Saturday, April 14, 2012

So, I'm writing again...

When I pick up a pen and scratch it across the page, I ask myself, "and what lies shall I tell today?" Often, I don't mean to tell the lie. It just happens by mistake, like I tripped over a word and landed on another one. Somehow, that mistaken word looks better on the page, tastes better when it rolls off the tongue, feels good when I get back up and stand on it as though it were the sturdy, solid, undeniably real truth. Pretty soon, I'm weaving one hell of a tale, tripping over little white truths and landing on something much softer and dreamier, like clouds. And then that's what I'm standing on: clouds. Just thin, substanceless wisps of air, and I'm running through them, making it all up as I go. The scene has changed, and it's not on the boring ground anymore, but actually floating around up in the sky! Imagine, a whole world made up of beautiful fluffs of clouds, and a falling idiot of a woman, plunging through each one.

People say, "Doesn't she know she's falling? Doesn't she know she's going to hit the ground and shatter into a million pieces? What a mess it's going to be! Who does she expect to clean it up?"

And when I plummet the last inches of space between where I was and where I was running off to, when I hit the sturdy ground that never went anywhere while I was losing myself in the clouds, I blackout, and then wake up confused. "Oh, that's right!" I say. "I fell from the sky."

Now, that's a story to tell. So I go on telling such an interesting lie, that I forget that I tripped like a foolish klutz and ended up where I was never supposed to be in the first place.

But sometimes I'm a bit more grounded. I scribble for a bit until I say, "I don't like this one." I'm tempted to rip it from the notebook, crumple it up, and play basketball with the waste bin. Never wrote it. Never thought those things. I stake no claim to those words.

Now, don't go digging through my trash just to call me a liar. Even I don't want to see what I've been throwing away in there. Some people's trash is dirtier than others. Mine is garbage--a filthy sounding word if there ever was one: garbage. "Fuck" sounds positively flowery and sweet by comparison.

A bad poem or story tossed away is a sad thing, I know. It's like hating one of your children. You can't even try to fix it, to undo the damage you've carelessly inflicted upon it before it turned into this obscene mess. Where did it even start to go wrong? What was the first mistake? It's not that way in the beginning, after all. At least, it didn't look like it was going to turn out this way. Each fetus of a poem or creative story looks just like the next; a clumsy bundle of words thrown together into something resembling coherent thought, strung loosely together with the next, which is supposed to express some frustrated emotion, begging to be expressed, or some intense, burning moment that you've experienced that you want to paint into a perfect portrait, which will capture it with authenticity. But it comes out all wrong. Now it's just some trite love poem for someone you're longing for, that only manages to look like a desperate call for his affection once again; "Look, I wrote a poem about us! Can I come over again tonight? Please?" It looks obsessive, when you meant it to be passionate. It looks pathetic, when you wanted it to look bold and striking. It mocks you, and embarrasses your attempts to express that still frustrated emotion, begging for release.

If I could just tell at the beginning how it's going to come out, when it's an unidentifiable blob, perhaps it wouldn't seem so cruel when I throw it away and absolutely deny that it ever happened. Because, what kind of mother throws her babies into the garbage?

It's just that, sometimes, the things I create, the fruits of my labors, just don't come out like a baby is supposed to. Sometimes it's a hideous beast, and I hate looking at it, wondering how such a thing managed to inherit every piece of me that I don't want to show--a chimera of my deepest, darkest flaws.

Sometimes a mother just can't look her own child in the eye. It's better this way, tossed aside, like I don't care about it at all. It's alright. I'll start over. I'll make another one into a portrait that I can bring myself to look at.

Monday, April 2, 2012

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times...

As my year in Israel begins to draw to a close, I have noticed my mood shifting. This year has been an emotional roller coaster of extreme ups and downs. The ups have consisted of feeling really alive and ecstatically happy, as evidenced by the rare photos of me genuinely smiling, from beneath a layer of mud at the Dead Sea, standing in front of scenic vistas from the Golan, and positively frolicking all over the Hebrew U. campus.
Yay, mud!
Yay, a canyon!
Yay, Einstein!

The lows have consisted of many tearful Skype calls back home over a series of financial crises, drastically shifting plans, excruciating loneliness, sudden terror over what I'm doing with my life, and loss of relationships back in the States due to situations that I have no control over.

