When I was growing up my Dad had little tolerance for whining. If I had a gripe, was down in the dumps or felt that something was unfair, he didn’t allow me to wallow in self- pity no matter what. Even when I was faced with some pretty big challenges and a dose of bad luck he never was one to wrap his arms around me and rub my back with a try not to cry honey, everything will be alright. Instead of giving me tea and sympathy, my Dad would offer up the proverbial, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, address.
With my Dad no longer here, I’ve needed to limber up and provide my own kick in the backside these past few weeks since the luster of the Land has started to dull. After three plus years of living in Israel, the reality of life here and all that it entails had kind of slapped me in the face and I hear myself whining ever so softly.
In 1993 Michel and I had one foot out the door and were set to fulfill the dream of aliyah with two small kids, no knowledge of Hebrew, little prospect for employment and no savings in the bank. Call it fate or parental intervention, we decided that if we were to make Aliyah, chances of our success would be slim and we would probably return to Canada discouraged from ever trying again. So we waited, worked hard, saved money and fulfilled our dream some 15 years later.
Our first year in Israel was chock full of newness and lots of visitors and we were kept so busy we had little time to peel away the outer layer of life and uncover what lay beneath the idealistic surface. And then after about 250 dog walks and way too much bla bla bla, Michel and I made the decision to make our stay more permanent committing our then 17 year old son to army service, having our eldest daughter forgo acceptance to a Canadian University and start her post secondary studies here and exposing ourselves to the wrath of a 12 year old who longed to return to the Winnipeg cocoon that she missed so much.
Despite adjusting to Benji being a soldier, three moves in three years to different residences, health challenges, the adoption of a lone soldier and a little Israeli terrier, Michel starting a new business and building a house, we never removed our rose colored glasses even when the sand of the unpaved streets settled on our lenses. When we became frustrated, we stopped short of crossing into the whining zone or, at least I did, until now.
The realization that I’m a third generation, fifty year- old Canadian struggling to adapt to a totally different culture has set in. I feel like I’ve suddenly discovered a snag on my favorite sweater and I’m not sure how to mend it. I’ve become too attached to discard it and so I must find how to gently work the wool back into its place being careful not to pull too much for fear it will unravel.
How I got into this funk, well, I’m not entirely sure. My finger could point to the leaky house pipes or the full day I spent trying to sort out a license renewal that should have arrived by mail or discovering from my middle of the row theater seat that the subtitles of the foreign film I had been dying to see were only in Hebrew. It could have something to do with a bevy of giant cockroaches scaring the willies out of me when I opened the storage closet door. Maybe it was something larger like waving good-bye to my Mom and trying to catch every last glimpse as she made her way through airport security, and acknowledging just how far the distance is between her home and mine. Or perhaps it’s just my fatigue from all of the tossing and turning I do to try and make myself feel comfortable here when there are so many times that I do not.
I may never be tough enough to deal with the intensity of this Land. I’m almost certain though that if my Dad were here he’d be likely to give me a high five and a sincere, you’ve done good kid. For me, right now, knowing that is encouragement enough.