Sunday, May 23, 2010

So THAT'S why she never sets me up

Conversation with my stepmother (who I love dearly, BUT...well, you will see)

Me: I went out with a friend today. She is a amazing photographer and took some shots of me. Once she sends them to me, I am going to give Jdate another try. Maybe this time I will actually score a date with a nice guy. [Read: decent, normal, interesting, intelligent, age appropriate, gainfully employed, attractive, not a what's-his-story or some other problematic variety of male, does not sport a combover or a bald-in-front-mullet-in-back hairstyle and so on and so forth].

Stepmother: Well, you will go out with a nice guy and then you will decide that there is something wrong with him.

Me: Umm...why do you think this? When have I done this? [Having heard this multiple times in the past I am curious as to why she has this impression of me. I mean, I get so few dates--it is not like I am flush with chances to dump nice guys].

Stepmother: Well, there was that lawyer. From Newark.

Me: [Baffled--lawyer? From Newark? No...she can't possibly mean X. But I have not dated any other lawyers. I guess she does.] You mean the one from Philadelphia?

Stepmother: Maybe it was Philadelphia.

Me: You mean the one I dated 20 years ago? When I was 20?

Stepmother: Oh, has it been 20 years?

Me: Even if I was picky and capricious in breaking up with him--which I wasn't--that was 20 years ago! And he did not want to date me anymore either.

Stepmother: Oh. Okay then.

And, for what it is worth--rather than wait with me for the AAA truck, this paragon of male virtues left me by myself in a parking lot late at night when it turned out my car battery was dead and I needed a charge. So...not so nice.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Praying for Strength

Recent conversation with a close friend:

Me: I think I am going to services Friday night.

Friend: (well aware of my profound allergy to synagogues) מה פתאום!? What’s up with that!?

Me: Well, this is going to sound stupid…but I need to ask G-d for help.

Friend: That does not sound stupid at all.

Or maybe it does. Maybe this is my version of snake oil. But I am desperate.

The problem is that my eating is out of control. One day I eat normally, the next day I binge. This has been the case for me for literally as long as I can remember. I go through periods—sometimes very long periods— where things calm down—where my eating is “normal”— but it always comes back. At some point I will find myself surreptitiously downing boxes of cookies, slice after slice of bread and butter or bread and honey, or massive quantities of G-d knows what else, and promising myself that “this is the last time” and “tomorrow I will give up sugar and white flour for real”.

This is a stupid, insane, ridiculous way to live. The major difference between me and an alcoholic or drug addict is that I can still drive after getting another hit. (Hell, I can drive while taking a hit, so long as the food item only requires one hand). I neither want nor intend to spend the rest of my life like this. There is no way that any food item can possibly be worth the pain of addiction. So I try to get off the crazy train. I have a rallying cry: fall seven times, stand up eight. I try and fail, try and fail and try yet again. I am a weeble wobble, falling and rising. I am Don Quixote, tilting at windmills. I am fighting a war, losing battle after battle and getting up the next day to fight again. And lose, again. My friends and co-workers find it either amusing or sad, my constant dieting. I understand them. They do not understand. Unless you have gone through it (and I know that many have, which helps enormously) how can you possibly understand?

(It is like this. I hate this feeling of being in thrall…to a candy bar. To an obsession. I hate the feeling of my brain being on fire. Must. Have. Sugar. Now. I want peace. I want mental quiet already. I want to let this go.

It is like this. I do not enjoy most of the food while I am eating it. The first few bites, the first few cookies, sure. But after that? Pure primal, animal gorging. Except that the average animal probably has enough sense to stop eating when it is full. I eat when I am not hungry. I eat when I do not want to eat.

It is like this. I LOVE the way I feel and my body feels when I eat well. I love the feeling of lightness. I love the energy. I love the sense of order, the feeling of mental and physical health and the mental calmness I have when I am not chasing after a drug. Even if I do not always like the food as much—let’s face it, carrot cake with extra cream-cheese icing is a hell of a lot tastier than a melon—I could live with that. It is worth it. I know it is worth it.

It is like this. This is a matter of life and death. I have to win this war. If I do not win, if I do not kill this, eventually it is going to kill me. I think of that, when I am binging on bread and butter. What is this doing to my arteries? How many more times can I do this before they end up blocked completely? How long before I drop dead of a massive heart attack? I really should get them checked out, but honestly, I am afraid to. I do not want to know how bad it is, and how much damage I have already done. How much I have already screwed myself over.)

What I need, what I lack, is strength. I need the strength to get through the withdrawal symptoms (similar to the ones I suffered when I quit smoking 11 years ago). I need the strength to see bread and sweets and to not eat them. I need the strength to stand up against my yetzer ha’ra when it says “Gila, you had such a long day. Don’t you want a packet of TimTams for the ride home?” or “עוד אחד ודאי” “One more time, and then that’s it.” Or “you are starting your diet tomorrow, so you really should binge today because otherwise, you will never be able to eat this or that or the other again”. I need the strength to deal with the day-after-day, the strength not to get lazy and not to get complacent and to not slip into bad habits six months down the road. I need strength to not be afraid. A future without sugar? Never have chocolate again? No more carrot cake? Ever?????

(Just now, writing that, my insides literally knotted up).

I need strength, and G-d has it. He can give me some, if He chooses. He can get rid of the withdrawal symptoms, if He chooses. I will not say “all I have to do is ask”, because sometimes the answer is “no”. Both G-d and I know that He has given me that answer more than once—my perennial single status is proof of that. But sometimes it is yes. So why not ask? What do I have to lose? Friday night, I went to synagogue and I prayed. I told G-d I cannot do this on my own. I told Him I was tired. I told Him I understand that I have to do the work—I am not asking for an easy out or a quick fix—just some hizuk, some strength that will help me to do the work that must be done. I told Him I was desperate. I told Him that, apparently, I cannot do this on my own. I told Him I needed Him.

