Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"There is no world" versus "Bereishis Bara;" a Dose of Reality.

So, I have ten minutes and the blog window is open.  I wanted to share something philosophical with you, which is probably attributable to something wrong with me, but whatever.

I have always seen life as fluid, "streaky."  Light has always flashed before my eyes, and without glasses, one thing seems to merge into everything else.

Couple that with some cell theory that when you touch something (e.g., a table), cells of your leave your body and join to become the structure of the table, and cells of the table leave the table on a cellular level and join to become part of who you are.

We are not talking shmutz here, but real transference of cells.  Pretty cool concept.  Add in the thought that the world is pretty much empty space, and you have a world view that says that the world doesn't exist except for an illusion which tricks you into believing it is real, and then there is that "Bereishis Bara" problem where G-d CREATED a world, tangible and real to you.

Then there are mitzvos which bring down G-dly energy which re-vivifies the world and studying Torah, which is a physical vessel (a klaf and ink, or in English, a scroll, parchment, and ink), yet it is able to hold and contain G-d's essence himself, as if we could understand such a concept.

Like a dog can see a malach without freaking out (because it lacks the comprehension that it is looking at a spiritual entity), when we study Torah, we connect with G-d in a way that if we truly understood what we were doing, we would expire and die from the G-dly light.  Yet we don't.  We look at the parchment and ink, we read the words, and it does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to us, as if we were a dog unable to comprehend the magnitude of what we are seeing or doing when we read a word of Torah.

Then there is the TV screen problem, namely, that I see my reality as if my eyes are glued to a TV screen and as if the TV screen is like VR goggles (virtual reality glasses).  The better analogy is eyes being glued to the TV with sticky glue, and thus we 'see' our body, and the 'world' that Hashem created for us to live in.  But... just as a TV can be shut off, so can our reality.

I have often visualized a spaceless expanse that when I "shut off" the TV, I can float down, up, forward, backwards... in any direction like a Peter Pan, and yet the 'image' of the TV remains in front of me.  I can in my mind switch it on or off, but independent of what my eyes see and what my mind tells me is real, it also tells me that the spaceless expanse is also just as real, if not more so.

So I live in the world and allow myself to trick myself that everything is real, when in my heart, I suspect it is not.  But then, "Bereishis Bara," so who knows.

Lifting the Veil of Fog (so, Waking).

I am writing this after having experienced a re-awakening after a few days, but last Wednesday after writing the "dying" article, I resolved that the current vitamin regimen wasn't working, and that I would go back to the DHA that was working for me.

I ordered it last Wednesday, and it arrived the following day.  I took 300mg of the vitamin on Thursday night, and then again on Friday morning again.

Friday morning, I lay on the floor of my office taking one nap after another ("Alexa, set alarm for 15 minutes" over and over again), and around noontime, something weird happened.  I felt as if the veil of fog lifted from before me.

"That was weird," I thought.  All of a sudden, I was able to think, and not just think, but I could think clearly... about life, about work, about goals, and so I grabbed a pen and paper, and started goalsetting (something I have not done in weeks).

I called my wife and said, "I don't know what has come over me, and I hope it is a permanent thing, but for the first time in weeks, I can think clearly.  I am almost afraid this is a fluke, but whatever it was -- whether it was the Alter Rebbe's Tanya I started learning deeply, or the new vitamin (likely the vitamin), it was working."

I wish my wife was more supportive, but it seemed as if she was happy to hear the good news, but she didn't really appreciate what a big deal it was.  I think she sees me as lazy or unmotivated, and this hurts.

Anyway, I wish I could make this article more exciting for you, but really, that is all I have to share.  It is now five days later, and I have maintained the clarity, but I still don't like the idea that my ability to think is hinged on my maintaining some drug or vitamin chemical level in my brain.  I wish I functioned well without having the need to DO anything or TAKE anything.  My inability to think without vitamins or chemicals makes me feel flawed.

Anyway, it is the late afternoon on Wednesday, and I did not take my afternoon vitamins (nor have I had my afternoon coffee), and I am feeling a bit down in the dumps.  I am lacking motivation, but I understand that it is not that I have no motivation; I am simply not feeling it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


My vitamin regimen is not working.  It has been how many weeks since I started taking the vitamins for ADD, and I am literally feeling nothing.  It has also been three weeks since I gave up soda, aspartame, and artificial sweeteners cold turkey.  Instead, I purchased a soda stream and have been making seltzer each day with some non-artificial sweeteners.

Yet it has been three weeks, and my brain is still a fog.  I have difficulty focusing, and my motivation has dropped through the floor.  Honestly, I feel as if I am just clawing to make it through the day, only to repeat the same dreadful devoid of meaning routine and day of taking care of the morning routine with the kids -- getting them woken up, negelvasser, dressing them, getting them fed and out the door, only to repeat the process with the younger kids for a second round.  Then, exhausted, I go to work, and without motivation to do anything, I take care of the incoming inquiries and I take whatever calls come my way, all the while struggling with a foggy brain and waiting for the day to be over.  I come home (usually in a rush because I've lost track of time), I take some child to some afterschool activity, I get a 30-minute workout at the gym, I pick them up, put everyone to bed with kisses, and I do it all over again the next day.

This evening coming home from a grueling day at work (where I feel as if I got nothing done) [brain fog, wanting to roll into a ball and cry], I sat down in my office at home which has been taken over by my wife with her post-graduate medical program.  I told the kids to please leave the room, and they didn't listen.  I waited a few minutes asking a few more times and being ignored before I screamed, "get out of the office!"

My wife looked at me, and said, "If you died tomorrow, their last memory of you would have been you screaming at them."  Not exactly understanding what she was referring to, I smiled at the thought that tomorrow I could die, and I thought, "Baruch Hashem!"  At least then I would be released from this life of boredom, meaningless, headaches and pain.

When I told her this, she got concerned, as if I should see a doctor or something.  "I'm not suicidal!" I exclaimed.  Rather, it would be nice to get away from all this garbage and my meaningless existence.

