Totally awesome redefined

I’m a girl who grew up in the totally awesome eighties, so it’s taken time for me to integrate the word awesome into my system with an emphasis on awe. But as I am awakening more to the magic in my life and in the world around me, I’m finding it necessary to rethink, “awesome.”

I processed this realization as I watched a trailer of an upcoming film in which astronauts describe what many of them say was the life-changing experience of viewing Earth from space.  Shuttle/ISS Astronaut Nicole Stott (who looks more or less my generation) says, “Awe is one of those words that you have a better understanding of once you see [what the planet looks like.]  I felt like using the word awesome was totally appropriate.”

(OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.)

Listening to the interviews with the astronauts, combined with commentary from philosophers, made me think that a trip to space would be a suitable prerequisite for all youth entering adulthood. What if, instead of going to college or the military, human beings first shot up to space, gazed out at our collectiveness on this planet, and wrote a poem or a song? What if they curated a photo exhibit or painted a picture or choreographed a dance or just simply wept with understanding and wrote an essay called, “What I did on my summer vacation in space?”

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell may have been the most impacted by his experience viewing our civilization from above. Back on Earth, he later formed a non-profit institute that researches meditation, consciousness, and human potential. Mitchell says in the film trailer:

“That’s a powerful experience, to see Earth rise over the surface [of the Moon].   But instead of being an intellectual experience, it was a personal feeling… accompanied by a sense of joy and ecstasy, which caused me to say ‘What is this?’ It was only after I came back that I did the research and found that the term in ancient Sanskrit was Samadhi.”

I highly recommend watching this powerful trailer and then letting me know what was awe-inspiring for you today. For me, it was a dream I had last night that came true a little today; it was a work opportunity that appeared at the perfect time; it was a song I hadn’t heard in 18 years but appropriately so since it only suited me today.

Some say there was a shift in consciousness that took place in 1968 once humans got a glimpse of the planet from space. And that this shift is ongoing today.

“This view of the Earth from space — the whole earth perspective — is the true symbol of this age and i believe what will happen is there is going to be a greater interest in communicating this idea because, after all, it’s key to our survival. We have to start acting as one species with one destiny. We are not going to survive if we don’t.”  – Frank White, author, The Overview Effect

 

 

Between us, there are books

It’s not difficult to spot us.

Those of us in love with old books.

We have shelves full of them.

We smuggle them into our homes despite the eye rolling of our spouses, our parents, our roommates.

We tolerate repetitive sneezing due to dust and the mildew and the ancient tree pollen lurking beneath pages 204 and 205 of the worn book of poetry; for the last time it was opened was beneath an olive tree in the rain.

We can be spotted inside libraries caressing the faded red jacket cover of a 1930s edition of Alice in Wonderland, both in awe that this edition is in our hands and moved by the many hands it has passed through.

Hands now wrinkled, hands now dead and buried, hands that have held wonders of their own in the years since they last held Alice’s.

old edition of Alice

We weep at inscriptions:

To John, Love Grandma

To my beloved wife on our 5th wedding anniversary

To the 8th grade graduates of Merrick Long Island Hebrew Academy. Mazel Tov!

We rescue old books from the recycling plant or, worse yet, from the dump.

We hold on to them in case of the apocalypse or hand them over to crafty friends to offer them a secondhand chance at life as a kitschy framed work of art for sale on etsy or as an IPAD cover, a final project for graphic design school.

Sometimes you hear us sighing in a used book store.

Sometimes we get lost in a used bookstore.

Sometimes we get caught longing for a used book store. Someone asks us, “What were you thinking about just then?” And we answer, “I was looking at your canvas tote bag from The Strand and wishing I was there right now.”

Truth be told: If I could be anywhere right now, I would be inside a used book store.

I would be sneezing my brains out. I would desperately need to use the bathroom (book stores have done this to me since I was 7.) I would lose track of time and part with lots of money, but this is where I would choose to be on any given day.

