Moving trauma, vicarious, 2014

Almost 15 years ago, my husband joined me in Israel- he and a shipping container full of stuff. I had already been living in our home in Modi’in with pretty much everything I needed. We rented a nearby storage room and little by little, emptied the contents of the storage room into our home- pretty much filling it up.

That was my last move. Since we married, I had moved 18 times. Every time, it was traumatic.

But it has been almost 15 years. This time it is my daughter who is moving and all I had to do was to see if the packers had finished their job and to lock up the house.

As I looked around the house that profound sense of loss that I had with every move returned with the same strength it had had in the past. It was just so sad. It hurt to see their life packed up in a bunch of boxes and all of the attendant mess that moving engenders.

I began to think about what it was that was so sad for me. I remembered our moves. I remembered leaving the home we lived in when our first baby was conceived and born. I looked back at the living room and saw the people gathered to celebrate his brit. I remembered the apartment where he said his first words and took his first steps. I remember the home where on a sunny spring day bushes full of white blossoms greeted me as I brought home my new daughter. I remember the house with the two yellow bean bag chairs that sat just a little too close to the baseboard heaters and the enormous effort I had to make to get out of them heavily pregnant. I remember piling into the station wagon with four little children and saying goodbye to the home we had painted and papered and carpeted. I remember our oldest son leaving his vegetable garden and my daughter leaving her plant and all of them leaving the “Mother Nature Tree” and the swamp where they played. I remember leaving the apartment where we voted on the fifth child and then the new one where she was born after a cold winter with only the fuschia-colored potted cyclamens brightening the snowy view. I remember the birthday party with my parents visiting and three of the children down with chickenpox, and I remember how the children loved to go to the orchard to see the “geezer” and to pick fruit. I remember the tiny home in New Jersey when we returned to the States and the beautiful big house we had after that. I remember the parties we had there for our family and for the soldiers and my parents’ visits and the joy at the big children’s return home for shabbatot. I remember the house in Boston where everyone had bedrooms, but most nights people were sleeping in the living room- and how if you ran the dishwasher and microwave at the same time the fuse two floors down in the basement would blow. How many times we forgot! But there was also sailing on the Charles for two of the boys and living close to good friends. I remember saying goodbye to our oldest as he left for Israel, the airline security man remarking that he was afraid he would drown in our tears. I remember the small house in Oklahoma with the swimming pool and the big house in Oklahoma where we had to explain that “yes, only one family lives here.” I remember leaving our next home and memories of grad school and sons visiting from high school and college. I remember leaving the next home and memories of a bat mitzvah and the births of two grandchildren.

And then I realized that the sadness is only a function of the fact that every place, every time in my life, was a good time, a happy time- filled with a beautiful family, caring friends, and happy experiences. Closing the door on each chapter was saying goodbye to beautiful times, but every new home brought its own new memories.

…and what more is there to say but to wish my daughter and her family and others going through transitions that the future be filled with beautiful moments they can cherish forever.

A paradigm shift

Thomas Kuhn in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, speaks of the need from time to time for a paradigm shift. It is needed when the existing paradigm becomes inadequate to explain things or to be employed when solving a problem.

I have come to believe that we in Israel are at the point of a paradigm shift. Our foes in Gaza, Hamas, terrorists whose goal is to eradicate the Jews from the land of Israel, are widely seen as a cancer. Now cancer is usually thought of as lethal. Certainly cancerous growths must be excised, irradiated, or chemically destroyed. And so it was when we had to stop the rocket fire on our country last week, that people were ready for the Israeli Army to enter Gaza and wipe Hamas out. Reservists expressed frustration, others said that we needed to get the job done. People were critical of the Israeli government for not putting an end to it in a decisive manner.

But look at the facts: a ground invasion would surely have cost lives including those of innocent civilians and our own soldiers. How many lives would have been lost to “teach them a lesson”?

But suppose Hamas is not a cancer. Suppose it is, instead, herpes. Herpes is forever. It erupts, it causes pain, we treat the symptoms, and then we are free of the symptoms for a long period. Oh, maybe it’s not long enough, but every time it erupts, we do what we need to do in order to eliminate the pain.

Perhaps someday our enemies will figure out that we are not going anywhere. Maybe they will understand that they will not provoke us into being savages. Maybe they even will figure out that building a society is a more worthwhile endeavor than creating a culture of hate. But until then, we will treat the virus whenever if rears its ugly head.

