Be all you can be

Most of us spend our entire lives figuring out who we are.

Parallel to this, we also seek the confidence to admit to ourselves who we are and share that self with others.

It can be an entire life’s work.

Imagine, then, being reborn smack dab in the middle of that project.

This is what it has been for me to make Aliyah.

Some will say just the opposite.

That making Aliyah was like “coming home.”

That moving to Israel allowed them to finally “find themselves; ” to finally feel a part of something, rather than apart from.

And there are elements of that sentiment I can relate to, but I wouldn’t say this has been my overarching experience until now.

Moving to Israel was a move away from who I am.

I am a communicator.

This is what I do. It’s what I love to do and it’s what I’m good at.

I’m also a relationship builder and an information gatherer.

And those are probably the three hardest things to do and be when you are a new immigrant, especially one in a country in which the main language is not your native tongue.

So why did I move to Israel?

For lots of reasons.

Good ones.

Reasons I stand by and do not regret.

But just as we do after many of the big life decisions we make — getting married, having kids, taking a new job — I ask myself now:

Who am I?

Who am I now?

Am I still me?

Some of my family and friends would insist I managed to be “me” even here in Israel. That I found a way to be the communicator, the relationship builder, and the information gatherer despite the challenges of language and culture.

On some days, I’d agree (and pat myself on the back, thank you very much).

But then there are the unforgiving days…

The days when I run into another parent in the parking lot, and I take that breath

You know that breath?

It’s the one you hardly notice but you take it right before you jump into a casual conversation with a casual friend in the parking lot.

Before you just “shoot the shit.”

You take that breath

I take that breath

but then I remember:

Im not me anymore. Not exactly.

This me thinks, “it’s going to be too, too hard for me to figure out which shit is the appropriate shit to shoot.And it’ll be even harder for me to understand the shit she is shooting back to me in Hebrew.”

And then I take another breath. This time, more of a sigh.

And I ask myself, Is it worth the mild humiliation? Discomfort?

I’m not sure.

So I don’t.

This is never a question I asked myself before.

Never.

And, similarly, there are some days…

Days when I know it’s really necessary for me to have a heart-to-heart with the teacher at my kid’s school. And I force myself to have the conversation.

Not because I am “the communicator” or the “information gatherer,” but because it’s what I HAVE to do. It’s on my to-do list.  And maybe I have that conversation, but I know it’s the mediocre version of what I could have pulled off in English.

And, oh how I judge myself afterwards.

And question myself.

In a way I never ever did before.

Never.

Because I knew who I was.

At least I thought I did…

Now, I’m not so sure.

Is who we are so fragile that POOF a move to a foreign country can change us?

Or do we just have to dig deeper, try harder to be

all we are. In spite of ourselves…

Like A Kid Again

There are times when living as an immigrant in a non-English speaking country makes you feel and act like a child:

For instance:

You get lost. FREAK OUT! Where’s my mommy?

You can’t find what you need when you need it at the pharmacy. FREAK OUT! Where’s my mommy?

You don’t get what you need when you need it at the bank/post office/government agency. FREAK OUT! Where’s my mommy?

Cry hysterically.

Kick. Scream. Pound fists on floor.

Run out of steam. Leave dejected.

Yes, being a new immigrant is exhausting.

A lot like childhood, but with less opportunities for naps.

But nothing makes you feel like a child more than the process of acquiring a new language while living in a foreign country.

In the beginning, you’re like a baby …you understand almost nothing.  But people around you think you’re cute, so they speak slowly to you or patiently use hand signals.

After a while of living in the foreign country,  you start to adjust and understand, but you’re still completely incapable of communicating.

Then, slowly slowly, you can communicate … in baby talk. Ah, sweet release as you realize you can get your point across … sorta.

Then, at some point you start noticing and comprehending words around you — on signs, on the front covers of magazines, on the sides of trucks.

And without realizing it, you’ve grown up.

You’ve become a big girl. You can read. You get things. You’re in on the joke.

I experienced one of these exhilarating awakenings yesterday when I was driving to work.

I saw a bus in front of me.

express

And I slowly read the sign.

I knew the first word was Nativ. It was a word I recognized. And I knew the second word didn’t look like a regular Hebrew word, but I didn’t know what it was. So I sounded the letters out.

Just as if I was a first grader again. Syllable by syllable.

