Monday, August 31, 2009

It's not fair

For once, I'm not talking about my life. My friend Bina's mother passed away, less than 10 months after Bina lost her father. The funeral was yesterday. I love seeing Bina, especially since she moved out to Yennensville (that's Yiddish for "the boondocks"), but not under these circumstances.

It's especially tragic that Bina's nephew is getting married today. Normally I'd just be envious that someone less than half my age is getting married, but I only feel compassion for him. His aunt and uncle won't be there; his father will, but probably can't be too joyous. It's not fair.

I've never cried so much at the funeral of somebody I never met. I cried every time I looked at Bina and saw how much pain she's in. All I could do was hold her hand or put my arm around her alarmingly bony shoulders.

Especially alarming since Bina is pregnant, due in January. B'sha-ah tovah. I know she and Asher wanted another child and had been trying. Why couldn't her mother survive a few more months to see this latest grandchild? It's not fair.

At my uncle's funeral, a"h, I made a lot of jokes during my eulogy and they seemed to go over well. I wanted people to laugh, because he was a very funny person and it felt more appropriate to remember him with laughter than tears. So I tried to cheer Bina up yesterday.

"That kid with the blue shirt is your nephew, right?" I asked. He stood out, not only because he is insanely hot but because he wasn't dressed in the black/white ultra-orthodox uniform worn by so many of the funeral cortege.

"Yes," Bina said.

"Chatich," I said. (That's Hebrew for "hottie.") Bina giggled. Encouraged, I pressed on. "If I were 10 years younger..."

"He's about 21 now," said Bina.

"If I were 10 years younger..." I repeated in a tone of infinite regret. Bina laughed. Yes, it was inappropriate, but it made her laugh and feel a little better.

My next joke was even more questionable -- but Bina and I know each other very well, so I went ahead with it.

"You're due in January?" I asked. She nodded. "Well, at least you won't need to think too hard about baby names," I said, and held my breath. (Jews tend to name babies after departed relatives, so whether Bina has a boy or a girl, she can name the child after a parent.)

Bina laughed and hugged me. Phew. A little black humor flies. Go figure.

Alona was also in attendance, as was Ozer and a few of Bina's other friends. I was glad we could be there for her. I hope Asher makes her eat during shiva, and thereafter.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A very Ayelet moment

I got a call from one of the organizers of the Alaska trip, Sasha.

"I heard about what happened to you, Ayelet," she said, "and I'm so sorry."

"Oh, it's not so bad," I lied. "Being thrown over publicly for a younger woman... I'm sure it happens all the time. I was embarrassed, but I'll get over it."

Sasha cleared her throat. "I didn't know about that part," she said delicately. "I meant your flight home..."

"Oh, that," I said, blushing furiously. "Oh, yeah, well, that was just my own stupidity. I should have been more careful when I booked it. But what the heck, it's only money. If I wanted lots of money, I wouldn't have become a social worker!" Sasha had the grace to laugh and pretend I hadn't just said all that about being thrown over for a younger, blonder, fatter woman.

The second-to-last day of the cruise, as we pulled away from Alaska and headed toward British Columbia, I went to the hot tub with some of my non-backstabbing cruise buddies. Of course the Charming Cad and YBFW were there, in one of the tubs. And of course I slipped on the deck and crashed down hard on my knee. One of the same knees I fell on in the subway.

The non-backstabbing cruise buddies were immediately helpful. "Ayelet! Are you okay? Let me get you some ice! You have to ice that right away!" So I sat on the deck next to the tub CC and YBFW weren't in, icing my knee and chatting with my friends.

Eventually CC came over to me and peered down at my knee. "Can I see it?" he asked. He's not a doctor, but whatever. I lifted the ice wrapped in a napkin.

"I heard you yell but I didn't see you fall," he said. Of course you didn't. You stayed in the tub with YBFW, you slime-weasel.

"It's already starting to bruise," he noted.

I looked up at him and smiled. "I bruise easily," I said evenly. "And I heal fast." I put the ice back on my knee and ignored him.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, August 28, 2009

Keeping my bad luck to myself

Got an email from an acquaintance:

Hey Ayelet, glad you had a great time in Alaska. The pics are great.

I administer a Tehillim group for Shidduchim -- 18 of us say specific prakim of Tehillim once a week, every week, covering the entire book weekly, having the group in mind. One of the group members got married today in israel... and i'm looking to replace her. Would you be interested in joining us? We've had success and there's been turnover...

