Back!

I’m back in Israel, land of Jews, Jesus and Jonflicts [because “conflict” doesn’t start with a “J”].

I took over a thousand photographs during my two-week visit to Los Angeles – something I’ve never done before. I never was a photographing kind of person, but I had a camera of my very own that I received for my nineteenth birthday, and I decided to finally use it properly. Plus, this way I’ll be able to show Sir B. F. some of the City of Angels’ marvels. I know they may not seem so special to many people, but the fact is that I grew up in a country where the architecture of choice for apartment buildings seems to be concrete boxes on concrete pillars, naked of any ornament or exterior decor. The houses in Los Angeles are like looking at the window of a candy store for me – each is more beautiful than the next. This is excluding the many monstrosities, of course.

Can you tell I’m┬ájet-lagged? I sure can. Whenever my mind is confused about what time zone it’s in, I begin rambling, words tumbling out too fast for anyone around me to make the connections between subjects that are perfectly clear in my overdriven thoughts. Which is why I’m now going to post a photograph, and shut up. Starting tomorrow, I’ll try very hard to get back to my schedule of writing every day, and writing fiction, poems or at least more coherent ramblings. See? I said I’d shut up, but here I am, still a-writing. Okay, here we go – photo:

When It’s Hard to Write

It’s hard to write when you’re on a bus, holding a notebook in your lap.

It’s hard to write when you’re so tired that you can barely keep your eyes open and your brain feels like it’s melting.

It’s hard to write when you feel like you have nothing to say, or at least nothing new.

It’s hard to write when you’re not feeling well and your hand is shaking as you hold the pen or type.

It’s hard to write when you’re in a noisy and dark bar.

It’s hard to write when someone’s watching over your shoulder.

And, apparently, it’s hard to write when you’re on vacation and spending precious time with people you rarely see.

I Remember… (When I Was Really Little)

I remember the house we had in Los Angeles when I was really little.

I remember eating ice-cream in front of the television after nursery-school.

I remember begging my mom for cookies when she was on the phone, and bugging her until she’d give them to me just so I wouldn’t bother her.

I remember that I planned that strategy in order to get more cookies.

I remember my nursery-school teacher, Robin, and how I would get scared if I was parted with her.

I remember the red tricycle I had and the way I liked to stand on the back of it and move it forward with one leg, pretending it was a skateboard.

I remember my crib that I slept in until I was three years old.

I remember refusing to answer my father in Hebrew and only speaking to him in English until we moved to Israel and I had to speak Hebrew.

I remember rocking so hard on my little rocking chair that I unbalanced it and fell backwards, hitting my head hard.

I remember getting my first Barbie doll from my mother when she went on a vacation, and I remember that my brother got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action-figures.

I remember my friend, Ally, from nursery-school and my next-door neighbor, Gina, whose toys I was jealous of.

I remember a lot from before I turned three – I’m told it’s rather unusual. The memories are strange, though. They’re fuzzy and soft, all in pastel colors and moods and disconnected visions. Early memories are strange, but I’m glad I have them.

A Painful Confession

Well, the time has come to write this post. I’ve put it off for a few days, but I’d better not put it off anymore. Here goes.

As some of you know, I’m nineteen years old and I started Sarah Lawrence College in August, 2009. I just came back a couple weeks from my first semester there. I was supposed to have flown back to New York to begin my next semester at the end of January. BUT, and this is where the confession comes in… I’m not. I’m taking a medical leave of absence during the spring semester.

The reason is that I’ve been struggling with an eating disorder for a year and a half now. I began to diet and exercise in the summer of 2008, and became obsessed and consumed by the process of restricting meals, exercising and losing weight. I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t think I could legitimately say that I had any sort of eating disorder, and I still always felt that I looked bad. My boyfriend of two and a half years now urged me to begin therapy, and so I confided in my mother and began seeing a psychologist. Next, I began to see a dietitian. All this was happening while I was in the process of applying to colleges, getting in, flying out to see them and making my choice of where to attend. By August of 2009, I’d gained enough perspective and weight so that my therapist and my mother both felt secure enough to send me to college.

Even though I set up a similar support network in the USA, I still relapsed badly and lost a lot of weight, reaching the lowest weight I’d ever gotten to and endangering my health. Because of this, I’ve been strongly advised to take a leave of absence and focus on getting better, physically, as well as emotionally.

People have very fixed and prejudiced views about young women who have eating disorders – we’re all privileged and bored, shallow and reaching for fashion. This is really not what it’s about. Sure, yes, it starts from the superficial goal of losing a few pounds, but it goes to somewhere completely different emotionally, until there’s an irrational monster in our minds telling us that we must lose weight, while our logic and intellect tell us that this is wrong. Thus, an endless and extremely painful battle of wills seems to dominate our minds at all times.

Believe me, I know that looks aren’t everything in life. In fact, I look at other women around me and I see the beauty in them no matter what their size and shape. I truly don’t look at weight and judge people by it – but I judge myself by it, even though I know I shouldn’t. I know that I’m too thin. I know that I’m in danger. But still the voice in my head criticizes every mouthful of food I consume.

To sum up, what this means is that I’ll be flying New York next week on Monday to move my things out of my dorm room and put them in storage. I’ll be coming back the Saturday of that week, and then will be living in Israel with my mom for the next eight months. The goal, of course, is to return to Sarah Lawrence come August, 2010. My hope is that I’ll manage to achieve this. Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing, I’ll keep posting, and hopefully I’ll be able to use these months for something worthwhile, like maybe actually finishing one of my writing-projects.