I thought more about it, and maybe I didn't eat lunch, or maybe I didn't drink that second cup of coffee (I haven't been drinking much coffee since I gave up artificial sweetener), or maybe I was dehydrated, or maybe my brain was mush from staring at the computer all day, who knows.  Either way, when I later took my daughter to her afterschool activity (of which I am sitting in the cafeteria typing this article), I couldn't help but to almost start crying when I was talking to her.

I am obviously not anywhere near ending my life, but you know, if it ended via natural means in a way that wouldn't hurt my family, that would be great.  I could feel myself dying inside just from the thought of being willing to let go, as if -- if I willed it strong enough, I might just be successful in dying just because I will it to be so, without any overt action needed.  Again, I am obviously NOWHERE NEAR this point, but it amused me to notice this.

[ENDED ARTICLE HERE.]  [NOTE: I meant to speak about how meaningless I have been feeling life was, and that I was not feeling anything that gave me the feeling of a REASON to be enthusiastic or motivated about life.  It all just seemed meaningless.]

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Six months of a blur... ADHD... discipline... and a struggle between considering medication or self-medication through vitamins and hard work...

Six months... That is how much time has passed since I have returned to the US.  Six months ago, I had a plan to return to my home, reintegrate with my community, solidify friendships I did not take the time to solidify the last time around, and fix my failing business.

I had a good start.  I came back, spent time with friends asking questions about THEM and THEIR lives, trying to make connections were I was unsuccessful the last time.  I made some progress, but then life got in the way and I sank back into my old hermit routines of hiding behind a busy family and a headache I just cannot shake off.  It's not a real headache, but rather, it's a bit of depression... or, inability to focus... or unmotivation, whatever.  I'm just not on my game.

My wife went back to school for a graduate program in an area of practice she has been speaking about for years.  This is a wonderful accomplishment for her, but in return, I have given up my routine, my sanity, and my ability to function as a cost.  I am very happy for her and I will do whatever I can to help her get through it, but I'm suffering as a result in ways she will never see.

You see, it's been roughly ten years since I started this blog, and I started it to clarify religious concepts of frumkeit that I was still thrashing out, and to understand myself and my surroundings from a philosophical point of view.  I stumbled onto other blogs which led my observation inward, where I attributed every psychological disease to myself, trying it on as one tries on a new dress in the fitting room, only to realize that the hips are too wide, or the dress doesn't quite fit right.

It's been ten years, and I kind of figured out what it is I suffer from, and it embarrasses me how simple an answer it was... ADD (or, as they now call it, ADHD).  The thing is... as a rule, I don't believe in ADD.  I also don't believe in medication for ADD, and I really believe that people should work through their problems, so here are mine (I've figured them out).

I suffer from depression as a result of being unable to focus.  My mind works at high speeds, but my ability to keep up with my thoughts tires me out.  I can't focus well, very often I can't think straight.  You wouldn't know it by my thick shell and my calm and cool demeanor, but I am very emotionally sensitive and am usually overstimulated by simple interactions with people (even my own family and kids) to the point that saying hello to someone or having inconsequential interactions overstimulates me to the point that I cannot think, and I often need quiet time to recover (and sometimes I am unable to recover so I know to isolate myself and distract myself with some activity until my mind defuzzes).  My wife thinks I need a psychologist from this, but I have tried a few of them over my years and we don't get anywhere... ever.

I live in a state of overwhelm, even when the stressors are minor.  I should be much better than the person I have become, but I live in the shackles of a head that keeps me from being able to be organized enough and motivated enough to do the things I know I need to do, so I procrastinate until deadlines loom, and I forget and forget and... what was I writing about?

My memory is horrible, not because I have a bad memory, but because I am having difficulty remembering that I am working on a subject, or that some thing, event, or to-do is important to do.  I'll start plunging a stuffed toilet, and then I'll walk into another room for whatever purpose, and I will 100% forget that I was plunging a toilet.  Or, I'll start a course on whatever topic I determined was important to take my law practice to the next level... or to learn a new skill... or to reach a goal... and mid-way into the project, I will 100% forget that I was doing that project, only to realize months later that it has been weeks or months since I was working on a particular topic, and I never continued it.

This is fine for a goal or for a project, but when it comes to remembering to pick up the milk, or to pick up my child from school, well, that's an issue.  I solve most of my issues by setting clocks and alarms, and this works somewhat well, but I forget simple things, like, what day it is, and... to eat, or to come home from work, and I'll look at the time and it is 10pm, and I was doing who knows what... but not work.  That project still had to be submitted because it was due the next day.

I could go into 1000 more examples.  I wear two watches (one on each hand), the watch on the left which reminds me to move every hour or so to reach my step goals, and the one on the right which merely beeps every 30 minutes to remind me that 30 minutes have passed by.  It's silly, but seven hours can pass in a few minutes.

So, I fight through my life with discipline in order to get by.  When we returned from Israel, my wife and I arranged that I would focus on what is important to get everything back on track.  Our business was failing (believe it or not, not because of my inattention, but because I allowed one client to become 99% of my law firm's business, a big 'no-no', and that client went out of business as soon as I returned to the US, and I needed to rehabilitate it.  I took a class at a local law school to teach me the skills I needed to move forward (pretrial litigation, something I never took in law school but was very important), but part two -- trial advocacy -- well, that was this semester, and the professor wouldn't allow non-law-school students to attend, so I bought the books for the course which I hope to get to and read one day.

NOTE: If I ever wrote a book on this topic, I would call it "Open Parenthesis," because this concept (opening parenthesis) embodies my experience of opening topics, but never getting around to completing them.

In addition to getting the law firm back on track, I had the project of buying the home we were renting from our in-laws (who bought it for us so that we can buy it back from them when we arrive on US soil), getting our taxes in order with back-filings and IRS estimated payments (the Israeli accountant we hired did not do a number of things we thought he was doing for us, and our accountings were a mess when we returned to the US for more reasons to outline here).  On top of that, and possibly most importantly, I wanted to get my 'daylight' schedule back on track.

I wanted to wake up in the morning, shower, get to minyan, help my wife get the kids to school, get to the gym, then get to my office and have a productive day.  For me, this was a brutal undertaking, but for six months, I made it happen... until my wife started school in January.

