Letting Go, Love, Poetry, Writing

A little award nomination never hurt anyone

These days, I am actively trying to cultivate self-confidence during a stretch of life in which my self-confidence is waning. (From what my 40+ female friends tell me, I’m not alone.) That said, from time to time, the confidence of the Self benefits from the love and appreciation of the outside world.

An unexpected email last night from my editor at District Lit districtlitbotn2016led to a huge boost in productivity and output. I woke up to an urge to clean the fridge, sweep the floors, then work on a essay chapbook I’m hoping to submit next month.

After that, I dug up an old, short flash CNF piece I never quite perfected, edited it and submitted it.

What’s gotten into me? For sure, a healthy dose of acknowledgement, which isn’t so bad, really, as long as it’s not the only drug you’re into.

Head on over to District Lit to see which two pieces were nominated. While you’re there, please check out the work of the other nominees, too, in poetry and fiction.

 

Books, Writing

Finalists announced for Autumn House Press book contest

The winner will only be announced at the end of the summer, but for now I’m pretty excited to join the high-caliber writers of nonfiction on the list of finalists for the Autumn House Press 2016 full-length book contest.

Cross your fingers…

Poetry, Writing

Announcing a new column on District Lit

I’m giddy with excitement to let you know my first feature column went up on District Lit yesterday. “My Time, Your Place” is an ongoing exploration of the boundaries between reality and dream, time and timelessness, place and wandering. (The title is borrowed in part from the Yehuda Amichai poem, “In My Time, In Your Place.”)

I hope you check it out from time to time, and share with your friends if the writing moves you to do so.

As a tribute to Amichai, whose poetry inspires me in so many ways, here is the poem the title references.

In my time in your place

Books, Childhood, Food allergies, Health, Love, Making Friends, Memory, Relationships, Writing

5 Random Facts About Me

Deborah chose me and I’ll have to be honest — I was excited. In a tingly “you’ve been selected” sorta way. I felt it …well, I won’t tell you where, but it’s the same spot in my body and the same physical sensation I get whenever I’ve decided I’ve been designated special by someone.

Credit to http://wislrme.wordpress.com/tag/olivia-pope/ for the GIF
Credit: http://wislrme.wordpress.com/tag/olivia-pope/

Of course, this sensitivity to being chosen also makes me physically vulnerable to the dark side of egocentric arousal — for when someone decides I’m not special (or worse, unremarkable or overrated), the tingly sensation moves down to my lower digestive tract; I spend the next few hours in the bathroom, and … well you can imagine the rest.

Deborah dared me to reveal five random facts about myself. I use the word “dare” lightly because, let’s be honest, if I didn’t enjoy disclosing facts about myself, you and I wouldn’t be enjoying this writer/reader virtual pseudo-relationship. In fact, if I could just eliminate the urge to tell you stuff, I might be able to once and for all walk away from social media.

I could be happy.

But then, I wouldn’t be a writer.

Which leads me to Random Fact #1.

Everyday anxiety is an “organizing principle” in my life. In other words, it has made me who I am today and continues to make me who I am no matter how much yoga I practice, no matter which books I read, how much air I breathe, no matter how slowly or deeply. Anxiety is an essential element of me.

I did not realize there was a name for this condition until I read a passage yesterday about Joan Didion written by Vivian Gornick in her book on writing called The Situation and the Story:

For Joan Didion, ordinary, everyday anxiety is an organizing principle. Out of it she has created a depressed, quivering persona that serves her talent wonderfully … in [her] essays, where a subject beyond the self must be intersected with—migraine headache, the Black Panthers, California and the American Dream—Didion’s gorgeous nerves are brought under brilliant control. It is here, in this form, that her existential nervousness is developed with such artistry that insight transforms, and literature is made through the naked use of the writer’s emotional disability.

Don’t mistake my admission of Random Fact #1 as me comparing myself to successful memoirist and essayist Joan Didion. As if! But out of this I understand that my acid reflux and my artistry, my migraines and my imagination, like Didion’s, go hand and hand. And that I am far, far from alone.

Which leads me to …

Random Fact #2

One of my most notable appearances in the media was in the Associated Press when I was quoted as being a sufferer of irritable bowel syndrome. Equally classy, I was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as not only suffering from IBS, but also allergies and anxiety. At the time, those interviews seemed like a good idea for the personal brand I was building (as a wellness expert and writer). Now, I’m not so sure.

