Friday, July 27, 2007

Is This What the Sofa Feels Like?

As mentioned previously, I've been extremely restless the past few weeks, and have been questioning almost every aspect of my life. Frumkeit, men, friendships, men, staying in Chicago, and men are currently at the top of the list. Last time, I raised the subject of frumkeit, but we'll leave that on a back burner for now. We'll skip over men, and jump on ahead over to the realm of friendships...

I have a good friend who's a grad student in clinical psychology. Actually, I have several friends studying clinical psych, so we'll give this one the codename "JL". In a recent conversation, JL and I shared an empathetic moment over being Wierdo Magnets. They just seem to find us, and we decided the primary reason for this is that we are nice to them, whereas many other people just make them feel like freaks. Okay, so we're nice people. What's the problem? Well, this thought was apparently percolating in my brain for a while, and suddenly out popped:

Uncomfortable Realization #264
I'm always the therapist, and rarely the patient.

For years, I've found myself in the position of sounding board, Wise Guru, stalwart friend, and/or shoulder to cry on for many, many people. And I'm not complaining, though it probably seems that way. I'm happy to be there when people need me. In fact, I carry lingering guilt over the few times I wasn't able to be there for someone.

The issue here is that there are very few people that serve the same role in my life. Admittedly, I'm usually a fairly low-key, level-headed, self-aware individual, and thus rarely truly in need of a sounding board, Wise Guru, stalwart friend or shoulder to cry on. And in the cases where I truly have been in need, my friends have always come through.

But what about those times where I'm not actually in crisis? What about when I'm just inexplicably disgruntled? So many of those friends who repeatedly call on me to listen to their gripes, however small, just don't have time for me when I wish for them to return the favor. Or, just as often, I'm in a good mood, and they're too busy dealing with their own issues to let me bubble (or babble). Or they're just plain busy.

Am I a doormat? Am I really just letting people take advantage of me? Probably not. But asking such questions led directly to:

Uncomfortable Realization #265
I have intimacy issues, and have difficulty letting others in.

To be continued. I don't feel like talking about it right now. Let's talk about you...

House Cleaning

Dear Honored Visitors,

Please be informed that the appearance of this blog may change in the near future. The Fraggles will probably stay, but everything else is yet to be determined. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience.

Cara's World Ministry of Tourism

Maybe this is just a tiny aspect of the restlessness that's been plaguing me lately. Whatever the cause, this is just a heads-up to those few people who visit here that it's time for a new look. This may be a temporary revival, due to my having more downtime and more computer access than I've had in the past year, but I've decided that it's time to revamp my little cyber-world.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Questions, Questions, Questions

The rav of my childhood, Rabbi Joseph Deitcher, z"l, taught that, in Judaism, it was always permissible to question, as long as questioning didn't stop you from doing. I've had reason to reference this concept many times over the years, usually in the context of the weekly vort I give at my shul during seudah shlishit. I live in a community with a very large, very newly BT population, many of whom are still trying to figure out this whole frumkeit thing. Many of whom are "shabbos frum" and not yet at a point where they are careful about (or aware of) other mitzvot that impact the other six days of the week.

Why do I bring this up? Because, for the past month or so, I've found myself really questioning why I do what I do. Why I live my life this way. Don't worry, I'm not falling off the derech. Just taking a close look at who I am right now. For example, do I only wear skirts because I truly believe that wearing pants is beged ish, and not tznius? Or do I only wear skirts because I'm used to it and would feel awkward going outside in pants? Or do I only wear skirts because it's what people expect of me? The act remains consistent- I only wear skirts. But the motivation is so very different. I'm trying to figure out what motivates me right now, in this current phase of my life. If I'm doing what, according to some, is the right act but for the wrong reasons, is that enough?

Wearing skirts is an easy example. This questioning, however, is bleeding over into every single aspect of my life. Well, with the exception on my kitchen. Never once have I questioned why I keep a kosher kitchen.

I suppose this is all part of one larger question: How frum do I want to be? I was at a meal this past shabbos with a couple of very nice, very BT families that are on the fast-track to fanaticism (IMHO). When a women who was once working towards her PhD starts talking about not sending her daughters to college, I get the willies. Experiences like that draw a nice, bright line in the sand for me, and I have no intention of crossing it.

