Surviving or Thriving?

I got to spend shabbos with the Werners, close family friends who I’ve known since age 7. They had a really difficult aliyah, harder than most people can imagine. Everything unexpected that could have happened did, and there were many moments they thought they’d never find the strength to get through.

It’s been over 5 years since their move.

After shabbos, Mrs. Werner and I found ourselves chatting in the kitchen. “Do you still feel like you’re surviving, or are you thriving?” I asked her. She hesitated. “I think we’re thriving.”

I was awed, and a small tug on my heart challenged me to reply, “Me too!,” but I’m not yet there. I still feel chaotic, like I don’t know what’s happening tomorrow. I still feel exhausted from the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on since landing here.

There are things I don’t talk about. I don’t write sad songs, and I don’t write sad posts, because there is so much to be grateful for, and because I’m living the life I chose!

But last week, I left school and stood outside crying. I had gone on a date that lasted way too long and then spent 4 hours in an Israeli classroom trying so hard to stay patient with myself as I stumbled over my Hebrew and pushed to communicate.

And every so often, I allow myself to wander back to where I was a year ago. I had no job and no idea where I was going to live or what the future held. Before that, I didn’t know what depression was. I could not get out of bed. And when I finally did, I bought clothing and ate junk food. I remember leaning my head on the Western wall and asking Hashem to please give me answers or just take me back to Him. The sense of purposelessness overwhelmed my logic. I could not let go of the darkness.

When, through the mysterious ways Hashem helps me, I found a job and an apartment, some semblance of normal came back, but I was dulled. I couldn’t write songs anymore. Talking to Hashem was harder. Keeping in touch with my family was harder. Everything was mundane.

The longest I’ve lived in one place since coming here is 5 months, and in these past 5 months, I’ve been able to think about more than just survival. I’ve been able to hang up my guitar and make some paintings for the wall. I am finally able to host people, which is high up on my list of priorities for a fulfilling life. It’s such a blessing.

Last week, I began a new job, with hours from 3-11pm. This new transition means a completely new schedule, and having to miss out on many of my friend’s nighttime celebrations, but I love the job, it gives me financial predictability, and I know others have done it, so I’m trying to learn from them.

I ask myself the same question; Am I surviving or thriving? The answer comes with a bit of an ache in my chest. I’m still surviving. With each day, I’m coming closer to thriving, and with each week, I’m learning more about myself, adulting, and the world than I would have ever known staying in Baltimore.

I guess, sometimes, I sugar coat things, because I don’t want people to be discouraged from taking the same path. Making aliyah was one of the best choices I’ve ever made, and I would even do it again, knowing everything it entails.

Now I’m working on softening. I’ve become tough, because that’s what life asked of me, but now I’m asking of myself to be the little girl who wants hugs and a warm bed and knows that life is good in all its complexity.

And I’m learning that life itself is topsy-turvy and balance is a process. I’m learning that dreams morph and grow and shrink and move, and so do I. I crave stability, but in the noise, I’m challenged to find the quiet queen inside me who wipes my tears and holds my hand and has this deep, ageless wisdom that it’s all ok.

10 thoughts on “Surviving or Thriving?

  1. Batya, it’s been so long since we’ve talked but I always looked up to you. Like you, I made a bold choice to move away from everything familiar and it was a struggle for a while but sometimes taking a risk brings amazing things into your life. And it’s so worth it! Isn’t it awesome when things start to look up and you can peek back at where you’ve started, how far you’ve come, where you’re going, and where you could be? I think that’s the most amazing thing about life.

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    1. Natalie! Hey! It really has been long! It’s kind of beautiful that, even though we haven’t seen each other for awhile, we’re going through similar experience. It’s encouraging to hear that. And yes, as soon as things start looking up, the opportunity comes to look back and marvel at everything we’ve created along the way 🙂

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  2. I like be your writing. Your descriptions speak clearly to growing, learning, maturing..and your phrases stay in my heart and mind for days. Wherever your path is leading, with patience and your extraordinary insight, you will reach your destination. Love from Florida, USA.

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  3. Batya you are so genuine! Reading your post actually reminded of when I was at a low point in life. It was about 5 years ago and I had one of those crying moments too after attending a shabbos meal in Bmore where people were saying very discriminatory comments about groups of people I belong to. I remember going to your family’s house for comfort and you were home (thank G-d) and talked to me outside on the porch for an hour about things that make me happy and you took such sincere interest in my life. I will always remember that act of kindness during a time I felt very alone. My blessing to you is that you find those moments and those people who lift you up and help you get to a place of thriving , the way you helped me.

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    1. Wow. I had no idea a small conversation could mean so much. I’m so grateful that you felt comfortable sharing your experiences with me. What a beautiful blessing. Amen! May you find the same on you journey.

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