I miss it

Today I was folding laundry and I came to a shirt that I have that is similar to one that a woman might wear when she is pregnant. I had noticed that there were stains on it before I washed it and I held it up to see if the stains were gone. And suddenly I was remembering looking at my maternity blouses, also stained by my clumsiness when I was pregnant. I remembered looking down on my rounded belly and seeing the remnants of breakfast, lunch, midday snacks and dinner. I remember taking a dress to the dry cleaner and explaining what all of the stains were and the clerk saying “sounds like a good meal.” I thought about the feeling of a little one moving around inside. I remembered that my mother referred to the first awareness of the baby’s movements as “feeling life.” I recalled how amazing it was to feel a new life inside of me, to think and wonder about who that little person would become. I remembered feeling such love for someone who I had never seen, never met. I remembered the excitement of anticipation and the weeks and then days of waiting. And then there was the reward of spectacular births! I loved being pregnant.


*Note: This picture almost survived a fire

After the birth of our youngest child, we never thought of having another. Our family was exactly what we wanted. Now, all of the children are grown and have children of their own. I have no regrets, but every once in a while, I miss it.

Slow motion

At times when I am very busy, when the tendency is to become unsettled, upset, panicked, I employ a coping mechanism that works for me. I think the idea actually came from the opening of the old TV show, the Six Million Dollar Man. Whichever show it was showed someone running very fast, but in slow motion. He’s making all of the rapid moves, but slowly.

I picture that slow running man when I am in situations that require a lot of thinking and a high level of activity. I picture myself slowing down, taking things much more slowly than usual. The background music becomes slower, softer, more gentle. So do the thoughts swirling around in my head. By slowing down, I avoid all of the hazards of haste- the frenzied movements, things being misplaced, bumping into things, feeling stressed.

I have my list. I do things one at a time. And I take my time.

Hanging out with my buddies


(and I stay less focused)

To B- or not to B-

This week should be a very happy one. Our wonderful grandson, Yehuda, will be celebrating his becoming a Bar Mitzvah this coming shabbat. He has worked very hard, learning to chant two full torah portions (it’s a combined reading) and a special maftir and his haftarah- quite an accomplishment for a boy of 13. We have been looking forward to spending a happy, peaceful shabbat, the whole family together, at kibbutz Ein Tzurim.

So what’s the problem? Well, for about a week, the people who wanted Gaza to themselves, the ones for whom we uprooted thousands of Jews from their homes, have been firing rockets at our cities and communities that are within firing range of Gaza. They are aiming for our civilian population- firing, hiding behind their own children, safe in the knowledge that we will not target the innocent.

On Ein Tzurim, there have been sirens and people have run to shelters.

So what do we do?

Oh, I know. Both sides should show restraint. Thanks, world.

Sisters 3

This is my third post about sisters.

There was this one http://drsavta.com/wordpress/2007/07/23/sisters/

and this one http://drsavta.com/wordpress/2009/10/07/sisters-2/

because to me, this relationship is very special.

If  you have been reading my blog, you probably know that in December, my sister finally made aliya.  After over 45 years of living very far away, my sister is a 5 minute car ride away.  I can bump into her at the mall, we can see a movie together, and we can sit and talk about things that no one understands the way we do.

When she was far away, we kept in touch.  She was great about making sure to visit no matter where we were living.  She was present at most of the important times in my life.  I appreciated her and loved her.

But now, I know what a wonderful thing it is to have her here, nearby, and to not have to think about when her flight home leaves.  She is home.

If you really loved me…

I have been a family therapist for a very long time. I should have figured it out sooner, but only yesterday I realized that I had been missing something very important when thinking about certain types of cases.

From time to time I would have cases where one family member would say about another “if s/he really loved me s/he would…”

Tests of loyalty, to me, seem so beside the point. In fact, they seem foolish. Why would we expect someone to “prove” they love us by performing a specific task or acting in a manner we prescribe?  The people we love are separate from us. They have their own loves and hates, likes and dislikes, ways of expressing themselves. They show us love in their own way.

However, in this type of a relationship, they may show warmth and consideration, but heaven forbid, if they fail the litmus test the other has created, the whole relationship is at risk.

Sometimes, couples, in order to feel more appreciated and loved,  have to adjust the ways in which they show love. She would like flowers. He shows love by filling up the car. He would like homemade soup. She lights romantic candles. They clearly love each other, but by asking for the show of love to be more in line with their own concept of love, both members could feel more valued and cared for.