Random Fact #3

My bowel, ever irritable, offered me the distinct honor of pooping in the Executive Office building of the White House where I volunteered every Wednesday morning between the hours of 4 am  and 9 am for the Clinton administration’s Communications Office one semester in 1994. Also in the Embassy of Israel where I interned for a semester. And in the Starbucks on K Street.

I was just telling a friend of mine yesterday, in fact, that I had this brilliant idea when I used to live in Manhattan in the late 90s. I wanted to research and publish a Zagat type listing of all the best bathrooms in Manhattan. I zagathad mentally logged most of the cleanest ones in SoHo, where I lived and worked at the time, for my own personal benefit since I never knew where or when I would need quick access to a tidy and private stall. But what if I expanded my research to the entire island? And categorized the lists according to not just cleanliness, but also friendly to, let’s say, hookups? Cleaning up after an accidental coffee spills on the train? Best for vomiting? Ones with condoms? Tampons? Fresh mints? Luxury bathrooms easily accessed in hotel lobbies? Restrooms frequented by celebrities?

I never wrote the book, but it’s on my list of “good ideas that could have made me money if only I wasn’t so lazy.”

Which leads to …

Random Fact #4

I practically invented Facebook. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who knew me in 1999. Especially my parents … because they like to brag about that almost as much as they like to say I was a “White House intern.” Which I wasn’t … I was a “volunteer.” You don’t need to watch Scandal to know that Washington has a hierarchy. A hierarchy, people. That said, I was a volunteer in the White House the same time Monica was an intern.

Back to Facebook and how I missed an opportunity to be a gajillionaire.

In 1999, a half a year or so before the internet bubble burst, I built on my Dell computer and maintained all on my own from my one bedroom apartment on Prince Street a web site called oldcampfriends.com. I came up with the idea because I was obsessed and preoccupied with my overnight camp experience and friends and figured other people were, too. This was before you could Google stalk anyone or pay $9.99 for a dossier on them. It was difficult, still, to track down old friends.

I built it on the old Homestead site builder online software. I created a form that people filled in and submitted. I HAND-FILLED in the information (their names and email addresses) on the profile pages I created for each camp: Camp Wekeela, Camp Wohelo, Pine Forest, Camp Anawana, Camp Ramah New England, Camp Nah-Jee-Way, Che-Na-Wah, Moshava, you name it. Your camp was there. Via oldcampfriends.com you were able to reconnect with your bunkmate, your first kiss, the counselor you always wanted to hook up with but who was too fearful of arrest … Oldcampfriends.com? It took you there.

Coulda been Facebook. Coulda been Facebook.

oldcampfriends screen shot 3

(Those hikers at the top were animated GIFs.)

If oldcampfriends.com leaves any legacy it is to illustrate how impactful the people who have passed through my life have been and continue to be even after they’re gone. It is to show that when you leave me — because leave me you must — you don’t ever really leave.

Random Fact #5

You remain inside me — sometimes as acid reflux, sometimes as tingles that recur when I look at your picture or handle between my thumbs the friendship bracelet you once wove for me in the arts and crafts cabin, or the mixed tape you made me that summer. You remain inside me, as a song or a slow dance or as a scene from a movie we watched together on Betamax in your basement. You remain inside me; sometimes as an eternal punishment, sometimes as an occasional pleasure. You remain.

Random fact: I am forever tagged by you.

You, the people.

==

I tag Sarah, Nina, Judy, Tienne, and Jason.

Books, Culture, Middle East Conflict, Mindfulness, Modern Life

The story within the story

Reporters will tell you there are two, maybe three narratives in the Middle East. They’ll split the stories into perspectives and call them Palestinian and Israeli or East and West or Arab and Jew. But that’s like saying Moby Dick is about a whale and a man. I don’t know what Moby Dick is about — I still haven’t read it. But hundreds of thousands of people have and I can’t believe it’s because it’s a story about a whale and a man.

So it is with the Middle East.

There are so many stories. People. Lives.

READ THE FULL POST (in the Times of Israel).

 

Memory, Mindfulness, Music, Parenting

Love Song for a Vampire

If I had nothing else to do in my life right now — no full-time job, no school, no household chores, no parenting, no community commitments — I might decide to drop everything and pursue a journalistic investigation of music and memory.