Let me know as I'm looking for someone to start next week. If you're interested, I would need your full Hebrew name, including your mother's Hebrew name, email address and contact phone. If you won't join us, can u think of anyone who would be interested and would follow thru consistently...?

regards, Tehilla

I used to belong to a tehillim group coordinated by Elah. I had to stop because I couldn't pray. When I'm clinically depressed, I can't pray with anything approaching hope or gratitude; I'm mired in despair and resentment.

Right now, I wouldn't say I'm clinically depressed, because I'm eating and sleeping normally and functioning adequately at work. One of my clients even asked me if I fell in love on my vacation, because I seemed so relaxed and happy. I wear the mask well. But the despair and resentment are huge.

Hi Tehilla, thanks for thinking of me. I've participated in these kinds of groups before. Unfortunately, I've come to the conclusion that my prayers are only answered in the negative. Be well, Ayelet.

She wrote back succinctly:

Have a good shabbos.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

So how was your vacation, Ayelet?

It was the best of cruises; it was the worst of cruises.

As my Facebook friends know, I came home from vacation in quite a funk. Not only did I schedule my return flight for August 31 instead of August 23 (and thus had to pay $380 extra to get home on time), I was dallied with, used, and backstabbed.

I trusted a Charming Cad (CC) who told me on Tuesday that I was the most beautiful woman on the ship. By Thursday he'd moved on to a younger, blonder, fatter woman (YBFW). She told me, on Tuesday, "Oh, you're welcome to CC." Apparently I wasn't.

Then I had to sit with CC and YBFW at Friday night dinner and watch them canoodle, knowing that everyone had seen me with him on Tuesday and Wednesday. Knowing that everyone knew I liked him and he rejected me. Watching my shipboard roommate (SR), whom I had bent over backwards to be nice to -- she's going through a bunch of identity crises and got tons of free therapy -- offer CC some of her wine and YBFW some of her seasickness pills. (Which I had fetched from the front office because SR wasn't feeling well.)

It was beyond humiliating. I don't do well with romantic rejection to start with; this was almost unbearable. I literally considered jumping off the cruise ship at one point, but reconsidered when I remembered how cold and uncomfortable the unheated cruise pool was. I assume the ocean would be worse.

It's not like I didn't enjoy any of the vacation. Alaska is spectacularly beautiful; I totally want to go back. And being on a cruise ship is fun. I took part in a karaoke "Cruise Ship Idol" type competition, and for the rest of the cruise random passengers were complimenting me on my performance. The judges were beyond rude, but whatever -- I had fans!

I also made some new girlfriends (not YBFW or SR, of course; they're dead to me), and solidified other friendships. In a very sweet gesture, ET bought me a purple keychain/flashlight/whistle with my name on it, because he felt bad about how upset I was over CC.

Before I embarked for Alaska, I spent Shabbat in Seattle with an old friend of mine who's a fairly well-known conservative pundit, his wife, and their five children. I hadn't seen him in more than ten years, when he was still single and living in NYC.

We caught up on the past decade and more, and Mr. Pundit was struck by the string of unfortunate incidents that constitutes my life -- being hit by a car, harassed at school and work, chronic pain from knees destroyed by a personal trainer, don't even get started on the dating horror stories. He validated my sense that far more than the usual allotment of bad things happen to me.

"Maybe you should move to Seattle," Mr. Pundit said seriously. "Meshaneh makom, meshaneh mazal (change your place and change your destiny)."

I don't think it will help. Right now I feel like I'm just Gd's punching bag, and no matter how hard I try to be a good person and make myself happy, bad things will keep happening.

I said before I left that I don't feel like treating my high cholesterol. I still don't. I have to replace the watch I loved -- it's obviously gone -- and deal with the Beth Din lawsuit. I don't want to live like this for 39 more years. Even 10.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bon voyage

My computer access will probably be very limited on vacation, so I don't see myself blogging much. I hope you don't forget about me ;)

I also want some credit from you. Because a mutual friend posted pictures from Shimona's wedding on Facebook, and I had to work really hard not to post:

Wow. Almost as elegant as Christmas at Wal-Mart.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why am I so tired?

My job is emotionally draining.

Not because I listen to people's sad stories all day and develop vicarious trauma. Of course I feel for other people's suffering, but I'm usually able to write the progress note and move on.

