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The BS of “Follow Your Passion”

“Follow your passion.”

Huh?

This idea of following one’s passion has never sat right with me. Today it’s particularly stressing me out and so I’ve given it some thought and upon a certain amount of introspection, I’ve decided that there are two parts of this idea that are faulty.

1. The singularity of it

This idea that is supposedly so freeing is, in fact, extremely restraining, namely because it makes the terrible and silly assumption that we only have one passion. It’s very nice and good to focus on one of your passions for a short or extended period of time, maybe even for your whole life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things you’re passionate about. It’s just that we need to make a decision about what to focus on or else we’ll never get anything done. That’s all.

2. The damn word

Also, the word “passion” irks me. Maybe that’s because it gives the impression that the subject of your passion should cause you great feelings of meaning and enthusiasm on a constant basis when, in fact, that thing, when broken down, is as mundane as anything else in life. Not to mention the important fact that the reasons we are driven to focus on certain things is not only “passion.” For me, for example, it’s also out of trying to find something that works with my personality as a highly sensitive, highly questioning person.

Yes, there might very well be moments of passion but it is far from the only factor in our decisions to do what we do.

The new way to say it?

Point being, I think instead people should say:

“Follow one of the things you feel drawn to if you feel and believe that’s the right thing for you right now.”

:)

Photo source

handshake

Why Men Don’t Shake My Hand

Watching the movie Suffragettes made me into a feminist. Of course I always believed in women having completely equal rights and security as men but I never gave it much thought. But watching that movie brought me to the horrifying understanding of the alternative, which isn’t a fantasy. It is how it was in the past, with women working for substantially lower wages, working harder, dying from diseases they developed from terrible work conditions, having no protection against rape by husbands, having no rights on their kids, etc. etc. Horrifying.

Since I saw that movie I’ve become much more sensitive and conscious of potentially being treated differently because I’m a woman. I currently live in a very male-dominated world – working in a coworking space where I’m often the only woman and a lot of my friends today are wonderful men.

And one thing I seem to notice is that many men shake hands with each other but not with me. Like, within the same 30 seconds two men might shake hands and then nod at me.

I don’t know how to feel about this. I have felt a little annoyed by it but I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing. Men and women are different and no matter what we do, I’m pretty sure there will always be that awkward tension between the two sexes (well, besides with gays which is a different story, of course) and although I do prefer to shake hands in most cases, there is something nice about having that little bit of distance.

At the same time, it’s just a hand shake. If the person is religious then that’s completely different but there are many non-religious (or at least not outwardly religious) men who have that extra distance and that is a little strange to me.

What do you think about it?

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Do I Have a Mental Illness?

In my last post I mentioned the term “mental illness” and it’s been making me uncomfortable since the moment I typed it down.

Mental illness. Am I “mentally ill”? That sounds so terrible. I imagine myself not as the girl sitting in my work hub at 9:30 on a Sunday morning shmoozing with my colleagues, listening to a new playlist from a friend and checking my Facebook, but someone who does strange things, can’t easily communicate with others and can barely scrape by because their mental illness prevents them from functioning normally.

Yikes.

I need to ask my shiny new psychiatrist what she diagnosed me with but I’d think it’s some kind of generalized anxiety disorder or minor to moderate depression but even so I asked my social worker friend if what I have, whatever it is exactly, is a mental illness. She wrote:

Good question. I think whatever is in the DSM is considered a mental illness but there is a spectrum and anxiety is on the lower side, not as severe. Actually there are 2 axis and this is on axis 1 which is less severe.

The DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. For example, Jerusalem syndrome, “the mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences that are triggered by a visit to the city of Jerusalem” is in there.

jerusalem syndrome wikimediaHmmm… Is Jerusalem syndrome axis 1 or 2, I wonder…

Anyway, I have two connected issues with using the term mental illness in regards to myself. First, yes, I suffer and it’s painful what I go through. But I don’t think I compare to people who have full-fledged depression or other mental illnesses which render them heart-breakingly low functioning. So when I use that term, I feel like I’m misrepresenting all those people who are struggling and suffering in more intense ways than I am.

