Monday, July 13, 2009

Further Confessions of a Happy Single Person

Everyone wants you to be happy. That's their line. "If it makes you happy." Especially if you are single, your happiness is everyone else's business. People will tell you what to wear, what to post on Facebook, and even where to live, because you are single, and clearly, there is no way you are happy in your current state. You need all this advice to get you married off, because you are obviously not going to be happy until you do.
I challenge this theory. I am single, and I am pretty happy. Obviously, I want to get married, but marriage is not the secret to life’s happiness. Someone else cannot make you happy. Only YOU can. Yes, your spouse will complete you. But if you ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
I do volunteer work for an organization called Heart Mind and Soul which, among other things, encourages Jewish teens to realize their own potential. One thing we try to instill in the teens is that they have their own unique abilities, strengths, and talents, and that just by being themselves, they are powerful people and can achieve anything. I wonder, if I told these same kids, and by the way, you actually aren’t okay and will never be okay or amount to anything until you get married. What would that teach them? What are we telling people when we say, you will never be okay as a single person?
There is a lot of pressure in our society to get married. It starts at around 18 and doesn’t stop until we walk down that aisle. Everyone laments the “shidduch crisis” and tells us that basically, we are pitiable and unfortunate until we get married. The younger generation then panics. Are they doomed to be just as pathetic? This unreasonable pressure creates a cycle of low self-esteem, a rush to get married, and often results in broken engagements or divorces because of this desperation. We as a society have created a fear of singlehood instead of using it as a means to better ourselves for the partner we will hopefully one day have.
I have learned a lot in the last ten years living on my own. I have learned how to balance a checkbook. Walk into a room where I know nobody and leave with invitations to four different families for Shabbos. I have learned how to drive, change a flat tire, negotiate a lease, make sushi, and how to teach. Maybe I would have learned these things from my husband if I had gotten married a few years ago. But there is something incredibly rewarding about having learned these things on my own. There is great value in the things I have learned and taught myself. From hosting a Shabbat meal for twenty to checking the oil in my car to teaching a room full of high school students about Shabbos, these will make me a better wife and mother when I finally do get married.
I want to get married. But until I do find that person, I will not sit around being bitter and depressed. Because the kind of person that I want to spend the rest of my life with is not looking for a sad and mopey person.

At the end of the day, I am happy that I am working on making myself a better person—the person who will eventually merit the partner I am looking for. He will not “make” me happy, but he will benefit from me being a happy person.
If we could take a step back from generating a greater crisis and instill in people to learn how to be happy with themselves first, it would create a revolution. Instead of advising singles to settle, to move, or to wear lipstick, we would have people growing and learning what makes them truly content. Happy people would be looking for other happy people. Valuing themselves enough to find the partner worthy of them. Imagine if we could teach that to our kids. Crisis averted. Happiness established.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Grandma a"h

There are three kinds of people in this world. There are the “glass half-empty” people. They walk around complaining about how they got the short end of the stick, how life is unfair, and how everything is pretty much miserable. Then there are the “glass half-full” folks. They are all happy and see that their lives are full of goodness. Most people fall into these two categories. But there is that third group, full of rare individuals, who acknowledge that while they might have shortcomings or obstacles to overcome, they are still blessed. These are the people who are just happy to have a glass.

My grandmother was one of these people. Despite a life of pain, she was always upbeat and positive. Her eye troubled her terribly for over 20 years, and when asked how she was, she would say, “the eye is the eye,” and move on to all her blessings—her beautiful children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. No matter where she lived, she made a home. She spread her unconditional love to anyone who had the good fortune to cross her path, and never spoke a bad word about anyone. She had her glass, and she was grateful for it.

My grandmother taught me many things—how to sew, how to tie my shoes, how to swim. But most of all, she taught be how to be awesome despite everything. That no matter what was poured into your glass, and no matter how much, each and every thing was beautiful and worth loving. That just by being who you are, you are fabulous. And of all the lessons she taught me, I hope to continue learning this one the most.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dance of Glory

It is a noisy, crowded room. Throngs of people jostle in, dancing and singing in unrestrained joy. The lights above are bright; there is heat and sweat and tears, together with loud voices in raucous harmony. One man stands off to the side in his own celebration, relishing his surroundings while completely oblivious to them. Despite his solitude his ecstasy encompasses the gaiety of all the revelers around him.

At first glance, the man appears to be dancing and nothing more. Here, in the corner, holding a scroll, and dancing. He even looks a bit odd, his beard flowing with the rhythm as he moves. He holds the scroll tightly in his arms, lovingly, respectfully. However there is more to this picture than what meets the eye. This is not just a man dancing with a holy object, this is something stronger, deeper, and more sacred.

