Back to Baltimore
It’s been a year since my last blog and it was thanks to a friend that I realized how important it is to me to keep it up.
This year has been full of new processes, and I had a hard time writing when everything was constantly changing.
I’m writing this from my condo in Baltimore. I live here with my beautiful husband and have a baby on the way, due in May. So, as you can imagine, lots has happened since last September.
The year I came back from Israel was challenging, but not in the same way that Israel was. I had the support I needed and was taken care of. The difficulty was primarily emotional. The way I pushed myself in Israel left me with lots to work through. I had to learn how to lean on others, identify what I needed and then fulfill it, and start giving more to myself instead of looking externally.
It didn’t come naturally. I struggled through therapy appointments and fumbled through commitments, making them and then realizing that I couldn’t keep them up. Depression came and went, on and off, and I slept for hours. I needed complete, self-focused hibernation, and eventually, I found my rhythm.
Once I accepted what my body (and my mother) was telling me, it only took a few months to start waking up earlier (though by no means early), begin hiking, eating better food, and dressing in a way that made me feel dignified. Along with my newfound comforts, the extra weight I’d gained in Israel slipped off. I walked barefoot on the grass every day, grounding myself. I put essential oils in my room and had them spread their scent around the clock. I continued to do explorative exercises and meditations with the help of YouTube and a wise mentor.
Back to Dating
Dating was put aside for a few months, but I picked it up shortly afterward. In America, I felt way more single. With fewer suggestions and fewer friends around me, I felt lonely. This was, believe it or not, a newish experience for me. Israel constantly presented me with opportunities to socialize, and even when I didn’t want to take them, I was surrounded by people.
The loneliness brought out some good cries and prayers. One particularly heartbreaking cry happened after dating a guy who I liked, and who made it obvious that he liked me until the energy in his eyes became distant and he became uninterested seemingly out of the blue. It wasn’t a straightforward break-up, which made it harder. He knew that he should have been more communicative, and by way of apology, offered to drive me to a great man, the Skverer Rebbe, who he had a family connection with. It’s generally a long wait to see him, but nepotism got me through.
At the point of my meeting with the rabbi, I was emotionally depleted. The weirdness of the situation was challenging my boundaries – why am I back in the car with this guy who just broke up with me? – and the feeling of sadness gushed over me. The rabbi gave me a blessing, and when I offered a donation, he said to bring one when I found my soulmate.
I walked outside and sobbed so hard that a kind Israeli lady came up to me and asked what was wrong, giving me her blessing as well.
Earlier that week, I had woken up with the awareness that I should visit the Ribnitzer’s grave. He is a sage buried in Monsey, NY, where I was lodging at the time. I didn’t know anything about him, but my brother had mentioned that he wanted to go, and I felt pulled there.
When I got there, the entire place was packed and the streets by the entrance were blocked. I found this strange but didn’t think much of it. I prayed for my family and my soulmate and made my way out. It was only a week later that I learned I had arrived on the anniversary of the Ribnitzer’s death, and that his was a grave where people famously go to pray for their soulmates.
Anyway- back to the Skverer Rebbe.
My ex-date picked me up, and after a sad, awkward ride back to my cousin’s house, where I was staying, I said goodbye. Looking up at the night sky, my heart broke, and I felt full transparency and vulnerability with Hashem. I let out one more heart-wrenching cry and went to bed.
A few weeks passed with nothing eventful. Then, as I was sitting at the desk in my room, my sister Minky called through the door, “I’m sending you something. Let me know if you want to go.”
It was an invitation to a single’s shabbaton- a weekend getaway. I read what type of person they were advertising for, and didn’t think I fit the bill, but filled out the application regardless. A few days later, my inbox presented me with a welcome letter to the shabbaton and details of the sleeping arrangements.
The event was in upstate New York, and my sister (who came along as a good sport) and I arrived excited. I told her that I definitely won’t be meeting any guys there, but was looking forward to meeting some matchmakers and, most of all, enjoying the lake and the animals on the campus.
