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!

On artists, mathematics, and presidential candidates

I need someone to clean my house. I need someone really good. I will have to interview candidates. I will ask them to identify the paintings of 10 famous artists and see who does the best. After that, I want to hire a gardener. I want someone who really knows how to nurture plants and keep them healthy. I will have to interview candidates. I will ask them to find the solution to 10 quadratic equations and see who does the best.

Absurd? Not really. Not if you think about how the US chooses its president.

US citizens want someone who will govern well, see to it that people can live in dignity by assuring there are adequate educational, vocational training, professional training, and employment opportunities. US citizens want a president who can conduct a foreign policy predicated on American values such as freedom and justice and who can keep Americans safe from foreign and domestic threats.

So how is the president chosen? By his ability to speak well. We watch the candidates debate. We listen to their speeches. We listen to them answering questions.

But are we really measuring fitness for the job? If I knew that a candidate had a healthy set of core values, could assemble teams of experts to advise him, and had the knowledge and intelligence to know how to process that information and plan a long term strategy on the basis of what he had learned, I really wouldn’t care whether he spoke well or, for that matter, if he could identify the paintings of 10 famous artists or find the solution to 10 quadratic equations.

Survey

Are you one of those people who gets many calls each week asking you to participate in a survey? Does the person on the other side of the phone speak too quickly and have a really bad speech impediment? Here is a sample of what I imagine might happen if I gave them the chance…

I am doing a survey on banking. Do you mind if I ask a few questions?
What bank do you use?
Does your whole salary go into that bank? (I hear salivating)
Do you have horaot kevah (automatic payment of bills)? (More salivating)
Do you have any investments with that bank? (Heavy breathing)
What would a fair estimate of how much you make each month be? (More heavy breathing)
What percentage of your income goes into your savings? (Did I hear her say, “Jackpot!”?)
When you chose a password for your account, how did you come up with something you could remember but others couldn’t guess? (I think I heard her drop the phone and run out the door.)

Fairy godmothers

OK, I’m not really talking about fairy godmothers, but I thought it might be a topic that people were curious about.

Well, actually, yes, I am talking about fairy godmothers, but not in the fictional sense.

There is a concept without a name (at least one that I am familiar with) that I would like to explore. If it’s been written about before, I would love to hear about it, so please let me know.

Having grown up in a home that wasn’t the most nurturing, I had to find validation other places. Here’s where I found it: there were teachers who smiled at me, there were my aunts who made me feel loved, and there were my grandmothers. All of these people were, to some extent, fairy godmothers. They were around sometimes and it was often merely their presence in my mind that formed for me a safety net in the world. As long as they were around, even if only in recent memory, I felt loved and supported. As a group, it felt as if I was encircled by them and protected.

As the years went by and I learned how to appreciate my own value and accomplishments, I didn’t need fairy godmothers so much. But still there were my parents there in the background, out of sight, but still potential supports. After the death of my father, I substituted my uncles in his role of standing behind me, supporting me.

Somewhere in my 30s or 40s, I began to realize that I took the place of fairy godmother for some Lamaze students I taught and some clients I worked with as a therapist. They carried me in their pocket or their mind or their heart, to take out when they needed reinforcement and stability and, I guess, love. I only knew, because they told me.

As time goes on, I realize the world is full of fairy godmothers. They are the people who are in our lives who just by their being there, even when they are far away, give us affirmation and strength. As we get older, often they are mentors, peers, and nowadays, facebook friends– people whose presence enriches our lives.

Often, our fairy godmothers don’t know the function they have in our lives. Often, we don’t realize it until they are no longer around.

So today, look around at your fairy godmothers. Figure out who they are. And appreciate how they have made your life better, just by being there.

And then, think about whose fairy godmother you are, because whether you know it or not, someone who is not in your family– who you may see only occasionally, someone’s life is better just because you are in it.

“…hey it’s good to be back home again…”

Hello all!

It’s been a very busy time since I last posted. We spent the second week in August making final preparations for our tour of Vietnam & Cambodia. We did shopping (for all sorts of foods we took along), baking (6 loaves of bread for the first shabbat) and, of course, packing. On the way to the airport I commented to my daughter who was driving us, “Remind me that I never want to do this again.”

You see, in addition to all of the physical preparation, there is a lot of preparation in terms of planning all sorts of logistical issues such as how to meet a couple we didn’t know at the Bangkok airport (we got lucky… despite our plans, they happened to walk by us after we had despaired of meeting them, and were spotted by friends of theirs who were on the tour), how to feed 20 people a kosher dinner immediately on arrival at our hotel in Hanoi (at about midnight), etc. As much as we planned, we prayed a lot too because we traveled in the rainy season and we hoped that the forecasts we had seen for every city that predicted “chance of thunderstorms” every day(!!!) were wrong.

In the end, we did have a couple of days with rain, but it never really got in our way, and on several occasions, the cloudbursts came just as we walked inside or subsided just as we were ready to walk outside.

We had a group of people who were absolutely the best. We had Hebrew speakers who knew English and English speakers who knew Hebrew. We also had people who only knew Hebrew or English. And just for fun, we had a couple whose best language was French. Despite this, they became one happy family. They were caring and kind and thoughtful and appreciated everything we did for them.

Of course Vietnam and Cambodia are beautiful countries and we and our people had no shortage of excellent opportunities to photograph them. The countries are populated with wonderful warm, friendly people and we were happy to see some of our favorite people like our guide in Hanoi, Phuong, and the Chabad rabbi in Saigon, Rabbi Menachem Hartman and his lovely wife Racheli and their three beautiful sons.

After the tour, we traveled on our own in Thailand… but that’s a story for another day.

It was a magnificent trip, but it’s good to be home.