Monday, May 31, 2010

Apparently Ayelet has quite an impact on people

On Friday a co-worker approached me, one of the adminstrative staff: "Ayelet, could I talk to you for a minute? It's something personal."

Uh-oh. How did I offend her? "Sure. No problem. Was it something I said?"

"No, no... it's not like that at all."

We went to my office. Turns out she wanted advice on how to support a family member who is using drugs and alcohol and experiencing some pretty severe psychiatric symptoms. So I normalized the situation a little ("This person is still young and doesn't have a long history of psychiatric problems, so hopefully a good intervention can turn things around relatively quickly"), gave her contact information for some good psychiatric clinics in her area, and provided links to NAMI so she and her family can access support.

Smoke THAT, stupid co-worker who thinks I'm incompetent and have his job.

Then I came home to this message on Facebook:

Hi Ayelet, I don't know if you remember but I'm KallahChadash. I actually changed my screenname since but that's what you knew me as

Thank you for helping me out when my husband was first starting to abuse me. I finally got the courage and called the police on him abt 5 weeks ago and we have been separated since

Thanks for giving me that first push! Otherwise I would have never been strong enough to be where I am right now.

Wow. Sounds like I helped her. Who is she? I have no idea. My friends often give my name to their friends who are having psychological difficulties, so I've spoken to many people. I honestly don't remember this woman.

Thanks for writing! I do remember you slightly, but I don't remember how we met or when it was. I'm glad you're in a better place and grateful I was able to be of assistance.

Interesting that two random people I normally wouldn't be helping (since helping people is my job) made a point of reaching out or thanking me the day after I thought my life might be over. Coincidence?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, May 30, 2010


I've been struggling with a particular co-worker since I moved offices. Mr. Princess Crybaby has been rude, hostile, dismissive, passive-aggressive, the works. Doesn't support me when his clients act out in my groups. And I've never done a thing to him. He was like this the minute I walked in, and he hasn't changed. It's been incredibly stressful. So I'm definitely on edge.

My doctor left a voiceamail message on my home phone on Thursday, telling me there were abnormalities on my Pap smear. I called the office and gave them my cell phone number and waited for hours.

Finally, in tears I called and learned they'd misheard one of the digits. My doctor had left for the day but I spoke to another. Apparently the results are fairly common but need to be followed up on. But I couldn't schedule the follow-up test for two weeks because they only have one room where they do that procedure, and it wasn't open at any of the times that my doctor was available.

That's ridiculous. If another doctor in the practice can deliver my baby in place of my regular doctor, why can't they do a colposcopy?

Fine, whatever. But it felt like a kick to the chest. I'm about to get engaged, and I might have cervical cancer? Thanks, God. Why couldn't this have happened ten years ago? I would have welcomed death.

I spoke to Joey, who's a psychiatrist, and he said not to worry -- people have these results and follow-ups all the time, and it's almost always nothing. Almost.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shalhevet's response

It's a little embarrassing to admit that the past 20+ years of religious practice have more or less been for naught, because I'm basically back to the observance level I started with -- committed conservative Jew. But I've spent the past 20 years insisting on a much stricter practice. Refusing to eat off my mother's dishes. Strictly adhering to shmirat shabbat and yom tov. Wearing skirts instead of pants, eschewing sleeveless tops.

I've been wondering how my frum friends will react to the new/old me. Shalhevet stepped up admirably.

Absolutely an answer I wanted - just to know that you have thought it all through. The orthodox world is seriously flawed at many levels. My concern with others is far more about Jewish continuity than any particular level of observance.

And, admittedly, my own personal brand of cynicism is that I no longer believe in the idea of love. I view it as an American cultural myth that is flawed and inherently temporary. So it hurts that you think you have finally found it, and I can't help but wonder how long it will last.

Let me know if I should save my free airline ticket for a trip to New York in the fall! But I also understand that not everyone can be invited.

How awesome is it that she wants to come to my wedding right after her marriage fell apart?

Save it!!!! Please! I would love to have you there, and we're probably going to invite your brother and his family as well. JV knows them from shul.

Humor, Freud said, is a mature defense mechanism -- a functional way to cope with stress, distress, and all life's vicissitudes. So I was heartened by her response:

That's certainly Jewish credential enough for me :-)

I appreciate hearing my friends' positive feedback about JV. It's not the only factor, but it's good knowing they see him as I do.

Glad you approve ;) In terms of being cynical and no longer believing in love... JV has loved me since we were both 19, and a good part of him never stopped. I just finally caught up to him. Use this time to examine how you approach and select potential partners, and hopefully the third time will be the Prince Charming.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Where I stand

Got an email from a friend:

Hi Ayelet -- Sounds like things are going well. I am glad for you.