In each session I'm actively forging and sustaining an emotional connection between me and the client. Reflective listening isn't as easy as it sounds; you have to pay attention. I see between seven and 12 people each day (more if I facilitate a group), and I have to grasp their problems and try to refocus how they perceive and deal with them. It's like rearranging mental furniture.

I also experience a lot of their joys and triumphs vicariously -- more so than their traumas. When they get jobs, when they reconnect with their kids, when they get into school or vocational programs. One of my group participants showed me a bunch of pictures of him with his daughters, describing their personalities and quirks with tremendous pride. I almost wept, it was so beautiful.

So I come home exhausted almost every night. I'm trying to figure out why, since I'm sitting down most of the day, with just enough exercise (walking clients to and fro between the reception area and my office) to keep me from spending eight or nine hours immobilized in my chair. I think I'm emotionally drained from being a therapist.

How do other therapists cope with this? How do they recharge their emotional batteries, if they don't have spouses or lovers or children? Maybe they go to the gym.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mazal tov, Shimona

Ayelet, I lost my checkbook, which is causing me grief to no end, given that much of my life is linked to my checking account. Hence, I have not been able to write checks to anyone. If the $9.19 is causing you great financial strain, then I will go to the post office and pay for a money order. That said, you work full time, and have an apartment in Manhattan - I don't think that $9.19 should be causing you enough financial hardship for the venom you are spewing on your blog.

Quit it already with the schlepping of the chocolate... this is starting to get on my nerves. You didn't schlep a damn thing- it's a Small box of chocolate that sat in your bag, which you purchased for me when you were just hanging out in the airport during your layover. You make it sound like you traveled to the ends of the earth to get the chocolate, and then had to struggle under the burden of tons of chocolate. I know how big the box is, for heaven's sake. It's not that big.

I am sorry that you can't muster together any happiness for me, even to pretend that you are. But I don't need to be on the receiving end of your vitriol either. It's getting old. Are we only able to be friends if we're both "equal" meaning both single? Let me know how you see the parameters of our friendship working out, because right now I see nothing. If you're trying to sever our friendship, you're doing a damn good job.

This is what Shimona sent to me after I posted that I was still struggling with my envy and anger. I had a hard time not responding:

You're right, Shimona. $9.19 is nothing between friends. I'll just tell Alona and Adir to keep it and not worry about paying me back. That will also save you a trip into the city.

It's no wonder you work in research, as your validation skills are entirely lacking. I admit that my anger is irrational and I have the decency to be ashamed of it. Please feel free to stop reading my blog, as I have no need for friends who are hypocrites.

I didn't send it, and she invited me to her engagement party as if nothing had happened. I didn't respond, and that seems to have been that. Now she's married. I shouldn't be annoyed that Alona is going to her sheva brachot tonight. I have no right to be annoyed.

I'm annoyed. But I need to get over it. I don't need Shimona's friendship -- clearly she's gone straight from miserable singlehood to Smug Married -- but I need to get over it. After all, it's just a couple of nasty emails. No blood was shed. I can't keep harboring this resentment. I just don't know how to let it go.

Went to the MTA lost property office. They found a gold watch, obviously not mine. I'll keep checking.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A little better

Lately, every time I spend the weekend with my sister and her kids, I wake up with a headache. Yesterday and today were no different. I'm not sure if it's allergies or stress. Caffeine and ibuprofin seem to help.

Today we're going to visit Malka at camp. My mother and I both came for Shabbat, and we're driving to camp with Jerusha and the two younger kids. I wanted to surprise Malka, but then my mother emailed her to say she was packing to go away for the weekend. Since she only goes away to visit my sister and the kids, it's kind of obvious where she's going. Malka may or may not be expecting me as well.

Shira gave me a really cute pin. It's shaped like a heart, bordered in purple rhinestones -- because she knows purple is my favorite color -- and says "#1 AUNT." Which I knew already, but it's nice to get confirmation.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, August 07, 2009

Craptacular end to a craptastic week

I have the very bad habit of frequently feeling sorry for myself, but honestly, this has been a rotten week. My doctor wants to put me on cholesterol medication because my levels are stratospheric. And I'm thinking, "Why should I care if I die of a heart attack at 50? If being alone when I'm young is miserable, being old and alone will be utterly wretched."

Of course, high cholesterol also correlates with dementia and stroke, not just heart attack. Great. If I lost 30 pounds my levels would plummet, but I can't exercise because the damn trainer ruined my knees.

I got another bill related to the hit-and-run, which MVAIC was supposed to take care of and didn't. Another flurry of calls to make, hoops to jump through.

