Rushing to Relax


I had a mild hump-day/Park Slope co-op induced anxiety attack this evening, following my third day back in New York. After a long month of pure relaxation on consecutive vacations in Israel and California, I don’t think my body (or psyche) was able to adjust to such a rapid change in pace of life.

I flew from San Francisco to New York Sunday at the crack of dawn, stayed up all night unpacking and moving rooms, and started work at the Jewish Disaster Response Corps Monday morning. So far, I love the job– Adina, the executive director, is wonderful and welcoming. She’s organized and motivated, and I think we’re going to make a great team. I’m playing the role of program director, which means coordinating all logistics, curriculum, and communication for the service-learning trips we’ll be running in Oklahoma in January and March. Those trips will focus on helping rebuild from the massive tornadoes that struck the state in May, but the JDRC also mobilizes volunteers for Hurricane Sandy relief, and any other major natural disasters that might hit the US throughout the year.

In any case, between switching time zones, starting a new job,  and trying to get back in the swing of things at Moishe House all in the same week– grocery shopping, joining a gym, oh, right… and the High Holidays… things have been a bit hectic. I finished work and rushed home, trying to make it back in time to join an interfaith walk for 9/11 remembrance day in Brooklyn. I think I bit off a bit more than I can chew, given that I spent the past two evenings out catching up with friends and needed desperately to make phone calls and answer emails. So I decided to drop my stuff off and head to the Park Slope co-op to do some grocery shopping for the next few days.

The co-op, God bless it, is a bit disorganized when it comes to keeping track of memberships. I’ve had issues with them in the past, but always written it off as a lovable quirk that comes along with belonging to a super funky, hip and healthy alternative to big box grocery chains. You trade in your pesticides and jacked-up prices for a bit of kookiness & the occasional accidental suspension of your account thanks to some colossal error in the membership office.

Tonight, though, I didn’t have the patience. I had an hour to shop and get home with groceries before a yoga class I desperately wanted to get to in order to blow off some steam, but the co-op had other plans for my evening. After being told I was suspended for being on leave, I navigated through several clerical SNAFUs with the friendly yet discombobulated membership coordinator, and finally thought I had my account all squared away aside from several phone calls I’d have to make later to clear up several errors he wasn’t authorized to fix and switching a shift I already knew I had to miss. Whew. As the coordinator so cheerfully informed me, “You’re good to shop!”

Wrong. I got through my quick run of the store and handed the cashier my membership card. “You’re not authorized to shop right now because you’re suspended. I can’t override,” he told me apologetically. “You’re gonna have to go settle this with the membership office.”

I fumed. “It’s getting to be more work to shop here than not!” I told him, knowing it wasn’t his fault. He looked sympathetic. All co-op members have been through the whole rigamarole at one point or another… most of them numerous times… and he could relate. I left my purse and cart with the confused looking line manager and dashed through the co-op and up the flight of stairs back to the membership office, waited with waning patience as the membership coordinator explained the seemingly never-ending list of ways one can prove his or her residence to a prospective new member, and then begged him to kindly update my account status so I could go back down and pay for my groceries.

By the time I got back down, waited in line again, and paid, I was going to have to make a mad dash to get home and unpack the frozen items before jetting over to yoga. Breathless and heart racing wildly, I thought to myself, “Oof, what a ridiculous hump-day co-op induced anxiety attack,” shortly followed by, “I need an Ativan,” … and “Hey, that’s good, I should tweet that!” Of course I couldn’t reach my smart-phone while balancing my box of groceries and speed-walking down 5th avenue, so I decided it could wait ’til I got home. Still though, the oh-so-clever line stuck in my head on repeat, as I simultaneously thought of the massage I wanted to book, the dinner I wanted to make, the email I had to send, and the yoga class I now needed to sprint to in order to be there the necessary fifteen minutes early to get a spot in the eternally jam-packed studio. My heart rate spiked and sweat ran down my forehead in bullets.

The sad part, I have to admit, is how common this type of experience is. We pop xanax and valium as we rush to yoga, facebook message furiously as we walk the 10 feet from work to the subway, and make mental note of the tweets/emails/facebook messages we want to send the second we get out of the subway and back into wi-fi. Even as I type this, I’m panicking about how I have to confirm my soccer team roster, write a blurb for a poetry workshop, pick a day to volunteer with my ESL student, and somehow make time to say hello to my roommates who have also just returned from various parts of the world. Not to mention ten billion other enjoyable activities I’d love to plan and meals I’d love to cook if I could just make space in my brain to make it all happen!

