Sunday, June 1, 2008

Loneliness

This was written about nine months after the bombing, in December 2002 or thereabouts. It was a particularly low point, to put it mildly. Even though I know that half of you will not believe me and will write stuff like "oh, I hope that things improve soon", things really and truly are much better now. I have long since completed my classes and now have loads of free time to see friends, vegetate in front of the TV (am now waaay into Israel's version of The Biggest Loser) and otherwise goof off. With the exception of the odd surgery and hearing aid fitting, the bombing is a part of my life to the extent I allow (aka-writing). I have friends. They call me. I call them. They invite me to do stuff. Sometimes, I even go. Most importantly, I developed very good bombing-groupie radar and can effectively avoid those types from the getgo. Now that adds to quality of life.
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The mass of former slaves, wandering in the desert after their escape from Egypt, complained bitterly of what they had left behind: safety, comfort, water and cucumbers. I sit here in my apartment, safe and comfortable, ready streams of water for the asking and my refrigerator just chock-full of cucumbers. Nonetheless, I find myself envying those wanderers. Not for their misery, but for the fact that they had others to share it with.

If there were one thing that could set me running back the US, to my own Egypt, it would be the loneliness. I miss having friends. I miss being sought out and important. I miss people calling me to invite me out to do things. I miss having plans and what to do on the weekends and feeling good because I am the type of person who virtually always has what to do, and with whom to do it. I have been living in Katamon, home of one of the most active social scenes in Jerusalem, for a year now, and I find myself quite alone. I have virtually as many friends now as I did when I left Ulpan—not many.

I did not expect it would be like this. At the time I left Ulpan, I thought I would go out and meet people and make friends…maybe even (finally!) start dating again. It just has not happened. That is not to say that there are no good reasons for my situation. There are. The first, and most obvious is my preparation for the CPA exams: from July to December I spent three to four nights a week in night school and the other nights studying. I admit that I was obsessed, but I was set back six months by the bombing and I just refused to be set back again. I decided, the cost be damned, I was going to pass the exams on my first try. I succeeded, but the cost was very high indeed. I had no time for a social life for those six months.

The second reason is the bombing. As ironic as it may seem, considering how people have fallen over themselves to reach out to me, the bombing has gutted my social life. First, months of doctors and paperwork and stress and speaking to groups and everything else bombing-related has left me so drained of energy and patience that I simply do not have the strength to try and deal with new people. Second, my hearing loss has made socialization both less fun and less rewarding. Finally, I find that I do not trust people as much anymore. You would not believe how many people want to know me only because I am a Victim of Terror, and not because I am me. One woman I know actually stopped inviting me for Shabbat dinners (and stopped accepting my invitations) as soon as I asked her that she no longer announce to the entire table that I was injured in a bombing.

I know and accept that there are valid reasons for this isolation I find myself in. And yet knowing that there is a reason doesn’t make me feel any better when I realize that, for the last week, no one has called me apart from Galia, Debbie and Yael. People I know are doing things, going out, and having Shabbat meals. No one thinks to include me.

The last week has been particularly difficult. I decided to take advantage of my break from classes by going out and doing something about my social life, or lack of it. Sitting around and whining and feeling sorry about myself isn’t going to help, right? G-d helps those who help themselves! Except that sometimes He does not. I went to services and asked the few people I knew to introduce me around. They all looked at me as though I had suddenly sprouted another head. I went to a lunch with people I barely knew; everyone was so busy talking about the people that were not there that they had no time to talk to me. After months of internal debate, I forced myself to call a shadchan. Twice. She never called back.

Last night I hit rock bottom. I was supposed to go to a Hadassah “Evening of Entertainment” in honor of the hospital. I had an appointment at National Insurance in the city center immediately before and intended to travel to the hospital from there. When the time came for me to catch the bus to the hospital, I found myself trapped in a vicious mental circle. I could go to the event, by myself, where if I met anyone it would be because one Hadassah lady was introducing me to another Hadassah lady as GilawhowasinjuredatMahaneYehuda. Alternatively, I could go home and spend the evening, Thursday night, the kickoff to the Israeli weekend, by myself. I found myself wandering up and down Ben Yehuda, close to tears, trying to figure out which would be the less pathetic and heinous way to spend my evening.

