Monday, April 28, 2008

Hail from Grr

Dear Other People,

Greetings!

I come to you from Grr, a small independent island off the coast of Frustrating, where we eat only cookies and cake, mainly of the chocolate variety. Rather like the island of Conclusions, where you can only get to by jumping, Grr has no actual connection to mainland - you must bob your way over by scrunching up your face, making fists and emitting a low yowl of irritation. No need to apply; simply get cranky easily and you will find yourself here in no time. Please refrain from bringing along any pat aphorisms designed to make problems go away - we on the island of Grr prefer our grumbling to soothing sayings, unless you really have a good solution (or very, very good cake).

Ta ta!

Love,
Queen of Grr

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sadness

My friend calls before Shabbat starts. Can you come with me to visit this little girl in the children's hospital? she asks. Someone called and asked me to do it. She's originally from Israel, but only speaks Yiddish. I think she's five.

I surprise myself and reply, Yes. Without hesitation, I agree.

Well. That's different for me.

I don't like hospitals. I don't like the smell of disinfectant mingled with body odor, with the hint of death, that seems soaked into the walls and the floors. I don't like all the machines with the wires that have unknown destinations and points of origin. I don't like seeing people who have been distorted by disease and illness.

Why am I going to visit this unknown girl, who doesn't even speak English? Is it my wish to do a chessed that I haven't done in years? Is it my pity for her loneliness, my pity for the fact that she is spending the first days of Pesach over thirty miles from her family? Is it my determination to get over the awkwardness of being in a hospital? Is it even, just maybe, a sense of pleasure at how people will look at me afterwards with admiration that I walked over a mile and a half to visit someone that I don't even know?

I control my gag reflex as we enter the room of this little girl, who doesn't speak English and whose family is in Williamsburg for Shabbat and yom tov. I remind myself that we can play a game with her, and maybe that way we can overcome the language barrier. I feel my heart thuddering in my chest, and a small voice in me says - no, don't go in! You can still leave. I suppress that urge and follow my friend into the room.

On the bed lies a little girl, her wrists and hands encased in braces with pink foam lining them. Her small leg contracts in and out - her right leg, the only part of her body she can voluntarily control. Her head, bent at an angle to her neck, glistens with sweat. Her mouth is perpetually open as she breathes, a layer of yellowish substance on her tongue, probably the result of her mouth being open all the time. The plastic layer of a diaper peeks out from underneath a pair of gray leggings, hinting to the fact that she can no longer control when she goes to the bathroom. I feel myself wanting to gag at the thought of a girl who used to be able to run and skip and jump and throw tantrums, and is now reduced to a contracting shell of discomfort and pain.

There is a woman spending Shabbat and yom tov with her, a divorced mother from Lakewood who seems very relieved to have frum people to talk to. She tells us about the little girl, and how she used to be healthy and happy, but got a fever that went to her brain and caused damage. She shows us pictures of a girl merrily riding a ride at a makeshift amusement park, pictures of a little girl who has a three-year-old sibling and a one-year-old sibling, a girl whose mother comes every day to visit her, a girl whose parents have watched their daughter slip from health into disfunction. The woman is not related to the family, but speaks Yiddish and so was hired to stay with the little girl in place of her parents, who weren't able to come.

My friend and I approach the bed and say hello. The girl begins to whimper. Is she in pain? I ask the woman, concerned. Well, they gave her tylenol, but they can only change her diaper every couple hours or so, she replies. Inside, something twists in me at the thought of someone lying in that kind of discomfort, feeling it and not being able to fix it.

As I watch the little girl, not sure what to do, a small tear judders out of her eyelid and slides into the curls plastered to her temple. She's trying so hard to tell us something and we just don't quite know what she's saying, or what we should answer.

After a little more than an hour, during which we spent more time talking to the woman instead of the little girl (which is okay - she seemed to need company as well), and during which my friend and I stumbled over our slim knowledge of Yiddish to read a children's haggada aloud to the girl, we leave the room and exit the hospital.

My friend who's with me, whom I've known since childhood, chatters about her college exams on the way home. I am quiet. I am not sure what I am feeling, exactly. It's all a jumble. But I am affected, as I continue to be throughout the afternoon and into the evening, into the first seder, where I have to distract myself from picturing the girl so as to be able to eat without feeling nausea.