In essence, I guess I'm having a Modern Orthodox moment. How modern can I be without leaving the world of Orthodoxy, and how frum can I be while still staying modern?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Alone in a Large Crowd

I wasn't going to post this, but my friend Trep just inspired me to do so after all. I don't like to write posts that seem to kvetch about other people, especially on matters of religious observance. It's actually one of my largest peeves that so many people in my shul like to gripe about others. It seems particularly wrong on Tisha B'Av, when hatred between Jews led to the destruction of the Second Temple, and to our continued exile.

However, Trep's post about searching for the right atmosphere on Tisha B'Av resonated so strongly that I felt the need to express myself on this subject.

Last night, during Eichah and afterwards, I found myself disgruntled because so many of the people in my shul were treating this as a social event. They couldn't even wait to leave the shul building before the hand shakes, back slapping and laughing began. Someone had even brought a small child into the shul during Eichah, so some of the men reading had to compete with the sound of a child's laughter. Normally one of my favorite sounds in this world, it was completely inappropriate last night. And this happens every year. The rabbi always makes a special point of emphasizing that we traditionally do not greet people on Tisha B'Av, and it always falls upon deaf ears.

I always have the same reaction. First I find myself irritated that so many people 1) seem to miss the point, and 2) blatantly ignore what the rav of the shul just said 2 seconds ago. After all, I clearly remember my father teaching me that we don't greet people on Tisha B'Av, that this is a sad occasion, and that no one will take it as rude if I don't say hello. I learned this well over a decade ago, so why can't other people grasp this concept?

Then the second reaction sets in- I feel guilty for thinking negatively about others. I start thinking that these kind of thoughts, directed at other Jews for not behaving in the way that I was taught as proper, are really no different than the thoughts that eventually turned into sinat chinam, the baseless hatred that caused the destruction of the Temple. And then I start thinking about relationships between different Jewish denominations today, and how little has changed. We still have these giant chasms between different groups of Jews, and still have far too many people unwilling to bridge those chasms.

Last night followed this same pattern. So I did what I always do- I made my way through the crowds of people, not greeting anyway, and scooted on home to think in solitude. Trep's post, and the beautiful picture he posted, made me realize that it really doesn't have to be this way.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Snayim Stats- Weeks 6 & 7

Being behind on my sports reporting, I'm lumping in the past two weeks of softball. I'm guessing that, since none of you particularly care how my team does, none of you particularly care about a lumped post.

Week 6: This one was a heart-breaker. We quickly found ourselves down a few runs, something like 4-1. And then it was more like 7-1. And then, in the very last inning, we had a late rally...and ended up 2 short. Final score: 7-5. But it was a good game nonetheless.

Week 7: WE WON!! Like the week before, we soon found ourselves down a few. Like 6-1. I, personally, played as though I'd never had an opposable thumb before and couldn't quite figure out how to work it. Then we scored 6 in one inning. Now it's 7-6 Snayim. Then we scored more. Final score: 13-7.

So, we go into the final game of the season with a 2-5 record, playing against an 0-7 team. I've been practicing using my opposable thumbs every day, so maybe I won't suck quite as much this time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'm Smarter Than Othello

I know I usually don't get very personal with my posts. This was different in the past, when my paternal unit didn't know that I had a blog. Ever since my world was discovered by the Paternal Exploration Team, I've been reluctant to share thoughts about certain realms of my world, particularly those inhabited by the strange alien creature commonly known as Boy.

Given my current dry spell, there's really not that much of interest to report on interactions with these creatures. I have noticed, over the years, that I do have a particular tendency towards a certain emotion when I'm particularly intrigued by a Boy creature.

I get jealous.

I'm not proud of this at all. I like to think of myself as being somewhat more level-headed and down-to-earth than many 20-something females, so I have never liked this particular irrational tendency. Even worse, being jealous has led me to do and say some truly stupid things. Like drink too much, and then call the particularly intriguing Boy creature in the wee hours of the morning, pouring out my heart and demanding to know 1) what's going on with the other girl, and 2) how he really feels about me. Not smart. Very not smart. I don't like feeling not smart.

I found out over the weekend that a particularly intriguing Boy creature (who has intrigued me for a particularly long time) had gone out a few times with a girl I know from a past life. Did I get jealous? Yes. Did I go psycho? No!

I totally kept my cool. In fact, I'm not certain he even knows that I know. And it doesn't matter. Why? Because I was able to stay logical. Rational. Down-to-earth. Level-headed. In other words, my brain retained its normal level of functioning. I learned what I needed to learn, and then I processed it, and arrived at a very important conclusion: It doesn't matter.

