Friday, June 23, 2006

Flying Through Frustration, Inspiration, Realization

Well, I am in New York again, not that you knew I was gone. I was, however, in a city in middle America which shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. Namely, me. Although, one could argue to great effect that my innocence is disputable and perhaps altogether debatable, but that is not, after all, the point.

The point is that my getting there and my returning from there were such interesting, frustrating, terrifying, wonderful days, that the journey, itself, became the point.

It all began last week, the night before my departure, when I decided when to wake up for my flight. My flight was scheduled for 8:00 AM, so I woke up at 5:30 to allow time for zipping up my suitcase, putting on half my makeup (the other half was saved for the car ride), stopping at Dunkin Donuts for some much needed coffee, and the traffic-ridden drive to the airport itself. Oh, Laguardia, how often I merit to see you!

Due to an actual paucity of cars on the road, I arrived at Laguardia with more than an hour to spare. I was blessed, though, with much to do, since a gate change was announced over the loudspeaker. A change of gate that required the boarding of a bus and a little hop to another, unadjacent terminal. By the time we all filed into the new boarding area, the time was already past eight. Minutes ticked by, and after only a twenty minute delay, we were finally granted the privilege of boarding the miniscule plane. If it were any tinier, it would need no engine -only a propeller or two.

But we did not take off right away. No, after a little taxiing, the polite pilot announced that traffic control is delaying our flight at least two hours due to the turbulent weather in our destination city. Oy, vey, sitting on a plane for two hours? With only coffee in my tummy? At least, I consoled myself, I had an seat in a row all to myself, a good book, and the airline magazine perched in the pocket of the seat in front of me. And they allowed us free reign of the aircraft, which I made happy use of -exempting the cockpit, of course. One hour and some time later (my, how time does fly when you're reading a book and sipping diet coke with ice), the pilot announced that due to the severity and apparent longevity of the storm a few states away, our flight was canceled.

Oooookaaaaayy, I thought. But with nary a grumble, and even with a smile, I exited the aircraft and thanked the nice flight attendant and pilot. Somehow, I managed to be last in line to rebook my ticket, so I figured I wouldn't get on a flight that day, but I'd have to wait for the next. Which would be especially ironic, since my original flight plan was to leave the next day, but I made it for a day early to spend more time with my sister, whom I planned on visiting.

Baruch Hashem, I was able to catch a flight on another airline (Continental) at 1:00 PM -only a three hour wait. I meandered my way across Laguardia ('cause, of course, it was on the opposite end of the airport), buying a magazine, another book, and...drum-roll!!! I miraculously found a little "health food" store called Cibo, which sells a lot of what's traif, and a little of what's kosher. I was good to go. At 12:50, I boarded my plane, which took about an hour or so to actually take off, so I landed at my destination about 6 hours later than I planned to. And my seat which would have been alone in it's own little row on my original flight was now squished next to a robust man with sharp elbows. But all's okay, really, because it was just another lesson in "Man plans, G-d laughs..."

But the story of my travel plans did not end with the first leg of my itinerary. No, just days later, after my visit ended, I found out my reservation had been canceled due to human error on somebody else's part, and an annoying phone call had to placed. I was put on hold, but the problem was eventually solved. But because my reservation had been cancelled, so had my seat choice. Now I was placed in a window seat. Oh, no, another close encounter with an uncaring seat neighbor, I thought. But all my worry was, I later saw, for naught...

Because when I got to the airport -with my mother and sister in tow, for they were returning to NY with me- we discovered our flight was delayed from 6:30 PM to 7:30. Then it was delayed to 8:00. Then 9:00. Suspecting another case of the ol' "delay, delay, cancel", I readied myself for a nice sprint to the ticket counter to be first in line to rebook our tickets. We brought with us five heavy pieces of luggage, and we wanted "out" that night. And then, as expected, a weary voice over the PA system announced the cancellation. I dashed to the counter and was rewarded with the second spot in line. (Hee hee.) It seemed that we'd have to take the next morning flight, because the next flight out was with Continental, and they weren't taking any more...oh, wait...yes...they were...okay, we were rebooked on the 10:15 PM flight outta there. So, American would reroute our baggage for, they wouldn't, because Continental wouldn't take we'd have to go to baggage claim, get our baggage, bring it upstairs to ticketing, and re-check in at the Continental counter. Fun.