Truth is, I am doing this already on a very personal level. For those of you who follow the blog, you might have already sensed my budding fascination in some of my recent posts (Check out “Both Sides,” Don’t You Remember You Told Me You Loved Me,” and “Seeking the Language of Music“). These snippets appear in large part due to a long form piece I am in the early stages of writing that explores how music shapes a person, and how a person, often unknowingly, shapes her Self under the spell of music. It’s about how embedded music is in our memory, how memory sticks because of its attachment to music, and how, we can or do use music to maintain memories we deem integral to our sense of Self.

But what about the memories that don’t stick? The ones we let sink down into the darkened depths of forgetfulness? Either on purpose, because they are too painful? Or accidentally, because we think we no longer have use for them?

I am finding that all it takes is a journey … an intentional journey of remembering … for those memories to ascend on their own from the deep. We have a drawer, I’m realizing, we didn’t know we had access to. It’s our subconscious — And we can open it and take out what we need if and when we need it. Of course, there are times a memory surfaces before we realize its usefulness. And then it’s up to us to make the connection.

One such memory levitated to the surface of my consciousness yesterday, seemingly from nowhere (though I am starting to understand that nothing surfaces from nowhere.) It happened like this:

<A few haunting notes tap tap tap on my brain>

What’s that?

<Paying closer attention now>

Are those train horns?

<Even closer attention>

It’s certainly familiar…

Wait, is it this?

No… no, not quite that. Something similar, though.

Wait a minute.

Oh my God.

<Startled look on my face>

<Heart skips a beat>

<Can’t catch my breath>

Oh my…

It’s this.

<Sigh>

I haven’t thought about that in years.

And it all comes flooding back.

The memory — the very visceral experience, actually — that I hadn’t recalled in oh so many years was that of listening over and over again on my Walkman freshman year of college to a love song. In particular, “Love Song for a Vampire,” performed by Annie Lennox off the soundtrack of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a film I have never even seen …surprisingly.)

The introduction of the song, indeed, sounds like train horns. And maybe that’s all it took yesterday, as I rode the train from Binyamina to Tel Aviv, for a memory to stir, to shoot up like a bubble waiting to be uncorked. All it took was the sound a horn makes.

I searched for the song on my smartphone, but couldn’t get to it due to a bad connection. So I obsessed a little all day long until I could return to the computer. In the meantime, because I had time to kill on the train, I pondered.

Why? I thought. What purpose does this memory serve now? Why do I need it? How does it apply?

I still don’t know the answer.  It’s on the tip of my tongue, just like the song was yesterday, and while I don’t see the purpose yet, I know this memory will be a valuable one in my writing. This piece (this book, this short story, whatever it becomes)  — it’s not just about music and memory. It’s not a clinical piece. It’s about me. About my own passage into middle age. About coming to peace with my past in the face of my present and in the prospect of my future. It’s about accepting myself for who I was and who I am now — acknowledging and embracing the differences.

It’s about forgiving — yourself, others, the cruel linear aspect of time.

And I think, in there, lies the key to “Love Song for a Vampire.”

Maybe.

In the meantime, I’m listening…

 

Family, Health, Memory, Writing

I’m no Katie Couric — but I really don’t want cancer

In order to be adequately prepared for a colonoscopy, you need to get to a point at which your poop looks like pee.

It’s the one time in your life when yellow liquid shooting out forcefully from your butt is a WIN!

I share this with you not to gross you out to the point of leaving my blog never to return, but in order to do my part towards colon cancer awareness and, like Katie Couric (although not as gracefully) to show that colonoscopies are not as bad as they sound.

I’ll let you know on Saturday if that’s true or not since I’m heading in for my first one tomorrow.

Sure — colonoscopies involve your butt, or as Dave Barry so appropriately coined it, your “behindular zone.”

And yes, the prep towards colonoscopy involves a lot — yes, a lot — of poop.

And no, poop blogs are not as popular as mommy blogs or political blogs, but since this is a personal blog, I decided I couldn’t receive full penetration by a camera attached to a long tube without sharing the experience with all of you.

I won’t be instagramming my IV insertion (since it’s usually a long and painful process for a nurse to find my veins), or tweeting my ease into sedative-induced slumber (because if the IV found its way in, it means it’s time to finally relax), but I do hope to encourage a few folks who have been putting off their recommended colonoscopy appointments by detailing how “not-so-bad” my experience was.