Here is a man dancing alone in a crowded room, an old man with a lined face and glowing eyes. Eyes so full of rapture and bliss they seem to take over, so suddenly there are no lines, just a jubilant radiance emanating from his face. He dances with the scroll as a groom dances with a bride, with reverence and awe.

The scroll shines beautifully in a mantle of blue velvet, adorned with a silver crown in majestic glory. He holds the scroll to his heart, with great intimacy, singing his own sweet melody, his hands shaking, his heart pounding. He hugs his bride with all his strength, kissing her with love. They are united in an everlasting bond of love. This is not just a man dancing, This is a man dancing in the service of G-d.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


She didn’t know what to feel. She groped for a chair, something to support her as her knees gave out. She sank to the floor, stunned. She wouldn’t cry. Her breath caught in her chest, she took big gulps of air but she choked, and then the tears came. Memories assaulted her, she tried in vain to prevent them from coming, but she couldn’t. Playing piano…reading out loud…washing dishes…staring at the ceiling. Such simple things—she would never before have deemed them important. Air. She needed air. Her hands gripped the counter and she rose to her feet. Somehow, she made it into the cold morning. The sun hadn’t yet started to rise. She stared at the sky, challenging it. Would the sun dare rise on such a day? She was cold. She wondered if she would ever feel warm again, if she would ever feel whole and complete—like a person. She didn’t feel like a person. Suddenly, it was daylight. How long had she been standing there? She turned to look back at the house, reluctant to go inside, to have the images flood her memory. Yet here, too, on the porch, were reminders of the life she’d had yesterday. Yesterday and all the days before. Here on the porch, sitting on a lazy summer day. Drinking hot tea, wrapped up in blankets to watch the leaves change color and fall, cuddling up as the rain and snow came down. She sat down in the wicker chair, the cushion old and worn. It wasn’t her chair. It belonged to yesterday. She felt odd sitting in it. Her arm brushed something furry—it was an old teddy bear. She picked it up and drew it close, holding it tightly in her arms, tears coursing down her cheeks. She hadn’t sought comfort from a teddy bear since she was five years old, and now she clutched it as if it were her lifeline. Pain filled her lungs and she shook her head violently to block out the images she was remembering. She didn’t want to remember. Remembering hurt. A voice called to her from inside and the teddy bear slipped from her grasp. She had to focus. She had to be strong. She stood, gathering all she had left inside of her, breathing deeply, and she went into the house. The voice called her again, and she hurried towards it, assuring it that she was fine and that everything was fine, yet she wondered if she really was and if things would ever really be fine.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Year Older, A Year Wiser?

Birthdays are always interesting. They are either exciting and joyous, or miserable and filled with anxiety. I used to look forward to my birthday the way all little kids should--giddy with anticipation, excitement for the fun and the possibilities for being a year older. One day, a special day just for me (and my twin sister), to be showered with extra love and attention (and presents!). Birthday parties increased the excitement, with friends and games, puppet shows, clowns, and cake (and lots of presents!). Who could possibly NOT like their birthday?

As I got older, I started to get it: I was getting older. Older = less fun and more responsibilities. Birthday parties fell by the wayside as real life interfered with birthday fantasy land, but to me, there was still something exciting about a birthday. Throughout college, I would go out to dinner with friends and to a movie. Meet my sisters for cake and coffee. Go to a show with my parents. One year, all my friends got together and bought me a bracelet from Tiffany’s. (The next year, ironically, they all forgot my birthday. I’m mostly over it. Mostly.) For my 24th birthday, I threw my own party, complete with homemade mini-eggrolls and meatballs and martini glasses I bought to complete my makeshift bar. And then I turned 25.

My 25th birthday was about a week before I was leaving New York for my new job in Atlanta, so I had a combined Birthday/Going Away party at one of our favorite hangouts. We all toasted each other and ate our double-decker grilled cheese sandwiches, and then it hit me. I was 25 years old. Panic gripped me and I reached for the nearest beverage to cool my throat as I started to freak out. Unfortunately, I had grabbed my friend’s Long Island Iced Tea and, as I coughed and sputtered, I wondered how it was that I had turned 25 with a blink of an eye. It was the Ultimate Birthday; I had a whole new life to look forward to, the magic of a birthday I had always loved, and suddenly, I didn’t want it. I wanted to stay 24, with my same life, my same job, where even if I wasn’t so happy all the time, at least I knew where I stood. At least everything was familiar. At least I wasn’t 25.

