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4.11.2022

My Third Pandemic Pesach: This is not the end of me, this is the beginning

Two years ago, I celebrated Pesach (Passover) as what felt like literal redemption from death by Covid. I felt deep, visceral gratitude. I felt...saved. There was a sweetness in my mouth and it wasn't just that tap water tasted weirdly sweet after my sense of taste and smell came back! (So weird! Tap water tasted as sweet as flat orange soda.) I felt the sweetness of living after I was worried that I literally would not survive the night. 


Being able to taste salvation on my tongue and feel it throughout my body, as my lungs filled with air and as my muscles recovered from 18 days in my apartment--it was palpable and a unique experience. Singing Hallel with an actual feeling of joy and gratitude for redemption from a dark and lonely place was a singular experience. Coming out of Covid infection, hypoxia, pneumonia, solitude at home, into the Paschal celebration was unique and I hope nothing similar ever happens again, or at least not for a very long time, because I hope that I'm never again (or at least not for a long time) that close to death. It's not something I want or need to feel every Pesach! The memory of it from 5780 is enough to sustain me for the rest of my life, I think.


(I know that salvation sometimes feels like a Christian idea to us Jews, but Pesach is also about salvation from slavery, from life that feels close to death. Pesach is the time that we celebrate historical redemption of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It's not unusual to expand that idea of redemption from slavery to redemption from other things, sometimes symbolically seen as analogous to the leaven that we rid from our homes.)


A year ago, things were different. I celebrated Pesach with a bit of optimism and hope that my sojourn through Long Covid was coming to an end. I had more energy over Pesach than I'd has in awhile and, in fact, I'd been experiencing a bit of an upswing in energy levels since Purim time.


This year, things are more complicated. I'm fatigued. Again. Always. I would say that it's been a long slog of fatigue that has been omnipresent--always there or the threat of which is always lurking--since early-ish December. The fatigue got better in the spring of 2021, so I was hoping for a recurrence of hope in the spring of 2022, but so far, no.


I was listening to Christina Perris's song "I believe" while walking to return a book to the library today. It's a great song, but for some reason, I was thinking about Pesach as I was listening to it, and I heard the lyrics in kind of a new way--as the Venn diagram between Covid/Long Covid (they're one and the same for me) and Pesach. I was especially thinking of what the Israelites must have felt as they left the known horrors of slavery in Egypt, facing the Red Sea (that they thought would kill them), and the vast unknown of the dessert on the other side.


I am not an Israelite newly freed from the shackles of bondage in Egypt facing the great unknown of what's to come, but...I sort of am. Maybe we all are, as we work out way through the third year of this pandemic, which many declare "over" and that is, yet, still sickening and killing many throughout the world.


Here are my thoughts about some of the specific lyrics of the song:


I believe if I knew where I was going I'd lose my way

I wish I knew where I was going, where this (Long Covid) is going. What is my life going to look like in the next year? The hope I felt a year ago that it was heading in the right direction is not forefront in my mind this year.




I know that we are not the weight of all our memories

I think part of what's hard about the trauma of having survived Covid and then unexpectedly thrust into a life of chronic illness with Long Covid is that it's not just memories--it's also ongoing. All around us, people are masking (or not), testing positive with Covid (or denying that it's a threat at all), and there's an element of ongoing trauma. Any time a person who has a sore throat and a cough says, "I'm sure it's nothing" and doesn't get tested or wear a high-quality mask around others, we're reminded of both our memories (the horror of our initial illness and ongoing chronic conditions) and that it's not yet over--for us or for others, as much as they might declare it so.


"The weight of our memories" is also a good subtitle for any Jewish celebration. A lot of what we do with our festivals is recall our pasts and ensure that our memories remain alive and visceral, even long past when the historical events occurred--whether that's freedom from the bondage of Egypt, salvation from genocide in Persia, the terror of the destruction of the Temples, or other events from our recollected, national, historical/mythological past.




And I have felt the pain of losing who you are

The pain of losing who I am could be the subtitle for a Long Covid memoir (a bitter one, were one to write one like that). It's...insane. It's quite painful to go through a traumatic Covid illness (as I and many others did--others who end up with Long Covid were only mildly ill at the beginning, but some of us were quite ill at the outset!) and then to emerge into, in my case:

  1. a world that was completely changed from the one I left (I was last outside in NYC on March 19, 2020 and then got sick before I was able to emerge again in early April, and the difference was shocking--from busy, bustling streets to empty streets, except for a few people jogging wearing bandanas like cartoon bank robbers or old timey bandits), which causes it's own kind of dislocation. I am in the same place as I was a few weeks ago, but that place has completely changed. I have never survived a major natural disaster, but I imagine that sense of dislocation is even worse. The place is the same, but completely changed, which makes us feel like we're somewhere entirely new.
  2.  a personhood/selfhood/life that was completely different from what existed before, with no road map or set of directions or, really, much professional support (with a few exceptions)



And I have died so many times, but I am still alive

I got nothing on this, except that I wonder if the Israelites leaving Egypt felt this way. I imagine that living as a slave involves many things that feel like small deaths. I also imagine beholding the ten plagues and then walking into/through the split Red Sea and out the other side all felt something like cheating death. They had died many times, and yet they were still alive.


