The Difficulty of Kibud Av Va-Em (Honoring Parents)

Honoring my parents has always been difficult to me. Most of my followers here on WordPress know that I was raised by a single mom. Don’t get me wrong, she did the best she could raising me. But for the last few years, I haven’t felt like a daughter. I feel like a lightning rod. I feel as though I’m the one who cleans up the messes and absorbs all the dysfunction, not too different from Meg Griffin of Family Guy fame. There’s a double standard between the way Mom treats me and the way she treats my stepdad. When I’m out of work, I’m expected to be the perfect obedient housemaid and clean messes I wasn’t even there to make. When Brian quit his job, he was allowed to sleep until noon and play his war games all day. Every time I try to stick up for myself, I’m never taken seriously.

Today was the last straw. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I had an angry outburst. When Mom asked me to clean up, I burst out, “Why should I? You never do!” Immediately, I regretted what I had said. Mom had a major surgery not a week ago, and I was incredibly cruel to her. But the emotional toll this has taken on me is too much. I’ve spent so much time eloping after others and trying to be selfless that I haven’t been taking proper care of myself. The worst part is that Mom doesn’t even know what she’s doing to me or how much power she has over me.

And then there’s my birth father. He has broken promise after promise after promise, not only to me but also to my sister’s as well. All three of us hate him, and not without reason. He’s never been there for any of us. He had money for cigarettes but not child support. He blamed everyone for his actions: Mom, Grandma, even me once. The guy can’t take responsibility to save his life.

One of the most well known mitzvah is that of Kibud Av Va-Em (Honoring parents). It’s one of the most difficult mitzvot I’ve tried to take on so far. It’s the only one that I’ve been truly, truly struggling with. Does this make me a bad Jew or a bad person? Does G-d even care?

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On Acts of Random Kindness

Today is the day before my mother’s surgery. She’s scared, but then we all are. My stepdad and I have been cleaning the shit out of our apartment as a result. And one of Mom’s coworkers sent us a bag of grocries from the Safeway down the street. 

Kindness isn’t something that one finds on a daily basis. In fact, it’s extremely rare in Trump’s America. Humanity is not a smart species. We elected Bush twice and Trump once. Nor are we a kind species. From politicians restricting what I can buy with food stamps and women’s rights to crime in our world, one would think that there are folks who just want to watch the world burn. But I believe we can be a kind species. 

And that’s why mitzvah actually does mean “Good deed.” There are mitzvah which can also be classified as good deeds. The world needs help, there’s no doubt about that. Do what you can to help. Give tzedakah. Volunteer. Visit a sick or lonely neighbor. Leave a nice note inside a library book. The possibilities are limitless.

Any thoughts?

Revealing my Own Pain

For a very long time now, I’ve been scared and tired. I put on this facade of being sarcastic and bad ass, when in reality I’ve been dying for years. It started when my grandfather died of thyroid cancer. My innocence died that day too, and I began to see humanity for what it was: cruel and stupid. Grandpa was the only father figure I ever had, until my stepdad came into the picture when I was fifteen. Losing someone so important…it shattered me and my whole perception of the world.
In sixth grade, something happened to me which still haunts me to this day. My mother suffers from a lot of medical issues, you see, and between her and Grandpa, I’ve been going to hospitals all my life. She had gone though another surgery, and when I asked her what was for dinner, she said to make myself a frozen meal. It may seem like a small thing, but the message my mother sent me (unknowingly and unintentionally, I’m sure) was that she didn’t want to take the time to nourish me. I don’t know, she may have been suffering from the same depression I am now or she may have still felt sick. But for an eleven year old, it’s so much more than a meal. It was a chance to bond with Mom.

Flash forward to May 2016. I was nineteen and loving my job at Home Depot. I don’t have a car so I’d take the bus to work. They kept scheduling me for shifts starting at six and seven AM. This resulted in my chronic lateness. I tried so hard to get them to stop scheduling me for early shifts but they didn’t listen and fired me for the lateness they had a role in.

