Author: Jess

Cheers

Things are crazy and lots of opportunity for negativity in my life currently. I decided I needed to do something to take life by the balls and turn it around a bit.

Words have power. Even small words. Small words, when used frequently, can have even more power.

I email a lot for work. For decades I’ve chosen to sign off with “Thanks” or “Thank you.” Last week I decided randomly to change it to “Cheers.” I am cognizant of when I used it, as sometimes “Cheers” isn’t appropriate, such as when giving bad news. But I am now using it about 80% of the time.

I’ve noticed that it does make a difference. Life is not changed much, but this subtle shift has helped improve my attitude and perception of what is going on around me. Just seeing the word “Cheers” makes me smile.

It’s funny how small things can have such a large impact. It seems to help lift some of the burdens.

Opening boxes

This past Saturday life, and choices previously made, took on new meaning.

A little less than two years ago I converted to Judaism after two plus years of study – first on my own, and later with a group of others under the tutelage of a rabbi who also became my friend.

Judaism provided me with a sense of peace, belonging, kavana aka intention. It grounds me and gives me a sense of purpose as well as a framework and network to do good to and for others, which aside from being a mitzvah, is something that is a recurring purpose in my life.

As I was debating taking my studies further to be with a rabbi and trying to decide how much this was important to and core to who I am, I visited the local Holocaust museum. I read every plaque. I looked closely at every picture and item displayed. I repeated the question to myself, “If this happens again, how would I (re)act? How would I feel? Can I take this on?” I walked out that day with a sense of purpose, that yes, even should the worst happen again, I would face it, proudly a Jew.

Saturday morning I went to early voting at a new county facility. At one point in the long wait, while standing next to a police officer, I had a terrible thought… What if someone came in and started shooting or had a bomb? There was no form of shelter. There was limited access in/out. There were only two officers. There had been no metal detector or wanding. I live in an area (state? county?) where folks can openly carry as well as conceal carry (weapons); there were no signs asking people to not carry. Heck, someone could say something to someone else and trigger a shooting.

It was a sobering thought.

Luckily, nothing happened at that facility.

When I got back to my car and decided to take a moment to review my Twitter stream that I learned, as I had those sobering thoughts, a synagogue was facing the terror of being gunned down by a madman, simply for being Jewish.

I’m not going to go into the debate about gun ownership, including what type of guns should be available to the public. I’m not going to go into (mental) health care and how it or the lack of it is (tied to gun sales) or impacts ones actions.

I found it profound, as I have in many other instances when this sort of thing happens, that I knew it was happening. My brain picked up on whatever vibes and thought about being shot at in a public space at the same time that it was occurring elsewhere.

I also found it profound how it impacted me the rest of the day. While driving I worried that someone would know I was Jewish and shoot me or ram me with their vehicle. While sitting in a fast food restaurant I worried that someone would ram a car at the window I sat at or would come through the door to shoot me, just for being Jewish. All of those were incredibly long shots to be nigh impossible. After a while, I found a sense of equilibrium and moved on to anger and sadness for those killed and their friends and family.

I revisited my thought process from three years ago, asking myself, what would I do? Would I hide my being Jewish if it came to survival? Would I instead be proud of who I was and this tribe I am a member of and do what I can to fight back, to repair the world in whatever way I can. It’s harder when one knows how easily it could actually happen. The metro area I live in has a large Jewish population and also sees a lot of acts of antisemitism.

But I knew, I would still stand tall and fight back. This is who I am, who I have fought long and hard to find and be.

While it happened many hundreds of miles away, I knew that the likelihood of copycat actions was plausible in my area. I had the thought that my family could be concerned about me as well as about attending my shul for my upcoming nuptials. Thus, I proactively reached out to close family to let them know some basics regarding the safety measures my synagogue has taken in the past and is continually looking to improve.

It was fascinating the responses I got. And a little heartbreaking. One family member showed their narcissism in not having thought about it at all. Another had a vigilante mindset. A third had a compassionate response. A few years ago this would have surprised me, but things have changed in the past year.

Sunday morning I went to a meeting to hear about security measures at my shul, to be reassured. I learned that within minutes of the event starting, local police went to each shul in its jurisdiction to ensure that they were safe in case it was a targeted, larger scale event.

The fact that law enforcement took it as a credible possibility and acted proactively reinforces the reality as well as how ignorant and hurtful that one family member could be so dismissive of my safety.

My fiance appreciated how I felt that the community devistated wasn’t localized to just that shul, but that, while I did not know anyone there, I felt they were my family, my people who were hurt. I saw an image recently that stated ‘when any Jew hurts, we all hurt. We cry as a family. We are family.’

 

20 years later – growth

Yesterday a friend and I commiserated over life in general. We both still have similar thoughts about belief in a higher something, fate, acceptance of what life throws at you, and that as we age, we just become more ourselves.

