This morning, as I was just starting to feel better about my tough week, my husband corrected my Hebrew.
It’s perfectly okay that he corrects my Hebrew — it’s something I have asked him to do with the intention of learning quicker. After all, aren’t your mistakes sometimes more memorable than your achievements?
Despite the fact that I’ve asked him to correct me, I still often feel like an asshole when he does. Particularly when I realize that I’ve previously made the same mistake in front of someone who didn’t correct me. Someone who let my mistake just hang there in midair. Who just nodded, but inside thought to herself either a) “awww…isn’t the new immigrant so cute?” or b) “dumbass.”
The correction, in case you are wondering, was my use of the word “chuggim” when I really meant “chaggim.” Chuggim, for those who don’t speak Hebrew, are after-school enrichment type classes. Chaggim are literally holidays or festivals, but refers here in Israel to the Jewish High Holidays. In September, people are constantly referring to “achrei hachaggim” (after the holidays) because the chaggim are as disruptive to your life and schedule here in Israel as winter break is in the States. In September, you’re just getting your life back on track after the summer break and then WHAM, the chaggim hit you.
I actually know the difference between chuggim and chaggim. It wasn’t a true mistake; the kind where I used the wrong word because I thought it was the right word. It was a mistake of confidence. It was a mistake rooted in my desire to speak Hebrew without thinking, which is what all the veteran immigrants advise you to do.
The two words are similar sounding and used frequently (at least by weary parents). Chuggim just came out. I quickly understood my mistake after my husband corrected me and also suddenly realized it wasn’t the first time I made it…and that the previous time was to a friend of mine. (A friend, I hope, in the “aww….isn’t she cute” category.)
The chuggim/chaggim mistake came up in the context of my mother’s upcoming visit to Israel, which we are all very excited for. (Yes, emphasis added with love for my mother who reads every word of every blog post…and then analyzes what I must have really meant when I wrote it.)
In June, I asked everyone I knew if they had a school calendar for the upcoming school year. My mother was planning a trip during the chuggim (which is probably what I said at the time, though you now know I meant chaggim). It was my intention to coordinate her trip with the break from school and work during the chaggim.
Everyone assured me that yes, there would be a national holiday declared, but they couldn’t tell me the exact dates.
What?!? This was maddening to me, and more so to my mother, from whom I inherited my “bordering on maniacal” organizational skills and obsessive need to plan in advance. How could they not know in June the official school break for the High Holidays? Wasn’t it the same every year? Didn’t it occur between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? Or during Sukkot? Or both? Sure, our winter break in the States varies from year to year, but it basically starts a few days before Christmas and ends a day or two after New Year’s. It’s predictable! You can plan around it! You don’t need to be a fortune teller to figure it out.
But no one here could answer my question. Not the parents with kids currently in the system and not parents of older kids. No one knew. I even searched our regional web site (in Hebrew!!!) to try to find out the answer on my own (after my husband politely decided not to on my behalf).
I finally just heard yesterday from a coworker who heard it announced on the radio that the school break would be during Sukkot (the week after my mom’s visit.) I think, but I’m not 100% sure, that the Ministry of Education just decided this the day before school started.
So much for trying to coordinate my mom’s visit. (Yes, mom, I am still taking time off work and we will keep the kids home so they can visit properly with you.)
“You could have called the school,” I blamed my husband this morning when he got the “official” announcement in his email inbox.
Huh, what are you talking about?, his look said back to me.
“Don’t you see? This is my life here,” I wailed at him this morning before he left for a meeting. “Half the time I feel like a moron and the other half I feel like an imbecile!!! Maybe you should take pity on me! Moving to Israel made me stupid!”
“On your walk to your meeting,” I spat at him with venom (but really sadness and frustration), “think about that! Spend some time thinking about what it must feel like to be ME! Stupid, stupid me!” (The words I actually used were a little more foul, but the above is basically what I meant.)
In a moment of brilliant patience and kindness, my husband kept his mouth shut, nodded, and walked out the door. Whether or not he actually spent time pitying me on his way to work is another issue.
I was blessed with a quiet house in the hour after he left. My oldest kid was out at a friend’s house and the two little ones were in Gan. I spent this luxurious hour sulking, cleaning my dirty house, sulking, putting in some dirty laundry, and catching up on the lives of my far-away friends through their posts on Facebook.
While scanning the Facebook updates from Hurricane Irene-damaged New Jersey (and still selfishly sulking), I was fortunate enough to find a video link in my News Feed from my FB friend Carol, a veteran American immigrant to Israel who I’ve never met in real life. The video she posted reminded me of something very important; something that wiped the sulk away and replaced it with a guilty sigh.
In between the moments I feel like a moron and the moments I feel like an imbecile, I actually feel alive. More alive than before. More connected to myself, my kids, my husband, my community, my planet.
It’s my acknowledgment of and addiction to this feeling that makes the stupid bearable. It makes me want to stay, instead of leave.
True, when I lived in New Jersey, when I had my own business, when I was considered a community leader and an educator, when I was writing for important publications and being interviewed by journalists, I felt like a smart Somebody. It was a really good feeling. But, in truth, what was attached to that feeling of being smart was a compelling need to constantly know more and do more. To research, to learn and to share. Naturally, I was addicted to my computer, to my BlackBerry, and to social media outlets. In order to maintain my competitive edge in that space, I had to be turned on all the time.
All the time.
What were the consequences of being turned on all the time?
You know what they are. Think about your irritation when your husband interrupts you when you are in the middle of an email; or the compelling urge to check Facebook while you are sitting at a table in the Food Court across from your son; or the panic you feel when your internet isn’t working.
My life here has allowed me (forced me?) to disconnect. Not completely, obviously, but significantly.
And, suddenly, I remember there’s a good side to being Stupid.