Saturday morning I woke up early. I went to one of my favorite blogs and checked in on his miracles. Baruch Hashem, they are still going strong. I visited Aish’s website and found, waiting for me, an article about prayer. I had done my grocery shopping on Thursday night. Before I went to the store, I broke out the menus from the diet program I was on last year, the one that helped me to lose 12 kilo (10 still off) and to clean up my eating habits…before I got off track again. I bought accordingly. My refrigerator is crammed with the light bread, the chicken breasts, the cottage cheese and the vegetables the diet calls for. Saturday morning I started the diet again, from week one, day one.

All I need now is His answer.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mea Shearim is the new [insert favorite bad neighborhood here], Part II

Shortly after I posted my last post “Mea Shearim is the New Harlem”, I had a conversation with a gentleman of my acquaintance. I gave him a summary of the post. He disagreed. To compare Jews and Arabs is wrong. A Jew throwing a rock is different than an Arab throwing a rock.

That—in a nutshell—sums up most of the comments. “It is not okay to say this about Jews”. An Arab can be a terrorist. A Jew cannot. (Unless, of course, he is a left-wing Jew, in which case he is probably not only a terrorist, but also a traitor deserving of the death penalty).

Let us examine this theory, shall we? We will start with some helpful definitions

From the Random House College Dictionary I received as a Bat Mitzvah present:

Terrorism–1) the use of terrorizing methods; 2) the state of fear and submission so produced; 3) a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government

Terrorize—1) to fill or overcome with terror; 2) to dominate or coerce by intimidation.

And from Merriam-Webster online:

Terrorism –The systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.

Terror–1) a state of intense fear; 2 )a) one that inspires fear/scourge; b) a frightening aspect ; c) a cause of anxiety/ worry ; d) an appalling person or thing; especially : brat; 3 ) reign of terror; 4 ) violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands

You will note that the above definitions do not include many things.

1) They do not exclude those who latch on to their lunacy through boredom, poverty or unemployment. They do not care why you became a terrorist, only that you are one.

2) They do not specify what the demands must be. It does not exempt certain groups of demands from the definition. “Yeah, normally doing xyz in order to enforce compliance with your demands would be terrorism, but since we agree with your demands, it's not.”

3) While Merriam does offer ‘bombing’ as an example of terrorism, neither it nor Random House specify means of coercion. For example, neither source says “up to and including rocks, sticks and body parts –hoodlums and/or bored youth, unless the perpetrator is an Arab, in which case it is terrorism. Knives and up—terrorism. Unless committed by Jews, in which case nothing is terrorism. Unless said Jew is a member of the left wing.”

4) And most importantly: they do not specify what race or religion one must be in order to be a terrorist. They do not distinguish between Arab and Jew.

As such, according to Merriam Webster, Random House, and me: you can be a Jew; you can be a devout Jew; you can use violence –the cultivation of terror—as a means of enforcing compliance with your version of religious law. And if you do, you are a terrorist. And if you are a terrorist, I have every right to be afraid of you. I have no obligation to wait until the first murder of a teenager at the hands of a Ramat Beit Shemesh mob, the first time a grenade is thrown instead of a chair at the Kotel or the first time a bombing replaces riots and rocks. No, I can be afraid of you right now.

Many commenters, even those who agreed with me that violence was becoming a problem, further took exception with my stated fear of Haredi areas and anxiety when running past a large number of Haredi men. They took this to mean that I believe that all Haredim, every last one, is violent. It is okay to be afraid of the violent ones, but not the non-violent ones. I am not sure whether to find this amusing or pathetic. To say that an area is “bad” or “dangerous” does not mean, nor has it ever meant, that every last person living there is dangerous, any more than a State Department alert about a given country means that the US government has come to the conclusion (which it is now ready to make extremely public) that every last person living in said country is interested in causing Americans harm. Rather, it means that the quantity of dangerous people, of radicals, of people willing and able to use violence, has increased. Increased significantly. Increased to the extent that the number of short sticks waiting to be drawn has also increased. And with it, your risk in visiting said area. Because, and this is the tricky part so pay close attention: terrorists look just like non-terrorists! Take my bombing, for example. Had my terrorist looked any different from any non-terrorist, all of us would have said “Look! A terrorist! Run away!” And we would have run away! And if this is true of Arabs and Arab areas, it is all the more so in Haredi areas, where the men all dress identically.

And if I may draw one more analogy from my own bombing--shit happens, and sometimes it happens to you.

I do owe one apology. The readers of Dov Bear’s site were shocked and horrified that I would cite Harlem as an example of a bad neighborhood. Harlem has now become gentrified! People—men and women, young and old, all races— can wander all around Harlem, day and night, without fear! As such, to the upwardly mobile residents of the new, improved, gentrified Harlem, I am so sorry for trashing your neighborhood. I am willing to correct it, but I need your help. You see, I do not live in New York and like most non-New Yorkers, have no particular interest in New York. (Shocking, I know. And yet true). “Harlem” is, for me, something of a symbol. However, even if the symbolism is no longer accurate this does not mean that there is no “Harlem” in New York. The economically disadvantaged populations—complete with the thugs-out-of-boredom-and-frustration elements— they moved somewhere else, yes? To another neighborhood, yes? Because, they are not living next door to you, right? I mean, WHAT would that do to the property values? Anyway, I should have referred to that neighborhood. And if one of you would be so kind as to provide me with the updated reference, I will correct my original post accordingly.