Even on a beach day.

I suppose TV had a hand in this, what with Charmed and Buffy and farther back even still, Friday the 13th The Series.

I suppose that movies had a hand in this, what with The Neverending Story and The Ninth Gate.

I suppose books themselves have had a hand in this, too. By becoming old. By becoming rare. By becoming obsolete in a way. By carrying in their spines the secrets of a thousand and one human beings.

I don’t know why, exactly, I have such a strong affection for old books, but I imagine it’s wrapped in my curious regard for the passing of time.

It’s a way to touch the past.

It’s a way to relate to people who I will never have the chance to speak to or behold.

It’s time travel of a sort. It is. Stop saying it isn’t.

Old books make me weep for the people who once read them.

For the person who will read it after me. Whom, I hope, might weep for me, too.

Might remember me, the ghost of me … with fondness.

For, despite the space and time between us, we both once turned this book over; swiped the top corner with a damp pointer finger; placed it spread open wide on a night stand or flat sandwiching a clean white tissue inside.

Times passes. We pass.

But between us, there are books.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I am not the me you think I am

In the days since the Justine Sacco twitter incident (which has officially been labeled a mob by the New York Times), I’ve spent a little time on a project that I’ve been meaning to focus on for a while:

Cleaning up my internet bread crumbs

You see: I’ve been at this a while. This thing I call “sharing of myself with strangers.”

I’ve been writing and posting opinion pieces, and uploading and approving photos of myself online since … well, at least since 1997. That’s as far back as I am able to trace myself though I imagine a stalker or a fairly good sleuth with a wad of cash with my name on it could identify earlier instances. Let’s hope that the first doesn’t exist, and the second never does.

For most of those 17 internet loving years, I stood firmly by the belief that sharing was good; identity theft was bad; and that since there was no way to stop people bent on investigating you or stealing your credit cards, why not position yourself in the light you prefer.

There was one little detail I didn’t pay attention to.

It’s that the light I want to shine in is ever shifting.

Even more so, there may come a time when I don’t desire the light. When I prefer to be hidden in the shadows.

Shadow me

Shadow me

If one day, a mob were after me, they’d find judgmental rants I am now ashamed of; they’d unearth unkind comments that were written on an off day; and they’d be able to amass a decent collection of really unattractive photographs of me in really unfashionable clothing (especially if they come across any from 2001 – 2003).

They’d find pictures of my kids that were cute in context, but now seem inappropriate. They’d stumble upon references to wacky dreams I’ve had or remembrances of drunken bodily performances. They’d certainly find articles written in a voice that is no longer mine; in a tone I no longer wish to express myself in.

I am not the girl you will find on a Google search.

I’m not even the girl who began this blog in 2011.

I’m someone else entirely.

In the cleaning up of the bread crumbs of me, I began by deleting or making private any online content I thought might embarrass my growing children. An effort of Herculean proportions that I will certainly never complete to their satisfaction.

Next, I tried to dig up the most obnoxious, off-the-cuff public statements I’ve made over the past year or two on Twitter or Facebook. Things I meant in jest, but might one day be held against me in a court of rash, cruel, public opinion.

But I know — even as I do this –

I know

That my efforts are nearly inconsequential.

Because what is appropriate now might one day not be. And what I see as an innocent or well-intentioned sharing of myself  could, at some point, be used to position me as anything from self-centered to irresponsible to crazy.

What do you do with that knowledge?

Do you unplug completely? Do you spit in the face of future detractors?

Or do you do what any good lawyer would tell you to do?

Add a disclaimer.

disclaimer jen

 

 

Do your dreams predict your Facebook feed?

I’m entering dangerous territory.

Dreamland.

Dreams — and how they figure into our waking lives — fascinate me. I don’t remember which came first —  my vibrant dream life or my wonder for that version of reality. But both have been with me since childhood.

What’s curious to me these days is lucid dreaming and predictive dreaming, both of which I seem to be getting better at.

