fear

When Death Tried to Retire

Disclaimer:
I am well aware that death, depression, grief, anxiety and everything else mentioned in this piece are incredibly personal and private experiences. I am in no way making any form of statement, or passing judgment on those who deal with or have ever dealt with any of it. This is simply a creative piece born from a writing prompt, and I hope that everyone can read it with that understanding. There are allusions to suicide, depression, and grief. If those are things you are sensitive to, wait for my next blog post, I promise it won’t be this heavy.

I’ve been working at my job for thousands of years. For real – I’ve been here since the beginning of time. I was a good employee, I would imagine. I always fulfilled my duties, never complained, never questioned my task list, never protested. Well, there were a couple of times..and I actually won the argument with my Boss occasionally. But most of the time I accepted what I had to do, and separated my personal feelings from the task at hand.
But I’ve had enough.
I’ve been working this job for so long, and I’m ready for retirement. I’m ready for a life of pleasure, kicking it back..enjoying things a little bit. I’ve handed in my notice but turns out, I have to find my own replacement.
The old Boss made me promise I wouldn’t go off to my life of retirement until I’d found someone to handle my job. Apparently, the world can’t function for even one minute without someone doing my job.
So today the search begins.
I’ve made a list of prospective replacements.
To start, there’s Life.
Life is always complaining about her job. She’s always grumping about being unappreciated, and being taken advantage of. She’s always seemed so envious of my role.
“They’re afraid of you, Death! When you’re nearby, they do everything you say. Suddenly, I’m soooo important when you’re around, but as soon as you’re not there, they totally forget all the promises they made me.”
I can’t even tell you how many times she’s moaned and groaned to me about that. As if I could do anything about it.
Occasionally, we’ve worked together if she was particularly struggling with a task. I’d come close enough to really shake things up, but then I’d disappear before completing the job. She’s always been really grateful when I’ve done that. But so often, she’s frustrated that she even needs to call me in, that she can’t do it on her own.
So she’s definitely a possible candidate, she’d love to have my job.
Illness has always been a little wary of me. I’m not sure why, being that we often have to work together. It would just be easier for us get along..but she’s always whispering over there with Life about me, always judging me and openly admitting that she wishes I just wouldn’t show up to work some days.
Ouch.
I don’t think I’ll approach Illness at all..I’ve never gotten any friendly vibes, she always just shuts down when I’m around.
Skip that.
My friend Grief might be interested. He’s been around for as long as I can remember. Very rarely do I have a job that he’s not there for, and when I have a job that isn’t on his task list, it makes my job so much more unpleasant and depressing. But he’s so good at what he does, and he loves his work. He’s always talking about how rewarding it is to pass his job off to Life, how the work itself is so difficult and painful but the results of a successful job are so enriching. When he completes a task, he’s on a high until he gets to the next one.
I couldn’t take that away from him.

Depression! I can’t believe I forgot about that guy. He is obsessed with me, always following me around, always asking me questions about my job, always trying to secretly add to my task list. I’ve tried to force him and Life to hang out more, but they just couldn’t get along.

The truth is, it’s been lonely doing what I do.

As much as I love the others, I’ve never been anyone’s real best friend. Other than Depression that is, and that is very one way. Everyone has seemed to try to avoid me as much as possible. For example, the other day I walked into a party that Life was throwing. It looked amazing. Depression and Anxiety were in the corner, Grief was just moving to the music slightly, but you should have seen Illness. She was dancing it up in the center. Kindness was right up there with her, Generosity was the DJ, and you should have seen Love. I’ve never seen anything look more beautiful. She was surrounded by Gratitude and Appreciation, and they were just staring at her adoringly.

I watched all this from the outside and figured I’d join the party. As soon as I walked in though, it was as if the entire party shut down in an instant. Depression and Anxiety perked up, but everyone else just stared at me. Love began to cry, and I was only there for a couple of seconds before Life stormed up to me and pushed me with two hands.
“Get out of here, Death! Nobody wants you here! Just leave!”
So I did.
I cried all night long, wishing I was given a different role at the beginning of time. I would never be like them, I’d never be welcome. Grief once confided in me that every time he turned a corner, he hoped he would bump into Love or Life, always dreaming of them. I know that the only ones who dream about me are Depression and Hopelessness and I’m just not interested.
When I told the Boss I was thinking of retirement, I was met with extremely disappointed eyes.
“You’re great at your job, Death. Nobody can do what you do”
I took it as a compliment then, but I’m starting to realize it just might be the truth.

