Thursday, February 23, 2006

What are you afraid of...?

Yesterday I went skiing. It was only the second time I ever went skiing, the first being around five years ago. My first time on the slopes was amazing; I learned the how-to pretty quickly, and loved the feeling of flying down the mountain. I was so blown away by the beauty of my surroundings that I had no time to be scared.

Well. Yesterday, I was rather impressed by the peaceful and soothing vistas of mountains covered in (fake) snow, and so I thought I'd be fine.

I wasn't.

After the hour-long lesson, reminding me just how to progress down the mountain, my friend and I got on the ski lift to ascend to the very top of the trails. The two guys running the ski lift asked us if we had off from school. We replied, yes. They then asked us which school we go to. We laughed and gleefully replied, "We're teachers," and then lifted off into the sky. That was one of the best parts of the day.

But once we reached the end of the lift and skied over to the green (beginners) trail, I had no idea what would happen next. We started down the mountain...gained momentum...and aaaaahhhhh!!! I pushed out my legs into a pizza shape and stopped. My friend asked if I was okay, but I shook it off and tried again. And again. And again. Basically, the whole day progressed in the same manner -me doing very well, executing beautiful turns, and then getting overcome by the speed and the sensation of hurtling down the mountain and forcing myself to stop. Sometimes I would just fall, to get myself down, still, on the snow. It was fairly ridiculous, as it took me a veeeery long time to get back up. But no matter how slow I tried to go, I kept on just going too fast for my own comfort.

As the sun drifted slowly into the horizon, my friend and I discussed why I kept getting too scared to continue. It wasn't a lack of technique-I knew I was in control since I was able to stop, and it wasn't the height-I was alright on the mega high lifts. Really, it was the sensation that just perhaps I was not in total control of my own velocity, flying down the hill. The speed overcame all thoughts in my mind, until I just couldn't do it anymore. I felt the adrenaline coursing through my veins, and I hated it. My friend loved the adrenaline, and it was hard for her to understand. She even led me onto a steep hill and said, "Okee, just go straight, don't slow down, it feels awesome!!" I tried, had to slow down, and even then I wouldn't talk to her for about ten minutes.

Everyone has their fears.

So what did I learn I am afraid of? Speed, probably. But more so the feeling of being out of control, of hurtling through life with no way to slow down and take matters in my own hands.

I'm also afraid of the dark when I'm alone, and can't see anything, and it's too quiet. But that can be a fear of isolation-not seeing, hearing, being with anyone.

I'm also afraid of people finding out I'm not as good as they might think me too be. But I think everyone shares that fear...

It's one of the most personal questions someone can ask you.

What are you afraid of?


Thursday, February 16, 2006

I Know, It's Psychological...

This is a picture of people walking. Because that is what I do. I know I've mentioned it before, but if you're going to get to know me better, you're going to have to really understand this.

I walk.

I walk when I've eaten too much and my stomach hurts. I walk when I need to shake myself out of a slothy, sluggish mood. I walk when I want to listen to my iPod. I walk when I don't have a car to drive. I walk when I just want to get away. I walk when I just want to get away from myself. I walk to feel more attractive. I walk to feel more spiritual. I walk when I cry. I walk when I'm bored. I walk when the weather is beautiful. I walk when it's snowing. I walk at night. I walk in the sun. I walk alone. I always walk alone.

I think you get the picture. Now, this makes me sound like a really athletic loner, but I'm not. Athletic, that is. Tee hee. Seriously, although I spoke in my last post about the more spiritual benefits of my walks, I have to mention the psychological ramifications as well. It's only fair.

I noticed it today, when I took a short walk to CVS after a great/horrible day at school. Unfortunately, I have those days all too often, since I teach one great class and one horrible class. Chas v' shalom that I'm saying my students are horrible, no, no, my teaching is. Yep, I admit it. Although I teach the same exact material to both classes, for one class I'm entertaining, clear, interesting, patient and understanding, and in the other class, I'm boring, incoherent, shrewish and dense (I should also add helpless). I'm still not sure how to fix this, and it really hurts me, it really does. So I wasn't in the best mood when I went for my walk. (Besides the negative stuff I just brought up, I'm dealing with some other sad/annoying issues, but I don't think we know each other well enough for me to go into them just yet.)