The other night, for instance, I noticed I was in the middle of a super frightening nightmare, and I willed myself awake.  Not bad, I thought, when I woke up in a sweat. Now how do I start teaching myself how to fly?

For the past year or so, I’ve occasionally (a few times a month) experienced deja vu during the day in which I am certain I dreamt the interaction already the night before. Nothing momentous; in fact, regular every day occurrences that have a particular interesting twist. Not just the regular drop off at my daughter’s preschool, for instance, but one in which her classmate starts to speak to me in Russian.

I’ve read that such predictive dreaming is, in fact, not uncommon. Famous physicist Russell Targ (most well-known for his work with the military on remote viewing) writes about his own experience with precognitive dreams “predicting” newspaper headlines that he’d then read the next day.

But here’s a peculiar phenomenon I haven’t come across yet in reading on the subject of dreams, and I’m wondering if any of you have: Sometimes I dream my Facebook feed before it happens.

I have 851 Facebook friends. I’m pretty well aware of the 50 or so who appear regularly in my feed. So that when I dream of someone far away — who is not present in my day-to-day interactions and who is not one of the regular 50 people who appear in my feed — and that person shows up in my Facebook feed the next day, I am … to say the least … startled. Like, “Hey you, weren’t you just randomly in my dream last night? What are you doing in my Facebook face?”

Is there an algorithm to explain that experience? I say that only half-facetiously. There probably IS an algorithm to explain that. (If so, please share it, and if possible, in graphic novel format, which is how I best understand geek.)

In addition to dreaming about someone the day before they show up in my feed, I have, on multiple occasions, been talking about something with my colleague at work during the lunch hour — something seemingly obscure — only to find the topic being explored in an article posted by one of my Facebook friends in my feed when I return from lunch. As if Facebook was eavesdropping on our conversation.

Is there an algorithm for that? For overhearing a discussion on, let’s say, the ecosystem of the gut after eating meat or milk? Is there an internet worm crawling from our ears, our minds, and back into “the system?”

I know that readers of this blog span the spectrum of futurists believing we already live in the Matrix to religious devotees who believe the Bible literally happened. (And I appreciate that diversity!)

So tell me:  what do you think? Does this ever happen to you, too?

Is it more common than I think,  this transmission from mind to physical matter (our computers) and back again?

Or am I naive to think of “the internet” as matter, at all? Isn’t it, too, mind?

 

Hebrew Language Tip 135: Turn your curse word into a casual remark

What You Need to Know About Me Before You Read My Tip

I like to curse. I think people who curse are cooler than people who don’t. I think people who don’t read blogs because the author uses curse words are over-sensitive. I used to have a blog called The Wellness Bitch. I like to scream, “Fuck,” really loudly when I stub my toe or drop something on it. When I say Fuck really loudly when I get hurt it makes me physically feel better. All my kids, ages 5 – 10, have said the F word out loud at least twice with my permission. (Two of them have a hard time differentiating between the F sound and the Th sound so at least one of them probably said THUCK. ) I have to hold back sometimes from saying to my kids, “Are you fucking kidding me?” because despite how much I like to emphasize my surprise, I know I don’t want them saying that phrase to their friends or teachers. All in all, I want to live in a world where people curse, but don’t want them cursing at me. For instance, I don’t want to ever be on the recipient end of “you are a f-ing …” well… anything.

Tip

If you like to curse, move to Israel where nobody gives a SHEET about cursing. Three year olds drop their pacifiers on the ground and say, SHEET!  10 year olds miss a goal on the soccer field, and they scream, SHEEEEEEET! Not to mention, every one and their 90 year old grandmother says “dafuk” which is basically a morphed Hebrew version of the F word.