Not that this particularly intriguing Boy creature doesn't matter. He really, really does. But his taking this other girl out doesn't matter. There are several factors indicating that whatever is/was between them is going nowhere. There are multiple signs that indicate that he continues to find me particularly intriguing. Nothing has really changed at all. And, since he and I are not in any kind of exclusive relationship, he's 100% allowed to date other girls. And I'm 100% allowed to be intrigued by other Boy creatures.

At the end of the day, I'm so proud of myself. I finally conquered a personal demon. Take that, green-eyed monster! You, and the Iago you rode in on!

Monday, July 16, 2007

I Heart Killer Squirrels

I realize that I've neglected to post Snayim stats for Week 6, as well as for yesterday's game. I'll get to it later. I really just wanted to take a minute to say how much I love my team.

I joined the Snayim because I wanted to play softball. My pal Eric asked if I wanted to play, I said yes. Easy. I only knew a couple of other people on my team. I realized after the first week that it was a great chance to meet some new people (something I really need to do) and get out more. And these people are fantastic.

What makes me rhapsodize about the Snayim right now? In a nutshell, they care. My very good friend Elizabeth lost her grandmother, a"h, this past Shabbat. I sent an email out at 9:35 this morning to the team, with shiva information. By 9:41, I had four responses from people who wanted to go, and were offering to drive so that others could go as well. Only one of those people had really been friends with Elizabeth before the softball season, and he and I had already discussed carpooling the previous night.

In other words, it took people a total of 6 minutes to decide to go to the shiva of the grandmother of a girl they've known for less than two months, whom they see once a week. And since it's so early in the day, and the week, I have no doubt that there will be more emails coming from other Snayim.

Maybe this seems like nothing to an outside reader. But for someone who's been feeling socially disconnected, and disheartened about the difficulty of forging new, strong friendships, the past 20 minutes have been heart-warming.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Grad School: Year Two

I started my new field placement this week. I'll still be working part-time in the Autism program for the rest of the summer, but now I'll be spending 3 days a week at a new location with a new supervisor, a whole new client population, and a whole lot to learn.

Don't get me wrong- I am super, super excited. My new placement is absolutely amazing: an intellectual paradise. There's so much fascinating and truly cutting-edge research going on, in an atmosphere that encourages curiosity and questions. Since it's part of a teaching institution, trainees are welcomed and encouraged by the entire faculty. We're there to learn, and they're there to teach. It's amazing.

That said, I'm a bit overwhelmed. I'm going to be working with children with a very different set of presenting concerns than I'm used to. And these kids can converse, which means therapy will be structured very differently. There's just so much to absorb, and I've already been given my first 5 cases. Sink or swim!

I won't be posting much about the details of what I do. Confidentiality, and all that. But I may post periodically on my reflections about what I do. Unlike last year, my second year of grad school is very focused on my area of specialization. And I'm specializing in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. So all of my classes are about mental health: social work practice in mental health settings, mental health policy, mental health with children...and that's just 1st semester.

I'm so excited!!! And yes, I am a dork.

Snayim Stats- Week 5

Ok, so this is a bit late, but...


That's right, folks, the Killer Snayim have finally won a game! And this was a very important game, too. In the time-honored fashion of Jewish singledom, this game was replete with drama. Two of the male Snayim had ex-girlfriends on the opposite team, creating that "must win" drive we needed. The competition going into the game was fierce (and I'm not being sarcastic here), to the point that one of the Snayim recruited a former college baseball player to join our pack (temporarily), just in case we were short a player.

It was a beautiful game. We simply crushed them, winning 11-1 by slaughter rule. And it wasn't just that they were really bad...we also happened to play really well. All of the little fielding errors and overthrows that had cost us bases and runs in previous weeks miraculously disappeared. We were like a well-oiled machine. The one run that got by us had been hit so hard into left field that there was really no way we could have gotten it back to the infield in time. It was a legit homerun (or as legit as a homerun can be in 16" Jewish Federation softball).

Fielding highlight: we managed to turn a double play. It was gorgeous. Puurrrrrrr.

The Killer Snayim are now 1-4. This week's enemy is 2-3, but rumor has it that one of those wins was by forfeit, so we should be evenly matched. Time to stretch our winning streak!

Personal stats: I went 3-3 this week. At my first at bat, I sent the ball sailing over the shortstop's head. It taught her not to underestimate the little girl with the big bat. My other two hits were actually pretty weak, but I somehow got on base anyway. I did accomplish something unprecedented at practice last night: I learned how to make the ball go where I want it to. If I don't choke under pressure this week, maybe I can knock in a few RBIs.