And as soon as my song shuffle landed on Les Miserables, my mood took a sharp swing in the downward direction. I'm telling you, I started frowning. The corners of my mouth turned down. I hate that. But then the strangest thing happened. The next song was Chevron by Mordechai Ben David -one of my favorite jewish musicmakers of all time. And even though I don't really know what most of the song means (I'm not an Ivrit teacher!), it plastered a smile on my face. If you were walking down my street today, you probably would have seen my smile- it was that big. Besides, it was still daytime. Anyway, go figure. Sometimes all you need to put yourself in a better mood is a walk. Sometimes you need a piece of chocolate. Sometimes you need a MBD song. Pick your poison-->pick your antidote.

Now it's nighttime, my time. I think I'll go for a walk.

Oh, if anyone knows what the song means, please comment or email it to me!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Meandering I Do

I tend to do most of my writing late at night. Whether in a journal chronicling my spiritual progress, or any work that needs to be done for tomorrow, I push it off until right before I go to sleep. As I am doing now.

But it strikes me as ironic, since some of my best thinking -creative or otherwise -happens during the day. I'll be struck with some incisive comment or brilliant insight while the sun is still shining. And I'm outdoors. Walking. I love walking, but not the kind of walking that people do for exercise, oh no. My walking is more of an energetic stroll, even a meander. I walk to see the world, to breathe the sharp cool sunset of an average day. I walk to clear my mind in the clear outside and be a part of the world, of the rest of humanity.

When I was in Israel last year, I often left school alone and walked around Yerushalyim to be alone. I would walk in the midst of a cackling crowd, but it was as if a box shut me in, shutting me out from the world. I was going through some difficult times, wondering who I was, who I would be, who I wanted to be. That searching for my "self" made me lonely -the stereotypical loneliness in a crowd. I sometimes still feel that way. So separate, so alone.

But most of the time, and I truly do thank Hashem for this, when I walk I do so to be among my brothers and sisters of Bais Yisrael, of humanity. It is such a freeing, exhilarating feeling to feel a part and parcel with all people, with all of creation. To feel one. It is a Divine experience, to open yourself up to tune in with all else. It does wonders for my sense of self, and it also opens up my mind to better thinking. Really, I should carry around this laptop with me, so that when my "channeling" of the achdus of creation occurs, I can write, I can solidify my creative and spiritual meandering.

Until then, I will try to remember back to those moments of sheer inspiration.

Until then, good night.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Day of Insanity, Part 1

Oh, Hashem yishmor. Today was so absolutely insane, and so absolutely never-ending, that I am almost surprised that I'll soon be sleeping. Ah, sleeping, in my warm, soft bed, hopefully dreaming of tomorrow's lesson, since I didn't yet prepare for it and I'm really not planning to. Just in case I fall asleep while writing the mini-epic that is today, I will continue, be"H, on the morrow.

The day began very pleasantly, although very early. I woke up before the crack of dawn to get ready (aka beautified) for a relative's bris. A very big event. A very early event. Anyway, after a five minute pre-dawn temper tantrum about the lack of anything suitable to wear to the very first spiritual event of the new baby boy, to the event I went. I was slightly early -go figure. The bris was filled with family, friends, food, and the ever-present-for-bris-milahs Eliyahu. Of course, I didn't quite catch a glimpse of the holy navi, but his presence was felt. I davened for certain, important, personal matters under my breath and later consumed two plates of fresh fruit. I felt very accomplished as I left the shul....

To drive to the new mother's house with a car full of relatives, and then back to my place to change out of my heels (ouch), where by walking barefoot I mysteriously received a very large splinter beneath my toe (even oucher), which was later removed by my nurse-aunt back at the new mother's house, where we all hung around for about an hour and shmoozed. (take a breath) Then I drove a full car of people and luggage to Laguardia, which was only the second time I ever drove there, and returned to the five towns for a quick lunch with other family members, who drove with me back to the new mother's house -where we dropped off her daughter whom we just picked up from school. (breath)

Then it was off to Laguardia again, but not without first stopping at the train station to drop off more family, and we reached the airport safely. I left the airport, sans other family members, with a cd blasting verses of tehillim to keep me alert, which obviously didn't achieve its objective since I accidently went in the opposite direction and ended up having to cross a bridge, pay a toll, and land myself in Harlem, an hour away from home with no gas in the tank and no food in my belly, which I rectified as I finally made my way back in the right direction -the gas, not yet the food -paying the toll and crossing the bridge again, getting caught in traffic and dreaming of my home and coffee, which I then bought at dunkin donuts and was summarily summoned to my friend working nearby to pick up coffee for her, also, which I did. (breath)