That Said…

It should have been obvious (but it wasn’t) that curse words not in your native language lose their strength.  Which is why “shit” is something Israelis of all ages say by the way, without a second thought. (Including my own angelic little 7 year old.) Israelis don’t even consider “shit” a curse word. It doesn’t belong to them. It belongs to English speakers

But say “Lekh tezdayen!” to an Israeli and you might just make them flinch, or so I learned the other day when I said it a little too loud in my office coffee break room. Silly me, I thought I was being the cute immigrant. Turns out I was being foul.

Lesson

Words have strength … until we decide they don’t.

And that, my friends, is one to grown on.

The internet has turned me into a distracted tree killer

The internet, while seemingly a solution to the problem of the environmental impact of paper, is in fact turning me into a murderer.

Of trees.

For the past decade, I’ve been an obnoxiously devoted supporter of replacing paper with screens.

I’ve forsaken writing, receiving, and hoarding handwritten letters in exchange for emails. I’ve replaced the amusing 20 minutes I used to spend browsing the  greeting card aisles of the Hallmark store in exchange for working too hard on a mildly humorous  Facebook birthday greeting. I’ve even given up one of my greatest pleasures — lounging in a hot bath with a paperback — because now I read on Kindle and I’m too afraid of electrocution to bring my IPAD within five feet of a pool of water.

Did Al Gore, when he created the internet, carelessly forget about this thing called evolution that has now made it literally impossible for me to read on screen anything longer than 300 words?!

Yes. I admit it. I cannot read on screen anything longer than six paragraphs. All those articles I share on Twitter? Only read the first 300 words. Skimmed the rest. Occasionally I will force myself to read an entire 1000-word post of a good friend first by leaning in (thank you Sheryl Sandberg) and then by literally hugging the monitor close to my face, forcing my mind to process each and every word.

When I really need to read something I don’t want to read — because for some reason, people keep writing ARTICLES, CONTRACTS, and DOCUMENTS longer than 300 words and I am professionally bound to edit and/or respond to those documents — I print them out on paper. I have to. Otherwise, I black out and find myself mindlessly scrolling Pinterest.

Yes, tree killing is coming back. Watch. You’ll see.  You and me — we’re headed towards a killing spree.

My little Garden of Eden in Israel

There is a place I idealize here in Israel:

Kibbutz Harduf in the Lower Galilee, an anthroposophic community with a unique approach to intentional living, and Israel’s largest producer of organic food.

Before we made Aliyah I first learned of Harduf  from my (now) friend Haviva’s article in Zeek about local, organic living in the Galilee.  At the time, I was running my own consulting business in New Jersey, the main focus of which was on educational and marketing efforts in the area of holistic health and green living. When we started researching communities in which to live I looked into the possibility of moving to Harduf.

I reached out via their Hebrew web site, but received no response. And when I asked our Nefesh B’ Nefesh regional Aliyah consultant her opinion on whether she thought Harduf was a good fit for our family, she advised against it, indicating it wasn’t the best place for new immigrants unless we were all very focused on living the “hardcore anthroposophic” life.

This was wise advice.

It wouldn’t have been a good fit for our family.

But, wow, it would have been a good fit for me — in another life. And sometimes I wish we lived there.

The beautiful campus is set upon a hill which overlooks in the distance the bay of Haifa and the Mediterranean sea. The residents, in the 30 or so years they have built up the kibbutz have put obvious effort into making the explorer’s experience of their home one peppered with wonder and teeming with vitality.

Harduf is itself alive.

I don’t live there, but I am lucky enough to live very close — just a 15 minute drive away. Recently, I joined the health clinic there (the physician, an M.D., is trained in both conventional medicine and anthroposophic medicine, which emphasizes homeopathy over medication.) So I’ve been spending more time there and try to build in an extra 10 or 20 minutes to wander every time I have to go there.

This morning, I brought my two youngest children over to Harduf to walk through the gardens, smell and touch the fruit trees, wander through shaded paths that lead to unexpected structures, and play on their gorgeous playground, a wonderland of thoughtful planning and handiwork.

yellow house

It was a two-hour slice of heaven.