Here’s why:

My grandmother died of stomach cancer.

I was 12 when she died, but I vividly remember her wasting away in the months prior.

I remember what my grandmother looked like before — alive, full-busted and round. And what my grandmother looked like after — suffering, yellow and skeletal.

All my life, I have been troubled by a sensitive stomach and by these images of my grandmother, and if a colonoscopy can somehow alert me to pre-cancerous polyps, I think it’s well-worth the poop.

Wish me luck.

  • EDITOR’S NOTE

I completed the procedure this morning after the moderately challenging prep and happy to report clean results. I will say this — reading message boards about the prep before doing actual prep (drinking a laxative mix that makes you go for 24 hours straight) scared me into thinking the prep would be much worse than it was. It wasn’t that bad. Of course, this coming from a lifelong sufferer of IBS who is not stranger to spending 24 hours on the toilet.

Bottom line: Colonscopy is a lot scarier in your mind than in reality. Get it done. I’m not scheduled for another one for 10 more years. Woohoo!

Childhood, Relationships, Writing

He gets like that

One of my dear friends turned 40 today. She was the first of my group of childhood friends to get her driver’s license, the downside of which, I said to her today, is that she also is the first of our group of friends to hit middle age.

Of course, none of that statement is true.

Our friends — the ones who celebrated her 17th birthday years ago — are now scattered around the world, and some are no more our friends than the random stranger from Kenya who friend requested me yesterday on Facebook.

And, what really is “middle age?”

Is it literally the day you turn 40 — is that truly the middle of your life?

I feel as if I passed middle age long ago. Could be that my opinion will change, but I measure time as BC (before children) and WMBBTS (when my boobs began to sag).

So I pretty much hit middle age 10 years ago.

Contemplating my friend’s birthday and hearing a familiar voice in the back of my mind, I searched YouTube for the last scene of one of my favorite childhood movies — Stand By Me.

Somehow — and I am constantly amazed at how prescient I was of the nostalgic longing that accompanies aging — 12-year-old me was certain that grown Gordie’s words in the closing scene of the film were, and would remain, poignantly, heart-breakingly true.

From the film Stand By Me
From the film Stand By Me

It’s Richard Dreyfuss’ voice I heard this morning and whose voice I hear from time to time when I consider the impact my friends from childhood had (and continue to have) on the creation that is grownup me:

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve…. Jesus does anybody?”

But when I watched the final scene of the film today, what struck me for the very first time is the unspoken, yet classic writer’s epiphany that prompts Gordie to tap out satisfyingly the closing line of his book.

Grown Gordie’s son enters the study to find his father staring at the computer. The kids ask Gordie to hurry up and they roll their eyes when he (for the umpteenth time) tells them “Okay, I’ll be right there” and continues to stare at the computer monitor.

The son turns to his friend and says:

“My dad’s weird. He gets like that when he’s writing.”

Gordie laughs.

I laughed, too, when I watched the scene today. I know well the “like that” of which his son speaks.

I know it as this feeling, this presence that soars into my heart when I finally grasp one of my life’s great truths — like the incomparable experience of knowing someone when you were 12 — and when I am able to transform this truth into words.

And share them.

When I can nod my head along with the cosmic consciousness in understanding.

And know for certain that you, the reader, will understand it too.

Memory, Writing

Nibs give you magical powers, and other lies I told under the influence of candy

If I had written this article on the 25 best candy bars of all time, I probably would have replaced Caramello with Rolos, and left out anything with coconut. But to be fair Rolos isn’t a bar, which is probably why the author chose Caramello in the first place.

My first reaction to seeing the post in my Twitter feed was impulsive:

“Hey, it’s Halloween season! Who can I get to ship me some candy corn to Israel?”

My second reaction, after I read the article was:

“Man, it sucks that my kids have nut allergies. I really miss Butterfingers. More than I miss Reese’s and way more than I miss Snickers.”

But then something about seeing all these old friends — candy bars I haven’t touched in years — caused me to delve deeper.

In particular, the nougat-filled Charleston Chew shined a light into the subterranean caverns of my memory.

I remembered a better chew.