Friday came and went, and the Friday night meal found me speaking with a young shaddchan (matchmaker) who told me she wanted to make an introduction and asked me to go to the other end of the room, where she’d send the guy she had in mind.
I walked confidently to the sinks at the other end of the room and, not knowing what to do while I waited, began washing my hands. After that, I dried them, making sure to address each finger. A guy with light brown hair walked over to me just as I was running out of activities and introduced himself as Shimon. I was surprised to hear that he was from Baltimore, too, and had gone to the same school as my brother-in-law. After a couple minutes of talking, the shaddchan came over to me and asked if she could have my attention for a minute. She then introduced me to another guy… the one she had intended for me to meet.
It turns out, Shimon’s tablemates had convinced him to introduce himself when they saw him eyeing me, and he had beaten the intended guy to the chase.
Shimon went back to his table and told his tablemates, “I’m going to marry that girl.” I finished my conversation and went to the shaddchan, telling her to pass along the message that Shimon should meet me at my table. The message never reached him.
After the meal, I waited on the couches in the lounge for him to show up, but to my horror, he walked right past me. I followed him to a small room containing two parrots. I could tell the parrots felt comfortable with him, but couldn’t say the same about me. As he was sweet talking to the parrots and I was trying to get his attention while pretending that the parrots liked me as much as him, we came to a mutual agreement that parrots should not be locked in cages, and armed with a common goal, decided that we would speak to the staff about it the next morning.
Later that night, we sat down to talk. Shimon called it a date, which I cynically thought was a little funny because, technically, every conversation with the opposite gender at a single’s shabbaton could be considered a date. Regardless, I was not dissuaded from chatting with him…yet.
Shimon had very few dating experiences and was extremely curious and trusting. He shared honestly and asked questions, even speaking quite emotionally about a painful experience he had in the Israeli army. I, generally a fan of transparency, was a little freaked out. All my alarm bells went off- this guy is needy, he’s emotionally unstable, he shares too much, he’s going to want me to take care of him… he, on the other hand, thought it was a great date.
I spent the night keeping my sister up as I agonized over if I should “date” him further. Unable to identify that I was being triggered by lots of hard dating experiences, I determined that I would decide in the morning.
The next morning, I had a decent conversation with a different guy, who was just as burnt out from dating as I was. He was familiarly pessimistic and cynical, and sadly, I related to him much more than I related to Shimon, who I had decided to compare to every guy I met at the shabbaton.
Shimon happily walked into the foyer the next day, and I asked to talk with him. I told him – brace yourself – that he is an awesome, friendly guy but way too optimistic for me. Without missing a beat, he said, “Are you looking for a husband? Don’t you want to marry someone optimistic?” I realized then how silly I sounded, but couldn’t read myself well enough to know what was bothering me, so we determined to touch base through a designated shaddchan after the shabbaton.
When I think about it now, I completely understand why I was so terrified after first meeting Shimon. His transparency reminded me of guys I’d met whose oversharing signified a lack of independence. I didn’t realize at the time that his vulnerability was due to the fact that he already felt connected to me.
After shabbos, the organizers set up a few activities which the participants could choose between. I knew I wanted to paint but didn’t know with who. I reviewed everyone I’d met that weekend and realized that I only wanted Shimon’s company.
I found him at the outdoor firepit on his way to bed, having given up on finding anyone he wanted to hang out with. He thought I was playing him, but cautiously agreed to paint with me anyway.
And that’s how it began. After just four dates I knew, stronger than I’ve ever known, that he was my soulmate. I didn’t love him yet. I just knew he was the one beyond any shadow of a doubt. After our third date, which began at Dave and Busters and ended in Walmart, since nothing else is open at night in Baltimore, I came home and made an announcement. “I’m going to marry him,” I said, and giggled.
Stay tuned for part 2 🙂