Monday, June 25, 2007

The carrot, the coffee and the egg

On Thursday June 21, my program heard from an interesting speaker. He is a very well known person in Washington and has contacts at all the top tiers of government. He is a very frum man, wears a black hat and suit everywhere he goes, and deals with many delicate issues that come up for Jews working in government.

He shared with us an excellent mashal that I thought I'd post about:

In a pot of boiling water, you put in a carrot, an egg and coffee grounds.
In the case of the carrot, it goes from being hard to soft.
The egg keeps its shell, but the inside still changes and hardens.
The coffee itself doesn't change - it changes the water and turns it into coffee.

And, the nimshal:

The boiling water is the environment you're in. Are you going to be like the carrot, who softens and loses its edge? Or will you be like the egg, which retains its protective shell but becomes hard on the inside? Or will you be the coffee, the one thing that isn't changed itself, but changes the environment it's in?

I thought this mashal was so, so perfect for the job I have now/the social situation I'm in. I've spilled much liquid (in the form of tears and blog ink) about my social life currently, but what the heck, I'll spill a little more. On Sunday, I was miserable. Absolutely taken over and suffocated with misery.

Why, you ask?

Well, a bunch of the interns planned on doing something involving water and boats. Now, when I went to camp, doing activities involving water and boats meant that you had a pretty definite chance of getting wet, sometimes to the point of your clothing becoming translucent. My decision was absolutely not to participate. I am not going to do a wet activity in front of boys that I'm not related to. No way, no how. I felt that this was a completely untzniusdik activity and would cause people to be nichshal.

However, by not going, I was left all by myself.

Now, here is where it gets sort of complicated: I don't want to do too much coed stuff. Pretty much all we ever do here is in a coed group. BUT I don't want to be alone. I hate being lonely. Being lonely makes me cry a lot. But I don't want to do things in a coed group. And so on. Basically, it's a catch-22: I don't want to be lonely, but I don't want to do the activities that would keep me from being lonely.

Aaaargh.

So when everyone left bright and early Sunday morning to go do the water sport, I broke down. I felt such an all-pervading sense of loneliness. I felt like Hashem was punishing me - I couldn't even be proud of myself for sticking to my convictions because I was so unhappy that I had done so.

And then, to add insult to injury, when I decided to go to DC to do some shopping (I've been indulging in some very expensive retail therapy recently), I locked myself out of my apartment. In my apartment were my keys, my cellphone and my SmarTrip card (the DC metrocard equivalent), and in the hallway was me with a couple baggies of Cheezits and some wet tissues. Unfortunately, since it was the weekend, the building management charged me $25 to let me back into the apartment. This just made me start crying all over again. And even though I was clearly in distress, they didn't waive the fee, which I was hoping they would do.

Muttering wetly under my breath about stingy building maintenace people, I boarded the Metro to DC. In a flash of inspiration, I decided to go to Georgetown, where I'd heard there was good shopping. And boy was there shopping! Up M street and down Wisconsin was pure retail bliss. I wandered happily from one hideously expensive clothing store to another. All the clothing was gorgeous, like candy. I wanted everything, but restrained myself. I actually found a really cute skirt when I went shopping. I was really happy to acquire it. But that didn't make up for the intensity of the feelings I experienced earlier in the day.

At once, I was angry, hurt, resentful, lonely and felt excluded. How much of this was in my head and how much was the reality doesn't matter. At that moment, that was my reality.

I felt like nobody here in the program with me even cared at all if I was happy. If I felt like I was being included. If I was comfortable.

I just felt like no one cared about me at all, with the exception of my friends, who are all hundreds of miles away. That nobody else cared that my standards are different, and that maybe my standards should also be accommodated.

This made me so angry. How dare people just disregard my feelings and emotional well-being that way? Why didn't anyone think to say, "Oh, Apple isn't coming. Hmm, I wonder why that is. Maybe she's not comfortable with this activity? Well, then, let's try and do something she will be comfortable with."

Ooh, what a thought.

But did anyone think this? Nooooooo. Did anyone take me aside and ask me why I wasn't coming? Nooooooo. They all just left me alone! By myself! In an apartment with almost no furniture, with no discernable plans for the day. That was not fair.

Maybe I'm being really selfish right now, thinking that I should be everyone's main consideration in making plans. But that's not what I'm asking. I just want people to take a look around, realize that other people's sensitivities and needs are different, and to try and plan accordingly.

And then, when everyone came back, they were all, "Oh, how was your day?" I wanted to scream. I wanted to say, "Oh, it was great. Just great. In fact, it's really scintillating and fun to spend an entire day by yourself. You should try it sometime!"

I think I'm turning into the egg, but I'd rather be the coffee.

And I was hurtful and mean to someone who has really tried to help me feel better and enjoy my experience more (you know who you are, and I think - I hope - that you're reading this). I sincerely, sincerely apologize. I really have no excuses. I heedlessly let my yetzer hara get the better of me and you got the brunt of it.

I am very, very sorry.

Please forgive me, for I am the egg, and I need you to help me crack my shell a little.