My confidence shattered then. I felt like a moocher. I couldn’t pay rent. I couldn’t pay for dates. I couldn’t even risk library fines. I was two hundred dollars in overdraft debt to my previous bank at the time. It wasn’t a huge amount compared to what some folks owe, but it was enough to cause me to lay awake most nights thinking about it.

September 2016. Luca, our dog, had just died and quite frankly I wanted to join her. I mistakenly thought that the mass/blockage/whatever that killed her was caused by her eating a plastic bag that I left lying around. I took her death so hard because she was never just a dog to me. She was the only friend I had at the time. 

Despite the support system I had, I was still hurting. One day, the depression and guilt got so bad that I started thinking seriously about suicide. I got as far as writing a note, which I still have. I was so ashamed that I had reached such a low point in my life. I felt guilty over what had happened to Lu. I hated myself for how I treated my grandmother. I felt undeserving of the gift of life. What still frightens me to this day is that I actually had the means to do it. I’d gone off my sleeping pills but I hadn’t thrown them out. At the time, it seemed like a quick and painless way to go. G-d knows I’m too chickenshit and too broke to buy a gun.

I don’t know why I feel all this sadness. After all, I have an amazing boyfriend, amazing parents, friends, and I’m doing well in school. I thought misery was a luxury only the rich could afford. I didn’t seek help because I was so scared that if I did, I’d be judged unfavorably. Go ahead, call me vain, but it’s true. I thought I’d be chucked in the madhouse. I knew I had a support system. I knew that. But my subconscious didn’t seem to. It was almost as though my subconscious and my awareness were at constant war with one another. They’re both part of me. How do I choose? How do I find the balance?

Yesterday, I forgot to go to work and I thought for sure I’d be fired again. So I went to the counseling center on campus and my pain just let loose and overtook me. I’ve made a resolution to flush my sleeping pills and see a counselor once a week, or at least every other week. 

I’ve spent so many years looking after the people I love that I was afraid to let them take care of me. I felt as though G-d had abandoned me. Why else would He make me afraid of my own mind? Depression is like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body. You can’t move or even breathe. It’s like getting the Dementor’s Kiss. It fucking sucks donkey assballs.

But I’m going to live. I’m going to get my degree and have sex and do all the things my shitty mental health prevented me from doing before. I’ve made up my mind.

I am unstoppable.

#MeToo

Me too.

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted copied and pasted “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

I was thirteen. I was walking Luca when some guys in a yellow truck pulled up. The worst the driver did was wave, but it was the Latino guy next to him that did the talking. He kept saying things like “You’re pretty” and “Come with us!” The guy had to have been in his thirties at the very least. I was thirteen. It scared the shit out of me for weeks on end afterward, and I couldn’t even walk to the bus stop without looking over my shoulder.

I was thirteen.

My Take on the Nazi Bullshit in Virginia

It’s bullshit. It’s scary. It’s fucking WWII all over again. My mother is worried about me wearing my Star of David in broad daylight. I understand where Mom’s coming from, but I’m not going to give in to fear or hate. If I do, then the Nazi asswipes get exactly what they want. I’m not going to give them that satisfaction. I’m Jewish, goddamn it. That’s who I am. I’m not trading the only fucking identity I’ve ever known for anything. Not for the Nazis (yes, that’s what they are), not for Mom, not even for G-d Himself (Herself?) I don’t know any other way to be. I’m not scared for my own safety, but for my grandma’s. She’s just a seventy-something year old woman who’s obsessed with her stupid cat and Wheel of Fortune, yet there are assholes who would wish her harm. She’s everything to me, and I hope to G-d she knows it. Virginia is no place for an old Jewish lady right now.  Learn kung fu, carry mace, do whatever you have to do to stay safe. We live in a scary world right about now.