Nobody that hasn’t done my job since the beginning of time could possibly understand what I do.
Depression might think he wants to be me and have my job but I know who he needs to spend more time with. Understanding. Support. Happiness. Recovery. They’ve never wanted to hang out with me, and that’s how I know they’re much better for him.
My job is pretty horrible. But occasionally, my task list isn’t so bad.
Sometimes I get to work with Pride and Contentment. Occasionally, I get to work with Satisfaction. Those are the good times.
I’ll never forgive the Boss for the times He’s made me work with Evil and Cruelty. Anger. Fear. They are the worst of the worst, I’d say even less liked than me, but at least they have each other.
I do wish I had just one friend, one real friend, someone who understood me, and my role. Who understood that there are times it destroys me to carry out my task, but I know that it has to be done. That when I pass a task on to Grief or Heartbreak, nothing hurts more. But then when months later, I watch Grief and Life get to work together, or I see Support and Care working on one of my previous tasks, my heart is warmed.
So perhaps I won’t retire very soon.
But I’ll be renegotiating my terms.
I’ll be asking for a shorter task list, a much shorter task list. Because honestly, I think everyone’s getting a little tired of my job, especially me.
And I’ll let the Boss know that I refuse to work with Depression any longer. The more time he spends with me, the less he understands that he should really be striving to be like Life.
While I feel privileged to have such a unique job, I’m determined to be the only one who does what I do, no matter how lonely that makes me feel.
And while I’m talking to the Boss, I should really talk to Him about that crazy clique, that Evil-Cruelty clique. I’m not going to be doing any projects with them anymore either, no thank you.
And maybe, in a little while, when I do completely phase out and retire, maybe Life will be able to look at me without anger flashing in her eyes, and Love can spend some time with me without it always ending with her in tears. Maybe Grief will join me in retirement, and maybe I’ll finally be allowed to hang out at a party, as long as I promise that I really have retired and have no plans for a comeback.
It’ll come. That day will come.

Blog Post: 41/52

Featured Photo by Madison Grooms on Unsplash

When Life Happens

I have never written a blog post on the verge of the week ending like this. I’ve gotten close, but never this close.

But no worries – I’m a commitment freak, and I won’t let this go by, because then I’d probably have to start from Week 1 again, and none of us want that.
I’ve almost completed my first year of teaching creative writing. That’s really crazy to me, because it was about this time last year that I got the crazy idea in the first place. And now I have a group of students who I have gotten to know, students I look forward to seeing and reading their writing. Because all of them are tremendously talented writers and thinkers and it was a pleasure and honor to be able to be a part of their year.
I know the year is not yet over, we still have a few weeks to wind down. But I’m in an introspective, reflective mood, and I’m just so proud to be here.
Doing things that scare me are not my thing. I don’t like roller coasters, horror movies or skydiving. I don’t enjoy the thrill of the fear that so many people seem to be obsessed with. Existential questions are scary enough.
So doing something that scared me on so many levels was a big deal.
My life this school year has seen change. It’s seen growth. It’s seen me with shorter hair and a stronger heart conquering more challenges. Experiencing new things. Facing myself in ways I never really wanted to have to.
Life is ever evolving, which is something pretty terrifying for someone like me, someone who likes to be in control and to be sure of what comes next.
Life throws things at you that you could never have planned for. But these are the things that really test you, the things that make you pull out all of yourself, to figure it out, to face it. To understand who you are, what your limitations are, and where life goes from here, now taking the fork in the road into account.
As summer nears, and the promise of warm sun and healthy days approach, I find myself wondering what is around the corner. What is next for me? What happens when I allow life to happen, rather than overplanning each moment?
It’s scary. To me, this is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. To admit that I don’t know what comes next, to know that life takes time to unfold, and to have patience. To have the patience to see what G-d has in store.
And perhaps I’ll discover that my mind has been limited all this time, and what G-d has planned is even greater than what my small mind can conjure.
Blog Post: 31/52.

Featured Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

I Dreamed That It Happened To Me

I had my first dream about a shooter.