12 comments:

Ezzie said...

:( More to say, but no time now... but just wanted to say that I really, really sympathize. That's really rough.

Ezzie said...

Side Q: Do we know the speaker very well?

the apple said...

Not that I know of . . . at least, it's not someone with a blog, as far as I know.

Ezzie said...

No, I meant a relative of Serach's... especially as I've heard the mashal many times before.

Anyway, the situation you were in really stunk. A couple possible suggestions for the future, not knowing all the details of this one...

1) If they decide to go on the same activity, find out if people really got that wet this time. If it's more calm and people really didn't get wet, consider going.

2) Assuming that's NOT the case, based on the post, perhaps speak up a bit more? Say something like "Oh, I really want to do something with you guys but I really don't feel comfortable going boating/etc... how about ____ (have a good alternative ready)?" It could be that some of the interns are equally unsure about what to do, and just assumed that you didn't want to go and never thought that you might have a reason other than it not being your speed (hence also the nonchalant 'how was your day'). It can't hurt to speak up to make sure they know.

Most coffee drinkers say it's best when it's strong. :)

Scraps said...

Oysh. :( That's not a fun position to be in. Are there any other frum girls who are interning or otherwise working anywhere near Capitol Hill that you could get to know? I have a friend who works for the ZOA...she's married and lives in Silver Spring, but at least she's in the general area. If you want me to make introductions, let me know and we'll work it out in private.

It's hard to be in hot water. (((hugs)))

Chana said...

Sweetness,

I hope you will forgive me for what I will write to you, especially as it is now Tuesday and you have had a day to mull over it, relive the experience and rethink it.

Firstly, I completely understand how miserable this situation is. I truly do. And I understand that it is particularly hard for you due to the standards you keep.

That having been said, I'd like to defend your fellow interns.

I know that you'd like to be part of the group and you wish that someone had the sensitivity to ask you why it was you are not going. But perhaps, especially due to the religious aspect, people feel uncomfortable asking you. She's not going, maybe there's some religious reason- we don't want to ask; it might be inappropriate. More probable, people don't realize you want to go; they simply assume that for whatever reason you're not interested and hence don't bother to ask.

Also, I think you can appreciate that it is unfair to expect the entire group to change their plans for one person. I understand that you want to be included and yes, you do deserve the right to be included- as long as, similarly to what Ezzie said, you have a feasible suggestion that's still lots of fun that'd work. But in this scenario, when everyone has planned a trip and you can't or won't go, why is it their job to change their plans to accomodate you? I don't see this as being their obligation; upon further reflection, I don't think you would, either.

I want you to be happy, Apple; I really do. I want you to have a good, fun summer- a truly enjoyable summer. And I am completely for venting and venting on your blog is fine. And giving support is fine. And blaming others initially is fine, too. But after the angry period is over and after thinking this over, I think you'll find that you cannot reasonably blame the others. How were they to know of your religious restrictions? And why are they obligated to change their plans for one person?

Now, let's fix this situation and let's think of something really fun that you guys can do this upcoming weekend that you can do as well. :-) Then you can broach the subject to the group and all will be well.

Much love from,
Chana

Chaya said...

bs'd
Dear Apple, amu"sh
Oy.
I just realized that your blog name is really appropriate considering your choice of computer. That was completely off topic.
I'm sorry to hear that you're having such a hard time in Washington. I agree with Ezzie: try to come up with a feasible alternative activity. I could look up some museums for you ;) I've got to run, but I'll try to comment later or communicate via some other technology.
Stay strong.
P.S. I've got some news for you.

Rebecca said...

Oy, Apple! I hope that you never experience this pain again--although as Ezzie and Chana said, that could potentially happen, unfortunately. I'll leave it up to them to give you the logical side of this, because when all is said and done they are right and you must move forward. In the meantime, I really feel your pain and remember (if you're ready to hear this) l'fum tzara agra. If you're not ready to hear that and you're muttering to me under your breath, then forget I said that. If that helps, then remember why you don't participate, remember that you are maintaining your level of kedusha for every second that you don't participate.

That being said, it's quite okay to cry and be annoyed at the world. But remember that while it's so painful for you right now, ultimately it will work out (even if you don't see it for another 100 years ;-)).

And by the way, you do know me, but we've never had class together. I've met you around a certain circle of friends who went to a certain seminary who lived on your floor in school. I don't want to give myself away too much here, but maybe checking out my soon-to-be-released blog entry on the JOOT blog will give you a clue. :-)

Erachet said...

Oh, Apple! I'm so sorry to hear that!