Across Five States: Into Virginia

It seemed that the moment we crossed into Virginia, we hit real life. For real. We were stuck in a monstrous traffic jam of people leaving Washington D.C. for the day. So many people commute there, not to mention the fact that tourist season had begun, and so we felt that we were slammed back into reality, along with all the inconveniences it brings. As we sat on the sixty-six highway, we inched forward and began to cruise the local radio stations. We found some good easy listening, and settled in to wait.

The highway was bordered by high walls, and the directions were separated by hedges. We rounded a bend, and suddenly there it was. The Washington Monument. We could see its peak all the way from the highway, jutting into the sky like a beacon, heralding that we’d reached our destination. It was an exciting moment for all of us.

Soon enough we were taking the badly marked exit – Virginia seems to have a dark sense of humor and enjoys luring newcomers into a false sense of security by marking the exit well before it comes and then putting a tiny sign at the actual exit so you undoubtedly miss it – and driving into Arlington County, which was to be my brother’s new home. After some more muddling around with befuddling directions, we reached his apartment and discovered yet another thing about Virginia – the lack of parking, and the importance of tow trucks, which will tow any car that’s not marked by the right stickers placed in the right ways in the right corners of the right window.

This forced our hand. My brother and I unloaded the U-Haul at superhero speed, while my mother guarded it, just to make sure no policeman or tow truck would catch us unawares. Loading the truck had taken the better part of five hours. Unloading it took an hour, and we were drenched with sweat by the time we were done. By this time, night had fallen and we were all ravenous. We piled back in the U-Haul and found a dingy place to eat at, and afterwards found the only U-Haul drop-off spot in the area. It was a relief, seeing that truck for the last time, but we all felt a bit of a pang. It had safely conveyed us across five whole states, and as ungainly as it was, we had become proud of it – especially as we had the coolest U-Haul in the lost because ours had a picture of snakes on it instead of a U-Haul advertisement.

We took a taxi back to my brother’s apartment and, just like that, our move was done. We still had unpacking to do, we still had furniture to buy, we still had a whole county to get to know, but we were done. We’d moved my brother from Chicago to Virginia in two days. We accomplished what we’d set out to do. It was marvelous.

Across Five States: Into Indiana

Soon after beginning our drive from Chicago in our great, big, lumbering U-Haul, we passed through the border into Indiana. Here was strange country – mile after mile of flat land, soybeans and grass being grown around us for health nuts and golf courses respectively. Sign after sign advertised fireworks for sale in big block letters accompanied by smiling clowns or circus animals. We passed by rest-stops, termed in Indiana and thereabouts as “Service Plazas.” McDonalds, KFC and Wendy’s seemed to be the favored restaurants at said plazas, and although we stopped for coffee and fuel once, we kept driving past all these, choosing to wait for a real diner to show up.

We were in luck! A big sign by the road showed a picture of pancakes and bread read “Cracker Barrel – 20 Miles!” We all cheered. Our stomachs were rumbling, and although we were in good spirits and enjoying the smooth road and the fellow trucks rumbling along with us, we were all ready for some protein. When we eventually reached the exit, we turned off and followed the signs right to the snug parking lot surrounding the Cracker Barrel. As I found out later, every Cracker Barrel has a store filled with “old timey” sweets, tourist t-shirts, cheap DVDs and plastic souvenirs – all these in contrast to the truly beautiful rocking chairs that were lined up on the porch for sale and looked genuinely old.

We entered the restaurant, and for the first time, I understood and believed that there is an obesity problem in the United States. I never disbelieved it, per se, but I’ve always been in the big cities across America – Los Angeles, Chicago, New York – and in the big cities there are enough foreigners and enough so called “enlightened” people who are aware of their health and so I never witnessed more obesity than I would see anywhere else. But inside that Cracker Barrel I saw just how real this problem is.

We sat down at a table and were served by a nice young fellow whose name tag read “Chris.” It was wonderful to be sitting on wooden chairs surrounded by the smell of food after having sat cramped for hours in a small seat in a truck with the faint smell of my brother’s rats to keep us company. We ordered, we ate, and we went blissfully on our way, full of nutrients and renewed energy.

Panoramic View

Standing at the edge of the yard, beyond the pool, beyond the odd bust of the Indian chief, right in the flower garden, trying hard not to step on the precious buds, is a girl. She’s wearing a short t-shirt and hugging herself against the cool morning breeze that ruffled her sleeves and her long hair. She closes her eyes and smiles into the morning sunlight, feeling glad despite having slept only a handful of hours.

When she opens her eyes again, she really looks, really stares hard at the view in front of her. So strange to have a yard end and have the wilderness begin right after the fence. The valley stretches out below her, and she gazes at it intently, trying to see wildlife – a few deer perhaps, a coyote. As usual, she sees nothing but the shrubs and trees and the vast greenness of the hills.

At last, she raises her eyes beyond the valley, beyond the hills, to stare at the tiny patch of blue, slightly darker than the sky, that is right there in that little break between the hills. The ocean. Sometimes she can even smell the salt-air from here, despite being miles away.

Eventually, she’ll walk in her bare feet back into the house and have breakfast with her family, who will all be waking up early due to jet-lag, just like her. That first morning of every visit to Los Angeles’s beautiful hills is always like this – magical.