Only after playing on the playground for an hour and on our way out to the restaurant and store that is open on Shabbat did I see this sign:

harduf sign

The sign basically says, “Entrance to the park is forbidden to non-residents of Harduf. The use of the playground is for children supervised by parents.”

The sign was new. It wasn’t there the last time we visited.

Still the new immigrant, I couldn’t pass by the sign without a thought, leaving the rule following to others.  I’m still very American, and I felt bad for a minute that we had unknowingly defied the sign.

But only for a minute.

Soon after, I was angry. Insulted.

Confused.

Harduf?

Telling non-residents to “Keep Out!”

How could this be?

I quickly snapped a photo of the sign and ushered my kids out.

I silently generated all sorts of indignant responses to this sign:

“Oh, they’re happy to have my business at the organic vegetable market or at the restaurant, but they aren’t willing to open their playground to me and my kids?”

“What if I was a tourist? Or a visitor to one of the families who lived here? How rude!”

“Would we ever put up a sign in Hannaton telling people who didn’t live there that our playground was off limits?”

I took the kids to the restaurant, which has a quaint little gift shop inside and we browsed for a bit.

Outside the Harduf organic vegetable market, Israel

Outside the Harduf organic vegetable market, Israel

As I approached the cash register to pay, I saw the owner of the restaurant and a long time Harduf resident, Jutka, there. I don’t know Jutka well: I’ve just had a few conversations with her a couple of times that I’ve been in the restaurant. (Jutka is also the author of this family-friendly vegetarian cookbook.)

I asked her in Hebrew about the sign at the playground, “Why is the playground off-limits to outsiders?”

She grumbled in response, “It’s for security reasons.”

She didn’t mean security in the traditional Israeli way, I quickly learned. The signs weren’t a warning to unfriendly neighbors, people who might want to hurt us. Those “security risks” don’t pay attention to signs.

What I understood from her was the signs were to protect Harduf from lawsuits. They were placed there to inform people of their personal liability.

She didn’t mention specifics, but I wondered if something had happened to spark this decision.

I told her I was disappointed and a little hurt to come upon the sign. I told her that I consider Harduf a paradise, and was taken aback to see such a harsh statement at the entrance to a park I love so much.

She sighed. I understood from this and her from eyes that she’s proud of the paradise she’s helped built, but she said,

“Even in this paradise, there are reasons to be concerned. Even in Gan Eden, there was the serpent,”

Jutka said this with a sly smile. (Jutka is someone I’d like to get to know better some day.)

I breathed in deeply and nodded, her words hitting me. Even in paradise there are problems to solve; hard decisions to be made. And Harduf is no exception.

Suddenly, I wasn’t angry anymore — it helped that Jutka invited us to be her guest at the playground, should anyone ask — but I was a bit disheartened:  Reality bursting my bubble once again.

I shook it off — and instead accessed the gratitude I had felt for the few hours on Harduf before I discovered the sign.

“You can sense the spirit here, can’t you?” Jutka asked.

I nodded again.

“Come back here whenever you want,” she told me.

And I agreed that I would.

Classified: In need of better ice cream in Israel

I made my own ice cream last night.

I did this out of despair.

I do not like store bought Israeli ice cream. It’s awful. Even the halavi (dairy) ice cream (as opposed to the soy-based parve) is gross.

A complete waste of calories, if you care about that kind of thing.

I don’t.

I just want some decent ice cream every now and again.

For a while, I would splurge on the Ben & Jerry’s you can find occasionally in the supermarket, but the last five times I bought it, I opened the carton to find the ice cream melted and refrozen into an icy gelatinous mess. So, in addition to having no ice cream to satisfy my already salivating glands, I had to plan a trip to Shufersal to get my 48 shekels back.

Not easy when you live in the middle of nowhere.

Grrrr.

I exaggerate. I live in the outskirts, but Israel is not a third world nation.

