Thursday, May 31, 2007

Up to HERE

It would have been nice to use my 200th post on this blog to celebrate an accomplishment or share good news. Instead, I'm just fed up to the eyebrows with the school's internship department.

The internship director I've been working with, Eleanor, has been trying to get me another place to finish out my first year's fieldwork. She sent me the info last Wednesday, when I was busy with Shavuot. On Friday I called the contact person, Dr. Newperson. No answer -- probably away for the long weekend. On Monday I called again: still out. On Tuesday I called and actually got her. She was too busy to see me that day, and I had class all day Wednesday and Thursday. We arranged to meet this Friday, and I emailed Eleanor to let her now.

I got this in response (and she cc'd my fieldwork advisor and my faculty advisor):

Ayelet: I am extremely concerned that this process is being prolonged and you are still out of placement. You have said that you cannot meet with Dr. Newperson on Wednesday or Thursday due to your class schedule. What is your schedule? I will contact Dr. Newperson to determine if she can meet with you during times that you are on break/lunch or between classes.

Are you kidding me? I bust my tail to get to my first placement, which takes FOREVER to process me, and then allows a psychopathic associate director to harass and discriminate against me; I'm sent into a 3-hour emotional gang-rape that ends in me being denied a second-year internship and told by the internship office that they can't even try to find me another spot until I finish out my first year; I try to contact Dr. Newperson NUMEROUS times, she can't see me on Tuesday, and you want me to spend the scant time I have between marathon 3-hour classes racing from school to a VERY remote location and back? What kind of crack are you smoking?

Somehow I stayed calm enough to write this:

Eleanor, tomorrow I have class from 9 a.m. through 4:15, with a one-hour break, during which I have a meeting with a professor. I could meet with Dr. Newperson tomorrow evening, but I don't think I'd be able to get to her office before 5 p.m. Thursday I have class from 9-11:10 a.m., then from 1:30 to 4. I don't think I'll be able to get all the way downtown, interview, and get back to class on time, and I missed last week's classes because of the Jewish holiday, so I do not want to be late. Again, I could meet with Dr. Newperson in the late, late afternoon, but not during the day.

I would have met with Dr. Newperson today but she was busy all day. I called her last Friday, which was as soon as I could call her, and she was not in the office. She also was not available yesterday. She can't meet with me until late afternoon on Friday. I've been trying as hard as I can to get in touch with her and meet her; it's just unfortunate that she hasn't been available until tomorrow, when I'm really busy.

Apparently that didn't suffice.

She is usually in her office late. So, why not propose a 5:00 PM meeting?

I did NOT want to push things with Dr. Newperson, given my experience at the first internship and The Other Bad Place, but I sent this out:

Dear Dr. Newperson,

Eleanor is quite eager for us to meet, and says that you might be available after 5 on Wednesday or Thursday (that's the earliest I could get from school to your office). I'm happy to meet sooner if that is okay with you, or to meet on Friday if an earlier meeting is not convenient.

Thank you, Ayelet Survivor

I wasn't surprised that I didn't hear from her, although I did get a frantic call from my faculty advisor. And I hope to Gd that Dr. Newperson doesn't think I'm pushy -- or any of the other 5 million terrible labels they slung at me at The Other Bad Place.

But being back in class is really nice. You can tell when your classmates really missed you, and when they're really excited that you're in class together. A number of them went out of their way to ask how I was doing, since they knew what happened to me at the first internship, and they commiserated with me on the horrible and entirely unjust way I was treated at The Other Bad Place. Some of them had internship horror stories of their own to share.

One very shy foreign student was particularly sweet. We were in Foundations of Social Work Practice together, so she heard all my shelter horror stories; once, when she had her hand up but the professor didn't see her, I raised my hand and said, "Oksana has a comment...." She came up to me after class to thank me for doing that, and since then she's been especially nice to me.

We ran into each other today in the computer lab, and she asked how I was doing; I told her about the first-year debacle and the second-year meltdown.

"I was thinking of you over break, Ayelet," she said. "I was hoping things would work out for you. I didn't want you to think that what happened was your fault. You are GREAT, Ayelet." It was so nice to hear, especially since it was completely unsolicited.

Fellow students are the #1 unrecognized and underutilized grad school resource. I am so lucky to have these people be part of my education. I get more from them than from the professors (and certainly a lot more than from the internship department).
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Should I be offended?

So today I got this message from a guy on a dating website:

I saw your ad and wanted to say hello. I like the way you describe yourself and wanted to know if you'd mind chatting. Let me know and send a photo.

Is it me, or is the "send a photo" a little rude and abrupt? Especially since the man claims to be 42 and looks about 62? I don't know -- I'm just not inclined to respond.

Of course, nothing compares to this initial note, which I received a few months ago:

Nice profile! Ok, so what is wrong with you? Do you slobber when you talk? ;)

Charming.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, May 28, 2007

Raised by wolves

It's time for me to share some of the outrageous things I've read on dating profiles -- or, worse, been sent by men with no discernible manners, boundaries, or judgment. My comments are italicized, and their profile names have been changed to reflect their personalities.

Fat Nazi I have very few requirements in my list. I do get grossed out by fat. I do not expect you to have a spectacular figure, but I don't want someone overweight by current medical standards either.

Selfish and Easily Threatened I am searching for a kind, gentle, highly intelligent woman. A woman who is demure, rather than "loud." A woman who believes that the joy of being in a relationship is in the GIVING rather than in the RECEIVING. Arrogant, self-centered, stuck-up, gold-diggers need not respond!!

Reallybadwriter here is a poem to initiate contact,

Colors send a message of emotion,
That relaxes the tone of our souls,
Their beauty releases the hidden sanity,
Which enables us to continue to remain.
If they all unite,
Come together as one,
Then the pain we experience,
Will change from some to none,
Colors create an opening,
We now can breathe.

Copyright (Reallybadwriter)

I can’t breathe... I’m laughing too hard... did you actually think I'd try to steal that?

You've Gotta Be Kidding A Jewish Angelina Jolie wouldn't be bad, except she must be more right wing politically. She will take good care of herself both mentally and physically. Intelligent, honest, caring, and assertive are qualities that I look for in a woman. Not whiny, annoying, spoiled, or a constant complainer.

That's an awful lot for an overweight, balding, divorced guy in his late 30s, with more than one kid, to ask for.

Saturday Night Fever I'm an extremely young 46 -- most people think I'm mid-30s.

Well, your hair looks young. That reminds me -- Tony Manero called. He wants his look back.

WAY WAY WAY TMI I love to laugh at my own stories. Sometimes I laugh so hard, I need to RUN to the bathroom and we're not talking #1! We're talking #2 with a bracha. Last girl I dated, never called me. But at the end of the day, I dumped her.

Among other things.

AT 56 I SHOULDN’T BE SO PICKY Priority to have own family. This is what I am looking for: Height (between 5.5"- 5.11"), slim, high cheek boned facial features with great smile :)

She better have a fine cheek, Jerry...

Taker Not a Giver What kind of character, personality should a women possess before she should consider marriage? What talents should you gain before becoming a wife and then a mother?

Men are asked... what "kind" of women is right for me? And we answer... kind, sweet, thoughtful, patient, long suffering, and not argumentative. A women who can show love, respect, admiration and devotion to her husband, no matter what "emotional drama" is being played out in her life. Meaning being consistent in her devotion and love.

Think about these things.. and then answer, am I as a women ready in character to love a man? If you are, great... for men need women like you to change the world for the better.

And the world needs men like you to get vasectomies.

Tall and fabulously wealthy (48) divorced, with more than one child... occupation: modest job... seeking kind, caring, deeply spiritual, fun loving, balabusta who is on the TALL side (5FT6 to 5FT10) nurturing, kind, ages 24 till 34 years old and wish to have children... a caring and good hearted woman with a sense of HUMOR...

She’d have to, to marry a divorced guy twice her age who lies about his income in his screenname!

Ish Anav It's hard to describe myself without sounding too arrogant but here goes. I'm an extremely intelligent intellectual, a born leader, but also very sensitive, a good listener, and people I've been involved with in the past have generally walked away calling me their best friend. I'm adventurous (I was almost a spy), energetic, and have a great sense of humor.

Not hard. Impossible!

Mr. Spock (49) single (never married) i am very youthful ipso facto seeking a younger shidduch

Abracadabra! Sorry, but it isn't logical to expect that a younger woman will "ipso facto" want to marry you.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

The suburbs suck

I'm too itchy to do my boring social work reading. I've got approximately 75 mosquito bites on my legs. Serves me right for going to visit my sister Jerusha in her suburban home, where the backyard has more mosquitos than Calcutta.

