Monthly Archives: April 2015
He was my Sunday night surprise, the friend who I didn’t expect to see but someone who made my eyes brighten in his presence. He ran to hug me and didn’t stop until I mentioned it was getting too difficult to walk and hug at the same time. I then linked my arm in his as I always do and we began running down Wilshire Boulevard, laughing like happy children who had the run of this Los Angeles playground.
As the conversation flowed as generously as the warm sake at the sushi place, I studied his sweet smile and boyish face as our hearts seemed to open to one another. It had been forever since I had felt so good around someone, where I could goof off, say anything, laugh. Just be.
Maybe there’s something here beyond friendship, I thought to my self, the slight buzz giving me a shot of courage. Perhaps he’s feeling the same way. Maybe we should discuss this.
“I actually wanted to talk to you about something,” I said.
“What is it?” he asked. The anxious tone made me sense that he knew what I wanted to say. But then my stomach lurched and my eyes began darting around the room nervously. What if he called me crazy? What if it was a no? We had a lot of mutual friends, and I didn’t want it to be awkward if it was the usual rejection that I get from guys. Above all, I couldn’t lose another guy like this. Not again.
“You know what? Never mind,” I said airily, picking up the empty bottle of sake and looking into it as if it was a telescope.
“No, what is it?” he asked insistently.
“Don’t worry about it.”
He tried to push again, but then I excused myself to go to the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror, wondering what he could possibly even begin to see in me. He was smart, funny, warm, loving, affectionate and good looking, not to mention had his life together. I definitely wasn’t all those things, and some I could never be.
I headed back to the table as he asked again what I was going to say, but I continued to brush it off. He seemed disappointed, but allowed me to move on in the conversation.
In the weeks that passed since that night, I thought a lot about my insecurities. They came up in little bubbles of memory. They went back as far as 16 years old, when there was a boy in Hebrew High named Daniel that was tall with large pillowy lips. At a retreat, I tried to kiss him, and his body wasn’t having it. He never looked at me the same way again. It was the last time I ever put myself on the line romantically and made the first move; I couldn’t deal with the rejection of putting myself so far out there since.
Later, I was talking to my friend Elana and reminiscing about a photo she took of me about four years ago and posted on Facebook with the caption, “My peach cobbler will make your heart melt.” The picture was beautiful, but I thought I looked ugly so I took it down, hurting her feelings. She said to me later on the phone, “You’re beautiful. When are you going to see yourself the way we see you?” (Although I will agree with the statement that your heart will melt upon consumption of my peach cobbler.)
A third memory also came up: Sitting in a dimly lit room with my most recent therapist. In that golden light, there was one phrase she seemed to repeat regularly, whether the situation was romantic, family or career: “Why do you keep beating yourself up?”
In almost every element of my life, I experience a huge sense of insecurity and self-doubt. It can be as superficial as being a woman and tall (when a girl at a party told me, “If you were a guy, you’d be the perfect height!” I gritted my teeth as every awkwardness about my height and femininity came into play) to potential romantic situations like the one above. They even permeated working environments and job interviews, with thoughts wandering in the back of my head about when someone would finally pull me into a closed room and tell me how they never actually liked me and I wasn’t good enough. And in each of these different insecurities, I’d end up shooting myself in the foot more often than not.
In being an editor for so many different writers, I have become an editor for myself, marking in red all the different little faults that my mind has picked out as inadequate that the world wouldn’t even bother to look at. When we know ourselves so well, we’re willing to fall into the potholes of anxiety deeper than anyone else will see on the surface. But it gnaws on me, right down to my bones, and there are moments where it cripples me to the point where my body visibly reacts.
If you asked anyone who knew me if I was insecure, they would say, “No way! She’s so confident and fun, so social!” But the truth is that these insecurities have planted seeds long ago, and with time they have grown into tall trees that make up a forest that you’re not always in, but once you’re there you don’t always have a way out. You get lost, and you have to wander the forest, staring at the trees and trying to remember which way to go. Occasionally you get frantic in trying to get past them. Or you cross your legs and sit on the ground, meditating on the state of these things as the foliage shades you, allowing you a little rest to get out of your head and back into the real world.
