than people you hang out with to have a good time. They're more than a group of folks with the same interests as you.

A true friend is there in the bad times as well as the good. They're ESPECIALLY there in the bad times.

REAL friends help you move! ;)

By this definition, I - and I bet many of you - have very few friends. Which makes it all the more important that we remember to cherish that blessed handful of people who'll be there when times get tough.

To those people in my life - I'm so grateful to have you. How wonderful you are! How special!

Every day in every way, I am indebted to you.

<3

A prayer for Eli

My nephew, Eli, (age 2) has such a beautiful heart. My diet is pretty limited, so when I met the family for lunch today, I abstained from ordering, deciding rather to just eat at home. When all of the food came, Eli told everyone they'd have to wait to eat until my food came. <3 <3 <3

He then reminded everyone to say a prayer.

He leads the prayer each time.

It's a beautiful prayer he learned at his "school," and I love it because the prayer is kind, thoughtful, and respectful of all faiths. (If I can snag the words from Eli's folks, I'll post the prayer in the comments).

It may be yammering, but I'm just so proud of my nephew's kindheartedness. It reminds me of my brother, Justin, when he was a child - always thinking about everyone else...

It's hard to stay tenderhearted.

Life kicks everyone, but sometimes I think the tenderhearted get hit hardest...or maybe they just feel the blows more acutely.

So I want to take a moment to recognize the tenderhearted - to give thanks for them and hope my friends and family can raise more like them.

Amen.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Love Letter

My work as a journalist was the most meaningful of my life, and returning to that profession remains a long-term goal.

Yesterday I saw "The Post," and, while not a perfect film, it touched on the invaluable role a free press plays in our democracy.

One of the few lectures I remember clearly from my days at UGA was about how the Press was such an essential force as to warrant placement in The First Amendment, and what an honor and a responsibility that was. Each day, as I watch my Reuters, or listen to my BBC and NPR, I feel a deep longing. Long ago I learned what it's like to miss a PERSON. But it continues to surprise me how much I miss a PROFESSION.

I learned so much as a journalist. Every day I saw my job (at the macro level anyway) as interviewing experts in their fields, to learn more about those fields, and report the information back to the masses. I was a sharer. I was an educator. And all the while I was being educated daily on things I hadn't previously known.

Those were the most fulfilling days of my life.

I'm not sure what I am trying to say... and I see the irony in writing about being a communications professional who does not know how to effectively communicate what she's thinking...

I guess I said what I meant to say in my first sentence here.

If God or the Fates or a medical breakthrough or sheer, dumb luck decides to heal me one day, it is my fervent hope I can return to the job I loved - the job that gave me a continuing education, a sense of purpose, an outlet.

This is my love letter to Journalism, to education, to the pursuit of truth.

And I'm sharing it with you.