Monthly Archives: October 2014

Why I Don’t Read the News

I woke up as my phone started buzzing. The Associated Press news update shone brightly back at me, confirming that the second Ebola victim traveled on a plane a day before showing symptoms.

Groaning in slumber, I shut it off and turned my head away. I needed a half an hour more of sleep before work started, and the AP felt the need to disturb my slumber with breaking news that really wasn’t. The app pinging at me was only kept out of an old nasty habit of wanting to know about current events. Now I just take a quick peek and keep going.

It’s not like I don’t know what’s going on in the world. I do; I think this generation is better informed than any other generation before it. We are saturated with information. But at the same time, I will not get dragged into the media climate anymore. I won’t tune into the so-called “Fox fair and balanced” or the “this is CNN” buzz that we are fed. I’m too tired.

I should care more about the news. I’m college educated and majored in journalism. I was a reporter before I became an editor. My eyes were wide at the world back then, hoping that somehow I could deliver the news to people and help make this country a better place to be.

Charles Kuralt and Walter Cronkite danced before my eyes and made me want to reach higher to help shape the media landscape. I read the news every day, keeping up to date on current events and being well aware of how things worked. Meanwhile, I entered the workforce as a journalist. The pay was awful and the hours were long, but it was the passion that fed me more than anything and the hope that maybe, just maybe, I could make it to the top.

But as I entered the field, the passion was clouded with men who would tell me on a daily basis I wasn’t good enough for it, using my faith, my then-upcoming nuptials and my writing abilities (or according to them, lack thereof) against me. The old boys’ club wouldn’t let a woman steal their thunder. When I switched over to the editing desk, I found that club easier to deal with because of my considerable talents as both an editor and manager that couldn’t be challenged as readily. But not even these were immune to the recession. Nothing was, and journalism suffered tremendously during that time.

As my desperation hit and I was willing to take anything, I ended up jumping from job to job, only to end up in a series of layoffs. When my marriage crumbled, a move back to Los Angeles made it even trickier. I was coming into one of the worst economic climates in the country expecting to find work as an editor when that was always the first position a company eliminated. And as I interviewed, I watched hundreds of doors slam in my face with a shrug and a “no.” I had to keep moving forward even when my arms were tired from treading water.

Yet somehow I kept reading the news: CNN, MSNBC, AP and plenty of others. Every day it was the same stories, although the details would vary: The Republicans were trying to limit women’s rights, look for more oil and give banks breaks because having money made you special. Democrats talked about giving the people back control and helping them, yet their spines shook as it was time to get there. The world was constantly in a state of crisis, every day with war in some little corner of it, and deaths became words wagging across tongues. There were the talking heads yelled at each other about whose fault it was, with each one saying even more outlandish things than other in order to get attention among the millions of voices talking all at once. There was more fear than actual news. The corporate interests of news outlets (as the majority of them are owned by large corporations looking to make money) overruled the need for information. News judgment, or at least the way I knew it as a reporter, was gone.

The goal was who could get the most clicks, not about actually getting the unbiased information across. And being in the journalism world, I knew how many journalists were willing to compromise their ethics in order to get the best story to beat the others — and even if they don’t want to do it, their editors are begging them to. They would transform it from the issue at hand to whatever created the headline that would gain the most attention.

There are still the people out there who want to pursue pure journalism, give people the information that we need in order to see the ills in our society and tackle them head on rather than the superfluous information that tells us to freak out. Yet the arguments for such things are often given head pats of being cute and then told to go play in the corner.

Meanwhile, I was left every day reading the news and finding the same thing again and again. And the more I saw it, the more I glossed over it and moved on. I knew the basic issues, but I never bothered to read more. As my monetary situation crumbled in recent years and I have been left barely keeping my life afloat, all I could think was, These news outlets aren’t paying my bills. They aren’t really helping me and they aren’t really interested in anything except my clicking. It’s just making me feel even worse about life and humanity. Why should I pay attention?