Second, yes, I’m worried about the stigma. Even if technically generalized anxiety disorder (yeah, I’m diagnosing myself until my next appointment with my doctor), is in the DSM, I’m fully functioning and I have a lot of happy, productive times.

There’s another issue I have which is that the moment I write something down, it partially stops being true. It’s like how when we go to the doctor we suddenly don’t have the symptom anymore? Same but with my writing. They say writing is therapeutic but it can’t be that it’s curing me, can it?

No, I don’t think it is, but at the same time, I feel like a fake saying I’m suffering from any mental illness, even axis 1 ones which are less severe.

Point being, let’s take the terminology with a grain of salt, shall we? You’re welcome to weigh in on this if you have thoughts on it.

Thanks.

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starbucks in amsterdam june 2016

To Share Or Not To Share

It’s been a hard last few months. My grandmother died on Hanukkah, in December 2015, and unlike my grandmother who was sure she knew where we go when we die, I don’t know. And not knowing what has happened to her, where she is now, has made it very hard for me to acclimate to her being gone.

That and a few other things I’m dealing with have all taken their toll on me with the current culmination being anxiety attacks which I’ve been suffering from periodically for a few months now.

The attacks mainly happen when I’m with my loved ones. The first one was with my parents and little sister when I had them over for dinner. I sat there having a lovely time and then I just couldn’t shake the fact that this is all so fleeting. And then I started feeling like I was going outside of myself, hearing myself and seeing the scene from the outside. And I got very scared.

Until that point I’d never experienced anxiety like that. I’ve performed in front of audiences and felt so terrified that my foot was shaking too much to press the piano pedals. I’ve felt depressed and left Israel and moved to Vancouver, a place I’d never been, adding that to the list of scariest things I’ve ever done. I’ve taken exams which were too hard for me and organized events which made me feel very vulnerable. Once when feeling very connected to the man I was dating, I cried from deep sadness over the fact that one day I’d have to be parted from him.

But the feelings I had that evening were of a different caliber and one of my first thoughts was: Give me a pill for this. NOW. (Something I’ve since done – maybe more on that later.)

“So that’s the difference between being really stressed and an actual anxiety attack,” I’ve said many times since then when trying to describe to people what a terrible thing this is, realizing I had no idea (and still don’t) what others are going through when they suffer from any kind of anxiety, depression or other mental illness.

An anxiety attack is a whole other ball game. Not to mention the terrible fact that it is a game-changer, potentially affecting my decisions, inhibiting me and making me fearful to go out into the world and do what I want to do.

And to think of all the people suffering in this and other ways…

I’ve since had a few other attacks, almost always while with loved ones. I think we all need that thing that comforts us in this world – religion, spirituality, faith, or something of the sort – and since I don’t really have that, I start getting overwhelmed when with the people I love and find that I needed to remove myself from the situation in order to calm down.

The thing is that although the attacks are new, the underlying thoughts and feelings are not. As a child I remember lying in bed and being hit by the illogical nature of the vast universe. My inability to process the information sent a surge of fear pulsing through my body and I needed to force myself to think of something else. When relatives would die, I didn’t understand how people could just continue on like this was OK. (My aunt recently told me she thought all humans should go on strike. Stop everything and say to the Heavens, “We are not continuing on until You explain to us what this is all about.”)

While teachers taught us about math and literature and Torah, I didn’t understand why any of it mattered and how people could so often act as though they understood anything about anything.

And it has all always boiled down to the most basic of questions:

Does any of this matter? Does any of this make sense?

Not that I really want you to know any of this…

I think one of the reasons I have barely written anything personal over the last few years is because on the one hand what can I write if not the really personal stuff? But on the other hand, there are repercussions to sharing such personal experiences.

And so, if you don’t mind, I’d like to outline the main reasons I hesitate talking about my emotional issues, dark thoughts and ensuing medical care and the reasons I just might do it anyway (oh, I think I’m doing it already).

Maybe see this sort of as our contract for me to write about these personal topics and for you to read them with care.

