Monthly Archives: September 2014

This Life is Like

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Here’s what I thought life was like.

 

Childhood: Life is all about me.

 

Teenage years: Life is all about my enjoyment. (Translation: Still about me)

 

 

Adult years: Have life mostly figured out, just living and working the dream that I dreamed (idyllic home, perfect parenting, children basking in my awesomeness, etc).

 

 

Golden years: Sit back, relax, enjoy what you’ve built.

 

 

Of course, there are a few key moments that if you mess up, you will alter your trajectory and rob yourself of the fantasy mansion with paid staff for a rundown shack that smells like cigarettes and trash. (Remember MASH???)

 

Those key moments are the BIG crossroads of life, the choices like which SCHOOL (high school, college), which EXPERIENCES (travel, spirituality), and which PARTNER (and perhaps very important friendships). These BIG choices create a lifestyle and circumstances that make or break a person’s future.

That’s what I believed anyway.

Since I was 13, I lived my life according to the BIG choices philosophy. I undertook to live away from home during high school in order to go to a Jewish school (kicking and screaming parents in tow), I didn’t burden myself with a moral compass until I was 18 and knew if I didn’t buckle down soon, my future direction would change. By 21 I made a decision to be conscientious, accountable, an adult. Someone who could hold down a job, whose mistakes and challenges would from here-on-out be of small proportions, hey, maybe I could even be a role model for others.

Goodbye journey, Hello destination. I’ve arrived.

 

 

My rude awakening came swiftly when I found myself on top of the world in this new-found state of nirvana, proud over my accomplishments and choices. I was doing everything I set out to do, making myself and my mentors proud, feeling self-satisfied.

 

My disillusionment came in the form of a few human errors, a reality-check when I encountered said mentors’ (who were all grown up and, of course!, infallible) mistakes.

I lost my resolve. I no longer had the strength or motivation to maintain the perfect image I thought I had attained (I hadn’t!).

 

When I was ready to dust myself off and try again, I lived in a new world where role models can make the wrong decisions and I was no longer perfect.

In the ten years since then, I have made lots and lots of adult-size (super-size) mistakes. I have learned to forgive myself and others for the constant stream of bad decisions (from trivial to large). I have learned to give myself plenty of time and patience.

Every time I step up to a new rung, a new job, a marriage, a new child, a new friend, a new challenge, I am greeted with fresh new mistakes.

I look at how I spend my time, where I spend my energy- mental and physical, what I give my all to, what I have become complacent in, bad choices I never bothered to correct, good choices I need to dust off and re-integrate.

Turns out, this life (for me, for now) is more like:

Childhood: Life is all about me.

Teenage years: Life is all about my enjoyment. (Confession: I hope this won’t be the case for my children!)

Adult years: The good days? Three steps forward, two steps back or – bad days- two steps forward three steps back.

Golden years: Growing, growing….

…Gone.

 

May this Jewish new year, we be blessed with all the resources we need  (health, peace of mind, money) for a fresh start towards human, fallible and humble greatness, a year of growth and positive impact, a year with clearer understanding of what this life is like.

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Confessions of a Cheater

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It’s funny how we excuse some things but not others. Take Lea*, for example. We’ve known each other for a very long time, surfing in and out of contact for ages, reconnecting on Facebook, and ultimately our childhood friendship has been crystallized,  glorified as the years pass.

We recently touched base and had a fascinating theological discussion but in case that’s not your bag, I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, I was advocating a Torah lifestyle while my friend was knocking it to some degree.

None of that phased me, but as we were speaking, Lea mentioned how boring marriage is. I assumed Lea meant that having passed the honeymoon phase, marriage now required plenty of work on her own character, investment of time and effort, sans the glitz of romance and excitement.

Before I reacted, I asked Lea to elaborate. It was as if she had been waiting for someone to ask her to elaborate.

Marriage is a prison. I’ve been married for years and please don’t give me some fluffy advise about working on pumping up the electricity because I’ve been there and done that. I’m tired of the same spouse- it gets old. People were not built for monogamy. I want to connect with new people, live new experiences. Whenever I bring up the topic to my husband, he loses it and demands to know why he’s not enough for me so I drop it. There are so many reasons to stay together: the kids, money, comfort, fear. Some people have discovered the joys of an open marriage but most don’t do that. Everybody cheats or wishes they could cheat but nobody admits to it. Now I’m stuck feeling resentful towards my spouse for making me feel stuck.

Reading this conversation in an article likely dilutes the shock value I experienced when listening first hand. Will you reread this and imagine your childhood friend saying the same words?

I was surprised on more than one level. I thanked her for her honesty- after all, do you know many people who would express a struggle that private?

What most surprised me was how far she had gone to rationalize her feelings. Lea is bright, no question about it, but to intellectualize cheating by insisting that humanity is not built for monogamy? To comfort herself with the illusion that everybody does it? The whole discussion brought to light how far down a rabbit’s hole any one of us can go when we think long enough for our brains to regress to our bodies. It’s a lesson for me in other areas of my own life.

 

But back to infidelity….What about the trade-off? How many new, even pleasurable experiences will be worth one meaningful life-long relationship? No one doubts that the novelty of a new person (for one evening) creates more of an adrenaline rush than the umpteenth time our spouses walk through the door. But at what cost? And how can we be so blind as to not recognize the beauty and greatness that our spouse has? This is the one person in our family we actually chose!

I do not judge my friend at all, I just wanted to express my feelings about her choices in the hopes of catharsis (for me!). My friend has dug herself too deep a hole to attempt to climb out though I hope she does take that first, painful step. She knows I only have her best interests at heart and, again, hats off to her for her honesty.

I doubt any readers would dare agree with her on facebook or any public forum but if you ever want to debate this privately, I am game.

 

*some details have been changed to protect my friend’s anonymity.