If scheduling a massage, joining a peace march, writing a blog post, and making it to a yoga class have turned into stressful events, then what on earth CAN we turn to when we need to take the pressure off? I realized things today have gotten a bit ridiculous when I looked down at my to-do list and saw “Map out free time,” jotted down just underneath “Lie on floor and stretch,” “Call Dad for his birthday,” “Go Outside to sit in the backyard” and “Decorate Room” as if those were stressful chores that need to be in my google calendar with plentiful reminders if they’re ever going to happen. How sad is that??!!

The state of affairs in our modern day life, especially in fast-paced cities like New York lived out by overachiever, neurotic Jewish- joiner types like myself, has the potential to really screw up our priorities. As I take a breath now to breathe, letting my fingers slow down just a tad from their typing, I wonder what I can cut out to make my life a little more sane. It’s a new year on the Jewish calendar, and some reflection is in order.

The truth is, I don’t know what I can cut out. But I better figure it out soon. As soon as I post this blog post on facebook so all my friends can like it.



The Gollum Syndrome

I see the downtrodden, smelly, grungy, muttering, and I hide,

Drifting slightly left or right on the sidewalk

Averting my eyes on the train

It’s all a form of hiding… Continue reading

On Privilege, Databases, and Clumps of Hair


I was undressing at the gym tonight post-workout, and thinking about a job decision that I deliberated and dramatized for hours on end today. I was just in the middle of ruminating over the scary thought that maybe I was being too picky and Don Quixote-ish by turning it down, when I noticed the nightly cleaning woman coming through the dressing room with her mop and gloves. Head down, just like every night, although I always try to catch her eye to smile or say thank you.

She was just doing her job, probably none too enjoyable– given that her job consists of picking up matted clumps of hair out of shower drains and sweeping away sock lint from the area beneath the lockers– but it got me thinking. Here I am, blabbing on and on to my friends about whether I’ll get more fulfillment from challenging intellectual program tasks versus three weeks paid vacation plus Jewish holidays, and meanwhile here’s this woman—I don’t even know her name—sweeping through my pathetic panic attack with probably very little choice as to her career and how she makes a living.

She sweeps to make a living because that’s what’s done when you live in America and need to eat and don’t speak English as your native language. Not clinging on to the cushy life of a freelance writing gig, or scoffing at job offers because they’re too database-y and thus, beneath me. And especially not taking shelter under the loomingly huge (but heretoforth unnoticed) stormcloud of privilege that floats around with me like a big protective translucent bubble.

I figured trying to give a tip could get awkward, so instead I filled out a feedback slip and dropped it into the suggestion box at the front desk saying “the cleaning staff does a lovely job—you should give them a raise.” But just as I was patting myself on the back for “taking action,” I thought, “Jesus. Is this what my activism has come to?”

Good thing I start volunteering at Imani House tomorrow… I think I need a good dose of reality.

11 Crazy Things I’ve Thought While High on Caffeine


They say that coffee is a drug, but I never really understood that as a kid. It didn’t seem to me, from watching my dad drink a cup or two of Peet’s strongest brew on weekends, that coffee had the power to make people hallucinate or leave reality. Sure, it made him talk at maximum speed (and volume) while recapping the latest Giants game or Phil Lesh concert to his BFF Sandy over the phone, or catching my grandma in Delaware up on events from the week….

“OH HI MA,” he’d shout into the receiver, “YEAHHHHH… WE’RE DOING GREAT OUT HERE, HOW’S YOUR TEMPORAL ARTERITIS THIS WEEK? … YEAH IT’S GORGEOUS AND 70 DEGREES HERE, WE’RE JUST SITTING AROUND AND…. WHAT? WHAT’S THAT? Oh, Deb is telling me to lower my voice… Oh… Yeah, she says she can hear me from next door… so yeah HOW’S THE WEATHER OUT THERE?!”

Aside from overexcitement and extended trips with the Sports page to the downstairs bathroom, I never noticed anything exceedingly abnormal about my father’s personality while under the influence of caffeine. And so I always assumed it was a harmless, albeit bitter, one of adulthood’s simple pleasures. Continue reading

The Meaning of Life (According to OK Cupid)

Friday, January 4th 12:06 am, sitting at my kitchen table and eating a delicious dinner of tuna salad with sweet red apple and red onion, fresh red lettuce leaves with oil and balsamic, and challah with fresh cheddar cheese… which I savored only because I turned my phone on silence and left my laptop upstairs.


Photo on 4-12-12 at 2.51 PM
Humans can be incredibly oblivious creatures.
That’s why when I notice something: a cardboard box in a garbage can, or a piece of litter on the street… a homeless person on the street I’d rather not make eye contact with… I try to force myself into action. On those few and far between instances that I actually notice an opportunity to make a difference, I should take it—to begin making up for all the times I’m not aware.