I did have the "but I am still alive" feeling many times during my acute illness, especially towards the end, when I went to sleep at night worried that I wouldn't wake up in the morning. Each morning, when I awoke and saw that I was still alive, it gave me a bit of hope.




I believe that tomorrow is stronger than yesterday

And I believe that your head is the only thing in your way

I wish that you could see your scars turn into beauty

I believe that today it's okay to be not okay


I think that this may be my favorite part of the song. It sums up a lot, doesn't it? I don't currently believe that tomorrow is stronger than yesterday, but I hope it's true. I also think that strength can mean different things--the strength to deal with chronic illnesses and the challenges of life--not only physical strength. And in that sense, perhaps one becomes stronger over time, as one collects more and more tools for dealing with it all. At the beginning, we're like babies, aren't we? Unskilled and generally flailing, wailing, just hoping that some kind-hearted experienced person around us helps us out. Then, toddlers, stumbling and bumbling along, trying to make our way. Eventually, children, teenagers, and hopefully sage adults with wisdom to illuminate our paths.


I also don't believe that my head is the only thing in my way. I think other things are in my way, too. But my head does do a considerable job getting in my way at times! I just don't think that's what's going on here and now. Or, at least, not the only thing happening. It probably is at least partly in my way; it usually seems to be.


I do believe that my "scars turn into beauty" all the time. I think I might be an insufferable person without my scars, and while I would prefer never to have collected such an impressive assortment, I'm glad that I've found ways for them to help me become a (slightly) less insufferable human being.


It's always okay to not be okay. That's one of my main/big takeaways from Long Covid. You're not okay? That's okay! Feel not okay, maybe tell others if you have folks around who will care enough to listen, and stop fighting it. It's not okay. Things are not okay. Feeling into the "not-okayness" of life and accepting it with compassion has been important for me over the past year.


Before I decided that it was okay to be not okay, I sometimes worried that I was felling into depression because I was sad or angry. Then, one day (or maybe over the course of many months), I realized that I felt sad and/or angry because there was much to be sad and/or angry about. Sadness and anger are well-adjusted, balanced human reactions to saddening and angering events, like a mass-disabling event that is Covid-19. They aren't signs of pathology. It would be pathological to contract Covid due to the government ignoring the oncoming pandemic for too long, then become disabled through that viral infection, and not be sad and angry about that. Also, if you aren't sad and angry about the successive waves of Covid that have battered the world then I think you should probably consult a therapist for some fine-tuning of your emotional responses to tragedy.


It's okay to not be okay when things aren't okay. And even for awhile afterwards, if things somehow end up okay and a miraculous cure is developed for everything that Long Covid has wrought on our bodies--it will be okay to not be okay for awhile afterwards, too.


(Positive psychology and toxic positivity can go jump in a lake.)



 

Hold on, hold on

'Cause I have been where you are before

I think this is what celebrating/observing Jewish holidays is about to me--"I have been where you are before." Over and over again. Anywhere we find ourselves (individually), it's somewhere we've been before--as a people. 


It's not a road map for navigating it always/necessarily, but it's a comfort to be somewhere familiar. Any situation in which you find yourself, there's some kapitel Tehillim (chapter of Psalms) that lets you know that someone has been there before you.




This refrain is very moving to me: 

This is not the end of me, this is the beginning

 

This line is, for me, the nexus of the Venn diagram between Long Covid and Pesach.


I imagine--because it says so in the Chumash--that the Israelites who were fleeing bondage in Egypt thought that they were simply going to die in the desert. They thought that they had been released from life that felt like death--slavery--into actual death. I have, sadly, heard people with Long Covid say, "I wish the virus had killed me. This existence is no kind of existence." (I am very grateful that I've never felt that way myself. But I can understand why others would.) Surviving death just to end up in some other format of severe hardship is like, "What the hell, God?" How is this any better than that?


For me, life is better than death in many, many ways. Even a life that has felt so, so hard over the past 2+ years. As long as I can take walks and appreciate the various stages of leaves on trees and flowers blooming in the ground, I am glad to be here.


