Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Upside-Down Life

So many changes, so little blogging.  I hardly know where to begin...

I'm on my way into the eighth month of separation and grateful each day for the chance to finally breathe, do, live, laugh, explore, etc.  "Isn't it hard?" some ask.  Sure, but who ever said life wouldn't be?  I've been through a lot of tough times and I'm sure there are more to come.  It's hard, but better.  The important thing is to keep smiling no matter what comes my way.

I left Livnot.  That's probably been one of the more difficult changes.  Livnot is my second home; was, and still is.  Although I never did the program myself, I saw the transformation of participants--the joy, awe, self-discovery, fear-conquering, root-finding, vision-revealing, goodness and took steps along with each group to taste those things too.  Positivism.  There's lots of that at Livnot, and it's contagious.  I like being positive.  Life is just so much better that way.

Like most non-profits, budgets are tight and each employee wears multiple hats.  I enjoyed the multi-tasking, but am doing a little too much of it in my personal life to do it other places as well at the moment.  I needed a job where I would clock out and not think about work again until the next day, so I could just go home and focus on my kids.  I'm working part-time at a winery now and loving it, except for the occasional dish-washing.  Meeting great people, having adult conversations, expanding my knowledge, and enjoying the most amazing cheeses and wines.  Working is healthy for the body and mind.  

The Israeli unemployment system is pretty fantastic.  I was signing off weekly at the employment office in Tzfat when, one day, they said there was a suitable job for me in the Dalton Industrial Park.  "The owner is out of the country," they said, "but send in your resume and see what happens."  I admittedly dragged my feet a bit while trying to get in a bit more organizing with the kids' schedules and order of the house before locking in to a new work routine.  Popped in one day to see if my email was received and met a pleasant English fellow who gave me the impression that this would be a lovely environment.  And it is.

It was the first Thursday of January when I went in for an interview.  That same night I had been encouraged to sing in Tzfat.  Not having a television, and being way out of the loop on pretty much everything other than work and home, I didn't realize that the evening was an audition for a reality TV show.  So I called to sign up for an "open mic night" and the lady on the phone asked "you mean the auditions?"  Yeah, I guess so.  Eventually I Googled it and discovered what it was all about.  Woah!

I hadn't sung in front of an audience for over a decade and was terribly nervous.  I was in a rock band, school choir, and black gospel choir in Germany when I was 16.  I also grew up in a very musical family and always loved to sing.  When I was 18, I became religious and moved to Israel and got married...all in the same year!  Life was moving fast.  I held on tight, closed my eyes, and rode the roller-coaster as long as possible.  The singing stopped.

Religious Jews are rather obsessed with a little thing called tzniut (aka tznius), which is translated as modesty.  Anything that is normally covered, which becomes uncovered, is nakedness.  So if my shoulders are normally covered and I'm wearing a tank top to bed, then I'm sleeping partly naked.  But if I wear 3/4 length sleeves, then long sleeves one day, and then roll them up while washing dishes, you're not seeing nakedness because my forearm is not a part of me that I habitually cover.  Am I making sense so far?

Modesty is a really beautiful idea that protects our dignity and consciousness.  It's not just our bodies that we take care to treat with modesty either.  Think of a sefer Torah (scroll of the five books of Moses).  We give it a beautiful garment and build it a nice home.  We only take it out in a special place, at the right time, with the right person who has good intentions to use it for holiness and connecting to the Divine.  And we should of course treat ourselves with the same respect that we show the sefer Torah.

So what's up with kol isha?  A couple thousand years ago, not just in the Jewish world but all over, women were treated very differently from today.  The discussion in ancient texts about whether or not a woman's voice is nakedness wasn't limited to whether she was singing, but even speaking!  Women's voices were covered, stifled, muffled.  Many men just didn't want to hear them at all.  Period.

The Torah is a tree of life, always growing to keep up with the times.  Now the trunk and roots pretty much stay the same all the time, but branches are pruned or fall off, newer and stronger ones grow in their place, with leaves and fruit popping up seasonally.  Change is slow but does happen.  Women have a voice now!  Women are leading countries, sitting in the Knesset, directing schools and hospitals; women are judges, lawyers, doctors, professors, and really just about anything we set our minds to be.  Women are no longer relegated to the kitchen and seen as good for nothing more than baby-making.  The voice of a woman isn't normally covered and women are not naked just because they voice their views.

Or so I see it...what do you think?  In short, yes, I sing again.  No, I don't do it to be against the Torah.  I think we're returning to the place we were when Miriam took up tambourines, and inspired the other women of Israel to do the same, after the parting of the sea.  Do you think they put up a mechitza?

It's never too late to pursue your dreams and do what you love.  The audition went well and I got called back to Tel Aviv twice.  It seemed a sure thing but some weeks after I read through and signed the ginormous contract they suddenly called again.  "Sorry, but we're not going to have you on the show this season.  Maybe next time," she said.

"Can I ask why?"  She told me that a committee makes the decisions and she didn't know.  Sorry.

I'm not gonna lie, it really killed my day to receive such news.  Although part of me is also relieved that I don't have to worry about how to juggle work, kids, and filming this summer.  "This isn't the end," I told myself.  And it's not.  I'm never again going to stop singing.  I can't!  I will simply find another stage.

So there's a bit of what's going on in my head lately.  And life is indeed a bit upside-down and crazy still...but better than ever.