I could totally blame her for my life falling apart, but really it is my fault and my inability to be able to handle certain things a normal person should be able to take care of.  Since my wife started school, now I do the morning routine with the kids.  The first thing I do upon waking is that I wake the kids, get them dressed, fed, and then off to school.  Because of the number of kids we have, it makes sense to do this in two shifts -- an "older kid" shift, where the first set of kids are out the door by 8am, and a "younger kid" shift where the younger three kids [who fight, don't get dressed easily, and throw temper tantrums] can get my devoted attention getting them dressed, fed, and out the door by 8:30am.  When the younger kids wake before the older kids are out of the house, well, that's a nightmare.

I tried doing one morning shift with all of the kids together, but I can't handle the crying, the 'he hit me' or 'she's wearing my shoes' or the youngest one's tantrum when she doesn't like what I feed her, or what I dress her in -- and she NEVER likes what I feed or dress her, and it's a daily struggle.  Finally when I get them to school, honestly, I have nothing left in me.  Really, almost every day, I get them to school, and I collapse, emotionally, physically, or otherwise.  I get to work and I lay on the floor looking at the ceiling.  Or, I stare at a wall until my emotional tanks recharge.  Or, I waste time doing something inconsequential because honestly, I would at that point want to do anything but work.

This hurts me so much, namely, that I am unable to get them to school and get myself to work.  I tried putting davening in the mix, but it doesn't work.  I tried putting the gym in the mix, but it too doesn't work.  I can't --- and believe me, I am saying this with a cry and a tear -- I really CAN'T do anything after the morning routine except want to roll into a ball and cry.  I really don't do this, rather, I walk around in a fog and a stupor for the next few hours, and this sometimes lasts the entire day where 7pm rolls along, and I still haven't gotten any meaningful work done.  My wife -- well, she doesn't understand this, and she is dumbfounded and offended why I do not find pleasure in the interactions with the children.  She thinks I should treasure these moments, and that there is something seriously wrong with me that I don't.  Honestly, I really love my kids, but I find the morning routine very draining.  Again -- roll into a ball, want to cry.

So I've thought about going to a doctor and taking medication for this... ADD, or whatever it is, but I remember the last time I went to a doctor during law school, and he prescribed me Adderall.  What I remember, however, was not the increase in productivity, but the feeling of being a failure because I couldn't function on my own two feet without the help of a drug.  I remember not wanting to do anything except get off of the drug, which is exactly what I did.  I took the bar exam, I got off adderall, and I got married and started a family, started a successful law practice (which [with G-d's help] has kept our family fed, comfortable, lacking nothing) and now we are ten years later.

I sometimes wonder how life would be different if I stayed on the ADHD drug, but instead, I powered through every mood swing, every bout of depression, and every inability to function with self-medication (usually coffee did the trick -- many, many cups of coffee each day), vitamins, exercise, and a whole lotta discipline.

Today I take a nice regimen of vitamins, including L-Tyrosene, DLPA, Ibuprofen, GABA, and a good multivitamin.  I am doing this based on a book recommendation from a text which goes through the various types of ADHD with an exhaustive questionnaire and a description of the six-known types of ADHD (the book is called "Healing ADD, the Breakthrough Program That Allows You To See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD" by Daniel G. Amen.).  The book also recommends medication, but this vitamin regimen is an alternative to it.  I am probably three or four weeks into it, and quite honestly, I feel nothing because I don't think it's working, but the book suggested that it might take up to seven weeks before the effects are felt... and, I am not that disciplined in taking the sufficient dosages (...3x/day, or on an empty stomach, etc.), but either way, I am still optimistic.

Lastly, I haven't been to the gym in a month, and I have regained all of the weight from before I started going to the gym in July when we returned... What a waste of time and energy!  I say that with a bit of jest, as no doubt the six months of discipline that I had MUST have had some beneficial longterm affect on my health, and I must think that the months I spent sweating away on the treadmill MUST have benefited my heart or my fitness to the point that I am probably not the same unhealthy body I was when I returned from Israel six months ago.  I just somehow gained back all of my weight in one month from snacking and eating unhealthily.

In sum, life sucks.  I have bought a house, rescued my law firm from disaster, got the state and federal taxes in order (I hope), got our finances in order, reintegrated with the community, got fit, got fat, cut out all zero-calorie drinks and aspartame, took over the morning routine, stopped going to minyan, lost all meaning in life (another blog entry for another time), and now I'm just trying to pick up the pieces and get through each day before I find the motivation to pick myself up from the bootstraps, as they say, and push through this last bout of fogginess so that I can get my life back in order.  Yeah, right.  That'll happen.

NOTE: This doesn't need to be here, but I'm writing this article from a completely self-involved point of view.  There are so many people with so many problems far, far worse than anything I am going through, and it is almost embarrassing to think that anything I am dealing with in my own head compares in the minutest way to the 'real' problems others face, e.g., poverty, death, divorce, cancer, abuse, oppression.  I live in a free world with apparent free will.  My financial needs are taken care of, I have health insurance, I have a way to derive a healthy income (for the time being), I have a happy wife and baruch hashem, a healthy family.  While I regret a number of decisions in life, my life has turned out quite well.  ALL THIS BEING SAID, I am focusing the conversation in this article on the issues that I personally am struggling with because I want to be and to function at my best so that I can contribute to the world and give thanks to my creator in order to succeed in the mission for which I was created, whatever that may be.  I also know that I am not the only one who is dealing with issues such as these, and so perhaps this article can be of use to someone who is also suffering with similar circumstances.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Fight with G-d Almighty and you will for sure lose, but in my heart, I want to start swinging at the sky anyway.

Okay, so re-watching the Al Pacino "G-d is a prankster" scene does not have the same power for me as it once did, but the subtle message within this scene affected what was my young mind (at the time) in a way that it left an indelible mark that has never erased itself.

"G-d has a sense of humor," is what I remember of this scene, and now more than ever, I am feeling the truth of this statement.

We arrived back in the US, and the Customs and Border Patrol held our crate back for additional inspection.  This was an inconvenience at best, but I wondered whether it was a message from G-d that maybe we weren't supposed to be here.  Up front, this thought makes absolutely no sense to me because I am more than thrilled to be back, and I wake up each day excited that there is sunlight outside and I have a minyan to go to.  For the first time in my life, I have structure and organization, where in the past, I had none.  I am davening each day WITH A MINYAN... on time, with tefillin, with kavanah.