But Long Covid has, in many ways, felt like an end. Or an End, capital E. So much of what made my life meaningful in the past is no longer accessible to me. It's hard not to see that and bemoan all that was and is no more. The Israelites would have understood. The desert was (is) a scary place and they missed the squash they ate in Egypt.


But what if--hear me out here and feel free to disagree with me?--the end of one thing is always the beginning of something else? I think it often is and it's often terribly frightening because we do know what's ending, but we don't know what's beginning.


The unknown of Long Covid is the goddamn worst. The worst. The Worst--capital W. Will I ever stop being so tired? Will I ever remember all the words I once knew and be able to recall them without first searching for them fruitlessly through my mind?


Spring is a time of hope and I think Pesach is a time of holding onto hope even in the face of tremendous fear and darkness--whether that's the pursuing Egyptians hot on our  heels, the yawning Red Sea in front of us, or the desolate desert beyond it.


The month of Nisan, which always takes place in spring in our Jewish lunar-solar calendar (and is the reason for the solar part of our lunar-solar calendar) is a beginning. We Jews thankfully have many beginnings in our year--the mishna in Rosh Hashanah says that we have four. Having many chances for beginning and renewal are so important to a people who has suffered a lot and faced many endings.


I'm hoping to refine/edit this and add references to the relevant Jewish texts and have something sharable in time for Pesach. (I've written this all from memory except for the song lyrics and think it would become more dvar Torah like if I added in some Jewish textual references.) 


Or maybe I'll just leave it in its rough form and, instead, do my taxes.

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3.07.2022

Of Men and Cardboard

I was walking home alone in the neighborhood tonight. It was a dark and stormy night. (Literally.)

A man walking maybe two feet in front of me turns and says, "Young lady..." and I prepare to don my armor, avert my gaze, and walk as quickly as I can away from him. (You know, that "uh oh" moment when a man you don't know starts speaking to you on the street and you don't know if he's going to curse you out or ask for money or say something about your becoming figure. Just part of city living!)

But he continues, with the very slightest accent, "In the 55 years I have been living in this country, I have never seen it like this. Never!"

I don't know what he's referring to, exactly--Covid? opioid epidemic? poverty?--but I say, "Yeah," in agreement.

(I am sure that it has never been like this in the past 55 years.)

Then he says, "May God bless us all" and I respond, "Amen!" with hearty conviction.

Sometimes these random interactions with strangers on the street turn out to be just a decent moment of agreement between two humans, briefly passing each other on the street at 10 pm during a storm.

A block and a half later a sturdy piece of cardboard flew at me, literally, hurled by the strong winds. It hit my elbow and then continued on down the street.

I'd rather be at odds with a piece of cardboard than another person, any day of the week.

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12.29.2021

Christmas Movies on Netflix

One of the ways that I'm handling the stressful hellscape that is Omicron in NYC in late December 2021 is by watching terrible Christmas movies on Netflix.

(It's really brutal out there. People are lined up for hours all over NYC to get Covid tests at public testing vans/tents. It feels like everyone has Covid now. Really, everyone. All the drugstores have big signs up saying, "We are all sold out of rapid tests." If you line up for hours to get a PCR or rapid test at a public testing site, you might not get the results for days. The curve is also basically a straight line going up. And, like the hellish days of March-May 2020, I am hearing ambulances all around, day and night, once again. Maybe not as many as back then, but it's more similar than I'd like.)

I don't usually watch terrible Christmas movies on Netflix, but I really needed them this year. I think I specifically went for Christmas movies because Christmas is not a stressful topic for me at all and watching these movies takes me out of my usual everything, in a good way. Also, these movies are so anodyne that you can watch 20-30 minutes of it and fall asleep after that without caring or wondering what happens next! Perfect for these troubling times.

So far, I have seen:

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6.06.2021

Dating is terrible

There, I said it.


Go ahead, call me a complainer. I freely admit it: I am a complainer. I do not force myself to "only see the positive" or "look on the bright side of life" (always or ever, really). When something bothers me, I have a very hard time not vocalizing that. And a lot of things bother me!


Sometimes, you just have to tell it like it is. Today is one of those days. After nearly a year of blogging silence, I came here to say that dating is terrible. Even when it's going great, it's pretty terrible.




Dating is terrible because (in no particular order and this list is by no means exhaustive):

  • Does he like me?  
    • How does he like me?
    • Does he just want to be buddies with me or is he attracted to me?
      (I don't need more buddies. Thank God, I have many friends whom I adore who also seem to like me.)

  • If he's shy, is he:
    • shy, but attracted to me?
      OR
    • shy, but not attracted to me?

  • Is he awkward because he likes me?
    OR
    Is he awkward and doesn't like me, but is too awkward to say so?

  • Am I attracted to him?