On Finding My Comfort Level with Jewish Observance

It’s finally fucking happened. After years of alternating between full kosher but no tznius, tznius but no brachos, I’ve finally figured out what I’m comfortable with Jewishly. I’ve been what I call religiously bisexual for a number of years now and it’s confused me to no end. I’ve been pissed off at the Big Man because of it, but I believe that I’ve made my peace with G-d. I used to feel as though He hated my guts. After all, why else would He plague me with an absent birth father, depression, anxiety, and constant unemployment? 

But I realize that maybe these trials were not a punishment, but a test that I damn near failed. My faith has never been strong. I don’t know if this is due to the fact that I was raised with almost no religious education (let alone a Jewish one), but all I know is that I’m happy now. I don’t have the patience to be a full on Hasid. But I’ve found where I belong in the Jewish world. After all, Judaism is who I am. I don’t know any other way to be.

I’ve just made my first bracha in a long time, and it felt damn good. If I forget a blessing, I won’t sweat it. G-d will understand. I’m still learning the ropes after all. It’s strange, feeling like this. But I like it. Thoughts?

A List of Jewish College Backpack Essentials

I will be pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education this fall semester at my local community college. There are almost no lists of backpack essentials for Jews, so here is mine:

  1. Interview folder-If you are unemployed like me, you may want to keep a folder with resumes, paper apps, and cover letters with you. This is a damn lifesaver.
  2. Pens-Self explanatory. You never know when you’ll need to write something down.
  3. Wallet-Again, self explanatory. Keep it in an easily accessible part of your bag so you don’t have to scramble for it when you need it.
  4. Keys-house, mail, car, bus pass, whatever you have. It helps if you keep them on a lanyard, which many booths at street fairs give out free.
  5. iPod/Music player-How else would you listen to kosher music? 🙂
  6. Textbooks-If you’re taking less than four classes like me, you can still put your textbooks in your bag without overcrowding it. The same goes for workbooks.
  7. Pencils-Most math classes won’t accept work written in pen. Why, I have no clue.
  8. Gum-Bad breath is a huge turn off for employers, rabbis, professors…basically everybody.
  9. Water-You would not believe how thirsty I get between classes.
  10. Snacks-See above. I’m bitchy when I’m hungry, which is why I can’t fast on Yom Kippur.
  11. Headphones-For listening to Jewish music, watching Torah classes, and listening to playback recordings of class lectures.
  12. Deodorant- I am constantly forgetting to apply it in the mornings.
  13. Pencil sharpener-So you don’t have to use the loud noisy ones and distract the rest of the class.
  14. Highlighter-Useful for classwork, homework, and Torah study.
  15. Medication-I can’t even count the number of times my medication alarm has gone off and I was nowhere near my pill sorter.
  16. Bus schedules-If you don’t have a car, these are lifesavers, especially when your phone is dead.
  17. Coloring book-Boredom is a bitch. ‘Nuff said.
  18. Notebooks for class-I take so. Many Notes.
  19. Psalm book-For prayer or study. Mine was from Amazon, and is travel size.
  20. Travel size siddur-I don’t want my nicer one to get messed up by all the jostling that goes on in my bag.
  21. Travel size bracha book-You would not believe how many times I’ve forgotte to say brachas for foods or even forgotten which blessings to say. I love the one from Orthodox Union.
  22. Flashlight-In case the lights go out. Mine is LED and I got it from a street fair.
  23. Laptop-For watching Torah classes and working on coursework.
  24. Sunglasses-Can’t study Torah blind, can you?
  25. Something to read-Again, boredom sucks.
  26. Chargers-Lifesavers, these things.
  27. Hair ties-I’m a messy eater. I have ended up with food in my (extremely long!) hair more times than I care to admit.
  28. Something to do-Puzzle book, Angry Birds, whatever goes.
  29. Phone-For obvious reasons.
  30. Hoodie-I’m constantly cold, and since it’s fall semester, It’s very useful.
  31. Mini hairbrush-For neatening up when you need to.
  32. Planner-For homework, interviews, laundry reminders, and other things.

