My Biggest Fear

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I’m just going to say it. I am terrified of speaking Hebrew. Actually, more accurately, I am terrified of sounding dumb, uneducated, foreign, unconfident, shaky, unsure, un-me. For me, this is scarier than the sound of rockets that wake me in the night and the constant threat of war we live with. I’m not exactly sure what it is that paralyzes me when a nice old man tries to make conversation with me in the waiting room or a construction worker/shop owner/secretary comments on how I should be doing something different with Maor (Dress him warmer! He’s boiling in there! He needs more air! Less sun!) or asks me how I like the carrier I’m using/can I believe how hot is is?/does the amber teething necklace actually work? I actually feel frozen, stuck, forgetting all language and social capabilities that I have in those moments (I promise, I actually do have some. Somewhere.) I’ve never spoken to our downstairs neighbors and I’m sure they think I am the most unfriendly tenant whenever I smile and avoid eye contact as we pass by each other on our shared walkway. When an old woman chastises me for making too much noise with my shuk cart early in the morning by simply wheeling it down the street (true story), the comebacks and retorts well up inside me and the poisonous outrage is stuck inside, lacking the necessary vessels to transport them out my mouth and into the world.

The ironic thing is that I am starving for more human interaction (outside of my amazing, english speaking community). In general, it is what feeds me and makes me who I am. In my past life, as I like to call my life up until moving here, I thrived in communication. I had intended to make my career around speaking with and connecting to people, studying the various nuanced ways to do just that. Here, I feel victorious when I successfully make an appointment or buy my groceries with the most minimal amount of questioning.

I even feel embarrassed just writing these feelings into existence (which is why it felt crucial do so), as if it makes them more real or permanent, as if it changes my situation in the least.

Please – resist the urge to give me advice. I’ve heard it all and actually have come up with all the obvious answers on my own. I actually can’t believe when a well meaning person suggests, as if it is a novel concept to me, that I just need to speak in order to feel more comfortable. That once I can speak Hebrew more confidently, I will feel more at home in all areas of my life. And therein lies the problem. This knowledge, the pressure of knowing exactly what I need to do and feeling unable to do it is building in me at every single possible moment of speaking and each time I shy away, give a one word answer, smile and nod, I feel as though I’m getting farther and farther away from ever being able to successfully speak and therefore exist here. As if I can reach a point of no return where I’ve passed up on enough chances and the doors will close. My language privileges will be revoked and I will be doomed to be silenced for the rest of eternity. Sounds a little crazy, I know. But really, if you see me on the street speaking (or not, as it may be) to someone in Hebrew, it’s all happening. The snowball effect of my self-doubt.

And what is the best-case scenario, really? That I get over my ridiculous fear and speak more freely, become relatively fluent but always with an accent, with a clear sign to all around me that I am a foreigner in my homeland (more on that soon). I am different. I will never be from here, understand all the subtleties of language and interaction, comedic timing, puns, and the like. My kids will forever be embarrassed by my attempts. It is a blow to the ego, let me tell you!

I think this is really what it comes down to. Accepting this ideal fate as different than how I’d pictured myself but ideal nonetheless. I don’t need to elaborate now on how strongly I feel about making aliyah (moving to Israel) and our part in history by doing so. And when I think about previous generations and how hard they had it, or people who are actually fleeing their birth places and cannot return, I think, “Toughen up, Jenna. You’ve got it easy! You’ll be fine.” But it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is where I am, at this moment in time (and hopefully not too many future moments) and it is real and hard and some days I’m motivated and make progress but sometimes I feel hopeless and homesick and bitter that I need to work so hard. But I do, and I will. And someday I hope, in my old age, I will meet a new, unsteady immigrant, wondering what they’ve just done and why the littlest things in life seem impossible when all the big things finally make sense and I will smile and reassure them, as I, and all those who have done this before me, are reassuring me now. Baby steps.

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{this moment}

My morning light.

My morning light.

