Okay, so I skipped the exciting sequal to part I of my Europe adventures. What with all the morbidness and corruption that charactizes Israel, you may have thought I got sucked into an uncomfortable black hole, or worse, Israel's current leadership, but no, I've just been lazy. In the spirit of the season, I apologize.
I will post my Amsterdam litany as soon as I stop being lazy. I promise. In the spirit of the season, though, let me be fair and admit that I still have almost a year to break this vow.
Since it's been a month since I last posted, I'll start by saying that my laziness hasn't been due to inactivity, but rather the result of returning to work, and of my recent sumbergence into one of the most intense holiday periods in my memory, and an equally revelatory birthday.
I've let my lazy inclinations override my ability to express my vivid inclinations mostly because it's much easier to blurt emotional decriments of immoral wars and political snafus than it is to lie on a couch and blabber about my insecurities or over-confidences. There, I said it.
In the midst of a particular insecurity involving a remarkable set of coincidences, someone asked me, "what are you so afraid of?" Details don't matter here, precisely because I've realized that it is details that I am afraid of. Our lives are so composed of details that it has become virtually impossible to disentangle ourselves from the figures that identify us.
By ascribing ourselves to certain definitions, we lose sight of our purpose in life. By clinging to past memories and self-assessments we hinder our own growth as much as those who file us away in their aging perceptions of us.
On my 24th birthday I realized that despite all my confidence in the work and experience that has made me the well-adjusted person I am today, I am not actually such a well-adjusted person. On Yom Kippur I realized that I had sinned more this year than ever before, if only because before this year I did not believe in the concept of a sin. It contradicted my understanding of the non-duality as the only "the."
I don't know what changed this year. Maybe it was when the concept of regret, which I had stuffed deep into the recesses of my mind, not to be used but to be remembered, finally poked out of its hiding spot and hit me in the heart. I hit my heart also, to atone for my sins, but that was largely symbolic. Maybe I'm getting old, Maybe it's the constant flux of friendships that has defined the last year of my own sedentary living among a group of wanderers. Maybe it's the way I treat my parents, or my sister. Maybe it's my fear of confrontation. Maybe it my own self-judgements.
On Sunday, after an exhausting birthday and the party my sister and I threw in her Sukkah, I sat with my friend Amy and asked her to do a birthday exercise with me. It was a heart-to-heart that followed at least two and a half others over the course of the night, and I was feeling vulnerable, but enlightened. I told Amy that what I'd learned most in recent weeks is the need to be self-critical without being self-abusing, and aware of my achievements without indulging judgements of others.
Then I asked her to close her eyes, and bring herself back to age six. We sat there with our eyes closed, still as a pair of discombobulated statues. My first grade school portrait, the one where I'm staring intensely into the camera with only the slightest hint of a smile, appears in my head, and brings me to Mrs. Powell's classroom, where one of my classmates asks me if I'm Chinese and where my boyfriend SamShmuel and I hold hands and kiss each other on the cheeks. Suddenly Sam and I are in his basement, facing each other with a set of hockey goals behind us, ready to show each other ours in exchange for a peek at the other's. I walk around the old Hillel playground, and then I am bitten by a snake, or at least I tell the office ladies that I am. I am wisked into a recurring dream of that tooth fairy period of my life, when standing on the walk leading up to my old house on Cromwell Ct., my sister's eyeball falls out of her head, and I scramble around looking for it. That leads me into another recurring dream, of a later period, but I pull myself back to first grade.
Amy and I open our eyes, for a moment, and return again to our past, this time to ten years old. My oval face plumps out and I am standing in shorts, a matching t-shirt and a Charlotte Hornet's cap on the banks of the Dan River with my parents and a distant kibbutznik cousin. I take the image from a picture in my dad's living room drawer, prompting me to tell Amy we should try to get away from viewing ourselves externally.
I find myself playing with my friend Bene, baseball, and then at her house for a sleepover. We walk upstairs, where I see her mother's wig. Her mother lies in bed, a few years before dying of cancer. Amy and I are twelve, suddenly, and I am in a classroom, where I ask a long-time classmate for a piece of gum, and where she answers, "No," firing off, "because I don't like you" when I insipidly ask her why. I'm wearing a freshjive t-shirt, and smoking my first cigarette Friday night at an NCSY shabbaton with my two cool older friends, Meatball is playing in the background and then I am back in Hillel, where I see Amy. I try to catch her eye, but the hallway is too wavy, and she just keeps smiling that frozen smile borrowed from an old yearbook, as I open my mouth on my 24th birthday in my sister's sukkah and ask her to look at me. I tell her we are in the hallway, surrounded by lockers, one of which is adorned with a Happy Birthday Ali sign autographed by everyone who has walked by and felt like leaving me a memento. She laughs, and I try to catch her eye again, but everything is still moving. With my 12-year-old hands I grab her shoulders, and look at her in the eye. She is looking back at me. In my sister's sukkah we sit completely still, not moving or touching, our eyes closed. I grasp her with my mind's arms and tell her, "I'll see you in 12 years." She doesn't hear me. I say it again.
My sister comes out to the porch, and shuts off the music. I open my eyes. So does Amy. She tells me she was looking right at me, but she didn't hear me say anything. Maybe I didn't.