On a completely separate note, I spent a lot of time today thinking about a particular question on OK Cupid, which I recently joined in an effort to get over my recent ex and start meeting new guys to entertain myself with. While I don’t mind being single, at the moment, it would be nice to have somebody to share life’s ups and downs with. It’s sort of like this thought I came up with while eating: Continue reading

Five Important Lessons Learned as a Freelancer

  1. Don’t even think about trying to start your day without coffee… Yes, it’s cliché, expensive, and addictive, but trust me: if you want to get started on something creative anytime before 1pm, caffeine is always the answer. Just make sure you don’t make the mistake of combining it with intense stress or cardio, if you want to avoid paralyzing anxiety or a pre-geriatric heart attack. (Yes, I’ve been there… It’s not pretty.)                        Image                        (courtesy of the Oatmeal) Continue reading

A Moment of Sorrow in Yoga

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
Kahlil Gibran 


I had an interesting moment in yoga tonight at Crunch. Generally I feel that their classes lack the yogic breathing and meditation elements, choosing to forego chanting and reflection for the sake of fitness workout. The instructors look like younger versions of Arnold Schwarzenegger and most of them shout into microphones as they rush you through the poses, pushing for sweat. But tonight we had an older teacher. She wore the Crunch uniform shirt, but it was maroon and looked faded. She had grey hair, an ethereal manner, and I felt she could pass for a human in Berkeley. Her butt was even a little saggy, and she started the class off with asking us to get comfortable and think of three things we were grateful for. Continue reading

10 Tips for Surviving NYC: A Newbie’s Guide

Despite the stress and hustle of New York, I am writing more than I ever have and it feels luxurious and fun… so at least I can keep that in mind when I doubt the worth of moving here! I wanted to be a writer… now I am! Broke, but not starving 😉

Everywhere you turn here are people. Turn your head one way, hundreds of people in the crowd. Turn your head the other, hundreds more. Walk a block, hundreds of new people you’ve never seen. Immigrants, tourists, locals, punks, goths, glamour girls, businessmen, hobos, musicians, artists, kids, old people… You could spend a year here and never run into anyone you’ve seen before.

After a very stressful week, I’ve compiled a list of things I learned in my first month in New York.

1. Anytime you have an opportunity to use a clean private restroom, DO IT. Even if you don’t have to go. Even if you went 10 minutes ago. New York has millions of people, and almost zero viable options for relieving yourself when out and about in public. Continue reading

Strangers No More: Nature’s Power to Bond and Interconnect


Disclaimer: Those who were displaced, or remain displaced, by the storm have not been so lucky as I, at the time of this writing. I’m glad to hear that electricity is returning to Manhattan thanks to the tremendous efforts of city workers, and that people are beginning to return to their homes. But unthinkable numbers of people are still without hot food or electricity. The privilege of staying at home cozy and warm is something I don’t take for granted, and I don’t mean this personal writing to represent or encompass the experiences of those for whom the storm was a tragic blow to safety and sense of home. I hope that we’ll all continue to think about and send positive prayers for healing to all those for whom the storm has not passed. 

The best thing about the recent hurricane is that the privileged amongst us are being forced to live locally for a while. Though I’m definitely included in the list of New Yorkers (am I a New Yorker? that might be a big stretch of the imagination…) anxiously awaiting the return of full subway service and power in lower Manhattan, I’ve actually appreciated the chance to stay home– or at least around town– for the greater part of a week. My roommate Ellie and I were talking the other night about how our house felt almost unlived-in until Sandy hit, at which point we barely left Ellie’s bedroom except to carry up food and drink from the kitchen, and to go to the bathroom. We kept the window open for fresh air, and had a grand old time cuddling and watching movies on our new projector. With our eyes glued on Ellie’s wall, using news as intermissions for our movie marathons, all of us began to sink into a pleasant comfort with one another—despite being complete and utter strangers as of just last Sunday. Continue reading

Sentiments on Sandy

I’m a little concerned at the particular way in which we’ve all been watching the news, trolling every weather site for new photos and videos of sensational storm coverage. Though initially it comes from a place of concern and awareness, it can also border on selfish– as if we’re using serious damage and danger for entertainment. I know it’s “exciting” to be in the middle of things—I felt the same way, with the whole country’s attention on New York (to which I’ve recently relocated)… Receiving text messages and emails of concern every five minutes from friends and family around the world is actually quite touching, and shows genuine care in a way that we don’t often grant one another. Continue reading