I do not miss the salary, the larger home, the food—the stuff from the States. The lack of security I feel on public transport here as compared to in D.C. is offset by the greater security I feel walking around my city at night. What I miss is the being wanted. I find myself comparing. If I were in the States, I would not be by myself so much. People would be calling me. People would be inviting me to do things. I would not find myself standing alone after services, feeling like the worlds’ biggest loser, watching everyone else chat and smile and be liked. I would not be coming home at the end of the day, and finding that I had no messages.

Those bitterly crying slaves had no idea how good they had it

11 comments:

Marnie said...

I'm glad that things are better now! It must have been such a struggle, but kol hakavod to you for continuing to make the effort and not returning to your own Egypt. Btw, are you on Facebook? You should totally create a "Poor Sad Heroic Victim of Terror Groupies" group. Groupies could even double as members of your bike posse, which I would totally do if I (a) lived in Israel and (b) were in anything approaching the kind of shape where the idea of a week-long bike ride was actually feasible.

Baila said...

The Biggest Loser in on in Israel??? What channel? What time? I loved Hisardut, even though I havn't watched Survivor in the states in years....
Please dont let me miss another episode!

TalTalK said...

Gila - I'm happy things are infinitely better for you now, but sorry you had to go through what you went through socially. It is hard to start over - I had done it too when I made Aliyah, though my circumstances were different. It took a while to accumulate friends from various parts of my life (as opposed to just friends from work).

I second the Facebook group motion! Let me know if you'd like me to open it up for you.

Baila - The Israeli Biggest Loser is on Channel 10 on Saturday nights at 9 - Hisarfut's old time slot. The people seem a lot cooler than last time (less mean), but there's only one episode that's been aired so far. The first episode will rerun on Saturday at 340 in the afternoon. You can also see parts here: http://laredet.nana10.co.il/.

kleine Maus said...

"refigerator just chock-full of cucumbers"
You eat Tzatziki by the bucket?

Ralphie said...

I'm just glad that you used "vicious circle" and not "vicious cycle." I can't stand that.

RivkA with a capital A said...

"bombing-groupie radar"

I love it!! LOL


One woman...stopped inviting me ...(and stopped accepting my invitations) as soon as I asked her that she no longer announce... that I was injured in a bombing.

Wow! I hope she reads this, recognizes herself, and asks for forgiveness!


I would not be coming home at the end of the day, and finding that I had no messages.

Warning, this comment is not sympathetic.

I wish I had no messages!

People call me, leave messages and expect me to check the messages. Then they get upset that I don't call them back.

I HATE answering machines. I NEVER check my messages. And I wish people would just CALL ME BACK.

Or leave a message that makes me feel good, but does not require a reply!

Clearly, I am an ingrate!

tafka PP said...

I can't go into too much detail here, but I also had to ask a friend to stop introducing me at meals and generally as "this is tafka pp, she works at ....." - drove me mad! How to ruin a day of rest...

vedaal said...

" ... Even though I know that half of you will not believe me and will write stuff like "oh, I hope that things improve soon", things really and truly are much better now ... "


OK, you are believed that things are much better now, ;-)

here's an idea for a writing challenge: ;-)

start with a preface of how what you are describing is a particularly *happy* memory,
but that things are not as good now,
and then we can try to cheer you up in real time ;-) ...


" ... If there were one thing that could set me running back the US, to my own Egypt, it would be the loneliness ... "

not just You, but probably almost anyone

there is a story of Choni, a Holy Miracle Worker, who slept for many years, and awoke, and brought rain in a time of severe drought

he was honored wherever he went, but all the friends he knew were long gone,
and he didn't get along on a friendship level with those present in the time he awoke in,
and so he prayed that if he would have no friends, he preferred to go to his permanent rest,
and it was granted ...

may we each find friends to be with, and people for whom we can be good friends ...

kleine Maus said...

I think you are right Pink Parrot, being Moshe Katsav's secretary is not exactly something to be proud of.

You might have a look more often at Anglosaxy's to cheer you up.

triLcat said...

I'm glad you're doing better.

Loneliness is really bad stuff. Friends are the most incredible thing we have.

frumhouse said...

Great post. I felt very sad when reading it. I'm glad that things are better now.