I have a ticket to my high school reunion on Saturday. My 40th high school reunion. And 5 days before, I’m still undecided about actually going….Fast forward. It is now the day of the reunion and I’m still undecided about going. The question is why. On the flip side, the question is why did I get a ticket in the first place? There is something compelling about seeing old friends 40 years later when we are actually, well, old. Or older. The thing is, out of a class of 731, I was close to about 10 of them. As far as I know, none of them will be there. And if the Facebook posts for the last year are to be believed, the 100 or so who will be there are all close and so looking forward to seeing each other, and this is going to be the best reunion, ever!! There are a few Facebook friends who will be there, and it will be nice to see them in person, but for the most part, I have no idea who these people are! How is that possible? Did I make myself so invisible, that even I couldn’t see myself? Did I really believe that it would be better to not be remembered at all then to be remembered as nerdy, unpopular, funny-looking, the girl who peed her pants in 7th grade math class, because Mrs. McGirt wouldn’t let her out of class? And 40 some odd years later, why is it only now, that I can look at that kid, and see that she was no better or worse than any one else. Why did it take me 40 years to realize that I don’t know most of my classmates because I chose that path. That I was as popular and well-liked as I believed myself to be. Self-esteem is a tricky thing. Where it comes from, how one has it, or doesn’t, whether it can be learned, or you have to be born with it. I don’t have the answers…yet. I hope it can be learned because my adult life is colored by the girl I perceived my self to be. The shy, invisible, not quite pretty-enough girl who can’t remember the faces of her classmates because she was always looking down. So, I guess I’ll go to the reunion. And I’ll smile and greet people I know and meet people I don’t. And maybe it will be the best reunion, ever!
My ex-husband died. How weird is that? I mean certainly it happens. People die. We get old. We get sick. We get hit by lightening. We get eaten by tigers. But….My ex-husband died. We had been out of touch for years. I never regretted our divorce. He drank too much. He was unbelievably moody. He found a bay leaf I accidentally left in a lasagna and didn’t talk to me for 3 days. I spent 11 years tiptoeing around his bad days, making excuses for him, waiting for the first sign of an upswing like a dog for a bone, thrilling when he finally felt better and spoke to me again. I knew it wasn’t about me. It was never about me. And when he was happy, everyone was happy. But I left our marriage some time before we actually separated, and when I finally realized, with a lot of love and a place to crash from my friend, Jenny and her then husband, Brett, that I didn’t have to let the fear of being alone keep me in a bad relationship, we divorced. It was infinitely easier on me than on him. I was free! I barely looked back. Oh, I’d check out his Facebook page periodically, secretly a little smug that I was aging so much better than him and a lot relieved when he lost his job at 60 because his hands were no longer steady enough, thanking the powers-that-be that I was well out of that mess. But…My ex-husband died. And now, I find myself obsessively looking at pictures of him and reading his posts, thinking, how did I not see that he didn’t look well. Perhaps he hadn’t been well in a while. And I want to know everything, how he thought, what his life had been like, what his last days were like, was he happy, did he suffer? A friend of his saw him in February and said he talked about me. He remembered me fondly. I found myself leaping on that crumb and wanting more. Why? Why, now after so many years with barely a backward glance, do I want to know what was going on in this man’s life, his head, his heart. Because he’s gone. Because if there were answers to be had, they are gone with him. This man I slept with, lived with, loved, hated, hurt and got hurt by, my ex-husband died.
I’ve always admired people who are genuinely happy. I know that everyone has bad days but there are people like my dear friend, Brigette, who are just happy. I’ve met many people who just know in their hearts that every day is a blessing and all of what life hands you is a gift. I am in awe of this phenomenon! I just don’t get it! No, really. WTF?!? I have spent so much of my life cranky that even when I smile, my mom is like , “Stop frowning!” There isn’t enough Botox in the world to get rid of the lines between my eyes and if I don’t have something to worry, whine or complain about, my day is ruined. I started to think about the people whose lives I envy the most and guess what?! It’s the same f#^*ing people!!!! Stay with me, now. The common thread in those lives I wish I had is that they appreciate every day, every person who touches their lives. They are the ones every one wants to be around, not because of what they have, what they do, or what they give you, but because they possess a faith in the rightness and the joy of life. And when they smile, and they smile a lot, they mean it. And the universe cannot help but smile back. So the trick to living our best life is not to amass the most money, the most impressive career, the prettiest hair, or the best toys. It is to believe that the best life is the one we are living right now.