Perhaps it’s my apathy at America at large, how we have gone from a system where it’s for the people to one that’s more for the large bank accounts. But as the world beat me down, I have became exhausted. Like the slamming doors of job interviews, how could I keep coming back to the same thing day after day hoping that it will change and more often than not finding that it never does? In looking for a better life for myself, I didn’t have a choice in facing those doors. As I feel the depression taking over my body while I’m stuck surviving and not truly living, I have a choice in bringing more darkness into my world. Which means removing depressing influences, and that includes the news.

It doesn’t stop me from feeling wrong about it.

The truth is I want to care about the news, about the world. Somewhere inside me is still that college graduate who wants to change things. She still wants to make it better and feels that she can somehow. She’s smart, capable and determined and wants to be well educated on the issues, discussing them thoughtfully without being attacked for her belief systems. She doesn’t stand for reading the news and going, “That’s a damn shame.” It’s why she became a journalist: To wake up the world. It was this young woman who the journalism world tried to quash. Although she is quieter now, she refuses to go away from my heart.

I don’t want her to give up the fight. I want to tell her that there are others out there like her who want to go to battle for the heart of journalism, who will join in with her voice of reasonable dissent against the media status quo. That there are ways we can take back control of this mess and make people feel empowered instead of stuck in a terrible world where we are helpless, whether it’s through the media or any other form this culture takes. We deserve better as citizens of the world.

But in the meantime, I do what little I can. So I’m going to keep surviving, and in the meantime shut down the media noise. I have enough to worry about without the news’ help.

The Married Song

There is a song that keeps echoing in my ears from my friends. They are usually from the ones in their early 30s who are brilliant and strong in different ways from each other, but it is the same song. The verses are not the same, but the chorus always is: “I have to get married!”

Usually I let this fade into the background of my life as the world keeps singing its own songs. There are times, however, where I can’t drown it out. Nothing can.

“I have to get married! I have to get married!” The song is like a screeching hawk call from multiple angles, and one that I know all too well. But it’s not a song in my vocal range. Not anymore.

It manifested itself when I was talking to a guy off of OKCupid, a boy whose story is so strange that I said after it was all over, “Well, now I’ve seen everything.” (That’s probably worth its own blog post, or at least a Moth-style story.) But when we were talking on the phone, I asked him what he wanted.

“Marriage,” he said curtly. “I’m 34, I want to get married.”

I swallowed a bit and said, “Okay.” He continued his diatribe about marriage and this pie-in-the-sky thought process that I recognized. It only comes from someone who has never been married before, who doesn’t know about it.

“I’m going to stop you and be completely honest with you,” I said. “I’ve been married before, and there’s more to it than that.”

He paused a bit and then started asking me the questions that people who have very little experience with divorce ask:

-How long were you married? (Four years, but we were actually together for seven, from 22 to 29 years old)

-Why did you get divorced? (Um, how about it’s none of your damn business until you know me better?)

-Couldn’t you save it? (Seriously?)

The married song was reverberating so much in his head that the idea that it might not work out was a foreign concept. For him, marriage was an endgame; once you got there, it was done and you didn’t have to do anything else for it. It was the mentality of my ex-husband, and one of the many reasons why the marriage failed.

After I left, it was torture. When my ex and I got together to discuss the divorce paperwork, he spent most of the time talking to me about all my girl friends who he wanted to date, obviously to find a new wife. He even stalked one of them. It was a desperation not to be alone that had a strong similarity to rabid hunger. He tried hunting for it and failed, eventually caving in and buying McDonald’s to curb his appetite.

I dated quickly, but I made a promise to myself: For the first year after the divorce, I would stay 100 percent single. No relationships, period; I didn’t want to risk the dreaded rebound. I wasn’t even sure at the time I wanted to get married again. Sure, there was a nibble here and a nibble there, but it was more the trial and error of someone who had barely dated before she met her ex-husband and now approached the world like a 22-year-old in a 29-year-old body. I didn’t even know how to go on a dinner date, and had to call a friend and have him tell me how.