We do have high-falutin “Italian ice cream parlors.” However, I have no taste for Leggenda or Dr. Lek (which is spelled the same as Dr. Lick, but is apparently pronounced Dr. Lek, go figure) or any of these gelato type places that charge you 18 shekels for a cone (that’s $5, my US friends).

Even if they didn’t charge so much, I can’t go there with my nut allergic kid.  I found a peanut in my vanilla ice cream there just the other day, which successfully proved my  theory in the company of my husband that ice cream parlors are not at all safe for nut allergic kids.

So last night, for about 6 -7 shekels (the cost of cream, milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla), I made a pint of my own vanilla ice cream following these instructions and using this recipe which totally worked.

homemade ice cream

The recipe is super easy, and while a bit time consuming, does not require an ice cream maker.

Which is quite a relief.

There’s nothing more infuriating than searching like mad for a recipe on Google, finding one, only to realize it requires some expensive piece of equipment or a brand of soup mix only found in New Zealand.

Quite the opposite with this recipe, I had everything I needed  … even the ice (which was the hardest of all the ingredients to come by in Israel).

So, finally, one ice cream discontent in Israel may now be content.

Until the container is finished.

Crazy Jen and her digital detox

In a discussion with my mother last week, I explained to her with confidence that a group of people were surely talking about me when I left the room.

“How exactly do you know that?” she asked me.

“I just do,” I replied.

“How?” she pressed.

I explained to her that in the same way she is brilliant when it comes to data analysis or number crunching, I know people and their behavior.

It’s not my paranoia, it’s my specialty.

This is why I excel in marketing and branding — you need to be hyper sensitively tuned in to emotions and able to anticipate reactions in order to predict trends and behavior.

I like to tell people — because it’s true and a little self-deprecation is still attractive on a 39 year old who looks 34 — that I am a trend spotter, not a trendsetter.

I spotted the name Hannah, and sock monkeys, and gluten free all before they became Average Joe household-familiar trends.

It’s a blessing and a curse.

The bad part about being a trend spotter, much in the same way that it’s bad to be psychic — people tend to think you’re crazy until the moment after the trend hits the Today Show.

They either don’t listen to you or roll their eyes or … talk about you behind your back, often and with more eye rolling.

The worst part? I receive little to no vindication years later when the trend is obvious. Most people, except for my cousin Jami, have all forgotten by then that crazy Jen suggested years ago that probiotics were the key to fighting depression.

As for my digital detox, I was a little late on the uptake this time.

Only days after I finished my detox — which included the elimination of my smartphone and all computer-related activities for 2 1/2 weeks except for checking personal email once a week and Facebook on my birthday — someone sent me this smart and poignant short film about our cultural obsession with digital connection. The same day, as I returned to Twitter activity, this article from Fast Company appeared in my feed about “slow design” and mentions the digital detox trend. (Not to mention silent meditation retreats — something I’ve been doing, writing about, and suffering ridicule for over the last two years! )

Maybe my trend spotting eye has blurred in my old age, or maybe — like the rest of the world — I am too tired and over-stimulated to be spotting much of anything save for my second cup of espresso.

If digital detox has become  a trend before I spotted it, so be it.

It’s good for us.

We need it.

And we need it fast.

More and more I am hearing from my friends or seeing evidence on the social media networks I somehow feel compelled to follow even though I am getting more and more tired of the content, that –

life is too fast and too hard to keep up with

Just yesterday, my poor friend on Facebook posted an urgent plea for advice:

How do you all do it? She wanted to know.

How do you all keep up with everything? Work, kids, marital bliss, friends, community, world news?

How do you all do it?

I could hear the defeated sigh that followed the last question mark.

We don’t, was my answer.

We’re suffering, I told her.

I hoped to offer her some solace, some comfort. Misery, after all, loves company.

But I don’t know how much relief company will bring. In this case, the more we see others faking it, the more “less than” we feel. And it’s so easy to fake it. It’s so easy to distract yourself from your pain and discontent.

Until it’s not.