Using the only method I knew how to attempt comprehension.

I wasn’t panicked or rushed. So I could be calm and just explore the letters and the sounds with my tongue.

I felt my head move side to side as my brain worked through the problem.

What is it?

I was inside myself and outside myself at the same time. Participant and observer.

I reminded myself of my 6 year old son.

I imagine, deep inside, I reminded myself of me.

6 year old me.

Ek

Eks

Ekspars

Express

EXPRESS!

EXPRESS!!!

I figured it out!

I was alone in the car so there was no one to share my excitement with.

And yet, I could see my face.

I knew my face must have looked as accomplished as my son’s when he learns a new word. It’s a look I’m familiar with lately. It’s the look of success he beams after he reads by himself a Level 2 book in English.

He’s good with the 4- and 5-letter words. But struggles when the words have multiple syllables.

He stumbles, frustrated.

But then he stops. Breathes.

And slowly slowly, he tries to read the unrecognizable new word:

Di

Disc

Discov

Discovery

DISCOVERY!

And this is what being an immigrant is like in a non-English speaking country when you’re not lost, not seeking a product in a pharmacy or in desperate need of a document from a government agent.

When you’re not feeling out-of-control, you can tap into that spirit — the good part about being a kid.

Discovery.

Delight.

Self-love.

Joy.

jump

Limbo

I still don’t feel like I live in Israel.

This is probably because I don’t.

Technically, I do, of course. I am now an official citizen of the State of Israel. I have a new cellphone number and an address here.  I have a Teudat Zehut – and therefore, an Israeli identity. And by mid-week, all three of my kids will hopefully officially be in school.

I live here. But I am still in limbo.

Our shipment with all of our furniture, most of our clothes, our new Israeli small and large appliances, and all the material possessions that make it possible for me to live at peace with my children (read “Legos” and “dollhouse”) are still, supposedly, stuck in the port of Haifa.

Three days after we landed at Ben Gurion, our container arrived at the port. Unfortunately, that same day was the start of a week-long strike of the port workers. This is Israel.

The strike was finished a week ago, but we are still without our shipment, and also without any word of where it is or when it might arrive. Our rented home on Hannaton sits empty. We remain living out of duffel bags on the second floor of my very generous in-laws’ home in Kfar Hittim, a moshav overlooking Tiberias. I am fully aware that the situation could be much, much worse. We could be living in an Absorption Center, as many immigrants do. I could be living in a one-room apartment with not just three, but six children. I could be pregnant.

Things could definitely be worse.

And, things could be better. Right now.

Meaning, I could get over wanting this phase to be over.

I am a believer in the Law of Attraction. Say what you will, but it’s worked for me. Using a strong sense of focus and clearing my mind of negative thoughts, I somehow have been able to manifest anything from incredibly close parking spots to a huge bonus for my husband. Ask my family members about my parking luck…it’s not luck, my friends, it’s the power of intention.

So why isn’t the Law of Attraction working now?

How am I unable to attract a 40 foot container attached to a tractor trailor to my little red house on Hannaton?

I posed this question to my possibility-creating Facebook friends. One said: “Perhaps focus on the feeling you would feel once the shipment arrives. Just keep on thinking those feelings.” Another said, “If you can accept this moment just the way it is, everything gets easier- whether it all shows up or not. You do what you can and then relax and trust that it will work out in the best way possible.” (A lot of people “liked” that response.)

And, yet another said, “[Practicing the Law of Attraction] is harder than it sounds. That’s why they call it practice.”

Indeed.

Can I accept this moment just as it is?

Can I enjoy the chaos, the uncertainty, the cramped quarters, the unfamiliar tastes, smells, and sounds?

Can I be with the crying and the pushing and the acting out of my children? Accept that they too are in limbo?

Lord knows I’ve been trying.

But I know that I haven’t been trying hard enough.

I know what I am capable of accomplishing. Who I am capable of being…for myself and for my children.

I haven’t been her as of late.

When my friend Rita challenges me to accept this moment just as it is, what I know she’s saying is: “Choose it.”

Once I choose the balagan that is my life right now, I will suddenly have all I want. I won’t have to resist it any longer.

And even those who don’t practice Law of Attraction know what happens when you resist.

It persists.

So, what happens when I let go? When I accept? When I choose?

Anything and everything.

Limbo disappears.

And suddenly, I am here.

Living.