I even have my "old stuff" back.  I am back in my old town with my old friends and acquaintances... I have even been able to re-acquire my old office [which still had my old refrigerator that I left in here when I left].  Everything appears to have fallen in place, and then boom.

I am not speaking about the container being held back by the CBP, nor am I speaking about the additional scrutiny which I wonder whether it was random or whether it was because I was using VPNs from Israel to access my bank accounts in the US causing a stir when my accounts were frozen for suspected terrorist activities (I was wiring my US funds to my Israeli account) immediately after I made aliyah.

The "boom" is that while in Israel, my law firm business chugged along.  I was running on "three cylinders," so to speak, but the law firm was getting clients, and I was making US dollars to spend in Israel.  I came back to the US not only because of the deadly night hours, but because I knew that if my business ever "went bust," I would have no means of supporting my family.  I decided that I would return to the US, and I would develop a practice that I could do in Israel, with Israelis as clients, and during Israeli day hours rather than servicing US clients working in the US time zones.

This is always dumb to do, but I got into the position where most if not all of my law firm's clients came from one set of plaintiffs.  I knew that if their company ever went broke that my stream of clients would dry up overnight and I would no longer be able to provide for my family.

Well, we returned to the US exactly one month ago, and as soon as I landed, I got the dreaded call that this company -- the one from whom I am getting all of my clients -- is going out of business.  Apparently, doing what they were doing is no longer profitable, and thus they are closing their doors.

...Overnight, my firm's client list dried up, and for the moment, I am out of business.

This is where G-d has a sense of humor.  Now that I am davening every day with talis and tefillin with a minyan, and now that I am somewhat connected to him as a Jew should be connected to his creator, is he now punishing me for all of the years of disobedience?  Is putting me in the "dog house" his way of saying, "welcome back you mother fucker. now get out!"??

I was telling my wife about this (that our firm is out of business overnight and that I need to find a new area of practice), and I told her that I was relieved that we came back to the US before this happened, because at least now I can sit down for the next couple of months and reinvent myself with a new area of practice.  She retorted, "maybe you lost your business because you came back," as if losing my law firm's clients overnight was a punishment for leaving Israel.  I happily twisted her words into thinking that the only reason this company kept their doors open for as long as they did was to feed us while we were in Israel, and it was G-d's mercy that kept us fed over the past two years.

Now my wife and I have settled on the common Chabad belief that everything G-d does is for a purpose.  Hashkacho pratis.  That there are no coincidences, only divine providence, and me losing my firm's income source is Hashem being merciful to us because although we cannot see the goodness in this painful experience, this is really being done for the best, and there is only goodness that will come from this.

Okay, I am not buying it.  Me losing my job overnight and essentially having to close our firm's doors, reinvent myself, learn a new area of law, and reopen the firm in a new area of practice sound more to me like G-d is a trickster, and that this is all a test or a prank, and I will need to roll with the punches or get attacked even more severely.  Not only do I think G-d is testing me, but I think or I fear that he has determined that the time of me and my family being wealthy has come to an end, and now it is time for us to experience how it feels to be poor once again.

This thought fills me with anger, because 1) we went to Israel for HIM, to serve HIM, to give our kids over to HIM, to bring them up in HIS way, to provide them HIS education where we would not have been able to provide this on our own, and 2) we moved back and strengthened our connection with him by me going to minyan every day, davening with a talis and tefillin, and spending time getting closer with the community.  Why punish us after we took such leaps of faith in G-d's honest truth so that our kids can be brought up with a proper Torah education?  It is not like we decided that we don't care about G-d when we came back to the diaspora.  Rather, we returned because I was not surviving working the overnights, and it was affecting everyone negatively.

So why decide all of a sudden when yeshiva tuition is now due, when shul membership will be paid, when I just sold our Israeli car and all of the furniture and "stuff" we bought in Israel at a horrifying loss (essentially giving EVERYTHING away at a total loss) and now I bought my wife a nice newer car, and now we need to buy the house from our in-laws (we committed that they would buy the house for us, and we would buy it as soon as we landed), and now we have to pay for Obamacare, etc., that Hashem decides that it is time for me to lose my income?!?

This seems like a cruel trick.  It seems like a prank.  It seems like a joke.  Fight with G-d Almighty and you will for sure lose, but in my heart, I want to start swinging at the sky anyway.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

When you think you are so smart, maybe you're an idiot. "Common sense. Don't leave home without it."

I just wanted to take a few moments on the eve of us leaving Israel, coincidentally on the Parsha concerning the Meraglim (the "spies").

I am filled with bitterness and pain from this experience, not because it was Israel, but because of the circumstances in which my life has been lived in the past year or so. 

In short, the idea of "working at night" was stupid.  I don't know who thought I could do it, and I question the motives and good intentions [having my best interests at heart] of those who would allow me to be awake overnight EVERY NIGHT and then have me switch back to the daylight hours for Shabbos.  This is torture, this is unhealthy, and it is a crude thing to do to a human being. 

I cannot believe I was so stupid to even think that such an arrangement would even be possible.  Did I think that my wife and those around me would allow me to sleep late every day without any consequences?  Did I think that I would really be allowed to nap during the day while the kids are playing and screaming down the hallway?  Did I think that my wife wouldn't be passive aggressive and allow the kids to make noise or make comments that belittle my contribution to the family, our life, our experience?

Or would it have been smarter if I realized that people are limited both in their abilities and in their moralities, and no matter how much money or financial abundance a husband brings in the late hours of the night, if he is walking around the house all day (or he is at the beach, or working out, or walking around the city) while you are slaving with the housework, then the kids in a foreign country... when he wants to nap in the afternoon you will no doubt feel a bit of resentment (ignoring the fact that what would be a 45 minute nap would be what he needs to stay up until 6:30am the following morning?)

I don't know, in hindsight, I don't think it was a smart idea to come here, and it was an even dumber idea to think that working at night would work out.