The Goldenberg’s Original Peanut Chew.

peanut chew

It was my favorite 5 cent purchase at the synagogue gift shop each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon when I was in elementary school.

Tuesdays and Thursdays were for Hebrew school, and for candy treats I could buy on my own. 4 pm was prime traffic time for the glass-enclosed gift shop at the end of a long hallway peppered with synagogue administrative offices. We lined up one behind the other inside the narrow non-room that was the gift shop, carefully avoiding the stained glass menorahs and brass kiddush cups sitting a top plexiglass shelves.

There was no regular, lovable character serving us at the register. No Candy Man. No Nat from the Peach Pit to welcome us. Just a retired old lady who walked over once or twice a week from the Windsor Towers to make a few bucks selling Judaica and sweets.

They didn’t sell regular candy at the gift shop, not that I can remember at least.

No Milky Ways or Hershey Bars or KitKats. The kind of treats you’d beg your mom for while waiting in line to pay for groceries at Pathmark.

No, the offerings at the gift shop were always obscure — come to think of it, either they were cheaper wholesale so the synagogue could make a higher margin of profit; or maybe back then, only B grade candy got a kosher certification.

Only old ladies dead and gone know for sure.

When I wasn’t buying 5 cent mini Peanut Chews, I was splurging on stick candy —

©Copyright 2010 Lewis Chocolate & Candies All Rights Reserved
©Copyright 2010 Lewis Chocolate & Candies All Rights Reserved

Rootbeer was my favorite.

I also sucked on Necco wafers, Junior Mints, Broke my teeth on Mary Janes.

Something I never bought, but my little brother always did was Nibs. I was never a licorice fan. I’d eat a red Twizzlers if you gave it to me for free, but I wasn’t going to spend my penny candy money on licorice.

Nibs were (are) tiny bite-sized cherry flavored licorice candies that were packaged in a semi see-through pink plastic bag.

One morning, as my brother and I were waiting for the bus at the corner of our street, he pulled out a half-eaten bag of Nibs from the bottom of his backpack.

“What are those?” asked Pretty, the Indian girl who lived down the street from us.

My brother and I looked at each other quickly. Pretty was not only burdened with the enormous weight of being named Pretty, but she was also gullible.

We had played a few harmless tricks on her before — told her we could make the pictures on our — ahem  Freezy Freaky — gloves disappear using only our breath.

Earlier in the year, I easily convinced her my hair was really a wig, by moving my bangs back and forth slowly with my hand pressed hard against my forehead. She never bothered to ask why I had to wear a wig. She simply … believed.

Our tricks never really hurt Pretty — in fact, I’d say they added wonder and delight to her early mornings. But, as a mother, I know the tricks we played on Pretty would not be antics I’d want my kids caught doing to other children today. You live, you learn, and (hopefully) you realize that just because something makes you laugh, doesn’t mean it’s funny.

When my brother pulled out the Nibs that morning — a synagogue gift shop purchase and therefore an unusual and rare confectionery find for our non-Jewish schoolmates — we jumped on the opportunity to delight Pretty …and yes, test how far we could go,

“What are those?” asked Pretty.

“They’re magical candies,” I answered. “When you eat them, you can read people’s minds.”

“Not true!” Pretty exclaimed. She wasn’t stupid … just a bit of a sucker, if you’ll excuse the candy metaphor.

“Yes, true,” said my brother, passing me a “how are we going to pull this off” look.

“Listen,” I told Pretty. “I know it sounds weird, and maybe it doesn’t work for everyone, but yesterday when we were eating these, we totally read each other’s minds.”

“Really?” she said, looking back to my brother for confirmation.

My brother and I both casually nodded our heads.

“We didn’t believe it either, but after eating just one, suddenly I knew he was lying about a secret room he found playing Adventure.” I said, pointing to my brother. “He didn’t find it.”

My brother glared at me. This was a real argument we had the night before. We both had been searching for weeks for the elusive gray dot our cousin Greg had told us about.

“Wow. Can I try one?” Pretty asked.

My brother looked at me, uncertain of what would come next.

“You can,” I said, “but not now. It’s not good to do it right before school.”

“Why not?” asked Pretty.

“It’ll be too loud in your head — all those thoughts — you’ll get a headache.” I had read way too many young adult novels featuring characters with ESP.

Pretty considered this for a second and then said, “You’re probably right. It’s not a good idea. I’ll wait til after school.”