This friend and I drifted apart after a key point in my life where I made a decision that she supported but didn’t agree with. We recently reconnected via Facebook. I gladly accepted her request but was still trepidatious. We have had minor, passive interactions in the months since that reconnection.

Maybe this says bad things about me, but I had moved on in my life. She was the one to request the connection. If she wanted to rekindle she would do so in her own way and time. I have a very full life and she is 1000 miles away. We can’t exactly meet up for coffee. I gave her my phone number. She didn’t give me hers. I figured it was up to her to take it from superficial back to something deeper.

Then… then she was in a terrible accident last week. To the point, she was “fighting for her life” according to her sister. That she had a “brain bleed” for several days after the accident. I was saddened. It reminded me of how I had reconnected with another friend and lost her shortly thereafter.

I have been told by others that I have a generous spirit. I let her sister (who seems to be the spokesperson for the family to the public) know that if there is anything I can do, I would. I’m a universal donor – so there is a good chance if an organ was needed I could at least test to see if other factors matched and would gladly give. When a Go Fund Me came up, I gladly and quickly gave what I could.

I was surprised and excited when I received a phone request from my friend. We chatted for a long while. One thing that struck me is how some things had not changed and how lucky I was to have such a good friend returned to me. The other was how… things had not changed. She was on the same path in life that we saw 20 years ago. Her life is still limited the way I feared mine would be had I stayed. (I don’t mean any shade by the limited comment.)

The conversation was like a mirror into another dimension as to what I would have been had I not made some changes to my life. It was a blessing, helping me to appreciate better where I am and that I am glad I made those changes. I am happier and healthier (emotionally, mentally, maybe even physically) than had I not made those decisions.

I am very sad my friend had her accident and the challenges it is putting her through. But I am grateful that it was a “wake up” moment on so many of these levels.

20 years later

Ok, not exactly 20 years, but close enough.

Today I sent an interesting email to my boyfriend. He loves the HBO show West World and is eager for me to catch up before the second season airs so we can watch it together. I got through three episodes before I asked him, “Where is the point to know if it is for me or not?” I was asking because there was just too much dysfunction and power play. There hasn’t been actual rape yet, but enough veiled rape and scenes where it has come very close.

It’s HBO. Of course there is a lot of sex and violence. It’s a given at this point.

As I succinctly told my boyfriend, in West World, despite it being an obvious simulation and fake world. It’s an obvious fiction – all of it, not just the simulation. Yet, it is too close to reality. Shows like Game of Thrones or Dexter or even True Blood  are so over the top fiction that there is a distance.

When I see Delores in the hay, staring up at a man who is towering menacing over her… I don’t see the actor. I stop seeing Delores. Instead I go inside and in my minds eye I feel pinned down, in the dark, begging for it to not happen and it still does.

I know I’ve worked through it many times in many ways. My therapist got me to bring it up at one point and was satisfied with how I responded and where I was with it.

But being triggered – not just squicked but actual PTSD triggering – I have to draw a line in the sand and say no.

I had this debate with myself a few years ago when I watched Jessica Jones. Yeah, having the same first name also made it viscerally real. I think that she fought through and back helped a lot.

Spoiler, in episode three Delores shot a man. I’m not sure if he was real or one of the simulacra. But, it wasn’t enough. I think the breaking point for me was how when one man was standing above her, she flashed back and saw another. It’s way too real in how I experience when triggered.

There are no right answers. Luckily, my boyfriend is so awesome that I’m sure while he will be disappointed that he will understand and stop pushing it on me.

It’s funny how, even when you accept the past, understand that you weren’t at fault, have supposedly healed, that it doesn’t take much to go right back to that mental spot. That span of hours, especially the last 4 of them, are burned into my memory and probably always will be.

What is community

Two plus years ago I took a very scary step. I gave religion a second chance after giving up on it many years ago.

I didn’t feel any fulfillment from organized religion. I had been burned in niche communities with the drama or being used in someones agenda. I had a hard time reconciling faith with science. Despite all that, I stood by the quote from Contact (the movie, never read the book,) “[…] we belong to something that is greater then ourselves […]” This book and movie was before the popularization of the Higgs-Boson, though I suspect Carl Sagan was aware of it when he wrote. Read more

Favorite Person

There has been a lot going on. Being the High Holy Days I’ve been very introspective and thinking about who I am, how I do things, how to be a good person. I’ve always been harder on myself than I am on others.

One of the things that made my day was twice I had separate people tell me how I am their favorite person.

The second who told me that was a 17 year old, but we get along as if we are a similar age (between his and my age.) I think it is because we do have so much in common, as well as I treat him like an adult. I think that this may change over the years as he grows up and gets more experience in general and starts to develop his own life away from his parents.