In my case, when I choose to sit in that place, I rehash the decisions of my life that would have been different had it not been for those haunting insecurities inside myself. Quite of few of them have changed my life had I not kowtowed to the demons. They were the ones would tell me that I wasn’t good enough to wait for the right guy at 22 instead of being with the in-my-face guy who would echo every single one of them for the next seven years of my life, and even long after he disappeared. They’re also the ones who told me at 29 that there was no way my very handsome, brilliant then-guy friend had anything more for me than friendly affection, and they not only ate me alive, but I can’t imagine the pain I caused him. Over the years these demons told me that I didn’t deserve to have anything good, because even if I got it that it would be snatched away just as quickly, that every fault and misstep was of my own making. It didn’t even have to be a voice in my head; just a side eye and a nudge was enough.
Yet somehow, I’m still walking around amongst people, smiling and putting my best foot forward. There are so many people in the world riddled with such insecurities that they can’t get out of bed. They make every excuse to not move forward in their lives, saying that they’ll put it off until tomorrow when in truth they’re afraid. With others, it permeates to the point where everything around them is tainted. When I fall, I tend to get back up and moving, smiling all the way even if my heart isn’t 100 percent there yet. In those moments, I am able to turn the demons off. But when it gets quiet, I feel the fight inside of me against them. It’s not an easy one, and I will battle every day. But at the same time, I’m not going to stop trying. At least in that respect, I see myself for who I am.
One day, I will conquer most of the demons. They won’t all go away; there will always be some little voice telling me that I’m not good enough. It is a struggle, but I am determined to keep moving until I get there. Meanwhile, if I’m going to make any potential personal confessions, I think I may need to opt for a different alcoholic drink.
“If I go crazy, then will you still call me Superman?”
The day before Passover, driving down Sunset Boulevard, that song came on the radio — “Kryptonite,” by the band 3 Doors Down. They had their share of fame in the early 2000s before falling into relative obscurity, but I was still able to recite every word from some inner recess of my brain, which holds sundry facts and figures alongside random song lyrics.
As I sang the chorus and called out Superman, another image flashed into my mind: A red envelope with a birthday card that I gave one chilly April night, right after that Passover had ended three years before. I didn’t write his name on the outside; instead, it simply said “Superman,” an inside joke between us. As we started at photographs and reminisced about Ohio nights, he placed the envelope right in the middle of the table as if it were a breathtaking centerpiece, when in my mind I typically rank birthday cards as trivial at best. I wouldn’t have even bought the card had it not been for him.
The rest of that night was a disaster, so naturally every detail is etched into my brain, right down to me being balled up on the bathroom floor, drunk and sobbing in my pretty floral dress. I let out one shrill sob by accident, and ten seconds later he was pounding on the door. He had never seen me cry, let alone heard all the horrible things spewing out of my mouth that probably hurt him as much as they hurt me. All the while I was trying to hide from him my darkest secret: That I wasn’t sure whether or not I was falling for him, and I was scared to death.
He held me gently and ran his fingers through my hair. He promised me that night he was coming back in a month and, when he did, he would take care of me from now on. It’s amazing how time can make sweet promises into sad lies.
In July, after months of fighting, I made a decision that changed us. My life had become very difficult after all I had been through, my emotions were volatile and he wasn’t making things easier, becoming angrier and angrier with me and trying to pick a fight. I said to myself, “It’s either him or me, and I’ve got to live with me.” So I cut him out of my life. As I tried to make up with him a month afterwards to repair the friendship in hopes one day we could be together, he would call me names and attack me so bad that after he dismissed me telling him that I loved him, I decided to not talk to him again. It would be too painful, and I had seen enough pain.