Jerusha was her usual diplomatic self. "Why are you wearing so much eye liner? I don't think it's flattering; it makes your eyes look smaller. Don't yank the leash so hard when you walk the dog! [This after Ayelet, without being asked, took the dog out so she wouldn't pee on the floor.] Why are you wasting your time with a 28-year-old? He can't possibly be serious about you. Stop waxing your legs already! The red spots it leaves are NOT attractive. You should do laser hair removal."

"Unlike some people, I don't have a rich husband," I said caustically.

"I'll pay for it," she said. Which is astonishingly generous -- but she also promised she'd pay for my gym membership and personal training costs, and then bailed out after only $500. I am not about to go through partial laser hair removal.

The difference between me and Jerusha -- or one of them -- is that I don't tell her when she looks terrible. And right now she's not looking so great. I'm heavier than I would like to be, but I'm not in plus-size territory. This weekend she wore some skirts that were really much too small for her, and Oedipus was playing with her stomach as if it were a cat sitting on her abdomen.

But I didn't point out her fashion faux pas. I just said, "That skirt looks really comfortable. Stretchy."

Somehow I still want her approval, although it's not forthcoming. That's the curse of a younger sibling, I suppose. I watch my nieces struggle to get along and wonder if Shira will always feel like Malka's holding back her attention and affection.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Rock and a hard place

One of my summer electives was cancelled -- on Shavuot, of course. Yesterday I contacted the school to ask what I should do, since there were no other electives offered at a time I could take them. The deputy director of the program told me that Friday was the last add-drop day, and that pissed me off. You can't cancel a class on Wednesday and expect me to line up a substitute when there's nothing else I can take!

I did sign up for a class that has half the credits I need -- Human Sexuality, so it'll probably be pretty interesting -- but I still have to make up the rest of the credits. I want to do an independent study with Professor Fun, provided she's willing, and they better darn well let me. It's insane how they only offer electives on days when I'm supposed to be at my internship, not on campus. Also, I still haven't been able to get in touch with the place where I'm supposed to finish my first-year internship, and I have NO idea where I'll do the second-year internship.

I'm really, really annoyed with school right now.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, May 25, 2007

Shavuot 2007

Shavuot is a difficult holiday for people with sleep issues. You stay up the first night, preferably learning, usually also hanging out with your friends, and that throws off your sleep cycle for the next few days. I woke up at 3 a.m. today and can't fall back asleep. Then again, I've been doing that for weeks, so I don't know if I should blame the holiday.

This is a rundown of my Shavuot:

9 p.m., first night: Went to dinner with Mrs. Mutter and her family. When I arrived at their home, Mrs. M was sitting on the front steps of her brownstone with her youngest daughter and two female guests, Sarah and Rachel. It was a beautiful spring evening, and we relaxed in the warm breeze and tranquil (for New York City) setting. It was also just really nice to be there and to feel connected to people; they're a lovely family.

After the men got home from synagogue, we repaired inside for a dairy feast. Sarah is engaged, and she and her fiancé were enjoying a respite from wedding planning. It was a more or less pleasant meal, although I was brought up short by Sarah's negative reaction to some of my schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude is a German word referring to the joy we sometimes take in our enemies' foibles and troubles. I mentioned that I like reading gossip magazines and columns because I find celebrity behavior hilarious, such as Britney Spears' starter marriage to that chicken-fried piece of ugly.

"That's terrible," said Sarah, "taking such joy in other people's problems."

At first I thought, "Get out much?" Celebrities in our culture know their lives are subject to public scrutiny, so when they screw up, they ought to expect everyone will see it on the six o'clock news. But she did have a point: it's petty and mean to laugh at people whose lives are so messed up, and why do I enjoy it so much? Obviously because my life is so unsatisfying to me. I'm unhappy about being single; at some level I envy rapidly-marrying celebs like Jennifer Lopez. Judging them makes me feel a little better about being unmarried. So while I didn't appreciate hearing that from Sarah, I think I needed to, especially since similar issues arose at other times during the holiday.

I also discussed the social work project I'm trying to implement at our synagogue. Mr. Mutter asked if I was involving the "Center for a Noble Cause" (CNC), a relatively new organization affiliated with a very large Jewish institution. It wasn't clear to him what CNC was supposed to achieve; in their few years of existence they hadn't really seemed to accomplish much. I told him that on my rabbi's advice I had tried to get them to work with us on community mental-health programming for the Upper West Side and could not get the director of the institution, young Rabbi Swellhead, to return my phone calls and emails; in my view, they were trying to glorify themselves, not help the community.

That's actually quite an arrogant attitude, although I've had dealings with Rabbi Swellhead in the past (before he was a rabbi) and found him quite ungrateful. Several years ago I wrote some press releases for another nonprofit he was involved with, pro bono, but was never invited to his home for a Shabbos meal. Then after services one Shabbat morning I watched him, in front of me, invite a young woman he'd never met over for Shabbat lunch. I guess I was not young, blonde, or thin enough to merit an invitation.

Not getting invited to people's homes, as you may have noticed, is a big reason for me not to like them. I hate calling and inviting myself over, and I hate feeling overlooked or ignored, so it's kind of a double whammy; if I feel someone is ignoring me and not inviting me, while paying attention to and inviting others, my disdain for them is quickly aroused.

Part of this is because in my twenties I spent a lot of time and money making Shabbos meals and didn't feel that reciprocation was always forthcoming. Even though now I don't have the time, funds, or space to invite people, I still feel annoyed when I'm overlooked. And that's a problem. I'm too easily offended, which is a sign that I set myself too high above other people. Also, the more easily I'm offended, the more often I'll feel resentful and bitter. And that's not a healthy attitude.

Anyway -- I enjoyed demolishing CNC with Mr. Mutter. A little too much.

As I discussed the programs I hope to develop with the part-time social worker my synagogue plans to hire, Mrs. Mutter gave a few opinions. We talked about how many Jewish men don't have very good dating manners, at the table or elsewhere. She thought it would be a good idea for us to sponsor a formal sit-down meal to teach everyone which utensils to use for each course and how to conduct themselves at the table.

Mr. Mutter was amused.

"Are you really going to get a bunch of Jewish guys to come to that kind of event?" he asked. "I hate to be a naysayer, but I can't see Jewish guys being interested in learning the difference between salad and dessert forks." Privately, I agreed with him; I thought they could benefit from an etiquette lesson, but did not think in a million years that we could get them to go.

I said I was hoping we could start with a bereavement support group and an infertility support group. Mrs. Mutter didn't think we'd be able to get people to come to the latter, since infertility is such a personal topic; she thought people would want to discuss with with their friends, not strangers. I didn't agree, but told her she'd given me a lot to think about.

11:30 p.m.: Mrs. Mutter and I went to study with my friend Fran, who is a Jewish studies teacher. We discussed the similarities between the Book of Ruth and the Ten Commandments -- since Ruth is a conversion story, where she accepts the obligations of a traditional Jewish lifestyle, and Shavuot commemorates the Jews' acceptance of the Torah and its mitzvot, there are many striking parallels.

When I go to Fran's, I usually spend my time cutting up Tikva's food or taking her to the potty; on nice afternoons, we take the kids to the park. I've also spent time talking with Fran about my life and problems. But I've never learned Torah with her, and I realized that night that I've been missing out. She's phenomenally well-educated, and I really enjoyed studying with her. Next time we take the kids to the park, I'm going to see if we can discuss some Torah while they're on the swings or in the sandbox.

2:30 a.m.: Met up with Chaya at one synagogue's annual midnight barbecue (although Shavuot is traditionally associated with cheesecake, this place likes to serve hot dogs and hamburgers). I love spending time with her, but I can't stand some of her friends; they're obnoxious, crass, and not very bright. (Or was I just tired?) We walked around to a few other synagogues.

4 a.m.: A guy was giving a shiur on Shavuot and the movie "The Shawshank Redemption." It made sense at the time, but I honestly can't remember any of it.

5:30 a.m.: Davened Shacharit on the rooftop of one synagogue as dawn was breaking. It was beautiful, but I was exhausted. I went home and collapsed.

2 p.m., first day: Went to a big potluck picnic in the park. Not sure if it was staying up all night or the lithium, but I didn't really want to eat anything, which pleased me. I'm well enough to tolerate large crowds these days, but I don't work them the way I do when I'm really on top of my game. I hung out with a few people I knew. One of them told me she was going to Eric and Ahuva for dinner that night; I decided to swing by to see if they wanted any more guests.