Why I don’t want to share this with you

First, I feel badly talking about disturbing facts about reality (the aforementioned death and suffering among others) because if you aren’t thinking about them then why bring them up? It’ll only upset you.

Second, the amount and complexity of thoughts and feelings going on in my (well, our) head is way more than is possible to really process and get down on paper and so writing or talking always falls short of reality.

Third, there is the worrisome issue of what people will think. This makes me feel vulnerable.

Fourth, sometimes it’s good to talk about these things and sometimes it’s too much. Some of the good people who will read my pieces will want to talk about it. Though touching, this can be very draining and I may not always be up to it.

Fifth, I don’t want sympathy or advice and, again, I know that some well-meaning people might try to give those to me.

Sixth, I hope this doesn’t negatively impact my professional life. I am building up a business and although I think people shouldn’t have to be perfect in the professional sphere, just like we shouldn’t have to be perfect in the personal one, still, I wouldn’t want my openness to affect people’s perceptions of me on a professional level. And on a personal level? Well, it does impacts me and for some reason I’m OK with that right now.

Why I might share this with you anyway

And yet with all those concerns voiced, I still really do want to write about this. I believe it’s a good thing to do and here are some reasons why:

First, for years I’ve been watching videos and reading articles about the taboo of mental illness and how detrimental that is to those who suffer from it and so really I want to jump at the opportunity to help break the taboo, now that I have the chance.

Second, others who are suffering might feel more understood and less alone if they can relate to what I write.

Third, I hate when people idealize other people’s lives. I am prone to that too and it drives me crazy how often we wistfully gaze at others and wish our lives could be more like theirs. I love the idea of bursting people’s (mine and others’) bubbles.

And fourth, I believe that the source of my anxiety – namely, ongoing dark thoughts about the world – are the most important difficult truths about our existence, so how could we not talk about them? That’s ludicrous.

So, will I do it?

Maybe…..

For a few weeks I have been yearning to tell you about my crazy experience when I had an anxiety attack on a train ride from Amsterdam to Berlin a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I’ll finish working on it now and publish it. I hope you’ll stay tuned.

One final thing

I’m still the Deena you know (and love:).

It’s not that I walk around with no sense of meaning or purpose. On the contrary. I am often very excited about the work I do. I love the people in my life who enrich my world in the most beautiful ways. I get passionate and I get into a flow which can make my days go quickly in the most exciting sense.

But there is also this added dimension which is a big struggle. It is a major part of what defines the way I see things and the choices I make. It may not be all of who I am, but it definitely is a part of me.

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9 Philosophies from an Entrepreneur in the Wind

Entrepreneurship is very important to me. It is this lifestyle that opens up the opportunity for me to develop the ideas I have, work with the people I want to and influence the things that really matter to me.

But it’s also a very difficult lifestyle. I am often trying to figure out not only how to put one foot in front of the other, but which direction to put that foot in. I am forever competing with self doubt in a lifestyle that demands constant decision-making, a balance between ideas and practicality and, of course, all this with the infamous uncertain and unknown future staring right back at me.

I’d like to share some of the philosophies that, when actually practiced, give me the strength to get through the day-to-day life as the woman roaming the streets of Jerusalem, consciously (and self-consciously) offering narrowly-defined services, dreaming of an innovative business with a colleague and almost always juggling too many things at once.

I hope you find this list useful.

Sometimes we're playing and only five people are listening and that's OK. (The Marakia on Koresh St. Tuesday jazz nights)
Hamarakia

1. The impostor syndrome isn’t only bad (most things aren’t only bad)

Many of us are walking around life sure we’re about to be found out as the frauds that we are. We feel like we don’t know enough and we aren’t professional enough and we marvel at the fact that people take us seriously at all.

But recently I saw a new way to look at the impostor syndrome which made me realize the upside of this painful phenomenon. Namely, that if we feel like we don’t know what we’re doing, it is a sign that we’re pushing our limits and trying new things. So, maybe we’re feeling like a newbie because we really are always learning and trying new things, which is a good thing!