The first who said it today was a guy I’ve been in classes with. He has been to my house for events. He really is a good guy. I had to nod my head as he described things such as my having a big heart, not bullshitting, putting my all into everything I do.

The fact I heard it twice really helped me to be less hard on myself. It was nice for the universe to find a way to tell me to chill. I’ll still keep tabs, but it’s nice to know that I’m not as bad as I often think.

Biological clock

Growing up I never thought twice about kids. I loved kids – playing house with dolls evolved into babysitting and volunteering to help in the classrooms of younger kids. I was great with kids and they loved me.

When I was in college, I was stupid. On many levels. And I got pregnant. It was one of the roughest things in my life – to date. Which being damn near 20 years later says something. It didn’t work out for many reasons. The how and why I wrote about once, but this post isn’t about that experience.

Even after that experience I still thought I might have kids in the future. Although, it scared me to the point that I questioned if it was my one chance. Then I fell in love for the umpteenth time and got married. Sadly, that didn’t work out either. And during that marriage and all the adulting and growing I had to do during that time I slowly gave up on the idea of having kids. To the point I was adamantly against having kids.

After the marriage dissolved I dated. I was lucky in that I found guys who for their own reasons also didn’t want kids. But then a ‘what if’ happened. Most likely it was a weird medication related thing, but for a very long 69 days I wondered if I was pregnant again. Of course, during that time frame the guy I had been with for over a year had broken up with me, thus making the situation more stressful. But it awakened in me a need.

Actually several needs. In addition to realizing that maybe I did want to have a kid, I also realized that I had been searching for a long time for belonging. Again, that goes to a lot of deep psychological things over a lifetime that I won’t get into in this post. This other need led me to Judaism. It was here that I found a family and felt so connected and supported like never before (even though many people did their best – from blood family, my exhusband and his family, and others.)

Part of the healing that learning about and practicing Judaism was embracing the idea of kids. Now, there is a double edged sword because being an adult that isn’t a parent or grandparent there are a lot of gaps and salt in wounds that many may not realize. It is never done on purpose. But it stings a lot regardless.

Several months ago I met a guy whom I’ve been dating since. We had the discussion about wanting a serious relationship and kids on the first call he made to me to ask me out for our first date. Bonus that he is Jewish and understands the value and importance that the Jewish community has for kids. I have a feeling this might go somewhere. Of course, it might not, too. I’m still assessing him and he probably is me too. 😉

I have a close friend who went through a lot in trying to have children, many years of pain, frustration, anger, and medical treatments. Luckily, she had her miracles, all three of them. I’ve read many accounts of others regarding their experience with infertility.

I’m already 39. This has so many risks and possible issues inherent with the concept of pregnancy. Even though my guy and I are still early in our relationship each of the past few months I’ve started to notice something. In each of the infertility stories there is talk about the frustration, anger, questioning, etc that accompanies each new period. A reminder that something you want and is getting less likely as time marches on is slipping further away from you. It seriously has started to move me to tears.

This journey has been a very interesting one. No one knows what the future holds. But even when not even trying, it is odd how I am paralleling the emotions of those who have been.

The secret

Last night I had an somewhat fancy event to go to with my boyfriend. It wasn’t just a fancy event, but also an opportunity to meet most of his immediate family. Between the unclear dress code and wanting to impress, I found the perfect outfit and put a lot of effort into looking and being my best.

I was proud of how it all came together, so of course I posted selfies on social media. One of the responses was from my brother, stating that his girlfriend approved (um, what?) and wanted to know my secret. My response at the time was that it was lots of things, but I’m happy to share. So this is sharing.

Many of the things circle back on each other.

The first thing to looking fabulous is being happy. I’ve worked long and hard over many years to resolve all sorts of issues and learn to be my “best self.” Lots of introspection, conversations with family, counseling, etc. I’ve also worked very hard to reach a point in my career where I’m happy with where I am, what I do, and how much I bring in. I’ve gotten to a comfortable place with my investments and cashflow. I’m happy with the people in my life, focusing on those who (for whatever reason) bring me joy and/or support while drifting away (ok, not the best thing) from those who brought out bad things in me or took more than they gave. I love my communities that I actively engage with.

The second thing is feeling good. I’ve spent the last several years slowly working towards being physically healthy. I’ve made HUGE strides in the past year. It seems to have finally found a good balance where I feel phenomenal. I sleep great, I eat great, I’ve found the mix of food, meds, and supplements that I need to be my best. I’m not going to say the specific food plan, exercises, meds, or supplements because I don’t want to give the impression of knowing anything, being a medical professional, or saying something that while it works for me doesn’t for others. No two people have the same needs. Though one thing that makes a big difference is hydration – drinking lots of water, moisturizing, etc.