So we did, that, and I'll spare you the details, but let me just mention how the cart, piled high with baggage -oh, did I mention our dog which was traveling with us?- got stuck in the elevator, and almost tipped over, and the beeping, and the doors closing on me, my mother, our suitcases, and our shih tzu...uch. And I should mention my side trip back downstairs to the opposite side of the airport for no reason, because the Continental lady told me too, but really she just "didn't know what she was doing" (this according to the American lady, to whom I was sent to by the Continental lady). And when I slugged my way back to the Continental counter, my mother regaled me with a hilarious account of how she was hit on by a celebrity-type figure before all his autograph seekers and bodyguard. Sheesh, I thought, I miss all the fun! "Is this normal?" I asked my mother. "Is life really this insane?" My wise mother responds, "We don't notice when it's smooth. We only notice when it's not."

An hour or two and a gate change later, we were finally sitting in the airplane on the way back to New York. We were seated neatly in a row, my mother, my sister, the dog beneath the seat in front of us, and me. Wondering if the pilot's prophecy will come true, if it will, indeed, be a "bumpy flight" due to the weather, and wondering why he would freak us out about it in advance after all we'd been through to get on the tiny plane. Wondering, what if? I always do...and wondering why I always do...

I read a book and tried to quiet my turbulent mind, bent on the turbulent ride, heedful of the flashes of lightening outside. I read a book and took deep breaths, even as panic overrode my sensibilities and the floor and walls of the small airplane seemed to radiate blistering heat, and the shakes and dips of the aircraft underscored its fragility in the face of the unknown. I read a book and didn't stop wondering, what if...?

And then I remembered what my father, a"h, told me about turbulence so long ago. "It's nothing but potholes -a car driving over a rough road." And then I turned on the air conditioner, breathed, and looked out the window to my right. What I saw shocked me to the core. I saw darkness, but not nothing. I saw beautiful blackness, mountains of clouds and air, glistening pinpricks of delicate stars, streaks of indigo mist riding beside our flying machine. I saw the beauty of the night. The beauty of the sky.

I sat with my nose up against the glass, my eyes drinking in the sights with a hunger unequal to that which I felt due to the lack of kosher food in a small town airport. I couldn't get enough of the beauty that I saw. I observed the ever-changing landscape of just two media -mist and air- as we traveled above it, below it, through it, in it. A dark fairyland, not terrifying but enlightening, sparking into life a darkness of the soul that hid from light for so many years. Oh, G-d! I thought- how beautiful! How wonderful! How! How?! And then seeing the glow of the city below pushing it's way through the night, I knew it was Man, staking his claim in the partnership with G-d, proving once again that he is not passive but rather present, and always, blissfully active, full of hope and love, full of life. The stars above bore witness to the tears in my eyes that didn't fall, but rather gathered together and waited, and then decided not to flee from me and so returned to the depths. A tear almost fell from my eyes because of the beauty I saw, and I was proud of that. And I realized my fear had fled miles ago, the air was cool and the world at peace.

We landed, we arrived. But they journey goes on. And I learned that yes, "Man plans, G-d laughs", but laughs not at us, rather with us, as we laugh at ourselves. For we expect life to be smooth, and easy, and we notice not when it is glorious, and beautiful. Unless we do notice. And then, we can either cry, or we can laugh. Or both.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Little MBD Never Hurt Anyone

Recently, I was in the car with a friend, chilling and listening to music, when one of my favorite songs came on. Just as I was about to say, "Hey, this is my favorite song!" my friend switched to the next song, which according to what she then said, was "such a great song". Huh. The song was a good one, but I liked the first one wayyyyy better. Wouldn't everyone? Guess not. Lesson number 973 of life: Everyone has different tastes. Especially in music.

So according to lesson number 973, many people probably wouldn't agree with the following statement. (That was a disclaimer, in case ya didn't catch it.)

Mordechai Ben David rocks the house aaaaallllll the way down. Seriously, man, I know some of his stuff just doesn't fit the current music style of 2006, but the classics never go out of style. Yerushalyim, We Will Never Leave You! Yerushalyim, At Yerushateinu, Lo Na'azveich, L'olam At Beit Chayteinu! Tamid, Tamid, Tamid B'Simcha! And.....the following poem. Not by me, but by MBD. (Well, that rhymed! He he:)

Trembling in the darkness/ A battlefield, who knows/ A soldier crawls ahead/for behind him, someone goes/ Oh, heaven/ Pounding is his heartbeat/ He whispers words of prayer/ It seems that all his life in a flash may disappear

Wait- the crack of dawn/ As it greets the weary trooper/ Now his comrades he can see/ Reunited all for victory/ There, beneath the sun/ In a moment/ He has conquered/ All his fear just slipped away / Like the night so swiftly turned to day