After breathing and shmoozing with her for an hour, it was finally time to get stuff done, yet again, so we were off to amazing savings to buy materials for a school project, which we didn't buy because we didn't have the school note for the discount, so that remains for tomorrow, but we did afterwards go to the jewish bookstore and buy a cd -for fun- and other materials -for work -and after that we dashed to Macy's, bought more materials for work, lost one expensive earring, said "the passuk" and still didn't (yet) find it, left dejectedly, ran to the kosher grocery store, bought groceries (duh), and realized it was 8:00 -a full ten hours since last I parked my car and was home. So I went home, but not before picking up my friend's friend to go to my friend's house and then dropping them both off at my friend's house. (breath)

I walk in the door and kvetch aloud, eliciting empathic remarks from my roommate, who then delivers news to me which isn't bad news that you wouldn't want to happen because you know it's for the best, but the kind of news that would make you curl up and cry. Which, I admit, I did. And I want to do again. But I shoved it out of my mind, made myself dinner, and did some work. Not all, but I am no superwoman.

Or am I? Was today a normal day? No, not really, not with a simcha in the morning and a blow in the gut at night. But days like this one do happen all the time, to everyone, to me. It was a day of thanking Hashem, begging Hashem, requesting from Hashem, crying to Hashem. My shacharis was shortened and my mincha was lost somewhere around the Triborough bridge, but it was a very spiritual day. How could it not have been? The best and the worst of days always are.

Good night, and good luck.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Jew, the Athletic Shoe, and the Red Sea Blue

This week's parsha is b'shalach. Trust me, if I weren't paid to know that, I unfortunately wouldn't. I never kept up with the weekly portions very well, since I didn't always make it to shul, much less on time. I wish I could say I'll mend my ways, but as a single girl who spends shabbos in different places each week, going to shul becomes very complicated and chancy. Of course, you don't know whether or not that's a sorry excuse, do you...?

Anyway, let me get back to the point. In this weeks parsha, bnai yisroel are fleeing from the subjugation of the mitzrim. They run straight to the yam suf. Oh no! In front of them lies the sea, behind them, Pharaoh and the evil Egyptians. On either side they see wild animals emerging from the dense forests of the wild. Should they take a chance on the wild beasts? Return to Egypt, beg for mercy? Or forge on the path that Moshe has so far led them: straight on, to the water.

The Jews were stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Out of the frying pan into the fire. Out of the lion's den, into the lion. Between the serpent and the eagle...ok, enough.

Some dissenters voiced their complaint to Moshe: "Why did you take us here to die? Aren't there graves in Egypt?" Instead of replying, "Oooh, sarcasm," Moshe said they should stop and all daven to Hashem. Hashem said, "No. Now is not the time to stop. Davening is often the correct course to take, but not now. Action is needed. Go, go!"

And Nachshon, from the shevet of Yehuda, stepped into the sea. Silence. Nothing happened. He took a few more steps into the water. Nothing. Until his knees. Nothing. His waist. Nothing. His chest. Nothing. His neck. Nothing. His mouth. Nothing. As the entire nation of Yisroel watched, Nachshon submerged his nostrils in the Yam Suf. Instantly, the sea split. Etc. It wasn't until Nachshon acted, until he said -now is not the time to pause, to fret, to change our minds. We have seen the signs of Moshe and Aharon, we have witnessed the ten makos. We have been saved from 210 years of torturous enslavement. Do not back down. Just do it. Act.

It is puzzling why Bnei Yisrael even halted for a moment at the shores of the sea of reeds. After so much pain, suffering, backbreaking labor and tragedy, they wonder if they should return to Egypt? They were, perhaps, suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome -content to remain slaves because it was what they were used to. In some small part of their minds they even preferred it to freedom, since it entailed no action, no decision-making on their part. A life with no choices is also a life with no choices to make. How easy, how simple. How horrible. Mitrayim contains the word tzar-narrow. Sometimes it is the most narrow of places that hold us in so strongly. But Nachshon showed them the way. It wasn't a new way, they were already headed in that direction. But all they had to do was make that critical decision to be free, to go forward, make new lives for themselves, and live.

Often in life, we do not realize it, but we are standing in between an army of Mitzrim and an ocean. JUmp in. Live. Just do it.
Go forward into the ocean of possibilities. Hashem will guide you. The ocean will reveal your course.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I'm Going to Law School. Deal with it.

