The room is quiet. All eyes are on me. I climb up a ladder to the diving board. I look down, horrified and throw up. I then slowly creep towards the end of the diving board, do a backflip and crash to the floor. The room bursts into laughter. One woman is in front of me looking quite confused while the rest of the 20 women are laughing, crying and chatting excitedly. This was just one of the many ridiculous things I did with a group of women last night, and I am so grateful I did.
I ran a workshop for women in my hometown. After exactly a year since I started social distancing from the world, I felt like I was ready to go out again. With Efrat having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, and the new Green Pass rules, it was high time to have some fun again. With people. In person.
21 women, all in masks, some with head coverings, some in pants, some my age, some old enough to be my mother, all there with one joint purpose. Most didn’t know each other from beforehand, but they still showed up way past their pandemic bedtime (8 p.m.) to have fun together and laugh. I ran an hour and a half workshop that was just filled with silliness, improv, and games. One woman told me later that she felt like I recharged her batteries after feeling depleted for so long.
At one point, towards the end of the evening, I announced that from here on in, whoever wants to end on the high-note is welcome to leave. Those who would like to stay for a more personal and meaningful part are welcome to. We then each took a giant piece of butchers paper and traced our bodies on it. I told all of the participants to write in pencil all the yuck from this past year. The negative thoughts we have had about ourselves. The fears. The pain. Once they all finished, I handed out colorful crayons and asked that they fill up their sketch with positive experiences this past year has brought them. The hope. The love. The strengths they have found from within. Slowly their gray papers filled up with color.
One woman came over to me and said she doesn’t want to participate. She told me this year has been so traumatic for her she is scared if she does this the tears won’t stop and she’d have to leave. I sat with her. A woman I have never met before. She told me that just a few months ago, she had a stillbirth. She lost her little baby, while sick with COVID-19, lying in a hospital bed in an isolated maternity ward. My heart went out to her. She and I both burst into tears. From the high exhilaration, we crashed to the depths of despair. I wanted to hug. I wanted to console and I hope that in some little way I did.
That little rollercoaster ride I had last night felt to me like the perfect analogy for this past year. It has been a year of crazy spikes, ridiculous highs, insane lows, and all with the prayer to return to normal. It has been such a traumatizing experience for so many. Every single person has had to sacrifice something. Over 6,000 people in Israel who lost their lives, countless people lost their livelihoods, children have struggled with their new realities and so so many of us feeling so very alone. I’m not saying that it’s over. Who knows how much longer these strange times will be our normal. But we are starting to emerge from these dark days and I believe that in time we will all find ways to heal.
I turned off the lights, locked up the room and headed home feeling very hopeful for the future. If a group of women who don’t know each other can come together and laugh ’till they cry, and still end the night in an awesome balloon fight with big smiles beneath their masks, then I know that someday soon, things are going to be much better. I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. I hope this is just the beginning of many fun times again with people, new and old, who feel comfortable to laugh, cry and heal together.