Here is the animated gif which I love that inspired this thought:

I have no idea what I'm doing (Source)
I have no idea what I’m doing (Source)

2. Be really forgiving of people

While working on building up my own thing, there is little space for pettiness. It’s a world of imperfect people and being suspicious or feeling resentment towards them for making mistakes or being inconsiderate, dooms me to a life of tab-keeping. It takes too much energy and people really aren’t usually that bad.

Of course that doesn’t mean we’re never going to get upset and that there aren’t times when it’s important to get upset. But I often experience first hand the benefits of letting things slide and moving on.

Dance like everyone/nobody is looking (the Boogie)
The Boogie

3. Keeping self-absorption to a minimum

Working for myself, being my own manager and having to make decisions constantly, are all things which bring up a lot of feelings about myself. I am so aware of the responsibility I hold all on my own that my successes and my mistakes hit home very hard.

And I find it best not to dwell.

I love how my latest blog post came out? Yay! Next. I made a big mistake with my taxes last year? Oy veis mir! Learnt my lesson big-time. Moving on. I think I came off sounding a little stupid in that meeting? Ugh. Anyway… That excellent piece my colleague wrote was based on my idea? Clearly I do know what I’m doing! Woo hoo! MOVING THE FUCK ON.

Because, like in #2, we could spend our entire lives keeping tabs, trying unsuccessfully to figure out if we’re the bee’s knees or impostors indeed, and that’s a waste of a lot of perfectly good energy.

The First Station, Jerusalem
The First Station

4. Be happy for (and learn from) others

I grew up being taught to “fargin”  people their achievements and successes. Only in my adulthood did I find out that fargin is a Yiddish word, not an English one (and it is also a popular Hebrew word – לפרגן). It means to be generous of spirit and to feel truly joyful for people and their accomplishments and good fortune.

For some reason it scares me when others do good work, as though it is a sign that I missed my own boat of success. But I’m aware of the fact that this is a narrow-minded view of the world and so I think it’s good practice to show support to people in their work and celebrate their successes with them. And, of course, we can always use their successes as learning opportunities for ourselves.

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Hamazkeka

5. Always on the lookout for excellent people

Work relationships are intense and important and one of the benefits of independence is having more control over who we work with. Namely, I want to be with professional, kind and idealistic people who I truly respect, trust, enjoy, admire and can relate to.

This might sound like a lot to ask for and sometimes I feel like my pickiness might hold me back, but I also realize that this is of utmost importance to me. And when I do meet people who fit my criteria, it is often exhilarating and with (relative) confidence we can move forward together.

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6. Doing things I enjoy

Sometimes I could spend an entire week trudging through annoying work. But this isn’t the reason I’m where I’m at and at those times, I like to ask myself, “What could I choose to do with my time right now that I’d enjoy?” and I try to do that work instead.

When we stop for a moment and make sure to spend time on things we enjoy, that means we can still be productive but also create something which wants to be created and and it will inspire us to continue on.

Hummus Abu-Yoyo
Hummus Abu-Yoyo

7. My support network only goes so far

I have a wonderful support network of colleagues, friends and family. I rely on these people often and often heavily, but I have understood over time that the buck stops somewhere. In every situation, at some point we must stop talking, take control, believe in our abilities to make good decisions and move on.

Mount Scopus
Mount Scopus

8. Finding inspiration

As many people close to me know, I am in a near-constant state of asking “Why?” Why am I doing what I’m doing? Does it even matter? What does anything matter? Is this where I want to be putting my time? How do I make that decision?

To say the least, this is a strenuous place to be and I’m always looking for ways to either answer the questions, quiet the questions or give a constructive place for them. This is very personal and each person needs to find their own sources of strength and inspiration but here are a few ways in which I inspire myself:

a. I remind myself why I do what I do by going to the events I help advertise and by meeting the people behind them. Because when I sit at a dance festival in the outdoor market of Jerusalem and am moved to tears by the performances, or when I talk to the couple behind the new pop-up exhibitions in Jerusalem, I get a peek into the reasons behind my work.