I also don't know why I was so stupid to allow us to only have one car (as every Israeli family typically does), or to think that my wife wouldn't be the one to dominate that car each and every day [shopping, going out, picking up the kids, etc. at the expense of me not being able to use that car to drive to or from work or to move freely around town to run errands with that car], but in doing so, I would inadvertently isolate, jail, and seclude myself to the point where I would be a slave in my own home -- where everything I would do would be under the peering eye of a well meaning, but no doubt resentful wife who would be paying close attention to everything I do to make sure every moment of my life was filled with as much strife as hers would be.

Why was I so stupid to think that I could work from a home office without renting office space out of the home?  Why would I be so stupid as to jail myself in a situation that would only cause me to feel like a slave, a lab rat, a prisoner, a jailed person, a useless slob who mopes around the house all day tiring himself out, only to start work after everyone else's day has ended?  Why did I think this was a good idea?


Anyway, now that we are going back, this is my own personal yetzius mitzraim.  The first thing I am doing when I return is [after getting my family in order and purchasing the necessities for my wife and children, including a car for my wife,] buying myself a car and renting an office so that I can leave the house in the morning, and not return until men return home from work.  I will be once again on my own with my own autonomy, with my own space to breathe, to think, to plan, to work, and to live, where I can provide for my family working more than 10 feet from said family in my face and me in theirs, etc.

I say this without animosity towards my wife (now twenty paragraphs later after implicitly attacking her).  Really, I have every belief that she tried very hard to accommodate my awkward schedule.  She took the brunt of the responsibilities in running the home, she took the brunt of the housework, she took the brunt of the kids' homework, their education, their feeding, their playing, their raising, all of which while I did the best I could to be involved in my wife and kids' day life (but really, my focus the entire time was planning my hours so that I can minimize the jet lag that I would inadvertently live with every day).

I ran on three cylinders.  My business (which once flourished) withered and is on its deathbed.  I am not healthier than I was when I left.  My family and I are not closer, but rather, I resent them for expecting me to live two lives -- one during the day and one during the late night, and not having either life diminish or lose out.   Did they think I could live two lives at the same time? 

I am also not more religious than I was when I arrived here.  Rather, I have lost my faith in G-d, and I have lost my faith in humanity.  I have become dark, angry, ...dark pretty much sums it.  I am also jaded, both in the miracles of Hashem, and in the "life of tranquility" I thought I would provide for my children, where the community would provide my children everything they needed spiritually, and my wife and I would be happy as they integrated into Israeli society while we lived the life of flourishing ex-pats, focusing on our parenting skills, our religious experience (and G-d would leap over mountains for us to accommodate our every need because we have taken the leap of faith to move to the land of Israel, the land of milk and honey).

Yeah, right.  I no longer trust people, I don't like people, and I no longer think people are good.  Further, I resent people because I do not think that anyone can fully understand what I have just been through.  I feel isolated, I feel alone.  I feel dead inside.  Oh, G-d!

Hopefully when we return, I could resume the activities that had our family running in good shape.  I was involved in the community, I was involved in my children's upbringing and their education, I knew their teachers, and I was part of their lives.  Sure I was not always productive at work, but at least I had my own space and my own time to iron out any issues that arose in my business.  I had space, I had time, I had room to think, money to breathe, and time to enjoy it.

We were bored.  We thought we could do better for our kids.  We thought life would be more comfortable when we are sitting on a cloud being gently guided by a kind G-d, a G-d who warms us, nourishes us, and protects us from harm.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Holding onto the reins of where fate brings "US" (pun intended).

So... I found a place to work outside our Beitar, Israel apartment while we are waiting for the inevitable day that the shipping company packs our apartment into boxes and puts everything back on a crate.  Quite honestly, I am actually very excited, and I feel as if I am "going home."

As I mentioned before, while I did have another six (6) months in me to work evenings before I burned out once-and-for-all, it made no sense pushing so much only to go home in January rather than July.  Plus, I couldn't do that to the kids again -- my wife and I thought that it would be better to leave after their school year ends, and start the new year fresh with their U.S. classmates.

So a few things have happened recently.  We went to the Kotel and prayed to Hashem that he give my wife and I clarity on what we should do.  I also wrote a number of letters to the Rebbe asking for some kind of "sign" or "signal" on what we should do, and on both accounts, we got no answer [although I learned yesterday that the Rebbe was very much against "signs" when determining what action or direction to take, especially because ANYTHING can be taken as a "sign," and stupid or wrong decisions can be made on those false "signs."].  That being said, for the past few months, we have been looking at housing near our old home to see what was available (because my wife didn't want to move back to a small apartment, and I wasn't willing to spend thousands of dollars in rent when our costs of living are that much less here in Israel).

Out of nowhere, a beautiful house came on the market and appeared on our iPhone app.  It was smaller than our old home, but the yard was... gigantic!  We could play multiple games of football on this yard side-by-side, and then have enough room to install a pool, a trampoline, or a full-sized greenhouse.  NOT THAT WE WOULD DO ANY OF THESE -- THE LAWN WILL LIKELY STAY EMPTY because we're not that much into amenities and glamour, however, because our lives are very family-centric, the backyard lawn was a very nice addition.  The inside was also quaint -- it is larger than our place here, and there is ample storage space and bedrooms to grow our already large family.  Okay, so as-is, there is really no place for me to have a long-term office in the home because my wife wants to put a limit of two-kids-per-room (although I think there should be a "boys" room and a "girls" room with a max of three kids in each room, that way I can take one of the bedrooms as a home office for the law firm), but whatever -- I'll be working outside of the home anyway.

On the topic of "working from home," this is something that EVERY MAN should know:



Anyway, because we were not there to purchase this awesome house ourselves, my wife's family offered to loan us the money to purchase the home (as they did last time, especially since they knew we'd pay them back immediately when we arrived in the US, and since we paid them back the last time they did this for us).  We [really, they] bought the house, and so now we have a house in the U.S., ...again.

Now this obviously complicated the issue because as soon as we got the house, my wife and I went back to the "should we, shouldn't we" conversation of whether we can push ourselves to make the Israel Aliyah work, and whether we should give it another push to stay here for another year (with the hopes that at the end of the second year, we wouldn't want to leave).  But, now we have a house that we have obligated ourselves to buy, and any delay in coming back will only upset my in-laws, especially since they just laid out hundreds of thousands of dollars for us to facilitate our return.  So yeah, that happened.