I did meet some new girls through a friend and was enjoying their company; they were very sweet. One of them had a deck of cards; I taught her gin rummy and we started playing. A fellow joined us, and started shuffling the cards; another guy I know, who can be nice but can also be a clueless twerp, swung by and started talking about the meal he and the girls were going to that evening.

"What, I'm not shuffling well enough for you? You do it," said the shuffler.

"You're doing fine," I said.

"So why are you frowning?" he asked.

"It's not you," I said.

"It is, I can tell," he persisted. I took off my sunglasses and leaned closer to him, and spoke quietly.

"No, it's really not you. I just think it's rude to talk about a party you're going to in front of people who aren't invited," I said.

One of the girls leaned in. "Everything okay?"

"I'm fine," I said, "I just think it's rude to talk about a party you're going to in front of people who aren't invited." They agreed with me, but then I started thinking this was another manifestation of my propensity to take offense. It's not the end of the world if someone does not invite me for a meal!

6 p.m.: Cheesecake siyyum for the women's Pirke Avot shiur. Maybe I was tired and cranky, but something got me very annoyed. The hostess, who is my good friend's aunt, told me that she belongs to a shidduch club. Instead of thinking, "Great -- maybe she'll be able to help me," I thought, "Why didn't my friend tell me this sooner!" Which, again, is extremely ungracious and ungrateful, and another aspect of how easily I take offense to things. But I did speak with the hostess later, and she will "put me up" for shidduchim. It's always good to have another person in your corner.

7 p.m.: Went to Eric and Ahuva's apartment to see if they needed any more guests. I wanted to go well in advance of dinner so they could turn me away and not feel bad if they didn't have room.

Ahuva was thrilled to see me. "Ayelet! You're staying for dinner, I hope?" That was nice. She has three kids, works part-time, and volunteers extensively, so she hadn't had a chance to call me, but she had been thinking of me. It was great to see her, and Mara appeared to have forgiven me, more or less.

Dinner was fabulous, I enjoyed the company, but I also found out that a very annoying and much-younger woman, for whom I had done a significant favor and who not only did not reciprocate but several times pressed me to do more for her, is engaged. I had the opposite of schadenfreude. I couldn't help it; I felt resentful.

However, I also felt relieved. One of the women there, Amy, knows three of my ex-boyfriends, and talking with her made me feel so glad I was no longer with any of them.

"Are you still in touch with Little Marty?" she asked. "It's too bad. The two of you got on so well."

"Yeah -- he's just not ready for a relationship," I told her. And the funny thing was, I didn't feel so bad about not being with him -- I honestly felt it was his loss not to be with me. I must finally be getting over him.

I asked Amy if she'd gotten my Facebook warning about RD-SOB, whom I saw she had added as a friend. I emailed her to be careful about whom she took as friends, but hadn't heard back.

"Don't worry," she said, "I'm definitely not interested in him, and you're not the first person to warn me about him. He uses people. He just wants to run around and have all the fun he missed out on by getting married so young. It's pathetic, really."

Then Amy and I discussed G.I. Josh, through whom I initially met her. She told me that he's become ever more embittered and morose. "I was going to my friend's sheva brachot and invited him to come, and I was ten minutes late getting there," she said. "When I called to let him know I was stuck on the bus, he blew up at me and left the restaurant. After I got there my friend, the bride, got on the phone to ask him to come back, because there were some girls we wanted to introduce to him, and he refused. I don't know what his problem is."

I hope it wasn't schadenfreude, but I just felt really, really glad that I wasn't with any of them.

1 p.m., second day: Lunch with Shaindel, a friend of Alona's with whom I've become friendly. Shaindel is a pistol, tiny and petite with a killer fashion sense.

Shaindel and a fellow who lives in my former apartment in The Dorm (one of the Upper West Side apartment complexes extensively populated by frum singles; I spent almost four miserable years there) had invited an interesting and diverse array of people for lunch. I met some new girls, which is always great, including one who has made five shidduchim. (She told me her email address, and I made sure to contact her first thing after yomtov!)

One of G.I. Josh's friends was there too. "You look familiar," she said to me; "I used to date G.I. Josh," I told her.

"I haven't seen him in years," she said.

"Neither have I," I told her.

"The happiest I ever saw him was when you two were going out," she said. "He's miserable now."

"I'm sorry to hear that," I said. And I truly was. I don't want to be with him, but there's no reason for him to become a bitter old misanthrope before his time.

Somehow that day I became an amateur astrologer. I don't know a ton about astrology, but I do know a little; I used to work in an office with two women who were obsessed with astrology, and it rubbed off. Being a Gemini and something of a psychologist, I was able to craft little readings for a number of guests ("Do me next! Do me next!" they clamored -- no kidding).

It definitely made me feel popular, having my opinion so eagerly sought. One of the people I read, a very flirtatious Scorpio gentleman, kept saying how pleased he was to have met me. What's funny is that he and I met more than a year ago at a smallish Shabbat lunch, but he obviously doesn't remember. I'm not interested in him romantically -- Scorpios are contraindicated for Geminis, for one thing; he's quite the would-be Casanova, for another, and I don't like overly flirtatious men -- but it was nice to engage his full attention and have him listen to me so raptly.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Nice isn't enough

I was fully resolved to go out with Brooklyn Accountant again. Even though I had a very blah time with him, there was nothing that really repulsed me.

But he called last night and I was soooooooooooooo bored. I did not enjoy the conversation at all. I barely listened -- IMed with my friend Boaz while saying "uh huh" every so often into the phone. He's a nice guy, but he's tedious to the max. And I just could not face going out with him again.

After an interminable conversation about his Thursday night shopping with his mother and his plans for Shavuot, he finally got around to asking me out again, and I said no. "I've thought about it, and you're a really nice guy, but I just don't see this going anywhere," I said. To his credit, he accepted the rejection graciously and didn't try to convince me otherwise.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, May 21, 2007

I love you MORE, Aunt Ayelet

My nieces Shira and Malka now have their own email accounts, so they don't just call me, they send me little love notes. In color.

Dear Aunt Ayelet,

I want to see you sooo mutch.
I want to know, how is school?
How is the weather in your neiborhood?
If you have nail polish on what color is it?
How are you feeling?
Are you tired when you come home?
Oh and, I love you more!!!
I want you to know that you are the best Aunt ever!!!

Love, Malka


Dear Aunt Ayelet,

I love you sooooo mutch!!!!!!!!!
here is a list about you.
  1. your nice.
  2. your not married. [editor's note: Ouch.]
  3. your cute.
  4. you are my aunt.
Love, Shira

It's a real lift to get these little misspelled missives during the day.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

No sweat

So I met with the internship director, which I had been dreading, and she was actually very nice. She said she is making inquiries to domestic violence internships, because she feels it would be easier for me to continue in the same type of field placement I started, although I would probably be fine in a MICA or dual-diagnosis setting as well. She had been hoping that The Other Bad Place would take me early and I would finish out my first year there, as well as my second. That explains how they knew I'd left my first internship. She just found out this morning that Ms. Fascist rejected me.

I also thanked her for being so protective and supportive of me, as my advisor had advised, and said that really helped me get through this entire mess; I think she appreciated hearing that. So no sweat; I'm going to get another first-year placement, and I have to trust that I'll get a good second-year placement too.

No sweat also applies to the toxic effects of a "clinical strength" antiperspirant I tried with disastrous results.

I've been sweating more as a result of the increased lithium, and thought I'd try a stronger antiperspirant. At first I thought the slight fever, sore throat, and swollen glands were either a mild flu or side effects of the increased lithium. When I developed a pounding headache, severe nausea, and constipation, I was perplexed; the first two symptoms could have resulted from lithium toxicity, but the third definitely couldn't -- at least not in my case.

Then it occurred to me that it might have been a bad idea to interfere with an adaptive function -- i.e., increased sweating subsequent to increased lithium dosage. The warning label on the antiperspirant said its use was contraindicated in people with kidney disease -- another excretory function. I decided to stop using it, and lo and behold, my symptoms abated. Guess I'll be doing a lot more laundry this summer.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Not all social workers are nicer than psychologists

Miss Thing certainly isn't, and neither is Ms. Fascist, the rigid and brutal educational coordinator at The Other Bad Place (the renowned psychiatric facility that dissed me last week).

Ms. Fascist was brusque, unfriendly, and dismissive from our first phone call. I had to chase her down to schedule a confirmation interview. I couldn't understand it. But after being forced to defend my actions at my last internship -- four times in one day -- I really believe that she never wanted me, and was determined to reject me before I even showed up. (She also made a slightly disparaging remark about very orthodox Jews; I shouldn't have told her I was modern orthodox and understood the ultra-orthodox sector.)