25 invokes a real grow-up age. You are no longer a “young adult,” or even an “early 20s.” You are 25. You are a Real Person. After years of complaining about being treated like a kid, that was suddenly all I wished for. I wanted to go to bed and hide under the covers until it was over. But then I would be turning 26. Another year older. Hiding under the covers and reverting back to being 7 was not going to happen.

So here I am, a few days shy of 26 and totally freaking out. What happened to all the things I was going to do with my life? Get my Masters in Social Work. Get my Masters in Public Administration. Lose weight. Write a book. Be successful. Make a difference. Get married! What have I done? Cher famously warbled “If I could turn back time…” Well, you can’t turn back time. You can’t go back and get a rewrite. You can only take comfort in your successes, resolve to make up your failures, and look forward to the new year of the new you, older and hopefully a little wiser.

Thanks Jack for your assistance!

Monday, December 31, 2007

She Doesn't Know

(I wrote this a few years ago for a creative writing class when I was in my poetry phase. Let me know what you think)

She doesn't know right now.

She doesn't know right now
there will be a time
when she doesn't feel guilty for breathing.

She doesn't know right now
there will come a day
when she can smile without pain,
and the sun will shine brightly.
She doesn't know.

She doesn't know right now
it is okay to sleep in the dark alone.
She doesn't know
that her exhaustion will fade.
She doesn't know right now
what it is like not to be afraid.

She doesn't know how to pay her bills.
She doesn't know right now that's okay.
She doesn't know.

She knows that she is scared.
She knows that she is alone,
she's never been alone before.
She knows that dark clouds are hanging
over her once beautiful and clear horizon.
She knows the world is a cold and lonely place.

She knows that she was chosen to live.
That's what she knows.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In the Driver's Seat-EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE!

I recently learned how to drive. It’s a long story how a 25 year old girl in this day and age couldn’t drive, but basically, I just never did it. As a young adult living in New York, I was never so motivated, utilizing public transportation and my sister as a chauffer whenever necessary. Then I left the city.

Atlanta is not the best place to live when you are a non-driver. There are no subways and buses traversing the entire city, there are occasional buses and trains that do not exactly take you from point A to point B. As someone who hates to ask for help, begging rides from my new friends was like pulling my own teeth. Relying on the kindness of my friends, neighbors, and co-workers, all practically strangers, was a difficult and complicated experience. I started walking to work, organizing my schedule around other people so they would not have to go out of their way for me. I once commented to a friend that I was running out of toilet paper, and an hour later her mother called. “I’m coming to pick you up,” she said sternly. “Next time you’d better call me.”

Despite the incredible benevolence of the people around me, I constantly felt guilty. Guilt warred with fear and uncertainty over driving, but I knew that I had to move past it. I could not live this way any more. I studied harder than I ever had (if only I had applied myself like that in high school!), got my permit, and called the driving school. It was time to drive.

Chris picked me up at work and had me sit in the driver’s seat. He reviewed gas pedal and brake pedal, then directed me to drive. I held the steering wheel in a death grip and inched forward. A car appeared on the road and I slammed on the brakes. “Um, okay,” the instructor said patiently. “Let’s start this over. Relax.” Week after week, we practiced, driving all over the city. Some days were good, other days I reverted back to being afraid of the other cars on the road, but little by little, I became a driver. I drove on the highway, on winding side roads, and parked again and again in empty parking lots. I secretly made an appointment for my license test, sure that I would fail. Chris took me to the DMV on a bright, sunny day in July, five months after I had first slid into the driver’s seat. My tester was an older gentleman, not very chatty, which did nothing to calm my butterflies. I’m extra chatty when I’m nervous, and his grunts in response to my comments about his sweater, the weather, and Atlanta traffic made me more anxious. But then, about twenty minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot at the DMV and he scribbled on his notepad. “Get more confident, and you’ll be fine,” he said, with a hint of a smile. I was confused. “Huh? I passed?”
“Yes, you passed. You did a nice job.”
The tester wished me luck and left the car. I sat there, stunned. Then I called my mother.
“Hi, Mom,” I could barely contain my excitement. “Can I borrow your car?”

Six months later, I have a whole new world open to me. I can visit the high school during lunch and see the kids I work with. Go to the supermarket whenever I want. Run errands. Go to the drive-thru window at Starbucks. Mundane things I had only dreamed of but had never thought could ever be a reality. More importantly, I am trying to repay the kindness that others showed me by using my car. I volunteer to give people rides, grocery shop for individuals who are sick, and try to use my driving as a gift not just for myself, but for others.