When I was a younger girl, I never imagined I’d marry a guy my own age.
It’s not that I was into older guys.
Mamash, LO, as we say in Hebrew. Definitely NOT.
Older guys scared me. I typically dated guys who were maximum two years older. This was my boyfriend demographic for many years.
Guys my own age were my friends; little brothers. Guys older than me by more than two years also landed in the friend zone; as the older brother type.
An older guy liked me once. He was in his late twenties. I was still in college. The difference between 28 and 20 at the time seemed immeasurable. He was also British. He drank premium beer from a bottle because he liked the taste. I was still a 25 cent pitcher, chug it to get drunk sorta girl. When I was drunk, I didn’t understand what he was saying. Something about football, something that rhymed.
A younger guy liked me once. I went on one date with him. I was worried about kissing him because I had eaten garlic pizza earlier in the day and the taste would not leave my mouth. But kissing him was the closest I ever came to kissing my brother. It was like that scene in Back to the Future where Marty kisses his mom in the car. We did not go on a second date. But we’re Facebook friends.
Once, just after I graduated college a much older guy liked me. He was a television reporter. Even though that held significant appeal to me, I was still too afraid of the age difference to do anything but flirt and giggle, flirt and giggle. When he called me on the phone to ask me out the next day, I screened his call on my answering machine. Multiple times. Later, it came out that I was just one of many young co-eds this reporter asked out over many, many years of being married and on the news.
All that happened many years ago and is really the long way of getting to the fact that in the end I married a guy born less than two months before I was. And this summer, we both turn 40.
And while I never imagined I’d marry a guy my age, I have to say there’s something comfortably fun about reaching this milestone together. And definitely about celebrating it — slowly and extended over an entire summer. We kick it off in June with his (I’ve already planned a birthday weekend spectacular in Tel Aviv at the Dan Panorama hotel) and finish it at the end of August with mine (still a surprise hanging over my husband’s head).
In the middle? A summer of celebrating the unexpected pleasures and surprises 40 brings … because I am determined to manifest a magical summer. Let’s consider it an advance on my birthday candle wish.
As we enter the period before Passover, I’m thinking about how eat, what we what, with whom we eat and why. I am meditating on freedom and gratitude.
No, actually, I am not.
I’m thinking about the store-bought chocolate chip cookie I just ate.
For breakfast. (Actually, I had a vegetable wrap first. The cookie was for dessert. Breakfast dessert.)
As I ate the cookie with deep pleasure, I thought to myself.
This is happiness.
Of course, there are chemical reasons why the cookie made me so happy; the main one being white sugar in abundance.
This I know.
And this I shrugged off.
Instead of acknowledging the sugar and the wheat and the likelihood that both would incite the candida surely camping out in my gut or inflame the inner lining of my intestines, I ate another cookie.
I think it was even better than the first.
I’m thinking about eating another one.
But first I’m blogging: To clear my proverbial throat because what I want to say is unclear right now.
What I want to say is that I spent the last two decades a bit too food-focused.
Not without good reason.
I believe, firmly, that food can be harmful. I believe that food is a direct or indirect cause of chronic illness. I believe food is addictive. Food is a commodity that corporations use to control people. Food has been made an idol that we in the #firstworld worship.
I believe food may be used to heal if used properly, but has become deified also by wellness professionals (especially those with books or vitamins to sell) in the guise of healthy living. So many of us are self medicating with chia and gobi and wheatgrass in the same way people are self medicating with xanax and marijuana and vodka on frozen lemon juice ice cubes with mitz petel (I call it “the Hannaton.” It’s amazing and totally gets me through the homework to bedtime madness.)
I consider myself a food activist, and yet I question my focused attention on food.
I question my focus.
I question it.
It’s important to question our obsessions.
For even those of us with good intentions, food has become an obsession.
And I question that.
This is what I want to say.
It’s important to have passion.
It’s important to be mindful about our behavior and
conscious about the consequences.
It’s important to support causes.
