Thursday, August 06, 2009

Sushi, Birthday Cake, and a Side of Death

I am really tired. I woke up with a headache. I don't know why. I got a good night's sleep, about 5 hours - not less than usual, maybe a bit more. Headache's cleared up but still dazed tired. Mystery.

In the car on the ride to work this morning, I was treated to a lecture about how we're all going to die. I knew that. But it's somewhat morbid to think about too much. This guy was adamant that we should think about it a lot. Okay.

Last night I went over to my aunt's house. She heard I was feeling blue last week and invited me over. She made sushi for supper because she knew I like it, but she used vegetables instead of fish. I really only like the fish part, could care less about seaweed and rice. So what are you supposed to do when someone goes out of their way to be nice to you and do something for you but you totally don't appreciate it? Not only do I not appreciate the dish, but I'd much rather prepare my own food and choose what I want to eat. I hate having to eat food I don't like.

Then for dessert she brought out a birthday cake. Okay, cool. My birthday's coming up. Again, I could do without the cake because it's so unhealthy, and if you're getting me a cake at least get a kind I like... So again, are you trying to do me a favor? I appreciate that you want to--but you're clueless about my tastes. Or maybe you are doing it for yourself. In that case, don't think you're doing me any favors, don't act like I owe you anything. But it was nice of you to think of celebrating my birthday.

Then she got out a camera to take a picture of me blowing out the candle or something. I didn't want the picture, covered my face and asked for no pictures. But they persisted. I left the room. Lied down on the couch, and almost cried to myself. All I wanted was to be left alone. After a minute I came back, they agreed to put away the camera, and I cut the cake...

After the kids went to bed, I went with my aunt to the gym. Had a good workout, then showered and changed and emerged from the locker room feeling good -- to find an exasperated aunt upset at how long I had kept her waiting. I was so pissed and deeply hurt that she would hurry me out of the gym. DOES SHE NOT KNOW THAT I LIVE FOR THIS?!?! Idiot. I ONLY agreed to come to your house because you mentioned that I'd be able to go to the gym. I only got off antidepressants because working out took their place. I'm sorry to keep you waiting, but that's me. I need this. If you don't understand, don't invite me over. I didn't ask to come. I appreciate your offer and invitation, but I'm not flipping my life upside down over it! You might see this as overreacting, and maybe it is, but for some reason it touched me deeply. I was very pained and hurt that she complained I kept her waiting. I think I felt betrayed. I was led to believe she invited me because she cared about me and then to discover that she doesn't begin to understand.

Despite the hurt, it's good it happened because we had a good conversation about it afterward. This type of thing was related to the reason I had felt down last week. I hate feeling like a burden to people, and it bothers me when they complain about me burdening them. But sometimes I can't help it. For me to be me, other people suffer at times. I try to minimize it, but it seems that its impossible to completely avoid. That's why I had written "the world would be better off without me." And she became concerned...

I thought about how much my parents are pained by my lifestyle. I don't want to hurt them. Would they be happier if I were gone? I think they're happier to have me, even as I am, but maybe not. Maybe my whole life is a heavy weight on their shoulders.

My aunt mentioned that Jewish parents sit shiva (mourn) for a child who marries a Gentile. Would my parents really mourn as if I died if I married a non-Jew? If I thought I could find happiness with another person, would they mourn as if I died? It's surreal. What if it was a boy? Jewish boy, non-Jewish boy, I don't know if it makes any difference. If they would mourn my happiness, they obviously don't care too much about me. But could it really be that my parents don't care about me? From everything they say and do it would seem they care a whole lot about me. But perhaps they care about some idealized conceptualization of me, not the real me--with all my flaws.

Another thing that came out of the discussion is how selfish I am. You and I knew that already. My aunt helpfully suggested I could pitch in more around the house, take out the garbage, wash the dishes, help the kids with homework. She's right, I could do more. Maybe that would give me more satisfaction of being a part of the family... tbc

Let me know what you think. I could use some advice. But if you're just going to trash me and bash me I'ma cut you bitch! I'll be happy to ignore it.


naturgesetz said...

Well, I'm coming in in the middle of things, so I don't know anything beyond what you say in this post.

You make pretty good sense. It seems that your aunt wasn't doing herself a favor by inviting you over. My take is she genuinely wanted to give you a nice evening. It's too bad she doesn't know you well enough to know that you want fish sushi and that you don't want to eat cake, or what kind of cake you like. (But let's not be fanatics about healthy foods. A piece of birthday cake isn't going to kill you.) You have to be in pretty regular mealtime contact to know someone's food preferences. So I chalk it up to good intentions. Your disappointment is understandable, but maybe it could have been tempered a bit more by appreciation for (rather than questioning of) her good intentions.

She should have kept her mouth shut about being made to wait at the gym. If you hadn't already been disappointed by the meal, maybe it would have been easier to take when she said that. But if it led to a real heart to heart, it could be for the best.

I seem to have heard the thing about sitting shiva for a child who marries a non-Jew, but I'd have thought it would be uncommon nowadays — even though intermarriage often leads to the loss of future generations. The thing is, there are mixed feelings. When one sits shiva, it is not that one doesn't love the one who died, but that one grieves a loss. Parents can feel deeply hurt by things their children do. The depth of their love increases their pain.

Of course, it's your life. You don't have to make decisions about marriage or equally important things just to avoid giving pain to your parents. But the "They should be happy that I'm happy" argument doesn't work in real life, even though it sounds good on paper. If they think you've made a big mistake, it will disappoint them. Parents have hopes for their children. Some of those hopes have to do with things that really matter to them, and we can't expect the things that matter deeply to our parents to stop mattering to them just because they don't matter so much to us. So if they are hurt by your lifestyle, it is because they care about you and have different beliefs about what is good. I'm sure they wouldn't be happier if you were gone.

So, if you end up marrying a non-Jew, or a boy, your parents may well grieve, whether or not they actually sit shiva. They have a right to their feelings. If you are prepared for it, that should help. If you can be the ideal son in some of the little ways that you and your aunt talked about, that may help them as well as you to get through whatever disappointment they feel about your lifestyle.

So don't be too hard on yourself for disappointing you parents. And don't be too hard on them for being disappointed. It hurts because you and they care.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Thank you for Following It's Getting Better. I'll Follow your blog in return - although there's not little widget thing to show that I am!

I don't really want to get into trying to offer advice to you having only just met you - as it were! Seems to me that would be presumptuous.

Having said that a man I love to (almost violently) disagree with 'n' has already give you what must be very sound advice from what little I understand about you (yet) and the moderate amount I know about our catholic (with a capital c) friend. Deep inside he'a good guy really - it's just he and I think each other is so misguided on the matter of religion.

Whatever. We can exchange blog links if you like Its GB's URL for the link is

Teddy Douglas said...

Thanks for your kind words. Good point about mourners still loving the deceased, but when you grieve the loss of the living, that is something else. Thanks for writing.