We took the instant availability of the home as a "sign" from Hashem that we were "meant" to move back home, but we still weren't convinced.  Every day, we would have literally countless conversations of "Aleph [meaning, stay in Israel]" versus "Bet [meaning, going home]."  By the hour, this changed every day, every hour.

It wasn't until we went to the Kotel a week or so ago [after a very terrible thing happened to us that my wife wouldn't let me talk about and she'd feel violated if I shared what happened with the world, but yeah, that happened, and it was clearly the "finger of Hashem" that caused this horrible thing to happen to us, and it coincidentally happened as soon as we decided that we are going to STAY in Israel ("Aleph") (as if "it" was a result of our decision to stay, or as if the conditions for "it"  to happen were set into motion months before we even knew that we would be having the conversations of "Aleph vs. Bet," and then "it" happened to push us to go home in a "fate" kind of way)], that I asked Hashem to help us stop this "Aleph, Bet, Aleph, Bet" confusion because the uncertainty was driving me nuts.  I really wanted to have clarity of thought, and not vacillate based on the swing of a pendulum.  One minute, we were going to push for another year, the next minute, we couldn't wait to go home.

Well, for now, we have our clarity.  I am not sure what has come over us, but since our visit to the Kotel, both my wife and I have come to the conclusion that "yeah, Israel is amazing, it is beautiful, and yes, there are ALL THESE BENEFITS that we were looking for... good schools, good community, amazing culture, safety from race and political turmoil, safety from ISIS, safety from race wars... but with all this said, we still wanted to go home."

We have satisfied ourselves that the "I can't work American hours from Israel and make that work longterm" argument is enough to justify going back, but since then, I have found an office and I have started working during the day.  To be honest, I'm getting nothing done here because this office of many businesses working together under one roof is a bit distracting, but at least I am going to minyanim in the morning, and I am working regular business hours.  My business no doubt WILL suffer as a result of no longer working American hours, as the law office will only be open from 8am-11am each day (especially with the new daylight savings time hours), but I'll be back soon enough to fix whatever I break and resume normal business hours.  In reality, I'll be working from 3am-11am Central Time (working on cases and handling research and other client matters in the morning [regular Israel business hours], but client communications will only appear to take place three hours each day.

So this may end up having the potential to be a longterm solution that would have allowed us to stay indefinitely in Israel, but... because we have already taken so many steps to return to the US (I just made the deposit to register our kids at their private school for when we return) [not to mention that we bought a house, I spent close to $6,000 USD on plane tickets [nonrefundable] to return to the US, and I paid close to $40,000 USD to my in-laws to help them fund the purchase, to do repairs on the new home, etc.], we are set to go and so there is little to look back on now.

Personally, I think it is sad that I didn't find this "shared office space" arrangement earlier.  Things could have been different had I figured the work hours out earlier (e.g., working ISRAEL hours, not US hours), but now I am not about to destabilize all our family plans for a solution that may or may not have ended up being the solution I was looking for.  Actually, between you and me, it's a bit tragic, because I think this may have been a good solution.  But I cannot waiver anymore, and I must hold onto the reins of what decisions we have made, and I must move forward and see where life takes us.  As things stand, we are going home to the US, and this was the final decision.

I am a bit sad that I did not make Israel work.  My wife talks about "returning to Israel in five years" once our oldest child is old enough to go to yeshiva (and then, to enter the military -- something my wife and I consider a huge honor as part of our belief in supporting the Jewish people and contributing to the building of the State of Israel), but when she mentioned coming back in five years, I did not see how life five years from now would be different from the difficulties we experienced when we were here the first time.  I would still have the "US hours vs. Israel hours" issue, and I don't know whether trying again to run the law firm from Israel is a good idea.  I'll adapt the law firm to be able to do this as much as possible, but really, the character of the firm and what I practice in it is shaped by the kind of clientele' we get.  If I keep doing what I am doing, in five years from now, there will be no viable way of switching back to Israel hours.

I suppose more generally, I am kind of going with the flow.  I think deciding to stay would be "rocking the boat" [of fate], and I kind of am at a point in life that I don't want turbulence anymore.  I really want a peaceful and quiet life, and whether or not I would have achieved this had we stayed, we have already set in motion a move back to the US, so let's stick to our plan and see where this goes.

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Running on only three cylinders.


Hello Diary!

My wife and I have been going back-and-forth as to whether we are "missing something" in deciding to leave Israel.  Obviously there is SO MUCH to miss, but I am merely mentioning as to our life here versus our life back home before we made Aliyah.  I know this is offensive for me to say, especially since there are so many people who would give anything to make Aliyah and cannot for whatever reason -- family responsibilities, work, financial constraints -- and I fully understand your anger at our "flippant" attitude towards staying here versus going back.  It seems almost silly to have spent so much effort, time, and money to transition our lives here only to move back, but it is what it is.

I don't want to rehash everything -- there are so many reasons to stay -- GOOD REASONS to stay!  But somewhere in my heart, I want to go home.  I miss so many things about home, and I don't know why, but I always feel as if I am running on three cylinders here in Israel.

I could say more, but the jist of the article is this:  "I FEEL AS IF MY LIFE IS RUNNING ON THREE CYLINDERS HERE."  Shopping?  Not so easy.  Currency and banking transactions?  Difficult (I am always having problems with my bank accounts at home in the US locking me out, I feel as if it is because I am in Israel [more likely, my wife is convinced that I am on some terrorist "list" somehow because I yelled at some bank clerk or something while calling from Israel], so everything I do gets red-flagged, delayed, and sometimes cancelled, even though I provide my credentials and prove I am who I claim to be]).

Then there is the language barrier.   Very difficult.  Bank statements? Credit Card statements? Unintelligible.  Half the time I don't even know what the charges are for.  Taxes?  Rental Taxes?  No clue.  Running my law firm? VERY difficult.  I'll get back to this.

The crux of the issue is that I feel as if it is very difficult to live with one foot here in Israel, and the other foot straddled across the globe in the US.