The interview was supposed to confirm my placement at The Other Bad Place. Instead, it turned into a referendum on my experience at the shelter. Why had I had to leave? I had to explain that over and over, to five people in four interviews -- it took more than three hours, and I had to walk several blocks from one building to another, to be mercilessly drilled again and again. It was incredibly stressful and anxiey-provoking; given my mood disorder, it's a miracle I didn't break down and cry or kick something.

The worst part is, they should not have been allowed to ask me that, and I should not have had to answer. Because what happened at the shelter was not my fault. Yet clearly they believed it was, and nothing I could have said would have convinced them otherwise.

I wasn't prepared to answer why I'd had to leave the shelter. And obviously I didn't do so well, since they came up with so many half-truths and outright lies to support their rejection of me. I also don't understand why they felt so threatened by me. They knew from my résumé that I have a master's degree. Why shouldn't I use proper terminology when discussing psychiatric disorders? Why shouldn't I express the desire to take part in treatment team decisions, including assessment of medication efficacy?

My friend Alona said it was clear they had already decided to blame me for what happened at the shelter, and nothing I could have said or done would have changed their narrow little minds. "You could have stood on your head," she said, "and they would have called the school and said, 'She didn't stand on her head.' And you shouldn't have had to stand on your head in the first place!"

I spoke with my academic adviser for about an hour yesterday, since I really needed advice. She was supportive, but told me that I can't complain about or criticize the interviewers to the internship department. I just have to say I am disappointed in how I did at The Other Bad Place, I wasn't prepared to answer those questions, clearly I did not do well, and ask what I should do next. "You're an excellent student, and you will do well in whatever internship you are placed in," she said. "Don't worry about not knowing your second-year placement. Try to help them find you a placement for the rest of your first year -- as soon as possible."

So that's what I'm trying to do. Obviously The Other Bad Place would not have been a good setting for me to learn and grow. I just have to have faith that wherever I end up will be.

I was greatly comforted this Shabbos by the Pirke Avot shiur I attended. (On a side note: Mrs. Mutter was at the Pirke Avot shiur, and she invited me over for dinner on the first night of Shavuot. That was nice.) We were up to the last chapter (many thanks to Chabad for posting an online translation), and so many of the verses seemed directly relevant to my current situation:

Whoever studies Torah for Torah's sake alone, merits many things.... [and] becomes modest, patient and forgiving of insults.

Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities [including]... humility... companionship with one's contemporaries... tranquility... slowness to anger... acceptance of suffering, knowing one's place, satisfaction with one's lot... not taking credit for oneself, likableness... fleeing from honor, lack of arrogance in learning... and saying something in the name of its speaker.

My ordeal at The Other Bad Place was especially painful because of my ordeal at The Bad Place. But as Alona pointed out, at my current school I have respect and support from my professors and fellow students. And what I learned from this week's Pirke Avot session is that I must be especially careful to guard against arrogance. Because arrogance must have come out during those three hours of interrogation. As a defense, surely; but it's unappealing and off-putting.

Arrogance and grandiosity are aspects of hypomania, so I have all the more reason to work on my humility. Joan warned me before my interview that I can seem like a show-offy know-it-all; I wish I'd kept that more in mind. Arrogance leads to being easily insulted; anytime someone treats you with less respect than you believe to be your due, you get hurt. Humility protects you from being so easily injured.

I still don't think there's anything I could have done to win Ms. Fascist over, but as painful as this experience was, the only way I can redeem it is to learn from it. And I will grovel to the internship department, telling them that I wasn't prepared to answer the questions I was asked, and beg for help in getting new internships.

Even though I shouldn't have to.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, May 19, 2007

No worries

I don't want my faithful readers (all 18 of you) to worry. I had a good Shabbos, I got supportive messages from classmates and faculty, and I'm feeling a little better about yesterday's fiasco.

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, paraphrased Tolstoy in her book Operating Instructions: "You have to be wounded into writing, but you shouldn't write until the wound is healed. " Bearing that in mind, I'll write more once this latest wound has stopped hurting a little.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, May 18, 2007

Another major setback

Today I went through hours of interviews at the second-year internship I was selected for. And they sent me back. They called the internship director to tell her I was inappropriate, not self-reflective, a know-it-all, used too much jargon, acted like the spot was mine when the interview was to confirm it. They said I asked no questions; I know I did. I could contest everything bad that they said about me, but it doesn't matter. They said I was not a good fit. I blew it. The fieldwork department doesn't think they can find me another internship until I finish my first-year work. And of course all the good spots are already taken.

I cannot tell you how brokenhearted I am. I don't even know if I should try to finish this program. I honestly do not know what to do.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I dreamed I was a therapist

No kidding! I had a very bizarre dream last night. I was trying to travel by train to some location where they needed me. For some reason, the train travel was taking forever and I wasn't getting anywhere, so I had to try some magical elephant or carpet ride (the details are hazy in my memory, but I think that sort of encapsulates what it was).

After I finally got to the location, I sat down with a group of the people I was supposed to work with. "Let's establish some ground rules," I said. I knew there were three basic rules of group therapy. "First of all, respect where people are in the process. Confidentiality -- what's said in group stays in the group." But I couldn't think of the third -- only one person talks at a time -- so I lamely repeated something about respect and felt bad: I screwed up. Then I woke up.

I still haven't started the internship that's supposed to replace my work at the domestic violence shelter. That, I think, is the delayed train ride. And I'm nervous that when I finally do get there, I'll mess up somehow. But I still woke up feeling happy: I eventually got to do what I'm supposed to be doing.

Today I met with a shadchanit, Rochel, the one who set me up with Brooklyn Lawyuh. She wanted to meet me in person and also discuss ideas for an article we might collaborate on. We sat and chatted in a Starbucks, while her infant dozed nearby in a stroller.

Rochel told me that a woman whom she'd set up with a man later complained to her that the man used and trashed her, and moreover he was bisexual. Rochel called him up and castigated him for his alleged mistreatment of the woman, and he said, "It's very complicated." The woman wrote Rochel many lovely emails, thanking her for her help and saying she treasured their friendship... then she disappeared, and Rochel felt very hurt. Much later, the man in question would tell Rochel that the woman was very unstable, was herself bisexual, and had behaved very badly toward him in several regards.

Rochel felt terrible for having yelled at him, and was still angry at this woman. I said it seemed to me this was a double betrayal -- she felt badly both because she'd castigated the man for his behavior, and because she'd believed the woman, who proved unworthy of her trust. I told Rochel she'd acted on what she thought was complete information, and she shouldn't blame herself that her trust had been violated.

Then Rochel told me that the man in this little drama had recently sent her an IM saying that in Williamsburg, where several of his hipster friends live, Chassidic men were notorious for frequenting black and/or transsexual prostitutes. She was outraged -- could not understand why he would send her such a message, especially since he knows she and her husband are Chassidic.

I theorized that he was trying to hit her where it might hurt -- perhaps some residual anger over the bad match -- and suggested she write him something along these lines: I am well aware that religious Jews are not perfect. If we were, we wouldn't need 613 mitzvot from Hashem to keep us in line. But why are you writing to tell me this? What are you trying to accomplish? "Put it back on him," I told her.

"Make sure that you see private patients after you get your license, whatever else you do," said Rochel. "You're going to be an excellent therapist."
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Just not that into him

So I went out with the Brooklyn Accountant tonight. Where to start?

I had suggested we go to the restaurant where I dated BFL and VYG. I know that if I don't enjoy the company, at least I'll enjoy the food, and it's also the closest kosher restaurant to my apartment.

When he picked me up this rainy evening, he said, "I think you mentioned a bagel place that's pretty close by."

Excuse me? First dinner date at a crowded bagel shop? I can understand going to the bagel shop for brunch, or just going for coffee at Starbucks, but if you're going out for dinner, you don't go to a crowded bagel shop. "It's about 10 blocks from here," I said. "Is that where you want to go?"

He reconsidered; maybe he noticed my stricken expression. "What about that other restaurant you mentioned?" he said. I told him it was a mere few blocks away, and off we headed, huddled under our umbrellas.

There is nothing really terrible I can say about the Brooklyn Accountant, and nothing really wonderful. He's 40 and lives at home, which isn't great, but that's partly because his parents are aging and getting frail. He was wearing a very stylish maroon ensemble -- matching tie, sweater, and pants -- that I appreciated. He didn't sit silent like a bump on a log; I was able to have a conversation with him on various topics, like vacations he's taken and our mutual love of internet shopping. He's not handsome, but he's not completely repulsive. His voice was nasal and his Brooklyn accent pronounced, but neither was jarring or grating.