By the end of the day, however, after the bus dropped us off again at the corner, my little brother had already eaten the remaining Nibs. Conveniently, there were none left for Pretty to try.

And frankly, I don’t remember if she simply dropped the matter or if I came up with a reason why we never brought Nibs to the bus stop again.

But I do wonder where Pretty is now — and whether or not she ever truly believed our stories, or if she was, indeed the smartest one of us all, by approaching a remarkable claim with curiosity, instead of cynicism. Choosing to believe first, understand later.

Food, Religion, Spirituality

The beet goes on

I thought the most interesting thing about today would be the beet.

I pulled four beets from the vegetable drawer because I knew if I didn’t do something with them today they’d go bad tomorrow.

I have a strange relationship with beets.

I want to love them.

I want to savor them like my friend Allison, who once said to me,

“Mmmm…I love beets.”

But I can’t. I just can’t. At best, I can tolerate beets when they’re roasted just so and soaked in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

But beets are so incredibly beautiful that I will wash them and peel them and slice them and stand over them in wonderous amazement even if I won’t eat them.

dancing beet

The red pink of beets should not exist in nature.

It should be synthetic, it is so beautiful.

The spiral designs inside a beet, however, should exist in nature.

Beet innards are exactly the kinds of puzzles that nature produces and we call God.

I love beets, but I can’t eat them.

After the beets, I tried to take a nap.

Two of my kids were sleeping: one sprawled on the couch in a beet-colored dress with wrinkled flowers on the strap and the other with his head hanging off the bottom bunk.

He fell asleep in the middle of a tantrum while I tried to soothe him with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapter 1, page 1.

There was a knock at the door.

It was Nachum.

Looking for my son.

I knew it was Nachum because I heard his fingers drumming on the metal railing outside.

I liked that I knew it was Nachum and didn’t mind so much that he was rousing me from my almost nap.

My son was not at home. He was at a basketball game with his dad.

I told this to Nachum. He turned around and left as quickly as he came.

I tried to take a nap.

There was a knock at the door.

It was not Nachum, but a man whose name should have been Nachum.

He was in a rumpled white button down shirt and black pants.

He had a long black beard, too.

He might have had a black yarmulke but I didn’t notice when he turned to walk away.

I was too busy remembering his smile.

I gave him 20 shekels and he was happy.

I was happy, too.

So happy, I stopped trying to take a nap.

= = =

(This post was written in less than 15 minutes. Wanna take on the Friday 15-minute challenge? Write today for 15 minutes and leave a link to your post in the comments below and tag your post 15-minute Friday.)

Learning Hebrew, Letting Go, Making Friends

Be all you can be

Most of us spend our entire lives figuring out who we are.

Parallel to this, we also seek the confidence to admit to ourselves who we are and share that self with others.

It can be an entire life’s work.

Imagine, then, being reborn smack dab in the middle of that project.

This is what it has been for me to make Aliyah.

Some will say just the opposite.

That making Aliyah was like “coming home.”

That moving to Israel allowed them to finally “find themselves; ” to finally feel a part of something, rather than apart from.

And there are elements of that sentiment I can relate to, but I wouldn’t say this has been my overarching experience until now.

Moving to Israel was a move away from who I am.

I am a communicator.

This is what I do. It’s what I love to do and it’s what I’m good at.

I’m also a relationship builder and an information gatherer.

And those are probably the three hardest things to do and be when you are a new immigrant, especially one in a country in which the main language is not your native tongue.

So why did I move to Israel?

For lots of reasons.

Good ones.

Reasons I stand by and do not regret.

But just as we do after many of the big life decisions we make — getting married, having kids, taking a new job — I ask myself now:

Who am I?

Who am I now?

Am I still me?

Some of my family and friends would insist I managed to be “me” even here in Israel. That I found a way to be the communicator, the relationship builder, and the information gatherer despite the challenges of language and culture.

On some days, I’d agree (and pat myself on the back, thank you very much).

But then there are the unforgiving days…

The days when I run into another parent in the parking lot, and I take that breath

You know that breath?

It’s the one you hardly notice but you take it right before you jump into a casual conversation with a casual friend in the parking lot.

Before you just “shoot the shit.”

You take that breath

I take that breath

but then I remember:

Im not me anymore. Not exactly.