Naturally, it made sense that since I made this policy about three months into divorced life I would be confronted with a test. Later I realized that guy I called for advice was someone I wanted to be with, someone that I loved. If my ex had settled for McDonalds, this guy was a fillet mignon. He was that rare delicacy of a truly good man, but it was something I couldn’t stomach just yet. With these new feelings for him came guilt, fear, shame, self-doubt and total insecurity. I knew deep down I wasn’t ready to be with him because I wasn’t ready to be married yet. It became a ticking time bomb, and it exploded in both our faces. But looking back, if it played out any other way it would have been much worse for both of us.

As the first year died down, my life changed from destruction to rebuilding. It was like in the first year after being married I had to learn how to drive. Now I was hitting the open road, and I didn’t know where it would take me. I saw some amazing sights along the side of the highway, and eventually I found a place as a fun single girl, who would flirt with a step of fun, have sex as she pleased and, when a guy would call her girlfriend, joke and say, “Hey, I’m nobody’s girlfriend! I’m my own woman!”

Settling into Los Angeles, the rebuild wasn’t always easy. There were financial difficulties and obstacles that were tricky at best to deal with. If I were married, these things would be difficult to learn from. Kissing my mother’s bald head in the hospital and repairing wounds with my family would have taken on a different flavor that shouldn’t have been there had there been a person by my side. I wouldn’t have known what it took to hustle, to save myself financially and learn how to survive at all costs if there was a knight in shining armor. And in kissing the Kotel in Jerusalem and feeling the Middle Eastern winds whip around my body, this pleasure was something that had to be done as a free woman who owned her own existence.

The events that transpired came with incredible people, some of whom sang desperate married songs but others who sang other beautiful melodies in their own unique voices. They sang songs of artistic exploration, spiritual adventures, self-discovery and ambitious adventures. Some voices were always there but now had the volume turned up. Some were newly found, but all of these songs were stunning.

And as their melodies encircle me, I remember six months before my divorce. I was married and lying in an emergency room in Newport Beach around 7 o’clock at night. I was alone. There was no music, not even from my then-husband, who said he was too tired to come to the hospital to be with me. The only sounds came from the beeping of nearby machines. Married. Yet still alone. Now, unlike the past, there was always a friend to call, a place to be, someone to catch me if there’s a fall. It flows like a symphony.

As some of my friends are left singing the married song, I’m left singing with Mandy Moore’s “Gardenia,” a love song dedicated she wrote to herself after a breakup. As she sings about how she loves gardenias and making love on the floor, I sing in my head about how I love the purple flowers of jacaranda trees lining the streets of Los Angeles and having my face cradled when a boy kisses me softly. It harmonizes as I muse about getting onstage to make people laugh and how I have learned to write all over again. It’s a song that is uniquely my own, and that’s what makes the melody shine.

In order to be with a quality man, I had to learn how to be a quality woman — specifically the woman that I am, who would rather watch Game of Thrones over Grey’s Anatomy, yet still loves When Harry Met Sally and twirling around in white flowing skirts. It was in embracing my unique song that has made me the woman I am, something that I could have never been had I settled in my relationship life or compromised my needs.

Do I want to get married again? Yes, absolutely, if the right guy comes into my world I will. But until then, I’m way too busy having a good life to be preoccupied with the idea of putting on a white dress again. And it makes me happier than anything I have ever known, even being married.

So yes, my friends are singing the married song, and nothing I could tell them from my past can make them stop the siren call. After all, none of us really want to be alone. But as I look at the life I created for myself, I realized something: No matter if I’m married or not, I’ll never be alone again.

Righteous Sin, or the Tale of the Cricket

Jews are currently in a ten-day period known as the “days of awe,” which are the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. In this time, we are supposed to repent for our sins, ask for forgiveness and cleanse ourselves as the new year begins. I’m used to this.

However, sometimes I wonder about the decisions I made and the sins that I had committed. I typically look back and think, “Well, I didn’t do anything THAT bad.” But then came the cricket in my room. And even the smallest of creatures on this planet are yearning to communicate with us a message. Or in my case, chirp it.