Yet I was so not thrilled. So not engaged. So not interested. It wasn't one of those painful dates where you fantasize about chewing off your leg and escaping from the trap, but it wasn't especially fun or pleasant. I just didn't enjoy his company. He's a little too boring, a little too staid. After we ordered, I was counting the minutes until our food arrived; after we ate, I counted the minutes until he paid the check and we could leave.

There's nothing wrong with him, and nothing really right with him. Yes, he has a stable job. He loves his parents. He's apparently got a fashion sense. So why am I so not interested? Maybe he just looks old and unattractive compared to the Arabian Knight, who is 12 years younger than he is. (Although they're both losing their hair a little, a very common occupational hazard of being male and Jewish.)

He's also a little clueless.

"Do you go to the gym a lot, Ayelet?" Apparently he's not too observant either.

"I don't -- I walk a lot," I said.

"Did you ever go?" What is this, the Spanish Inquisition?

"I used to work out with a trainer, but she injured me pretty badly. Now I have bad knees. Walking will have to do." Stop talking about the gym!

"That's too bad. So, can you like do the cardio machines?" I guess persistence can be an admirable quality.

"No, that hurts my knees, and honestly, I really don't like going to the gym anymore," I told him. "It reminds me of how stupid I was to trust the trainer and how badly she hurt me. Do you go to the gym a lot?" Let's make this about you.

"Not really," he said blandly. Were you just making conversation, then? Couldn't you see I did not want to talk about the gym? Sigh.

The rain had stopped, so he walked me home in the cool evening air. "I had a really nice time tonight, Ayelet. Can I give you a call in a couple of days?" (I don't appreciate the "waiting several days before calling" thing; if you like me, call me the next day. This is in contrast to the Arabian Knight, who calls or IMs me several times a day -- which, let it be said, I am starting to find a bit excessive. It borders on Persian. Kind of reminds me that he doesn't have a real job yet.)

Reluctantly, I said yes. Because I feel guilty about pushing the boring Brooklyn Accountant toward the more expensive dining option, I've essentially agreed to go out with him again. Maybe we'll just go for coffee.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas

Obviously I have too much time on my hands these days, or I wouldn't be detailing every single date with the Arabian Knight. We went to see "Lucky You," a cute, romantic movie about professional poker players. Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Robert Duvall; worth a look. The theater was fairly deserted, since it was a 10:15 p.m. show on a Tuesday, so I got to make a lot of snarky comments as we watched; in a crowded theater, I wouldn't have been that obnoxious. (Ah, semester break. Pretty soon I'll be too busy to be out that late at night.)

Anyway, somehow the Knight managed to get hold of my hand, and I let him hold it. It felt very daring. How weird is that? I'm a very experienced woman, but because I'd decided not to get physically involved with him so quickly, holding hands on the third date felt tremendously erotic.

Not too erotic, though. I didn't let him do anything else, and I didn't hold hands with him as he walked me home. He tried to kiss me good night and I evaded him, saying, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

Tonight I've got the date with the Brooklyn Accountant. The Knight knows I have plans and has joked about my "other guy"; I have politely but firmly told him that I have my own life and friends, thank you. "Don't be Persian," I say.

This is probably a stereotype, but every Persian guy I have dated has been incredibly jealous and possessive -- sometimes to a frightening extent. Right before my overdose, I was dating one. I was having a lot of physical ailments, and even though he was a doctor, he would make strange suggestions.

"I can't go out tonight, I'm too sick to my stomach," I would say.

"Try Celebrex!" he said.

"Isn't that for arthritis?" I asked.

"Yes, it's a new wonder drug."

"I don't have arthritis, I'm throwing up." What kind of a doctor are you?

"Let me come over and hold your hair while you throw up," he said. Excuse me?

"I'm not in the mood for company." Soon I wasn't in the mood to date him at all, and then my mood was profoundly depressed and I swallowed all the medication in the apartment.

I've met some normal Persian men since then, but every Persian I tried to date turned out to be very similar to this guy. So I no longer date them. The Knight, being Iraqi, bristles when compared to Persians, so calling him Persian is a good way to get him to back off.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I've really arrived in the blogosphere

I am happy to announce that I've been asked to join Jewish Blog Definitions, a blog with translations of the Hebrew and Yiddish words many Jewish bloggers employ. What a nice way to spend my semester break.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, May 14, 2007

How to shop when you're hypomanic

  1. Decide that you really need something very specific, like brown wedge leather sandals, a multicolor pearl illusion necklace, or plum liquid eyeliner of a particular brand. (This is the easiest step. When you're hypomanic, you need everything.)

  2. Resolve to find the absolutely lowest price for the item.

  3. Browse 15-20 different stores to try to find the item.

  4. Give up on finding the item in the real world. The real world does not understand you and your needs.

  5. Go online to search the web for the lowest-priced item.

  6. Decide that you will not pay shipping; disqualify all shopping sites that don't offer free shipping.

  7. Enjoy the thrill of the hunt as you search for the item.

  8. Find the item.

  9. Fall in love with it. It is perfect. It is everything you have ever wanted.

  10. Mull whether you really still absolutely need the item. Determine that you do.

  11. Put the item in your shopping cart.

  12. If there's a minimum order amount you need to spend in order to qualify for free shipping, spend some more time finding other items you absolutely need and add them to your cart until you reach the prescribed amount.

  13. Look over the items in your cart, knowing that you absolutely must have all of them and that only having them will make you truly happy; nothing else will.

  14. Exit the site. If you're shopping at 5 a.m. because you have terminal insomnia, don't forget to take your morning lithium.

Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Very beautiful, without makeup

"Leh ilti biltish," said the Arabian Knight. (Or something like that. He grew up speaking Arabic at home with his parents.)

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"You look very beautiful."

The Knight caught me by surprise this morning. We had planned to get together, and I thought he was calling to say he was on his way.

"Do you have any rubbing alcohol or anything like that?" he asked.

"What for?" I asked sleepily. I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning, surfed the web for a while, then climbed back into bed, and he woke me up.

"I cut my finger on the subway," he said.

"I'll look for it. Where are you?" I asked.

"Downstairs." Oy! I scrambled into a dress, pushed my hair into a scrunchie, found a bottle of Betadine, and stumbled downstairs. No makeup. I dabbed his finger with the Betadine and went back upstairs to brush my teeth, wash my face, and put on some sunscreen. I tried to smooth my hair, gave up, and put on a headband.

And that's how I spent the day -- utterly unprimped, and complimented lavishly by the Knight.

He has other good qualities. Apparently Taureans live for making other people happy, so he tries very hard to make me smile and is delighted when I do. We got bagels, went rowing in Central Park, wandered in the Ramble, went for pizza and cupcakes, and considered taking in a movie but didn't like anything on offer at the local cinema. So I sent him back to Brooklyn (he lives in the Syrian Jewish community, which is apparently similar to Iraqi Jewish) and got a haircut. All in all, a very nice day.

I wish he had a full-time job -- he's some kind of engineer (he explained but it was boring, so I don't remember the details), but hasn't found a job in his field, so he's tutoring junior high and high school kids, and considering getting a full-time teaching job. I guess nobody's perfect. At least he's working.

I'm also really enjoying not having a physical relationship with him. (I must not be hypomanic at all anymore.) He's trying really hard to get me just to kiss him goodbye or hold his hand, and knowing that he wants to touch me makes me not need to touch him. I'm also always the one to say goodbye first, whether I'm sending him home, IMing with him, or speaking on the phone. He tries to keep me talking, but I don't let him.

He really makes me feel beautiful, even at this horrible weight.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Arabian Knight

So I met a nice boy on a dating website a few weeks ago. I say "boy" because he's about 9 years younger than I am. Let's call him "the Arabian Knight"; his parents are Iraqi Jews, and he is very chivalrous, gentlemanly, and romantic. The Knight wrote me:

I like your profile and think you have a very beautiful neshama. What do you like to do for fun? What does ur pic look like?

(My photo is password-protected; I've found that cuts down on the number of indecent proposals I get.) I was intrigued but wary, especially after my encounter with the Very Young Guy, which was anything but positive.

I'm so pleased to hear that you like my neshama, but aren't you a little young for me?

He wasn't fazed.

Maybe, but maybe a younger guy knows how to treat a lady better and keep her happy always.

Can't argue with that. So we emailed back and forth a little more, then started IMing, and finally spoke on the phone. The Knight seemed sweet, smart, and stable, but he was always busy. He could never make plans to go out, but would ask to get together with me spontaneously. "How about I come over to your apartment tonight and make you dinner?" was one example.