I took no pictures of myself in this state, but this is fairly accurate...only with more tears and hair ripping.
But the ups and downs have more or less evened out recently and have been replaced by day to day life. It's positively amazing, when I stop and think about it; my day to day life is in Israel. In Jerusalem. I live across from Shimon Peres, and walk by Bibi's place and the ever-present protesters camped outside of the well-guarded gates, almost daily. I purchase things in Hebrew, calculate shekels to dollars in my head, push my way onto the bus (hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em), and regularly alternate between hanging out at some of the holiest places on earth, and sitting in hip cafes and dive bars with young Israelis trying to stake out a piece of the city that can be every bit as cool and modern as Tel Aviv. I go shul hopping, and have decided that I will drink things at non-kosher places, but since there's such a variety of kosher restaurants, I'll eat only at the kosher ones. To think that I'll be back in Medford Oregon, one of the least Jewish places ever, in just two months seems absurd. It seems almost as absurd as living in Jerusalem as a Jew who has been Jewish for less than a year, in a country I had never been to before, on my own.

I don't want to go. My mood isn't sad and I'm not in danger of plummeting to into the depths of the darkest places in my psyche over it. Obviously, I'm not grinning like an idiot and dancing over it either. I'm blue when I stop and think about it, and I'm in a rather pleasant, sunny mood when I'm just going about my business. I am both aware that my days are numbered here, and also aware that now is the time to make the absolute most of them. That means not dwelling on the inevitable heartache that will hit me when I'm boarding my flight back to the States, leaving what has come to truly feel like home behind me. It will be good to see family and friends and I'll be absolutely delighted over the fact that I can buy cheddar cheese by the brick from the grocery stores and have the ability to make freshly brewed drip coffee in my kitchen. I'm anticipating inadvertently pissing people off by being too brusque and pushy, and I know I'm going to have to watch my driving etiquette rather closely; Israelis like to drive as aggressively as they like to push into a line and go shopping for groceries. They also compulsively honk their horns, almost as though it's an involuntary action, and they are perfectly fine with laying on the horn for a full 30 seconds before they are satisfied that their displeasure with the driver in front of them has been noted.

But apart from the things that I do miss about the States other than my family (Mexican food, cheese a-plenty, and late night diners with free refills on the non-instant coffee), I can think of no other reason to return to the States for good. I am almost certain that I will be returning to Jerusalem in the fall, and am looking for different options that will allow me to be here for another full year. And then? Who knows?

I am a fairly level-headed person (despite having occasional, irrational anxiety attacks--I'm medicated for it, don't worry), I don't view life through rose-tinted glasses, and my natural propensity to worry excessively keeps me from being too impulsive. I know that if I make aliyah, that it won't be like being a Pardes student, surrounded by mostly Americans and a few token Europeans. I know that I will probably struggle to make a living here, and that I could make more money in the States in almost anything that I decide to do. I know that it would mean living in the Middle East, and while Israel isn't in dire straits right now over any conflict, that could easily change on a dime, as it has numerous times in the past (And no, I haven't forgotten about the current mess with Iran. I just think that the media, especially the foreign media, has overblown how much of a threat the situation actually is). And at age 26 with less than a year of Jewishness under my belt, I may very well be quite ingrained in my Americaness in ways that will never match my Israeliness, almost guaranteeing that I'll always be a bit of a stranger in a strangeland; thankfully, due to Israel's diversity, I wouldn't be alone in my strangeness.

Still, I have little to lose, and returning to the States if it doesn't work out is always an option. If nothing else, it would make for one hell of a story for me to (hopefully) write about. It's probably a bit nutty to dive into such a drastically different lifestyle than I had before my conversion and the commencement of my love affair with this insane country, but I don't know what else to do but run with it. A few years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be where I am today, both physically and otherwise. I'm still in some sort of awkward adolescent stage in relation to God, my spirituality and religiosity, but I know that will pass and probably evolve and change throughout my life; puberty eventually ends...thank God. My Hebrew could use a lot of work, and despite having a couple of Israeli friends, I have yet to break out of my Anglo bubble. All the more reason to live here another year, I say. The details can be sorted out later. I don't usually live in the moment, and am consciously putting forth the effort to do so right now. I have lived by deadlines for too long, thinking about what needs to be done in the near and distant future, and as a result, I've squandered some important time here. That squandered time should serve as a lesson and an example of how I used to live. These next two months are precious, and I'm determined to take them as they come and savor each one. Otherwise, it's back to the extreme lows, with lots of tears, screams and ripped hair. And that certainly is something that I can gladly leave in the past, where it rightfully belongs.

About the Person Manipulating the Mouse and Keyboard

My photo
Jerusalem, Israel
I write about being Jewish, but not being born Jewish, living in the Jewish homeland, longing for living in the Jewish homeland when I'm not living there, Jewish holidays, customs, ideas, thoughts, and the occasional thing that has nothing to do with anything Jewish. But mostly, this blog is very Jewish.