Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Egg Salad Epiphany

Due to a spate of recent inquiries, I'm interrupting the photo tour of the Shomron to give an update on the shidduch scene.

For the past month or two, I've felt like a heat recovery steam generator with the safety valve welded shut. That's an engineering metaphor for "frustrated." I remembered back to when I had just landed in Israel a mere eleven months ago, after four years of non-stop sixty hour work weeks to get out of debt. I remember how content I felt then. I had no debts, the entire holy land was in front of me, and my shidduch out there somewhere. But lately, those memories made me realize by contrast how frustrated I've been feeling recently. It would pop up when I was riding the bus to yeshiva, an hour bus ride for what should have been a fifteen minute drive, with me digging my nails into the tattered seat cushion, grinding my teeth chanting under my breath, "No, don't stop to let that schnook on the bus, just get there, get there, GET THERE already!" I could get the cloud to clear when I went to Yeshiva and immersed myself in Torah study, but it seemed that the demons would re-attach themselves as soon as I stepped out the door.

The same recurring frustration emerges in dating. Either the girls give me one date and then don't answer when I call the next day, or I go out with girls who are really great as people but just don't fit with me. Even more difficult is when she wants to go out with me again but meanwhile I've already realized it's not a match. It's a tricky balance, because part of the dating process is mentally preparing one's self to for marriage by extending empathy towards others, and you don't want to let the other person down. On the other hand, you know what you're looking for, you know when it's not there, and you have to look out for yourself as well. I felt that I've been doing everything within my ability to make my match, but unlike the steady process of working off debt, this one has no definite endpoint. Could take months, could take years. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, but I can't gauge the distance.

Recently, I went to a Shabbaton (a sort of Shabbat gathering,) which is a good way to meet other singles. I typically land at the Shabbaton, scan the crowd, and do the mental math, "Okay, fiften girls, twenty four hours, set aside eight hours for sleeping and one hour for eating, that leaves an average of one hour per girl. Get going!"

On shabbatons, I'll typically sift out some good candidates and mosey on over to start a conversation. I could get to, "What's your name where you from?" as an opening volley, but within a few minutes I would realize that I was standing by myself again. This shabbaton was no different, and I even saw one girl who had been a candidate a previous time and shot me down then. But as I looked over the crowd, with everyone trying to start up smiley conversations with everyone else, I decided that I'm finished with the whole business. Dayeinu! No more lurching and leering, eyes front. Speaking of which, that egg salad in front of me looked pretty good, so I just smeared some on my slice of challah started chewing. Maybe I could just sit there and eavesdrop in on the conversation the guys in front of me were having. After an hour or so, I noticed something had changed. With no effort on my part, being completely relaxed, the girl who had shot me down all those months ago had moved across the room and was sitting right next to me saying hello. Didn't lay on any pressure for a get together, or ask for a number at the end, just enjoyed the conversation.

It's the same principle, bittul (self-nullification) which led to success in aliyah. On my previous attempt at living in Israel, back in 2000, I landed with dreams of how all my plans would work out great, and I would soon be Ephraim Melech Israel (Ephraim, King of Israel.) After a year I found myself impoverished, sick, still relatively Hebrew illiterate, and soon I was on a flight back to San Francisco. On my second attempt less than a year ago, I had decided that I was going to give it all up. Yes, I'd probably be sick, poor, illiterate, and unemployed, but Hashem wants his people here and he's going to help me make it through. And he did! I was able to keep working, I've been, thank God, fit and healthy, the Hebrew I studied in the intervening years has helped me make a foothold, and I even got myself off the endless bus rides and into a car. When you expect nothing, everything is like a gift.  Ephraim Melech Israel!

I'm now trying to apply bittul to the dating life. I still put out a nominal effort, but at the same time, I am trying to internalize the idea that no amount of "hunting" will make it come any faster, that the whole shidduch thing is out of my grasp. The statistician in me says that not moving full speed ahead may slow the process down, but I'm so much more relaxed about life, cruising the streets of Jerusalem, learning in yeshivah, and just doing my thing, that it's worth the wait.

1 comment:

Chana said...

Inspiring, thanks.