My spider-sense began to tingle. If the Knight didn't take me on an official date, I was certain that the odds of him looking for tachlis were very slim. That's what happened with Scumbag, whom I also met on the same website.

I told the Knight it was much to soon to even consider letting him into my apartment, and I didn't think we should IM or speak on the phone much more until we actually met in person. That was a risky move, because I didn't know if he'd find my attitude too off-putting and give up on me, but I figured I had little to lose. If he was put off, he wasn't respectful or strong enough to be my man.

And it worked. Today we met for brunch. He just moved to NYC in February and is doing a lot of substitute teaching and tutoring while he tries to find a job in his field. He had the day free, just needed to go to the bookstore for a book for one of his students. So he came in from the outer boroughs to have bagels with me.

I was nervous. He kept calling me "beautiful" in IMs, but pictures are pictures and real life is something else entirely. But I'm pretty sure he wasn't disappointed, because he kept giving me these intense looks. The Arabian Knight has big, dark, soulful bedroom eyes that he loves to use to dramatic effect. I knew that if I leaned in, he'd kiss me -- so I didn't. I didn't need to -- knowing he wanted to kiss me was enough.

The Knight told me that he's been shomer negia since moving to the city, and I said I thought that was a good thing. And I meant it. Every relationship I've ever been in has been confounded by excessive or premature physical contact. I thought it might be a nice change of pace to take the physical completely off the table and develop an uncorrupted emotional connection. It's a little like George on "Seinfeld" deciding to do the opposite of everything he'd normally do, and ending up with a great job and a hot girl. My previous dating patterns have not worked, so I'm trying the opposite: no physical contact until we really know each other well.

Somewhat inconsistently, the Knight has offered me a number of hugs, when I said I was sad, or backrubs, when I said I was stressed out and very tense. Over IM, so there's little danger of me taking him up on his offers; but when my internship was falling in pieces around me, he tried to be supportive and said that if he were there, he'd give me a big hug. He also said he wasn't shomer negia back home, although he is a virgin, which made me feel a little strange, since I am not. That doesn't seem to bother him, though.

It's almost been fun, working harder than he to maintain proper boundaries and delay physical affection. Usually I want to meld into the guy almost as soon as we meet, and that's probably part of the reason why I'm still single. I kind of like this holding back and not rushing in, taking my time to feel comfortable with him and get to know him.

After brunch we went to the bookstore, then sat in Riverside Park and talked, watching the water ripple in the fresh spring breeze. I became intensely thirsty (I've noticed a dramatic change in my thirst since upping the lithium dosage), so we got some juice and I walked him to the subway. He stared at me intensely as we said goodbye, and I knew he wanted to kiss me.

And that was enough. I didn't need to kiss him. I wished him a good Shabbos and said I hoped I'd see him again soon. After I got home, he IMed me again and called me "beautiful." I was glad to know he still thought so after meeting me.

I've also got a date next week with a 40-year-old accountant. He was very funny in email, not so funny on the phone. I'll have to see how he does in person.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Small world -- make that tiny

"What're you drinking? I'm buying your drinks," said the so obviously not Jewish guy. Shimona and I looked at each other, nonplussed.

"Amstel light," she said.

"Ginger ale," I said.

"No alcohol?" he asked.

"I'm getting over a cold," I said apologetically. Actually, I've had stomach cramps half the day. Not sure if it's the increased lithium or something I ate; hoping it's the latter.

I went to the bar to celebrate Shimona's graduation from a master's program; she was having a joint party with a girl celebrating her birthday. The bar door stood wide open, admitting the mild fresh spring air (as fresh as air gets on the Upper West Side). Bellying up to the bar was a big, friendly guy in shorts and a baseball cap. Blond crew cut, blue eyes, big tattoo on his arm, a few sheets to the wind and feeling magnanimous. He bought us our drinks and stood chatting with us while the bartender poured them, then tipped her lavishly and went back to his table.

"He is so obviously not Jewish," I said.

"Yeah -- a Jewish guy would have watched us, but wouldn't have had the balls to buy us drinks without even knowing us," said Shimona.

"That's why we're still single," I declared.

"I see a blog entry!" said Shimona.

The world got a little smaller when I realized that the guy salsa dancing with the birthday girl was someone I went to college with. Rafael was a few years behind me, and we were never that close, but when I told him who I was he was thrilled and grabbed me in a big hug. "Oh my Gd! Ayelet! I totally didn't recognize you!"

Ouch. I hope that's not because I weigh about 40 pounds more now than I did as a sophomore.

Rafael asked me if I was still in touch with anyone from college; I'm not, really, and neither is he. But I knew that he'd gone to high school with G.I. Josh, so I told him I'd dated a high school friend of his. He was a little surprised to hear that.

"How is G.I. Josh? What's he doing now?" he asked.

"Working in the family business and playing video games," I said. "We went out a few years ago while I was getting my first master's. Things were great while I was studying -- I'd be working on my laptop, writing papers or doing research, and he'd be on the computer playing war games for hours at a time. The problems started once I graduated and we actually had to talk to each other." Rafael laughed.

Another guest, Shoshana, arrived. She's a social worker; I hadn't seen her in a long time. I told her I had left The Bad Place and was now in social work school. Turns out she's supervising one of my classmates.

Then a tall, thin friend of Shimona arrived. Eldad came over to us, greeted Shimona, and said to me, "I've met you." He didn't look familiar, and I'm usually pretty good with faces. He was cute, so I became flirtatious.

"Oh, I look like someone everyone knows," I told him. "People are always saying, 'I was at a wedding and there was a girl there who looked exactly like you -- do you have a sister?' 'I do, but she looks nothing like me.'" He laughed, and we chatted easily; he seemed attentive and interested.

When he went to get a drink, I asked Shimona if Eldad was too much younger than me to consider dating. She said he wasn't too young, but he was definitely too married. Story of my life.

And it turned out we had met. After a few hours of conversation, Eldad told us that he commutes from Chicago to NYC for work; his wife is in a post-doctoral program there. I asked what he did; he said he was a research analyst with his father's investment firm. And something clicked in my memory.

"You're friends with G.I. Josh, right?" I asked him.

"Well, I don't see him very much these days, but yes, we're friends. How did you know?"

"I used to go out with him. You and he and I went out to dinner once, remember?" I said. Actually, it hadn't been an entirely pleasant dinner; Eldad and I got into an uncomfortable political discussion, and finally I'd sort of withdrawn until he changed the topic. But our conversation tonight was nothing but charming.

I walked home thinking about G.I. Josh, how sweet he was at the beginning of the relationship and how mean and passive-aggressive he became as the time passed and he realized that we might actually get married. I didn't see that for a long time after we broke up; I hoped that we'd get back together. It's good to really feel there is no way I'd go back to him, and to know that I deserve better. It took me a while to feel that way about RD-SOB, too, but now I have nothing but contempt for him. I'm hoping to achieve that distance from Little Marty as well.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Everybody wants me

Well, at least they want my brain. For our statistics final, we were allowed to bring in an 8.5" x 11" "cheat sheet" with any information we wanted to include. I used 8-point font and .25" margins, and worked on it every morning I woke up at 3 a.m. or so, which went on for more than a week. It was pretty darn comprehensive.

Before the final, I met with my study group partners, Jerry and Carly. They're also older students -- so much so that they consider me young. We did some reviewing, then had some coffee and chatted. Jerry convinced me to switch sections for two of my fall classes to be with the professors he thought were the best. I was psyched because I'd be in class with him, and apparently the feeling's mutual. He kept saying that he hadn't been pulling his weight during our homework sessions. Finally, I told him that he had -- because he asked all the right questions. And I meant it. You learn best by teaching and answering questions about a topic.

Jerry also had a funny conversation with Leslie, another girl in my class. I can't remember how it got started. I think they were saying how much they liked my cheat sheet, which I had also insisted on giving her. He kept declaring how smart I was. (I'm a little embarrassed to relate this, but that's what happened.)

"I'm not the smartest kid in the room," I said.

"Yes, you are," he said. I gotta say, I loved hearing it. Narcissistic I am, humble I am not. And his good opinion of me means the world to me. Maybe because he's roughly the age of the professors at The Bad Place, who had such a negative view of me, or maybe because he's really brilliant (although he refuses to see it). I love it when smart people think I'm REALLY smart.

Before the test, everyone foregathered and started comparing cheat sheets. And the one everyone wanted... was mine. People even went to another floor to make copies of it. It was incredibly flattering.

I also talked with Jerry about his wife and son's emotional problems, which have a lot in common with mine. I keep feeling like I should tell him about my disorder. Because I know that if anything, he'd be even more impressed with me, knowing what I struggle with and what I've accomplished despite it.