Courtesy gawker.com

Courtesy gawker.com

During my own digital detox, which took place during a family vacation, I become hyper aware — just like the girl in the video — of all that goes on, and all that is ignored, around me.

I also became acutely aware and appreciative of my own presence in my own life.

It took only 48 hours of being off Facebook to be so thankful to be off Facebook.

To be relieved.

It took less time for me to be thankful to be off Twitter.

To not know what was going on in the news.

To not have to be witty or responsive.

To tune out the latest trends.

To tune out other people, and the details of their lives.

This may sound mean or psychopathic. Or at the very least, depressive.

Maybe it is.

But if it is, it’s a cultural disease that most of us are severely suffering from.

Most of us just don’t know it — or acknowledge it – yet. OR we’re still convincing ourselves that information access trumps burn out.

Or we think there is no way out.

The symptoms of our cultural disease come out in little ways, like my friend’s Facebook plea, or in a whispered coffee chat between young mothers, or in a verbal spar between embarrassed male colleagues, both overtired and fearful that they will never be able to catch up on their emails or please neither their bosses nor their wives.

My heart hurts for those men, and

I mourn the loss of my freedom.

Because that is what digital detox is — a gateway drug to freedom.

It’s just too expensive for my pocketbook right now and not trendy enough to be available to the masses.

I’m waiting, though.

I’m watching the Today Show headlines on Twitter, and waiting.

Because years ago, back when people were complaining that $5.99/pound was too much to be paying for apples, I was secretly shopping organic at Wild Oats in Tucson, Arizona, waiting for Walmart to catch up.

And hoping for a trend to hit.

Hoping that I wasn’t mistaken and hoping I wasn’t alone.

The characters must fit the story

I almost forgot to punch out my 15-minute Friday piece until I checked my WordPress Reader and saw that the Daily Prompt today pushes us to “Go Serial.”

I started going serial accidentally last week when I found myself compelled to write yet another poem about Kfar Manda, the Arab Village down the street from Hannaton, the kibbutz village in which I live.

I was in Kfar Manda because I heard from my friend on Hannaton they had a great health clinic with good doctors and lots of services the smaller clinics here in the North don’t typically have. The two clinics I normally go to were closed and I wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t want to wait until the next morning, when my doctor would return to the office.

Going to the health clinic is always a test of bravery for me here in the outskirts of this country. You never know how good the doctor’s English will be and you never know if your Hebrew will be strong enough to indicate which organ feels busted or which region needs attention.

I still don’t know how to say vagina in Hebrew.

I do now, however, after many awkward interactions, know the grownup words for peepee and poop.

It took me 6 months of living in Israel before I felt comfortable going to the doctor without my husband in attendance. But it took me 2 1/2 years of living here before I felt comfortable driving in and around Kfar Manda.

This week was the first time I drove in alone. And I only felt comfortable doing so once I saw on Google Maps that the clinic was only a few blocks from the main road.

Of course, Google Maps doesn’t really work in villages here in Northern Israel: neither the Jewish nor the Arab Villages have street signs. And so directions indicating to turn onto Peleg Street or Ibz Ezra Avenue don’t really help you in real time.

So even though the clinic was only a few blocks in, I needed help from the locals to get me there.

By a mix of my broken Hebrew and there’s, I found my way to the clinic and was helped graciously by the Arab doctors and nurses. The only difference between this clinic and the one I normally go to was language. The promotional signs from the health plan, for instance, were in Arabic instead of Hebrew; as were the conversations between the health professionals.

My solo trip into Kfar Manda didn’t end there. I had to go for an Xray. I could have waited a few days and scheduled an appointment in Karmiel, the nearest city. But I wanted to get the Xray over with. So I asked the doctor for directions.

In typical Middle Eastern style, he pointed out the window and told me in Hebrew to walk this way, that way, and then straight, straight, straight for 50 meters and I’d see it.

I nodded and did as I was told.

Except after 45 minutes in the heat of the day trying five different versions of “this way, that way, and straight straight straight” I only found myself at a market, a pharmacy, and at a store selling curtains.