To top it all off, as I sat on the subway wondering why more bad things happen to me than to other people, I noticed that my favorite watch had fallen off my wrist somewhere between the B and F trains. Irony, or I guess stainless-steelery.

I suppose it's replaceable, but I'm just so wretched right now. I'm trying to hold it together because I'm a professional, so when my boss came into my office to discuss my expanded post-promotions responsibilities, I played calm and alert. But I didn't care. It didn't make me happy. Even though I think I'll really enjoy what I'll be doing.

Right now, nothing could make me happy. Not anticipating the cruise, not optimism about my future, not shopping for a replacement watch. The present is just an endless steaming pile of crap, and every time I think I've climbed free, even more pours right back on me. The Garden of Emuna says that if something bad happens to you, it's a sign to examine your life and see where you're lacking. Doesn't say what to do if everything bad happens to you, all the time.

My doctor told me that next year I'll have to start going for mammograms. I don't think I'll bother. I don't even think I'll go on cholesterol medication. I take enough pills as it is, and I don't want to live forever.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The matchmaker wants me to slut it up a little

Tonight I met with a friend of Mottel, Gila, a matchmaker who lives in Crown Heights. I'm not Lubavitch, so every time I go to Crown Heights on my own I get lost. Fortunately, the kallah was shopping for Shabbos and had her cell phone on, so I met up with her for directions to the pizza store (atrocious) and the matchmaker's house.

My initial phone conversation with Gila was interesting.

"You are modern orthodox," she said after my brief self-description. "Ashkenazi?"

"Yes," I said.

"So you would not go out with a Persian?"

"If he's shomer shabbat, shomer kashrut, and normal, I'd go out with him," I said.

"Okay. But not a Bukharen," she insisted.

"Uh, well, I wouldn't say that," I said. "As long as he's a nice guy..."

"You don't date divorced men," she declared.

"Actually," I said, "I do."

"But not with kids."

"Well, it depends on how old the kids are, and how many, and whether they live with him," I said. "I don't want to live with teenage stepchildren who will hate me the minute I walk in the door."

"That's very practical!" she said.

"I try," I said.

When I met with Gila, she had me fill out a form with a brief self-description and what I'm seeking. She looked me up and down appraisingly. Since I had anger management group tonight, I was wearing a very long skirt.

"Some guys, the modern ones, they tell me they're looking for a girl who dresses, you know, sexy," she said. "They are not like Lubavitch men, you know, who look at the neshama and midos and the soul. When you go on a date, you can wear clothing that is more... fitted? A shorter skirt, more straight?"

I'm too modest for this matchmaker?

"Of course," I said. "At work I try not to dress too sexy, because most of my clients are male. I don't wear makeup, either. But when I go out, I do. I'll email you a picture of how I look dressed up."

"You look very young for your age," Gila continued.

"Thank you," I said. "I work hard at it. I take good care of my skin."

"Really?" she asked. "What do you use?" I promised to email her links to some of the products.

"Is it okay if I don't tell the guys your age?" she asked.

Oy. I've never lied about my age. I've surprised people when I tell them, but I've never lied.

"The thing is," she said, "even men in their forties, they think they want a much younger girl. But if they meet you, and they see how pretty you are, and how nice, and friendly, smart, then when they find out your exact age, who cares?"

"Well, I wouldn't want you to lie," I said. "I guess you could say I'm in my 30s."

"Over 35?" she asked.


The form mentioned something about a fee, and I said, "I wasn't aware there was a fee."

"Only if the shidduch happens, if I am your shaliach," she said. I can live with that.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Neuter me

Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here
And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full
Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood,
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall... (Macbeth, I.v.40-48)

Lady Macbeth wanted to purge herself of any vestige of feminine kindness so she could commit a murder. I just want to rid myself of lust, desire, and longing for romance.

I've written a few times about how frustrating it is to be bipolar and celibate. These past few weeks have been especially awful. I am burning through AA batteries like you wouldn't believe, and I am utterly miserable. Every night is achingly lonely. I'm not even looking forward to the cruise -- I'm afraid I'll feel like yesterday's garbage next to all the younger, thinner women on the ship, enjoying the sea air with their a) husbands, b) boyfriends, c) lovers, or d) all of the above.

So I wish I could be neutered, and never have to feel this wretched desire anymore. Just asexual. Not needing closeness or touch or pleasure or passion.

I think I'm going to die if I never find someone to love me and have sex with me. A lot. A lot.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"