When I did Bye Bye Birdie for the Community Synagogue Theatre Company last year, I got some unexpected gifts. Of course, there was the chance to be on stage after 20 years, the applause, the swelled head. All of that was fun as hell. But the unexpected was the gift of community. It is not unusual in any production to become a family of sorts, but this family was different. This experience was different. And I wanted to be a part of it on a more permanent basis. So I joined the Synagogue. A little backstory. I grew up in an orthodox synagogue, though not in an orthodox home. My synagogue experience was dry, somber, inaccessible. I did not love it. So I had my bas mitzvah and got the %^* outta there, never looking back. When my nieces were little, I started to go to Community Synagogue on the High Holidays and was moved by the music, the sermons, the accessibility. But it wasn’t until last year when I decided. I want a piece of this! So as of July I will be a member. But not just a member. Several weeks ago I get a call from one of the board members of the Sisterhood, asking if I would be interested in being Co-VP of the Social Action Committee on the board of the Sisterhood. My first reaction was, “I’m so busy, blah, blah, blah.” Than I thought, why not? Why not walk the walk for a change? So in the past week, I have been to three meetings and the Shabbat service installing the new board of the Sisterhood. Everyone is warm, welcoming, lovely. And I feel just a bit like an impostor. As I read my portion of the service, I’m thinking, what am I doing here? As I stood on the bima in a circle of women I barely knew, our arms around each other receiving a beautiful blessing from the Rabbi, I feel that I haven’t earned this. These women have earned this. I haven’t. They are so Jewish! I remember nothing from Hebrew School. I eat matzo on Passover only when I’ve run out of English Muffins. They all have children, I don’t. But at some point, I realized that everyone starts at the beginning. Maybe they’re here for all the wrong reasons. Maybe they’re giving back to feel like they belong. To feel important. To feel good about themselves. Guess what? It doesn’t matter about our motivations. What matters is that we are here. I have been given an opportunity to be of service. Does it matter that my motives may not be as altruistic as others? Not really. I have also been given a second chance to understand what it means to me to be a Jewish woman. To me. Will I start lighting candles on the Shabbat? Keeping a Kosher home? Nope. Probably not. But who knows? If you had told me a year ago that I would be on the board of the Sisterhood, I would have laughed in your face.
I’ve been pondering the fact that I don’t write nearly as often as I used to. Why is that? I illustrate my ramblings with a piece of my jewelry, and as I move in different directions with each piece, they don’t seem to fit as well as they used to. So I hold off, waiting for the perfect piece to speak. To inspire. Sort of like not buying a new bathing suit until I lose 10 or 50 pounds. Well, if history proves anything, it’s that waiting for the perfect body means I will be wearing the same old bathing suit until I die. What am I waiting for? Well, I took my own advice a few months back. I saw an ad for a really cute bathing suit. It looked almost like an old forties suit, like those curvy pinup girls would wear, and I thought, that would look great on me, and it would cover my thighs! So, I ordered it. I just heard every woman who ever lived let out a collective gasp. “Are you insane!!??? You ordered a bathing suit online?!!?!!” Yes. Yes, I did. I waited and waited and waited. I finally went on the tracking site and saw that it was being shipped from China. That gave me a little pause, but it was cheap so, What the hell! It finally came and I ripped open the package and it was as cute as I hoped. It didn’t quite look like the Large I ordered, but they stretch, don’t they? No. No they don’t. After much tugging, yanking, huffing and puffing, I was forced to concede defeat. I sighed and put it back in the packaging and sent an email to the company asking how to go about returning it. They wrote back asking if I had checked the size chart as they were in China and Asian sizes are typically smaller. WTF!?! Shouldn’t a large be large in any country!!?? I bit my tongue before I could start swearing. “Look, you blankety-blank teeny-tiny person! Are you calling me fat??!??!” I meekly asked if I could just return it. Their answer? I can, but being as I would have to ship it to China it would cost more than the damn thing cost. I am now the owner of a bathing suit that even if I lose 40 pounds will probably not fit my distinctly not Asian body. What’s the moral of this story? There is no moral, people!! Don’t buy a f%#%*^ing bathing suit online! How’s that for a moral?!?
A friend’s stepson passed away this week. He was 37. He was morbidly obese and died from complications of his obesity. Over the years, she had lamented how his issues caused so much pain for her husband and for her. His financial dependence on his family, his emotional abuse, to himself and others, his continuing self-destructive path, all caused deep rifts between him and his family. But he was still their son. And his loss brings grief, pain, regret. Then, out of the blue, his father starts getting emails from his son’s classmates and teachers. You see, he had gone back to school. And unbeknownst to his family, he wanted to be a psychologist. Perhaps he felt he could someday draw on his own pain to help others. Every single email said the same thing. How nice he was. How empathetic, and helpful, and wonderful. His father showed us the emails when we paid a shivah call. And with tears in his eyes, he smiled and said, “I never knew this side of him”. What a gift. To know that every dark side has a light side. Every down, an up, every grief, a bit of joy. Every piece of broken glass becomes something new, something cracked, but whole.
Anyone not living under a rock, is aware of the hot mess that is the 2016 presidential campaign. I got into a heated argument with a fellow board member about Trump vs. Hilary. Well, honestly, Trump vs. just about anybody. His argument? “I just want a president who doesn’t break the law, and she’s a criminal. ” And I’m all, “sputter, sputter, WTF, dude? Are you insane?” I couldn’t fathom why any seemingly sane person could for a second believe that a hate-mongering lunatic who feels the need to reassure the American people about the size of his penis is a good choice to run this country. Or any country. Just because he hasn’t “broken the law”. What? WHHAAAT? But my beliefs are not the point. Fracking? Immigration? Affordable Health Care? Education? Who gives a #%^* what I think? It’s a free country. My colleague has a right to vote for whomever he sees fit, even if I think he’s a #%^*ing idiotic blankety-blank blank blank. It’s always stunning when others don’t believe the things I do. What do you mean you love “The Way You Look Tonight”? But I hate that song! Salmon? You’re ordering the salmon? Because you want to???!?!!! Ok, hold up. Let me just tell you all of the ways in which you are wrong. Loudly. Because if I say it loudly enough, you will certainly see that I am right. The point is, who gives a crap? Hate Salmon? Don’t eat it. Unfortunately, elections of any kind are not as black and white. There’s all kinds of grey and people will vote their conscience That is their right, and all I can do is pray that they do what is good for all. And when I say all, I mean me.