But you know what? Tonight, sitting down to recount this, I just feel sad and lonely. I've got a few weeks before classes start again, I'm between internships. I already miss my classmates. I don't know how I'm going to fill the time until classes start again.

Jerry said today that this was the first educational experience he'd ever had that exceeded his expectations. I agreed with him that this program was better than I'd dreamed it could be; as I told Elah on Sunday, I'm a born-again social worker. I'm really proud that I'm learning social work values and skills. And a huge part of the reason why I love this school is the other students, who have been so supportive, understanding, and effusive with their praise of me. It has been balm to my wounded soul.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Time on my hands, polish (and band-aids) on my feet

There's a new executive director at our synagogue, and I need to wait a few weeks before he, the rabbi, and I can meet to discuss hiring a Partner in Caring. And I'm still waiting to hear what my new internship will be. So I'm at loose ends today, and decided to get a pedicure.

Good news: I bought a new pair of flip-flops for only $2 at the nail salon. Bad news: the left one is already stained with blood because the pedicurist took a chunk out of my heel with the razor. She was supposed to be removing only the dead skin, but the lady in the chair next to me wanted to look at the shoes in the magazine I was reading, and I twisted a little to show them to her. SLICE!

It really stung, especially when they put on the wound care serum, but I kept my cool. I'm actually more annoyed that she didn't do such an awesome job on my toenails; they're cut all slanty. Last time I go to that salon.

If I were really hypomanic, I would have had a conniption fit when she mutilated me. (Or I would have gotten a manicure/pedicure/bikini wax). If I were really depressed, I wouldn't have been able to get a pedicure -- I'd want to stay at home; being out and about would provoke too much anxiety and distress.

Of course, if I really weren't depressed I'd do more cleaning and straightening up, which I'm still not too inclined to do. I'm getting there. I just hope I recognize myself when all the dust settles.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, May 07, 2007

Friendly Manic Spiderman

Home alone and bored. I don't know where or when my next internship starts, and although I have a statistics final Wednesday afternoon, I'm not inclined to study for it; I'm meeting with my labmates that morning and we're going to cram.

I could, of course, clean my apartment, take out the tower of accumulated recyclables, get a pedicure, or read the psychopathology textbook I bought for Dr. Jerk's class at The Bad Place. Or I could watch TV shows and movies online.

Today it's Spider-Man 3, and -- spoiler alert -- at one point, he's embraced by a symbiote that makes him much more impulsive, sexual, and aggressive. He takes on and subdues his nasty editor (verbally of course), kicks the living crap out of some criminals, buys trendy new clothes, ogles every woman he passes, leaps onstage at a jazz club and becomes the floor show, and gets into a fight with the bouncer, knocking Mary Jane to the floor.

In short, he appears to be in the throes of a manic episode.

I've been noticing the need to shop in myself lately. When I'm depressed I can't shop; it's too hard to make decisions, even over something as minor as which brand of toothpaste to buy. When I'm hypomanic, in contrast, I want to buy EVERYTHING.

I used to say that I knew I wasn't doing too badly because I never bought a horse, something Kay Redfield Jamison did during one of her manic episodes. But right now, I really really really want to buy things. Suddenly I "need" new hairbands, skirts, flip-flops (well, okay, mine broke, so that's somewhat legit). My everyday watch broke, so even though I have a nice one for Shabbos, I want a new everyday watch, and I spend hours on Amazon, Yahoo Shopping, MSN Shopping, Overstock.com, and the Fossil watch website. Just comparison shopping, not buying; if I were really manic, I'd have 4 new watches by now.

I'm trying not to buy new clothing or shoes -- I'm in grad school, so I shouldn't waste money on anything I don't absolutely need -- so I find myself revisiting drugstore.com again and again; I know I'll eventually need more toothpaste, shower gel, moisturizer, etc. I bought a $17 jumbo-sized canister of BeneFiber, because since January I've been needing a little help in that department. That is, until the increased lithium kicked in. If I use a fiber supplement now, I'm afraid I'd feel like I've contracted dysentery.

Hope that's not too much information! In this cheery mood, I could so easily go on -- and I have been. It's no coincidence that my posting rate has increased dramatically over the past few weeks. In January, I had 11 posts; in February and March, 10 (each); in April, 17; and although it's only May 7, I'm already up to 7. When I'm hypomanic, I'm incredibly productive.

That's not always bad. I can study and retain information, write quickly and easily, and dazzle people with my wit. I see connections between things easily and synthesize good ideas, some brilliant. But I have to be careful. I have to watch myself and make sure I don't do anything inappropriate or idiotic.

Joan has been very helpful in that regard, watching me carefully for signs that I'm veering out of control. Alona and Bina are also good at keeping tabs on me, although Bina moved to Ohio, so she has to monitor me by phone.

Sometimes I feel I deserve to feel happy and optimistic, especially after the depressions I've weathered lately. And sometimes I feel I don't know who I am. I can't even make sense of my own rhythms now, how I sleep, how I digest. Am I depressed by nature, pessimistic, defeated? Am I naturally exuberant, hopeful, enthusiastic? Or am I just moody? What are my regular moods, or will I only have pathological moods from now on?

Who am I?
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Another unmixed blessing

I went to a beautiful wedding today. Second marriage for the chatan and kallah, so it was small and intimate. It was also in Crown Heights. I hadn't been there in more than a decade.

Today was Lag b'Omer, the first day after Pesach that one can get married or get a haircut. Nobody in CH was getting a haircut, though; when I stepped out of the Kingston Ave. subway station, they were ALL standing in front of 770 Eastern Parkway, Lubavitch world headquarters and the residence of the late Rebbe. Thousands of sheitels, black hats, and children. Clowns were dancing on one platform, children were shouting brachas into a microphone on another. Every so often everyone would pick up the signature Lubavitch chant, "We want Moshiach now!"

It was amazing. I was thrilled to see so many frum Jews together and happy, but annoyed, because I had printed out directions to the kabbalat panim and there were thousands of people blocking the streets I needed to cross. I tried to go around the crowd and ended up getting very lost, which I've had a talent for doing since I was a little girl. I have a terrible sense of direction. In fact, I have NO sense of direction. I can't even tell my right hand from my left without forming an "L" with my left thumb and index finger. So I ended up in the part of CH that looks less like Mea Shearim and more like Bed-Stuy. But I found a friendly cop who pointed me in the right direction (back toward where I'd come from, of course).

As I wearily plodded up the street in shoes I had thought were comfortable, I saw the kallah standing in front of "the rebbe's house," where he lived with his wife before she passed away and he moved into 770. She and her daughters were taking pictures; apparently it's a popular spot among Lubavitch brides. If I hadn't gotten lost, I wouldn't have seen her.

I had to cry (carefully, since I was fully made up). She looked so beautiful and so happy. Her dress was gorgeous, her children looked delicious, and everyone was glowing. Whenever I go to a wedding, I try to be helpful if I think it's needed, so I offered my services to the bride's friend, who was buckling the bride's silver 4-inch heel sandals. "Could you say some tehillim for her? Thanks." So I stood, murmuring psalms, half-listening to the photographer coax, "Okay, now turn this way, more, more, no, too much, that's it, now SMILE..." Click.

Because it was a small wedding, it might not be fully representative of Lubavitch marital festivities. But I noted some differences from what I'm used to happening at modern orthodox weddings.

Instead of playing an ebullient "Od Yishama" as the chatan is walked to the kallah at the bedeken, the men hum a gentle niggun, like something you'd hear at havdalah. Then he covers her face not with a sheer veil, but with an opaque piece of white lacy cloth. I don't know the reason for this, and I think I should ask, because honestly I find it disturbing. She's supposed to go into the marriage blindfolded?

The kallah must remove all her jewelry, because when she stands under the chuppah and receives her wedding ring, that should be her only adornment. It's good luck for single girls to wear her jewelry while she's getting married, so I snagged her diamond tennis bracelet and allocated her heirloom watch to another girl. The kallah handed off her ring, earrings, and pendant to some other girls, and picked up the chuppah davening list I'd prepared for her. I made a mental note to collect and return her jewelry to her after the chuppah.

"I need someone to hold my flowers!" she said. I took them from her. Her 9-year-old stepdaughter (who looks and sounds about 14 -- I really wonder what her father has been feeding her, and where I could get some), said, "Oh, you're holding the bouquet -- you'll be the next bride!"

"Amen!" I said.

