Monday, March 11, 2013

Denial- It Ain’t Just a River South of the Border!

The joke used to go, “Denial- it ain’t just a river in Egypt!” but now that I live closer to it, I figure describing it as “south of the border” is in fact more accurate. Denial, related to the act of denying what is really happening, though perhaps the river as well, can be really comforting. 

When we moved I banked on a few things, which is what, in part, lead to my denial. When I worked for an American company, I was in denial about our finances.  Good money, for a (new) Israeli family anyway, was coming in and we didn’t have to worry too much.  My husband and I have three degrees between us so I figured we had our “smarts” to fall back on as well.  I mean, who wouldn’t want two adorable, stubborn, sharp tongued (mostly in a good way) Americans to work for them- who weren’t too shabby in the brains department, either?  And for a long time I was in denial about my health.  I’d been fat for so long, that another candy, treat, Shabbos meal, or half a cake couldn’t possibly do any damage. 

I have always been a dreamer, though sometimes to my detriment.  I occasionally find myself believing in things that even I think are crazy, but acknowledge that I need to believe because it’s what’ll get me through that moment, that crisis.  I think my religious and spiritual beliefs are pretty grounded, though on occasion they’ve been known to dance that fine line between TRUTH and Seriously Rach? Long story short, I believe in G-D, that He is guiding all of us, that things do not happen by coincidence, and that there is a purpose and a plan and a reason for everything, from birth and death to why the leaves on the trees blow in one direction vs. the other.  

Some of the things I once believed have proven to be less-than-true.  I cannot say that life has come crashing down, because in reality, it has not.  I believe strongly that living in Israel, having the merit to live here, raise my kids here, and be connected with everything that IS Judaism, is a far cry from a bad life.  But naiveté has worn thin and life’s realities have, in some significant ways, smacked me in the face and not-so-nicely told me to wake up. 

Financially, we’re not in a great spot.  Perhaps that’s not something one should say aloud, but there, I said it.  I mean, we’re not paupers, but we're not rakin' it in either.  My husband and I are trying hard to make our way here, to establish ourselves in fields that are new, as well as those that are familiar.  The trek to financial security is a tough one, particularly since financial security was perhaps taken for granted when we had it in the States.  And like Dorothy when she and Toto find themselves in Oz, I know that we are most definitely not in Kansas (or Chicago) anymore.  At this very moment, it simply is what it is, but it is our mission is to make it much more.  And not necessarily to be gazillionaires, but to get to a place where we don’t have to worry as much.  

And then there’s health.  I have, thank G-D, been in good health most of my life.  I have a string of chronic-but-not-terminal-or progressive conditions, but I’m pretty healthy.  Still, being in better health has become a family mission, especially since I learned that three of the six of us have high cholesterol, one has a fatty liver, and four of us need to lose weight.  I have reached that wonderful moment on the great journey we call aging where my body’s needs and my mind’s smugness can no longer afford to ignore each other.  My days of “just one bite, lick, nibble, taste, etc.” need to stop.  My focus has become, because it had to become, “choose what will keep me alive longer” vs. “this tastes good right now."  Is it a struggle?  Well, some days I dream about chocolate covered anything, but I feel better, my waist line has come back, and most of the time my spirit feels stronger, too. 

My health choices and need to keep making good ones have hit me like a ton of bricks,  much like the reality of my mom's poor health.  My mother is in the hospital as I write. When I called her room yesterday to find out how she was, I was met with a nurse who told me they were in the middle of an emergency, that the doctor was on his way, and that they’d call me back ASAP.  Nothing makes your heart sink quite as much as intercontinental panic.  After a small forever, I called the hospital back and learned that my mother’s blood pressure had dropped to an all- time low of 60/ 35.  Even if you don’t know what “good” or “bad” blood pressures are, trust me when I tell you that her numbers were BAD.  One of the reasons this happened?  My mother was retaining fluid and didn’t know it.  And why did she not know it?  Because she is morbidly obese and was unaware that the increased bigness in her tummy was anything different than the bigness she feels on any given day.  In short, her weight was starting to kill her.  The hospital staff did what they needed to remove the fluid and within a somewhat short amount of time, her blood pressure started to climb.  She went into the hospital because of back pain, but hasn’t walked or moved in nearly a week.  She now requires physical and occupational therapies as well monitoring for skin breakdown, range of motion, and cardiac function.   Nothing screams REALITY like this.  

I’m not sharing this to embarrass my mother, to make fun of her, or anything of the sort.   In a way, I hope this tale makes someone, anyone, really think about their health and the folks who depend on them.   See, denial is no longer an option.  My mother is a cautionary tale; being bigger than your body can maintain taxes your heart, your lungs, your digestive system, your urinary system, your skin, and every organ in between.  I can no longer afford to dream about losing weight “one day.”  I can dream about being a tall, blond, rich, stiletto’d model, but healthy and fit simply have to be my priorities, my realities.  I owe that much to myself, to my children, and to my husband.  

I can also no longer deny the need to hit the ground running -hard- when it comes to improving our financial situation.  It’s not like we’re getting massages and eating (low-fat, high fiber, miraculously tasty) bon-bons all day, but my anxieties have to give way to greater action, and ultimately greater success.  Yeah, yeah, Israeli society is tough and I already know this is gonna be yet another challenge to face.  But the point is that I need to put my big girl (but shrinking) undies on and move forward.

I will always be a dreamer.  Not an ethereal, life- is- like- the- wind- and–the-planets-now- light- some- candles- kum- baya- m’ lord, kind of dreamer, but a dreamer who tries desperately to stay positive and see things from others' perspectives.  Learning to choose hope over despair, humor over angst, progress over rumination generally serves me well.  And while these don’t always come easy they do eventually come, because I've decided that I'm gonna be happy even if it kills me!   

About 3 years ago, and I can’t believe it’s been that long, I dreamed of a life in Israel, a place where I knew I needed to be.  I liked, oh heck, I LOVED, the nice things we had in Chicago, but my kishkies kept asking me why I was waking up to the view of Sacramento Avenue instead of the Judean hills.  I’ve learned that you really shouldn’t fight your kishkies because they always win.  And if you try to pull a fast one on them and don’t listen, they'll torment you for the rest of your days.  Ultimately I decided that I didn’t want to be tormented and so eventually, my ego was told to shut up and listen to my heart, soul, and the dreamer inside. Once upon a time, I dreamed a dreamed in time gone by, but hope still remains high and life, certainly worth living.  I continue to dream that love, and hope, and goodness, and positivity will never die, and that is something, like the beauty of Les Miserables, that I simply cannot deny.

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