I say dream, and not nightmare, because that’s what it was. I wasn’t filled with the usual panicky, terrifying, wake-up-shaking fear that nightmares bring.
 I was in Israel, but I wasn’t.
I was in a museum but it was also a classroom.
People I knew were in my dream, but it was also full of strangers.
There was panic, but I wasn’t afraid. I was on the ground, watching bullets hit the windows above me.
We eventually ran, but there were shooters everywhere. We were sleeping outside, but my only real fear was that my bag would be stolen.
Another shooter appeared, but he told us not to be afraid.
We were.
We kept walking through Jerusalem and suddenly I noticed the white and blue flag on his hat and we all smiled, relieved.
He looked just like the other shooters, but he had a flag.
I don’t even recall how the dream ended. I only remembered I had it about an hour after I woke up.
I checked my Facebook- there was another attack, this one blood curdling, terrifying, wake up shaking scary.
While I was falling asleep last night I had the thought process that I often have – I felt so safe. I spent years in New York and Chicago, and I’ve had nights in both cities that filled me with fear, sure of a break in or worse.
I’ve never had that very real fear in my hometown, living in a little neighborhood where the sound of a car driving by is a rarity.
As I fell asleep I wondered what could be safer – me in my bed, in New Hampshire, nearly my entire family with me in one house.
I dreamt that dream.
I woke up.
I heard that horrifying news about a girl, only five years my junior, who fell asleep in her bed just like me, but didn’t get to have that dream- she had a real life nightmare.
I spent a Shabbat in Kiryat Arba last year. My friends and I joked and laughed and strolled around, despite the very real warnings given to us about the safety.
I fell asleep unworried about the real threat of evil doers. There were gunshots in middle of the night, but it felt like it was part of the adventure.
I’m ashamed.
My dream last night is more terrifying now than it was when I dreamt it.
I didn’t want to not be terrified.
Why was I not terrified?
Why do I have to wait for it to happen to me, G-D forbid a million times over, for me to get it?
Why has this become so normal that it doesn’t even terrify me in my dreams?
And why, why did it take me so long to dream about it?
Has it not permeated my life enough? Have the news stories remained at surface level and not infiltrated the depths of my mind, the places where dreams live?
Rather than the safety of my brothers and sisters in Israel and all over the world taking up my heart and soul, I’ve dared to have other things there.
My worries, my concerns, boys, clothes, friends, money! for heavens sake.
Why?
I just had a real conversation about how frustrated I am that I can’t afford to travel right now, and how I just want to save up double the amount of money I have now before I go.
I had a dream about a mass shooting, and I wasn’t afraid.
Because somehow, in some ridiculous twisted way, it’s not real to me yet.
When will it be real?
 I don’t want it to happen to anyone I know, anywhere close to me.
I don’t want it to happen again.
When will it be real?
I don’t know. I don’t know. I want to scream and shout and cry and get everyone to wake up from their fear-less dreams and make something change. Make something happen.
But it feels impossible, because the only ones who wholeheartedly get it are the ones with the scars, and that’s not fair.
Why can’t we, the unaffected, get up enough gumption and energy and fix this?
I know it’s been said before. I know I’ve probably said it before.
I don’t know what and if I am adding to the conversation.
But someone wise told me recently that I shouldn’t force myself to write if I don’t feel what I am writing, and today I am feeling this, and I want to write it. I need to. I feel that if I keep this inside, it will remain solely in my dreams.
Perhaps this will move someone to think, someone bigger or better than me, who can take words and turn  them into action, something I struggle mightily with.
Someone. Who is out there? Who is willing to make something change before it becomes a reality?
I’d like to keep all shootings in my dreams, but none of us are afforded that luxury.
This is no longer about the victims and the people who were lucky enough to not be victims.
This is about all of us, and if we don’t make something change now, we might not be so lucky next time.
We can’t afford to be unafraid anymore.

Dear Old Me.

I have written a lot. I have an enormous collection of terrible writing. When you write something almost every day of your life, it starts to really build up. Recently, I sifted through my writings from twelfth grade. That year was one of the most transformative years of my life. I had the lowest of lows, and the highest of highs. As a result, the writings swing from seemingly depressed teenager, to exhilarated young adult.

It’s almost my birthday, which means I’m turning a new age. Every time I turn a new age, it’s only my responsibility to look back at my past and pat myself on the back. Or slap myself across the face. Depending if I have gotten further up the mountain or slipped back down from laziness. Not kidding though, the climb is hard.

Why wait until the day I turn 19 to look back though? My twelfth grade writings gave me an idea. There are plenty of people out there who are twelfth grade me. People going through a myriad of emotions. So, why not pull out some of the oldies and respond to them? Below is a poem I wrote when I found out I was rejected from a school that a lot of my friends were going to. At the time I convinced myself and everyone else that I didn’t care. That it was okay. Obviously, it was all meant to be.

But, and as I have grown this has become even more clear to me, pretending just hurts you and everyone else around you. It makes you feel guilty for feeling angry, and it makes others feel like they are doing something wrong when they feel upset about it happening to them. I wrote this poem at the time, and in it you can see the sheer fear I felt.

The day I was born
I had two arms around me
A crib
A carriage
Mothers arms
A baby seat
They all protected me
Held me close
Then my desk kept me
For 12 years.
I knew it would be there
It knew I was coming
And it never let me down.
There were always arms
A secure embrace
A place to be safe
My happy place.
Until today.
The net was pulled away
But I already jumped
Where will I fall?
Is this failure?
Or will I fly?