{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Milk and Honey

Today is just like any other day, but different. It is one of those days where the first rays of sun make their way into my morning dreams, warming my pillow and inviting me to come greet the day. I wake up to my sweet baby’s curious face almost pressed up against mine and instead of closing my eyes and making a silent prayer that he will roll over and return to sleep, I am pulled into wakefulness, meeting the early sun’s invitation with curiosity and wonder.

We take our time getting out of bed, my newly crawling and standing boy and I. These quiet moments are becoming fewer and more far between as he excitedly learns to explore his new capabilities and more of the world around him. I am savoring this one like the sweetest sip at the bottom of the mug.

In a departure from the norm, I don’t reach for my phone to distract myself out of this usually uncomfortable, newly awakened state, passively allowing the notifications to fill me in on what I’ve missed since logging off. I wonder if I can sustain this state of gentle intrigue and curiosity a little longer, stretch it throughout the day into the moments where I need that softness, when it’s seemingly all curled up and retreated and all I am left with is the harsh realization of daily struggles and suffering near and far. Is it this easy to change the habit of comfortable despair – making simple choices that change the fabric of our days?

I sing to my sweet baby boy quietly, making my way through morning prayers, reminders of our place in this great universe and all that holds us. He laughs and pokes at my face. We cuddle and sing and dreamily look up and out the window at the quickly lightening sky, wondering what other sparks of refreshing newness the day will bring.

I wonder, perhaps naively, if we can somehow influence our surroundings by making these shifts internally. As I encounter the paradox of living in this holy land fraught with so much suffering and conflict, I strive to remain gentle. If I allow myself to open too much, I fear I will simply harden into another stone in the foundation of this impossible conflict and growing distrust.

The cultivated softness of the morning stays with us as we go farther into this new day. It is not in essence an easier or objectively more pleasant day – in fact my tiny companion is quite miserable with teething pains only soothed by cold pieces of watermelon and clinging onto me as go about our daily chores. Another day made up of similar events, of which we’ve had many, may leave me feeling irritated early on, seeking distraction or longing for nap times when I have a few moments to myself. Inspired by our shared early morning wonder, however, I stay with him, with the crying and clinging and vow, even if just for today, to approach even the smallest of harsh realities with gentleness, presence, and soft touches.

Holding Scattered Moments

I remember snapshots now, fragments of moments that hold together pieces of the last few months in my mind. Seems more fitting this way. It is impossible to hold it all at once and foolish to even attempt. Who am I to give voice to all of this?  Who am I to give up trying?

These snapshots flood me now that I can reflect, exhale, look forward.

Holding our breath while reading the news – the terrible news that keeps on coming. Our boys. Three boys. One family hanging between suspense and hope.

Eyes locking when an air-raid siren goes off – seeing our thoughts reflected in each other’s eyes.

Holding – as we run to a shelter, as we go get groceries. Every moment feels heightened, crucial and mundane simultaneously.

My dentist’s hands shaking in my mouth as he tells me of his son fighting this war. Waiting for no news at all. No news is good news, he reassures us both.

The wind knocked out – after getting the call, tzav 8, report for war. Holding each other, without the need for words.

Waking the baby to say goodbye, seeing the shadows, cast by the streetlight, of the sweetest embrace.

The breath of relief upon a quick return, soon followed by the guilt of our own fortune.

My baby son’s cries at a soldier’s funeral attended by thousands of strangers, family members we haven’t yet met.

More news. Articles, videos, soundbites. Searching for a piece of truth to hold onto, in hope of finding hope.

The suffering is unspeakable. It haunts me in sleep as much as in wakefulness.

The gust of wind during a dusk walk that brings me back to this moment. The paradox of calm existing next to chaos.

We’re getting there – back to something we weren’t aware of when we had it. The status quo, the calm amidst a constantly brewing storm.

All that is unimportant has fallen away. And I long for it. For a quiet that allows me to reflect.

I miss this place I didn’t know, even when.

I was held.

I am holding. We are holding for each other. All of existence mirrored in each fragmented, scattered moment.

A constant seeking for graceful wholeness, within and without.