  • Why does he pick his nose in public?
    • Is that reason enough to not go on a second date with someone?
    • Is rejecting someone for picking his nose in public being "too picky"? Too shallow?
    • Would any woman who picked her nose in public get a second date, ever?

  • How am I going to navigate my own anxiety around this thing with this other person? Ugh! It's easier just to be alone! I should have left well enough alone and not dipped a toe back into dating. Dating is terrible.

  • Oh, wait, I think he likes me! It's hard to tell, but he does seem to like me.
    • First: Swoon.
    • Next: Do I like him?
    • I should really give him a chance. People don't come along who like me every day, you know!
    • I think I kind of like him. Is that enough?
      • I enjoyed spending time with him at least once.
      • I wouldn't run away if I saw him heading towards me at kiddush. (Back when there was kiddush. Back when I went to shul. In the Before Times.)
      • Could this become something more?
      • Will I grow to like him more over time if the first date was great, the second date was "eh" and the third date wasn't fun at all? No, right? Things are heading in the wrong direction.
    • Do I not like him more because I am being too picky?

  • I like him! He seems to like me, too! YAY! 
    • What if he's incapable of being in a relationship and bails just as things get emotionally interesting?
    • What if he's incapable of being in a relationship and bails before things get emotionally interesting?

  • We spoke on the phone and apparently have nothing in common. Should we go on a first date anyway?

  • We went on a first date and it's really hard to have a conversation with him! No natural "back and forth" happens.
    • He asks me a list of questions, like, "What is your favorite movie?" "What is your favorite book?" "What kind of music do you like?" but I find those questions rather boring, maybe mostly because I don't really keep a list of my favorites handy. I enjoy lots of movies and books and a wide variety of music, but don't have favorites, per se. Despite having asked me all of these questions on our first date, he repeats some of them on our second date. Am I supposed to ask him these things, too, even though I'm not really that interested in his  answers?
    • What I want to know about a person I'm on a date with is:
      • How does he see the world?
      • How does he relate to the people around him?
      • What is important to him in life?
      • What does he think of:
        • kindness?
        • education?
        • poverty?
        • sexism?
        • racism?
        • classism?
        • behavioral economics?
        • grammar?
        • intelligence?
        • children?
So if I am going to ask him questions, they'll be questions that might elicit answers that would shed light on some of those things. I don't really care what his favorite book, movie, or music are. Does that make me a terrible person?
    • Can a person learn to become a better conversationalist in their 30s, 40s, or 50s?
    • Does it matter if the person is a good conversationalist or not?
    • Is most of life about conversations or about stuff like taking out the garbage, washing the floor, doing laundry, making sure we don't run out of toilet paper, and meal planning and prep?

  • I asked him questions about himself, but he hasn't asked me any questions about myself. Is he uninterested in me or just doesn't know to ask questions about the person you're on a date with? How can a person in their 30s, 40s, or 50s not know that?

  • What's a deal-breaker? What isn't?
    • Do I have too many?
    • No, I probably have too few. "Not being able to hold a conversation" and "picks his nose in public" should definitely be deal-breakers.

  • Why does he only want to be in touch on weekends?
    • What's going on in his head/heart/mind from Monday-Friday? I can't know, because he doesn't tell me.
    • Is that he when dates other women?
    • Is that when he freaks out about being in a relationship and plots the gentlest way to end things with me?

  • He's in his 30s and he wants five children but has never taken care of a child in his life. No, not even two hours of babysitting for a niece or nephew. All of his interactions with children have been brief and at the Shabbat meals of friends.
    • Should I illuminate for him how much work children are and how he might want to reconsider his plan to have five children?
    • Or should I let him stay in the dark for now and pretend that I, too, want to birth and raise five children?
    • Is that deceitful?
    • Is no man ever going to want to have children if he realizes how much work they are? Probably, yes. That sounds about right.
    • For the future of the species, should women not let men know how much work children are and how utterly thankless so much of that work is?

  • He isn't sure that he wants children at all. He might be okay with one or two.
    • Do men who feel like they might be okay with one or two children, but would happily live the rest of their lives without children, make good fathers if/when they end up having children?
    • Do I care? What if he's a terrible father but a good spouse? Is that good enough?
    • Can anyone actually know how a person will end up parenting before they have children of their own?

  • Wait, do I still want a child or children? I'm getting old, man, and the idea of going without sleep for years in a row and worrying more, constantly, about other people for the next few decades (or possibly forever) sounds less doable than it did when I was in my 20s. Especially if the person I'm doing it with is even older than I am and has never really thought about whether he wants children or not. And isn't inclined to do the hard work/heavy labor of child rearing.

  • If I mention children too early on, he'll freak out.