And it’s important to share ideas — loudly and powerfully.
But it’s equally important to question our motives.
And the returns on our investment.
I spent three years dairy free. I didn’t eat a drop of cow product. I read labels religiously. My motive, at first, was to nurse my son so he wouldn’t have bloody poop. After I weaned him, I kept it up because I noticed I didn’t have as much mucus in my life. And as anyone who has a lot of mucus in their life knows, mucus-free lives are happier lives. And probably less-likely-to-have-stomach-cancer lives.
Since moving to Israel three years ago, however, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to not eat dairy. Let’s put it this way. Dairy has re-entered my life with a passion. And the passion is called “bulgarit.”
We had to make an adjustment to our lifestyle. No longer was there a Whole Foods nearby to offer us 15 different varieties of gluten free bread. No longer did we have the budget to spend on those items even if there was one nearby. No longer could I find grass-fed beef. No longer could I feed myself and my kids turkey bacon for breakfast anymore. (Ironically, there is pork bacon in Israel but no turkey bacon.) Nut and seed butters are not an option for us. Therefore, the dairy. Oh, the dairy.
My point is: As my life changed, so did my diet. And so did my relationship to food. At first, this created enormous upset in me. For a good year living here, I lived with anger, resentment, and disappointment — all related to food.
I still carry some of that. I carry it on Shabbat when I go to kiddush at our community synagogue and my nut allergic son always ALWAYS hides on the playground because kiddush is not safe for him. I carry it with me in restaurants, on the rare occasion we go out, and realize there is nothing on the menu for my kids because everything comes with sesame or nuts. I carry it with me when I see the planes flying overhead spraying the beautiful vegetable fields with pesticide. I carry it with me when I hear about childhood cancer and in the back of my mind I know it’s because of the water pollution and the air pollution and the planes that fly by.
The activist in me is not dead.
She lives … but a little more quietly.
A little less all-consuming.
She allows chocolate chip cookies…for breakfast.
* * *
When I started to give up my commitment to food a little, I started to notice some things.
There is something inside activism that is closely connected to anger.
There is something inside healthy that is closely connected to unhealthy.
And there is something inside not eating that is closely connected to desperately needing to be full.
For a big part of food activism — if we look deeply and honestly — is about controlling a life that is terrifying. It’s about trying to be certain in a world that is only certain in its uncertainty.
I still believe in activism. And I believe in sharing information.
But sometimes all we have is what makes us happy in this very moment.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
For almost a month, I have been running for 15 minutes every day except for Shabbat.
That’s it. 15 minutes.
And it works. I finally found an exercise regimen that works.
Maybe it’s not enough for everyone, but it’s enough for me.
I’ve also committed to writing more.
Tiny tidbits here and there.
A blog or the start of a new short story or a poem for fun spurred by a random writing prompt.
I find, the more I write, the more I write.
And the better I feel.
So between the running and the writing, my physical and emotional health seems to be on the up and up.
I know because my hormones say so.
They say so by being quiet when they are normally loud.
Quiet hormones. Quiet head.
But I think I could add a third element to my personalized workout:
Gratitude, as we know, is such an energy boost. It’s a life lifter.
When we feel gratitude — the day after a violent stomach bug, or the minute after you avoided a tragedy or danger, or simple moments of love between you and your spouse or your child or your cat — we love life.
In the very moment we feel gratitude, we love life.
And loving life is all any of us ever want. It’s why we exercise. It’s why we write.
It’s why we exist at all — to love life.
So, I’m going to try to add 15 minutes of gratitude to my daily workout regimen.
I’m watching my 10 year old son move in and out of a sleep much lighter than I wish; his breath too rapid for my comfort.
So am I.
The muscles in my neck are tight. So are his.
I realize just now my jaw is clenched. His knees move back and forth; the rapid shaking an effort to release his fear and pain.
He’s home sick today.
I’m home sick today.
But his sick is of the variety that comes and goes. And while it seems as if it will never pass — especially when you are in the throes of throwing your insides up — it will, God willing, pass.