It was time to go home or talk to people.

I chose to talk to people.

7 or 8 people later, I found the hair salon whose owner pointed me to the bank whose member directed me to the restaurant that was above the Xray center.

I found it.

And in doing so, I found another way of looking at Kfar Manda.

A perspective that involved real people, not just characters in stories.

Stories based in fact, yes, but stories also based in fiction.

In assumptions.

In racism.

In fear.

Stories I had been told and stories I told myself.

And so, with experience, my understanding of Kfar Manda shifts.

And I write poems.

If your smartphone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?

We know our smartphones make us stupider.

We know they distract us.

Confuse us.

Make us crash our cars into each other.

And keep us from having meaningful conversations with other human beings, in particular our kids, our spouses, and our friends. People, presumably, we like and want to have meaningful conversations with.

And yet, we keep using them. We keep buying faster ones, stronger ones, more multi-purpose ones.

We download apps faster than you can say “Shoot me up, Scotty.”

This isn’t news.

Nor is it news that many of us are, at the very least, conflicted about this,

But despite our conflict, we continue to use.

As a recovering control freak — I am pretty addicted to my Waze and my easy access Google, which lets me find out within thirty seconds where the nearest ER is.

We parents like our Angry Birds, so we have something to do while waiting for the doctor. We like our YouTube, so we can have a quiet meal with kids every now and again.

We really, really, really like our Instagram.

Last week, however, the battery in my smartphone died. And due to complications with my warrantee, I have been using a regular old telephone for the last week.

It’s been great.

Weird, disruptive, but great.

I know I’m not the first to notice how much of your life you get back when your smartphone dies, but I can’t help but share my awareness with you.

Without the camera on my smartphone, I just sat and watched my children play for an hour on inflatable jumping castles yesterday.

Without my instagram, I smiled inside and shared my joy with myself only … until I saw my husband later, and had to use my words, and not pictures, to describe how much fun they had.

Without my smartphone, my work day ends when my work day ends, and my work day begins when it begins.

It isn’t one long everlasting day that runs into the next one.

Without my smartphone, taunting me with a flashing light or a clever, nostalgic ring-a-ling-a-ling, my thumbs rested, for the first time in many years. And I listened to a story someone was telling me. I actually listened — to the whole thing — uninterrupted.

Our smartphones are the very physical representations of our very distracted society — a society that runs, forgets, snaps, jumps.

Only when our smartphones disappear — or worse, when tragedy strikes — are we reminded of the choices we have to make each and every second of each and every day.

We must constantly choose where to be.

Are we with our phones? Or are we with our life?

When our phones are around, most of us inevitably choose our phones.

When we don’t, because we have to focus on something or someone else, our typical first responses are irritability or confusion.

WHY ARE YOU BOTHERING ME?

WHAT?!?

HUH? WHAT DID YOU SAY? SORRY I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING.

This state of irritability or confusion is how we spend our days … our moments …

With our minds constantly stimulated, we forget we have a choice.

We forget that in every moment, we must choose.

Where to be.

With whom

With what.

Why do we forget? Because usually we don’t choose. We react.

That’s what humans do when they are over-stimulated.

Our minds have been re-trained from choice to reaction.

For the last week, my mind has been getting a work out in under stimulation.

I had to sit in the doctor’s office and look at the walls, and the people.

I had to wave to the guy riding a donkey in the middle of the road, instead of snapping his picture for posterity.

I had to watch my children … just watch them.

Mostly — I loved this week.

I cheered the death of my smartphone secretly, even though I kept bugging the technician for a date of repair.

Because I understand that it can’t be like this.

That I can’t have it both ways.

That, yes, there is a bigger choice I could make that would allow me to be more present more of the time.

But it would require giving up a lot.

In the meantime, I’m grateful for the death of my smartphone. And I’m proud of myself for realizing the gift inside this temporary loss.