When you first starting seeing JV, you talked a lot about kashrut as an issue. Forgive me for being nosy, but out of concern for you, I wonder what other religious differences are there? Is he shomer shabbat? If not, does that mean flicking on a light switch or going to the office on Yom Tov? Are his kids in day school? Would he want a day school education for any kids you might have? (Do you want a day school education for your kids?) Is his home kosher?

If the only accommodation that he asked of you is to be more flexible about eating out, that is very livable. If a life together requires other compromises, please think more than twice. You don't have to answer to me; I just want this to work out for you forever, not just a few years. Love, Shalhevet

I just got out of a horrible meeting, in which I was viciously and passive-aggressively attacked by the co-worker who wanted my job before I got here. So I was pretty shaken up by all the vitriol slung at me. And I sat down and banged out an honest response:

Shalhevet, to be perfectly honest, at this point it's more important to me that I marry a person who loves and respects me, who is a moral person with high integrity, who treats people with respect and shoulders all his responsibilities, than it is to marry someone who is shomer shabbat and treats me and the rest of the world like crap. Which is basically what I'm faced with now, since no frum man even close to my age would consider marrying me, and everyone seems to think I should be thrilled to marry some loser 10 years or more my senior.

JV is the best person I know, and he's a 100% committed Jew in terms of hilchot bain adam l'adam. Too many orthodox Jews focus only on hilchot bain adam l'makom, and as a result we have Rubashkins and 99% of the frum men I dated (and both of the frum men you married).

JV's kids to go to Jewish schools, and he teaches them real Jewish values and history, like respecting people and taking care of their needs. To be honest, a big part of me regrets that you took me on those NCSY shabbatons in high school. I feel like I've wasted the past 22 years chasing a hopeless dream. I've never been accepted fully by the frum community, and the men I've dated have been bad, worse, and worst.

Probably not the answer you wanted, but it's an honest one.

So I guess that's where I stand. Maybe I should disclose a little more. On Saturday JV and I drove to an 85th birthday party for his uncle, in one of the traifest restaurants I've ever been in. Shrimp cocktails and prosciutto all over the table. And all kinds of nasty Russian salads that smelled awful.

What did I eat? Bread and butter. Fried potatoes with mushrooms. Some eggplant salad that wasn't absolutely disgusting. Pickled cabbage, plenty of dessert. I suppose I'm officially "formerly frum."
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tempting fate

It's unofficial: we're getting engaged in July, married in October. Which means I really need to start planning now. Planning a wedding before you're officially engaged is kind of dangerous, right? Evil spirits from the sitra achra could come and ruin my happiness, or so I've been told.

Hell with it. I'm looking at wedding venues, flowers, hairstyles, and bridesmaid gowns. JV is actually weighing in with some opinions, and not freaked out by any of my questions.

A: "Should we use silk flowers instead of fresh?"
JV: "Fresh. People will be able to tell if they're silk."

A: "What if the bridesmaids wear really fancy, elegant blouses and plain black skirts?"
JV: "That will look pedestrian."

A: "You're wearing a vest and a long tie with your tux, not a bow tie and cummerbund."
JV: "What's wrong with cummerbunds?"
A: "Do you really need to ask?"
JV: "Is this one of the things I have no say in?"
A: "I'm letting you wear your tux, aren't I?"

JV's already been given the specs for my engagement ring. I want a cushion- or radiant-cut stone in a sculpted solitaire setting, like this one. I plan to get it reset for our tenth anniversary, in a setting with side stones. By then I'll probably want a change. I tried to hint (well, not so much hint as instruct) that I'd like the ring a little sooner, but no dice. JV still needs to have the conversation with his kids about it.

But I'm going on a mini-family reunion with Yaffa, Yonina and her kids, Jerusha and her kids, and my mother and aunt. I hope we'll be able to squeeze in a little bridesmaid dress shopping, and find a tux for Yonina's husband and her son, as well as my nephew Oedipus and Malchick 1 and Malchick 2. (We'll get theirs locally, but we can shop for them on vacation.) JV's best friend has a tux, so we're just going to find vests and ties we like for them, and I guess JV's father will rent a tux with a vest and tie.

This isn't happening how I'd envisioned or hoped, and I've made a lot of compromises to make it possible. But I'll be 40 in two weeks, and JV loves me more than any man ever has. And for the first time in my life I'm happy most of the time. It's worth it.

Gotta go badger JV to show me his tux.

Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"