Trembling in the darkness/ Praying for the light/ It seems as if it may never come/ At the darkest of the night/ Oh yes, this galus, it surrounds us/ A battlefield, who knows/ We slowly inch ahead/ We believe it's really close

Wait- the crack of dawn/ Bright horizon/ Soon the sunshine/ Yes, Mashiach's on his way/ All the grief and sorrow slipped away/ The past is but a dream/ In Yerushalyim/ The Bais Hamikdash/ Yes, this galus slipped away/ Like the night so swiftly turned to day

Celebration/ Exultation/ Young and old dancing everywhere/ We believe it all/ Heaven standing tall/ Eternal paradise/ Euphoria/ The past is but a dream/ In Yerushalyim / The Bais Hamikdash/ Yes, this galus slipped away/ Like the night so swiftly turned to day

Pain so long forgotten/ Night forever gone/ Now here it is the crack of dawn...

I have nothing more to say, because this poem, this song, this tefillah stands on its own.

Ok, I have more to say, but only because I can't close my mouth (...or stop my hands?). No matter what your taste in music -Shalsheles, Chamillion, Shweky, Mozart, Matisyahu, Nickleback...

A little MBD never hurt anyone.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Matzah of a Mitzvah...or a New Post?

Wow. The past week-and-half has been very intense. Very busy. Very interesting. Very, very, very.

So I haven't posted in a while. Not too long of a while, of course, but longer that I would have liked. Yup, another secret is out: Okee has a life. I couldn't find the time, willpower or menuchas da'as to sit down and "pen" a new post.

Just in the last week, I took care of -count 'em- nine pressing issues. Wheeeeeeewwwwww! That's enough to make any girl want to curl under the covers with a good slurpee and and even better book....But I haven't had the chance to do so.

Don't get me wrong. (Oh, I know you'd never get me wrong, but just in case...) I have taken many a break, procrastinated a fair amount, had a good bit of fun, made more than my share of friendly phone calls, and rented a movie or two (or three). But I have had so many "deadlines", so to speak, lately, that I feel like a newspaperwoman or something. And it's not over. Oh, no. Deadline number eighty five is tomorrow morning, for a parsha summer homework assignment. Oish! (that's for you, you know who:)

Luckily, I decided to squeeze in a post creation during my procrastination time. As soon as I'm done with this, I'll check my aol mail, my yahoo mail, listen to some music, and then maybe get down to business. All's well that ends well, said the bard, and all of us procrastinators seem to agree wholeheartedly.

On the other hand, it's not exactly a Jewish ma'alah, and seems to be the opposite of zerizus. Oh, dear. I should really work on that. You know what they say, a mitzvah only stays matzah if you don't let it rise!

They do say that, right?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Am I Falling Or Flying?

There's sometimes so much I want to say and do that I feel as if everything inside me is clamoring to get out, to explore the world, to conquer it, and sing. And I fly ever higher.

Sometimes I do not fly. I sort of slug along, close to the ground, checking both ways before I cross the sidewalk, and I slither onwards.

Sometimes I do not slither. I eat up the ground with great big strides, tossing my hair, laughing in delight, devouring the sights with amazed eyes, and I prance forward.

Sometimes I do not prance. I tend to shiver my way by, glancing over my shoulder, into the past, tears hanging off my eyelashes, and I crawl still further.

Sometimes I do not crawl. I leap. I dance. I run. I hide. I walk. I skip. I swim. I move, ever onwards. For even when I myself am still, life drags me faster and faster along.

This post was to be about something else entirely. Ironically, its title was originally "Waiting...and waiting...", a post about (duh) how much waiting around we do in life -for both the important and the trivial. Maybe I'll continue it in the future; probably not. Because my fingers tapped out a completely different entry -about going, going, going. Even when you look back, even when you move so slowly.

I often worry, as many other post-seminary girls do, about whether I am growing, and I think, perhaps, I'm not. I've remained stagnant -if not, G-d forbid, worse. But really, I believe life almost forces growth on us. It (aka Hashem) throws constant challenges our way. Like a brand new batter for the major leagues, we want to make a good impression, so we stand on the batter's mound and face down the pitcher. But even if I strike out so often the fans throw half-eaten hot dogs my way, I'll still gain from the harrowing experience -a new perspective on the pressures of the big leagues, the distractions of the crowds, the pitcher's various "tells" and tendencies, etc. So really, I'm not slipping down the slippery slope of life.

I'm flying, slithering, prancing, and crawling my way up it.

Just watch out for the half-eaten hot dogs.