  • If I mention monogamy too early on, he'll freak out.

  • If I ask him how things are going too early on, he'll freak out.

  • What would make me freak out?
    • I guess if he said, "I love you" on the 2nd or 3rd date, I might freak out a bit.
    • Short of that...nothing?
    • I mean, if he brought his parents along on a date without discussing it with me first, that would freak me out. And be weird.

  • How weird is too weird, anyway?
    • Say he tells me that he has a foot fetish in our second phone call, when we haven't yet been on a date? Too weird?
      • Maybe a foot fetish itself isn't too weird, but telling someone you have a foot fetish during your second conversation is too weird.
    • What if he commits a few social faux pas? Adorable and endearing or, good Lord, no, too much?
    • What if he likes to go on and on about things that don't interest you at all and never checks in to see if it's interesting for you?
    • Oh, God, what if I do that?

  • Why aren't men who know that they aren't relationship-ready doing the things that would make them relationship-ready? Therapy, support groups, talking to friends about dating and emotional intimacy?

  • God, I really wish all men who were dating women made sure that they had friends--male, female, non-binary--to talk to about dating and relationships. Men, please try to develop these relationships if you don't already have them. Parents of sons, please try to encourage your sons to develop these kinds of relationships with their peers, mentors, whomever. (They can talk to you about dating, too, but they should also have other people to talk to about these things!) Thank you, on behalf of women everywhere!

  • Hello. I'm thinking about him. Is he thinking about me? Or has he not given my existence the merest hint of thought or attention since we last spoke on the phone or saw each other?



It's been 20+ years of this! 20+ years, man! That's a long time to be dealing with this stuff. For at least 15 of those years, I'd have much rather been dealing with navigating partnered life, childbirth and rearing, and the rest of life. Not this merry-go-round of dating.


I mean, I do get off the merry-go-round for a bit, each time a relationship or attempt-at-a-relationship crumbles into dust. I take a break. I focus on other things. Anything but dating! Seeing friends. Doing fun-for-me things alone in New York City. Reveling, just a little, in not having to truly consider anyone else's deepest, most vulnerable feelings for days--sometimes weeks!--in a row.


So it hasn't been 20 years of doing this nonstop.


But, also, if we're being honest, it started more than 20 years ago, with the first male-friend-with-whom-I-fell-in-love back in...whenever that was. (This never worked out for me. Ever. Male friends on whom I had crushes never wanted to be more than friends with me. Men get all bitter when this happens and call it being "friend-zoned" and claim that no women want to date them, ever. I don't find that to be the case. Just that men with whom I am friends first don't end up wanting to date me. Men whom I first meet/get to know in a dating context sometimes want to date me.)




The only thing that makes me keep going back to it (between breaks to forget about the whole enterprise) is the slimmest, slightest possibility that I'll find someone:

  • Whom I definitely like.

  • Who likes me. That is, his innards liquefy when he sees or thinks about me, just as mine liquefy when I see or think about him.

  • Who is weird in all the right kinds of ways!
    • Whose slip-ups are humanizing and endearing, not cringe-worthy.
    • Whose slight awkwardness makes me feel more comfortable with my own slight awkwardness, not like I want to sink into the ground on the spot.

  • Whom is fun to get to know. Plumbing the depths of his mind and soul is so...nice! We feel so compatible. Seeing him is 95% pleasant and only 5% stressful anxiety wondering about how he feels about me, which is a pretty good ratio! (If there wasn't that 5% frisson of anxiety, I probably don't like him enough to keep seeing him.)

  • Who is either currently capable of being in a committed, monogamous relationship of some kind
    OR
    Who is not, but is willing to, starting today, put in the work of becoming capable of such.



And then, after that continues to go well for some time, I could potentially end up with:

  • A life partner.

  • A person who has my back.

  • A person who is in my corner.

  • Insert further relevant metaphors here.

  • A person I can talk to regularly about my day-to-day life. (He doesn't think I talk too much.)

  • A person who is interested in what's going on with me, emotionally, intellectually, relationally, professionally, socially, etc.

  • A person who will talk to me about their day-to-day life.

  • A person whose experience I am interested in. I want to know what's going on with him emotionally, intellectually, relationally, professionally, socially, etc. I don't think he talks too much (most of the time).

  • A thoroughly kind person who would never intentionally hurt me and who, after unintentionally hurting me, is interested in discussion, repair, mitigation.

  • Someone who thinks being kind is more important than being smart.

  • Someone who wants to be the change that they hope to see in the world.

  • Someone to be with in companionable silence.

  • Someone who doesn't think I'm too much.

  • Someone whom I don't think is too much.

  • Someone who disagrees with me respectfully.

  • Someone with whom I disagree respectfully.