Am I missing anything? If so, leave a comment below!

Song of the Resistance

On November 8, 2016, America elected a racist, xenophobic, selfish, climate change-denying orange faced bigot as its supreme leader. Trump is unfit for the Presidency. He has referred to women as pigs and dogs. He has authorized The Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, both of which are illegal according to the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1851. He has called for a total ban on people from Muslim countries coming into the United States. He has said that he would date his own daughter were she not his daughter. He has several complaints of sexual assault under his belt. He cares nothing for seniors, women, people of color, the LGBT community, veterans, or immigrants. He is in clear violation of the Emoluments Clause. He is a narcissist. He is completely unqualified for the job.

  Fear is the best sort of breeding ground for this regime. Everyone in this country is living in fear right now. They go about their business, doing their thing, and don’t act because no one they care about is safe anymore. And they have every right to be scared. They could be deported or arrested or even killed in a hate crime. The regime is insane.

  That’s what we need to do. We need to educate people about what Trump is really doing. We need to donate to Planned Parenthood or PFLAGG. We need to get in constant contact with our elected officials. We need to march. We need to fight back in any way we can. Trump can’t shut the whole country up. We are the silent majority. I will not be silenced anymore. I’m done sitting on my ass, unable to do anything. I believe in a free America, not a dictatorship. I will fight. Will you?

 

  

Asking G-d Why

You may not have seen, but there’s a disturbing video circulating the Internet. No, it’s not uncensored porn or that scene in Christmas Vacation where Clark loses his shit. It’s even more sinister. On Dec. 30, 12-year-old Katelyn Nicole Davis, from Cedartown, Georgia, used the social streaming app Live.Me to broadcast her suicide. I haven’t been brave enough to see the video yet. Her parents took it off her Facebook page, but you can still find it. My question is, who would even want to see that? That poor girl felt she had no other way out, and for people to goggle at her last moments like a monkey in a zoo is just tasteless. This is why we need to destigmatize mental illness in America. It can strike anywhere. Let me put it this way: Depression is caring about nothing. Anxiety is caring about every. Single. Thing. Having them both is hell. Hell isn’t a fiery pit or a Breitbart article. Hell is depression. Hell is being paralyzed with sadness to the point where you can’t breathe. You can’t think. It’s not about anything but crippling, drowning pain. Hell is spending most of your nights in a panic or in tears or both. I’m lucky. I have access to meds. Between my best friend and my boyfriend, I have a good support system. But for Kaitlyn Davis, help didn’t come too late. It didn’t come at all. Ave atque vale, Kaitlyn Davis. Hail and farewell, Kaitlyn Davis.

My Boyfriend and My Faith

I always thought online dating was all bullshit, which is why I was wary when I signed up for okcupid. It’s how my mom met her boyfriend, and those two are as in love now as they were when they met nearly five years ago. So at Mom’s suggestion, I gave it a shot. It was a complete misfire, which is why I now call it okstupid. I even got a dick pic from one guy!

So naturally, it was extremely reluctantly that I signed up for Plenty of Fish. There were a couple of duds, but by about the third or fourth guy I messaged, I began to see the light. His name was Jack* and we hit it off right away. Dating is a lot like jobsearching: you’re going to screw up, but you’ll find the right one eventually.

Jack and I have now been dating two months and things couldn’t be better. He knows damn well I’m Jewish, but what he doesn’t know is that I’m Orthodox. He sometimes jokes that he’s a self-professed heathen, whatever that means. 

I think I know why some people don’t bother with the whole G-d thing. People do some fucked up shit in the name of religion. But the thing is, it’s those people that give us nice Jews such a shitty rap.

Jack and I get along great, and for that I’m grateful. After all, I’m only ever at peace when I’m with him. 

Any thoughts?

*Name has been changed to protect privacy