My apartment complex has crickets in spades. They’re in the planters downstairs and haunting the garage. Most of the time, it’s not a problem, and I continue on. That is, until two weeks ago a cricket found its way into my closet, chirping and singing its song every night to its heart’s content, meanwhile keeping me awake for all hours. I went digging for it through the clothes and storage, but still no sign.

In fury, I would rattle where I thought it was so it would be quiet so I could get some sleep. I’m not fast enough to catch it, so I attempted alternative methods. I tried capturing it by covering it with a coffee mug, but instead ended up throwing the mug, causing it to break in two. I would post regularly about it on Facebook, telling sinful jokes and mimicking Liam Neeson in the movie Taken (“I don’t know where you are, but I will find you. And I will kill you.”) And whenever a person would chirp at me, “But crickets are good luck!” I would think to myself, Don’t test me, or you’re next.

I tried to pretend it wasn’t there. Earplugs, pillows and blankets were stacked over my head to block the noise. If I knew it was in a specific closet, I would shut the door. But in the meantime, every squeak made me look around for the cricket, and I began to plan for its demise. I bought roach motels and made traps based off of internet models. Nothing was working, and the cricket seemed to be positioning itself in the places where it would make the most noise: On top of my hamper, behind the metal grating on my desk, and in the bathroom. Boy, did it love the bathroom.

Eventually, I bought a glue trap that you typically use on mice and spread sugar on top. When the cricket began chirping in the bathroom, I placed the glue trap, shut the door, blocked the gap between the door and the floor so it couldn’t crawl out and went to sleep. And sure enough, the next morning, the cricket was dead in the trap.

At first I was victorious. After two weeks of restless sleep and misery, I finally succeeded in catching it. Then I looked at it in the glue trap down on my bathroom floor, and I felt something I didn’t think I would feel: sadness. In seeking peace, I killed a living thing. I committed a sin.

After I showered that morning, I sat in wonder. Yes, anyone who had seen me or talked to me over the past two weeks knew the cricket was driving me insane. I wasn’t sleeping and was buying trap after trap in trying to catch it. Now that it was dead, I should have found relief. I did, but had to sacrifice a life to get it. And I realized this is not the first time, nor would it be the last, where I did something to take care of myself and then, in turn, had hurt someone or something else.

It’s a part of humanity that I wish wasn’t. But people do get hurt and feel pain as a result of our respective self-preservations, yet no one can be selfless 100 percent of the time. We don’t mean these things to happen; we get carried away in pursuit of something there are those who will suffer. And still we forget in our respective madnesses that lurk in the corners of our minds that there are others who will have the pay the price for them. And sometimes the price is so steep you pray to the almighty for any way to repair them, even though it is impossible.

And as I sit at a table at my favorite shop across a table, thinking of the cricket trap on my bathroom floor and trying to picture the outline of a boy who I wronged so deeply I will never forgive myself, I realize the truth about these days of awe and the nature of sin: They were meant for people like me.

We are not bad people in general, and although I do have my faults, I’m not that terrible. Those that are do not truly recognize the nature of their sins, and will continue on their way in this life ignorant of those they have wronged. But those of us who understand the nature of it realize that yes, even the best among us sin. We have sinned even by our inaction. We have sinned by committing even the smallest treason in the heart of someone who loves us.

We need to be able to find comfort and forgiveness from the horrors our pasts; perhaps that’s why the forgiveness of our wrongs has such a huge place in many faiths. Sometimes we are able to find them in the people who we have wronged, and sometimes that’s not possible given the circumstances. We can’t go back and change the nature of it. What we can change, however, is how we deal with who we have sinned against and how we give comfort to our respective consciousnesses.

So for those who read this, may you find those who you want to send your forgiveness to and repair the wounds you have caused. For those I have wronged, please find it in your hearts to forgive me this year. And “g’mar chatima tova” — may we all be inscribed into the book of good life together.