  • Someone whom I love even when life is hard.

  • Someone who loves me even when life is hard.



Sometimes, I think that maybe my issue is not that I am "too picky," but that I just want too much. I want more than any person can be for or to me. Is that the issue with me and dating?


Or am I just too anxious to be able to handle dating? I don't know. Maybe. I obviously know that I'm anxious, but I mostly think that I worry the right amount about things, like never being partnered and winding up sick and alone when I'm 71. As bad as being single at 21, 31, and 41 were/are, I think being single at 71 would be worse. (Maybe I'm wrong about that. I don't think being 71 itself would be worse, just the being-single part of it.)



 

Or maybe that person is out there, but he doesn't happen to be Jewish. How much of my Jewish life or practice would I be willing to jettison in exchange for those things that I have wanted, so badly, for over two decades? I think about this not-infrequently. 


Two things that have kept me from doing this are:

  • What if I jettisoned a lot of my Jewish practice and still ended up alone? That's a lose-lose scenario to me.
  • What if I jettisoned a lot of my Jewish practice and ended up paired, but deeply regret jettisoning my Jewish practice? That's something that's difficult to backtrack from, I imagine, once one is paired.


Don't get me wrong--over the years, since I was 20 or so, I have ever-so-slowly slip-slided away from the strictly Orthodox practices of my youth.

עָוִיתִי, פָּשַעְתִּי, and חָטָאתִי are definitely words that apply to my life.


I was a very frum 18-year-old and then, just like they promised me in yeshiva, I went to secular college and, due to a number of factors, gradually became less frum.

 

I have made various attempts to shore up some of my Jewish practices in the years since. I sometimes miss the person I was at 18. So earnest! So non-hypocritical! So straight-and-narrow! Others, I have simply let fall away. Sometimes, I am briefly so frum (as in, I daven mincha on a weekday--at this point, it's been years, I think) and I deeply, in my kishkas, miss being so frum all the time.


But, also, despite the glacially slow slip-sliding that I have done since I was 20 or so, I still live a very, very Jewish life. And I dream of living that very Jewish life with someone else who also wants to live a very Jewish life, even if he is fuzzy on some of the details or doesn't fully practice observant, halakhic Jewish tradition.


Despite over two decades of slip-sliding, I still pretty much do, and don't do, the same things as when I was 20-ish. (I can't think of slip-sliding without thinking of שׁ֚וּבוּ בָּנִ֣ים שׁוֹבָבִ֔ים אֶרְפָּ֖ה מְשׁוּבֹתֵיכֶ֑ם. That's how Jewish I still am.) I do go to shul less often these days; that's true.


That slip-sliding never became a wholesale jettisoning, as would likely be required to be in a serious relationship with someone who wasn't Jewish and also not interested in personally engaging in Jewish practice. (I think that some people who aren't Jewish are interested in personally engaging in Jewish practice, and if I found a person like that, less wholesale jettisoning might be necessary.)


Part of what angers me about the conversation around intermarriage is that not enough Jewish men (and some women) consider that, for many Jewish women, the choices are, quite literally, lifelong singlehood or intermarriage. There simply aren't enough Jewish men out there who want to be in relationships and are willing to do the self-work necessary to be in relationships, for all of the Jewish women who want to be in relationships and are willing to do the self-work necessary to be in relationships.


(This is true for a number of demographic and sociological reasons, including:

  • more Jewish men who, especially in their 20s and 30s, partner with non-Jewish women than women who do the same;
  • more Jewish By Choice women than men;
  • more men than women have Autism Spectrum Disorder and other neurological differences that make it hard for neurotypical women to become their partners; 
  • more men than women who, for whatever reason(s), don't decide to get serious about seeking a life partner until they're in their 50s and are then only willing to date women who are 37 or younger because they want to have biological children with someone who will be their biological children's biological mother;
  • and other things I'm not thinking of now.


But it's true. I'm sure of it and have been for over a decade. It's not because women are "too focused on their careers" or "uninterested in marriage." I promise you, it's not.)


Would you truly tell all of the never-married Jewish women in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond that they must stay single forever rather than date and possibly marry non-Jewish men? That seems cruel.




"But, Abacaxi Mamao, what can I do about this?" 

 

I hear you all the way from here. First of all, thank you for caring!


Second of all, here are some things that you can do. If not for me, then for future generations of single Jewish women.

  1. You can ask your single Jewish female friends if they want to be set up and with whom. Then, for those (and only those) who express interest in being set up, you can set up your single Jewish female friends with single Jewish men or, for Jewish women who are open to this, with non-Jewish men who are interested in living vibrant Jewish lives. (They don't need to, in your opinion, be perfectly aligned with one another to be set up. The perfect is the enemy of the good here. But if you're setting people up totally randomly, at least let them know that so they know what they're walking into: "You're both greying, so I thought I'd set you up." "You're both smart, so I thought I'd set you up." "You both live in [same large city], so I thought I'd set you up.")