The third thing is knowing what works for you. I’ve experimented a lot over the years. I’ve gotten to a point I know what colors, cuts, etc. of clothes/styles that work for me. I know how to pull off different looks (hair/makeup) that achieve different ends depending on the situation. I have found specific products that work best for me – both in the moment as well as long term. (Because if it looks great one night but makes you break out the next day is not good!) I’ve learned how to style my outfits that accentuate me best, as well as the outfit too. I’ve found tricks (spanx!) that help to make things look better on me.

It may not be clear, but as one goal is reached, it opened doors for the next goal. It was all interconnected – having the income helped to focus on finding the right accessory or supplement. Feeling happier mentally and emotionally helped me to do more and eat better. Feeling physically better helped me do better in my work and in working through my emotions.

Looking good for an event, an evening, is not about one secret. It isn’t about a fad diet or exercise program or vitamin or article of clothing/accessory. It is a culmination of being your truest and best self, of being happy and healthy.

Car Crash III

It’s been over a week since the last update. Lots has happened.

I’ve gotten my car back. I negotiated with his insurance agency to get more money to cover the battery replacement. Had a cow when I got the car that the power steering seemed dead – after driving in traffic an hour the next day was back to normal; something about power cycling? It had me making panicked calls to my parents, wanting to chat it over with my boyfriend (but he was unavailable), and researching replacement vehicles while making contingency plans for my various funds. Because it sorted itself out I am trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, though I am still a bit anxious about if I can trust this car any more or not.

My pain is way better. Tuesday of last week I tried to work but was on heavy pain meds, as in I took close to 4000mg of naproxen that day. No, that is not a typo or any extra zeros. I was super spacey, couldn’t concentrate or focus, and had a massive headache. While I did work that day, it was torture. I ended up sleeping the next two days mostly. Doing laundry, getting groceries, and putting out the trash were dramatic events that even drugged up were nightmares. But I took things slow and persevered. I know others would help, but I couldn’t swallow my pride enough to ask someone to do these “simple” tasks for me or to come keep me company or cook dinner.

Over the course of the week I slowly pushed myself to wean the drugs. It got to taking 500mg of naproxen a day. Then on Monday I had my first physical therapy appointment, where she told me to keep taking them on a schedule to help reduce inflammation and thus help things heal.

The physical therapy both worries me (due to $ and how that will work out with the insurance company – especially since I have to prepay and be reimbursed) and reassured me. The reassurance was that I had “good range of motion” and wasn’t being a diva. 😛 That I really wasn’t that bad off and therapy would be short and simple. Especially since I had already gotten into a routine of exercise before the accident. The therapist was impressed with the level and diversity of my exercise routine and told me to do what I could but keep moving. She couldn’t/wouldn’t settle the ice vs heat debate which has been raging among the folk in my life. 😛

Other than PT, a work moderately heated discussion over PTO, and slowly building back up my exercise routine – things are back to normal. I think that for now I will stay the course with the car as well as my plans for finances, which includes being able to pay that sucker off next month – 3 years ahead of schedule! While it is VERY tempting to either put that money elsewhere (hellooooo credit card debt) or to just keep it liquid, I’ve got a plan and need to trust in it.

Terrorism everywhere

Everyone has been speaking about Charlottesville, VA lately after the awful, anti-semetic, hate march. It came up at the gaming group last weekend, and I think I said something wrong. I mentioned how I had family there. I validated that the city of Charlottesville is very blue politically and actually a great place. I could feel the side eye.

The thing is, it has been clear from numerous articles and otherwise that many of the hate groups and domestic terrorists came from elsewhere, not Charlottesville itself. At least not entirely. Let’s face it, no place is free of any type of personality/group. One of my aunts wisely told me, many years ago, that “No matter where you go, you will always encounter the same people, just with different faces.”

Similarly to my eventual point, recently a hate group ate at a local restaurant. There was a big to do because the staff were not comfortable and the owner supposedly made little of it and supported the patrons rather than the staff. I made note of this place and marked it on my “places to eat” map with a note to NEVER go there.

I can see already in the Jewish community the general consensus to not go to Charlottesville, or Virginia at all. The owner of that restaurant made a very public apology and donated a significant amount to charities that were the opposite of the hate group; but I haven’t removed my notation to never eat there.

I wonder how knee jerk and how long our personal and communal memories are and how that will impact other communities. If someone never visited Charlottesville, VA because of this horrid march they would be missing out on great food, history (that is presented accurately and neutrally unlike other areas of the state and South), and amazing views of the Blue Ridge mountains – not to mention some awesome people and their hospitality. The fact it now has been tainted by people who don’t even live there, but happened to use it as a stage is so damaging.

I don’t know if there is a solution. Well, other than waving a magic wand to make the country less divisive, more tolerant, self self centered, and more educated in some instances. :\ I guess I’ll just have to do my part to bring reality/neutral/facts where I can and to be more educated and open minded myself.