Dear Rejected Etti,

It hurts. Let it hurt. You tried your best, you went to that interview and please, you totally aced it. I know everyone is telling you this right now, and you want to punch them all in the face, but I need you to know that it’s true. This rejection is not about your qualifications.  But be angry at them. Please. They actually weren’t that nice to you at that interview, and you were anxious. You should have been accepted. You should have been one of the people who are celebrating today. You should have been. Because you deserve it, and the fact that you even applied to that school is a testament to your growth this year.

But, I need to tell you a secret. I’m future you. I know what happens next. I know what happens after you put that pen down. You won’t believe me, but I can promise you that it got so so much better. Because, a few weeks after this rejection, you chose a different school. A school that would allow you the freedom that you craved all four years of high school, but also a school that had incredible teachers who fed the desperate hunger of your soul.

The net was pulled away with that rejection, and yes, you already had jumped. You already had seen yourself on that plane across the ocean, heading to that school with all your friends. But I can promise you this- you flew. Well. First, you landed. You landed safely. With all the parachutes. But then, you ran fast and took off again. I can tell you with certainty that it was a bigger challenge and ultimate accomplishment to get yourself up and flying again than to free-fall and consider it flying.

I can’t share the whole story with you right now. You don’t need to know the whole story. You’ll learn it as you live it.

I just wanted to tell you that it turned out to be the best rejection you have ever received.

You won’t regret not getting the chance to go there. You will be grateful for the experience you had instead.

You will grow more than you could have ever imagined growing.

Sometimes the thing you need in life is to be terrified for a few minutes. To not be sure of where to go. To be forced to grab on to a lifeline. That lifeline might just be your way to the top.

I’m sorry for your pain that  you feel right now, Rejected Etti. It will hurt, and please let it hurt. But don’t lose belief in yourself. Because you are stronger than you think, and capable of more than you ever could have hoped.

Sincerely,

Your Future.

 

Scares and Fears

I have a confession. I have a weird fear. It doesn’t hold me captive, but it’s a fear nonetheless.

Every time I cross a street, I have a fear that the cars, although stopped by a traffic light, will move on full speed and hit me.

It’s an unreasonable fear- why would anyone willingly commit a traffic violation and murder in one go? Why would they want to kill me, of all the worthy people in the world to kill?
No matter how many times I’ve told myself that it’s a ridiculous fear, it’s always there. Every time I cross. In the back of my head.
I’m an analyzer. There is little in my life that hasn’t been ripped apart by my prying eyes, my desire to know.
Today, it all came together.
My crossing-the-street fear is rooted in something far deeper. A fear I realized is all across my life, a fear that permeates the way I lead my life.
My real fear is that no matter how good I am, no matter how hard I work to follow the rules, or not follow the rules, my life is still in someone else’s hands.
I realized how much this fear controls my life today.
My brain is always on overdrive. I have dreams that I can practically touch. There is so much inside of me.
Yet, no matter how far I go, or how much I accomplish, I look to others for the validation.
I look to others to tell me to keep going. I keep going, but with a fear that at any second, it can all end..because of what someone else says.
I’m having a hard time writing this, because it’s painfully honest.
I don’t know how to make this well written, because it’s my innermost feelings.
I have all kinds of fears, but this one takes the cake, because it sums up all my failings.
My fear of how  I am perceived controls my comfort level on the street and at parties.
I will never stop thinking about what you are seeing when you see me, or what you think of the words I say.
Because I have given you all the power in the world.
You have the ability to press the gas pedal and destroy me.
I have put my trust in you, and I am powerless to stop you.
That- that is my fear.
Every time I receive a compliment, or survive a socially awkward moment, it’s crossing a street safely. But there is always the next street.
Crossing the street is not the solution to the problem.
It’s so much deeper. Isn’t it always deeper?
Today, I felt that fear melt away a little. I was told something today that felt a little like a rejection. But I was okay. It was okay. I didn’t give that person the power to hurt me, and I wasn’t hurt.
I looked inside of myself and asked my own heart “Where do we go next?”
You know what?
I had an answer.
I looked into myself and crossed that street without even thinking about those cars.
At that moment, I knew it was possible.
It was possible for me to not be afraid of those cars. It was possible for me to not give power to everyone around me.
Suddenly, the possibilities were endless. I can go somewhere. Little old me, useless without my own power backing me up.
I will do it. I will achieve. It might take me years. It might take me forever. But it’s not going to be put away because of fear. Not anymore.
For now, I need to work on crossing streets without the fear of others controlling my fate.
Then, I can work on letting myself out, being the person I want to be, without fear of what you will say in response.
One day, I’ll be completely proud of who I am.
One day, I won’t hide behind my fears, waiting for your permission for me to go on.
I’ll get there, and it might be a slow and arduous journey, but today I took another step forward.