  2. You can foster close relationships with the single Jewish men who are already in your life, such that they have someone to talk to about dating and relationships, thus helping pull them back from the brink of panic when they get close to a woman in a dating relationship.
    • "Wait, so I should try to be their therapist?"
    • No. Please don't try to therapize your friends. What your male friends need is your friendship. You should be their friend!
    • Also, encourage everyone you know who seems interested in deep, abiding change in their life to get regular counseling or therapy with a qualified therapist. (Not a life coach. A therapist.)

  3. Are you a parent of a son or sons? By living a rich, vibrant, communal, and connected Jewish life yourself, you can raise Jewish boys to become men who will want to be in relationships with Jewish women. Will it work 100% of the time? No. It won't. (Daughters also benefit from this!)

  4. Are you a parent of a son or sons? By talking with him/them about their inner life and feelings, you will help them become a person who can do so outside of your own family, with friends and partners alike. And this can only be good for humanity. By modeling empathy, validation, and connection with them, you help them grow up to be empathic, validating of, and connected with others. (Daughters also benefit from this!)

  5. Are you a parent of a son or sons? Do they struggle to identify their feelings? That's okay. It can be hard to identify feelings, but it's a skill that can be practiced and learned. Adults can learn to do it. Children can learn to do it. (Therapy helps.) Some people who have trouble discussing their feelings have an easier time writing about their feelings, acting out their feelings in play, or exploring their feelings through other modalities (art, music, sports). The important thing, I think, is to get in the habit of identifying and exploring one's feelings. That's a prerequisite for ever being able to communicate them with someone else. (Daughters also benefit from this. But girls are socialized to identify and verbalize their feelings more than boys are.)

  6. Are you a parent of a son or sons? Are they struggling socially or interpersonally? Teach them and model for them that therapy is a wonderful thing and encourage them to engage in it. If the first therapist is a bad fit, seek one who is a better fit. (Daughters also benefit from this!)

Thank you for reading my brain dump on dating today.

And good luck to us all!

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7.14.2020

The carceral state


This, too, is part of the carceral state. (Google it if you don't know what that is. That's what we here in these United States live in. If you don't think so, I think you can thank your white privilege for that.)

I recommend reading the whole thing. But I'll pull out some salient points below.

The short story here is that this teenager had had previous interactions with the criminal justice system for stealing a fellow student's cell phone (which she subsequently returned and expressed remorse for taking--the other student's parent wanted to press theft charges) and having fights with her mom (which had escalated to the physical).

Then, she violated the terms of her parole for not doing online schoolwork in April 2020. (Remember April 2020? When there were lots and lots of cases of Covid-19 in Detroit? Also, in many other places? I honestly barely remember April, other than calling Hatzalah, benching gomel online, and observing Pesach.) She has ADHD and a mood disorder (for which she has an IEP in school, but did not when school moved to online-only) and 
said she felt unmotivated and overwhelmed when online learning began April 15, about a month after schools closed. Without much live instruction or structure, she got easily distracted and had difficulty keeping herself on track.
So, she went to juvenile detention ( = jail for kids).

Jail, you say? Isn't jail or any congregate setting a terrible idea during a pandemic?

Indeed!
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order in March that temporarily suspended the confinement of juveniles who violate probation unless directed by a court order and encouraged eliminating any form of detention or residential placement unless a young person posed a "substantial and immediate safety risk to others."

So, what threat did she pose?
In her ruling, [Judge Mary Ellen Brennan, the presiding judge of the Oakland County Family Court Division] found Grace 'guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school' and called Grace a "threat to (the) community," citing the assault and theft charges that led to her probation. 
"She hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance," Brennan said as she sentenced Grace.

Wait, was she really not doing schoolwork at all? And for how long? Was she doing much less work than her classmates who were likely also overwhelmed and finding the "new normal" difficult?
Grace’s teacher, Katherine Tarpeh, responded in an email to [Grace's court-appointed caseworker] that the teenager was "not out of alignment with most of my other students."
In fact, the whole thing was "based on a comment her mother made to her teacher, which Charisse testified she said in a moment of frustration and was untrue."

Was this an ongoing problem? One lasting months? No.
Grace and her mother testified that she was handling her schoolwork more responsibly — and that she had permission to turn in her assignments at her own pace, as long as she finished by the end of the semester. And, Charisse said, Grace was behaving and not causing her any physical harm.
Do white children go to jail in Michigan for stealing a fellow student's cell phone or fighting with their parents, followed by falling behind on their schoolwork? No, not really. Kids of color "are more likely to be arrested, less likely to be offered any kind of diversion, more likely to be removed out of the home and placed in some sort of confinement situation."