Do I regret it? Not really. It was absolutely the right decision at the time, and if you put in front of me the exact same circumstances today, I would make the same choice. But the right decisions aren’t always the easy ones to make, and that decision has held me back.
It used to be that I couldn’t understand people who would say, “There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think of him/her” until I got my own version of the story. For almost three years, the very existence of him tortured me on a daily basis, a demon that couldn’t be exorcised. I tried every method in my arsenal to deal with the pain: sex, alcohol, therapy, writing it out, talking it out with friends who knew him and with those who didn’t, refusing to say his name, deleting things on my computer that would remind me of him or burying them so far into my hard drive that they had no hopes of ever being recovered. But nothing worked, and I felt over and over again like I was going crazy. Dating became harder, as there was no trust left in me, and I struggled letting people close. The only medicine was time, and time sadly wasn’t fast enough for me.
As the years passed, life-changing events shaped the very core of my existence. In Los Angeles, I created a new life and made plenty of new friends. My financial survival and mother’s illness became my main sticking points, and dating took a backseat. I travelled by myself, eventually leading me back to Israel. As I stood over Jerusalem and felt the wind whip around me, I made peace with years of anger and began treating myself well, which showed on the outside and the inside. Life wasn’t perfect, but it was mine, and I took full ownership of it. Although he never escaped from my mind, I became much, much more than my mind could possibly imagine. There were parts of me that were certainly similar, but as an overall person, I had definitely changed.
I’d run into him from time to time, playing it ice cool as my stomach would drop at the sight of him. If things got really bad for me emotionally as he would play me trying to get me to talk to him, I would become agitated and aggravated for about a week while trying to shake off the shock to my system. Yet deep down, although he used to know me better than anyone, I wondered if we had a conversation whether we could talk to one another anymore. He was different, and I was no longer the girl he knew; I was more confident, sassier, smarter and courageous. The space he once occupied as my Superman was the one I took up as my own savior in times of trouble.
Suddenly, as if it had taken forever and at the same time happened overnight, I began talking to a new boy. Although we had known each other for a while, we started spending time together just the two of us. We went into music shops and sang songs. He played piano and guitar for me and laughed at all my jokes. We would talk for hours and I could feel myself opening up to him like a flower. Something was telling me inside to let the walls come down, to let him closer to me in whatever form it took.
But as we walked down Ventura Boulevard with linked arms and I brought up that other boy who once had my heart and how he broke me, I felt the mood shift between us. Looking into the new boy’s eyes, I realized that if he was falling for me like I thought he was, he was smitten with a shackled woman, chained helplessly to her past and to the ghost of a man who no longer existed her world. It wasn’t fair to him, but above all, it wasn’t fair to me. I deserved to be happy with someone who made me feel safe and cared for, who let me be who I am and loved me for it. Was it this new guy? Although I hoped it was, I didn’t know and still don’t. But I would never know until I let go of the ghost.
As “Kryptonite” played on the radio, I headed up the hillside to Griffith Observatory, my favorite place in Los Angeles. I hadn’t been up there in years, and the last time I probably wasn’t single, but my heart leapt in the sight of its white walls and dark domes. As I climbed to the rooftop and the wind whipped around me, I looked out on downtown and was reminded of Jerusalem, of sending off my anger into the wind in hopes for future happiness. And I stood on the rooftop as my hair crashed around my face, I did it once more, and let the Superman fly over the skyline.
The chains were released, and I felt free. With music playing in my ears, my smile was deep as I wandered through the grounds, looking out on the city where I chose three years ago to make my new home. On the way down the hillside, instead of thinking of my past, I thought of a dream apartment in Los Feliz, a new car, a job that would thrill me. The new boy flitted in and out of my mind’s eye, but I would see him soon enough and whatever would come of it would come.
But there were bigger issues at hand under that bright blue sky: After all, the next day would be Passover, and with my family and friends by my side, I would be able to sit at the Seder and celebrate my freedom, in all of its forms.