I'm exactly like the way you reacted in this situation. I sometimes get irrationally angry at other people, even though they did nothing wrong. If I feel left out, I brood. I harbor on those feelings and allow myself to freely blame others. I get all firey tempered inside and convince myself that I have been drastically wronged, that I have no friends, that I shall live the rest of my life as a loner. :(

BUT! Most of the time, well, okay, basically ALL the time, these feelings are exaggerations that my emotions like to produce. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is what was going on with you. It's so easy to let your emotions get the better of you when you are in a situation like this. It's so easy to give in and let the bad feelings grow and grow and grow. Especially when you've got a whole day by yourself to brood and analyze the situation. Unlike some (probably less stressed)people out there, I am ruled more by my emotions than by my reason. I suspect you might be the same way. I bet that no one intentionally left you out and if they had known how uncomfortable you felt, they might have reconsidered their plans. Of course, this is quite easy for me to say, seeing as I was not the one feeling hurt and left out, even betrayed by those who could have been more thoughtful and considerate. But seeing as some time has passed now, perhaps you can take a step back and think about how maybe they'd all be very happy to spend time with you and do fun things with you! I'm sure they would, because you're a great person! :D

So here's to better days and fun, not-awkward social situations! *raises imaginary glass*

the apple said...

Oh, everyone, thank you so much. Since most of you know who I am anyway (I like to pretend that I'm actually anonymous), and also to those who don't know who I am, it really means a lot to me that you are all taking the time to write thoughtful and helpful comments.

Well, it turned out that I kind of overreacted on two counts: 1. no one actually got wet during the activity and 2. people did notice that I wasn't there.

See, basically I just wallowed in a lot of self-pity. I'm still wallowing. I need to move on. I do. Because this summer is turning out to be sort of a disappointment. I looked forward to this so much, and it's not turning out to be like I had hoped. But the more I wallow, the worse it gets - because the more I think about it and stew in my misery, the sadder I feel.

One of my major characteristics is that I tend to project feelings onto people, ie I think that people feel a certain way because I have thought about the scenario a million times. Obviously, a lot of the times my "projections" are not true, and I'm not giving people the benefit of the doubt by assuming that they feel a certain way. For example, I mentioned in my post that I thought that no one cared that I wasn't there. This was not true; in fact, while the interns were away, someone did ask another intern if I was okay since I hadn't come. And all along I thought that this person didn't care at all that I wasn't there.

(Ooh, this could even be the stuff of another post. Hmm.)

But getting back to the topic at hand - I am projecting a lot of negative stuff on people here. I am assuming that nobody cares about my well-being or happiness. Now, I'm not at the forefront of everyone's mind, but I do know that there are people who are thinking about me. If you're reading this and you fit into that category, thank you so much.

You all wrote such great comments. A few of you said things along the same lines, so I'll just lump my response together:
Ezzie, Scraps, Chaya, Rebecca, Erachet - thanks for the sympathy. You all seem to know where I'm coming from and your validation of my position is much appreciated. A number of you suggested that I should bring up alternate activities - I have done so and I hope it will bear fruit.
See Ezzie, I am trying to be the strong coffee!
Oh, and Erachet, you described me to a T. Very impressive.
Scraps, thanks for the hug. I could use one.
Rebecca, ooh, now I'm curious to read your post to see if I can deduce who you are!
Chaya, any help in the tourist department would be much appreciated :).

Chana - you also gave me sympathy, for which I am grateful. And you also gave me mussar, for which I am also grateful - I do need to think about the other side's perspective as well. My point though was not that they should change their plans necessarily - just maybe think twice before making plans that not everyone would be comfortable with and acknowledging that.

Thanks everyone! I have such a great cadre of loyal readers, which makes me happy. And I'll try to keep my posts from being all about depressing topics in the future . . . :)

Rebecca said...

Yay, apple!

And by the way, that post is "soon to be released" lol. I have to actually finish it, but it's basically all about my hometown (check out my profile for info on that). I don't know if you know where I'm from, so I guess that's not fair to you. Ask Chana and she'll tell you who I am (right, Chana?) :-).

And by the way, I would react almost completely the same way you did, except that I wouldn't have the guts to post it on a blog. :-) So yasher kochachech, becuase by posting to a public anonymous, you are willing to accept any constructive sympathy or criticism that will come your way. And that takes a lot of humbleness (is that the right word? Ah well, I'm not an English major ;-)).

So it's great you have this as your vent. It's a lot better than some other vents people have. Keep it up. :-)

Chaya said...

bs'd

Okay, Apple, you said I can play tour guide, so here goes.

1. www.bodiestickets.com The Bodies exhibit has been shown in a couple of U.S. cities (including Chicago ;), but it's in D.C. as of now. If you all feel comfortable looking at a whole bunch of dead people, go to this exhibit. I really enjoyed despite the fact that I'm really squeamish.
2.www.buschgardens.com I'm not sure if you have transportation for this one, but if you like amusement parks, where there's a will, supposedly there's a way.
3. nps.gov/choh C & O Canal National Historic Park--jogging, hiking, and biking, plus mule drawn boat trips. Lol.
4. www.dar.org Daughters of the American Revolution Museum and Library--sounds very cool to me, but closed Sundays.
5. www.espnzone.com
This website has a really long list of attractions: http://www.washington.org/ExistingWCTCForms/see_search.cfm?search=ATTR&sub_head=Attractions&idctls=0&idct=447&idpg=30

Good luck, and have fun.