Racism is integrally bound up in the carceral state.

I recommend reading at least until you get to the letter that Grace sent her mother from juvenile detention. Prepare some tissues. It's devastating.
 
Done with this and have emotional energy to educate yourself some more? You can read this, about face-down restraint at Illinois schools. Also part of our carceral state!

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11.22.2019

Midtown Manhattan Coffee Reviews! Part 1

Since I last posted in August, my professional life has changed dramatically. I am no longer a full-time day school teacher. I now work half-time as an office manager in Midtown Manhattan, as well as part-time as a DSP (direct service provider) for kids on the autism spectrum (doing CommHab work, if you know the jargon) and part-time as a freelance editor of halakhic writings. It's a lot! Coffee helps me get through it all, or at least most of it!

Thus, my current life goal: find the best-tasting cup of coffee, at the best price, between Penn Station and W. 28th and Broadway

Some of the prices may include tax and others may not. I'm not sure I was consistent in my pre-coffee-consumption morning haze.

Stumptown (W. 29th St. between Broadway and 5th Ave.) ☕️☕️☕️
Paper Coffee (W. 29th St. between 7th and 6th) ☕️☕️
King’s Street Coffee (W. 30th St. between 7th and 6th) ☕️☕️☕️☕️
7-Eleven (6th Ave. between 30th and 31st.) ☕️
Of this batch, King's Street Coffee was the clear winner! It gets four ☕️s.

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8.06.2019

An urban metaphor for...something?

Scene: Trader Joe’s in Manhattan, 12:00 pm today.

A man with a basket of groceries dodges and weaves through the line to beat all of the women with carts and children who are making their way to the front more slowly.

He isn’t exactly cutting, since the laden women aren’t precisely in line yet, but he isn’t exactly not cutting, since it is clear that the entire mass of people is heading towards the two lines and splitting up into them. The net result is that this guy (white guy in his 30s?) ends up ahead of people carrying or pushing bigger burdens. It pisses me off, but not enough to say anything. I end up right behind him in the left-hand line, with my (laden) cart. (Laden because I have selected a basket’s worth of groceries at TJ’s, but have the cart to hold two bags of groceries from Fairway purchased earlier and also a backpack, with provisions for the day from my morning run to camp drop-off in downtown Brooklyn. This guy has himself and a basket, so he easily sprinted ahead of me into the line.)

Then, the person who directs people to cashiers from the two lines accidentally sends three people in a row from the left line to the cashiers, so left, left, left, instead of the usual left, right, left. This has the net result of making the dude later to check out by one person. He misses ONE turn. (It’s true. She made a tiny mistake of almost no consequence to anyone present. At most, it sped the left line up by one person and slowed the right line down by one person. This happens on occasion. I usually get annoyed for a second or two and then remember that all people are humans who make mistakes and that any customer-facing job has got to be really hard and that this one, in particular, must be so boring, and so I am just grateful that anyone is doing this at all! Because the line definitely moves quicker with that person directing people!)

He angrily says to the Trader Joe’s employee, “Hey, you just sent three people from that line to check out and no one from this line!”

She ignores him, continuing to scan the checkout people for someone who is free to take a customer.

“Hey, I’m talking to you! You can at least acknowledge me when I’m talking to you.”

She continues to ignore him.

I have had enough. I say, “Lay off it, would you? No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and I’m sure you’ll survive the wait.”

I make eye contact with a man in the left-hand line and say, “I think he’ll survive this, don’t you?” The man nods and agrees and rolls his eyes at the guy yelling at the Trader Joe’s employee.

He says to me, “She has to at least acknowledge that I’m talking to her!”

“No, she doesn’t,” I counter. “Not when you’re being aggressive for no reason at all.”

He sputters and stares at me for a few moments and then she directs him to the next check-out person.

I don't know if I gave him something to think about, but at least I got him to shut up. Yay?

I am directed to the next checkout person. As I walk by her, I tell the Trader Joe's employee, “You’re doing a wonderful job and he is a jerk.”

I’m mildly afraid that the guy will follow me or act aggressively towards me, but I never see him again (so far).

I am glad that my line was slowed down by one person, if only to stick it to the jerk who dodged and weaved through the mass of shoppers heading to the lines to beat everyone who had more to manage.

I think there might be a metaphor here for toxic masculinity, male aggression, unnecessary aggression in modern society, who bears the burdens in society, people (men?) who feel cheated out of something even though they are the cheaters, or the Nine Days, but I don’t know what it is!

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