I'm still feeling the effects of having visited this girl, although not as intensely and not as often. I'm not sure if this post is going to release any of that or just remind me of my feelings. But if you can, I just . . . I don't know.

Her name is Alte Chaya Gittel b-s Yehudis. Thank you.  Is it even my place to say that?  

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

p.s.

I just realized that I've had this blog for over a year. Funny how sometimes time seems to speed up and move in great gallops, and other times rolls slowly over you like a thick syrup.

What have I gained from this blog? Without question, the most important part to me have been the new friendships that I've made. I'm too lazy to make each word into a hyperlink for all the different bloggers that I've met and connected with and gotten close to over the past year, but know that you are all so special to me and there aren't words to express what a difference you have all made in my life.

This blog was also my main venting stage at different points, for better or worse. I am not always so proud of the feelings that I displayed at those moments, but those posts mark points of growth, even though at the time I may not have been my best self. That's important, I think. Hopefully I can continue to use this blog as a forum for positive growth in the future.

Thank you all, for reading, listening, talking.

Here's to continued discussions, gripes and real-life blogger meetings!

On jealousy

Sometimes it's hard not to feel jealous of other people. They seem to have things that you don't and never will have, and try as you might, you're just never going to succeed the way they do. The scary thing about jealousy is that you can practically feeling it growing within you, but somehow, the greater it gets, the harder it is to snap out of it. And feeling jealous of someone makes you begrudge them any sort of success, even if that success is unrelated to what you're jealous of exactly.

How do you undo it? Is it by acknowledging your own gifts and strengths? Sometimes that just isn't enough. If I wish desperately that I possessed a certain talent, or had certain things coming to me, and they just aren't, it doesn't always suffice to say, "Oh, but look at what I do have." Sometimes the things that you wish for are important too, and not having them isn't negated by looking at things that you do possess, but that pale in significance when compared to what you wish you had.

Anyway, this is quite a useless post. Cheerio!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I'm annoyed

I hate when things say that they're going to be free, and then THEY'RE NOT.

GRRRRRRRRRR.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Top five ways you can pick a Bais Yaakov graduate out in a crowd

1. The Bais Yaakov graduate (BYG for short) will speak in a faux New York accent (even if she's not from the New York environs) with a heavy emphasis on the words "taka," "but," and "hello." This is also known as the yeshivish accent, which the BYG will have picked up either from her mother or circa seventh grade. She will pause and form her words carefully, so as to give them the proper feelings that should be associated with them.

2. The BYG will use her hands. A lot. Her favorite position will be her fingers pursed together, making a sort of scooping motion to indicate that she is saying something of great importance. She will also enjoy cupping her hands together and moving them outward from her body to show a display of emotion when talking about her avodas Hashem, her teaching job, and how she feels about the shidduch system.

3. The BYG will have a short, demure haircut. If she is about to get a short, demure haircut, she will bemoan the fact that her hair is "too long," and will constantly point this out so that you cannot point it out to her yourself. The BYG tends to wear her hair either back in a headband with the front part pushed up to make a little pouf, a half-ponytail, or a pouf secured with two crisscrossed bobbypins.

4. The BYG tends to wear clothing that is either black, blue, gray or brown. Occasionally, she will wear a pale pink or pale blue shell to offset the darkness of her clothing, but other than that, she dresses in what can generously be termed as "drab wear." Often, the BYG will wear a jacket, even during the week, in lieu of a shirt, because this will a) serve to make her look more formal and b) it is more tznius because it is not fitted and has a collar. The BYG will never wear denim, save for extreme tiyulim, and wears black Anne Klein loafers or the equivalent.

5. The BYG will carry in her purse: a small travel-size siddur, a mini Tehillim for use during someone else's chuppah, a pack of gum, a cell phone with a sticker of the Chofetz Chaim on it reminding her not to speak lashon hara, a travel-sized version of A Lesson A Day, a comb, a discreet eyeliner, a subtle lipgloss, a list of names to daven for (either people who need a shidduch, a refuah, parnassah, or some combination thereof), some cute keychain that her best friend made for her that is a picture of the two of them either at the beach (fully clothed) or in front of some landscape in Israel, and a digital camera, because you just never know.