b. I listen to talks and read pieces which touch upon the philosophical and psychological issues I deal with. For example, Krista Tippett’s interviews on “On Being” with deep thinkers from around the world (like this one with David Steindl-Rast where they talk about what gratitude really is) give me the opportunity to find insight into the issues that often sit in my subconscious and not feel alone with my questions.

c. I talk to people who either can relate to my internal process helping me understand and appreciate them more or can offer me different perspectives on them, helping me evolve over time. For example, it is one particular friend who has helped me respect my questioning and understand how it contributes to the work I do, taking mine and my colleague’s ideas to deeper, more innovative places.

d. I remind myself that this is not the last dance but instead just one movement in the composition of my life. Everything has worked up to this point and is continuing to work up to some future unknown point.

Independence Park, downtown Jerusalem
Independence Park

9. My personality isn’t a hindrance

Sometimes I get upset at myself, for certain personality traits I possess, and I think that they hold me back. For example, my constant questioning of “Why?” mentioned in #8 has often infuriated me since it makes me lack the carefree spirit which I have idealized in other entrepreneurs as their way to move forwards without always looking back or thinking too much.

But I am reminded, also via the tools I mentioned in #8, that who I am is the reason I do what I do, not the thing that gets in the way. For example, my sensitivity and awareness towards others, though tiring and intense, often allow me to connect with people in wonderful and inspiring ways.

I think that when we’re upset about certain things about ourselves, it’s a good idea to stop for a moment to ask ourselves how these traits might also contribute towards our goals, hopes and dreams, not only holding us back. Because the more we respect who we are, the more we can tap into our unique selves and create our own unique work.

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The Israel Museum

How about you?

If I had written this list a few months ago, it would probably look different. It’ll probably look different in a few months from now too since the things I’m dealing with change and I’m always looking for new ways to deal with the challenges and continue to grow. What helps you stay strong, persevere and carry on?

Curious what I do? Join Things to do in Jerusalem to get a taste.

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Flawed Memories

Image: My Bubby and me, August 8, 2013

There’s nothing romantic about death.

You say goodbye to someone you love, or someone you’ve known or someone you didn’t know so well or someone you wish you’d known better, or someone you liked a little or liked a lot or really didn’t like very much at all. And when there is no life left in their body, when, in an instant, it becomes a temporary mass of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus, you are slapped with the reality that our bodies are only vessels and that’s one thing that is completely clear.

And where does the person go? Where is she now? Moments after her death? Days, years, centuries afterwards? Some have no idea, some have theories, others think they know.

I woke up 20 minutes after my grandmother died. It’s one of the things I’m struggling with, as though I should have been awake, even if I was thousands of miles away. Either my soul should have sensed it or I should have been told she was leaving so I could cry about it while she was still here. I am laden with guilt following my grandmother’s death, almost as though it is a way to hold on to something, instead of letting her become simply a memory. She is a weight on my shoulders, as though that will give me some control, an occupation, as though, if I feel guilty enough, maybe she’ll come back to let me finish the job of good granddaughter.

But I keep thinking about how Bubby herself dealt with death. The death of her beloved parents. The death of her beloved husband and her best friend in one year. The death of her second beloved husband. The death of her son in law which left her daughter a widow, just one month after she had become one for the second time. The death of other close friends and relatives…

And I think that that thing that takes me fully into a task, into a moment, the great joy I feel in my accomplishments, my laughs with good friends, my good times with my family… That thing which makes me revel in life and my heart burst with love… I can feel it moving me onto this next stage in my life and I think it is what kept my Bubby moving on, time and again.

The one time I heard my Bubby curse was the day I called to tell her I don’t keep Shabbat. I didn’t want to lie to her about my shabbatot in Vancouver and so I told her that I drive to synagogue on Shabbat and she got so angry at me. She said, “That’s bullshit!” and then she asked me to write her a letter explaining my choice.

And then we continued on in our relationship. She took immense pride in her personal, authentic relationships with her grandchildren and I took immense pride in my part in that.

And with all the realness, she cherished me. I was a far from perfect granddaughter but she just loved me.