It's been a long, long four months. Four months of unemployment, four months of job-seeking, four months of organizing my life, faxing my undergraduate institutions, making phone calls to my undergraduate institutions, making long-distance phone calls to old teachers who displayed some interest in seeing me succeed and therefore ranked as potential recommendation-givers, navigating the murky waters of the law school admissions council, frantically remembering to construct a personal statement, glossing over my sad, unemployed state of short, four months of applying to law schools. And, finally, I managed it. Unless I wake up tomorrow with another email telling me that my application is still incomplete, I managed it. I finished applying to law school.

Oh, what a process. It's so, so, so painful. The paperwork, the waiting, the stress -and the LSAT. Taking a test to see how logical you really are? I mean, who does that? I really think that all those yeshiva boys have an unfair advantage. They've spent most of their educational careers honing their minds over the intricate logistics of the Talmud. I've spent my educational career mastering the supreme art of procrastination over the intricate combinations of slurpees and nachos. Anyway, I did it, took a course and didn't do so badly, if I do say so myself. But look at the mess I got myself into with the pleasant score of a six hour logic and reading comprehension test: the unpleasant application process. Grrr. And the worst part is that I was never really sure that I wanted to go to law school! I took the test, "just in case" (those were my own dumb words) I wanted to go, and then once I saw I definitely could go, and started receiving ego-boosting letters from law schools in the most random villages of the US of A, I started getting excited.

Now that I'm in the equally unpleasant process of awaiting response from my four chosen law schools like some sick puppy dog waiting for a bone, the realization has sunk in. I am going to graduate school next year. No question. I only applied to law schools. No question 'bout that, either. Hence, I'm going to law school next year. (Provided a bone gets thrown my way.) Now, I guess, I just have to deal with it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The War On Idealism

Ever since I returned to America after my two year seminary stint in Israel, the majority of my spiritual searching has led me to one conclusion:

I am an idealist.

Now don't get me wrong, I do not mean it in an unreal, schizophrenic, deluded way. I mean it in a beautiful, hopeful, believer sort of way. But what never fails to burst a small bubble inside me is that idealism is perceived as a somewhat dirty word. "Oh, you're an idealist," a skeptic will sneer. "Yeah, that may work in an ideal world, but..." another will contest. What happened to hope for a better world? What happened to absolute belief and faith in something more perfect than the life we lead today? What happened to the childlike wonder of possibility that is true idealism. What happened to the Jew?

Jews are meant to be idealistic. "I believe with complete faith in the coming of Mashiach, and even though he may delay, despite this, I will wait every day for him to come." After thousands of years of waiting, we still wait. Why? Because we are waiting for a better world -not a fantasy world, but a world of giluy shechina, a world of global awareness of G-d, a world of peace and hope. A world worth waiting for. Even for thousands of years.

Despite my pink-cheeked enthusiasm for a greater good, I am no saint. My struggles all too often overtake me, and without the mercy of G-d I'd be without hope for redemption. But no matter the extent of the blackness of my soul, I am joyful in the recognition and constant devotion to G-d, His Torah, His world. The Ideal.

We all strive in life for something. Why not strive in life for something more?

In the beginning...

This is my very first post, and I think that is in itself a cause for celebration. So let's all take a moment and celebrate.



Well, that sure was fun. Now let's get on with it. An Okee Jew means, really, an okay Jew, which is what I hope I am. Actually I hope I'm an amazing, wonderful, perfect Jew (or should I say Jewess?), but that would be delusional. And I do try so hard not to be delusional. That is one of life's great Purposes -with a capital P. Living life in reality. One of the hardest tasks of the Orthodox Jew is living a delicately balanced life. Everyone speaks of moderation, which is a four syllable word for balance, really. And living in the year 2005 -I mean 2006, ahh how time flies when you're having fun -this is especially difficult. How much do you interact with modern customs, technology, reality...? With evolutionary ideas and revolutionary movements...? With the ever-changing, frightening world around you...? How do you try to be the best person you can be while living the duality of a 3000 year old religion and a twenty year old life?

So I am not (yet) an amazing, wonderful, perfect Jew. I may never be. But I will, with plenty of G-d's help, be an amazing and wondeful one, eventually. But for now, for my everyday reality, I'll "settle" for being me -an Okee Jew.

Have a good night, everyone! More on this next time...