This me thinks, “it’s going to be too, too hard for me to figure out which shit is the appropriate shit to shoot.And it’ll be even harder for me to understand the shit she is shooting back to me in Hebrew.”

And then I take another breath. This time, more of a sigh.

And I ask myself, Is it worth the mild humiliation? Discomfort?

I’m not sure.

So I don’t.

This is never a question I asked myself before.

Never.

And, similarly, there are some days…

Days when I know it’s really necessary for me to have a heart-to-heart with the teacher at my kid’s school. And I force myself to have the conversation.

Not because I am “the communicator” or the “information gatherer,” but because it’s what I HAVE to do. It’s on my to-do list.  And maybe I have that conversation, but I know it’s the mediocre version of what I could have pulled off in English.

And, oh how I judge myself afterwards.

And question myself.

In a way I never ever did before.

Never.

Because I knew who I was.

At least I thought I did…

Now, I’m not so sure.

Is who we are so fragile that POOF a move to a foreign country can change us?

Or do we just have to dig deeper, try harder to be

all we are. In spite of ourselves…

Love, Spirituality

Proof of Time Travel, and Other Conclusions Based on Raw Emotion

I am 38 years old.

Now you know.

But I don’t know.

I don’t know how I can possibly be 38 years old.

First, because in my mind, my mother is 38 years old. And physics teaches us that my mom and I can’t be the same age.

In my mind, my mother has brown hair with a few blonde highlights. She wears jeans and a polo shirt. She makes me peanut butter and jelly. Impossible, since my son is allergic to peanut butter and we don’t keep it in the house.

My mothers yells at me for waking up my baby brother from his nap. Who? Who is napping?

My brother? My son?

My mom is planning my bat mitzvah. My Sweet Sixteen. She’s dropping me off at my boyfriend’s house. At college. At my new apartment.

She’s 38.

And me?

I’m 20-something. Or something followed by the word “teen.”  Impossible, I know, but so is 38 years old.

In the day-to-day in which I wake up, shower, get myself and my three children ready for work and school, I can submit to the possibility of being 38 years old. A 38 year old, after all, is a grown up who does grown up things, such as taking care of herself, her children, her bills, her errands and her home.

And I do these things. I’m not crazy, after all.

But when I finally have a moment to myself, and I sit in the reality in which I am 38 years old, I am confused.

Almost as confused as if I woke up one morning and I was 63.

Or on Mars.

Or being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

I don’t know how I can possibly be 38 years old.

True, it was a long time ago I played kickball in the front yard with my brother and the neighborhood kids. I know it was a long time ago because the details of these games are blurry, faded.

And, yes, it was a long time ago that I walked down the football field in a graduation gown. I can’t remember the color of the dress I wore underneath. So it must have been long ago, as my memory is excellent. And if it happened recently, I would certainly remember the color of my dress. I would remember the restaurant we ate lunch at. I would remember why I told my parents I didn’t want a party.

This certainly all happened long ago. It’s the past. It’s before. It’s inaccessible. Or is it?

Because sometimes, when I press play on a particular song and I close my eyes, I can touch the wet sand on the beach in Margate. I can smell the Fruit Loops soaking in a bowl of milk in the basement of Thurston Hall. I can hear high-pitched giggles around a long table at a restaurant in the East Village. I am present. In the middle of a very important conversation. That’s taking place miles and miles away from where I am sitting with my headphones loosely dangling from my ears. And the girls are wearing Baby Doll dresses with leggings. And the guys have Caesar haircuts like David Schwimmer.

Sometimes, when I am in the space between waking and dreaming, I hear Stephanie’s voice.  If I was 38, Stephanie would already be long gone from this world.

Sometimes, I smell the burnt electric remnants of a blender mixing a chocolate Alba drink; I hear the organ playing; and I catch the vague outline of my Bubbi’s hydrangea-patterned nightgown. Impossible. It’s been 20 years since she would have been able to manage the steps to that apartment. And she’s gone, too.

You call it memory. But I call it time travel.

What’s the difference, really, between recall and time travel? If I can smell, hear, taste, and even touch 1992; how can you tell me I’m 38 years old?

I applaud their efforts, but physicists are looking in the wrong places for proof that time travel is possible.

They should be spending less time with quantum mechanics and  more time with the human heart and brain.

Relativity baby. It’s special.