It often felt as though Bubby possessed some kind of deeper understanding of the world than I do. Her “simple faith,” something I observed with awe, respect and envy from the other side of the chasm, gave her an aura of romance and beauty that made her very attractive.

And I think that her “simple faith” was one of the things that kept her consistently determined to put one step in front of the other with a smile.

Bubby wasn’t always easy. I think most of us who were close to her had many times that we felt frustrated with her. But I’m not upset with her today because those memories fall away and I just recall her love for us, her beauty, her constant singing, her great pride and her contagious enthusiasm. I suppose, if she’s also thinking about me, she will be thinking of the good, which is what she always did. She’ll be remembering our conversations, going out shopping together, eating together, praying on the High Holidays together… And she’ll be feeling great pride for the person I am, as she always did.

It’s hard to let go of the guilt. There is no one to blame my shortcomings on but myself. There is no one to apologize to. And I don’t want to kid myself into thinking I would have been different given a second chance. Saying that would mean disregarding the complexity of what was and the reasons behind how I am.

Life is a great balancing act and it’s full of stumbles, falls, scraped knees and scraped hearts.

But it’s also full of getting back up, of hugs and kisses and singing together and holding hands and laughing and reveling in life’s experiences together, and I’d like to think that if I were to say, “Bubby, I’m sorry for the times I got upset at you. I’m sorry for not calling more often during the last year of your life,” she might say, “I don’t remember you getting upset at me. And that last year was hard on us all. But Deena, why are you thinking about that? Don’t you remember all the times we laughed together? And you looked hysterical in those curlers. And you’re the best.”

The symbolic act of a walk

Today my Uncle Avrum got up from shiva, the seven day mourning period when the immediate relatives of the deceased sit on low chairs as friends, family and acquaintances pay respects. As his shiva came to an end, we stood by him and gave him our condolences for the passing of his mother, my grandmother. He then stood up, put on his outdoor shoes, put on his jacket and went for a walk around the block by himself.

Avrum’s first reventuring out into the world seemed almost like a rebirth as a new person into an altered world. He has spent the last week embraced by those who love him and now he’s begun his reintegration into the world.

On the one hand it is so sad to see my uncle take his first steps. On the other hand, the post-shiva walk symbolizes the inner strength of the individual, especially the strength of which we are unaware.

I know those steps were only the first of many which will sometimes feel heavy, sometimes empty and sometimes full of potential. When Avrum came back, I gave him a hug and we all sat back down with our loved ones to have breakfast and to talk. Because thankfully he the cocoon of the home and family will continue to be there, waiting for his return.

חזק ואמץ.

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The buzz killer

I’m currently participating in the JCC Association’s Innovation Lab: Jerusalem. I’m meeting dozens of dedicated JCC leaders from the United States who’ve come to Jerusalem to be inspired by local talent and initiatives and I’ve had the opportunity to get an up-close look at so much of Jerusalem’s innovation.

During these days I’ve thought a lot about what I do, shared my ideas with participants and it has helped me realize more than ever the importance of my work – both my social-cultural events and my Jerusalem events listing. I’ve also understood how these projects could probably be beautifully extrapolated to JCCs as well as other settings.

But this is not all as rose-colored as you might think.

I just spent the last two hours lying on my bed, staring at my Facebook newsfeed, and refreshing it repeatedly; anything not to deal with “reality.” Actually, even yesterday, as I was enthusiastically talking to people about what I do, I wasn’t actually doing what I was supposed to be doing. Namely, I was supposed to finalize dates for my upcoming events but I didn’t. I pushed it off yesterday and I didn’t take care of it today. Because for all the excitement and understanding, my cold feet remain. You’d think it would be the easiest thing in the world to set the date for my next event when I’m in the zone of feeling like my work is nothing less than a personal mission. And yet instead, just like every time before this, actually doing it, is feeling like a huge leap and yet again I need to work hard to muster up the courage to take it, which sometimes works and other times doesn’t.