,

But that is different than a test of love.

Tests of love usually involve one person expecting the other to know what s/he wants and to do it, despite any obstacles. And then, if it doesn’t happen, well, then “s/he doesn’t really love me.”

But let’s look a little closer…

Who is making the relationship contingent on specific behaviors. It’s not the “uncaring” husband or wife or friend or relative. It’s the person who has decided that the relationship consists of a series of tests all of which must be passed for it to continue to be loving.

Who has the problem?

As a therapist, it seems to me that the person who is making the statement “If you really loved me…” is in fact the person with the problem. S/he has not learned the nature of relationships. Relationships are formed between two individuals, both of whom have wants, needs, and limitations.  Appreciating the other person as a distinct individual is the only way to have a truly satisfying relationship.

When ultimatums exist in relationships, it is not the person who fails to meet them who is the problem.

Are you in your pajamas?

Last week I gave a lecture. I had lectured at this place before. Usually there is a room full of maybe 20-30 people. They are bright-eyed, attentive, and a great audience. I hadn’t lectured there in a couple of years. In preparation, the secretary sent me an email and asked if I had any handouts to give to the students. Then she asked, “Do you plan to come in to lecture?” Come in??? I had no idea what she was talking about.

Well, what she was talking about was the fact that they now provide distance learning. Only a few people, if any, were going to be listening in the room. Everyone else was going to be watching and listening in the US, in Canada, in Belgium, in England and who knows where- over their computers.

When I arrived in the venue, I was handed an earphone/microphone and had a camera set up with a monitor and with two computers, one in front of me and one beside me with readouts as to who was listening on two different connections.

Last week, the lecture required a lot of interaction and clarification and by the end of the evening, I was really enjoying talking over the air with these disembodied voices and answering their questions.It was like having my own call-in talk show.

This week, however, it was a bit disconcerting. I was speaking about using humor and metaphor in therapy. Of course it meant that I was telling some jokes. Somehow, telling a joke that people usually enjoy and hearing no one laugh was really strange.

And then I realized the absurdity of the set up. Here I was talking to people who were sitting in front of their computers. They could be doing pretty much anything and I would never know. So as the session drew to an end, I decided to ask. I asked “What are you all doing when I’m talking? I’m just curious. Like are you sitting there eating salami sandwiches? Are you wearing your pajamas?”

All of a sudden I had one of those movie montages in front of my eyes, my voice ringing though empty rooms at scattered locations throughout the world as people sit in bed in their pajamas eating salami sandwiches.

Mixed up

Today I had a most pleasant experience. I taught my first class in a program to train marriage counselors. I left Modi’in for Jerusalem early in the morning, missing breakfast, to avoid rush hour traffic. I had not yet met any of the students and was pleased to find a room full of interesting, bright, and versatile women. What a pleasure it was to meet them! I look forward to spending time with them in the weeks and months ahead.

After three hours of teaching, I headed back home to Modi’in and on the way, passed a sign that looked like this:

I must have been hungry, because a quick glance had me thinking that instead of Magen David, it said “Haagen Daz.”

But I’m not the only one who’s mixed up. The International Red Cross has made Magen David Adom drop its six pointed star and instead adopt a red “crystal” as its symbol when appearing outside of the country’s green line so as to not offend the Palestinians. You figure out the logic to that!

Thanksgiving 2011

I will spare you the usual blah-blah of how wonderful my family is and how amazingly great it is when we adults all get together and tell you instead about the good things that have happened recently and wonderful things to look forward to that make me really thankful.

We recently returned from a trip to the US. In a few weeks time my sister, the last member of my immediate family not yet living in Israel, will be coming to Israel to live. All of us are very very excited. I will finally have my sister nearby after 45 years of living varying long distances from each other (all my fault… she stayed in the same place while I roamed planet Earth.) I wanted to go and be with her to visit some of the places we shared, to reminisce, and for me to say goodbye to Philadelphia, the city where I was born, where I grew up, and where I got my education. It is unlikely I will visit there again.

When we drove up to the house we used to live in, we were surprised to find the woman who had bought it from my mother out on the lawn. She was friendly and chatty and we enjoyed speaking with her. My sister pointed out that the “new” owners had lived in the house about as long as we had.

We enjoyed walking in the downtown area. I loved seeing my cousins and hearing about their lives.

I even enjoyed the antics of a future Israeli immigrant

There’s more to tell about the trip, but that’s a small taste of some things that made me happy with the promise of more to come!