The kallah was then led to 770, past a petting zoo, cotton candy machines, and sundry other elements of the Lag b'Omer celebration. I thought we would be in a large room, but the chuppah was set up in a tiny antechamber, in front of a staircase and an elevator. It got very crowded, even though it was just a small group of guests; a toddler snored on his mother's shoulder next to me, and other kids were being held or shushed. But the children of the bride and groom were not there. I wasn't sure if that was halacha or minhag, but I intend to find out. It seemed odd to me that at the moment you're becoming a family, the children may not participate. Maybe it's intended to allow the bride and groom to focus on becoming a married couple instead of having to worry about wiping someone's runny nose.

At one point, someone began giving a d'var Torah and mentioned that a wedding ceremony is a foretaste of what things will be like in the world to come. I was tempted to call out, "Very crowded?" but managed not to. The lithium's working.

The wedding ceremony itself was familiar, except for the reading of the rebbe's letter, which is unique to Lubavitch. I was davening from a copy of the list I had made for the bride, so at that point I wasn't paying much attention.

The kallah walked around the chatan seven times, they drank some wine, the marriage certificate was read, blessings were chanted, he stomped on a glass. "Mazal tov!" Everyone started singing "Od Yishama," and so did I, until a gentleman in front of me began clearing his throat rather ostentatiously. I glanced around; none of the other women were singing. I shut up.

Then the bride and groom went off to the yichud room for their first moments alone as husband and wife. A dear friend of the bride, Elah, had a bag of food for them so they could break their fast. (Orthodox brides and grooms fast on their wedding day; it's considered a personal Yom Kippur.) My years of living, working, and commuting in Manhattan came in handy: "Excuse me! Coming through! We have food for the chatan and kallah!" We got through that crowd pretty efficiently.

I collected the jewelry from the other single girls and waited for the bride and groom to emerge from the yichud room. After they did, I returned her finery to her so she could take more pictures appropriately bedecked, and went to the reception hall.

And saw a LOT of women with babies. Everywhere I looked (men and women were in separate rooms). It hurt a little. But I couldn't feel too sorry for myself, because I also saw women wearing sheitels but no wedding rings -- divorcees. Not as many, fortunately.

There was a buffet with hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken -- it's traditional to have a barbecue on Lag b'Omer. I've already decided that when I get married, I don't want a sit-down meal with assigned seating after the chuppah. I want to put buffets, tables, and chairs around the periphery of the dance floor, and have people dance or eat as the spirit moves them.

My injured knees silent, so I danced vigorously for the bride -- my sister Jerusha would have HATED it -- apparently impressing quite a few of the guests.

"Are you a professional dancer?" one lady asked me.

I was tempted to say, "Get out much?" or "Haven't you seen the real professionals on 'Dancing with the Stars'?" or "Did you fail to notice my enormous tuchus?"

But I held back. "Oh, no, I'm in grad school. I just love to dance."

Elah and I sat and talked about my school -- she is thinking about applying there. I told her I was a B.T. social worker -- always thought I'd be a psychologist, fell bass-ackward into social work school, and now I love it there. Not just because they love me, but because the social work values they're instilling have tremendous merit and relevance. So I hope she'll apply.

Finally I dragged my weary feet and dancin' tuchus home. It was a perfect Lag b'Omer.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

Why I do NOT want to be a child therapist

Yesterday and today I woke up at 5 a.m. instead of 3 a.m. I suppose that's progress.

I spent Shabbat with friends and friends' children. Most of them were delightful.

First, I went to Alona and Adir's to accompany them and Batya to shul. We got kind of a late start, as often happens when you're trying to get a 3-year-old out of the house. I hadn't gone to davening since, I don't know, January. The rabbi gave a great shiur on conversion for marriage, weaving in anecdotes from his experience with halachic sources, including a terrific reading of the book of Ruth.

I never realized that the conversation Naomi has with Ruth is a metaphor for the way a Jew is supposed to discourage a gentile who wants to convert. Three times Naomi told Ruth to go back, just as you are supposed to turn a potential convert away three times, and Ruth refused. You're supposed to tell a potential convert some difficult halachot and some easier halachot, to give them a sense of what they'll be taking on. Naomi told Ruth that on Shabbat you can only walk a certain distance, and Ruth said, "Wherever you will go, I will go." Naomi told Ruth that she probably would not be able to marry or sleep with another man, and Ruth said, "Where you sleep, I will sleep." And so on. It was really beautiful, and I was very moved.

I have to say, it's a lot easier to have kavannah and bitachon when you're not severely depressed. Despair is antithetical to belief and trust in Gd. That's what really annihilates your soul and alienates you from yourself. I can't pray when I'm depressed. I just can't praise Gd when I'm suffering so desperately.

Then Alona persuaded me to stay and have lunch at the shul, which I hadn't planned on doing (or paid for). That was also fine, although the organizers were a little difficult at first, since I wasn't on the list. The assistant rabbi smoothed everything over; he was the guest speaker at last week's pirkei avot shiur, and I guess he liked what I'd contributed to the discussion. After lunch, we went to the park, and I stayed and played with them for a while before going to another playground to find Ruchama and Tikva.

I was a little afraid Tikva wouldn't remember me; I've only known her for a little over a year, and I hadn't seen her in about four months, which for a 3-year-old is a very long time. She was playing in the sandbox and didn't see me at first; then she looked up, smiled, and came over for a hug. "I didn't see you for a LONG time," she said; not an accusation, just a statement of fact.

"I've been really tired on Shabbos lately," I said, brushing sand off my clothes. And we were back to normal, which was a relief.

Later, I headed over to Eric and Ahuva's to babysit; Ahuva is in Israel for a wedding, and Eric wanted to daven maariv with a minyan. They've been wonderful friends to me, so I really wanted to do this for them, and at first it was easy; I was only looking after 18-month-old David, who is a very good-natured little boy, chasing after him with a plate of cold chicken as he played on the floor. "Open! Open up! Eat some chicken!" He'd take a forkful, then return to pushing his toy bus around on the floor. Apparently he loves buses.

Then Eric stopped by to drop off 6-year-old Mara, who apparently had been having a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day. After Eric left, she began screaming and whining. She'd had a bad day, her friends didn't listen to her, there weren't any toys she wanted to play with, whine whine whine. I was trying to get the baby to bed, and she was really making a racket.

First I tried to reason with her.

"Mara, I will play with you as soon as I get the baby to sleep."

"NO! I need you to play with me NOW! There's nothing I want to do! I don't like to read, I don't like to play, I can't watch TV..." scream, scream, scream, whine, whine, whine.

I tried to coax her. I tried being stern. I told her that if she wanted, I would talk to her father or mother about what was bothering her, but she had to be quiet now. Nothing worked. I had to drag her into the living room and went back to the baby's room, where I must have sung "The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round" 500 times. (I tried to work in some other songs, but he just kept saying, "Bus! Bus!" Never introduce a toddler to a song that you're not willing to repeat ad infinitum.)

And then Mara REALLY started to scream. David looked at me. "Mara crying," he said, sucking on his bottle.

"Can I go see if she's okay?" I asked him. He nodded solemnly. I went into the living room, where Mara was decompensating; she'd pulled off the head of one of her dolls and couldn't get it back on. I tried to fix it but couldn't, and I couldn't comfort her. So I sat on the couch and ignored her screaming. For 45 minutes. (I went in to check on the baby midway through the tantrum and he, amazingly, had managed to fall asleep.)

All that time, I kept thinking, "This is why I do NOT want to work with children." It's amazing how angry and helpless an out-of-control child can make you feel. I felt bad for her -- she was unhappy about how her day had gone, and she's only 6; her emotions aren't fully under her control. But I also started to understand why some people hit or shake their children, especially after she started hitting and scratching me. She's pretty strong and tall for a 6-year-old. I didn't know how to calm her down.

I ultimately put her in time-out, where she continued to scream, but at least it was in the kitchen and I was in the living room -- although, this being a typical Manhattan apartment, I could of course hear her perfectly. (I have no idea what the neighbors thought.) Eric FINALLY got home to find me sitting with my hands over my ears while Mara screamed.

"Have you ever thought about having her talk with somebody?" I asked.

Fortunately, Eric has an incredibly gentle, soothing presence, so Mara calmed down enough for him to make havdalah. But I honestly wonder how she'll react to me the next time I go there for a Shabbos meal. I spoke to her quite sharply at times while I was trying to get her to quiet down, even though I was trying to be patient and forbearing. So I wonder how she'll remember and react to me next time she sees me.

I told Eric, "You know how you and Ahuva always have me over for Shabbos meals, and gave me a ride to my ex-boyfriend's wedding, and give me such good advice and chizzuk? We're even."
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"