But my sick is different.
It’s not viral.
It’s not contagious.
And I can’t be sure it will ever pass.
My sick is a panic turned into a tension turning into an ache.
When my son was little, I remember remarking what a trooper he was when he was sick. The mess was often minimal — even as a toddler he would make it just in time to vomit into the toilet; he’d hardly ever cry after — and his needs were easy to address.
I would ask him, “What do you need?” And he’d say:
More water in my sippy cup.
Some toast with jam.
A new Wiggles video.
He knew he was sick. But he knew he would feel better. We told him so, after all.
But my son is older now. And his simple desire to feel better has turned into grief that the world has inflicted such suffering on him and the anxious worry that he will never feel better again.
“Why me?” my son shouts with a burst of sudden energy.
I don’t know how to help him.
I sit next to him as he finally closes his eyes and he lets me smooth his hair off his forehead and lets his head rest on the back of my palm.
I count the freckles on his right cheek.
1 – 2 – 3 – 8 – 12 … when did he get so many freckles?
I remember we used to count them one-by-one in the bath and I’d point out when there was a new one.
But that was years ago.
Years before the lump that sits in my throat. The lump that will surely turn to tears in
My son is older now.
It’s no surprise to me.
I saw it coming.
But still I am sick with motherhood
The kind of motherhood you catch when your child suddenly becomes more than a child and his needs more than a child’s needs.
The kind of sick you feel when you realize that slowly, slowly your power to heal weakens.
And he will soon need to learn how to heal on his own.
3. For fun: Walk around and say “today fucking sucks” out loud. This especially works if you never ever use the word fuck in your daily vocabulary. It works exceptionally well for individuals who never read anything that has the word “fuck” in it because they think it weakens or degrades the message.
There is nothing that brings you back to the present like walking around your house in sweatpants and a ponytail shouting “Today fucking sucks.” It often works quicker than choosing to let go or sitting in meditative prayer.
And frankly, we imperfect human beings sometimes need to acknowledge the fucking sucky in the world, the sucky in today, the sucky in ourselves, the sucky in other people, and in our relationships.
When we also acknowledge its immediacy, however, we mindfully frame the suckiness.
As in: Today sucks. This moment fucking sucks.
Try it with a friend: It might make your day a little less sucky.
(And if that doesn’t work, play this Pink song at the the maximum volume and scream along like a 12 year old at a bat mitzvah.)
I don’t know if I was born sullen and stubborn or if I cultivated these attractive personality traits over time.
Regardless, what I’ve fortunately learned in recent years is that “letting go” is the gateway to peace and ease — the path away from sullen and stubborn.
In the few years before I moved to Israel, I studied with teachers experienced in the mind/body connection, many of whom introduced me to the concepts of mindfulness I often write about. Through their teaching, I understood this practice could alleviate everything from aggravation to anxiety to physical pain.
As a writer, I’m really good at listening to other people’s stories and sharing them with others. Which I did a lot with mindfulness, but looking back, I was not so good at practicing it in real life.
Living in Israel, though — mostly because of the language and cultural differences — has been a daily practice in the art of letting go.
Letting go of my ego.
Letting go of my sense of control.
Letting go of my assumptions .. .about myself, my neighbors, the region, the world.
Letting go of stereotypes.
Letting go of the tight hold over my children.
Letting go of certain dreams and expectations.
I’m nowhere near a master of the art of letting go.
Maybe an experienced student. Possibly, good enough to be a T.A.
Still a long way from Zen bliss.
But with this particular type of study, thankfully, the culmination of my efforts is not in a certificate or a degree, right?
The win is in the practice itself.
I win every single time I let go.
Again and again and again.
Which means I also have the space in which to mess up, without worrying about failure. Because, think about it, failure (hanging on to something ugly like jealousy, resentment, or righteous indignation — all favorites of the stubborn and sullen) just sets me up for an immediate opportunity to win once again.