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

So happy to go, so sad I couldn't make it work.

I know, I know.  I'm a jerk for being such a critical person, and I feel terrible about it.  I've had a stressful few days, and the prospect of not being able to support my family (by even looking at a home that was way above our means) really hurt my feelings.  In hindsight, I didn't realize that "a girl can dream," and I was smashing her dream with the heel of my boot, and I should have just stayed quiet and not bust a gasket when I heard my wife speaking about wanting beautiful things.  I just take her so seriously, especially since I try to give her everything she wants, and I was feeling like a failure that I wasn't able to give her the dream home that she wanted.  I was also feeling very threatened, since we cannot stay here in Beitar (or anywhere in Israel, as the work hours are not long-term doable for me), and I was feeling that I couldn't afford Denver's more expensive homes either.  So I felt painted into a corner.

Anyway, I have been thinking long and hard, and I cannot have more good things to say about Israel, the land, the beauty, the holiness, and even how wonderful it is for our kids to have friends and for me to have a community in which I am thriving both as a person and as a Jew.  Beitar has been a wonderful solution for us, and I'm actually saddened that I'll be saying goodbye to some really good friends I've made over the past few months.

Now you may shoot back at me telling me to "make it work."  I've tried, really I have.  I've shifted my hours later so that I work from 7pm-7am (and then I go to minyan in the morning).  I've shifted my hours so that I work 3pm-3am, still no dice.  I've also tried 12pm-12am, but then I cannot do my work since my law firm operates in the late afternoons/evenings simply because of the nature of my clientele.  I've pumped myself full of coffee, I've taken naps during the day, but no matter how I cut it, I can't make the hours work for me.  Maybe someone with a better constitution would be able to handle this, but for me, it is too much to handle... especially considering that I cannot "relax" and defuzz in the mornings, and I cannot nap in the afternoons, and while I would never do so openly, I blame my wife for it not working out.  No way in hell have I been able to take a nap while she is stuck with the six screaming kids -- I felt like a loser and that I was slacking on my responsibility every time I tried to close my eyes to prepare for my evenings, while I would hear my wife get frustrated with the kids all hanging on her competing for her attention.  I felt terrible for her having to deal with everything, and on top of that, I was asleep during the mornings as well.  Aside for a few precious hours in the late morning / early afternoons, I really had no time to run any errands, or to do anything except to work.  Life was work and work was life -- there was really no room for anything else.

I tried to help with the dishes, with the laundry, with the chores, with watching the kids whenever I could in order to lessen the burden on my wife, but really, all it did was drain me and I was unable to work that evening.  I lost so many evenings that way rescheduling appointments with potential clients to the point that I lost many of them because I could not muster the energy, the discipline, or the organization to balance both an Israeli day, and then an American work day after that.  My work and the time zone shifting each day (and the lack of sleep or energy that went with it) was consuming my life.

With full respect and love to Israel, I am happy that I am leaving in a few months.  I feel as if I have been in a one-room prison all year without the ability to roam free or to move about freely, and it has been a miserable experience.  I hope my wife, my kids, my friends, and Hashem forgive me and don't judge me because I couldn't make it work.  G-d knows I tried to make it work.  I still can't shake the feeling in the back of my stomach that I am a failure for making this work, and "if only I did X," or "if only I tried harder, or did XYZ differently," we could have made it work.  Really, it was not working, but I don't understand why I have to convince myself of this fact.  I'm so happy to go home, but so sad I couldn't make it work!

 NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

We decide to move back to the U.S., and old money problems resurface.

My wife and I just had a conversation this morning about the stresses of having upside-down work hours here in Israel, and after last night's fiasco (dealing with Israeli taxes with accountants -- supposedly good ones -- who didn't know what they were talking about), I woke up this morning in a panic that we cannot stay here.
This does not have to do with anything negative about Israel -- NO, it has to do with the DIFFICULTIES of living a double life, with half of my life complying with burdensome US tax and banking rules, getting around geographical restrictions, because for some reason, being an "expat" US Citizen living abroad makes them think that you are a criminal!  I simply don't understand why I need to hide from my bank the fact that I am outside of the US?  I don't understand why being a successful attorney who moved his family out of the US to give his kids a good Israel experience in the midst of threatened economic and social collapse -- why is this criminal behavior?

Anyway, there is more to that story, and it appears that before I left, I upset the wrong person because as soon as I arrived to Israel last year, all of my funds in one of my US bank accounts (where we held most of our money) was frozen because they suspected "terrorist" activities.  Really?  From a frum Chabad Jewish lawyer with a beard, six kids and a kippah?  Anyway, the problem slowly got worse, and the so-called "flag" spread to my other accounts -- so much so that every time I call in to check a balance, or to pay bills or do banking transactions, I get forwarded to the "VIP" department, because I am a "special" customer (my wife has started joking that "VIP" really means "terrorist," and I'm really starting to wonder.)  Anyway, now I need to do a wire transfer to some Israeli Manpower Organization in order to comply with taxes here in Israel, and I'm concerned that this was the same kind of wire transfer that got my main account shut down when we first moved here.  But worse, if it happened, it would be to my law firm's bank account, which is the source of all of our funding, our food, our rent, everything.  This is the holy grail of bank accounts, and the Israeli accountants need for me to do a wire transfer FROM THERE to their organization to create a paper trail, or whatever their reason.  I'm nervous as hell that this will freeze this account too, and I'm not comfortable doing it, but I will in order to comply.

Then there is the prospect of severe increased costs when I return to the US.  There, I made a lot of money.  Here, I am not making a lot of money (likely because of my severely diminished number of work hours).  I calculated with my wife that if we moved back, I would need to make at least another $50,000 just to keep the same level of expenses that we have now because of yeshiva tuition, a mortgage, healthcare, etc.  I was willing to do this, even though it would mean that I would have to work harder just to make ends meet.

But then, as soon as we decided to move back... my wife got the "money bug" back.  We sold our Denver home for roughly $250K (at a net loss), which was good for us because we purchased it for $185K and put roughly $75K into it [these were improvements that we did for OURSELVES to live in this home forever, such as knocking down walls, gutting and redoing the entire kitchen, getting the best kind of granite countertops (well, the kind that my wife liked), purchasing an expensive refrigerator, the best rated appliances, etc., but it all seemed to feel like "fate" when we were presented with buyers who wanted to purchase the home from us just as we were speaking to real estate brokers to rent out the home once we made Aliyah.] 