It almost seems that there is a downside to dreaming big and feeling inspired. Over the last couple of days we’ve talked about great successes and grand dreams. But in the end, every success and dream is laden with that nitty-gritty work and that frustrating up-hill battle. And that’s not to mention the not-so-grand dreams, well, projects, that simply still need to get done. And yes, there are some people who consistently push through their challenges with their goals always in the forefront of their minds. But many others – myself included – get scared, wondering if it’s worth it, forget why we’re doing it.

The transition from inspired to mundane is painful. Inspiration is created by looking at the big picture. The grand picture. The meaningful picture. And getting things done is about the hours of wording a Facebook event, finding the right person for a job, managing said person, figuring out financing, trying to sell your idea to others, etc. etc.

And so after the conference is over and we settle back into our regular lives, I guess we’ll all sit back down at our (messy) desks, and along with our limitations, concerns, struggles and fears, we’ll put our noses to the grind and get back to the good ol’ mundane stuff, awaiting there patiently for us inspired souls, with the hope that something has shifted towards at least one of our grand dreams.

art and music event 2

What it’s really like in Jerusalem these days

With the precarious and terrorizing situation in Jerusalem currently what it is, if you aren’t here, you can’t really know what it’s like. And so, while sitting on my balcony at 2AM, listening to the stillness of a seemingly peaceful city, with sporadic sounds of people still out having fun, I’m going to tell you what it’s like in Jerusalem these days from the perspective of one Jerusalemite – yours truly.

Too much news

I’m  tapped into the news almost constantly. I look at it before I go to sleep and when I wake up. I try not to but end up doing it anyway. When I forget about it for a while, I feel a mix of relief and panic, happy for the break but wondering what might have happened since the last time I checked.

Listening for sirens

I am tuned into the sound of sirens. I can tell the difference between a regular emergency and a terrorist attack. I’ve heard the response of emergency vehicles to at least one attack. The cacaphony of sirens is unmistakable and it’s very traumatizing sitting in your house imagining what is going on right then, really very close by.

How safe I feel

How vulnerable or safe I feel fluctuates on a regular basis. Every time I am indoors, it is nerve wracking going out again. And the more I am aware of the news, the more I fear for my own safety.

Still safer than Canada?

Tonight I walked through the park to an event. Yes, tonight I walked through a park by myself. I wondered if it was a bad idea but found a couple of girls sitting eating sushi by the playground (when they turned around to make sure I wasn’t a terrorist, I told them not to worry, I don’t have a knife – we all laughed), others were exercising and still others were sitting quietly on the grass with their arms around each other. I thought, even at the best of times in Toronto I’d never walk through a park by myself at night.

Giving moral support to each other

Many people are creating initiatives to give moral support to each other. One day a family walked around the Mamilla Mall giving out notes with a candy attached. The other day a few women stood in the German Colony and handed out flowers and cookies to put a smile on people’s faces:

Women hand out flowers and cookies to cheer people up (photo by Marian Morgan)
Women hand out flowers and cookies to cheer people up (photo by Marian Morgan)

And tonight I went to an amazing music and art event created especially to give people strength:

art and music event
Art and music event at the Open Studio

Appreciating each other that much more

I keep thinking how lucky I am to be with my family and my friends. I keep thinking, “Thank you. Thank you.” And I wonder superstitiously if the more I say thank you, the more we’re protected.

Facebook for laughs and cries

My Facebook newsfeed is to a large extent about the situation and it has me infuriated one moment and laughing out loud the next.

Still alive and well

A colleague created a Facebook event in order to encourage people to post photos of themselves out, continuing on with their lives. The hashtag: #enjoyjerusalem in English and “now in Jerusalem” in Hebrew (#עכשיובירושלים). People were doing it and it was heartwarming and fun. Until the two terrible attacks in Jerusalem the following day when the businesses emptied out and people felt the need to stay home.

Empty restaurants

Seeing empty restaurants, cafes and bars open, all the tables out and welcoming, with almost no one, or literally no one, sitting in them, is absolutely heartbreaking. Jerusalem’s businesses are hit repeatedly over the years by the security situation here and it’s hard to imagine how they get through it.

empty streets
Hillel Street, a central street in downtown Jerusalem, empty on Tuesday night

Supporting businesses

A friend decided to organize a trip to the Mahane Yehuda outdoor market for drinks in order to support the businesses there. Afterwards he estimated that we spent around 800 NIS that night which was probably a large percentage of the transactions made in the normally bustling shuk bars.

empty shuk
Tahrir, normally hopping Middle Eastern style bar in the Mahane Yehuda Shuk sits empty besides for us.

A sad day in the city

The only reason I could get myself to go to the shuk that night was because I was already out. That day I’d already heard the sirens of the attack in Armon Hanatziv, I’d stood at a bus stop with other people, wishing we weren’t such a good target, traveled on the bus looking carefully around at the other passengers who were looking carefully at me, walked through a quiet downtown Jerusalem and spent the afternoon in Tmol Shilshom, a Jerusalem restaurant, where barely anyone showed up besides a handful of European tourists who, I figured, don’t have to worry about being targeted because they don’t look Jewish. I then walked around town, taking pictures of the empty restaurants and then walked to the shuk. I know that if I’d just been at home, I’d have been too afraid to venture out in the dark of the night.

Looking Jewish

I think about how looking Jewish is a liability right now and it’s so hard to see Jews, yet again, being targeted especially if they look Jewish, aka, ultra Orthodox. I jokingly write on Facebook that I want to walk around with a Canadian flag draped around my shoulders, the way I saw a tourist doing with a British flag, and a Facebook friend points out the irony and tragedy that I’m even toying with the idea of hiding my Jewish identity in the Jewish state.

Shabbat conversations about self defense

Friday night, after dinner at my friends’ home, they demonstrate stabbing each other with a fake plastic knife in a myriad of different ways and show me self defense moves for each scenario. We talk about whether or not we’d have the presence of mind to actually do something productive in such a terrifying situation and my friend, an aikido expert, explains that fear is our worst enemy because it doesn’t let us do what we’re capable of doing. He says that running away is dangerous for you because the terrorist could just run after you and stab you some more and it’s dangerous for those around you because he’s still not neutralized. He says that the last thing the terrorist expects is for you to make a move and so it’ll catch him by surprise and if you’re already stabbed, that’s also OK because a person doesn’t feel pain right away after being injured.

And for the millionth time I remember what a Holocaust survivor once said to me – that every Jew should learn krav maga – an Israeli-developed self defense system.

New walking style

Whenever out I use the new Israeli walking style implemented by many of us here – walk, look behind, no earphones, listening around us, look behind again and keep on walking.

Trying to keep track

I try to keep up with who’s been injured and killed even though it’s really hard both technically and emotionally. I look at pictures of the people who have been in the attacks, read what they have to say and hope for their full recovery.

Israeli humor

Just like during the Gulf War (which happened our first year in Israel), terrible situations bring out some serious humor among Israelis. And many of us revel in it for comic relief. For example, people are laughing about all the random items being used to fight off the terrorists – like umbrellas, selfie sticks and even nunchucks. Someone also wrote a parody song about one of the female terrorists: “She only wants to stab.” Humor maybe only Israelis can appreciate.

Pride and frustration

I fluctuate between great pride for not “being like them” and great frustration for not being stronger.

The park

It’s 2AM and I’m sitting on my balcony. Over the last hour I’ve heard teenagers hanging out in the park and now a group of bikers (seriously) chilling. There was also a biker who rode by a few minutes ago. You almost wouldn’t know that anything is wrong.

So hard to concentrate

I know I have two meetings and lots of work to do tomorrow but in general it’s so hard to concentrate while we all wait with bated breath, hoping there are no more attacks and wondering what’s going to be.

Tomorrow

Now I’m going to go to sleep and then wake up, check my phone, nervously leave for work, pray nothing happens to any of us, knowing full well we just don’t know what’s going to be. I’ll go to my meetings, talk about the situation with people, check the news and try to concentrate on my business.

And meanwhile I’ll keep saying, “Thank you. Thank you.” And I’ll keep laughing and crying and feeling infuriated and hopeful and I’ll keep holding my breath that little bit I keep holding it, hoping we’ll all be OK.

Shavua tov.