In hindsight, because we were moving to Israel and we were committed to not leaving anything behind, it was nice to sell the home and not to need to worry about dealing with two homes -- one in the US, and the one we would be renting in Israel.  But then, we had to sell (really, give away) all of our possessions so that our basic necessities would fit in a "crate" to ship across the sea.  We had to sell our new car at an offensive low price, I had to sell my car for a measly $300 just to get rid of it, and when we came to Israel, we had to buy a car for 75,000 NIS because that was the cheapest car we could fit that came close to holding our six kids.  Then my wife crashed the car and wrecked the front of it which cost us another 10,000 NIS to repair, and then another few hundred dollars each month in insurance costs (oh well), then I lost about eight month's of salary to a home theft (yes, that happened), but that was part of what it cost to move to and dwell in the State of Israel.

Now when we move, we will again need to give away a few thousand dollars worth of items we purchased here so that everything will fit back in the "crate."  We will need to practically give away our new 70,000 NIS car (which will be worth almost nothing because my wife wrecked its value by being in an accident), we will pay another $15K just to move our belongings and fly ourselves back, and only then I will need to work extra hard to be able to pay for the increased expenses of healthcare, yeshiva tuition, etc.

On top of that, I was sharing with my wife just yesterday that the larger homes have electricity bills of $600 per month for many months out of the year, while the smaller homes (still large by anyone's measure, but "small" for what we were used to in Denver) have lower electricity costs of sometimes $200-$300 per month.  This pocket of change makes a big difference because with the larger homes, we are either heating or cooling the entire house because the indoor space is that much larger to temperature regulate.

This morning when I told her that I wanted to move back, and we spoke at length and decided to move back in June when the kids are done with their school year, (not January as we were considering beforehand so that we can give Beitar (Israel) a chance,) she got the "money bug" back that she had when we lived in the US.  "I want a big, giant dream house... with a Jaccuzzi and a pool... and a big magnificent kitchen with high ceilings, real wooden floors -- not the "fake" wooden floors we installed in our old home (I spent over $5,000 to install those wooden floors [which was a splurge], and yes, I think they were laminates or something but we researched the quality and decided that those were the best quality for the money we were paying)... Immediately, I almost had a heart attack because I remembered in the US our old fight that she did not respect how hard it was for me to work to make the money I made, and now she is already spending money in her head that we don't have.

I don't get this.  What is going on?!?  How the hell can she switch back to the "I want a big giant house with riches and diamond and beauty and, and, and, and..." when we just spent a year in Israel [I thought] teaching the value of austerity.  We lived a six-figure lifestyle here which was a meager lifestyle here, but it was certainly luxurious compared to the meager $35,000 salary most people in Israel live on.  Hell, some of my friends here can't even afford the weekly bus pass to pay for transportation to work (let alone good food on their table, clothes to wear, or any sort of comfort), and here she is suddenly going back to dreamy "I want everything" mentality that threw us into marriage counseling the first time we were in Denver.

I have nothing wrong with buying a more expensive house than we had the last time we were in Denver.  After seeing the millions of shekels a small measly home goes for here in Israel, even the most expensive home in Denver is cheap, comparatively.  But there is a difference between looking for an above-average lifestyle and going for a lifestyle that would only draw the attention and envy of the community.  Why can't we be like everyone else, and live a regular lifestyle within our means life everyone else?  Why this sudden desire to get the biggest and the best?  Did she not learn anything during our time here in Israel?!?

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Balancing Israel versus the USA as far as deciding whether to move back.

This isn't going to be much of a coherent post because it is 1:30am Israel time, and this is the second day in a row that I am unable to work.  I am so deeply distraught about whether to stay in Israel or to throw everything back on a crate and ship it back to the US.  I cannot think straight, I cannot function, I cannot focus.  I think I'm also hitting a bit of a depression as well.

The issues to balance have been hashed out.  We are balancing my own health and mental sanity of being isolated from my family and from society because of my work hours with the benefits being here I provide for my family as far as providing them a good community, friends, good school, and a great and meaningful life experience.  But what kind of experience can a childhood be when the tatty is always somewhere else, whether that be emotionally exhausted, physically stressed, or mentally checked out?

Then I think of the physical security of the family which would be put at risk if we returned, based on the news I am hearing from the various sources I read.  Corruption is rampant, the economy is about to collapse, taxes and healthcare costs are going up, social stability is fragile at best, and people are being lied to by those in power elected to protect them.  And, the candidates either want to morph the United States into socialism (Sanders), provide more of the same (Hillary), or create a post-constitutional police state (Trump).  Then there is the Black Lives Matter crowd (fraud), ISIS (murderers), the Muslim refugees (fakers), N. Korea testing nuclear missiles and launching potentially dangerous satellites (imperialists), and a banking system that is about to collapse (greed).  Why would I want to move back to a place like this unless I am ignorantly ignoring the issues hoping naively that they will not cause my family any issues?

For days, the decision to go back seemed like the good answer.  End of June, we're leaving.  But then, something changed within us, and so we said, "January, maybe never [if we can figure out how to live here happily]."  But without a driver's license, what was an isolating situation has redoubled itself as a very isolating situation, especially since I won't risk renting office space only to get arrested on the drive over to or from work each day.  And it needs not be said, but the bureaucracy to do anything is like ten steps to do whatever you want to do, and it involves going here to this office, getting a stamp at that office, sitting down with this person who shows up to work only on every second Tuesday after a full moon between 9:00am and 9:07am.  Then when you get there, he was out sick that day and you just blew five hours of your life running around for nothing, only to do it all over again.

So in sum, good community, good group of people here, good for kids, good for friends.  Bad for me, bad for my connection with my family, bad for my health, and I just don't know whether I want the easy American life back, or the difficult life here.  I am losing focus of what is important, and I do not know how to weigh my options.  And I can't snap out of if and get back to working my butt off as I have been doing for over a year now being awake EVERY OVERNIGHT here.